Monday, October 3, 2016

The Bear Chase 100K

Right after my DNF at Lean Horse, I toyed around with the idea of doing some sort of "come-back race". I went back-and-forth on whether I should do one. Signing up for races last minute is always pretty expensive, plus the fact that I'd been training all summer, I was exhausted. Not to mention that thought, "what if I failed at my come-back race?!" This was especially prevalent since one of the ones I was considering was The Bear Chase 100K, which has a pretty tight time limit (for us back-of-the-packers anyways). So, that was it. I was settled on not doing one.

Until last Wednesday, anyways.

Someone in a local trail running Facebook page announced that they had an entry into the The Bear Chase that they were looking to transfer since they were injured and couldn't do it. Hmmm I thought... maybe this is a sign that I should do it after all? After messaging back and forth and her giving me a pretty good deal on the race entry, I was set. I WOULD be doing a come-back race after all!

I was, of course, still VERY worried about the time cut-offs. I ran The Bear Chase two years ago as my first 50 miler, and it took me 12 hours and 31 minutes. To be allowed to continue in the 100K, I had to get to the 50 mile point in under 11 hours and 30 minutes. Yeah...quite a bit of a difference! Granted, I did know that I had A LOT more experience under my belt this time around. Also, the weather was supposed to be a fair amount cooler than two years ago (and heat is always a major slow down for me). The other good news was that this race would still give me an official 50 mile finish if I didn't make the 100K cutoff. So I figured, I might as well give it a shot. This would force me to push myself to run it a little faster than normal. Best case scenario I would make the 11 1/2 hour cut-off, continue on and finish the 100K (and have an awesome come-back race). Worst case scenario, I'd have another 50 mile finish - and maybe even a PR of some sort, even if I couldn't make the 11 1/2 hours. So...I was set!

The race consists of 5 x 12.5 mile loops (so, the 50 miler was 4 loops) with a total elevation gain of 4250 feet. For Colorado trail running, it's a fairly "easy" course - however it's still mostly singletrack with rocky sections and some nice hills thrown in, along with 3 water crossings per lap (that's 15 total for the 100K!). I knew I was capable of making the time cut-offs if I had a good day. But that's the thing with Ultra's, you just never know what the day is going to bring... Nevertheless, I was hoping for the best!

LAP 1 - 2:24:16
Splits: 11:31, 11:11, 12:42, 11:02, 12:39, 11:25, 11:59, 11:30, 10:44, 11:14, 11:34, 10:45

The race started promptly at 6:30am, right as the sun was rising. Since I knew I was going to be close to the time cut-offs, I didn't want to go out too conservative. Now, don't get me wrong - I didn't go all out. But I didn't hold back as much as I normally would in an ultra. I ran at a comfortable, sustainable pace. Running all flats and downhills and power hiking the uphills. I was a little confused when we reached the Mt. Carbon climb only 2 miles in - since when I ran it a few years ago, it was closer to Mile 5. They must have moved the starting line, and since it was dark I hadn't really noticed!

Heading up Mt. Carbon for the first time!
Looking back from the base of Mt. Carbon
After the climb up Mt. Carbon, it was downhill until the water crossings. It was still early and I knew these would be COLD, but thankfully they weren't too bad. I ran through them and finally got to the first Aid Station, right around 4 1/2 miles. I grabbed a banana and topped off my handheld water bottle and headed out to the next section, which was always my least favorite part. It's about 3 miles of singletrack paralleling a highway, and it's completely exposed (no trees). Since this was the first lap though it wasn't bad at all and I quickly made it to the second aid station. I grabbed another banana, added tailwind to my handheld and headed out again. The second largest climb is right after this aid station and I was happy to be done with it and headed downhill to the last aid station - which was were the starting line was when I ran this 2 years ago. This new shift wasn't bad physically, but mentally it was a little tough. My mind wanted this to be the end of the first lap, but I still had 3 more miles to go! At least it was pretty since it was all through the tree's! I finally made it through and finished Lap 1 in 2:24:16 - about 10 minutes faster than I did Lap 1 in 2014.

LAP 2 - 2:33:46
Splits: 13:28, 11:33, 13:15, 10:37, 12:10, 13:51, 11:39, 12:47, 11:34, 11:15, 12:24, 12:08, 11:59

As I came into the starting/finishing area, I saw a few Skirt Sports Ambassadors who were doing the 50K. I quickly said hello to them, grabbed my hydration vest (that my dad had to drop off because I'm, dumb and forgot it - so, thank you!!), dropped off the handheld, and continued on. I knew one of my biggest challenges would be making sure I didn't waste too much time at aid stations - especially since I would end up going through 18 aid stations and I knew the time spent there would really add up!

Lap 2 was pretty similar to Lap 1 - I knew I was still on fresh legs and wanted to continue to take advantage of that, so I ran a majority of this lap as well, excluding the climbs. I did start adding in PB&J's into my fueling which seemed to work pretty well for me. Along this lap, I passed my friend Joni who was doing the 50K and would also be doing the Half Marathon the next day! Then as I was nearing the end of my second lap, I got passed by the winners of the 50K who were coming in (so I was at Mile 24 1/2, and they were at 31 - AND they started 1/2 hour after me). It's always neat to see the speedy folks come by! Some people are super human! :)

Coming in right before the finish of Lap 2.

LAP 3 - 3:01:43
Splits: 15:42, 11:54, 15:06, 13:24, 16:02, 14:32, 15:14, 15:55, 12:49, 15:35, 14:00, 13:11

I was pretty happy I managed the first two laps in about 5 hours. This gave me a little bit of a cushion for the remaining laps - but I also knew from experience that Mile 30 is where my body really starts to feel tired. So I still needed to push myself a lot on this next one. I had a pacer lined up for Lap 4 - so I took solace in the fact that I just had ONE more lap by myself and then I would have someone else to run and talk with!

At the beginning of the lap, I got lapped by Grand Junction runner, Giff, who went on to win the 50 miler in under 7 hours (averaging a little over an 8 minute pace for 50 MILES - amazing). Most of the rest of this lap is a blur, but I know I just continued on, running as much as I could and stopping at aid stations for snacks (more PB&J's, potato chips, and oranges at one aid station were really good!). I knew I was slowing, but I was happy to still be running a majority of this lap!

At the top of Mt. Carbon. You can see the Denver skyline off in the distance!

LAP 4 - 3:17:13
Splits: 16:21, 14:02, 14:18, 15:26, 16:52, 16:47, 14:41, 16:47, 13:15, 16:15, 14:13, 14:30, 14:34

As I came in from Lap 3, I had a nice cheering squad - my pacer, Kari, was there along with Jayme - a friend and fellow Skirt Sports Ambassador who was volunteering, and my mom was there too (a nice surprise!). It was about 2:30pm at this point. This meant I had 3 1/2 hours to complete Lap 4 - which gave me a little bit of a cushion (I was predicting I would only have 3 hours per lap). Plus, I now had a pacer!

I grabbed my second watch and some food, and we headed out. From the get-go we were constantly talking, which always really helps the time go by faster! This was actually my first time ever meeting Kari, but she was awesome! We talked about everything from races to our pets, to Skirt Sports (of course, since we're both ambassadors!).

Kari and I right before starting my 4th Lap!

When we were about 1/2 way through this lap is when I could really feel myself getting to that "I'm ready to be done," exhausted feeling. Running was getting harder and harder, especially on the flat sections. And the downhills, while I was still able to run them at a good pace, my body was hurting. Nevertheless, I kept at it! We got to the last aid station just before 5pm. This meant I had one hour to go 3 miles. I could do this!!! I could make the 50 miles / 11:30 cutoff after all! I told Kari my goal was do these 3 miles in 45 minutes and we got pretty close to that time frame, coming in from my 4th lap, with 50 miles under my belt in 11 hours, 16 minutes and 53 seconds! A 50 mile PR by OVER an hour!

Documenting my 50 Mile PR!

LAP 5 - 3:16:16
Splits: 18:00, 12:12, 16:02, 13:13, 18:40, 16:40, 14:16, 16:22, 14:23, 14:56, 16:24, 14:52

At this point, I was THRILLED I had managed to come in under the time cutoff. The days leading up to the race, and even during the race, I knew I could do it. But I also knew it was going to be seriously hard. So I wasn't letting myself think about it too much - I wanted to be mentally prepared to not make it... I knew that things were going to need to go really well for me and I was going to have to push myself immensely to make this time cutoff. So the fact that I DID do it, just left me so happy and on a serious high that carried me through my last lap! I thanked Kari, grabbed some more PB&J and Coke, said Hi to Jayme and my mom (and thanks so much to Jayme for getting some pictures for me!), and then left for my LAST lap!

Kari was only able to stay for one lap (she was recovering for a Half Ironman she had just done!) and I had been torn on which one to have her help with, but overall I'm really glad I picked Lap 4. The second-to-last lap is always harder mentally than the last lap. Even though I was now alone, going on 50+ miles, and it was going to get dark soon, the fact that I KNEW I was on my last lap, made it a lot easier. Plus, with how happy I was that I made the cut-off, I headed out on this lap running almost all of it until reaching the Mt. Carbon climb. I power-hiked up that thing like a boss, and then ran the fun downhill section to the water crossings. My goal had been to get the water crossings done before dark, which I managed to do! I snapped a picture of them (since I hadn't gotten one yet), and headed to the first aid station for the last time!

Water crossings!
Documenting the water crossing! 
I chatted with the aid station volunteers very briefly (who made sure I had a headlamp - which, I did, plus an extra because I'm paranoid!) and then headed into the sunset through the section I don't like. It was during a long, flat stretch that I realized I could power walk at the same, or possibly even a little faster pace than I could run at this point in time - and it hurt a lot less. So I settled into a mix of that and running before finally seeing the second-to-last aid station! Roost Teammate Rebecca and her daughter were volunteering at this one, so I chatted with them for a minute and drank some coke, before heading off again. I had one last major hill and then it would mostly be flat or down until the finish!

Sunset on my final lap!
At the top of the last hill, I passed the only other runner I had seen since I started this lap. I said hi to him and continued on - with a little bit of nice downhill running, and then back to power walking on the flats. I walked straight through the final aid station, thanking the volunteers, but not taking anything as I was just ready to be done! I kept at my power walk/jog thing for my last 3 miles and finally finished my first 100K in 14 hours, 33 minutes and 7 seconds! And, to top it all off, I finished second place female - which meant I got some pretty sweet awards as well!

All my awards and bling!
Race: The Bear Chase Trail Races
Location: Lakewood, Colorado (at Bear Creek Regional Park)
Distance: 100K (62.5 Miles)
Bib Number: 460
Date: 09/24/2016
Weather: Started at around 50 degrees, got up into the low 70's. Mostly overcast, although there were a few stretches of sunshine. Also some wind in the afternoon.
Gun Time: 14:33:15
Chip Time: 14:33:07
Overall Place: 13 of  15 (20 Starters)
Gender Place: 2 of 2 (3 starters)
Division Place (F20-29): 1 of 1 (2 starters)
Fuel: Tailwind (diluted), Clif Shot Blocks, PB&J, Banana's, Potato Chips, Oranges, Coke

Check out that buckle!
So... overall, I loved this race! I had a GREAT day. The weather was mostly great (a little hot at times and a little windy - but nothing too bad) and my fueling went well. In all honesty though, during the race, I actually felt like I wasn't eating enough because I was scared to over eat after Lean Horse - but it all seemed to work out well and I felt good through the maybe this was the perfect amount after all! I was also able to keep my mental game in tact and was in a good mood basically for the entire race. I had one moment during Lap 4 where I got a little nervous I was getting too tired and wasn't going to be able to make it - but somehow pushed through that. I had fun during this race. I finished this race feeling really proud of myself - for not just assuming I couldn't make the time cutoff, but actually working towards it and proving I could. I'm really glad to be ending my ultra season on this note!

  • Awesome SWAG. I got a finisher's medal AND a buckle (the buckle is for 100K finishers only), which was AWESOME!
  • For finishing 2nd female I also got a really cool trophy thing, pint glass with $50 Runner's Roost Gift Certificate, and a box of EFS Endurance Fuel.
  • Really well put on, organized race. The course was marked really well, and they even put out glow sticks for our last lap despite there only being a few of us left on the course after dark. I thought that was really cool and respectful of us back-of-the-packers still out there.
  • Great aid stations with AWESOME volunteers who were super helpful.
  • A nice course - I know not everyone likes looped courses, but I think this is a great one. 12.5 mile laps mean that it doesn't feel too boring, since you go 2-3 hours between seeing the same thing again. It also had a nice variety of terrain (hills, flats, gradual and some steeper ups and downs, along with water crossings, some singletrack and some wider sections). Also, the nice thing about looped courses is that you don't need a crew since you can just have an organized drop bag ready.

There's honestly not too much I didn't like about this course, but if I had to be extra picky:
  • I don't love the section of this course that parallels the road. It kind of takes away from the "trail" experience.
  • The time cutoff for the 100K is very strict and makes us back-of-the-packers feel kind of excluded (and extra slow). That being said, all of the other distances have VERY generous time cut-offs, and I did learn that the stricter 100K cutoff is because the park requires everyone to be out of the park by 10:00pm.   
A little inspiration from Leadville 100 founder Ken Chlouber.

And so to end this post...a repeat from what I already posted on social media...but seriously, DON'T LIMIT YOURSELF. I really came so close to not doing this race because I didn't think I was fast enough to make the time cutoffs. You can do SO much more than you think you can. 4 years ago I ran my first EVER 5K after always saying "I wasn't a runner." And now I've ran 100K. And someday I will run 100 Miles!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Lean Horse 100 - My First DNF

This post has been a struggle to write. Where to begin? Another goal that I've been unable to achieve. First Boston, then my 100 miler. Failed. But not for lack of trying. Sure I probably could have more ultra running experience under my belt before trying a 100 miler - but I did multiple 50 mile races and 50K races. I logged the miles and the time of my feet. I thought I was ready. And then for some reason, the exact same thing that happened to me during Revel Rockies Marathon (the big BQ attempt last year) happened during this race. Which is very odd considering these two races were NOTHING alike. One I was running fast, downhill, on roads. Another I was running slow, taking my time and on trails (although the trail was very non-technical, and basically a dirt road). Nevertheless I ended up with the same issue - an upset stomach and vomiting up everything (lovely, I know). At least during Revel Rockies I could still finish... but going for a 100 miler when you can't keep food down? Doesn't really work, unfortunately....

But when you have big dreams like I often find myself with (where I got this dreamer attitude, I have no idea?), failure is sometimes inevitable.

And it's something I need to learn to be okay with, however hard that may be.

I'm now almost two weeks out from Lean Horse 100 and despite telling myself all of this, it doesn't hurt any less. If there is one major thing I will learn from my first DNF (stands for "Did Not Finish" - which is what gets stamped next to your name on the race results), it's how crappy it feels afterwards. I hope to forever remember this feeling when I'm struggling during a race in the future. The pain during that race is nothing like the humility and shame of having to tell everyone you got that DNF.

I know, I know everyone I told had nothing but encouraging and nice things to say in return. I still did more than most people will ever attempt. I know that. I do. And I thoroughly appreciate all of the wonderful comments people left - thank you for that! It will just take me some time to bounce back mentally, I am working on it (and having an awesome trip to Alaska afterwards definitely helped!).

Now, enough wallowing in self pity, time to get to my race recap of the first 56.6 miles before calling it quits.

Scott and I drove to Denver on Thursday night - it was terrible weather, pouring rain the entire time making it extremely difficult to see. Nevertheless, we eventually made it to my parents house (mostly thanks to Scott for driving a majority of the way!) and then went straight to bed, getting up at 6:00am the next morning so we could hit to road for South Dakota by 7:30. Thankfully the sun was shining for the drive north through Wyoming and then into South Dakota. It was a very uneventful drive, but I stopped for a picture at the South Dakota sign (since I haven't ever been here as an adult):

Finally made it to South Dakota!
We got into Custer at about 12:30 and went straight to Packet Pick-Up. I got my race packet and bib, talked with the Race Director a bit, and bought some swag (that I feel like I can't wear now, sad). Then we grabbed lunch before spending the afternoon driving to all of the different aid stations along the course. I really enjoyed this because I got to see a lot of the course which got me excited for the next day! It was going to be a very runnable course and extremely beautiful! We made it back into Custer just in time for the pre-race meeting at 6:00pm. After the meeting we picked up some dinner to go and then headed back to the hotel to get ready and go to bed early.

Checking out the course
I surprisingly fell asleep pretty easily, but woke up at 2:50am and had trouble getting back to sleep. I'm not sure how much sleep I actually got, but after a lot of tossing and turning, I finally got up at 4:30 to get ready for the race. We headed over to the track at 5:15am and anxiously awaited the start while chatting briefly with some friends I knew also doing the race - Rebecca (100) and Heather (50K) who are also on the Roost Race Team in Colorado and then Robert (also going for his first 100) and Erica (50K), both South Dakota locals who I know through my friend Sirinya (doing the 30K that started later).

Pre-race picture!
Finally, it was time to start! We did 1/2 lap around the track before heading to the Mickelson Trail, which we would remain on for the rest of the race! I settled into a nice easy pace and started chatting with various people along the course, including quite a bit of chatting with Robert (who actually went to Mesa State College in Grand Junction! Always a small world).

Robert and I in the early stages of the race.

The first 4.4 miles went by pretty quickly and I was happy to see Scott as I came into the first aid station. I grabbed a Clif Bar from him and some Clif Shot Blocks before continuing on. We had agreed that he would skip the next aid station as it had limited parking, and I'd see him at the following one - around mile 15. Reaching this first aid station also meant that I had some nice downhill for the next 10 miles until I reached Hill City. So I settled into a nice easy run for this - trying to take some walk breaks so I didn't wear myself out too much early on. It was such a nice runnable surface though that this was pretty difficult, especially with the downhill!

Shortly after the first aid station
The sunlight was so pretty coming through the trees!
As I made my way into the Oreville Aid Station (the one Scott skipped), I grabbed a few small snacks and quickly continued on towards Hill City. I don't remember a whole lot during this next section other than chatting with a couple people doing the 50 miler. As I got closer to Hill City I started seeing the 50K runners on their way back, including Erica (who came in 1st place for women!):

An underpass we went through.

As I made my way into the Hill City aid station, I quickly found Scott who had everything ready for me. It was starting to get hot, so I put on my visor and refilled my pack with water and more tailwind. I grabbed a PB&J from the aid station and said goodbye as I made my way on towards the High Country Aid Station.

This next section began a nice ascent again. The uphills in this race were tough in that they weren't tough. Normally I would walk the majority of uphills in an ultra. But these uphills were so gradual, I could easily run them. However, I knew I needed to be saving my energy this early in the race. So I settled into a combination of running and walking - alternating whenever I felt like it. I made sure to keep eating during this - I knew fueling can make or break your race.

The only pavement on the course was for about 1/2 mile through Hill City.
This section through the aspen trees was gorgeous!
Right around Mile 20 I came to the High Country Aid Station. Scott had to park pretty far at this one, so I didn't have him get me anything from the car, and instead just said hello to him, grabbed some food (they had potatoes which were pretty good) and continued on. I still had quite a bit more uphill and just kept at it.

Unfortunately about 1 mile out of the aid station I felt a big hot spot on my heal where I could feel a blister forming. I never get blisters on my heals when running - it was kind of weird. I meant to put band aids in my pack, but of course forgot - which meant I had to go 4 more miles to the next aid station before I could fix it. It hurt less to run then to walk, so I ended up running more than I normally would have considering I still had a few miles of uphill. As I got closer to the next aid station, I started to see some of the 50 Milers on their way back.

I made it into the Horse Creek Aid Station (around Mile 25) and was pretty happy to see Scott was able to park close by. I was able to sit down and attend to the blister! As I took my shoe off I realized why I was getting one in that spot - my sock had a hole in it! This was super weird since these were fairly new Balega socks (I've been wearing Balega's ever since I started running and they last forever! I don't have any holes in pairs I've had for 3+ years!). So not sure what was up with that, but I changed my socks and decided to change my shoes as well in case that was also contributing. I had some pickles from our stash, then got some bacon from the aid station and headed out.

The 50 Mile race turnaround was just barely past this aid station and after that it was down to just 100 milers on the course. I felt like the first 25 miles went by pretty quickly and was happy to still be feeling good at this point. We were back to gradual downhill now and got to pass through 2 pretty cool train tunnels, so it's safe to say this was probably my favorite section of the entire course!

I made it to the Mystic Aid Station feeling good and grabbed some potatoes and soda, talked to Scott for a minute and then headed out. This would be my last downhill section until the turnaround (I would have about 17-18 miles of uphill once I made it to the next aid station!), so I tried to enjoy it although it really felt more flat than down, so it wasn't as easy to enjoy. Nevertheless I tried not to dread the uphill too much. As I hit mile 30 I could tell I was starting to get tired. I still felt good, I could just tell I had been on my feet for awhile. Obviously I knew I still had a long way to go and being tired was inevitable - just something I realized.

There were a ton of bridges on the course!

I kept at it, making my way into the Gimlet Creek Aid Station where I saw Scott and then a few minutes later, my parents. They stopped in to see where I was at and then would be at the turnaround later that evening. I felt good and was actually ahead of my scheduled pace at this point so it was fun to see them (and I'm glad I got to see them when I was still in a good mood, as opposed to later!). I grabbed some snacks and then headed on.

The next section was my last "feel good" section - Mile 33.8 to 37.4 into Rochford. The long uphill stretch had began, but it was very gradual so I had a nice run/walk combination going on. There was a family out biking on the trail and I kept leap frogging with them as I took my running and walking breaks. I made it into Rochford feeling awesome and about 1 hour ahead of my planned schedule. Scott told me I needed to slow down a little, so I took a little more time at this aid station making sure to get some fuel in me, refilling my pack (with water - I had been getting tired of the Tailwind and hadn't added any into my pack in a few aid stations - this may have been a mistake!). I grabbed some chips and chocolate to take with me and continued on - promising I would slow down a little (did I EVER make a more accurate promise??).

So this next section is where it all went to hell (excuse my language). The first mile or two were fine. Then, all of a sudden my stomach just felt completely awful. It really seemed like it was just out of the blue - very strange. I felt like I had ate WAY too much or something (despite not really eating THAT much). I really cannot figure it out. So I ended up walking a lot more than I had planned during this section and slowed down A LOT. Robert passed me about 4 miles into the section looking really good! I really wanted to try and keep up, but it wasn't happening, so I slowed and hoping that by walking I would feel better.

We did get to go through one more tunnel during this section!
Robert is way in front of me in this picture!
After what felt like FOREVER, I finally made it to the Nahant Aid Station (43.5 - the second to last before the turnaround). I tried to eat a "Gin-Gin" (ginger candy - it's supposed to help settle your stomach) and just sat for awhile. Scott got me some gingerale and stayed with me for a few minutes. I was really upset at this point - why was this happening? I hadn't had ANY issues during the two 50 milers I had done earlier this summer in training! Nevertheless, I knew I had to keep going. So I took some gingerale to go and told Scott I was hoping to just walk it off and hopefully be feeling better at the next aid station.

I walked pretty slowly out of Nahant as I drank my gingerale and tried to figure out what the issue was. About a mile in, I vomited everything up. And by everything, I mean everything. At least since the Rochford Aid Station, possibly even from Gimlet. I knew I needed fuel, but considering how bad it had felt, I was hoping maybe this meant I could just start over. I was able to pick up my pace for a little bit, adding in some run/walking (although it was more walking than running). A mile or so after that I decided to take some chews I had with me - I thought that might be a good quick thing to get some energy in me. I kept at it, slowly making my way to DMTM Exchange Aid Station. Unfortunately another mile or so down the road my stomach started to feel bad again. What the heck? I could not figure this out. I continued on and just didn't eat anything.

I made it into the final aid station (before the turnaround) where Scott and my parents were. I said hello to them and told them the bad news - my stomach was still bugging me. Scott said maybe it would be best if I had someone go with me for the next section (I wasn't planning to have a pacer until Mile 56.6 - but I was allowed one at 50.7 if I wanted). I said I'd think about it as I made my way to the turnaround. The turnaround was 0.7 miles past the aid station. It was the LONGEST 0.7 miles of my life. Seriously. I finally made it, snapped a picture (since this was a 50 mile PR - despite slowing a lot in the last 10!) and made my way back to the aid station. On my way back I saw Rebecca who was doing really well (and doing the entire thing solo, with no pacers! Amazing!). As I got back into the aid station I had some broth and sat down for awhile trying to figure out what was going on with me. I never did figure that out, but decided to have Scott come with me for the next section (6 miles).

Documenting my 50 Mile PR - 12 hours and 17 minutes

I was pretty happy to have Scott join me for these 6 miles (what would be the last 6 miles). I was feeling pretty negative at this point, so it helped to have someone to talk to. Unfortunately a half mile or so into this, I vomited up everything AGAIN. And then again. And then my body kept trying to throw up more despite not having anything left to throw up. It was rather unpleasant.

After that finally subsided we continued on. Mostly walking but with some occasional running thrown in. With how slow I was going, it was taking FOREVER to get to the next aid station. The sun was starting to set and it got pretty cold, pretty fast. I was glad I had brought a long sleeve with me. I enjoyed the sunset though as we talked about what I should do.

I wanted to continue mentally, and yet I didn't physically. I had put so much into this race. So much time - training, planning. So much money - traveling out of state, three nights in a hotel, not to mention all of the things I bought for the race. To quit would just be so disappointing. Not to mention the fact that a 100 miler isn't something I can just "try again" in a week. It takes all those things mentioned above (planning, time off work, money...). I couldn't quit! And yet here I was going on about 20 miles with no fuel and my stomach did not feel like it was improving at all. What to do? I may have had some crying fits and screaming fits during this. I was sad, I was mad. I came ALL the way up here to do this.

But as I mentioned at the beginning of this post...when you have big, crazy, scary need to be prepared to possibly fail. And so, I quit. I got into the last aid station, tried to eat some crackers and sat for awhile deciding what to do. It had gotten really cold and dark by this point and I was worried I was moving so slow I wouldn't be able to stay warm - especially since I had a feeling I would continue to slow down as I made my way on since I couldn't seem to get any food in me. So, I decided to call it.

Since I was exhausted, tired, and hungry (but not hungry), it actually didn't hurt that much at the time to call it and to quit. No, that feeling of shame and disapointment came the next morning when I was feeling better - that's when I was the most upset about it. Especially as I heard about all my friends who had accomplished such amazing things at this race - several of them placed in their age groups, and Robert finished his first 100 well ahead of his goal time! I was super happy for all of them, of course - but it fueled the flame of how mad at myself I was! This was such a perfect course for my first 100 - WHY couldn't I do it?! Well, I'm still working on those answers and I hope to one way have them. Or at least have a 100 mile finish to compare this too. That being said, in the 100 mile distance there were 45 finishers out of 71 starters. Clearly finishing rates like that just go to show that completing 100 miles on foot is NOT as easy task. Nevertheless, I do hope to one day give this thing a shot again (not sure when that will be at this point in time) so I can call myself a 100 mile finisher.

Race: Lean Horse 100
Location: Custer, South Dakota
Distance: 100 Miles (DNF at Mile 56.6)
Bib Number: 3
Weather: Cool in the morning, HOT in the afternoon (mid-70's), Cold at night (50's)!
Elevation Gain: 6262 ft over the course of 100 miles - so I did a little over half of that
Time for 56.5 Miles: Approximately 14 1/2 hours
The first 38.5 miles that my Garmin recorded before dying were done in 8:30:24, which is a 13:21 average pace (this was really good for me at this distance and shows how I was doing before the stomach issues began! This pace includes stopping at aid stations).

DNF aside, this was a fantastic race that I highly recommend. I really did pick an amazing course to be my first 100 (too bad it's not my first 100...). It had gorgeous scenery while still being a non-technical, very runable soft dirt trail. The aid stations were great and it was very well put on. I did enjoy going up to the Black Hills for the first time and seeing the area. I loved having my husband there at almost every aid station crewing for me which was awesome. Everything really was perfect. It was just not my day.

Now, if there was something good to come of a DNF, it's that I was able to get sleep on Saturday night and thus have Sunday free to explore the area. We ended up having a nice breakfast at Sylvan Lake Lodge in Custer State Park with my parents, then Scott and I went to Mt. Rushmore for awhile and explored Hill City that afternoon. It was really nice to have some relaxation time in before we headed to Alaska the next morning (post forthcoming on my trip up there!).

So, what's next? Honestly - I'm not sure. I do want to attempt a 100 miler again sometime, but due to all that is involved in it, I'm just not sure when it will be. I've had some pretty big goals and dreams over the past few years and I think I might be ready for some down time. Or at least some non structured running time! But don't worry, I'm sure I'll still be running a lot of races - I've still got several things on the calendar for the rest of this year including the Grand Circle Trail Fest that I cannot WAIT for (three days of running at Bryce Canyon, Zion, and The Grand Canyon)!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Mt. Sneffels Marathon

After running the Mt. Sneffels Half Marathon the past two years, I knew it was time to go for the full this year! Especially considering I'm training for a 100...I need all the miles I can get, right? Add to the fact that the terrain of this course is very similar to what my 100 will be. Double, why not? So it was set. Now the only thing to consider was that this was only 2 weeks out from my 100...which is kind of, sort of when I should be tapering. So I just figured that was the perfect excuse to take this extra slow and not worry about time (not that I have really been worrying about time AT ALL this summer anyways). I was set. Easy Peasy.

Another local runner and I decided to drive up the morning of - which worked well, but made for an early morning (left at 4am!). We made it to Ridgway at about 5:45am, which was just enough time to relax a little and get ready for the 6:30am start.

The big difference between the marathon and the half marathon is the amount of participants. Between the two races, there are about 800 people. But about 700 of them do the half and only 100 do the full. That means it's an entirely different atmosphere for the full marathon. Much more of a "small town" feel - where you're all just standing around the start and you can see everyone (as opposed to the half where you're all clustered together with long port-a-potty lines and it just feels like there are TONS more people). The full is also significantly harder - as it has about 1000' of elevation gain as you make your way from Ridgway to Ouray before turning around and heading back (so the half, alternately has about 1000' of loss). There's no "big" hills on the way out, but it's a gradual uphill almost the entire way which just gets tiring after awhile and definitely keeps your pace pretty slow.

Waiting for the start!
So when the gun went off I knew I would just be taking this nice and easy from the get go. Which was why I also had no problem stopping for some pictures of these gorgeous horses less than one mile into the race:

The second mile has some steeper grade uphill, so I walked a little there. After mile 2 though I did settle into a pretty steady run for the next 7 or 8 miles, which the exception of taking a couple of quick pictures here and there, and walking so I could take off my long sleeve shirt around Mile 5.

At about mile 8 was when the leaders in the Half Marathon passed us on their way out. It's pretty neat to see, as they are so fast (that's the other thing about the Half - they actually have some elite runners run this - pretty cool). The next 3 miles were spent passing all of the Half Marathoners as they made their way towards Ridgway. Finally at about Mile 12, I made it into the town of Ouray and slowly worked my way to the turnaround at Fellen Park.

At the turn-around in Ouray.
About a mile or so after the turnaround, I ended up settling into the same pace as a guy from the Front Range, so we spent the next 11 or so miles chatting which was nice and really helped the time go by! I always like swapping race stories and hearing about which races people have done and which ones they like etc. We ran pretty much the entire way until the out-and-back section where we started mixing in some walking. I also snapped this picture:

After the out-and-back, we had just over 2 miles to go, including the big, "hill". I always talk about this hill in my Half Marathon posts, but since I knew I had no time goals and therefore, I knew I would be walking it, it didn't really bother me this time around. As I suspected, as soon as I got to it, I walked up the hill, then grabbed some chocolate from the aid station and continued my way towards the finish. With a little over a mile to go, I realized I could get under 5 hours so long as I didn't walk too much. After a couple of breaks, the guy I was running with told me I'd better go ahead if I still wanted under 5, so I did. I picked up my pace quite a bit and just barely squeezed in under 5 hours, with a time of 4:58:38.


Race: Mt. Sneffels Marathon
Location: Ridgway/Ouray, Colorado
Distance: 26.2 Miles
Official Time: 4:58:38
Average Pace: 11:24 per mile
Overall Place: 55 of 87
Gender Place: 18 of 35
Division Place: 7 of 12

Overall I'm glad I finally ran the Full Marathon, but I'll probably stick with the Half Marathon going forward. It's a much more enjoyable downhill half, than an uphill full! But, as a race, it's always put on really well and a great way to see Ouray and Ridgway. You also get 1/2 price entry into the Hot Springs with your race packet, and you can't beat that!

One of my favorite things about this race is all of the swag with Mt. Sneffles on it. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Mt. Sneffles is one of my favorite mountains (to look at, NOT to climb). This years swag was some of the best. In addition to the usual shirt and bag, we got socks, a hat, AND a calendar. And, the finisher's medal was different this year (which was exciting, since I've gotten the old medal two years in a row).