Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hills, Hills and oh the Down Hills!

What was I thinking? I definitely got my money's worth at Coyote last weekend. The race profile says it all! This race is hard. I haven't decided if I think it's harder than Wasatch or not. While running Coyote on Saturday I announced it definitely was but now after further evaluation the real problem might have been just how out shape I was for all the long descents.

This was a very low key event starting with all the pre-race follies consisting of miniature golf, bowling and course prowling. We were only able to make it for bowling on Thursday night. We were all pretty excited about the opportunity to show off our bowling skills spouting off about how great we were. I especially let them know I had the upper hand in this event with my years of bowling on leagues as a youth. Steve swore he would beat me while Micheal stayed his usual quiet self. I was so sure I would be carrying our team to victory and all the right moves and flows would come back to me once I grabbed the ball. Our team (rubber duckies) consisted of Drake, Steve, Micheal, myself and another runner from Florida. Drake who swore he doesn't bowl throws 2 strikes and a spare in the first 3 frames. Uhhhh sorry but I thought you didn't bowl???? Micheal is hot behind him with a strike, a spare and a 9 in the first three frames. Steve just about falls over forward due to the lack of slide in the bowling shoes but manages to knock down a bunch of pins. I on the other hand couldn't mark if you paid me! Believe me when I say I got loads of grief which I totally deserved with all the pre event trash talking I was doing. As we continued it became very clear that Micheal and Drake were the bowlers as they lead the game by a long shot until Steve found his groove and gave them a good run for their money in the end. I simply sucked barely bowling 110! I was so pissed until the awards when they announced the Rubber Duckies won the whole thing with the highest average. Okay I feel better that our team won but was seriously carried by my buddies. The prizes were amazing ranging form old skis, dirt and all sorts of bizarre stuffed animals. The grand prize for us was a wonderful plastic light up Santa! Micheal was thrilled and wanted to get him home on the airplane but first we had to figure out how to get him in the car.

With bowling out the way Friday was filled with a race briefing lunch then prep for many folks who would be starting that night. Steve and Drake had a 9 pm start time while Micheal and I were in the last 100M start group which set off at 3 am. When Micheal and I arrived at Thather School at 2:30 a.m. to check in they handed me a baseball hat with a propeller on top. Apparently someone decided I was going to be the lead woman. The idea was to have the fastest and the slowest folks wear the hats. I looked at her and said I will not be leading in about 10 feet so should I pass this hat off to leader later. She said yes! I have a super small head. I buy children's hats so they worked on trying to rig up the hat so it would maybe stay on my head. Long story short I wore the hat for about 10 minutes as I battled to keep it on all the while the propeller is spinning and Micheal is laughing his head off. I finally gave up and clipped the hat to my pack and the propeller continued to spin and spin as we ran annoying the hell out me. I was going to get boner minutes if I arrived at an aid station without the hat on my head. As our group took off it was clear Micheal and I were dead last. The fast folks were gone, out sight and simply disappeared on the hillside. That left Micheal and I dead last. This meant we needed to pay attention to where we were going and sure enough we took a wrong turn out the camp ground. It was pretty humorous and set the tone for the day. It was short mistake and we were back on track quickly. Fortunately the first aid station is at mile 11.4 and there is short out and back. We started seeing our group coming towards us and I was eagle eyeing them looking for the first girl. It would be either Francesca or Wendy and when I spotted Francesca I passed off the propeller hat fast! She didn't seem very excited and I never saw the hat again, hmmmm boner minutes?

My strategy was simple. Go super easy and preserve my quads for the second half. As we made our way to the high point of the race to Topa Topa at mile 20 we started seeing folks from the 9 pm group coming back! At mile 16 we see Steve and Drake, what! That means they have covered about 16 miles in 6 hours? Can that be? Wow, we are in trouble. It was fun to see them and Steve gave us some brief words on what was ahead. It sounded tough and it was. The steep climb to Topa Topo at 6,000+ feet was steep but short. We actually enjoyed it and a the top grabbed our playing card choosing aces of course. We are dead last and when we got the aid station they were packing up as they waited for us to arrive. Okay being last is not really fun when they are closing aid stations. It was pretty funny because I wasn't sure this scenario would change. The sun was up now and we could feel it. It was breezy and felt good and we hoped it would stay breezy all day. We made our way to Rose Valley 1 and again we see the leaders coming back and they have gaped us now by about 35 minutes. There were 6 of us in the late start group and all 4 of the others were racing while Micheal and I were having ourselves a trail party. At RV1 we get our first drop bag and we are at mile 26ish. This was blunder number 1 for me. I put zero gels in my drop bag. Why? I don't know....I am stupid? I had 2 left plus a bar. Micheal said he had an extra so I used that. Wow, this is getting funny. We left and headed back up to Lions Ridge. It was a long climb out of RV1 and we decided it was time to start moving so we booked it up the hill to find the aid station packed up and a guys standing there with 2 water jugs. He says, "Water is good, right?" Was that really a question? Sure, we reply and laugh our heads off as we leave. After the laughter and about half way on the extreme rolling ridge line that was hotter than hell for us I tell Micheal I am done being last we need to pass some people. So we get more focused with music and very little talking. It was getting toasty up there but the views were amazing. The fog bank had settled in the valley below us and we were just above it. We felt like we were on top of the world. It was beautiful. After about 5 miles on the hot hilly road we start to see people, yeah! I am like a dog on bone to get some runners behind us. We run into some of the 1 am starters and a few of early 100K starters so now were are not bringing up the rear. At this point (mile 33) we will see lots of people since most everything is a kind of out and back format. We finally reach the summit of the ridge road and are heading down into Rose Valley again but from the other side. The downhill is steep and on a gravel road. Micheal and I are flying now and all that's going through my head is oops....we have to go back up this baby! We arrive to another drop bag and I pull out my garbage and find my camera a sticky mess from a gel pack to I lick it clean just to find some guy snapping pictures of me. Great, those will probably appear on some website somewhere. Also, as we come running in someone says, "Look it's Tina Fey"! I look at him and say, "No, Dorothy...from the Wizard of Oz". He looks at his girlfriend and says, "Definitely not Dorothy but seriously Tina Fey". Okay fine but do I really look like Tina Fey? We leave and begin the long hard climb out. We chat about the day so far and are having a blast. We felt really good and planned to keep it that way. It was now over 50 miles and folks were starting to feel the day on their legs. I could feel my quads already but not too bad. We climbed out back on the ridge road but in a different area. We were anxious to make it to mile 60 so we could start the last two huge climbs of the race. We were about 1 hour ahead of predicted finish time at this point and feeling really good. Before we could start the first big climb we had to preview it by running down first. We flew down this hill running into Steve and Drake again. Steve immediately tells us this section is long and he predicts about 2 miles long. Really? Could that be true? It started getting dark as we made the descent that seriously went on and on through a poison oak alley finishing with the last mile down what seemed like a creek bed. My quads are feeling lots of love at this point so the step downs and maneuvering required on this last mile were awful. Finally at the bottom of Cozy Dell which the aid station folks renamed Cozy Hell we enjoyed a great aid station. We got stuff out of our drop bags and were pretty quick since we wanted to start the 3 hour climb! It took us 2:51 to climb out of hell! We weren't messing around either. It actually felt good to climb after the long descent. I knew the next descent was going to hurt bad. Finally reaching the top to the aid station called Gridley Top at mile 74.7 we took a moment to get prepared for next plummet. As we started it took a bit for my legs to loosen up. This descent was just wrong. It was solid rocks, loose, large and in some sections big step downs. Ouch! That was painful and it too seemed long. It was hard and at the aid station Micheal and sat on the ground, went through our drop bags, ate 2 homemade burritos from the aid station and re-stocked for our final miles to the finish. The climb out was going to be brutal but we were anxious to get the ball rolling. Off we went up the rocky trail. It was a quiet journey to the top as we wove around the hillside hoping the top would be just around the next bend but it never was. I was so happy to see the top and didn't even stop at the aid station. We had more climbing to do on the ridge road again. It got super cold on this section. Since the race has a everyone finishing at the same time the ridge road section was full of people. Most of them had now been out for over 35 hours and it was kind of neat to mingle with such studs. Here we were on hour 25 and feeling pretty meek and here these folks are plugging along in the cold wind after so many gruelling hours. The road seemed to go on forever and about half way to next aid station Micheal flashlight goes out. Oops, didn't bring batteries. Then within about 5 minutes his headlamp dies just as my flashlight begins to dim greatly. I had a headlamp that was fine but it's not super bright. We started busting up! Are you kidding Me? Are we experienced 100M runners? Apparently not! We were left with no extra batteries, no extra lights and a lot of darkness ahead. Due to the lack of daylight hours our batteries ran out and since we have never had this experience before we were not prepared. After the humor we started planning for a very dark run. Since we were now among a lot runners we asked each one if they had extra batteries. Everyone was incredibly nice and wanted to help. We finally came across a couple who was sitting on the side of the road because the lady was falling asleep. They had extra batteries so we traded them. We gave them a double caffeinated gel for three triple A's. Back in action with one head lamp and one flashlight for the two of us we made good time to the final aid station. We grabbed some soup and headed off for the last 5 miles. It was all down hill with 4 miles of serious rocky steep terrain. I was reduced to walking this downhill. It was too steep and my quads were done. We were tired and rummy and everything seemed funny and ridiculous at this point. The final 4 miles seemed to drag on as I am sure they do in most 100's but this one was just special. Arriving to the finish in 29:14 was pretty exciting. We were thrilled to have the beast behind us. Steve and Drake were waiting and they finished in 32 and 33 hours both had a good day. To top off the fun the RD thought it would great to make everyone do a victory lap around the field. Just what you want to do with your thrashed body. We made the best of it. I did a few cartwheels. My upper body was in much better shape than my lower.

This is a seriously hard run. I am paying dearly for the lack of downhill training. My legs are huge, sore and my quads which are buried in a ton of fluid are just now coming back to life. When I say "life" I mean I can walk slowly without holding on to things. It was fun to run my 20th 100 mile race in such a relaxed fashion and share it with my training buddies who we saw a ton throughout the day. Running without crew was a new experience. My brain doesn't really like to do much work after 50 miles so I had to really try to focus and make sure I had all I needed from each drop bag. I was weighted down big time and felt it. I generally like to run with a little as possible but when you have no crew and you are unsure of what's to come I felt it would be best to be prepared. I am sure that didn't help my legs. I have zero blisters so that is good. I think I will need a good 2 weeks recovery before I start up with the serious scheduled runs.

I have moved to number 11 on the Hardrock list! This race gave me new fear for Hardrock which I plan to put to good use as soon as I can see my knees and ankles.


  1. Wow wow wow! Nice work and I understand you finished 3rd woman? You are going to tear up Hardrock.

  2. Congrats on a great run and report! Sounds like it was awesome and you kept a good sense of humor about you. I want to see the picture of you licking the camera! Maybe whoever took it will be kind (?!) enough to send it to you! That picture should be worth bonus points (send it to the RD)!

    Hope your legs recover. I can't even imagine. After Firetrails, I had to resort to diuretics for a couple of days to throw off some of the fluid.

    Happy recovering...


  3. Nice one once again Ronda.

    How do you deal with the Poison Oak? That is my biggest fear on the California Ultras. I get it real bad.

  4. Great race, Ronda! Your time is awesome given that you ran it for fun...Betsy Nye and Kerry Owens were 1-2 in 29-something last year (before bonus/boner minutes kicked in), so great job! You should be really ready for Hardrock with C2M behind you.

    Thanks for posting your taper plan. It's always fun to see what others are doing for the taper. Best of luck with your Hardrock training---looking forward to one of your classic race reports!!

    Happy trails from Virginia,

  5. Great race! The only person I know who's done both Wasatch and Coyote says Wasatch is harder. He also says I'm too candy-ass for either, so Hardrock gives me nightmares. You'll do great there.

  6. You forgot to put gels in? My, my, what are you, guys, rookies? :) Glad you stuck together (was it a plan?) and had so much fun, and congrats on picking this one as your 20th! That's the way to celebrate!

  7. Ronda, congrats. on your fine finish! I liked your low key approach, which oftentimes is best, IMO. Don't feat Hardrock....if I finished it, you most certainly can. Besides, it is SO incredibly scenic that you will "levitate" up and down the hills. Blisters might be more of an issue there than the quads, because your feet will be wet for the duration. During those times, it is kind of like fun, only different!

  8. Ronda, I had a silly boo-boo in my note: "don't FEAT Hardrock". If anyone read that, they are no doubt wondering "what the heck does that mean, anyway?"
    Of course I meant to say "don't FEAR Hardrock."
    And I teach college? Fortunately, not composition!

    BTW, I also know what you mean by the swollen legs....after a really hard effort, it takes a week or two for all the gunk in the cells to self-clean. You are experienced enough to know not to push it too soon in the recovery stage, but here is just a friendly encouraging word from a fellow enthusiast to take it really easy for a while. Be patient with yourself, and enjoy those ice baths!

  9. Today was the first day out of compression socks. Those babies work wonders.

    Bret, I am super allergic to PO and generally if I get it I have to have Predizone and a shot. If you look at the photo where you can see my legs you will notice my calfs are white from Ivy Block. After the race I was with Tecnu all over my body including my face. I keep the Tecnu in the shower and use is for the following three days. I have had good luck with this method.

  10. Ronda

    Great job maintaining sense of humor with so many er...obstacles? loved the hat, definitely NOT Tina Fey. Not really Dorothy either though. Have to think on that. Glad you guys had fun. :) REst those quads!!

  11. Love the write-up and the description of your thoughts during the event. Sounds like the course was tougher then expected with all the severe elevation change. Your experience read like you were out for a casual run and just enjoying the moment along with a 3rd place finish – Just amazing considering all the difficulties you encountered. You are a gifted natural runner. Can’t wait to see what you do with Hardrock with a focused plan.

  12. It sounds like another adventure to add to the list. Michael mentioned "rocks & rocks"!

  13. Great job!! It was good to finally meet you out there. Congrats and I'll seya in Silverton in July. Good luck in the training!!