Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wasatch 100M - Pace and Crew report!

Micheal was the lucky lottery winner this year. He was able to land a slot in both Hardrock and Wasatch. He thought for sure he would only get into one and therefore the choice would be made for him. Fortunately for him his tickets came jumping out of the hat for both races. It was the first time he had put in for either so the rest of us unlucky folks were giving him the eagle eye along with a thumbs up. Now what to do? The obvious answer is of course both. It only took him about 2 days to come the right conclusion but with Coyote Two Moons already on the books that meant some serious mountain running for Micheal. Wasatch is my favorite course. I have run the full race twice, had my only DNF there and paced and crewed. Bill and I love the area so much we bought a vacation property there and try to spend as much time as we can in those mountains. So when Micheal got in we made sure we were ready to help him out on his pursuit of the very challenging but amazing course.

A couple of days before the race Micheal called to inform us it was going to be hot one. Wasatch is tricky that way. It can be very hot or very cold and sometimes both. Being prepared for everything is the best approach. Wasatch offers it all, big mountains, altitude, weather, technical trails and one of the toughest last 25 miles I have seen. There simply is no freebie at Wasatch. Micheal was overly prepared and I wouldn't expect anything less. Lisa and I left Thursday and met Bill in Salt Lake City airport. Micheal retrieved us and off to the hotel for a good nights sleep and the Friday start.

Waking up on Friday morning and only needing a light long sleeve shirt to stand around the start area meant it was already warm. Micheal's pace chart was my Grand Slam Wasatch time which I knew he could easily
beat. We got to the first crew point early enough to watch the leaders blaze through. That's always really fun since it's the only time I ever see them. Micheal cruised in 20 minutes ahead of my sub 28 hour time looking strong and at ease. He did tell Lisa his stomach seemed full.

On we went for the long wait before we could see him again at Big Mountain (mile 39). We drove to the house and dumped our luggage, had lunch and made our way up to the checkpoint. It was definitely warm because all I needed was a tank top and generally it would be chilly up there. The runners were coming in one after another. Most looked strong but hot. We prepped for Micheal's early arrival complete with all the items he requested and few more just in case. Micheal arrived now 40 minutes ahead of schedule but as he ran down into the aid station I could tell he was dehydrated. How? Because his muscles looked depleted. Sure enough he was down 6 pounds I think. He wasn't feeling good but he was sure moving well. He reported stomach issues and felt he needed a moment to regroup. He sat and drank his fuel while we dumped water all over his head and shirt. The full stomach he felt at Francis Peak never passed and he reported some vomiting. No worries, ultra runners vomit all the time, right? We doubled up on his salt and he left with water, his gels but no solids. His job was to take it easy in the Wasatch oven (Big mountain to Lamb's is very hot).

With the fabulous Wasatch website we were able to track his progress to Alexander Ridge and could see he was slowing. That was good and bad. Good because he needed to get his stomach
back in the game but bad because that meant the remedies we tried at Big Mountain weren't working. We set up at Lamb's and had all our toolbox out and waiting for our hot runner. I was going to pace Micheal from Upper Big Water to Brighton (62-75) but I was geared up and ready to go at Lamb's (mile 53). If he wasn't better then I would offer to go with him. He arrived moving well and strong but his stomach was no better. In fact, I think it was worse. He took a few minutes to cool down and get himself prepped for the next section. The good news is he was done with the heat. After Lamb's we would be heading back up to 8,500 feet and it would get dark before we reached Upper Big Water (mile 62). We left Lamb's with one goal. Our only job was to arrive at Brighton (mile 75) with his stomach. From 53 to 75 we would do everything we could to get things moving in the right direction....down not up. :) There were moments when things seemed to be turning in the right direction but nothing was sticking. We tried it all and I am not kidding. There wasn't one thing I can think of that we did not attempt. He needed salt but couldn't keep down the gel caps. He needed fluid but couldn't keep that down either. Broth seemed to be a good bet but his stomach was having none of that. All through my pacing duty he would ingest something and we would be seeing it again within minutes. At this point Micheal had not had any fuel stay down since mile 39. Things were not going to get any easier going forward.
On the descent into Brighton we talked about what to do. The only thing left was to take a load off. We felt that maybe a nap would serve him well. Besides becoming the amazing puke man he became the amazing minimalist. The guy was moving very well on NOTHING! I was getting worried. I had visions of severe dehydration and the awful dangerous effects that has on the body. His will was incredibly strong and determined. It was quite a sight. Micheal agreed to lying down, calming his system and stomach then proceeding. We have always referred to the Brighton checkpoint as the Wasatch vortex. Once you go in and sit you never come out. Of course that's an exaggeration but I make my crew set up outside. Micheal felt the same but when we arrived there was obviously going to be a change. Micheal immediately laid down and dozed off. He would wake up occasionally and make sure his barf bag was handy. Bill was geared up and ready for the last 25. Even though I would NEVER encourage someone to drop I was nervous for Micheal and state he was in. Despite having zero calories he was surprisingly astute. He didn't show signs of bonking and was not acting like a zombie. He wasn't acting like a depleted ultra runner. After a 45 minute nap he stood up, looked at us all and with what appeared to be watery eyes announced, "I can walk so I guess I can walk and puke, let's get this thing done". Off they went with water and table salt dumped in a baggy. His instructions were to drink water, dip his finger in the salt and eat it, repeat and if things turned...try to eat.

Lisa and I sat in the parking lot waiting just to be sure they didn't come back. We both knew they weren't. Micheal had that severe determined look on his face and Bill was his perfect partner, calm but steady. We left and went back for some sleep. I had Bill's I-Phone so I could keep good tabs on them via the website. Lisa and woke up looked at his progress we were pumped. He was moving very fast and we were sure he had come back from his puking fest. We drove to the end and parked at the trail head where it spills onto the final bit of pavement. Before we knew it they emerged. Micheal, Bill and John hopped on the pavement for their final mile into the finish. Micheal crossed the line and never looked so relieved. I was prepared for a trip to the medics for an IV. I had all sorts of plans in my head so we would be ready to take care of our sick dehydrated runner. We kept him walking around so he wouldn't shut down. His stomach never came back and besides table salt and water Micheal had nothing for 60 miles! It was pretty unbelievable and if I wasn't there to witness it for myself I would assume it was ultra runner lore. Bill got a serious workout and was pretty beat up from Micheal's "Let this end", determination.

Sometimes the best way to learn is to watch. I have never experienced anything like what Micheal went through in any of my 22 100M races. I am pretty sure Micheal has never experienced either. Of course
we have been sick, had sour stomach, puked, bonked but always emerged at some point. There was no emerging from this. His will and determination to see it through was neat to witness. Though I am not sure I could have done it myself I am overly happy and amazed he did. I am definitely putting this effort in my tool box. The best part about ultra running is once you think you have got it all figured out you get reminded how hard this sport is. What does it take to push through what seems to be impossible? What does it take to turn the awful into triumph for yourself? I am not sure where Micheal went to pull this out but I would have loved to jump inside his head on our way into Brighten. But.....I would have wanted right back out because that projectile vomiting over and over again was craziness. It's so great to be part of someone else's race. The energy, the lessons and most of all the victorious outcome was so cool. Thanks Micheal and Lisa!


P.S. you will have to excuse any weird spacing or alignment. I have made the switch from a PC to a Mac and let's just say I am not sure you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cascade Crest 100M!

The nice cool temperatures in Washington made for some fast times at CCC. It's been since 2003 since I ran the full course but after two pacing duties and few training runs a few years ago I felt like it was yesterday. The memories and familiarity came flying back in my brain as the day unfolded. Since CCC 100M takes place close to home it's like going to be with family. That alone makes for a special event but to make it even better I got the pleasure of sharing the experience with some of my close friends. Cheri's husband Gary would be making his first attempt at the 100M distance. In addition, my friend Sarah's sister was coming all the way from Montana for her first 100M race. Besty brought her mom and dad and Sarah rode up with us. Lot's of good stuff was about to happen.

The weeks leading up to CCC were not leaving me feeling mentally or physically ready to put forth an "A" race. Early in the year when I filled out my application I put some high expectations on myself for this race. I felt I should be able to run under 24 hours and knew that would be a push for me. As the race got closer and I took note of how my body felt my 24 hour goal seemed less inviting. Getting the flu for my last training weekend certainly didn't help build any confidence. Even though I wasn't "feeling it" I decided to keep my expectations high.

On race day I felt confident and ready to finish up my season but other than that I felt very little. Not a good place for my head to be. I generally line up with lots of large emotions. They take many forms and I am sure if you have been a follower you've noticed. No matter what the emotion is it generally serves as fuel for my race. My lack of any such feeling was new. Racing is not my strong suit. I love the challenge of the event and the clock but am not so much ready to put myself to the test of trying to win. However I am not naive and I knew I had a shot at winning CCC 100M if I had a good day. The week leading up to race I tried really hard to visualize what it would take to push myself hard, test my fitness and race well. However much I kept trying to get hungry for a good race I couldn't muster it up. I think some of my rooster feathers have been plucked. :)

The fist 35 miles of CCC 100M consist of some of the best single track around and therefore lots of running. Since most of my training has been geared around Hardrock my running legs were not at their best. The last good training run I did on the Wildwood came in handy reminding my body how it feels. To my surprise I was cruising along at a much to comfortable pace and bettering my predicted splits. I arrived at Tacoma Pass which is the first crew checkpoint early. That was awesome but even the early arrival time did very little to boost my game. During the next 10 miles I just felt tired. I was already feeling soreness in my legs and kept dreaming about my bed. My head space was just crazy. I actually thought about quiting. I tried all sorts of tricks to get myself in a better state of mind but none were working so I decided to just allow myself to wallow. I worked on a bunch of reasons why I should quit and how I could convince my crew to allow me to DNF. As pathetic as this sounds it actually helped me get over myself. There was absolutely nothing wrong with me, I was ahead of my 24:22 pace chart, I was still running and eating well. There was no way I was going to convince them to allow me to quit. All I could imagine was having the conversation with Bill and Micheal then hearing Bill's high pitched laugh. The one he does when he here's something ridiculous. I just started smiling as my mind went through this exercise and it made me laugh. Despite my ho hum racing attitude I was having a good time. I ran with Allison and Jen for quite some time and that was cool. We talked and ran together for a good 25 miles.

After Tacoma Pass at mile 23 runners get to see their crew at almost every aid station to Hyak at mile 53. That makes for some light weight running and I took advantage of it. Even though I was not on my "A" game my crew was! I barely broke stride in those aid stations. That definitely helped my time. I think my aid station time for the entire race was less than 15 minutes and I am not kidding. I was cruising right along making it to Ollalie (mile 47) about 40 minutes ahead of schedule. The next section to Hyak was always so much fun with the rope descent then the 2 miles in the tunnel. This year the tunnel was closed for repairs so we were re-routed. The new route was just fine and presented new challenges. I think it was about 10 minutes slower due to the extra climbing but it was fun. I was still moving well arriving into Hyak where I would pick up Bill. He paced me for the next 15 miles up and over Kachelass Ridge. On our way up the paved road I decided to take Advil. My legs were already so sore and I knew I would not be able to push the downhills if I didn't dull the pain. I generally stay clear of pain killers because of the possible stomach issues. Generally I can deal with pain I feel but this was to much to early. I felt this would be a good time to do it since I just ate some solids, we were going to be climbing for 5 miles and by the time I needed to push the pain would be less. This was a good call because it worked. It killed enough pain that I never thought about it again. Bill was great on the climb trying to get me run when I could. We did a fine job but I think I could have worked a little harder. When we reached the aid station we did a quick re-fuel and left for the long downhill. I love this part. It's super fast, it's dark and all gravel road for 7 miles in Kachess Lake (mile 68). I put my music on, turned my headlamp to serious beam and pushed hard on the downhill allowing gravity to take hold. Bill did not want to be dropped and I wanted to be sure he got a good workout. We had fun and arrived with more time in the bank.

Micheal was ready to roll out of Kachess Lake and I was smelling the barn. Off to the trail from hell as they call it in the race manual. I love this section and it comes at the perfect time. After spending 15 miles on relentless road and being at mile 68 it feels good to have a change of pace. Just when your legs are beat to death and your hips are tight the trail from hell changes all that. The climbing, ducking and rolling over logs helps get things opened back up. Stretching over limbs and using tree branches to pull yourself up relieves tired muscles. So I think this is a good place to get yourself prepared for the last 22 miles. I think of this section like yoga class!

Micheal and I did well and I only landed knees and hands in a mud puddle once. When we arrived at Mineral Creek we just continued on because crews were up the road 2 miles. I opted to wait and eat when I saw Bill and Alex. That was a bad choice. Micheal and I hiked and hiked and no cars. My watch was showing far to much time for only 2 miles. When we finally got to Bill I was not feeling so great. I was a bit bonky and my stomach felt like someone was stabbing a knife in it. Bill tried to pump me up by telling me I was second and gaining on first but I could have cared less! I wanted to keep my stomach in check and not be sick. Generally I don't have bad stomach issues but I have and I know how it goes for me...not good. We left quickly and continued our slow journey up the ridge line road. From Mineral Creek (mile 73) it's a good 7 miles up a gravel road. I was not doing my usual splits on this road. I was just going with the slow flow, one foot in front of the other, no pushing and barely any running. At No Name Ridge (mile 81) I opted to sit! What?...Yes, sit and try to eat. I decided I should try some solids. I ate lots of solids in the first 50 miles but barely anything since. A very stupid plan on my part. I don't know why I did that and both Micheal and Bill were wondering the same. At No Name it was great to see friends Kris and Laura. They were so nice. I drank some broth and ate a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. I sat for 6 minutes! I felt no pressure and I made a good choice here. The food totally helped my stomach. I took a half of sandwich for the road. I think my stomach was so empty it was crampy. Once I got the food in it I was feeling much better. (Both of these awesome photo's were taken by Glen Tachiyama on Thorpe Mountain)

After No Name it's off for the cardiac needles and Thorpe Mountain. Lot's of climbing in the next 10 miles and much of it is steep. Micheal and I got a groove going and I did an okay job on the needles. It was definitely not my best performance on them and I think my splits for 03 were faster in these sections. I lacked the spring in my legs but I was still moving. It had been light for most of journey to Thorpe Mountain. The sunrise was incredible. As we climbed Thorpe Mountain you could see all the clouds in the valley and all the mountains above them. Glen was on top taking pictures and I can't wait to see them. I bet they are amazing. Feeling pretty tired at this point, sort of sleepy and kind of out of it I opted for some serious caffeine. I had held off from my usual loading because my stomach was so edgy but it was time to push home. With less than 15 miles to go and most of it downhill I needed to wake up and finish this run.

After Thorpe Mountain there are 2 more cardiac needles to climb then a good downhill into French Cabin (mile 88). The two climbs were challenging for me and left me hungry for the downhill home. When we arrived at French Cabin we found Bill changing his tire. He got a flat on the drive up the 4X4 road. We dumped our gear from the long slow night and left with a mission to move. I chugged my 10 oz of fuel which did not sit well in my gut. On the climb over the saddle leaving French Cabin I tried to make myself throw up! It became very clear I would not make a very productive bulimic because it wouldn't work so I aborted that mission. The climb was short and sweet and before we knew it we were on top making our way through the high valley. I got in a good running rhythm and within about 15 minutes my stomach wasn't bloated anymore. Micheal and I rocked this section, running really strong. If I kept myself running I had some good speed. When we would stop to cross a creek or do a climb it would take about minute to get the speed back so I tried to not stop. I had darn good downhill legs left for the final descent on technical trail into Silver Creek (mile 95.5). We blew right on through the aid station because we needed nothing for the final 4.5 miles on flat road...much of it paved. The morning was heating up. I looked at my watch for the first time in many miles and was shocked to see I could break 24:30. Given the very slow miles from 73-85 I thought sub 25 was out the window. When I discover it wasn't I was stoked. As we made our way down the road to finish we see Bill driving up. I was happy to see he was able to get the tire changed and all was good. Bill and Alex followed us all the way in cheering and taking 3000 pictures. My right calf started to seize up on occasion and sent some good shooting pains up the back of leg. Clearly I was ready to be done! Alex jumped out and ran the final stretch with Micheal and I. That was really awesome. My final finish time was 24:15, 2nd girl and 23rd overall. I was really happy with that but even more happy to finish my 3rd 100M race of the year. I thinks that's one to many for this girl.

There are so many great things about running 100 miles. Even on days when your not at your best the experience can be so rewarding. As I made my way through CCC in my ho hum state I got to think about all I can learn from it. The feelings I was having, the negative conversations with myself and ultimate success despite it all. That alone is pretty cool. I am so fortunate to have such a great support system in my family and close friends. In addition, the ultra community as a whole who always make you feel so special and strong. The last couple of days I have a lot of time to think about my race...especially since I have turned into a post race insomniac. Trying to pull my thoughts together about how I really felt about my performance and how I handled the day. I am really pleased with my race. I was proud I saw it through and kept going forward when almost every inch of my mind and body wanted to do otherwise. I think it's another level of learning for me. An acceptance of what was on that day and making the most of it. I am certainly glad I kept my original goal and pressed on with it through one really long ultra moment! It was totally worth it!

When I get the opportunity to go back to the finish line I love to watch the other runners finish out their race. I think I have said it before but those folks who are running into that second day are really tough. By noon on Sunday it was getting pretty warm and by the time some folks finished it was right down hot. We got back to the finish line around 1:30 and drove to the last aid station watching some of the runners make their way on the road. I was getting all chocked up watching them struggle down the hot pavement. Being on your feet that long is so hard and takes much more out of you than finishing in 24 hours. I am sure there are lots who would disagree but I've done both and from where I am sitting it's all guts as each hour goes on. Both Gary and Betsy finished their first 100M races in stellar fashion. I was so glad to be a part, even if it was small, in seeing them accomplish their goal. Lots of friends had great days out there. Rod, once again a bridesmaid, Joe who killed Hardrock, Marty who came back from the dead just to blow by me on the road, Jen who celebrated her 30th birthday the right way, Allison who underestimated herself and killed her first 100M race, Andy who has done a ton of 100M run this year, Roch who made it look easy and everyone else.
It's been a great summer of racing for me and I am ready for a 5-6 week break. Bill and I are pacing Micheal at Wasatch so that will be the only running I do until October 12th. I am looking forward to watching him kill Wasatch and making sure I pay him back for all the support he has given me on my race, tee hee! Bill is excited to see the last 25 miles of Wasatch so that will be fun for him. School is just around the corner for my boy so we will be busy getting him geared up for his last year of middle school. My dogs need brushed, my closet needs cleaned and I need to have coffee and dinner with friends. Though I am going to loooove my break from running I already have ideas for next year.