27 September 2014

Run Rabbit Run Race Report

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
-Thomas Edison
Ridge Trail
Another 100 mile attempt. Another failure. It's taken two weeks for me to finally pull the words out of my soul and put them here. This DNF was not entirely unexpected, but it ended far earlier than I hoped. I felt great all day and my Achilles was doing fine as I power hiked the climbs and trotted along the flats and descents. The weather was perfect -- started around 30 degrees as we headed up the ski hill and hovered in the low 70's all day. I enjoyed sharing the trails with Gina from Golden and Joe from New Hampshire. It was wonderful to cheer the front runners as they passed me just before Cow Creek (Mile 29). The beauty of running along Fish Creek Falls and up the Beall trail will forever be etched in my memory.
Samantha and I at the start
Climbing Mt Werner (Photo: P Nelson)
Mountain View Trail

Fish Creek Falls Trail
Coming into Olympian (mi 41) for the second time just after 9pm, I was starting to have some stomach trouble, despite drinking 40oz of water between aid stations. Dehydration has been the primary reason for my stomach problems in the past, so I was being very conscious of making sure I was drinking enough. I was able to have some soup and eat a couple of Justin's peanut butter cups as well as drink a Starbucks doubleshot for the caffeine boost. I knew that I had a four-mile easy road climb and hoped that I could get my stomach fixed before the real work began going up the tough 6-mile climb back up the Fish Creek Falls trail to Long Lake.
Beall Trail
While at Olympian, I saw Billy Yang who was waiting for Sally McRae to arrive and chatted briefly with Chris Vargo who was going to pace her through town and up to Fish Creek Falls. What a nice couple of fellas -- they encouraged me as I get myself ready and offered to help as they were waiting for Sally. When Sally came in, she was looking pretty rough as she was pushing through some pain in her back. Saw Sheila's husband John and her pacer as they were waiting for her to arrive as well. It makes things better to have friendly faces at the aid stations to help take my mind off of my race worries.

As I power hiked up the road, I found that my stomach wasn't getting any better so I tried to empty it. Eventually, at the top of the climb I was able to do so and hoped that would be sufficient for the 6 miles ahead. Unfortunately, it wasn't. As I began the steep climb up Fish Creek Falls, I kept having to stop and try to empty my stomach again and again. I probably went about a mile in the next hour and being as it was below freezing temps, couldn't keep my body temp up. With 5 miles of climbing left and moving at a snails pace, I had to make the painful decision to head back to the trailhead and drop just after 1 am. I was concerned about hypothermia since I couldn't reset my stomach. It was a huge disappointment to be stopped by my stomach when my Achilles was doing fine and I felt I had the legs to keep climbing. Thankfully, a couple who were waiting for their son to arrive (who also dropped) were kind enough to give me a ride back to my hotel so I wasn't stuck out in the cold.

After a little bit of sleep, I went out to the finish line to cheer the front runners coming in. As with TNF 50 last year, it was exciting and heartbreaking to congratulate those that were able to complete the distance and I mourned my own inability to do so. I wanted to experience the whole course as they did, but could momentarily imagine the thrill of having done so and be happy for them. Chatted with this year's winner, Rob Krar, and was happy that he had a great day of running and was proud of his triple-crown wins at Western, Leadville and RRR this year. He's not only a smart and talented runner but a super nice dude to boot.

Clarkie and son coming in to the finish
Saw Sally later on and gave her a hug as she ended up dropping at the top of the 6 mile Fish Creek Falls climb at Long Lake. From comments on Facebook, I didn't realize that she had passed me on the trail after one of my heaving sessions and offered encouragement. It was good to be able to offer each other condolences and feel a bond of shared suffering during the race and disappointment in how our races ultimately ended.

Looking back, I think that my altered training simply slowed me down so in order to keep up a 36-hour pace, I had to work harder than I would have otherwise. I was able to successfully keep my Achilles pain away, but the intensity of power hiking was enough to mess up my stomach, despite hydrating plenty. So, in my case, I needed more long runs and speed sessions to be able to keep myself at the pace to get to the finish without it feeling too intense.

This weekend was the running of The Bear 100. Every time I saw mention of it on Facebook, I felt a pang in my stomach. I loved my time there last year, despite its disappointing end at mile 85. I wanted to run it this year, but chose to stay closer to home in order to keep costs down and have my family join me at the finish line. If I have the fitness and the opportunity to do another mountain 100, I will most certainly be lining up at The Bear again. That race holds a special place in my heart and I ache to go back if I can.

Now that I'm resting and letting my Achilles heal, my racing calendar remains uncertain. I don't know when I can start running again and now that I'm job-hunting, unsure how much time I will have to train. Additionally, my husband and kids need more time with me and I want to be there for them. As much as I love trail running and ultra races, I don't want to look back and regret all the lost time with my family. My husband has been an ultra widower for the past year and a half and has been very supportive of me and my running, but I realized that having a great marriage is better than having great races. I hope to have both, but won't sacrifice one for the other. I want a legacy of being a good wife and mother even more than being a 100 miler. I also want to develop closer relationships with my friends here in the Springs. I know running will always be a part of my life, but I need to find a way to work it around these other priorities that I have.

That being said, I'm going to take a break from blogging and social media in general as I revamp and reorder my life. If you are among those that follow this blog, I encourage you to click any of the buttons on the above right that allow you to be notified when I return to blogging and racing. I've got some early season races on my radar (Red Hot 55, Salida Marathon, Rockin' K), so if I can heal up the Achilles and get back to training, I'm hopeful that the break won't be for long.
Happy Trails,


04 September 2014

The Colorado Fourteener Experiment

“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.” 
- Wendell Berry
With 7 days until I toe the line at Run Rabbit Run, I thought I'd give you a quick update on what's been going on since Hardrock. Since July, I have made going up 14ers the mainstay of my training. For those of you unfamiliar with the term "14ers", it's any mountain that is over 14,000 ft. Colorado has 54 of them and mountain climbers attempt to tag all of them over the course of several years. I have no such ambition, but with my nagging Achilles Tendonitis, I needed to adjust my training so that I was doing steeper climbs, which engage my hamstrings rather than my calves. My Achilles is less sore when I do these steep mountain climbs and along with a long, flat easy run at the end of the week, it's been the extent of my training for the past six weeks or so. 

I have no idea how this drastic alteration in my training will affect my results at RRR. My biggest concern has been keeping my tendonitus from getting worse as I keep training as minimally as possible. On my rest days (4 total), I've been icing, doing eccentric heel drops and having my chiro huz adjust my hips, knees and ankles. I looked into dry needling, but the cost was prohibitive for us. My hope is that I can preserve my ability to descend, as that is my key to beating cutoffs. If I run low-grade climbs for even 45 minutes, I'm in tremendous pain on the descent due to my calves being primarily activated. Keeping this in mind, I have alternated between speed walking and running on the low-grade approaches to the 14ers and that has helped. 

So, it remains to be seen if my Achilles can handle the 30+ hours of walking, running and hiking that I plan to do in Steamboat Springs. I'm going to give it my all and do my best to get it done within the cutoffs. Then, I'm going to rest as long as needed, which means dropping out of the Denver Marathon in October. The speedwork needed will only inflame my Achilles. I'm actually looking forward to a period of rest as my training takes a lot from me and my family. My dear huz has been incredibly supportive as he's taking a greater role in childcare due to my early mornings and long days in the mountains. My kids have been interested in doing some hiking and scrambling in our local parks and I'm excited to do more outdoor activities with them.

As of July, I had tagged just four 14ers (Pikes, Princeton, Yale & Handies). Since then, I've summitted 12 more. Here they are in order of peak-bagging:
Looking SW from the summit of Shavano (#5)
Looking up at Columbia (#6)
These prickly plants freak me out going up these mountains
Foggy summit of Belford (#7) (Photo: Meghan)
The all-white, no-see-anything, background on Belford for me & Meghan
View from top of Quandry (#8)
Sunlight spilling over the Sawtooth on the ascent to Bierstadt (#9)
The butt glissade down Bierstadt to the connecting ridge to the Sawtooth. Note the rock I narrowly missed bashing in to. Oy.  
View of Bierstadt from the Sawtooth ridge
View of Bierstadt and the Sawtooth from Evans' west ridge
The hikers that joined me going down Bierstadt to Evans (#10)
View of Antero from Tabeguache (#11)
View of Huron from the saddle of Missouri
Bagged Missouri in a sleet storm (#12)
View of Yale and Bear Lake from Harvard (#13)
View ofTorreys from Grays (#14 - #15)
View of Stevens Gulch from Torreys
View of Harvard from Oxford (#16)
I was also able to crew a few runners who were going after the Nolan's 14 -- traversing fourteen 14-ers in the Sawatch Range in less than 60 hours. I wrote about pacing my friend Julian in his attempt last year here; this year, I helped run an aid station a little more than half-way through the route. This year, there have been four runners that have completed it out of 15 attempts, though one was over the 60 hour mark. Bear in mind that Nolan's 14 is regarded as being tougher than the Barkley Marathons by those who have finished both. Let that sink in...
I made Deb Pero's Hardrock Potato-Bacon soup for the runners
Blake Wood (2001 finisher) chatting with
Brandon & Gavin, two of this year's finishers
Ginna, Anna and Tina helping resupply packs
Jason and his pacer Tom. He completed 9 peaks on this attempt 
The kids are now in school, one in Pre-K and the other in 2nd grade. After a busy summer of playdates and water parks, I'm looking more at getting out with them on weekly outings in the woods. After an opportunity to do a little rock climbing, my boy now wants to do more scrambling. Baby girl loves to hike and play on the rocks for hours too. So as I taper for RRR and enter my off-season, I don't mind doing less running if I can instill a love of the outdoors in my kids. 
Playing on the rocks at a local park, My boy and I went on to
scramble across a ridge for the next couple of hours. Love!
Brandon posted this video of his Nolan's 14 adventure with Gavin. Enjoy!
Happy Trails,


27 July 2014

2014 Hardrock 100 Pacing Report - Part 2

“Instructions for living a life. 
Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
- Mary Oliver

(This is the final post of a five-part series covering my nine days at Camp Hardrock. Days 1 & 2 are found here; days 3 & 4 are found here. Days 5 & 6 are found here. Part 1 of my pacing report is here:) 

I had waited seven days to arrive at today -- Saturday -- when I hoped to pace one of the 46 - 48 hour finishers on their journey to kissing the Hardrock Sunday morning. I was going to do this on the fly, just hanging out Sherman to pick up someone, but as it turned out, I found a runner named Rich on Wednesday night. The plan was to pick him up at Grouse Gulch (Mi 58) and pace him to the finish.
View from Grouse Gulch
Water, water everywhere

When I got to Grouse that morning, I saw Steve Pero, who was pacing Mark Heaphy to his 16th Hardrock finish. Mark went on to finish in 46 hours like a boss. I also saw Julian Smith's wife, Lisa, and Sheila's husband, John after they missed Julian and Sheila (who was pacing him), having arrived earlier than expected. Julian would go on to finish his 3rd Hardrock in 45 hours and change. Respect! 

The two specks in the middle left are Steve and Mark
going up the switchbacks to Grouse Gulch Basin
I also saw Robert Andrulis and his pacer, Gary as I was running around getting myself fed and ready for Rich to arrive. Rich had been behind his splits from what I could see so I wasn't surprised when he arrived at Grouse around 8am Saturday morning. He came in ready to drop. He said he didn't have the legs to climb up Handies and he didn't want to get stuck dropping at Sherman due to missing a cutoff, as Sherman is hours away from Silverton and Grouse is less than an hour.
Robert and Gary coming in to Grouse
Gary notified me that he was dropping due to stomach problems and that Robert had left shortly before by himself. He suggested that I catch him and pace him the rest of the way. After making sure that Rich couldn't be convinced to go on, I took off after Robert around 8:15am. 
Grouse Gulch Aid Station from the top of the switchbacks

Looking west from the switchbacks
If you know anything about me, you know I'm a better descender than a climber. So when Gary told me that Robert was climbing slow, it gave me hope that I'd be able to catch him before he got to the summit of Handies Peak, the only 14er on the course. After ascending a series of switchbacks, I crossed Grouse Gulch and up to the head of the basin. From there, I dropped into American Basin and up to the top of Handies. It took me over 3 hours to get there and no Robert. (sigh) At least I had some beautiful views to enjoy from the day's adventures... 
Climbing up to Grouse Gulch
Looking back from American - Grouse Pass
Looking ahead to Handies Peak before dropping into American Basin
Bottle refill and foot wash station

The iconic Handies shot with Sloan Lake

Marker and wildflowers near the summit
Final push to the top...steep!
Summit view
With no Robert in sight, I pushed the descent down Handies into Grizzly Gulch. By the time I got into Burrows Park (mi 68), I was told Robert was 40 min ahead of me. Damn... so I had to keep pushing as I ran up Cinnamon Pass Rd for 3 miles. When I got to the Sherman Aid Station (mi 72) 5.5 hrs after leaving Grouse, I found Robert sitting down, eating and getting his feet fixed. He was surprised to find out I'd chased him 14 miles from Grouse Gulch, up and over Handies, all the way to Sherman. He thought I'd hitched a ride. I was just happy to finally have a runner to pace! 
Descent off Handies

Grizzly Gulch
Boring "trail", pretty backdrop
Since Robert has a tendency to take too much time in aid stations, I took off ahead of him as he was finishing up and told him to come catch me. I was also secretly concerned that he'd drop me on the climbs. Once he caught me up the trail, I had no problem keeping up, thankfully. We climbed out of Cataract Gulch and past Cataract Lake, which sits on the Continental Divide.

This section of trail reminded me of hiking in Alaska

Looking back at Cataract Lake
It was muddy in this section; I looked forward to creek crossings
Pole Creek
We hit the Pole Creek Aid Station (mi 81) at 7p. We refilled water and moved on to Maggie-Pole Pass where the mud was even worse. The views were pretty though, as the sun dropped below the horizon and the light changed constantly the closer we got to Maggie Gulch. As we began the slow climb up to the top of the pass, where we'd drop into Maggie Gulch, I began having trouble keeping up with Robert. My legs were shot from the long climb up Handies and probably affected by bombing down the other side. I told him to go on since I didn't want to jeopardize his sub-48 hour finish. Once I got into Maggies (Mi 85), Robert was already climbing out of the gulch and I caught a ride back to Silverton. 

Heading straight ahead to the saddle
Last light, just before dropping into Maggie Gulch
The next morning, I got to the finish line at 5:15am to watch the last runners come in and got to see Robert as well as Bob Combs, who was featured in my Quad Rock report. No dramatic down-to-the-wire finishes like we had last year with Claire Ketteler. The last runner this year, Amanda Grimes, got in with a good 10 minutes to spare. Out of 140 starters, 100 finished, a 71% finishing rate.

The Awards Ceremony is always a special time. Dale recognizes every one of the finishers from the last person to the first and tells a little anecdote about them as they are given their finisher's print and t-shirt from Lois. I watched my old and new friends go up and get their awards and I felt very proud of them and their accomplishment. While we were all amazed at Kilian's course record run, the one the received the standing ovation was Kirk Apt. It was his 20th running of Hardrock, out of 21 starts in its 21 year history. As a special gift from the Hardrock family, he was presented with a map of the course, signed by all of the participants in this year's run. He choked back emotion as he gave his acceptance speech, which was full of humility and grace. It was a special moment in the history of Hardrock and I am glad to have been there to witness it.
Dale presenting Kirk with his signed course map
Darcy Piceu - 1st place female
Kilian Jornet - 1st place male and CR holder
Once again, I had to say goodbye to my friends as we all returned to our respective homes. I had such an amazing week here and I can't wait to return in 2015. I left Silverton with such a full heart, feeling blessed to be a part of the Hardrock family. I also came away with a strong desire to bring my own family next time so they can have their magical Hardrock experiences too. That was the only downside of being here -- not having them with me. The beauty of the mountains here was a balm in their absence.
'Til next year...
Congratulations to all the Hardrockers that finished this brutiful run. You have my respect, no matter how long it took you to finish. For those who didn't, peace to you all and get back after it. These beautiful mountains, gulches and passes will be here for you to find your limits once again. I look forward to enjoying the beauty of the San Juans with you and cheering you all on in 2015 and beyond.

Happy Trails,