Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bighorn 100M!

129 starters, 87 finishers
Time: 25:10
Place: 17th, 1st Girl
Zero blisters and zero lost toenails
My altimeter read 17,500 feet of climb

By Tuesday I was almost all packed and ready to go but we all got an email from the Bighorn race director letting us know there was a course change coming. The snow in the high country left Porcupine Pass under 3 feet of snow. This wasn’t a big deal to me because I didn’t know the old course. I had to make some last minute changes to my pace chart and crew bags but was looking forward to joining the massive Oregon contingent at the Bighorn 100M race.

Our journey to Billings MT. was uneventful and went smoothly. I was surprisingly relaxed about the race. I didn’t feel any pressure or nerves going into the event. Based on Olga’s email to me she thought I would be running for a 3rd place position and that was just fine with me. I built a pace chart for a 26 hour finish and thought that would be a good stretch goal for me. With a leisurely 11:00 a.m. start on Friday we had lots of time to go shopping for supplies, attend the pre-race weigh in and have a casual dinner before hitting the sack.

On Friday we were up early, having coffee and breakfast before we made our way to the pre-race briefing. The temperatures were warm but the occasional cloud help keep the real heat at bay. We chatted with other runners and energy in the air was thick especially from the Oregon gang. While they were giving us a brief description of the course, outlining the rules and going over course markings I ate another meal so I would have ample calories going into the race. I also drank 35 ounces of hydrate.

After the briefing we drove over to the start and mingled around some more. We prepped our bodies with sunscreen and bodyglide. I was getting anxious to get this show on the road! Finally it was time to make our way to the start line where Micheal and I tucked in the middle of the pack. Bill, Kris and Darin wished us all well and told us to work hard. The first section was a long uphill grind gaining about 3500 feet but before we hit the single track we got a good stretch on a the gravel road. This helped the runners span out and find their groove. This worked nicely for Micheal and I because when we hit the single track we may have only passed 2 people and only got passed twice for a solid 8.5 miles. The train of runners was an awesome sight as they made their way up the open meadow. The trail was narrow and uneven but that’s what I expected. The wildflowers were bright and beautiful. Steve caught up with Micheal and me and started giving me grief about how I must have underestimated this climb and it’s difficultly. He loves to poke fun at me and my pace charts. Unfortunately for him we arrived at the first aid station only 30 seconds late and he laughed and sighed. Since it was Steve’s birthday I refrained from giving him grief back. The next section was up and over Freeze Point and down into Dry Fork at mile 15.3. This would be the first time I see my crew. We climbed higher in altitude and hovered around 7500 feet up on Freeze Point as we traveled through the thick mud at the top. Then it was a nice downhill into Dry Fork. My crew was all smiles as they attended to Micheal and me. My weight was spot on. They were ready with more G2O and gels for our next journey to Cow Camp, Riley Ridge then back here. The section to Cow Camp was nice because for a brief moment the trail was clear and easy to navigate. I took full advantage of this terrain and cruised my way down to Cow Camp. The next climb up Riley Ridge was new this year as part the re-route. I thought this climb would remind me of the steep side of Dog Mountain in our Gorge. At Cow Camp Micheal and I ran in to Dave Stevenson (another Oregonian) and we all started our climb together. Within about 10 feet Dave was pulling away busting up the climb like a goat. We were soon passed by Katherine who was a fabulous climber. I could feel the tug on my lungs as we made our way up 8,500 feet. We meandered up the hill through the brushy grass and onto a narrow trail. With many false summits it was hard to determine the true top. I know how long it takes me to climb Dog Mountain and since this was very similar I used my watch as a gauge to help me stay focused. Finally at the summit we found a small aid station but since I wasn’t planning on one I needed nothing and continued on. At the top we began our traverse across the ridge on a dirt road littered with snow and mud. I remember what Jeff had told me about not fighting the mud on this course and just going with flow easy and steady. Using this imagery helped my mental state because the snow drifts and mud continued from about 3 miles. Finally the Dry Fork aid station came in view but it was still another 2 miles away. This road led us through the trees along the ridge line before dropping us steeply into the aid station at Dry Fork, mile 29.6. I was way ahead of my pace chart at this point but feeling like I was running very comfortably, not pushing but not resting on my heels. My body felt great and my fueling was spot on. When I arrived my crew was ready as usual and I was hungry. I scarfed down my solids like I hadn’t seen food in days then asked, “Do you guys know what place I am in”? Darin casually says, “3rd, and the front girls are right there”. I was shocked and replied, “Really, are you sure”. A firm yes came from the team and I was out of there.

On our way again to Cow Camp on this nice section of runnable terrain free of rocks and mud I made good time. All the while asking myself if I am pushing too hard and if I should take the lead? This was an interesting place for me to be since I am never leading a race. I didn’t even know what that would be like and wasn’t sure I wanted the pressure so I held back behind Katherine who was about 200 yards behind the lead girl. She was running well but starting taking walk breaks so I followed her lead. All three of us came into Cow Camp together but the leader was gone in a flash. I just needed water and a banana and was on my way while Katherine messed around with her bladder pack adjusting the weight. Within about 1 minute I was on the heels of the leader and she was walking, maybe still eating, I am not sure. I passed with full thoughts she would pass me back soon. This section was really nice, sort of rolling with a narrow trail but a nice break from the steep stuff we had been doing. The clouds were covering the sky and spitting rain which felt nice. I cranked up my headphones and immersed myself in my music waiting for the two girls to catch me. During this section I passed a few men and they would either passed back or tucked in behind and follow. I found them to be very competitive and it was fun to draw from their energy. We chatted and ran and since we were all having so much fun our pace was picking up. Before I knew it Bear Camp aid station appeared and I needed nothing for the fast 3.5 miles into Footbridge. I was looking forward to the downhill flying. This trail was technical and steep, just my kind of fun. I passed a few folks busting down this section and with no other girl in sight it became clear that I was leading and it was my race to give away. I didn’t like this and was uncomfortable in this mindset. I tried to give myself an out but I couldn’t seem to let the temptation of possibility winning go. People were super supportive and I felt the energy from the runners around me as they all let me know I was in first place. All of this was really inspiring and very unnerving at the same time. I wasn’t sure what to do with it all.

Into Footbridge at mile 46.1 we see our crew and we have to travel 1.4 miles out and then back. Here I would see just how much I gapped the others. Darin joined me for this section and he gave me the run down of their day, their moose sightings, river forging with the car and Kris’s ability to fall asleep instantly. It was fun to hear the stories. On our way back to Footbridge we saw all 3 girls and how much of a lead I had which was NOT MUCH! They all looked strong and focused which meant I either had to get my head in this game or lose it. With not much more than a 7 minute lead on Katherine I felt extreme pressure but excited too. I couldn’t decide which emotion was ruling my race. At Footbridge I picked up Bill for the out and back section to Leaky Mountain. It was super dark and I was getting tired. I was stressed but didn’t really know it. Today I can easily identify my emotional state……..STRESSED! Bill and I left and made good time to the first aid station which I decided was short because our time was fast. On our way there we see Jeff who is leading and he looks focused and fast but takes the time to cheer me on. Next we see Justin being paced by Scott who was really stoked to see me leading. The next 4+ miles were not fun! The trail was super rocky and narrow. It was the kind of grade I could run but only if I worked hard. I ran/walked all the way but walked more. I was a bit frustrated because I felt like I should be running but when I did the grade and the trail halted me. I wondered deep in my thoughts and tried to discern if the trail was ruling me or if my mental state was taking over making it harder than it really was. I wondered if the pressure and excitement was creating fatigue or pushing it away. All these emotions and feelings were new experiences for me during a 100M race. I never came to a conclusion on what was driving my pace. Finally at the turn I ask for some broth and 3 cups of water to be dumped in my bladder for the trip back to Footbridge. I knew the trip back was all downhill but I also knew it was super rocky and hard to see the trail with the overgrown bushes. Bill got out in front and drove the pace. I would let him know if I needed him to go faster. This was another opportunity for me to determine my gap and I was praying I grabbed some minutes. We came across Katherine and figured I grabbed about another 2 minutes in the last 7 miles which wasn’t much but it was something. We kept our pace and again the pressure to move felt heavy. I cranked up my headphones and pushed forcing Bill to move faster. At this point we are seeing everyone from Oregon and they are all so excited and supportive it almost brought me to tears. There were tons of words of encouragement and now I felt honored to represent at Bighorn which gave me a boost. We scampered past the Cathedral Rock aid station because I didn’t need anything and really just wanted out this section. I was moving pretty well through here until I slipped and fell causing Bill to jump and come rushing to my rescue as I landed upside down with my legs in the air. I have no idea how that happened but it was quick. There was no damage and I barely stalled before we were off again. FINALLY into Footbridge again and I was thankful to have that piece of trail behind me, whew! I was trying to be quick here and got a little wimpy with my crew who all held there calm collectiveness. My friends and husband are amazing! They are so patient, funny and motivating, never giving up on me. In fact, they have high expectations and I love that. They are super special people so I felt bad when I got snappy at them but fortunately they just laughed.

I remembered thinking when I was coming down into Footbridge the first time, loving the downhill and basking in the relentless technical trail that coming up this would suck. AND….it did! When Darin and I left Footbridge at mile 63.9 I knew the next 15 miles were going to be very challenging but I had no idea just how slow I could go. I was ready for the final third of this run but I was feeling low. I took another gel and we began our climb. I struggled. My legs were tired, my mind was tired, I knew I was being chased, I felt desire to push but my body wouldn’t respond. My legs were heavy and my breathing felt labored. It was slow going. I felt bad for Darin and mad at myself. I wanted to be tougher, stronger and have spring in my step. I drew on all I had mentally and physically. Since my physical state was at a low all I really had was my mind and that can be a scary place! I began to feel sorry for myself and pissed at the same time. I had to go there; the positive nuggets of life were not going to make a dent in my mental low. I am a good climber but this was kicking my a__ big time. I began to just laugh at myself and the pathetic state I was in even bending over and using my hands, on all fours trying to climb the steep grade. If Darin had a camera it wouldn’t be a pretty sight. It would look like a desperate broken runner using everything including their hands…..very sad but that was real…..I wasn’t faking. Reaching Bear Camp was so sweet. I was in no better shape but that section was checked off the box and I didn’t have think about it anymore. The sun was going to be coming up soon on this next section of rolling narrow trail but at least the steep climb was over for now and I would be able to see the trail better!

I took in more caffeinated gels trying to bring myself back to life. I knew from this point on my race was going to be mental and if I was lucky enough to have a moment of glory I better milk it for all it’s worth because my body was fatigued. Making our way to back to Cow Camp was slow still but better than the last section. I was feeling great pressure to keep moving as best I could. I know how these long runs are and if any one of those girls caught a wave I would be passed like I was standing still. That is how it goes in a 100M race and I know this because I am usually one of those folks and it’s awesome! Darin kept a watchful eye as he pressed me in his sweet but determined way. Steady and positive but with expectations is the way he drove me. It seemed like forever but we had finally found Cow Camp. It was fully light out by now. The last two sections were slow and way off my pace chart and that made me mad and disgusted. I was determined to do better and with that in mind we began our climb back up Riley Ridge. Fully aware of the false summits I didn’t even look up, heads down and focused is how I went after this climb. I knew we were heading back up to 8,500 feet and I refrained from taking in to many calories. I wanted to be easy my stomach as we climbed high quickly because my body was already weak. This was a smart move for me because my stomach had been good all day and I wanted to keep it that way. I felt minor bloating near the top of the climb but that could have just been my stomach muscles protesting from the heavy breathing. We booked up this beating my prediction by 15 minutes….thank goodness! I needed a good section. At the top I needed nothing so I continued fully aware of the mud/snow adventure that awaited. Fortunately it was early in the morning and the ground was still frozen making this easier to travel through. Don’t get me wrong, the snow/mud was still not fun but at least my feet weren’t sinking 3 inches. Speaking of feet, mine were sore and my shoes felt super heavy with all the mud. I told Darin I was thinking of changing my shoes at Dry Fork to lighten the load. I could feel dirt clots inside my shoes and they were creating pressure points. My feet hurt. I worked on getting a rhythm going and was at least moving faster on the ridge. I couldn’t wait for the 2 miles of downhill into Dry Fork. It seemed like forever on the ridge line but again I saw the aid station far below and knew we were close. As we began our descent the 50K runners were just beginning their race coming up towards us. They were awesome, motivating, clapping and yelling which forced me to buck it up and look strong. In turn of course I began moving faster and actually running really fast down into Dry Fork. Here Bill and Kris had been waiting very stressed. They thought I was going to be faster and according to Kris, Bill was willing me down the hill saying, “Please come down the hill, please come down the hill”, very sweet. He looked tired and worried. Of course the first thing I ask, “How close is the next girl”? He stressfully replies, “Within 12 minutes, you have no time to waist, run hard”. I got chocked up and used the moment of weakness to drive me. I was beat! That was the last thing I wanted to hear and I am sure Darin felt the same. We left quickly and I had forgotten all about my plan to change my heavy shoes, oh well. I ran/walked all the inclines and tried to run every downhill as fast as I could. We got to Sheep Creek fairly quickly it seemed but I am sure it was slow. The day was heating up but I wanted to sweat. My hands and forearms were swollen up and I thought sweating would help. They were probably swollen due to the swinging of my arms and the altitude. At Sheep Creek I announce to Darin I am sitting in the creek. Mind you this is snow run off and it’s very cold but I couldn’t wait to get in. Down I go fully submerged from the waist down. Immediately my shoes empty tons of muddy liquid and I dig off the mud on my legs. The cold water felt awesome and gave my legs new life. Darin gave me 1 minute of this blissful treatment then it was back to business. When I got up I could feel the lightness in my shoes. That was good move, get all the mud out! I had more life in my legs and really started moving until we hit a climb. Then it was like the energizer bunny completely out of batteries. I had nothing on the climbs! At one point on a steep little 200 foot climb I turned around, faced Darin and put my hands on his shoulders for rest. He looked shocked but quickly said, “You can have 30 seconds”. I was weak but felt like 30 seconds would help and it did. For the last 10 miles we had been leapfrogging with another runner who was superb on the climbs, a power hiking freak. He passed me during my rest with words of encouragement but quickly disappeared in the meadow. At the top of this I clicked my watch over to see our altitude and it read 7,500 feet. I knew we needed to drop to 4,500 and with only 7.5 miles to go and 5 of it flat I knew we were going to drop like flies. I remembered climbing up this and the trial was super narrow at times and a bit steep in sections. Darin kept on me forcing me to run even on the rollers and I did. Another 30 second creek dive helped keep me springy…..or so it seemed at the time. Down, down, down the meadow on the narrow trail that just kept going on forever. The sun was hot but I didn’t seem to feel the heat. At this point I think I was just so low on energy, mind power and body power that I was numb to the elements. I was just focused and running scared hoping to bring the end closer faster! As we wound through the beautiful canyon with the raging river crushing beside us I was still wondering if I could pull this off. Even with less than 6 miles to the finish I didn’t feel comfortable or confident. I wondered if I had it in me to put up a fight if I needed. I seriously wasn’t sure I did. I also thought about how I would feel if I couldn’t pull this off and got passed in the final stretch. I guess this was interesting stuff for my mind to ponder as we approached the road. The canyon trail dumped us onto the gravel road and for some reason I thought we only had 3 miles to go but when we arrived to see a very happy crew they enthusiastically said, “yeah, your awesome…only 5 miles to the finish”. WHAT???? Are you sure???? Yes, it was five long hot miles on a gravel country road, it was hard, and my legs were swollen and dead. Darin forced me to shuffle from shade tree to shade tree and even encouraged me to pass more runners. When we finally reached the end of the road and could see the paved stretch to the finish I was overwhelmed with excitement. I was so glad to have found the finish line and be the woman’s winner. I ran as strong as my body would which at the time seemed pretty fast and in good form but the pictures tell another story. I was definitely beat up, swollen and looked very tired. Folks were super excited to see me come in or at least they seemed so and I went with it soaking in every last cheer and roar. What a wild ride of emotions that was. I was proud of myself for never letting up even in some really dark times when my body was screaming, NO MORE!

Once I finished I walked around a bit then found some shade and immediately took my shoes off my poor feet. They felt squished and swollen but when I got my socks off they didn’t look too bad. I was happy to see all my toe nails and all them were still wearing the blue polish I had put on before the race. I turned them over for a blister inspection and found none but that wasn’t surprising because I never felt hot spots. My legs were definitely thrashed and super swollen. I suspect the altitude messed up some of my fluids along with just simply having 100M of torturous trails under them caused the bloating. The RD was really happy with my run and told me it was the second fastest woman’s time for the Bighorn 100M. Of course it’s not the original route and he encouraged me to come back next year to see what I could do. All the time he was talking I was thinking I am never running again but we all know how that goes……just give it a few hours. At this point Bill confesses he lied to me at the last Dry Fork telling me the hunt was close and I was being closed in on. The truth is I had plenty of time but he knew I would turn into a slacker if I felt any sort of comfort. He is a genious because he is absolutely right! After about 1 hour of laying around in the shade trying to drink my recovery drink I began to feel nauseas and dizzy. I had to go to the bathroom but needed a bit of assistance. Kris escorted me to the toilet; I came out and needed to lie down. I was immediately surrounded by medical folks and was too out of it to care. I felt the gaze of others and wanted to hide but had nothing in me to get up drag myself out of sight. I laid by the river with my feet on the high side as they pumped oxygen in me. They said it would make me feel better but it didn’t. They finally took the mask off and I told them I was feeling better but I wasn’t. Within about a minute I was throwing up and with nothing in my stomach it was more like dry heaving. Thankfully that made me feel better and I wanted to get in the car and go. We proceeded towards the car and began our journey to the hotel. Bill had to pull over one time so I could continue my dry heaving while everyone in the car seemed completely fine with it. It was funny how this brief but disgusting behavior didn’t even raise a hair as if it was normal and okay….I love ultra runners. Once back at the room sipping on electrolytes I started to feel better. I got all cleaned up and we headed out to eat. My stomach was not taking much food but I was over my nausea.

I didn’t sleep much that afternoon or night because my legs were so hot and they just wanted to move around. I awoke early and was still in shock over my race and I felt pretty good walking around. At the awards ceremony the RD called Jeff and I up and talked about the race and announced we were the winners. Next he handed Jeff the microphone and I felt suddenly sick….please don’t make me talk in that thing. I listened to Jeff’s words on the race and when he was done I didn’t reach for the microphone hoping the RD would just move on but NO! He took it from Jeff then handed it to me, yikes. I don’t even remember what I said but I think I may have pulled it off and not made a complete fool of myself. I received $150 gift card to the sport store in town, a rock for my first place 40-49 age group, a buckle and a cool pull over. We hung around and chatted with everyone then headed to the sport shop where I spent my gift card on new running shoes and stuff. It was super fun and exciting. Winning is cool!

Our trip home was hard starting with a cancelled flight. We had to stay another night in Billings, MT. That was okay and we all just went with the flow but in the morning when we were in the shuttle van back to the airport we were struck by a flying piece of sheet metal. It was big and I could see it coming, hoping the driver didn’t swerve into on coming traffic I ducked behind the seat knowing it was going to damage. Fortunately only the van was hurt, we were all fine but all of us looked at each other as if to say, “Wow, what’s up? Are we supposed to stay here”? All went well from there home thank goodness.
Now it’s time to recover and get back at it next week. I feel pretty good and spent some time in the weight room today. I will go for a run tomorrow and see if things are working yet. It’s so much fun, going to these events with friends and family, sharing the journey then reliving it over and over again. It’s truly an addiction!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The End....

The end of training for Bighorn that is. Last weekend was the final peak week of training which included 2X50 minute hill repeats on Saturday and on Sunday 6+ hours of solid running with quality work on the way home. Now it's taper time!

On Thursday of last week a bunch of us went down to Woodburn for a dexa scan. A dexa scan is a very accurate way to measure body fat and bone density. Since we are gluten's for punishment and it sounded like a blast we couldn't resist Tom's offer to scan us. Olga, Gail, Micheal and I all stretched out bodies out on the machine, held very still for about 5 minutes, made bets (2 gels) on who was the closest to their guess then laughed at how fit we were but still used the word fat a lot. It was great fun and good information. The highlight of the test was Olga and Gail's bone density which was off the charts. Don't get in fight with these gals because you will leave with broken bones while they walk away untouched. :)

Saturday the group reconvened at Herman Creek for hill repeats. Ready to give it our best and last effort we charged up the hill. Both Micheal and I were in route to the second clearing that day and hoping for a snow free ride. We encountered a tiny bit on the last turn but not enough to slow either of us down. My fastest time to the second clearing was 49:35 two years ago but on that same day I was 3 minutes slower on my second. On this day I wanted to make it in 50 minutes not once but twice. We saw Olga busting down the hill dressed in her Black Saturday gear as we made are first ascent. She was all smiles since she had already been to the top and it was before 8 a.m.! My day was going to be a good one and I knew this because I had a lot of spring and was stoked. I was also relentless knowing this would be my last trip out here and I wanted to leave on a high note. I made it just a few feet shy of the second clearing in 50 minutes on the first one. Both Micheal and I busted buns down the hill and I set a record for me in 26:15. This left my legs opened up and full of fire for number 2. I pushed a little harder the second time and screamed in elation as I crested the second clearing in just around 50 minutes. This was a perfect way to end hill repeats before Bighorn, strong and fast.

Sunday we decided to head for the Wilson River trail in the Oregon Coast Range. This trail is hilly but not like the gorge and we felt it would be best to get the legs turning since we had done so much climbing and descending in the last few weeks. On the Wilson Trail we planned on running 30+ miles and climbing only 5000 feet instead of the 9000 we would get in the gorge. It was cold to start requiring me to wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt. It was sort of dreary and misty which left all of us yawning and a little low. We began our journey with Ultra tagging along. This would be a very long run for her this year but since there was an abundance of water I felt she would be fine. We chatted and got warmed up moving really well. I had splits for this trail since I have run it a few times which provided a good gauge of my fitness. The sun finally started to warm the air into the 40's....thank goodness. I was ditching my gloves and long sleeve pretty quick on the first big roller. We booked along and when we arrived at our turn we decided to go a bit farther which would make the run a perfect 50K or 31.1 miles! On the way back it was time to really work and when we reached Smith Bridge I took the lead and forced myself to run the entire climb back up. It was super hard but I really want to push myself into that mental place that's screams, "power hike" but......I refused to listen as my legs filled with blood and my calves screamed. The total climb took me 25 minutes running and what I found was exactly what I was looking for. I found that by forcing myself to push it was really only gruelling for about 15 minutes. After that 15 minutes of pain I found a body was re-charged and full of energy which gave me a new high. We crested the hill them bombed down the bottom beating my best time by over 10 minutes in 5.5. miles of trail! One of our well known ultra friends said that section couldn't be done by any of us faster than 1:06 but we busted the 56 minute mark. That was sweet leading us into the final stretch of this 6 hour run. All of us were on fire running everything in sight. This is a bookmark event. This is just the type of thing I can use next Friday. My lesson: When your tired and sluggish, FORCE yourself to drive through the mental and physical low gear and if you can do if for 15 minutes you might just get a new unleashed energy. We finished our 50K run about 20 minutes faster than I have ever run it before leaving me feeling really ready for Bighorn. Ultra was dragging the last 5 miles but she is a trooper. When we got home she just crashed and even on Monday she slept all day.

Monday began the taper and serious race prep. As you might have quessed I am a super detailed race planner so I have all my stuff going. Since I have no idea what this course and terrain will be like I am making my plans based on a lot of advice and data from friends. THANK YOU! I am finally getting excited about the race and can't wait to get going. I have a feeling it's going to be great adventure.

After last weeks final push I bounced back nicely feeling really good. I had some recovery running and then yesterday a tempo run. I easily ran my tempo portion under 7:05's with my heart rate in high 3B. I pushed it on a couple of the miles getting under 6:50 but felt it would be best to save that. Weight training stays the same this week, 3 upper body workouts, 2 legs days and one ab workout. Next week there will be NO lifting. This Saturday I have a 2-2.5 hour run with 2 bouts of threshold work. After that is just quick runs with some 10 second stride outs to stay springy. :)

Monday, June 2, 2008


The long back to back weekend was challenging and rewarding. Saturday was hill repeats on the PCT via Herman Creek. Darin, Micheal, Steve and I were all present ready to work. Darin was doing 3X35 min. while the rest of us were doing 2X50 min. Generally that gets me very close to the second clearing or bald viewing spot off the PCT. 3 weeks ago Steve and I were out on this trail and were halted by lots of snow just before the first clearing. We thought all of that would be melted by now but beyond that with higher elevation and the dense forest the snow can linger. The day was partly sunny which was a treat!

Stepping back in the week…….On Wednesday I got a bright idea to do my VO2 Max hill runs using the stairs off Terrwilliger Blvd. I run past these often and have always wanted to run them and I thought Wednesday was the perfect time. Since I NEVER run stairs I had no idea the workout was going to fry my calve muscles. I was really trying to lift with my quad but no matter how much you try you can’t avoid using the gastrocnemius muscle. Needless to say on Thursday when I jumped out of bed I almost landed on the knees because my calves were TOAST! They were so bad I couldn’t even do a recovery run that day which was just fine because I was so tired I needed to sleep anyway. By Friday I could walk almost normal but wondered how they would respond to hill repeats….yikes. Micheal gave me a good lecture on how not to be so reckless during the last bit of training and what was I thinking?

Back to hill repeats…..During the 3 mile warm up I could tell it was going to be a good day since my body felt rested and ready to go and my calves were warming up nicely but I could definitely feel them. We unloaded and all started up the hill with Darin leading followed closely by Micheal and Steve and I bringing up the rear. It took about 5 minutes before my heart rate settled in the sweet spot between 169-174. I monitored it but seemed to find my groove. This hill gives me 2400+ feet of climbing in 3.3 miles. I reached the first clearing and it was snow free. I had about 4 minutes left to get my full 50 minutes so I trudged along but was short of the second clearing by about 200 meters. Micheal came busting down the hill and reported he was stopped by snow just before the second clearing. The snow is really hanging on this year and with no warm weather in sight it could be August before we reach the Benson Plateau….very strange. We stopped for a group photo at the clearing then tore downhill. I got a record time for this downhill in just under 26 minutes for the 3.4 miles. Ultra led the charge but I watched her brush up against a lot of poison oak so she was getting a Tecnu bath for sure! As we were tearing down we see Darin coming up for number 2 working hard, moving very fast and looking strong. We refueled and left for number 2. The goal, of course is to reach the same spot at the same time with the same effort. This is so much harder than it sounds. I think the key to achieving this goal is to not over do the first one, still running in threshold range but not over and not on the high side. After 3 years I have learned this lesson well because I am doing better on my second repeat generally beating my first time by 30 seconds to one minute. As we climbed I felt the heaviness of my quads. I tryed to focus on driving my knee forward into the hill, block out the strain and keep a rhythm. At times I really wanted to power walk but I knew I needed to persevere and run the whole time for my own mental and physical challenge especially at this time in training. I found myself shutting out noise in my head…..”Just walk a couple of steps…you might even move faster”. That might even have been true, I could have been faster but I wanted the strength from the workout more than the speed. I reached my first landmark about 30 seconds faster and had about 20 more minutes to go. I just continued on and even tried to open it up in spots forcing my legs to move faster. I reached my spot in exactly 36 seconds faster than my first one so I was very happy. On our way down we ran into Gail and Tom who were out for a long day. We stopped and chatted then continued our pounding session down the hill. Again we ran into Darin who was nearing his landmark for number 3! My second downhill was not as fast as my first but close. My quads got a good thrashing. Everyone rocked their hill repeats and we ran slowly back to the car basking in the glory of a hard but awesome workout on our beautiful PCT. This workout yielded us 5260 feet of climb.

At home I wasted no time drawing my ice bath and it was 2 bagger today for sure. Sunday was 7+ hours of hard running and I wanted to be ready. I had a route all picked out which I thought would yield over 33 miles and 9000 feet of climbing……a whopper. The route is one I had done in 06 and of course I had detailed data on each section and the time it took me to complete each section.

At 7:15 on Sunday morning we arrived for a full day of running and it was raining! Come on….enough is enough…..when will it stop…..it’s June! Okay that was my rant but then Micheal piped up and said, “Well, if it’s wet at Bighorn…we’ll be ready”. Perfect! That was exactly what I needed to hear because he’s right. Who needs dry feet anyway? Micheal, Steve and I were all doing the full 7+ hours while Stacey joined up for about 2 hours before she had to turn around. As we marched up the trail briskly we got a bit separated with everyone adjusting clothing, shoes and taking bathroom breaks. We all know this area like the back of our hand but there are some junctions with all paths leading to the same spot. As I was climbing up the first 2 mile hill I hear hollering from above. The fun kind…someone hooting and hollering and think to myself who on earth could be up there this early having so much fun. As I got closer the hollering starts to sound more like a rooster call so I call back and sure enough it’s Micheal! “What are you doing”, I yell. He informs us he took the wrong trail and lost his family! We give him a good ribbing for not staying close and cutting mileage. That was a funny moment but you would have had to been there to get the full laugh. We all felt good as we headed for our second climb running the whole way. I was surprised at how strong I felt and was sure it was going to be a kick butt day. We got the Devil’s Rest and I wanted our traditional, “Devils at Devils Rest” picture but these guys need to remember that a devil only has 2 horns because these guys make bunny ears…annnnnndddd….. they are supposed to look devilish but they just don’t….except for Micheal….that is a good devil face….it makes me scared for Bighorn. A few shoe lace adjustments and we were off. I was wearing my newer shoes and as they loosened up with all the water I needed to adjust them for the perfect fit. So far we were making good time and I didn’t see us slowing much. As we got onto the Oneonta trail we all noticed the trail work. It was amazing! The trail had to have been 1 foot wider and there was nothing on it, not even a pebble. Generally this is fairly overgrown and really rocky but they had cleaned it up big time. This gave me hope they cleared the Franklin Ridge and Larch Mountain trails. They were both a mess with lots of blow down and debris making it slow going. After 2 miles of groomed trails we ran into the crew doing the work. There were lots of men....probably a convict crew as they do lots of work out there. Generally on this run I plan to do a bit of threshold work going up the Franklin Ridge trail but with all the fallen trees it wasn’t happening today. This is the same area where we got turned around in the sea of snow a few weeks ago but now every drop was gone! The trail was in tack but tons of debris remained. When we summitted and began down the Larch I thought it looked better than before but it was still full of down trees. At this point in the run I am feeling a bit tired and know I need to muster it up for what’s coming which is two more big climbs and a bunch of pounding down hill. We work our way over and head up Devil’s Rest for the cut to Quad Buster Hill. Steve hates this 5.3 mile downhill. He complains about it every time and we try to tell him how good it is for his training but he still complains and threatens to quit at the bottom and walk back to his car. We aren’t sure if he will hang with us today and head up Angels Rest for our final climb or bail but we keep taunting him. He has run Hardrock and will run it again this year so we pull out the Hardrocker card to see if he will bite. At the base of Angels Rest he decided to persevere and we all get excited. Micheal and I down a Red Bull and prepare to bust up this bad boy. We are now at mile 26 and this is 1800 foot climb in 2.2 miles. We like to do it fast! Less than 40 minutes is rocket speed but I think we can do it under 42 today. The headphones go on and it’s all business. This was necessary because at the base of the climb we all were tingling and wobbly from the blast down Quad Buster Hill. Focusing, working hard with a goal time in mind I led the charge up Angels Rest with Micheal hot on my tail. We reached the summit in 41 minutes so I was happy and I felt re-charged…..slightly. We waited for Brother Steve (the Sodium King) but when he got the top he just mumbled something as he marched on by. The last 4.2 miles are mostly downhill, some of it is gradual with a nice soft surface and some steeper with rocks everywhere. Somewhere we started a fire burning because we ran so fast down this it was crazy. It was a record descent for me. Arriving at the car in 7:11:04 was awesome. 33.4 miles and over 9000 feet of climbing…..feeling more ready for Bighorn.

I was pretty achy on the drive home, mostly from my knee down. Generally I don’t take an ice bath after Sunday’s run but I was going to take one this Sunday and I was actually dreaming about it. When I got home I basically swan dove into my icy bath and rolled around in it for 20 minutes. Awwww…..a great ending to a hard week. That ice bath did wonders because I am not sore today and have no swelling in my feet and ankles. Of course I haven’t run yet but will do an easy recovery run later before lifting. I haven’t been feeling very jazzed up about Bighorn. I don’t know why because generally at this point I am antsy and out of control with excited for my 100M race. I think I am coming around and with one more solid week of hard training I hope I will be fired up and ready to roll.