Kate "The Mad Runner"Merrill

Race Reports

Here are the stories behind the race results. They're all true and I'm sticking to 'em.

Monday, July 30, 2007
Mt. Hood PCT 50/50 Race Report

Two years ago I ran the PCT Mt. Hood 50 miler as my first ultra. It was grueling and I finished just over 12 hours after moaning through my last 9 miles. Of course the whole experience just whetted my appetite and I'm a true junkie now. Last year I was recovering from an ankle injury so I just ran as a trail sweep. This year was my chance to try PCT again after 2 years of trail running. Will is seem easier? Have I improved much? This year's PCT marked my 7th ultra in 2007 and I was ready! The course starts at Timothy Lake, 25 miles from Mt. Hood. We cross a few passes and end up right at the Timberline Lodge area and mingle with incoming and outgoing skiers at the top aid station. Then it's back down to the lake to finish. I wanted to run strong but smart. I want to save myself for the Where's Waldo 100K in three weeks.

I took the early start, a great decision considering the cooler temps and the chance to run near more people, more often. I've really grown to hate the back-of-the pack almost DFL feeling. The only down side to the early start here was that the RD mis-marked the entrance to the PCT off of the short road section and sent us early starters down who knows where. Luckily, after less than half a mile, the other runners figured it out and we all retraced our footsteps and got back on track. There's about 5 minutes lost. Not to worry, the beauty of the trail makes up for it and soon we're flying up the hills towards Mt. Hood which can eventually be seen through the trees, off in the distance. Another advantage of the early start is that the bears are still out and we see one! A little baby bear is standing in our way on the trail and won't move. Where's mom? Are we standing between mom and her baby?! How do we know? The infant looks harmless but I'm sure that his mother won't be if she finds us surrounding her offspring. Eventually we collect 5-6 runners waiting for the tyke to move on and move on he does...up a tree. We make a mad dash for it and never do see mom. Though, now come to think about it, the guy who stayed behind to take pictures...did I ever see him again? I'm just not sure.

The first of the regular starters passes (blazes by) me after I've been out 2.5 hours. The first woman in 3.5 hours. I seem to be able to run more and hike faster than my last time here. All the aid stations seem to come sooner than I think they should. Eventually I make my way up the steepest part of the trail, above the timberline and through a sand field towards the turn-around point and I'm still feeling strong. I've learned how to hike well up sand. Here's a secret: always find someone else's foot step to step into. They have already compressed the sand for you. I hardly slipped backwards at all. The lupines were in bloom - fields of them and they wafted a pleasant sweet scent as I ran by. Eventually sand becomes pumice and the trail drops down into the top aid station. It's 6500 feet elevation and the view is spectacular, both up the mountain and out into the distance. I see the peak of the next mountain southwards.

After the turn-around it's all mostly downhill and I had managed my food and liquid intake well enough to feel good and I made good time coming back down. There are long, long sections of downhill running and I thank the Western States training camp for getting me started on toughening up my quads this year. Up and down the passes I go, still keeping up a steady pace. I change shoes at 41 miles to alleviate my only major discomfort (one toenail lost this year - down by two from my first time on this run). I refill my water bladder and I'm ready to tackle the last 9 mile section feeling tired by OK. I know I'll easily beat my time from 2 years ago, but not by a huge margin. That's somewhat disappointing.

Then who catches up to me at this point but my friend Pete who had taken the regular start! This the the second time I see him today. When last we met I was already coming down from Timberline and he was on his way up. We meet, we greet and then we're both ready to leave at the same time. I lead out of the aid station, then step aside to let him pass, since he's obviously going faster than I am. I try to keep up so we can talk for a while and he slows a bit to allow me to keep up. I'm pushing it more than I would have if I was alone, that's for sure. But I don't really feel that bad after all. We have a nice distracting conversation and make some really great time to the last aid station. Maybe I can keep up with Pete some more. And I do.

So before I know it, Pete has become my pacer! How could I get any luckier? We keep up a pretty good clip through the last 6 miles, too. I wouldn't have thought it possible to push steady that hard for that long. He, of course was taking it easy, but I was really getting the most out of my self that I think I could. What a joyful exhaustion knowing I was "making good time" in the truest sense!

We finally hit the last road section and run in the last 1/4 mile side by side and under the finish line with final times exactly 1 hour apart. And mine was under 11 hours, making me eligible for a WS lottery application next year. I took 1:20 off my previous PCT time and felt much better doing it than 2 years ago.

I owe many thanks to Pete, the best pacer I could ever have had!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Race Report Siskiyou Out and Back 50K

Going into this run my idea was to see just how well I could execute an ultra at altitude (6000-7000 ft) as a prelude to Waldo in August. Knowing that Waldo is at similar elevation along with plenty of climbing has me pretty worried. How can this flat-lander handle thin air? I remember Flagstaff really kicking my butt so I went into S.O.B. knowing I'd have to pay very close attention to my exertion in an effort to avoid red-lining myself early in the run and crashing miserably.

Well, details to follow, but I have to say, this was the BEST 50K I have ever run. It wasn't the fastest, but it was the very best executed run at this distance I have ever managed. I finished feeling very strong and was almost exactly evenly paced throughout the whole run. From the halfway point out and back I ran nearly the identical splits.

I did the early start and this made for comfortable temps (55-75 degrees for the day). I was determined to be very disciplined from the beginning. My friend Jerry started off with me and at 100 yards I could tell I couldn't keep up with him so I waved goodbye and saw him at the finish line later. I kept a pace such that my heart rate stayed in the 130-160 range. Although it was initially frustrating to have to walk some fairly tame uphills, the thin air did not allow me to be as aggressive as I would have been able to at sea level. I packed my ego in my bag and just kept track of my pulse. I ran when I could and I walked when I had to. I let people pass and didn't get sucked into running faster than I could, just to keep up with them. Every aid station came long before I expected it. I ate well and drank well the whole time and never had much of a loss of appetite issue. I never had a low point and felt relaxed and happy the whole way. I enjoyed the spectacular alpine views above tree line, although the peaks we would normally have had in view were obscured by forest fire smoke from numerous blazes in the area (nothing dangerous near by). There were some wonderful long, long downhill stretches that reminded me of the canyons at WS, and then there were the accompanying uphill hikes, too. It was all enjoyable. I never fell and I only stumbled a few times. I ran the last mile hard just for the fun of the final kick, but not enough to hurt myself. My finish time was 7:13.

Finishing as strong as I did is a huge confidence boost for the next two runs. I think I have developed enough discipline to hopefully execute things well again for the 50 mile and 100K. Although I still have some healthy respect for Waldo and don't take for granted that I actually can finish that one within the time cut offs, I believe that I have a good shot at it if I run smart.

Saturday, June 30, 2007
Western States Pacers Report

I was a pacer for a friend of mine who was attempting his first 100 miler. It was really a privilege to be part of it all. I got in on Thursday afternoon so I could spend some time helping Wayne prepare for the event. I got to meet some online folks I've been meaning to bump into (Muddy) and reunite with others I met at the Memorial Day weekend training camp (Tim Looney). That weekend I covered 70 miles of the trail in 3 days. For pacing purposes I'd only be doing the last 40 but it was good to know what Wayne would be going through before we met up.

Wayne is 58 years old, a runner for many years, but only recently doing ultras. He trained long and hard for this event, using Scott Jurek as his coach. He wanted to finish under 24 hours. I went with him for check-in as a handler, not because he really needed any help, but because I really wanted to immerse myself in the event as much as an outsider could. He got his goody bag, medical check (BP & weight) and his official arm band. Later that night I spied lots of folks in the Squaw Valley/Tahoe area with yellow wrist bands. Mini celebrities, all. I helped him strategize and put together his drop bags and crew meetings for race day.

I decided to sleep in through the start of the race since I figured one of us should have more of a chance to stay awake through the next night of running together. I got up about 90 minutes after the race start and made my way slowly to our rendezvous point in Forest Hill. The drive took me about 2 hours and when Wayne got there he would have only covered 60% of the run. Wow! I ran into his crew/family in the early afternoon and we caught up on how Wayne was doing so far and when we could expect him in. They took off to meet him at the last crew spot before I started pacing.

Being a pacer is so different from being a racer. There's no room for the pacer to have any issues about covering the distance...you must be very self sufficient, unobtrusive and the total willing slave to every need of your runner. There's no margin for you to have any complaints about your own experience. No one needs to know about your feet hurting, your stomach's going south, or if you're tired. In fact, you'd better just not have any problems of your own. You don't have the luxury to squander any of your racer's time or energy on yourself. I loved it. I had some concerns going into this that given Wayne's time goal, I'd have a bit of trouble keeping up with his pace. How can I be of any help if I can't run as fast as he does? Well, we'll just have to wait and see how things go. I got all of my gear ready and planned how I would keep myself fueled and attend to my own needs without taking any time away from Wayne. I carried a heavier vest, rather than hand held bottles so I had my hands free to help with things at the aid stations and I wouldn't need to take the time to refill my water as often. This worked well. I also had room to carry some extra supplies of food for me and a first aid kit, which came in handy. I had envisioned needing to have my own quick-reach supplies if I had any blister or foot issues.

Wayne was a bit later than expected coming to Foresthill. Pacers are actually allowed to meet the runners a few miles before this check point so when I realized he was having a bit of trouble and running late, I ran down to the earlier aid station to meet him. He was surprised to see me here. We had a 1 mile walk up a steep road and I used the time to assess how he was and do a systems check. Eating? Yes, some. Feet ok? Yes. Drinking fluids? Yes. Weight up or down? Up 4 pounds. Taking salt? Once in a while. Peeing? Yup. OK, need to keep an eye on his hydration and salt intake. Looks like he'll need reminders to keep eating. He complained of a pain in the right calf which was bothering him for the last stretch and had reduced him to a slower shuffle. Hmmmm. Need to keep an eye on that, too.

When we got to Foresthill his crew had a chair and all his stuff spread out and we grabbed what he needed and headed out as quickly as possible. After a fast weigh-in at the medical check off we went for a downhill 20 miles to the river crossing. Wayne was in a conversant mood and time seemed to pass faster for him. Soon it became dark and we had to use our head lamps. Initially he wanted me to run ahead of him, but eventually his pace and desire to run diminished such that he was more comfortable going in front. This helped me to better light the trail ahead of him with my hand held light, as well has my head lamp.

The trail undulated up and down and I had not only the splits between each aid station, but also the elevation profiles so he knew what to expect for terrain. We trotted along the flats, and most of the downhills and walked the ups. It was still warm and could have been a very pleasant run for Wayne if he didn't already have 60 miles on his legs. We occasionally came across a twisted stick in the middle of the dimly lit trail and more than once I thought it might me a snake. But, not. Eventually I dubbed these sticks, "Not Snakes" as is, "be careful, there's a 'not snake!'" hehe. I think I thought it was more funny than Wayne did.

However, eventually I was able to keep him quite amused with a talent I've been cultivating for years and one that I demonstrated throughout the remainder of our run together. The broccoli salad from the day before gave me gas. Lots of gas. And after "breaking the ice" about farting around friends, I made Wayne giggle every time I warned "uh oh!" brief pause, then PFTTTTTP! Sometimes it was staccato with each foot strike. Often Wayne joined in. Even later when he was too tired to carry on any conversation, we could still make each other laugh every time we farted. We were quite a pair. One to be avoided, for sure.

Aid station after aid station I made sure Wayne grabbed some food, filled his bottles and I monitored his weight changes. Between aid stations I kept track of the time and told him how much longer we would be until the next aid, that it was time to take a Gu, that he should consider taking salt. How are your feet? Are you feeling cold? PFFFFTT, giggle.

When we reached the river crossing the scene was surreal. There were enough generators to light up the river, plus aid stations on both sides. There were volunteers in wet suits in the river to help us cross as we held unto the cable strung over the water. Glow sticks in the water lit the way to the least deep spots with better footing and we picked our way over the rocks in water up to our butts. Tiki lamps made for a festive atmosphere and I think there was loud music. Once on the other side we refueled and then headed up the hill to Green Gate. Wayne was beginning to slow down even more and his right calf and knee where becoming more uncomfortable, especially on the downhill sections. But, he kept putting one foot in front of the other and up the hill we climbed to the next aid station. More refueling and onto some of the better running of the course where it's less rocky and hilly.

Unfortunately for Wayne, as it got later and later he got more and more like burnt toast. He walked 90% of this section to the next aid station at Auburn Lakes Trail. Once at the ALT aid station he needed to sit down and attend to some blisters. He literally fell into a chair and I had volunteers bring him a blanket, broth and hot coffee while I took off his shoes and socks. We got his drop bag and with the help of my own first aid kit I drained his blisters and covered them with mole skin, socks and dry shoes. He took a hand full of Advil and I put his arm warmers on him. When I pulled him up out of the chair he was shivering and barely able to stand. Eventually he hobbled, tottered and slowly started moving again. He could barely balance to stand or walk and his calf was starting to seize up. I turned my attention briefly to filling my water bladder and getting some food to take with me when I saw Wayne out of the corner of my eye, lurching towards the bon fire and circle of chairs some volunteers were huddled around. I knew if he sat by the fire and got comfortable he'd likely never get out on the trail again. "WAYNE, GET AWAY FROM THE FIRE!!" I shouted loud enough to make everyone stop what they were doing and look up. Wayne lurched back onto the trail and I followed him out of the aid station at something that resembled a slow walk.

Within a few minutes he had to stop due to cramping in his right calf. I tried to massage it for him but it reduced him to yelping in pain so I helped him get in a position to stretch it. Eventually this didn't seem to be helping much either so he decided to just try to keep moving. The next 30 minutes or so was a very low point. It was very dark, very cold and we were moving very, very slowly. I cautiously tried to keep his spirits up with encouraging words about our progress so far. I saw the searchlights way off in the distance indicating the finish line. Luckily we were way ahead of the cut off times and I played up this fact as well as the fact that he was still making "relentless forward progress." Eventually the sky started to lighten a little and we could see outlines of the hills. Lucky for me, I never felt sleepy or exhausted running through the night.

As it got almost light enough to see without our headlamps, something strange happened. Wayne started running. It was slow at first, but then he picked up the pace and ran faster and faster. By the time we turned off the head lamps and the "not snakes" were visible again we were flying down the trail and Wayne said he felt great! It was like someone turned on a light switch. We ran hard for more than 30 minutes and made it to the next aid station at mile 90. I knew Wayne would finish. Wayne knew he would finish. We grabbed supplies and moved on out. After a quick potty stop our farting sadly subsided quite a bit and we had little else to keep ourselves laughing. I noticed Wayne had developed a large bruise on the back of his right leg, in the area where his calf had been cramping. Obviously he had suffered a tear in the muscle. Yet, he just gutted it out and kept on moving.

Now it was day light and warming up but the last 10 miles must have seemed as long as the first 50 for Wayne. By walking the hills (and there were still a maddening number of them) shuffling the flats and downs we slowly made it down the trail. Even I was getting tired enough to find the time it took up to get from aid station to aid station was getting longer and longer. Would they never come? I tried to keep up the positive talk and idle chit chat to pass the time. Wayne had a harder and harder time chiming in. By the time we got to No Hands Bridge at mile 96.8, it was clear we were mostly walking it in. After a brief flat section we had a mile of switchbacks to climb up onto the last section of road then through town 1.3 miles to the finish line. The switchbacks were the final straw. Wayne kept moving but his ability to do anything else was dead. Even the occasional fart I mustered up didn't make him so much as crack a smile. I hiked up ahead to get an idea when we would reach to top and was almost as relieved as he was when the end was in sight.

Luckily I had warned him that after reaching the road it's still almost a mile of steep uphill before we go down to the high school track and the finish line. Although he was exhausted, he was resolved to just keep moving and we made it, finally, to the crest of the hill and Wayne started to run again. Less than 3 minutes later he could see the track and we went through the gate on the far end. I dropped back and let Wayne finish his race around the track with his family who had been waiting to meet him there. I walked across the field to watch him come under the finish line in 28 hours, 5 minutes and receive his medal from the race director. He looked elated! He also looked a little stunned and glazed over. I hope he remembers it all.

He's one tough runner, my friend Wayne. It was more than inspiring to watch him push through the lows, the pain and injury and keep moving forward until he finished what he had started. I hope that some day I can prove myself to be as tough.

Saturday, May 19, 2007
Race Report McDonald Forest 50K

I think I recovered from the stomach flu and was in good form for the event. The weather couldn't have been more perfect. It was 50 degrees at the start and I doubt if it topped out over 65. It was overcast with a few sunny breaks. There had been a short rain shower over night but essentially no rain in the preceding week so the course was dry and in excellent condition. The elevation gain for the run is listed as 6600 feet. There were sections around little lakes, some old growth forest, some stream hopping and a lot of pretty vistas. One section sported a field of blooming delphiniums under the forest canopy, and another open area blooming fields of various wild flowers. The course is very similar in character to what I'm used to running on my Fort-to-Sea trail at home. There was a 50/50 mix of packed gravel road and single track trail. About half of the trail was smooth and typical for this area and half was more technical and steep. Overall it was a nice mix and I felt well prepared. I never felt like it was beyond my abilities given the training I do. That being said, after the worst of the course (the most steep and technical sections) I really slowed down on what should have been a long easy downhill cruise. I just couldn't run beyond a crawl. I'm sure it was because I wasn't eating enough. I still struggle with this. I just don't get hungry and I have trouble finding anything appealing. And they didn't have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which is something I can manage to eat when available. So, when I should have been able to make some good time, I just trudged along. And I got very chilled (even though the temps weren't cooling down) and began to shiver for a while. That's a typical sign for me that I need to be eating. Also what slows me down is a lot of plain old fashioned PAIN. My feet HURT!!! Every step was disturbingly painful. And there's nothing wrong with my feet. I think it's just glycogen depletion that manifests this way. I was religious about my salt intake but I also think I got behind on hydration and should have carried 2 rather than just one bottle between aid stations. As usual, at the final aid station I forced down more food and fluids. The last 4.8 miles consisted of about 2 miles on a gravel road with a slow steady 800 foot climb that I powered up pretty fast. My feet quit hurting and by the time we hit the last section of single track I was able to fly. There were a number of women I passed on the road and I kept ahead of them on the last section of trail. I was able to really speed through the up and down of the trail and by the end I'm sure I was going at 7-8 min miles at as much of a full-out sprint as I could safely muster on the trail. And I felt REALLY GOOD! I made the final stretch in 51 minutes. Total time 6:51:31. I find it really odd that I can do so well at the beginning of these ultras, tank so bad in the middle and consistently have a huge kick at the end. I'd like to eliminate the tanking part. I'm thinking I may try switching to using gels and see if that works better for me. I've never really been much a gel user, though I think I could be good at scheduling them in and then I wouldn't have to carry as much food that I never feel like eating. I had a baggy of high calorie granola in my hand for several hours and only opened it once and ate out of it. What a waste of effort and squandered potential for energy.

Sunday, April 15, 2007
Race Report Peterson Ridge Rumble 60K

My race yesterday was a hard day. I'm not sure why, but despite many favorable conditions I did terrible. I certainly finished, but not far off DFL. It was bright and sunny, cool but not too cold and the trail was dry without any traces of lingering snow. I didn't really feel particularly bad running, but after about the first mile I was well in contention for last place and I just watched helplessly as the whole field of runners in front of me faded off into the distance. I never really saw anyone else for most of the rest of the run. The high desert area is very similar to Flagstaff. It's rocky, lots of scrub brush in early spring buds and lots of tall pine trees. Often we were up higher and there were just low bushes with little pink flowers and lots of bees buzzing around. There was a view of the Three Sisters mountains at the top of all the rises, sometimes with little puffy white clouds and the sky was as sky blue as you can imagine. The first part of the run moves over dirt/gravel road then onto single track. Sometimes it's soft pine needles, sometimes trail bike routes and sometimes horse trails. There were many rocks and pine cones around to trip on and I've never nearly fallen so many times in one race. During the first half of the race I kept stubbing my toes on I'm not sure what. Even things 2 feet off trail seemed to find their way under my feet and sent me into gyrating contortions in an effort to remain upright. Each jolt of adrenaline sent my heart rate soaring as I analyzed the repercussions of the various hard and prickly surfaces I could have landed on. After a slow climb through the first 3 aid stations there's a loop of about 6 miles that returns to aid station # 3 again. The first half of this was an uninspired uphill drudge and not 5 minutes out of the aid station I fell into the dirt, landing on a rock with my right knee and cutting my thumb on something. I dripped blood on myself. Great. My knee hurt but seemed stable for running and I couldn't think of any excuse to stop and rest it. And besides, I didn't want to fall any further behind. After the first few minutes it was fine and even now it only has a small bruise. The trail eventually took up over some switchbacks onto a much more picturesque route along a roaring river swollen with spring melt off. Sometimes the trail was a thin sliver right next to the edge of the cliffs. After several miles of this we came onto "the grunt" - a 100 yard nearly vertical climb up onto the last 1/2 mile trail returning to the aid station. I found this the easiest part of the day, and one of the few I was able to actually catch up to someone on. I hiked straight up going sideways and I hardly felt winded and my quads never felt like I was doing that much work. By the time I made it to the top I actually felt rested. How odd. I had to stop at the next aid station and re-treat a hot spot on one food and band-aid up my bleeding thumb before leaving. I think I was 3rd from last at this point. We then ran down a lot of the elevation we gained on the way up and I found another place to face plant and land on my left shin. Ouch. My face was completely dusted and I almost started to cry in frustration but decided I didn't want to have streaky tear face at the next aid station. I told myself to just buck up and keep moving. Eventually I came upon a small stream and was able to rinse off my hands and face in the ice cold water. I made it to aid station 5 and refilled my water bottle. The aid station folks were some high school cross country runners who were the beneficiaries of the race proceeds and they were vague about how far it was to the next aid. It tuned out to be almost 7 miles and most of it was on a red dirt lava rock strewn road of interminable 4-10% grade. Yuck. It was slow going and I ran out of water well before I got to the next aid station. I did happen to pass 2 people on this section. One woman admitted she'd already fallen at least 10 times and had a large, tense but painless swelling on the back of one wrist. I reached right over and started prodding and examining it without permission, forgetting I wasn't in Dr. mode. Oops. I think she thought I was rude. It's hard to catch up on poor hydration after the fact. If you put too much in your stomach to make up for it, things tend to just sit around and slosh. And I realized I couldn't find my second stash of salt supplements either. That never helps. So from aid station 6 through 7 I didn't eat enough nor drink enough as my stomach started to take a turn for the worse. And I kept tripping. But, now the trail wound down, down, down back towards the start and there were some of the most spectacular views of the whole day and I tried to enjoy them. Tall snowy peaks looking so close it seemed they were within running distance (ha!) rose above the tree line. After aid station 7 I grabbed a few potato chips and it took me 5 minutes to chew them up and force myself to swallow them. I was moving steady through this and grateful for all the downhill. Eventually I passed 2 women about 3 miles from the end and one fellow at the last aid station who was walking. About 2 miles from the finish I found my second wind. I wish it had showed up somewhere around mile 20. I kept speeding up as I knew I was almost done. I also kept tripping and almost falling until I made my mantra "DON'T TRIP - DON'T FALL" with each step and I didn't let my mind wander. I didn't dare take my eyes off the trail right in front of my feet. I "flew" past the ladies and back down to the school where we started and then ran a pretty speedy 440 around the track to the finish. Although technically a 60K I heard that it's actually somewhat closer to 38 miles. Originally I had expected to finish in about 7 hours but clocked in just a tick over 8:10. Ugh. It's not a very inspiring performance and I'm feeling fairly low about how poorly (slow) I ran compared to EVERYONE else. I'm grateful this one didn't have any cut offs or I'm sure I would have been pulled form the course. I sure hope I don't continue to get slower and slower or else I'll never finish some of the ultras I have planned this summer. BUT - all that being said, I'm glad I finished and I'm looking forward to accomplishing another fun run in the mountains next month...God help me.

Saturday, March 17, 2007
Race Report Chuckanut 50K
Had a nice run on Saturday. Of course, it was raining the whole day. They had some mud, but compared to Hagg Lake it was just dirt in water and not real mud. Those of us who slipped an slided around last month were not impressed with that aspect of the run and, in fact, were quite relieved that it wasn't much of an issue (except to get your feet wet...who cares?). I will admit to one fairly knarly section of steep switchback downhill that was covered in the real slippery stuff and once I got moving, it was impossible to stop or slow down without skating off the trail and into trees/rocks. I whooped, screamed and laughed my whole way down at a speed not anything close to safe, but unable to slow down to that safer speed. The aid station volunteers were at the bottom and could see us and whooped at us all the way down. It was the most fun I had all day. There were substantial areas too steep for running but it turns out I'm a strong uphill hiker/walker. I've discovered a sideways stepping technique that works on the super steep stuff and it seems pretty easy on my legs. There's always a mistake to be made, however. Right before the most difficult section I overstuffed my self at the aid station and had so much nausea I could barely run. This was up on a windy high point and down a seriously technical ridge line. There were huge boulders covered with slickness right next to the cliffs. It was cold and windy and I was miserable not being able to go fast. I fell. My friends pulled ahead and I had to stop to release some of the extra ballast. After hurling, I felt much better. So, eating is good, but eating too much is BAD. The strategy for the day was to stick together (my 2 friends and me) and have a good time. We waited for each other to catch up at each aid station, so collectively spent about 15 extra minutes standing around. At the end I saw a woman I wanted to pass so I had a pretty fast last 1-2 miles and finished a few minutes before "the guys" in 6:58:53. Nothing special in way of a time, though I see the overall winners were about 30 minutes off the record pace this year. It must have been the weather and the "mud." I'm a bit sore but nothing interesting. Except my arm and shoulder on the right (from the fall). After thelast race it was a left sided fall so at least I'm evening things out.

Saturday, February 24, 2007
Race Report Hagg Lake 50K
I've been dawdling over writing this race report because, frankly, I'm quite ambivalent with how things went. I did finish though I'm fairly disappointed to report I was about 45 minutes slower this year compared to last. My primary excuse is a difference in trail surface. I know it's played up to be a muddy race and last year we had some mud. But with all the heavy rain we've had in just the last few weeks, including the half inch that fell on race day it's fair to say it was really, really muddy this year. One friend said it's the worst he'd seen it in 10 years. I can't even begin to describe it. It was one astonishing trail section after another of increasingly un-runnable trail permeated by clay mud and standing water (and sometimes creeks). It was difficult to get any fast rhythm going since I expended so much energy just trying to stay on my feet. It was frustrating. I fell 1.75 times (once both hands and one knee touched down with one foot still on the ground so it counts as only 0.75). A guy running behind me during the other full body launch said it looked spectacular...I landed face first in a heap off the side of the trail...luckily not much in the mud. I tweaked my neck and shoulder a little but otherwise I'm unscathed. I hear there where many more DNFs this year due to hypothermia but the stats and results haven't been posted yet so it's hard to tell for sure. I wasted about 15 minutes at the halfway point changing into dry clothes and a better rain jacket. I doubt I'd have finished at all otherwise since I was among those who were getting pretty chilled. After that I was fine but the trail wasn't. Good thing I have some balance skills because often it was more like skating than running...except that the skates could move sideways as well as forwards and backwards. I actually did have a fun time despite it all. I guess it's one race experience I'm glad to have just survived. I'm looking forward to a more runable surface for that 60K in April. I hear they sometimes have a little snow but otherwise it's a very pleasant course.

September 23, 2006
Sierra Nevada Endurance Run

What follows is my full length race report. It's written for a wider audience. Feel free to browse. I'm feeling well. I have a sore right forefoot that I noticed the last hour of running. I suspect some tendonitis. I'm in stiff soled shoes for a while. My retrocalcaneal bursitis really screamed at points during the run but then faded. I don't notice it at all now. (?)


Things that went right:

    I drank every 5 minutes as planned.
    I started walk breaks from the beginning (18:2 X 4 hours, then 17:3 X 4 hours then 16:4).
    I ate some Clif bar every time I took a walk break, even if I didn't feel like eating (especially when I didn't feel like eating = need to eat!)
    Ate and drank extra at each aid station as well.
    I took an S-cap every 30-60 minutes (monitor myself for hand swelling. If present, take more salt).
    I carried a hand-held with plain water for splashing on myself.
    I cooled off in cold water when available (once in trail side irrigation canal and once into a creek/pool).
    I slowed down if I felt my HR escalating.
    I walked up all the hills until the last 10-15 miles (I didn't need to after that).
    Cleaned my feet, reapplied body glide and changed my socks at 35 miles.
I arrived a day early and took the opportunity to volunteer at packet pick up on Friday. This was primarily for the 100 milers and I met quite a few of them. It was really nice to hear the pre-race talk and it got me very excited anticipating the day that I'll be ready for such a feat. The RD discussed the trail marking. There had been other races along portions of the trail that month and some colored tape was still hanging around. "Only pay attention to the pink tape!" He made them all repeat it out loud then also had some one who was wearing pink stand up so everybody could be sure they knew that the color pink was. Unfortunately there some trail marking vandalism had taken place during the week and he warned folks to use not just the pink tape, but also the chalk arrows (or glow sticks at night) to guide them. After the briefing everyone left but I had offered to drive a runner back to the hotel once his pacer showed up from the airport. This 40 minute wait stretched out to 90 minutes and during this time we helped Norm string the Christmas lights along the start/finish area. I got back to the hotel and to bed in plenty of time to get a fitful night of sleep.

The next morning I got up in plenty of time, ate, showered and dressed. I arrived attired for a hot day. Since it was still dark out the temps were hovering around 60 degrees but most of the other runners had layers of shirts, gloves and hats on. There I was in my short sleeved shirt and hand held water bottle at the ready to douse myself when I got too warm. I placed myself towards the back of the pack, turned on my head lamp and when the "Go" signal went off, so did we. I followed the herd into the darkness, not able nor caring much to notice my surroundings. After about 30 minutes there was light enough to see without the head lamp and it was already getting warm.

The trail was so dry that a thick layer of "moon dust" was kicked up by every foot step and we breathed this all day long. It was an incentive to stay at the front of the group or to allow yourself to fall way behind. The air was so dry you could practically feel the static electricity building up on your clothes just from running. I religiously drank every 5 minutes.

The 100 milers went out very conservatively and walked even the slightest inclines. I followed suit, knowing that the heat of the day would sap my strength later and I'd be glad I had conserved. The rocky single track trail undulated along hills and boulders beside a lake and river valley. The foliage, when there was any, consisted of dry straw that had once been grass, most of it with prickly burrs. The trees were losing leaves in a dry, scorched, "that's it for me this season" kind of way. The temps eventually peaked at 87 degrees and the humidity dropped to 5% for the day..

Despite the hill walking, I still took a several minute walk break about every 20 minutes. It wasn't long before we hit the first aid station and I already needed to refill my the water bladder in my back pack. Another dry undulating stretch brought us to the second and third aid stations and the full force of the sun. Next there was a long section of 9 miles between aid stations and although there were about 30 gallons of water deposited 2 miles in, we were asked to be conservative with this supply. That meant I didn't waste my hand held water by dosing myself with it. I drank it. And still I ran out well before the next aid station..

There's one thing the RD didn't waste any money on for this race that I wish he had...toileting facilities. Nary a port-a-potty was rented. We were instructed to answer nature's call in nature itself, but for God's sake, don't litter with toilet paper. Carry it back in a plastic bag if you need to use any. O...K... There was lots of squatting going on all day and once again I am jealous of the superiority of the male anatomy for its efficiency in liquid waste disposal. Do you know how hard it is to squat with tired legs? Many of the women have perfected the ability to semi-squat and pee without even having to drop trou. But that's a whole other essay. Note to self: hot spicy Indian food for lunch the day before an ultra is not such a good idea..

Before long we were in the open, without the cover of shade. There was little wind and the sun was beating down. Along most of the route you could see the river at various distances from us...usually getting farther and farther away as we climbed up the canyon. I sometimes fantasized about running down there for a swim. Along this section of trail was the Rattle Snake Bar aid station and one of our drop bag spots. I grabbed some more Clif Bars and salt from my supplies and continued on after stocking up with a PB&J sandwich from the table..

The biggest challenge of the trip for the 50 milers is "Cardiac Hill" a 1.5 mile vertical climb of who knows what. It's steep, it's rocky, it's rooty, it's dry. I was happy to get to climb for a while and it didn't seem so bad. For the first time I actually had to wipe sweat off my face. Compared to some of the hills I've climbed in training around here, it wasn't too hard and for this I was grateful...especially since there wasn't any mud to slip on. It was the heat and dryness that made this race a tough challenge for me. But, the climb was over in about 30 minutes and another aid station soon followed. Good thing, too since I had already run out of fluids on the way up. Time for another PB&J as well as more fluids. I was consuming over 60 ounces every hour. I felt remarkably tired for having covered less than a third of the distance. I've been able to run many more tough miles at home with less fatigue and I knew it was mostly on account of the heat and dryness. I kept trying to control for what I could. Go slower, drink more, take more salt.

The next section consisted of a tree canopy covered trail along side a cement irrigation ditch. There was about 2 feet of cool fresh flowing water just at our feet but mostly too far from our reach to be useful. At one spot I was able to get down close enough to reach in and splash my head and chest. After another few miles, another aid station and our second drop bags we eventually turned on to the Western States trail. What a thrill it was to run that famous stretch to No Hands bridge and then back. I've read many race reports featuring this section of trail. Along this section we passed a couple of small creeks and I used them to cool off my feet when they were deep enough. There was one especially nice one that had an actual pool of water. On the way out I got in knee deep and splashed myself with water like an elephant (except without the trunk). I never have problems with soggy feet and with the low humidity I knew they would be dry again shortly. Cooling them off felt wonderful for the brief time it lasted.

Finally we came to the turn around at the No Hands Bridge aid station. The 100 milers had an additional killer climb and 16 mile loop before heading back (and then an additional 33 mile loop later). I continued to feel very slow and struggled to run the downs and flats and was secretly grateful for the many hills I could walk up. My ankles and feet were very sore. My quads were in great shape, though. A stumbled back to the aid station with my drop bag but forgot to grab my extra S-caps. I realized my mistake too late and did a quick calculation...I probably had enough to last until I could get to my other drop box. I'd be sure to eat chips and salty aid station foods (as well as my PB&Js). On my way back by the deep creek pool I actually took off my pack and got into the water up to my neck. Heaven! I'll bet everyone thought I was just really sweaty as I dripped and glistened down the trail. The run (walk) down Cardiac Hill was as much slide on your heals as it was step down. Funny, it didn't seem that steep on the way up.

By the time we got to that 9 mile stretch between aid stations it was the hottest part of the day and the least shade. I ran out of water well before the aid station. I started to get a headache. The river below looked cool and inviting...though about 100 feet down a cliff. All I wanted to do was get to my drop box at Rattle Snake bar. I was feeling so bad that I figured I could use a 10 minutes sit down rest. Just 10 minutes, no more, but the rest and cooling down period hopefully would help me to continue.

Before the race I ran through a list of reasons to drop. Injury. Severe illness (nausea and vomiting). Miss a time cut off. Being tired just wasn't good enough of an excuse. As long as I was still within the cut off times, I knew I had to keep going, like it or not. I was suffering, though, and hardly moving so it was taking a long time to get to Rattle Snake Bar. Then it occurs to me. Rattle Snakes. It must be an aptly named place...there must be lots of rattlers in these hills. That's it! If I could just get bitten by a rattle snake, then I'd have the perfect excuse to drop out! I was only half joking to myself.

Finally, the aid station appears. It took forever. I cooled off with an ice water sponge bath then sat down to change my socks. Despite the water soaks my feet have never looked better! More body glide and new socks. Another fellow stumbled in behind me and practically collapsed. I informed the aid station workers that if he required medical attention I was available to look and see what I could do for him. The volunteer reassured me that today I was a runner, not a doctor. Besides, she was an E.R. nurse and had things well under control. Sadly, my 10 minutes were up and I couldn't even finagle more resting time by to tend to the sick. Off I went.

I figured I'd finish but suspected it would be slow and ugly. The next aid station, though just 3 miles away took forever to come. I sat in a chair to refuel. None of the food was looking very good any more, but I took my PB&J and forced it down anyway. I also finally broke down and took some ibuprofen for my headache. I downed several cups of Coke and took a caffeine laced chocolate GU (they sure are thinner when warm) and took off before the chair sucked me in completely.

Then something happened that I didn't expect. I found a slow trudge running speed that felt better than walking and quit taking walk breaks. They seemed like more work than this new gear. Then the gear switched and I was going faster. My breathing came easy. My nausea and head ache lifted. My running became fluid and enjoyable, just like a fun training run at home. Finally it was starting to cool off and as the sun and the temperature went down my strength returned. It was there all along, oppressed by the heat, just waiting. Luckily I didn't deplete it while it was in hibernation. Up and down the trail I flew! I passed people who had previously passed me. I was smiling and having a great time. I felt fabulous. I coasted through the last aid station stopping just long enough to refill my backpack but packing away my hand held since I didn't need it any more. Away I went! I knew I had just 40 minutes or less and I'd be done. I saw a flock of turkeys in the grass as I ran by. I startled a little bunny. I kept thinking that there was no reason to save back anything so I may as well let it all go and I flew faster and faster along the trail.

By this time it's getting to be dusk and I'm entering territory that I ran previously in darkness on the way out. The pink ribbons were getting harder to see and the path was criss-crossing a convoluted network of trails. A few times I had to stop and look around to decipher where to go next. No one was around me (I passed them all!) but eventually I found pink flagging and took off again.

Despite running faster and faster I never did seem to come upon the finish area. There was a levee we ran up to on the way out...I'm on the levee running for quite a while now. I saw a sign pointing down the levee. I wish I had remembered how far down the levee we ran on the way out. It goes on and on and on. Eventually I start to imagine that I must have figured out the distances wrong. Or miscalculated the time I left the last aid station. I know I've gone more than 3 miles unless I'm completely deluded and instead of running really fast, I'm hallucinating. Then I imagine that there's a secret to the race. It's really several miles longer than posted but you don't get to find that out until you cross the finish line ("you just run 57 miles, not 53! Keep it hush, hush, though!). Nah....wait, there's a bright light and tables...is that an aid station?! It must be a volunteer lighting the way to the last turn before the finish.

They look about as puzzled to see me as I am to see them. What I have come across is the next aid station for the 100 milers for when they take off on the last 33 mile loop.

"Where's the trail?" I ask. "What?" they reply. "I'm looking for the finish," I plead. "Are you a 50 miler? Oh no, you passed it! It's back there...about 3 miles back..." My heart sinks. My mouth opens and out comes expletives. Lots of them, over and over and over. "Drat! Drat, drat, drat, drat, drat!!!!!!" Only each "drat" starts with "f". Then I start to sob. My composure is gone. My strength is gone. My resolve is gone. Now I have to turn back and run again that section of trail that would never end. And I still don't know where I went wrong. I could be out there for days and still never find the end!

And the huge come back I made over the last 10 miles is gone. (Well, 13 miles, but who's counting)

The wonderful volunteer takes matters into his hands and instantly calls the RD and informs him of my dilemma. Surely, since I've run well PAST the 53.2 miles (by 3!) I can be considered done, can't I? Yes, the R.D. says. They guesstimate my finishing time as the time I came into that aid station. My initial relief is replaced by a sense of unfinished business. "But I need to cross the finish line. I can't be done if I don't cross the finish line." So the plan is made that he will drive me to a point half way back to the finish and drop me off to run. He will then drive over to the finish and walk up to meet me at the point I should have turned off in the first place (and just 1/4 mile from the end). I run, we meet, I finish. It's not exactly how I envisioned the race playing out, but I have the satisfaction of knowing I ran 57.5 miles that day and honestly felt like I could have kept going for a while yet. Good thing, too.

Things that did not go well (besides missing the last turn): Doing this event solo meant that when I was too tired to do something, it didn't get done. By the time I got back to the hotel I was too lazy to figure out something to eat for dinner. Besides, nothing sounded very good. I had some PB&J, yogurt and slim-fast and went to bed. I awoke many times in the night feeling awful...nausea and headache. I drank more water and another slim fast at 2AM. I ate a little in the morning but still felt pretty ill the first few hours of my drive. I eventually bit the bullet and decided I had to stop for a proper meal and forced myself to eat breakfast at a restaurant. Within an hour I felt like a new person. Then every 2 hours I was ravenously hungry again and ate the rest of my way home...stop for a scone, stop for lunch, stop for ice cream, etc. I also had to stop for sleep a few times to avoid nodding off behind the wheel. I got home at 8 PM (thanks to a freeway accident that backed up traffic for about 45 minutes).

Rodney had a sushi plate waiting for me when I got home. I ate again. I finally felt full.

The Great Columbia Crossing

I just finished the 10K  that I was training for and wanted to tell you how it went. Well, here's the scoop.

This last week I had a bad cold and didn't run at all.  I felt so crummy yesterday with a low grade fever and painful, productive cough,  I was not hopeful for today.  It's also been raining and blowing.  I went to a sporting goods store yesterday and got some really cool clothes to wear in bad weather running...skin tight leggings and long-sleeved shirt made out of some sort of breathable space age fabric.  Totally awesome stuff!  I went to bed with a handful of Ibuprofen and cough syrup.  I slept well.
I got up early and weighed myself....124.8#  Blink, blink,  must be the light.  No, it really does say 124.8.  WOW!  Good omen?
We get to the race and have to wait in the wind and rain but there I am in running gear standing in a big crowd of runners...I'm a runner, it occurs to me.  I have my mile split times written on my arm so I know if I'm keeping my pace to finish under 60 minutes.  They count down to the start and it starts to pour and the wind picks up.  GO!!!!!!!!
I run, many people pass me as I keep my usual pace and it's raining and windy.  We hit the bridge and my first mile split time is 1 minute under where I need to be!  Wow! Mile 2 and 3 are the same and now I'm passing people.  The rain has stopped and though there's still a wind, it's sideways rather than head on.
Then the dreaded hill.  A very steep 1 mile of incline.  I trudge and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  As I crest the hill I run with my arms over my head waving in a victory salute (people must have thought I was crazy)!  The 5 mile split is just on the down-slope side and I'm 2 minutes under my pace!
Downhill (equal to the up) and back on the flats and the rain and wind return coming straight at us.  My face is dripping and my morning lotion is now pouring into my eyes (remember this for next time).  I'm pushing it and then my MP3 player runs out of juice.  Oh well,  I can run a mile without my tunes.
When I see the finish line 50 yards ahead, I sprint to the end and pass another runner on the way.  I finish!!!  I feel good, but not totally spent and certainly not dreadfully taxed nor sick.  Then I finally remember to turn off my stop watch...56:29.  I probably got in just at 56:15 (official results will be posted later).  Four minutes under my goal time.  Blink, blink...yup, definitely 56:29.
What a great day.  I met my WW goal (unofficially) and finished my first race well within my self-imposed pace.   If the weather had been perfect, I don't think I could have done any better.  And my knees didn't hurt at all.  Those running clothes kept me the perfect temperature even when I was soaking wet.  I also got a pair of special socks (2 layer) so I didn't get blisters, even with my feet all wet.
Rodney (DH) ran/walked the race and finished just 20 minutes after me.  If he builds up his endurance, he'll leave me in the dust.  We went to the finishers tent and had a bowl of (free) clam chowder and an apple and then came home.  Now, of course, it's sunny and the rain has stopped.
So, there you have it.  On to my next goal... the May marathon I plan to do in the redwood country of Northern California.
The Ave

Well, I made it! My goal was 4:10:00 and I finished in 4:10:31. I had mid-race aspirations of finishing just at 4 hours (my 1/2 mary split was right at 2 hrs) but 82 degrees does something to you! And "gently rolling" hills seem a tad more difficult. Mile 13-20 is essentially all uphill and the last 6 miles return trip of downhill just didn't seem to make up for it! I am in no way disappointed and I am sailing on the biggest runners high that you can imagine (even if my legs are crippled and you should just see the blisters).

I ran the whole way, except through the water stations where I walked so as not to aspirate (I did that once). I kept pouring water over my head and onto my chest to try to stay cool. My GPS doesn't work at all under those trees and it gave up the ghost for timing me somewhere around 23 miles. By that time I was really ready to be done.

I really felt like I was crawling and did see a flash of GPS time telling me I was going 11+ at one point. I knew I had to really kick it or I wouldn't make my goal (even with the 5 minute advantage coming into the 2nd half). So I really kicked it into high gear. There was this woman who and been passing me off and on for most on the last half and she looked to be about 200 yards ahead. She pulled ahead of me at the last water station. I made it my mission to catch her. She seemed to be running about at my projected pace.

I closed in on her over the last 3 miles and the passed her around 25.5 miles. I ran as hard as I could that last bit...I was gasping for air! I'll bet I ran 7 minute mile pace.   I crossed the finish to wild cheers (in my mind) and someone handed me some water.

They untied my race chip (it was suppose to be zip-tied but mine broke just 5 minutes before the start so I tied it on). After he untied it I actually had to ask him to please retie my shoe (like I was in any shape to do it). My husband was there and I collapsed into sobs in his arms...I always wondered why people did that. Now I don't understand why they don't. The woman who I was chasing came down the chute and told me..."great race".

Those last 100 yards where so hard and people lining the course were so encouraging...I kept thinking it was you guys cheering me on.

My sister and husband are treating me like queen for a day. I have been given every comfort and treat.  I'm happily basking in my race t-shirt and with my medal.  It's pizza for dinner!

Well, that's it. I talked with a nice woman from mile 6-11...she had been following and called me her "pace monkey." It really helped but she finished at the 1/2. I talked with an older guy (50s) from mile 14-16 who told me he started running at age 46 and that "The Ave" was one of his favorite marathons. He gave me pros and cons of various other marathons. I found him after he finished and thanked him.

Will I run a marathon again? You bet! Just not for a few days 

P.S. for Jason:
I know I really messed up my pace for the first half. I think I did the first mile at 10:03ish as we planned, but then the GPS wasn't working and they only sporadically had mile markers.  That first 3 miles were mostly downhill so it was really hard to hold back.  I really paid for it the second half but did have enough left for that end kick.  OMG that was the hardest 3 miles I've ever run in my life.  When should I start running again?  I'm trying to keep moving today but will likely be very, very sore tomorrow.
Gorge Fest


Well, I suspect you already heard my result on your voice mail but here's all the news that's fit to print.  It turned out to be a smaller event than I thought...maybe 50-100 people?  The final online results will be posted later at http://www.gorgefest.com/html/10k_run.html  In case you didn't get my message, I finished at 46:57.

It seems like almost everybody passed me within the first 1-2 miles even though I was doing 8:00 or less minute miles.  I felt put to shame so that's why I stuck to a faster than intended pace.  It seemed like I could sustain it so that's why I just kept it up.  Of course, in the end, I did take my GPS with me and it worked just fine to keep me from going even faster the first mile (although it was incredibly unnerving to see everyone and his brother passing me).  Some of the front runners had even just finished a triathlon event staged before our race.  If that doesn't make one feel wimpy...

I did the "reel 'em in" technique again on the second half.  I saw a woman 100 yards ahead and made it my mission to catch and pass her.  Besides, she looked to be about my age and I didn't want her to beat me.  I was bad, though, and as I was running along side her I made chit chat about the wind we were running into and then casually asked her what her goal pace was... 8:30 she says (like me) and I pleasantly reply that well, by my GPS she's doing 8:00 now!  That takes the competitive edge off her, I suspect, and I just breezed ahead as she realized that she didn't have to be working that hard. Heh, heh.  Hope that's not unsportsman-like behavior. I did my warm up mile with strides and then after the race I ran back to do the last 1/2 with Rodney (my husband) as he finished.  He's decided that taking a month off from training makes for much more difficult races.  No kidding.  Obviously, he runs to have it in common with me, not because he likes it all that much.  Not bad for an old guy, though (he's 12 years older than I).

Running of the Trolls

Well,  It was more like 5.25 miles so I finished in 40:08  (7:39 pace).  I came in 3rd overall... out of 3.  The rest of the participants were joggers or walkers.  Only about 15-20 people overall.  It's really hard to keep up a competitive pace when you're out there all alone (the #1 and #2 runners were way out ahead of me).  There actually were some small - medium hills.
Overall it was great because I doubt I'll ever be able to say again that I placed 3rd overall in a race!  They had it measured wrong, though.  Luckily I brought my GPS and it was really 5.25 miles.  I've been strapping it up high on my arm so I can't really see it while I'm running and I just run by feel.  Luckily I get the final time and distance.
Portland Bridge Run

Well, I hesitate to write this since I really don't have my results yet.  I did well, however.  I set my virtual training partner on my Garmin for a 7:45 pace and I beat him.  I believe it was around a 7:35 pace.  I forgot (as usual) to hit the stop button on my watch until after I was standing around at the finish getting my chip removed.

The race...bridges mean hills.  I started strong and just kept it up.  The 1/2 mary and 12K groups started together and then split off at about the half way mark.  I didn't see any women around me most of the time and rather than being towards the back of the pack I was in the front third.  I rarely got passed and I passed lots of folks all the way along.  I especially passed folks on the downhills.  How weird is that?  I passed a guy in the last mile (my reel 'em in technique).  I kept thinking I would say as I ran by "you going to let a girl pass you...hahaha"  but I never did.
I felt fine afterwards.  I had a great race and look forward to the next.
Official Time 57:33 = 7:43 pace.  7th female overall and 1st in my age category!   37th finisher overall (out of 200+).
Portland Marathon

Well, I've finally gotten around to sending out my latest and greatest race report from the Portland Marathon on October 3rd.  As some of you may know, Rodney and I had scheduled a grand New England tour for our 20th anniversary and the Maine marathon in Portland featured prominently in it.  So we made it all the way to Portland, (Oregon) before I realize that we've missed the flight by one full day.  Guess I need to use a travel agent from now on and I'm no longer allowed to make travel arrangements on my own.  The cost of rescheduling the flights at the last minute...astronomical.  So, sad to say, we ditched the trip.

Fortunately, all the training did not go to waste as the Portland (Oregon) marathon runs the same day.  So I pay my astronomical last minute registration fee and there I am at the start line with over 7000 people, instead of the 2500 I had planned for in Maine.  And hills...there are hills.  Luckily I train on plenty of them.  The weather was perfect - cool and windless until the sun broke out at the end.  The first part of the course has lots of down hill stretches and it's really hard to hold back, but I did my best to hit even splits.  There's one moderate hill at 17 miles and there I was able to pass a bunch of folks, all the way thanking myself for running hills in training . My goal was to get in under 3 hours 50 minutes (the qualifying time for my age/gender to run the Boston Marathon).

Long story (run) short, I had a comfortable run, except for the general agony of running a marathon during miles 18-26.  I crossed the finish line in 3:48:12 bringing in my last mile at one minute per mile faster than my goal pace (for you non runners, that means I tried to "sprint" in).  Since I ended up in Oregon, rather than Maine, my parents, as well as Rodney, were able to be there cheering for me and hugging me at the end.  And the food!  You should have seen all the food they give you during and afterwards...ice cream bars, fruit, potato chips, fluids, candy, etc.  Too bad I wasn't that hungry until a few hours later.  There were even guys standing at mile 24ish offering beer!  I didn't see any takers, however.

So, plan on "watching" for me in the Boston marathon this April!  I intend to keep working hard to improve my time one marathon at a time until my improvement curve catches up with my "declining performance with age" curve.  Then I think I'll switch to long distance running (50-100 mile races).  That should keep me busy and keep you all amused.  And Rodney just keeps shaking his head.

Oh, and the vacation trip turned into a lovely 5 days in Victoria, B.C. - one of our favorite trip destinations, anyway.  Except that they were running the Victoria Marathon the day after we left and I wish I could have stayed longer ... to watch it.

Y2K5 20K


A really tough run. I never felt very good from start to finish. It was like I was struggling the whole way.  It was cold (35 degrees) and a bit windy and LOTS of hills. I just kept trying to hit my splits even though I felt bad (thank you Garmin). I saw the front leaders pass on their return and they were about 3-4 miles ahead of me. Of course, I counted off the women 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.... I was 8th at the 8 mile mark then I passed a few and a few passed me. I passed one woman and she drafted right behind me for about 50 yards and I got tired of hearing the panting (makes me nervous) so sprinted briefly to leave her behind.  She didn't keep up.  At about 9 miles I was so beat but then finally remembered to ingest my GOO and that helped a little.

The last 1/2 mile was a really long hill and I gasped my way up. Into last stretch (50 yards) there was a guy that I sprinted madly to pass at the last second, until he saw me and put on his own surge. He looked genuinely annoyed when he turned around in the finish chute and said "Hey, you can't do that right at the end!" hehehe. But he still beat me.

I didn't expect to get any prize but they must call >40 year olds "masters".   I was sitting there eating my post race pancakes when they handed out the plaques and I was surprised to get one.  Here's the link to the official results:  http://www.orrc.net/results/y2k20k05.htm

Now that I analyze my performance, I'm glad I did "between 8:05 and 8:10"  as planned, but I wonder why I felt so beat going into the race and why I wasn't able to go faster.  My last 10K that we based the goal pace on was way back in August.  Shouldn't I be improving more than that in the last 5 months?  Especially after all the speed work.  Then again, maybe it was just one of those days and maybe I don't give enough credit to the hills...there were well over a dozen of them...just kept rolling up and down the whole way.

I feel great today!  We've hit a cold streak of weather (for here) and I hope we don't get much ice over the next week, because the treadmill really bugs me.  My run this evening was one of the best I've had in a while.

Hagg Lake Ultra 25K

What a great time.  2:30:34 was my finishing time which put me as 74/209 and #2 women masters (7/79 women).  I hear that the course was a lot easier than in the past, since we haven't had much rain lately and the mud was less watery.  I think watery mud would have been better in some respects than the slippery mortar-consistency mud that was there.  

The first 3/4 mile was up a gravel road, then back down the road and onto the trail.  It undulates through the forest and along the lake shore for the first half and this section was the fastest for me.  I averaged around 9 minute miles.  It was also mostly dry.  It was cold enough that some of the mucky spots were frozen so the footing was good.  After about halfway, the mud started and was there,  more or less until the end.  The going was substantially slower with 5 pounds of mud on each foot, even on the occasional flat road stretches.  

The mud tracks are basically single track bike trails.  Think deep V-shaped ruts with muddy sides.  Ugh.  Lots of slipping and sliding.  I didn't fall, unlike many others, but I came close a few times.  It really was slow going and I think I averaged about 11 min miles in the worst of it.  I never twisted my ankle which is something I do regularly at home on the trail I've run.

I didn't see many women around me except for the ones I passed in the first half.  Just one got by me, then left me in the dust.  There were plenty ahead of me that I never saw.  In the last 1/2 mile I was in a cluster of guys (about 5 of us) when we came upon a washed away foot bridge surrounded by a mud hole.  All the guys paused to plan out a crossing strategy and I just gazelled right past them...none of them ever caught up.  hehe  

I seem to have some talent going down hill.  I pass an awful lot of people on the road downhills, but also on the technical trail downhills.  I do those short mincing steps and just fly.  I also do well on the uphills with the short steps and rapid turnover.  The only thing that holds me back is endurance, which I hope will improve over time.  

I don't feel too thrashed, so far. There's a definite attraction to trail racing - the aide station and post race food.  What a junk food feast!  I think I'll stick with carrying my water bottle next time, though, for a race of this length.  Standing around to drink and eat at the aid stations cost me about 1-2 minutes.  If I could sip in the run, I wouldn't take much time to grab a handful of M&Ms and chips and be on my way.  

Next year maybe I'd like to do the 50K.  Those guys must have twice the fun, right?!

Boston 2005: This is it!

Boston was a big goal for me so I have dedicated a special page for it. I have posted my race report to the On to Boston! page.

See ya there.

Mt Hood Pacific Crest Trail Ultramarathon 2005!

Ever since adding trail running to my training I've been intrigued by the concept of an ultramarathon - any distance longer than the traditional 26.2 marathon distance.  Since many of these races are typically run on trails I was all for the idea.  Running on softer ground and the awe of completing mega distances...sweet!  I trained for the Pacific Crest Trail Ultramarathon to and from Mt. Hood, Oregon.  I logged as many miles as I could on trail.  I did a long (33 mile) training run in the Olympic National park complete with elevation gains and river crossings.  I felt well prepared.  

As with many trail ultras, this route included a fair amount of elevation gain and loss.  It starts 25 miles south of Mt. Hood at 3500 feet and winds its way up to Timberline lodge at the mountain.  Then back down.  I planned a whole long weekend.  I invited a few close friends and family and we rented a cabin.  I had my friends crew for me (essentially they drove from check point to check point to meet me with the things I wanted to eat and drink).  Steve even agreed to run the last 6 miles with me to keep me moving and give me company during the last stretch.

After all my months of training and planning, I was as ready as I could be and eager to complete the task at hand.  I count myself lucky to have finished and be included in the ultra family.  What follows is my race report of that day.  There are some great photos of the trail on the official race website:


We were on the road, my crew and I, by 5:30 am.  It was predicted to be 75 degrees for the day in the area of Mt. Hood.  But, I was down-right chilly as I waited at the start.  As in every race I've ever run, the RD stood at the front of the pack and announced unintelligible instructions to the crowd before shouting "GO!"  and we were off.  My feet were actually numb for the first 30 minutes but by the time I hit the first aid station at mile 6-ish I switched from long-sleeved shirt to tank top.  The trail was dry, dry, dry and dusty.  Everyone took off very fast and knowing that my slow grinding speed would likely be the one to get me to the finish line I was soon at the back of the pack.  

One thing I noticed right away is how easy this trail was, technically.  All my trail running practice was on much more difficult terrain and I was grateful not to have under-trained in that respect.  

Two friends (Beth and Steve) were crewing for me and met me at each aid station.  They refilled my fuel bet, handed me my food and gave me updates on my progress.  I was right on schedule for a 10:30 finish up until the turn around point at Timberline.  

About 3 hours into the run we broke out onto a high ridge and I saw this huge mountain way, way off into the distance.  That's where were going...and then coming back!  This was a beautiful sight, but way too much information.

Somewhere in the first half I was running near 2 fellows when we hit a nice, long downhill section.  I'll admit that pride got me running that section way too fast for my abilities...unless the race was suppose to end at the next aid station.  Ah, well.  They left me behind and I was back to my usual pace soon enough.  

It seemed mighty warm and I hadn't needed a pee-break for quite a long time...I ended up going 20 miles before I caught up and needed to go again.  At about 18 miles my legs started to ACHE in a way I was unfamiliar.  My crew suggested I wasn't hydrated enough and sure enough, I downed more fluids and the feeling passed.  

The last section before the turnaround is the steepest and ends above the tree line around 6000 feet.  It opens onto a sand dune area of rolling hills for what seemed like forever.  I counted folks passing me on their return from the top.  There weren't that many... there must be a lot behind me.  How did I pass people without seeing myself pass them?  Maybe at the aid stations.... 

I changed my socks at the top then headed back down, grateful to be able to run instead of walk long stretches.  In the end I longed for hills so I would have an excuse to walk for a bit!

On my way back down I think I passed 3-4 people on their way up.  Holy cow, I'm that far behind with a 10:30 pace?  How did this happen?  I think ultra-math must also include the inability to count correctly after 20 miles in the sun and dust.

At the first aid station on the way down I saw 3 people dropping out right then and there.  I was hot.  It sure seemed hot. But, no time to chit chat and off I went.  Shuffle run, walk the ups, shuffle run, walk the ups.  Drink...eat?  yuk...force myself to eat...Ah that's better...gosh it's hot...and on and on, mile after interminable mile.  I don't know how you other people can remember such mile by mile detail of your runs...it all seems such a blur to me.

About 10 miles from the end I finally ask, "Just how hot is it?  It seems hotter than 75 degrees."  Well, it was 85 most of the day and one aid station saw 95 degrees.  No wonder this sponge bath with ice water feels so good.  

My friend/pacer jumped in with me for the last 9 miles and I shuffled in to the finish, increasingly aware that, sadly, I would be finishing in over 12 long hours.  I did end up passing 4 people in the last 6 miles.  My legs weren't so bad but my feet were pretty sore.  Every small trip on a root or rock sent flashes of pain.  Every normal step sent flashes of pain.  Suddenly one toe developed a serious stinging sensation.  In the end, 3 toenails would fall victim to this race.  

Finally we head out onto the road for the final 1/4 mile stretch to the finish line.  I'm trying to choke back the tears so I can breathe and I feel like I'm really hustling in at the end.  Video of me shows that, actually, I had quite the death shuffle going on. 

But I finished.


Considering the heat I count myself lucky to have crossed the finish line.

As an out and back course I was humbled to see the turn around point so far off in the distance when already 3 hours into the race, and I remain in awe that I was able to accomplish this feat at all.  How people keep this up for 100 miles escapes me at the present time.  I hope some day to understand.

Maine Marathon 2005

Husband and I traveled to New England for a two week vacation. Of course, I launched it with the Maine Marathon in Portland.

Unfortunately, I came down with a cold the 6 days before the race. That, along with a general sense of overtraining and a nagging post-ultra fatigue kept me from running at all the week before.

The airline lost our luggage but I always carry my running things with me in the carry-on bag. 

Portland is a great town and we have fun exploring, though, as usual, I probably put too much time on my legs the day before the race.  At packet pick-up we ran into some fellow luggage-less passengers from our flight.

The weather started out nice for Fall – 60 degrees.  It was sunny and windless.  The race starts along the bay and continues out into the countryside north of the city.  Lots of beautiful rich people stood outside their beautiful expensive houses to cheer us on all along the route. 

I had heard the course described as fairly flat but found it otherwise.  There were lots of rollers between the flat stretches and I was again glad I train regularly on hills.  I felt well rested and ready to go at the start, hopeful that the rest days I took helped me to recuperate enough to do well.  My goal was a PR or at least a repeat BQ.

I kept a steady pace through the first half.  The ambient temp came up fairly quickly and by the turn around point I was pouring water over my head at the aid stations to keep cooler.  This was the first road race that I took my salt tablets every 45 minutes and I think it helped a bit to ward off leg aches.

However, it did little for general fatigue.  Around 19 miles my pace began to drop off and the more miles I pushed under my feet, the less I cared.

I kept a number of fellow runners entertained with my favorite slogan emblazoned on the back of my singlet “WILL RUN FOR FOOD.”   Towards the end I was thinking more that I would rather starve than run one more step.

I did eventually pull out of my funk and do my best to at least hit my BQ goal.  I sprinted at the end to pass a several people, including the luggage-less woman I had met at packet pickup.  I missed my PR by almost exactly 1 minute but made the BQ cut off.

As is apparently my lot in life, the day of the marathon was "unseasonably warm" -- 78 degrees by the time I crossed the finish line. It was an exhausting day, mentally and physically. Still, I managed to walk the 2 miles back to my hotel, rather than call a cab.  It just took me 45 minutes.

That's a 22.4 min/mile.

I believe my current training regimen has reached the end of its usefulness and I need to move on to something different.  But what?

I'll keep you posted!


Bridle Trails 50K - My first DNF... and the lessons learned

This was my second attempt at an official ultra distance event. I finished the Mt. Hood 50M last July so I figured a 50K this time of the year, in prep for my next 50 Mile in April would be good training.

For those who don't know, it rains a lot in Seattle (;-) and on the 28th consecutive day of rain, the Bridle Trails 50K was held (yesterday 1/14). It starts at 3PM and consists of 6 loops on a 5 mile hilly trail through the woods east of Seattle (in Kirkland). The trails are usually for equestrian use so the race starts later to avoid conflicts. Of course, this means running in the dark, which would normally be a welcome experience. However, the rain/sleet, cold, mud up to yer shins for 75% of the trail and visibility of next to nothing once it was dark made running safely nearly impossible. Hypothermia got me after just 25K and I dropped...the first time I've ever quit in a race.

Things I learned:

1) No matter what the temperature has been lately, bring clothing to prepare for a 10-20 degree variation. I'm usually comfortable in technical shirts in layers (even in rain) down to about 40 degrees. It was 35 by the time I dropped and nearly everyone I saw was too cold, including myself. Just before the race I had unpacked extra dry things assuming I wouldn't need them since it had been 45-50 at every night for a week. Last night it was 35 when I drove home.

2) Remove your rings before the race. I had a spectacular face plant in the dark right into a huge mud puddle. My only real injury was a seriously jammed finger which started to swell immediately. Of course, it was the only finger with a ring on it. The ring cutting procedure was free (I have connections) but the jeweler will charge me upwards of $100 to repair the damage to my wedding ring.

3) Dry wool socks make excellent gloves when your real gloves are missing, muddy or too wet to dry out.

4) Dry wool socks become useless after submerged in mud if you need to clear mud from your eyes and mouth. Muddy sleeves don't work well, either. Maybe an extra hankie of sorts would be good to tuck into a ziplock bag and keep in a pocket.

5) Always bring extra dry clothes to change into during the race and especially after. And a towel will save your car seats from lots of damage, too.

4) Bring a thermos of something hot to drink on the ride home.

My next 50K is in February where I hope to remember my lessons learned.

Great photo (note muddy socks in hand):


Kate "here's mud in yer eye" M


Hagg Lake 50K Ultra 2/25/06

A fine week topped off by a fine day running trail yesterday.  50K in 5:55. 

The running Gods were looking out for me and I even had enough energy for a huge kick over the last 3 miles.  I passed a bunch of people and felt great doing it. 

Probably went out too fast for the first loop but obviously saved enough for later.  I believe I ran a negative split. 

No wardrobe malfunctions and only one fall into the mud without injury.  Not much significant elevation changes but lots of short steep ups and down.  

Lots of mud made for slippery and difficult footing for about the last third of each loop and slowed us all down.  My quads are pretty sore today.  I met some new people and had a great time. 

I've got the routine down now for efficient aid station stops and can get in and out comfortably in about a minute.   Can't wait for the next race in March. 

I've been looking at the 50M I've got scheduled in April   (http://www.ontherunevents.com/mtsirelay/)  and it although it's on "trail" it looks like the terrain will be more road-like.  There won't be any big hills to walk up so I may need to consider doing a run:walk ratio. 

If things go well there I'd like to do the PCT 50M at the end of July again this year.

March Mudness

Well, I'm back from the field of victory. I had a very nice run and despite the fatigue and heavy breathing, I still think it's really fun.

My coach called me at my folks house last night to make sure I was doing OK. I had emailed him about skipping my Wednesday run and he wanted to give me a pep talk. What a great coach!

Now for the RR: The trail winds 30+ miles through the forested hills near/through Portland. There's plenty of up and down but over all it's a really pretty single track. Lots of mud to traipse through, but more like 2-6 steps, rather than 50-100 yards at a time. Just lots of muddy puddles and there weren't too many times that it slowed us down.

It takes a lot of food to fuel this machine, I guess because the fist hour I felt really tired. Realized I didn't eat enough for BF (5:30 AM) and needed a snack before the start (8:30 AM). After the first aid station I fueled up and felt much better.

I met up with one of the fellows from last month's run and we stuck together for a lot of the race, catching up on events since Hagg Lake. The 3rd fellow joined us about 2/3 in and ran with us for an hour (he's recovering from the LA marathon). There were quite a few hills to navigate the whole way through. The steepest stretch was at about mile 25 and slowed us down, but at least it's a good excuse to walk (hike fast) for a while. Then there was a long downhill part to destroy quads on. I went flying very fast. Of course, then the last 4 miles were pretty hard and every hill seemed much worse. But, I figured it was near the end so I ran up them all. I passed about 5 people in the last 5 miles again. One couple stayed right on my heels, too, so it kept me running faster than I otherwise would have so I wouldn't get re-passed.

Finished in 5:43:13, 12 minutes faster than last month (though a different course).   ___________________________________________________________________________________

Mt. Si 50 mile Ultra

Feeling a bit sore today in strange places...all my breathing muscles, stomach, shoulders and, of course, legs. I do ok if I keep moving. The great thing about all this "ultra" distance is that the recovery times seem to get shorter and shorter. I expect by Wednesday or Thursday I'll be feeling fine. I have the next 3 weeks with less than 30 miles per week as recovery time.

Race report: It was very dark when I got up at 4:15 and I had everything in the hotel bathroom set up the night before so I wouldn't disturb DH and sister. I showered, did foot prep, got dressed and ate (yogurt, crumpets and nutella) and left. I got there in about 40 minutes and it was still dark and foggy and 33 degrees. I picked up my race number then did my pit stop before standing around outside in the cold waiting for the start.
The race was a combo of a relay of 57 miles and the 50 mile and a 50K solo runs. The 50 milers and some of the relay runners started at 6AM and off we went. It was dawn by now and still chilly, but I layered pretty well and I was comfortable. I felt great for the first 10 miles or so, like I was just getting warmed up in general.

They promised us porta-potties that never materialized until mile 17 so I improvised earlier. Good thing we were running through the woods. I dropped off my gloves too soon at my drop box around 12 miles and my hands were frozen for a while. I knew it was going to get really warm later so I was glad it stayed cold in the woods as long as it did.

I ran for about 30 min with a nice fellow but then he went to "use the woods" and I never saw him again. He didn't even materialize after the turn-around so he must have dropped out (or got lost in the woods).
After the first 20 mile out/back the trail changes to a wide, flat gradual uphill grade until the second turn around at 35 miles. It started getting warmer but the sun was low enough that the trail was partly shaded. I was doing my 18 min run and 2 min walk intervals and eating and drinking properly and felt pretty good. I remembered my salt pills and never needed to change my shoes. I peeled off layers of clothing as it got hot and at the second drop box put on sunscreen. I hit the 25 mile mark in 4:27.

The 25-35 mile section was starting to get to my pace because of the constant up...it wasn't ever really a "hill" but it never seemed to end. Finally I made it to the turn around and headed back down. It definitely felt better to be running downhill and the whole "quads hate downhills" never happened to me. By this time the trail was not shaded and pretty hot.

Most of the race there were relay runners whizzing by. There were 2 late relay exchange areas that whooped it up a bit when I went through the exchange (the ultra number were 1-52 and in red so they could tell us apart). I always ran through my timed walk period if I was passing an exchange ;-)

The last 10 miles were hard to hold my pace, more for concentration reasons than just plain fatigue. I kept reminding myself that running slower didn't hurt any less (it didn't) and I'd speed up only to notice a few minutes later I was shuffling along again. Keeping track of the next time I could walk kept me somewhat focused and I looked forward to the breaks. But, it didn't really feel any easier after walking the 2 minutes. I did it anyway because it was the plan. Towards the end I was able to maintain a bit of a faster pace when I saw some other ultra person to pass (I passed 3).
As I passed the final stretch off the trail and back on the road into town I was able to pick up the pace quite nicely and sped to the finish line with an 8:55 last mile (!). They announced my name as I crossed the finish line but everyone standing around was just hanging around after the relay to eat and relax and they were in their relay groups. It was all very anticlimactic.

But, the lady I'm dog-sitting for was there and found me (she ran in the relay) and she talked to me for a while. There was really nothing much to do so I just got my drop boxes, grabbed a water and drove back to the city with the windows up and the air conditioning on!

I much prefer the atmosphere of a pure ultra event, rather than the small add on the ultra seemed to be to the relay. I'm pretty independent and didn't plan on any support with this run, but it would have been nice to be near other ultra runners throughout the race. The field was just so spread out and I was so much slower than the rest of them that they were all long gone by the time I finished.

I'm looking forward to the end of July when I plan to do the Mt. Hood run again and I already know some folks who may be running with me there.

All in all I'm happy to report that 50 miles wasn't NEARLY as hard this time as the last time. It seemed harder than 50K, but not that much more (mostly because this trail wasn't really a "trail" like the mud runs were on). I'm eager to try a 100K on way to my quest to tackle "the big one" in a year or 2.

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