Hot Hilly Hairy 50k – 2018

Hot Hilly Hairy 50k – Kenosha, Wi

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind, and I wasn’t sure I would make it out the other side. It all started with the Devil’s Lake DWD 50k, which I felt pretty good for, it chewed me up, and the weather wasn’t the best, AND the chafing was unbelievable. Then I moved on to the Lunatic Mad Dog Marathon, which humbled me. The trails were difficult, and I was tired; I had a bad day. But I finished. And now I was going to try and do another 50k for a third weekend, things looked grim. I was fatigued for sure. But I knew this race was important to try and test out how doing smaller loops for an ultra would work, as the course was only 5k and nontechnical (come to find out later), albeit hilly. I was not looking forward to it to say the least, and was scared.

A lot of emotions ran through my head. I had never ran two marathons on back to back weekends, not to mention doing three greater than or equal to marathon length runs on three consecutive weekends. I remember how hard it was when I ran my first two half marathons on back to back weekends, I was just not recovered for the second. I had earlier this year ran a marathon the same month as a 50k, but they were three weeks apart. I had also ran my first 50k three weeks before I PR’d the Blue Ridge Marathon course last year. I knew I had been taking things slower and easier, but my body was tired.

Fast forward to the day before race day. I gave up looking up forecasts. I had such rotten luck lately, and this year in general. I finally looked it up. Looked like mid 70s at best, chilly morning, but mostly clear skies for the morning. I looked up the race location, which I thought was outside of Milwaukee, but I was so so wrong. It was a little over 2 hours away, and with a 6am race start time, we would have to be leaving our house at 3am, since I was still not registered to race and needed to set things up at the start/finish area for my aid station. So I hit up some good friends about 20 minutes out from the race site (After looking at the map), and they said it was cool, and would stay the night with them and hang out the following day. Rich got off work, and we headed out to Illinois! The ride was really uneventful, yay! We arrived, ate dinner with them getting Chipotle to go (hey if it has rice, that’s all I need prerace), and we spent the night relaxing and laughing with some short video series. Then I headed off to bed, and tried to sleep.

WRONG. You may never sleep the night before a race! I think I maybe got about 2 hours of sleep. I really hate these restless nights. Anxiety was running high again. I woke at 4:15am. Giant sighs just emanating from my soul. I hate the time right before dawn so very much. I gathered myself and Rich, trying to let him sleep as much as I could. We sneaked out the door, not bothering the little puppers which was a surprise! We navigated north to the race. WRONG. Ugh, so following the address on the facebook event site was not a good idea. We ended up in a private drive. Andrea was already at the race site, as she was hanging out, crewing <3, and handling the kids’ race later on, and even getting in her own run. I messaged her in a slight panic. She calmed me. Went to the event website and gathered up that address and with the confirmation from Andrea, we made it to the race site, just two miles from where we got lost.

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That’s the moon!

Didn’t lose much time. The race start/finish line area was impressive. It was at the UW Parkside cross country course. Tents were starting to pop up. I headed to the main tent and signed up for the race where I received a tiara (had the choice of either red or purple, I chose red) and was told when I finished I would get a sticker to go on the back, a long sleeve shirt, and sticker sheet to keep up with my laps on my bib. I have to say, it did cross my mind briefly that I could just sign up for the 85k (which was debated which distance I would do until just a few days before), but I stuck with the plan. The plan being that I could run this race, but not race it, Andrea given the instructions from Mr. Coach to trip me if I tried to go too fast. We (Rich and I) went back to the car and gathered all my items I needed for the race. We then headed to the 50k corral. So every distance had their own space/corral taped off on the left side of this giant runway in this field. The opposite side had several tents where I came to find out were for the cross country high school teams and relay teams doing the Hil100py 100 miler. It really was like a giant and organized tailgate party as the website said. I wasn’t sure what to expect really because the race website was pretty vague. I knew beforehand that the RD (race director) was a low key guy and just wanted to provide for a good time. All I knew was that I could set up in an area of my own at the start/finish and there was an aid station 1.7 miles into the 3.1 mile course and the course was hilly.

I had set this up pretty well. I had my Zion “drop bag” (just a plastic colored box) with all my nutrition. Today’s plan was to take ONE item from the box every loop. Items consisted of peach fruit cups (full sugar juice!), honey stinger chews, honey stinger gels and other brand gels I had left over from other events. I had one bottle of cherry sprite, my tailwind bag, and my BCAA container and my bottle to put it all in and carry with me. I was unable to get water before the race, but had about half a clif bar before arriving to the race, and I was unable to find water before taking off in the race! I knew this wasn’t a big deal because it was just a 5k loop, and I could survive that long without water and knew the aid station about half way would have water. But it was come to find out later that this race really didn’t provide anything but liquid on course…no gels or anything special. Anyway, I was putting on my antichafe, and as I was applying, the whole thing feel out. Oh no, I was out. I had some squirrel nut butter, but I hadn’t really tried it during a race or long run yet. I applied the tiny container I had the best I could out in public to boot…not the best idea. I felt like a triathlete who didn’t care how saw what out there in the middle of the open field. Nothing got exposed, but it sure did look like the Old Bay Guy situation.

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Andrea had some chair and a small cooler she brought, along with ALL the first aid goodies in her giant sack of goodness. I traveled over to the start area, which wasn’t a line, but just the other side of some truck. It was COLD, I could see my breath! IT. IS. LATE. JULY. What madness is going on?! But it was clear and I wasn’t going to complain about seeing the sun in a race for the first time in a long time. So the race started a little late. I went off with the 85k/100k’ers at 6:07am I guess? They were supposed to have the national anthem play, but something went wrong, so the whole of everyone there started singing it instead! It was rather quiet, but it was nifty. The deal was, at the end of the anthem, we would “go”. And I believe it took a second or two, but after a few laughs from the crowd, some people took off! I started my watch, and started off, UP, and UP the first and biggest hill.

This report is going to move differently than others I’ve typed up in the past, because I’ve never really done a small looped course before, I had no idea if this was going to be a good thing, or something I would tire of. I thought it was going to be mentally more difficult. So I’m going to describe the course and then most of what is to come are just my experiences while traversing said course.

The first hill was pretty significant, as it didn’t have a very high grade, but it was long (0.52 miles according to the garmin) with one little reprieve about 2/3 the way up. It was all open field, no real marked trail, so it was interesting to see which path everyone took, it was reallllly wide! Trees lined both sides of the field. The field was mowed down for the most part. I didn’t start out that fast, not like the crazy people busting up the hillside, which I thought was insane for ultra runners! But I did start out relatively fast for me, which I didn’t catch onto until later when my watch beeped. Scaling the hill was hard, the grass was very wet with dew and it got my feet wet. My legs didn’t feel tight, but I could tell they were protesting having to go uphill at the start. I didn’t walk this the first time. When I got to the top, I noticed most people were heading to the right (where they had been on the left). We reached an opening in the trees on the right and in the field there was this incredibly squat blue spruce pine tree, probably about 9 feet tall, but a lot wider than it was tall! I regret forgetting to take a picture of this odd tree. It flattened out a little bit here, still on the up, but very low grade at this point and a trail reveled itself! This was probably the most narrow part of the course, if you could call any part of this course narrow. 37965971_1745549128832508_7908685588386021376_o You could fit one or two runners on the trail, but everything was mowed pretty low here and as it got more and more trampled down, this became less an issue. The ground here was not uneven like typical grassy fields that I’ve had experience with. The course moved into the woods here where I met my nemesis, the slanty trail. This was the only part of the trail I hated, but it was short lived! A little rocky and uneven here. This moved into an area where I would walk most laps just due to heart rate. Oh yeah, I decided to base my run on heart rate so as to not overdo it. My number today was 160bpm, so trying to stay in zone 3 and nothing above it. For whatever reason, this section of the course would raise my heart rate, and it wasn’t hilly or harder, but whatever! The course took a left turn into a field with trees on the left and went uphill some more turning back into the woods, a little more gravel here. This was a steeper climb but it was short. I would run the first half, and then walk the second more steep half. This was met with a steep downhill which I pounded out. This overall felt good until the last two laps! This met with a really nice long flat and nontechnical packed dirt section, mild tree coverage so light shone through the leaves, slightly downhill. 38085929_1748239568563464_5878977343870992384_n I loved this section. This was the section right before the aid station which I found out was actually just the start/finish area! The course pinched in the middle of the loop, allowing you to have access to restrooms here. I kept this in mind when I wanted Rich to bring me things about half way through the loop. Right after this aid station, 1.7 miles in, there was the second steep more prolonged hill on course. I walked this every time. It was steep, and gravel-y and then sandy at the top! I didn’t mind this. The course had a few more mini hills but was mostly net downhill from there to back to the start/finish, and I made good time here every time. I picked two hills that were my “battle” to take on every loop, each time I knew I would run these even if I was slow. I eventually picked a third later on earlier in the loop. The last half of the loop was fantastic, it was very even ground, and I could pick up speed easily on it. The course crossed a small “bridge” at some point, I hated this bridge, it was soft and reminded me of AstroTurf, green, and without the turf. It felt so awkward to cross and it was at the bottom of a steep decline, so I always ended up hitting it hard. 37922122_1745549462165808_1639667704426135552_o There was one part of the course near the end that reminded me of double track, where there were kind of two paths and the middle was harder to run on, and every loop say for a few near the end, I was always being passed by a faster runner so I was on the right side of it. I remember thinking how privileged I was getting to be on the left near the end! The very end was pretty rocky and smoothed out going slightly uphill to the finish. I remember there was a black plastic drain pipe that was slightly exposed to the world above that I used as a marker to signal I was almost back and there was no excuse to walk here. I found out after a few loops, I kept adding in other course markers, like two taped off areas after the drain pipe to keep me on pace.

So I finished the first loop! Just 34 minutes. I had stopped to take a few pictures, but I needed to improve my plan for the next loop. It was a little on the fast side. As I headed out from the first loop at the finish line, I ran down the aisle of tents! Right to my mini aid station. This was so useful, you didn’t have to add any extra distance to your race. The 50k section was near the end, so I would keep running until I reached it knowing I would stop and grab things. Here I grabbed a gel and my water bottle now filled with tailwind. And I was off again! Up that darn hill. This time I had a plan. I would run up to right past this sign that was smack in the middle of the field as the incline got steeper, and then walk until I hit this tree that was aligned with another large tree across the field from it, kind of making a fake line. This is where I would run this flat section, until the hill rose again. At this point I was staying to the left, in later loops, I would move to the right side. The sun was rising and starting to burn off the morning dew, but it was still soaking my shoes. I loved the sun. It felt so good.

Second lap, third lap, I don’t remember much, it went by SO fast. My second lap was almost as fast as my first. It was SUCH a good course! I didn’t feel like I was pushing anything, and tried to slow down. The only part about running a 5k loop is that the loop mile times get more and more off each time you go around. So what was mile 2 on course, after the first loop, was mile 2.1-3.1, and third lap was shifted to 2.2-3.2, so you couldn’t judge your actual mile times every loop with how you were doing. Eventually it shifted enough that one of my mile was really slow despite keeping the same plan and effort just because it involved more hills. So every time, the aid station shifted, so 1.7 miles to 1.8 miles, to 1.9 miles, like it kept getting further away haha! The second lap I did decide I didn’t want to carry my water bottle. It wasn’t hot enough for me that I needed water during a loop, and the aid station was enough half way for me. I ditched it after only using it one loop. The first three loops were the fastest 9.3 miles I’d ever had mentally, it was like I had only run one loop! I couldn’t believe I was almost half way done.

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Absolutely beautiful morning

I had picked up some chews, and started taking in soda at the start/finish. I decided that since this was enough sugar for now, I would take my one item that I was required to take from my box each lap right before the halfway aid station. The chews, again, did not go over well. I fought with myself to consume them. The chews I had used and trained with for years… note taken. I stuck with the gels that held their own and were easy to just carry along for 1.7 miles. Having specifically marked locations where I would take in my nutrition worked for me really well, and I never missed a beat. Fourth loop I think it was, the one that would bring me about half way, I got to run with Andrea for a while! It was nice chatting with someone, as the course was mainly empty, everyone going their own paces. I was amazed to find out that Andrea got in some 10 miles that day, and I never missed her at the start/finish! Way to go!! By the fifth loop, I think I needed to apply some sunblock. I stopped for a bit here to have Rich coat me. Victory was had that day, as I sustained no burns. Rich was not so lucky. I would say about half the course was in the direct sunlight.

I was half way done!! What the heck! I hit half way right under the pace I would need to break 6 hours, I think it was 2 hours and 50 minutes or thereabouts. I tried to get that idea out of my head quickly, because the real race had yet to start. I did not want to form expectations that I could break 6. I was supposed to come out of this, as Andrea yelled at me that I had to be fresh by Wednesday! I had not heard this, but it came as a threat (I do not use this word negatively mind you)! I dialed it in. By mile 18 I started to struggle a bit, but I think this was because I needed to stop at a restroom, but resisted because I didn’t want to lose time. But by putting this off, I lost time because it was more uncomfortable to run. I didn’t take the break until a loop later. Everything sat fine in my stomach though. I had no GI issues. But I had been putting a lot of liquid down, a cup of water every aid station, and some sort of electrolyte they had on site…I have no idea if it had calories or not.

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Along one of these last few loops, I was running along the right side tree line on the first hill, and spotted the wing of a butterfly, it was so pretty. After about ten steps, I decided to go back and take a picture of it because I didn’t think I would see it again. I took this as a sign that I was ok, and I could do this. Butterflies mean a lot to me in running. I saw a few monarchs on course, as well as a few light lilac tiny butterflies near the end, like they were trying to carry me along. Lo and behold, I would see this butterfly wing two more times!

Overall I felt fine after the potty break, which almost immediately set me free from the discomfort I was having. It was my slowest mile at 14:11, second to 13:12 (mile 29, mostly uphill), not shabby at all. Just the previous week, these were my best mile times. I hit the marathon point at about 5 hours and change, even better than my Ironman pace, which I am still proud of since I managed to run the whole thing. I knew at this point, my sub 6 dream was buried until a later date. I thought about a lot of math on course, as that keeps me occupied. I slowed down a bunch in the last few miles going from 11:20s to 12:20s, I probably needed more calories. I remember I texted Rich, “MUST DRINK SPRITE NEXT STOP” because I kept forgetting to drink it. I would get past the starting hill and fondly think about how good the Sprite would be and looked forward to it. I lost this somewhere during the loop and would forget for 3 loops! I eventually drank the whole thing, taking in more and more each loop. Rich had to run off and buy me more, but made it back in time to have it! I had him meet me also on the 2nd to last loop at the half way aid station with the sprite. It was amazing.

I remember being passed constantly later in the race by school guys going at least a 6:00 min/mi pace. Sometimes I would picture them as zombies chasing me from behind, as I could hear them from quite a bit aways. Sometimes I would race them down the hills. Overall it was fun having them around. I knew they were only in it for one lap, so why not go all out?

I thought a lot about my form during the race. I tried to focus on it. I saw the video of me finishing the Devil’s Lake course, and I just look wobbly and unbalanced. I don’t feel that way, but it definitely doesn’t make me look like an elite runner. I am considering having someone analyze it after this 100 miler passes me by. No point changing form now! That might end in disaster. I got around to starting the final loop, and was talking to Rich, and Rich said Andrea told him it was 11 laps. This didn’t make sense to me since 5k x 10 loops is 50k right? I was a math major. Panic was instilled in my bones. I headed off nervously. This is where I forgot to take a picture of the squat pine tree, too mentally occupied with the thought of doing another lap for what reason? I had even made a deal with myself on the 2nd to last loop that I would take picture the last loop. I dwelled on this for so long. I texted and facebook messaged Rich for updates (as I had sent him to investigate the actual lap count), and kept checking my phone every minute to see if he had sent an update if I didn’t manage to feel the phone vibrate for. Finally got word back that is was 10 loops. The elephant got off of me immediately. I reached the half way aid station. I had Rich take my phone at this point because my left side of my quad was feeling bad. I concluded later it was from too much pressure on my thigh and it still feels rather bruised, but I don’t think any muscle damage was done. Rich offered to run the last part with me, but I needed to do this alone. I had 1.5 miles to go. It was over! I took the last chunk of Sprite.

I tried to give the last bit everything I had, but I had nothing left, and my pace went down a bit. I did my best, and came up to the finish area where Rich and Andrea were waiting, I didn’t need anyone else at the finish, and seeing them lit me up. I smiled and sped up a bit. 37918343_1745550048832416_6303527379247562752_o I crossed in 6 hours and 7 minutes, a full hour off of the time at Devil’s Lake which was also a new PR for me for 50k. But cutting an hour off? The course was not flat. In total it was 1850 vertical, much less than Devil’s Lake, but not insignificant. Each mile had about the same loss/gain. But it was like this course was made for my legs. I was able to manage the ups and downs very well, unlike the previous weekend. The sun helped a lot. Temperatures topped out at 79°F, 50% humidity. Perfect conditions. I maintained an average heart rate in zone 3 the whole time, and never went truly anaerobic. Today was a good day.

I went off and just wanted to sit. I had not sit this entire time. It felt so good and gave my legs the relief they wanted. My right foot is still bugging me, and I’m not sure what’s really going on there.

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Sitting is gooood

 

I went over and got a free stretch session with a booth that was there, and they told me I had good range of motion for what I had just done. Then I went over to get the sticker on my tiara, and headed to the results table. I did not expect to get third overall female and 1st age group. I was not the only one in my age group. I was in shock. I went and got food a bit later after saying goodbye to Andrea and getting a few selfies. At the time, I felt like I would be sore. The pads on my feet hurt to touch, they were certainly tender like that filet you pay $50 for. As we finally left, we ran into the race director who was in great spirits. There was no awards except for top finishers overall. But that’s ok, I wasn’t expecting it, but it never hurts to ask before embarking on your long journey home. Guy was great, and ran a great race on a quality course.

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Yes I have my jacket on after the race, it was chilly!

I probably should be back next year!! I remember at one point after hitting 10 miles that I was cruising so hard that I wasn’t sure I was getting my money’s worth out of the race, I still laugh about this cause I knew the RD would allow people to jump distances if they wanted. Again, very low key and easy going. The 50k has the most participants! Glad to have also come in top 10 overall finishers too. I might work on my speed next year. It’s pretty motivating.

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Stretchies

 

Afterward, we headed back to our friend’s house and played dance games, taking showers, and to our surprise another friend had showed up who was local to Chicago! We all went out to a final dinner and just hung out. We decided this needed to happen again soon, which I am grateful for. I want to thank Ryan and Christal again for their hospitality, let’s do it again soon! Thank you Andrea for being there for me, and with all your goodies. You are so caring! I hope I can be there for you too.

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Poor Richie

 

And now, I have the Fort 14, a 14 miler I am pacing at an easygoing pace next weekend, but I don’t know the outcome of this training. If I don’t make it through the 100 miler in Texas, I have a backup plan, but I know I want to push as much as I can and learn as much as I can, and this has been one heck of a journey and I don’t regret any of it, good times and bad time. I’m fairly recovered now and focusing on post race nutrition and active recovery. So far so good. Keep following for more exciting updates, and don’t forget to check out Becoming Ultra’s podcasts, I have another coming up soon!

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Doing Events when Injured or Undertrained!

Weighing Risks – What is worth it?

A lot in running, and other sports too!, we often see people in situations that aren’t ideal. It’s not uncommon to see sport athletes playing with an injury or pushing through one because they’d rather chance further hurting themselves than sitting the bench. Running and triathlon are no exception.

You’ve signed up for a race, maybe long in advance, or maybe impulsively (this is usually the case for myself, trust me, I’m good at being bad), but you are either undertrained or risking or have an injury you are nursing. If you haven’t plain out broken a leg (although I know an awesomely crazy lady who “ran” a 5k on a broken foot, not advised!), you are probably going to still make the best of a bad situation. I’m one of those people who has an idea planted, and it’s going to grow into a full grown plan prematurely at times, and resolve in some sort of ridiculousness. The good thing is that I’ve learned from this and can pass on the information. As my own coach has said, “Once an athlete gets an idea in their head, they are most likely going to follow through with it.”

Let’s talk about the injury side of things. There is a whole list from IT band syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, knee pain, stress fractures, metatarsal pain, lower back pain, sciatic nerve pain, shin splints, tendinitis, and pulled muscles just to list some common ones. Certain injuries like blisters, chafing, DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) can usually be treated quickly and you can be back in the game in no time flat…we aren’t talking about these. Injuries can sideline you from days to several months depending on severity and how long you actually rest and take care of yourself. But what exercises will make your symptoms worse? This can only really be resolved and answered by your doctor, so if you suspect you are suffering, make an appointment and get to the bottom of things before making things worse. And when I mean get to the bottom of it, I mean get an actual name for what injury you have and how to treat it, and not some generic symptom or name like lower back pain, what is causing the lower back pain?

What can these injuries be from? Typically injury comes from overuse or accelerating training too quickly. Keep in mind, most injuries start from the top and trickle down. What I mean by that is that if you have some knee pain, it might be from tight glutes. If you have ankle weakness, are you strengthening your knee and hips? A key ingredient in training in anything is to give your other muscle group some action to help support your other efforts: crosstraining. Running? Get in the pool, ride on a bike/cycle class, go rock climbing, play tennis, something that gives other muscles experience. I’ve torn my left meniscus twice, both while playing soccer, not running related, and I have not yet had to really do much for it because I’ve been able to keep the surrounding muscles strong, and I can start to tell when I haven’t been strengthening those over time.

Now what if, after all this talk, you have an injury and you decide to “do it anyway, it won’t be that bad”. One, you are taking a huge risk to make a bad situation worse. Sure you paid for the race probably a while ago, but would the medical bills and potential for having to stay away from what you enjoy doing be worth it in the end? Probably not. Talk to people outside of your sport about it reasonably. Someone from the outside usually will have some good perspective. Two, if you decide you are really going to do it, do self checks in time intervals…and drop out if you need to. There is no shame in dropping out of a race to treat your body right! Consider a different pace, or experimenting with something new in your race. If you’re going to do it anyway, learn from it at least. Only you can make decisions for yourself. I’m just here saying pushing through injury is a bad idea. Don’t let it cost you your whole season.

NOW, let’s talk about being undertrained. This is a huge one. I am totally a victim of this. Let me give you my resume!
– my first half marathon ever was “just do it to prove yourself”, and I had no idea what I was doing was a half marathon or even what that meant. IT SUCKED BAD. I had blisters almost as large as my feet, was cripple for a week because those blisters got infected, it was just overall not good. This situation was almost unavoidable because I didn’t know what I was even doing or what it meant or what was involved.

– my 2nd marathon, the most I ran was 9 miles before the race. Sure I had trained earlier that year for my first marathon, but that was half a year prior. My feet swelled up and although the race went ok, a LOT could have happened. I even ran an 8k the morning before in a race challenge! I was sore for a long time.

– my first 50k, I was training for a marathon and signed up a week before. I probably was not ready. There was a lot of struggle because it was during my peak training for the marathon that was just 3 weeks later. I could have done much better with a taper and not as training fatigued.

– my first triathlon, I couldn’t swim multiple laps in a pool yet, and here I was in open water not ready to swim the 400m. It was pretty sad!

Although nothing seriously bad has happened to me personally from being undertrained, I know not everyone is built the same, and not everyone can pace themselves properly if this happens. With the exception of basically my first three half marathons (yes, I did the same half marathon the next year since I got lost the first year, I thought I needed vengeance on the event, and still didn’t know what the heck it was or what I was doing, and didn’t know how to train for my third when I finally figured out what a half was), I knew what the distance involved and I could kind of skirt by and was pretty smart with how I handled the situations. Yes, I have excuses as to why I was undertrained, but these don’t matter in the long run (har har), just you and the event matter and how you handle it. So don’t take this a green flag to do something not so smart, like decided to run a 50k with just half marathon training or something to the extreme.

So what’s the risk? When you go for new distances, or the distances you haven’t run in a LONG time (like a few years), your skeleton hasn’t really made the adaptations of the pounding you have to do when you journey through an event you’re not prepared for. This could lead to more muscle fatigue, trying to support your efforts and bones, and you could very well end up with stress fractures. Your tendons and ligaments are also at risk, they are basically like little rubber bands that help you move along, and they can be damaged or snapped. You can easily overstress your immune system as well, and this could lead to colds, or flus, or upper respiratory issues. Your body needs time to repair the damage caused by training/racing, and it can be distracted long enough you can contract a virus. Lots of things can happen when you’re not prepared. So in this regard, you can take a step back and decided if the event is worthwhile.

But you’re probably going to do it anyway. In this case, there are a few things you can do. If you have enough experience with your own body and training, you can wing it and make a solid plan, even if you feel good on race day it’s important to stick to that plan! This usually involves walking and a change in pace. Some races will allow you to drop distances, which is always good option! You can also hired a coach to help guide you through it, they have the experience for you and will try and get you on a track that will hopefully prevent you from hurting yourself and be successful in your event anyway. I have done both of these things, but the latter is probably for the best and something I personally have never regretted.

Getting in over your head is very easy to do. Most people will probably just wing it, but there are always so many risks, and most people don’t even know the extent of those until it’s too late. I hope this small little article will help my audience think about things at least. Please feel free to reach out to me about this, or leave a comment!

Lunatic Trail Series – Mad Dog Marathon

Lunatic Race Series by Trail Dog Running – Mad Dog Marathon – Kewaskum, Wi

This was my first official trail marathon! Yup, I did 3 50ks and a 100k before actually doing a true trail marathon. I have to say, I’m not a fan of the distance on the trail after all is said and done, although I was glad to be done by the time I hit that finish line and didn’t have the extra 8km to go…

Cue the storms! Yup, we’re back with the same kind of weather forecast I’ve been dealing with for the past, oh I don’t know, few races? The forecast was much like last last week for the DWD Devil’s Lake 50k, HUMID and threats of rain/storms during the race. This was the first time I had done two back to back marathon-length (or greater) races/training weekends, and I could feel it. Not sure if that was because I was still recovering or if the plan I had to follow for the race was different, OR if it was the course that beat me up—some combination of those things was probably my downfall. I messaged my coach, Scott, after the race asking if hurting my pride counted as an injury. Sadly, that was a flat out no. Never hurts to ask!

This race offered a few distances, the 50k, the marathon, the half, and a 13k. The race ended up selling out, as they wanted to keep it on the smaller side to keep the trails in one piece, and it was an out and back for every race distance, so a smaller race was the way to go. The race took place in the northern Kettle Moraine forest if I recall correctly, which I had never been to…rocky, rooty, hard terrain. So the night before! I took a heavy meal from a Hibachi restaurant, rice is my go to carb, and settled in for the night, taking a hot bath with a bath bomb from lush, and sealed my leg chafing with some spray on new skin. I sat in bed for a while, listening to the rain coming down outside (again), and probably got somewhere around 4 hours of sleep, better than the previous week, but actually worse. I had been getting not great sleep the past week, having weird dreams, being too hot, and of course the storms keeping me awake. I was sleep deprived over several days and not just one night. I had been having a tough time sleeping right after the last race because of the pain from the chafing I had that wasn’t just on my legs. So much anxiety laid in this race—trying to finish another long distance on consecutive weekends had my brain wired. I was also going to attempt a new nutrition plan as last weekend’s was a flop in my book.

So YES, the night before was another fun filled night of passing storms, as was the night before that. The whole waking-sleeping interruptions were what really did my total sleep in. I woke up again at a little past 3am, kind of like the past weekend. I wasn’t going to sleep, or attempt to sleep, another half hour before my alarm would go off. I was driving out to meet a fellow member of our local She Runs This Town/Mom’s Run This Town, Natasha, and we would carpool from her house. What I didn’t realize until the day before is that she lived an hour’s drive away from me, but at least that put me over half way to the race location…which was a little over two hours away total for me. I was always wondering why I had never met Natasha, and it was probably because we lived so far apart! I got ready, and had my collapsible cup by my phone on my nightstand ready to go with me. I took it downstairs and washed it while gathering my tailwind-filled bladder for my water pack. I quickly realized that I had a lot of time to get out the door, but wasn’t interested in sitting around the house in the middle of the night. I got in my car and headed out with all my stuff, drop bag and all.

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I really need a break from this…

As I was leaving town, it hit me that I might have forgotten my cup… crap. I read specifically that this was a cupless race and I respect that. I looked around my stuff in the passenger seat of my car, it was not there. Big frowny face. I was mainly sad because the race director had asked if we had wanted anything special at the aid stations, and my request was Dr. Pepper. Maaaaaan.

I made it to Natasha’s place about 30 minutes too early, so I sat in my car in the dark listening to music and playing on my phone. Eventually, the other girl who was coming with us pulled in behind me. Her name was Laura. I had not met her either. Yup, just a bunch of strangers gathering to go run a race out in the middle of nowhere! Perfectly normal for me, anyway. Natasha and Laura would be running the 50k that day. I was very excited for them. We all gathered ourselves into Natasha’s car and headed out at about 5:10am. The rain slowed to a drizzle. I was only now slightly worried about the state of the trails. I wasn’t expecting it to be like the Devil’s Lake trails that seemed to drain super well. I expected another mud fest. I had really no clue what the elevation of the course would be like, or the trails themselves. I was going in blind, like I do a lot.

We talked a lot about our experiences in the car ride, it was great and made the time pass by quickly. We all arrived at the race site bright and early, which was at the Sunburst Ski Area. Upon arriving, it was clear this course was not going to be anything but hilly as we faced a giant ski hill at the start/finish line.

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Clean, indoor bathrooms!

We went to pick up our bibs and then headed to the restrooms, which not having port-o-potties was nice for a change, but never expected! The small resort area had several small unidentified buildings, two of which we used. It was chilly. I was in a tank. Yes, I’m going to call mid to upper 60s chilly, especially with the winds. Unlike the Devil’s Lake 50k, it was windy and about 10 degrees cooler. Still humid, humid, humid. I was prepared this week however.

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The Ski Hill! It’s steeper on the other side.

The plan was to power hike the first 5 miles and the final 5 miles and easy run the 16 in-between. Easier said than done. As always. Not knowing the course, I knew the middle 16 were going to be harder. The race started with the 50k’ers and they held a really nice national anthem before sending the ultra runners off.

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50k’er start!

I sheltered myself in an alcove of a nearby building trying to stay warm before my race start 20 minutes later. There was another girl near me that was a ball of nerves, it was her first marathon. I tried to instill calm in her, I think at least it worked somewhat. And before I knew it, we were off. I think it was a simple “Go!” but I can’t be sure, I really need to pay more attention at these starts…

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Yes I carried this apple for 4 miles!

I hated the idea of just walking at the start. I had a lot of resentment right then, that quickly melted away. The first three miles were probably the most difficult, but they were easily my favorite. The course immediately went uphill, for almost 460 feet in those three miles, which is a lot for Wisconsin. I managed to maintain a 15:23 pace for the first mile, and kept pace with half the pace due to the climb, which I didn’t lose much steam on going up. Here’s the thing about mile 1, I got lost with three or four others haha. We reached an open field, and I went left at one corner, and another went right, and we yelled at each other to see if there was a trail marking. Nope for both of us. Then a third person just waited, and a fourth came to yell at us that we needed to go straight! We all went back to the woods and found we just missed the one marking. This was the only time I got lost, and didn’t add too much distance to the overall that day.

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It was very dark and hard to see the trail!

IT WAS SO DARK!

Mile two proved difficult. My calves immediately got tight, like they had been in training about two weeks prior. They simple would not release. But the left calf was way worse, which hasn’t been the case in two or three years. My left foot went numb around the 30 minute mark, which is usually when my feet like to lose feeling and go numb regardless of pace, speed, terrain, shoes, socks, time of day, everything if it happens, which I still have not found a trend at all that causes it. My right foot was fine! It almost felt like there was a knot in my calf. I fought through it, having to stop a few times to release the numb feeling (in which I just remove my shoe for a few seconds and the feeling goes away), but it hurt my pace. I managed a 14:56 for the second mile, some of which was downhill that I ran lightly, and the running made my legs feel better! But I stuck to the plan like glue.

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Top of the Ski Hill!

We ended up running through a field full of crops, later to find out these were soybean plants! How exciting! It was really cool.

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SOYBEANS!

Third mile, 15:08. I got to the (infamous?) tunnel, concrete and full of ankle deep water. I did not hesitate as I knew this was coming, but didn’t think it was so early in the race! I figured my feet would be wet the whole race anyway due to the rain recently, and I plowed into it and ran through the tunnel. A near by girl said “now this is a real trail race!”, and I said as matter-of-factly, “but this is the part that’s not on the trail!” Sometimes I don’t need to open my mouth lol.

Fourth, 14:08, and fifth 15:52 (pretty sure I stopped for an orange at the aid station). This is about when my calves started to release from their prison of pain. This started the Ice Age trail segments as well. Follow the brown posts with yellow blaze! Or was it white sometimes? It was unclear, but I never got off course again.

I had planned to eat the apple I had been carrying from the start at mile 4. My nutrition plan was to go all natural. I had packed cherries and grapes, carried an apple, had a peach fruit cup and a few gels just in case. I packed antichafe stuff and salt. I was packing a lot of weight to say the least. I had packed the same in my drop bag along with a packet of cashew butter. When I reached the open field before the aid station, the wind picked up and I got chilled. What? I thought I was warmed up, but clearly wasn’t. I couldn’t wait to start running, but still nervous about the run part. Regardless of what you tell yourself about having no expectations, you still will have some in the back of your mind. The apple went down well. But I am not sure it benefited me. I sipped on my water (aka tailwind/BCAA mix) off and on after mile 1 with no real set schedule, and I think this went better because I did not swell up in my hands this time. I began my run at mile 5. I was tired. I had put a lot of effort into power hiking all that time, trying to stay focused and pushed the best I could. 37568738_1734179803302774_7676594699695554560_o

I believe I stopped at one more aid station at mile 5, right before mile 6, at a road crossing that I had to wait on traffic to cross, and had a few orange slices and a small (probably 4oz) of coke here. I was so thankful this station had mini cups, and was afraid to ask at the previous aid station. I meandered across the busy highway thanks to the volunteers. 37572977_1734179903302764_7011944460485394432_o The next few miles proved to me that this trail also drains really well, and I really did not experience any mud the whole course. I passed through marshes of tall grasses that whipped at my ankles, and crossed through on wooden paths, saturated with water making them as slick as the DWD course from last weekend. I passed through the woods, most of the course was covered, constantly feeling like I was climbing despite the descents. My mile times were slow and disappointing, sitting at around 13:00 min/mi until mile 12. It was such a long stretch by myself, and without an aid stations for miles. My pains started to resolve a bit, but I was feeling sluggish. I kept sipping on my tailwind mix. I also managed a gel down without it being absolutely terrible since I was fully aware I was still in a calorie deficit. Mile 12 had a fair bit of climbing, but I realized I was around the turn around point, or should be soon, and everything I had covered I would be covering again backwards. This course was not my friend. It was just undulating hills, never getting a break, never a flat spot to just relax or recover. I was either power hiking up or pushing the downhills to regain lost time. When I started my 16 mile run, I watched my heart rate.

I know coach said it’s best to just go by feel, but I felt terrible, and so going to my heart rate would make things better right? Nope. My heart rate was running high for whatever reason, in the 160s, even when I was power hiking, it was in the 150s, too high. Did I stress myself too much in the 5 miles of power hiking? I just searched for a way to feel better physically, and never really found it. I finally gave up, frustrated, and said, screw you watch, and I picked it up. I quickly would fall off the running train, and my heart rate would spike into the 170s and I would feel bad again. I tried dropping pace, I tried walking slower. Nothing worked. I stuck with the heart rate screen mainly because I didn’t want to mentally bother myself seeing the distance go by so slowly.

And I got to my favorite kind of trail! Prairie and slanty/angled trail….no, I hate that. With a passion. It opened up at the top to give a wonderful view though. I took it in and took a picture, but the bugs told me it was time to press on, as they were the main motivating factor of me not dilly-dallying.

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So high up!

I went through my actual favorite kind of trail, open woods filled with pines and the trail covered with pine needles. I love the smell, and the soft footing and navigating the roots, it really is the best. Most of the latter half of the trail was extremely rocky and hard under the feet, but not slippery. I’m thankful I wore the Altra Olympus today.

I reached the marathon turn around point, which I didn’t realized until someone mentioned it. Once I had passed 13 miles, and then 14 miles, I figured the course cut off the first 3 miles somewhere on the way back so that extra distance at the end of the large out and back was needing to be longer. Mile 15 was the turn around. I spent quite a bit of time here. I’d say I went through one liter of water, sigh. I refilled my pack with Hammer stuff, had a billion Dr. Peppers, again thank you for having the mini cups at least, even if I had to drink 100 of them, and it was COLD. It felt so good. I looked in my drop bag, probably a waste of time, and took nothing. I grabbed my fruit bag in the back and decided I needed to finish this whole bag by the time I got back to the next aid station (several miles away). I think I had some sort of fruit at this aid station, but I can’t really remember what. I had a look at the restroom facilities there, and did a self check. Nah. I didn’t need to. So I took off back down the hill in the woods again.

It was slightly mentally comforting that I only had about 10 miles left now, but it was still 10 miles and I had to power hike the last 5, which I knew there were more runnable sections in that part, boo. About half a mile away from that aid station at the turn around, I realized I should have went to the restroom and now I had to live with my decision for the next 3 hours or so. Well that was unfortunate. I found the way back to be easier although my pace failed me. Come to find out, the first half of the course WAS net uphill! I had a good last mile at mile 17. After that, I could not get my times under 14:00 min/mi despite my best efforts to move my butt forward and not make excuses. I was fighting what I thought was physical pain with every ounce of my mental fortitude. Mile 18, I was in pain. I could feel my IT bands, they felt tight and burned, I could feel my calves and quads, and my back was tired and felt the chafing I was still carrying over from last weekend. It was a sore pain, and it burned. I knew I was going to be sore from this, and this made me mad because I was not going fast. My heart rate was a little lower coming back. There was more wind. But the encouraging bugs were not to be found!

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Up and down, up and down, I was so tired of just going up and down constantly. Mile 22, I stopped at another aid station and stocked myself up on Dr. P…I have no idea how many cups I took, but the girl at the aid station was more than helpful trying to pour more than one cup at once to help out. I think I had to spend about 2 minutes completely stopped here before reaching the aid station from crossing the highway. No one slowed down. The volunteer helped me again, and I crossed. This crossing was a long one that involved crossing over a more narrow bridge. Let’s say there wasn’t much room. I did my best to hug the very edge of the bridge as I made my way across, but the oncoming car didn’t care, even though there was NO car oncoming to them from the opposite direction. Yes, let’s hit the tired girl trying to cross the bridge that YOU CAN CLEARLY SEE, like I was wearing the MOST bright clothing! I was more than a little miffed at this and threw my hands up in the air. I am not blaming the race, this part of the course could not be helped and they did their best. So yeah, a 19 min/mi.

I took off into the rising and falling fields and meadows, wind beating me from the side, and a slight drizzle threatening me. 37676875_1734179596636128_7048333223008403456_o I was so upset at the fact that I could be power hiking faster than I was running some miles, and I was mentally distraught. Time to power hike again anyway. It turned out some of my power hiking miles were faster than my miles I had just been trying to run, some by over a minute faster! I only ran downhill during the times I was power hiking. My power hiking miles at the end were closer to 14:00-15:00 min/mi. I stopped at the 2nd to final aid station and had some more soda. Coke and oranges taste good together. I took some pictures. The farming areas always feel more special.

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Dunno what this was doing in the middle of the woods all by its lonesome, but it was cool.

I passed through the open prairies, and my feet were soaked…with what? Sweat. My feet felt bad and I felt blisters coming on, but I didn’t want to stop. I had already stopped early on in the race to re-tie my shoes. 37583670_1734180173302737_295810164500463616_o I did not stop. Squish Squish Squish. I approached the tunnel again, and my feet got soaked again, felt good. I knew I was getting close. I wondered if the course would be short or long. There’s never a way to know on trails. I saw the finish, and was so relieved. I ran in the last 0.15 miles cause I can’t just walk across a finish. I finished in 6 hours and 23 minutes, slower than my marathon split in the 50k I think by about 20 minutes? I got a distance of 26.12 miles, so I call it a win. I got 2,520 feet of gain, most miles just being about 100-180 feet of gain. I felt defeated. I put myself aside, and waited for my new trail friends to finish their 50k. I wondered what was going through their heads, and what they had expected of the course. To me, it was harder than I expected, but as technical as I expected. This was one of the hardest races mentally to conquer, but I knew nothing was stopping me from moving forward, so I did so to the best of my ability.

Post race was amazing. I was handed a mug and pint glass, apparently for a 1st place age group finish, but I did not deserve this in my opinion. It was also a small field. I greatly appreciate the finish area and swag. They had it all decked out. I got a packet with all the finisher goodies (and a shirt) bag with my NAME on it! 37647018_1737121133008641_3674255581545234432_n They had a picnic area with cold drinks and beer, even though I don’t drink it, it was a nice touch. I finally got to run to the restroom, which I literally ran to after I finished. Everyone was so nice at the finish. I got to talk to finishers that stuck around and the race director, fantastic man. The event was not chip timed, but the distance between racers was pretty far apart and was a non-issue. Everything ran smoothly. My friends finished and we all changed into warmer clothing (haha in the middle of summer, changing into jackets and long sleeve shirts!) and headed to the food shelter. Wow what food. I really enjoyed the BBQ which tasted home made and was super good, and the pasta side and chips and soda selection. It was tasty!! We sat with more fellow finishers. It was a homey and good time. We made our way back home after that as it started raining.

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Leaving the race area.

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I did meet the one nervous girl on the out and back, and she was in good spirits. I found out through the results she finished and had five miles left when we left. The race director made a post saying that no trace was left behind, thank you fellow runners. The day after, oh boy! What a day after!

I woke up, slight new chafing that was all my fault, but is currently not an issue, my shoulders and upper back pretty sore, but no soreness in my legs at all. I just felt fatigued. I was thoroughly surprised considering how bad I was feeling in the last few miles I ran during the marathon. I did not get any blisters, just sore feet. My nagging mild pain in my right foot still nags slightly, but seems to be under control and I don’t notice while running and more so when I’m not moving. It’s weird. I went out on Sunday and decided to run 3 miles. The sun had come out and that in itself was motivating.

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Elevation profile over time

Temperatures were pretty perfect in the upper 70s, but the wind persisted. I headed out up that darn hill at the base of my house, and felt bad. I felt little aches. But by the top of the hill and heading down, the aches resolved, sorting themselves out somehow, and I felt motivated. I pushed the pace a little, as the course I’m describing goes downhill for 1.7 miles and then it’s ALL uphill on the way back. My first mile went past slowly. The 2nd mile, faster… can I maintain this pace? I pushed it back up hill not looking down at my watch, just enjoying the day as the wind tried to push me backwards. I hit mile three out of breath, but I had the engine in my legs pumping with no issues, and broke another negative split mile. A little girl on a trike nearby on the sidewalk watched me mouth agape as I passed, and I mustered a smile, but I’m not sure she understood why I sounded like I was dying. After I hit 3 miles, the top of the hill, I “slowed” down for the last 0.1 miles, and found out I actually didn’t slow as much as I had thought. I could have kept going, but I had people waiting on me for dinner, and coach would probably have been mad lol. I felt strong finishing it, even if it was just a 5k. I never thought I’d see times like that again, I was so mad the previous day for having my fastest mile be in the 12 min/mi range. I hit a 9:19 average and had a final mile split of 8:57 all uphill. I know that’s not “fast” for me, but it was fast for me after a marathon and a 50k stacked on that from the previous week.

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Now I look forward. This next weekend has yet to be decided on, but I know it will be another ultra distance, and I look forward to seeing my friend Andrea again, its been too long. It will be a great opportunity to do a test run for Habanero because the course is a hilly 5k loop, where you can set up your own aid station at the start/finish, and is a low key event where it doesn’t exactly matter when you start or finish. I can’t wait for the camaraderie of that one. It will be my final installment of this crazy training plan, with the exception of the last 3 weeks leading up to the race. Make sure to follow me on the Becoming Ultra Podcast and on the main facebook page. This journey is crazy and I wouldn’t have It any other way.

Dances with Dirt Devil’s Lake 50k

Alright, back when I was younger, about 7 months ago, I decided that this was going to be my first 50 miler attempt. I had done the half marathon for this race twice now and enjoyed the race a lot. Well as we all know, things went kind of haywire when the 50k to Zion went all sold out on me and I ended up doing the 100k instead! Plans demolished. Start from scratch. Now fast forward and I’m signed up for the Habanero Hundred 100 miler in August! The 50 miler didn’t make sense in training anymore. Now I have a coach to help with my crazies. Coach says 50k. Ok coach.

I now work with Scott Jones from Becoming Ultra Podcast, if you haven’t checked it out, check it out here: http://becomingultra.com/the-podcast/ . He kicks my butt, just what I need. I absolutely love working with Scott, and am glad we connected up at Zion. The podcast features people going for their first ultra distance, whether that is 50k or 100k, ect, and is basically live coaching recorded. Anyway, we devised a training plan and we’ll see how well it works out!

Every single one of my 50k’s have been training races. I actually have not ever went out to race one, maybe this is for the best. My first 50k was April of last year, 5000 feet of gain over two mountains, so a lot of the vertical gain were in two major places (mile 1 and mile 24 oof), with mile 24 having a 2 mile climb with almost 1000 feet per mile. I was pretty beat up after this one, and it was training for the Blue Ridge Marathon that would be 3 weeks later. It paid off big time for that. The second was earlier this year for my 31st birthday, trying to run the number of miles that I am old, cause I thought that was “cute”. The weather was not cute. I got frostnip and finished in about 9.5 hours, and hardly ran due to the ankle deep mud that ran the entire course, and the vertical gain (5000 again) was no joke and ended up using sticks I found on the ground to help me up and down hills because there was no traction…ever. But this was supposed to help train me for Zion, which I guess time on feet accounts for something. This pretty much ingrained in me my hatred for temperatures below 50°F.

MOVING ON. The DWD 50k. The night before. Oh the night before…

My last long distance was basically Zion 100k, I had not run more than 15-16 miles since, not including the Solstice Challenge which I ran 50 miles in 48 hours. So I was bit nervous. I prepared the best I could the day before, had all my goodies prepped and ready to launch at 3am (which was the time I needed to be awake to get to the race on time). I worked out and tried pushing myself, my body would not have it. I felt worried because if I couldn’t push in simple terms now, then how would I be able to the next day? I’d felt this way all week basically. But I needed to make myself tired. I drank milk before bed, had a nice hot shower, filled myself with my usual pre-race food, spicy Indian food and rice…but in bed at 8:30pm body will not accept. 10:30pm, nope. How about 12:45am? Nah. 1Am? OK! Cue in the thunderstorms. Yup, my bad luck is BACK BABY!

Thunderstorms arrived around 1:40am crashing and smashing into the house, and as a light sleeper this did not go over well. I knew the race site had been slammed with torrential rains and storms earlier, so whatever, but I did want some sleep. I think I may have gotten some sleep between 2:20am and 3:04am, when I turned over in bed and looked at my phone’s clock. Giant “ugh” came from deep within. I felt more tired than if I had tried to stay awake I think. Let’s go with zero sleep. OK. It was failure o’clock for me. I got up and did my usual morning routine. I woke Rich up not long after. I gathered all my prep things and headed out the door. Anxiety is a real monster, I swear.

It was a steady rain out. But after a quick look at the radar, it seemed that the rain was just moving west to east, in which the storm was not over the race site. It was pitch black. The race start time for 50k and 50 milers is at the break of dawn, or as the race site claimed, when the big orange ball comes up, which is actually 5:30am ironically. We arrived on site around 4:45am.

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The lights on the Start/Finish arch was a nice touch.

I got checked in and waited for the start of the race. Mosquitoes were out and about, never too early for these party go-ers. To be honest, I don’t even really remember how the race starts, whether it was a simple “GO” or gun shot, or what. All I knew is that no one wanted to be towards the front of the large group of ultra runners waiting to take off into the bluffs. I knew once past the start, there would be a bottle neck, since the 50k course took the same route as the half for at least the first 7 miles, picking the half course back up later after two out and backs. Well, very anticlimactic, but I was off! I positioned myself about midway in the crowd which was fine, but antsy runners will always jettison off right away with no attention to pace. Boo. It was hilarious, it was mildly dark and once we crossed the road, I saw the headrunners of the group head left, and I was thinking, what are they doing? When a loud booming voice yelled “OTHER WAY! GO RIGHT!” and the huge wave of people migrated quickly from left to right, it was a sight to see!

We headed up the first few hills. I was surprised how not wet the ground was. The course drained SUPER well. The plan was to run 3 miles and then power hike the next two, for the rest of the race. I came up with another plan on the spot, because I knew there were some mile length climbs on this course and heckin’ no way was I running up the bluffs and killing myself off. I didn’t know the exact miles where the bluff climbs were, but in general knew there were three…well that was also wrong come later to find out. I decided a few things:
– I would try and run those three miles, but I would keep an eye on my heart rate during those three miles and power hike when it rose above my magical heart rate number of 156.

– I would power hike any lengthy climbs, which I knew a lot of them and when to push through a hill instead.

– I would power hike the two miles, and try and time them with the bluffs.

– I would run downhill when the opportunity presented itself, even if I was supposed to be power hiking.

This plan worked out really well. Spoilers. Sorry.

The first three miles were really runnable. Very hilly, but all rolling for the most part. I was passed by a lot of people in the first half of the race. This was discouraging, but I knew I had to not be sore from this effort. I noticed my right foot which had been bothering me in the past week and somewhat during the Solstice Challenge, was nagging me a little, ugh, I don’t need this. First aid station I had some Sprite, I was SOLD. I had some sweet tea, but it was not good quality sweet tea, but I appreciate the effort. I had a gel and was off. The start was pretty dark under the trees, and it was hard to see footing, so it made the first few miles go by a little faster at least mentally.

Unfortunately (as far as plans go), after the third mile, the course kept going downhill, and was VERY good for making up time, so I kept running probably until mile 5. Then the major bluff hit. It was about 2 miles of just up with a very steep grade the last 0.6 miles. I power hiked it all. I managed to get below 15:00 mins/mi, which was the goal pace for power hiking, for miles 5-6, and then 7 came. I promise it wasn’t much uphill, but it was the top of the bluff, and there were a lot of pictures taken, and overall beauty taken in. 37334790_1726283294092425_2146570885845221376_n In the past, the half course ended up here at mile 7 too, and those times, it had been perfect summer weather, crystal clear conditions, but this time it was very different. It was cloudy and humid, making for perfect fog conditions. I had never been up there when there was fog, it was stunning. On top of that, the second aid station was up there! I don’t remember if I had a gel, but I did willingly take some Sprite and Coke, and realized coke was too fizzy for my tastes. My water plan, I should state for my own future reference, was three scoops of tailwind and half a scoop of BCAAs mixed together, which tasted real good and kept me drinking (I used this combo during a long run prior to make sure it didn’t make me more thirsty). I drank some every half mile. I had some swelling in my hands, especially when I was power hiking and especially during the first half of the race.

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Top of the Bluff, Devil’s Lake seen below.

Coming off of that aid station, there were rocks, but this time they were wet, and VERY slick. 37366097_1726283344092420_2644701059691315200_n Everyone took their time coming down these suckers. Once I was down, the course continued downhill, and yay downhill running. I tried to make up some time, as my watch pointed out I had spent a good 16 minutes in this mile. Whoops. I managed to bring back two more 11 minute miles before the next aid station hit. Mile 8 was where the course split from the half for the first out and back. While meandering down the hill, I noticed that it didn’t stop going down for a very long time. Sigh. What goes down must go back up. While heading down into the meadows, I was behind two others on the single track (most of the trail was double track except for the out and backs which were a mix of single track and slim boardwalk at times, and what seemed like narrow slanty horse trails) that were conversing getting to know each other and I listened in. I ended up passing and getting passed by the girl in front of me several times before the end of the race. I think she was from Switzerland, talking about how she used to run in the Swiss mountains. OUCH. I was following a little too closely and didn’t see much what was in front of me…I completely rolled my right ankle. I have rubber ankles, but it still hurts when it happens. I shook it off the best I could still running downhill at the same pace. But wow what a snap to my foot. This pain stuck with me for the next 4-5 miles. But writing this, I nearly forgot it happened.

I took a short video in the meadow for social media during mile 9. It was beautiful down there, but so many leafy greens. 37204998_1726283564092398_7329368124485009408_n I am allergic to poison ivy/oak/sumac, so I try to be aware of the concerning crop. I arrived at the meadow aid station (which was the major aid station? I never thought of any aid station being lesser than the others other than this one had my drop bag) at mile 10. I stopped for a “quick” restroom break and took some grapes and had two more Sprites. I would plan to refill my water pack on the way back (mile 13 is also this aid station). This part of the course was very flat, although lumpy because grass and green stuffs. I had to wait in line for quite a while at this aid station for the port-o, so I ended up with a sad 18 minute mile. Oh well.

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Amazing, it looked like the jungle, and felt like it too. (Gotta go back up that thing there.)

Once I got to the road crossing, probably not 0.25 miles away, I noticed something bad. My back was hurting…it was chafed. Crap. Well at least I would be back pretty soon to the aid station. I had some antichafe with me, but I could not reach that part of my back and I didn’t want to ask anyone to stop their race to help me out. I’m not sure I would make a different decision even knowing how I feel today writing this with the bad chaffing on my back. This out and back annoyed me, and my mood was deteriorating. I don’t think I like prairie too much. The trail was mostly angled and my feet were wet from sweat (and ironically not because it had rained or I went through any puddles or streams), and I didn’t want to deal with being uncomfortable. I knew I was supposed to be power hiking some of this, so I ended up in a walk run that was un-monitored, knowing this was the flattest part of the course I didn’t want to miss out on sections that were runnable. But I was frustrated because I wasn’t doing anything I was supposed to be doing. Parts of this trail were super narrow, and some of it boardwalk, some of it made of real wood which was saturated from rain and made it almost impossible to have any footing to push off of. Sections of this out and back I had to step aside a lot because people were passing coming back from the “out”. Again, lots of leafy green things I did not trust through here. I got to the “out” and headed back to the aid station, still kind of in the same stale mood. I was greeting all the people I passed with a “good job”, or “you too” when they would say it before me, and it kept me going. I appreciated all the good vibes from the runners out there. This was the first time I met one runner, whose story I will tell from my knowledge (may be wrong, but it’s heartwarming the way I tell it at least!), he was in high spirits, mile 11.7 or something like that, and cheering everyone on. He was ahead of me by a bit. He wore a loose singlet and shorts, and was always wearing a smile. This was my first pass of him.

On the way back, I kept tightening my water pack trying to reduce the amount of bounce it had on my skin. I knew they had medical aid at that aid station. I made it back and quickly took off my pack and refilled it and asked a volunteer (God Bless every one and them not questioning doing something for a racer) to slather tons of Vaseline on my back. Volunteer lady says where? I said is it red? “Yes, very.” And she went to work. I put the pack back on, ouch. Not good. I tightened it more and drank up three more Sprites. I noticed I had barely gotten through half my 2L pack at mile 13, but I didn’t feel thirsty really…still not good. I felt kind of bad for not having more than I thought I was taking in.

Along I went…back uphill for the next two miles. Another 17 minute mile at the aid station, boo.

15 and 17 minute miles for the next two as I made my climb back up. I really did my best power hiking through here, not stopping. I took out my chews, which I have used since my first marathon, and knew I had to force them down, I was just not getting enough calories. I chewed them well because I was having a hard time swallowing them. I got to the last two, and just had to stop. A few minutes later, a nice burp from drinking all the soda forced some back up, and I just spit it out. It was awful. I just did not want to ingest gels or chews. I knew the last gel I had taken was making me gag, but I managed it down. I didn’t take another gel the rest of the race. When I got back up to where the course intersected the half course I remember, it went back downhill for a while.

At some point during this section of the race, I had one really bad experience! It was not harmful to my knowledge but it was awful. I swallowed something, I don’t know if it was alive, or what, but it tasted like how I would imagine rotten chlorine and formaldehyde to taste like, right down the throat, bulls eye. I knew it was too late. It was already down. I quickly drank so much water from my pack, now heavily diluted tailwind mix, and it was not going away. You know how a bug can get in your mouth or in your throat? It was like that but it was too far gone to try and spit up. I might have cried a little from how gnarly the taste was. I took another giant swig of my water and spit it out to rinse. It was over.

My foot was still nagging me, but never got any worse than when it started. I kept taking this as a sign that I should keep going. I also noticed that I was not standing up as straight as I think I should, especially on the climbs. I tried to pay more attention to my posture. I was still kind of in a low spot. I don’t have much memory of the miles between the meadow aid station right past the big climb back up and the second out and back. I reached the small aid station at the second out and back. I took in some sprite, and had three orange slices. I should have tried to get in more but knew I had been spending too much time at aid stations and needed to pack it out. I don’t remember much about this out and back, but it was mostly downhill, so I decided to run as much as I could here, easy pace.

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Garmin doesn’t let you search people’s activities anymore, so here is the elevation profile.

I passed and was passed by the same girl from before here, and we talked a bit. It was nice to have someone around. This was about a 3.5 mile out and then back 3.5 miles to the aid station. It felt so long, all single track and in the deep woods. There was a very anticlimatic ending to it, just a small white sign that said turn around haha. I found it actually pretty funny. It’s like that point where in Forrest Gump the movie when Forrest is done running at some random point in the southwest desert on a road that keeps going on. The path in front of me kept going, but you just stopped and turned around. Go home!

Ok, back uphill again, serious power hiking here, and I wanted to hit the target times. I managed 16 minute miles, a little off from my target, so I still need work in these areas. All I could think about was the Sprite I was going to have at the aid station when I got back. Well, when I got back, they were out of ALL soda, and only had the cheap sweet tea. Now I am a huge fan of sweet tea no matter what temperature (and the temperature of the soda didn’t bother me either haha), because being from the south, it’s in my blood. But this was just not good lol. Regardless, I downed three full cups welcoming the easy sugar and calories. It went over fine, I just prefer the taste of different sweet teas! The aid station volunteers said they had called for more, but I understand that running out is a thing that happened and I never usually rely on aid station goodies in the first place, things just went way differently than I had planned. I still had five gels/chew packets on me that I had not touched. They would remain that way 😦

In the past times I have raced this course, I never really noticed what was on course before since I just used my own stuff, so wasn’t sure if soda and tea were a new addition. Regardless, I greatly appreciated all of it. I headed out and that mile was 14 minutes, which was great considering I did stop for the aid station, so I was much more happy with this one. I headed off, thanks to the volunteers telling me how far the next aid station was and which direction to head back. At some point during this section, I believe, if not it did happen at some point, I ran into rocks that were fine one way but coming back were not. These larger rocks were slick as glass and at this point in the race, I was not going to risk slipping this far into a race that wasn’t even supposed to be a race! The rocks were big enough that they could not be avoided, and spaced just close enough together that you couldn’t step between them. So I walked this section. No power hike, just safety first. I was a bit frustrated because on a dry day, this would be no problem. That day was not today. I arrived soon at the open prairie heading to Steinke Basin, the worse part of the course on a sunny day where you can feel your legs and eyelashes being roasted by the rising humidity…but not today! I cruised right into the second to last aid station hoping so much Rich would be there (which he has missed me for two years straight and missed me a the finish last year!). FINALLY! But I was on a mission, this is where things magically turned around. The magic might be called glucose…hah!

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Smiles for miles, right?!

I downed what they had in Sprite and got Vaseline reapplied (it was “bad” according to the volunteer and Rich), refilled my water pack for the final 10k, which honestly didn’t hit me I only had 10k left until a mile later even though I was told this while leaving. Before I left, I asked for fruit, they had grapes, and the volunteer told me just take a bunch on the run, what a great idea!! I took the small bunch and munched as I ran off. 15 minutes for this mile, which including the refill and aid station technical bits, this was good! Wow, 10k left I thought. I got to the top of the hill behind the finish area, and to my right there was the finish! Uh, which way to do I go? I looked for a hot 10 seconds completely stopped, headed one direction thought it was wrong, but then headed back to the finish, nope that’s not right. So, I went away from the finish to the left hoping I would reach a volunteer to tell me I was doing the right thing here…

I did, and everything was better. Wait, where I am? This seems familiar. After hitting the marathon point, I knew where I was, again… ugh! Wait, wait, does this mean I’m heading toward the east bluff again, we already did that.

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Taking a picture of a hill is never a good idea. Why? Because it always looks less bad than it really is, every. time.

There’s too much distance going up the bluff a second time, but all this climbing means we’re heading up it again. Maybe the trail will just diverge in the wood…nope. This was my thought process in a mild panic. It was what it was. I put my head down and power hiked that stupid bluff, again! I was about a minute slower the second time around, and given I took pictures during one of those two miles, I think that’s a win in my book.

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Almost shows the angle of the grade! Almost.

I was so mad at having to do it a second time, and this time the trail condition was a bit worse, having had the marathoners, the 10ks, and half marathons parade through already. The trail here was gravel, and it was wet, and uneven with the rain having carved out nice little gullies in the path. It was hard to get footing on the steepest portion this time. But I wasn’t tired. I made it to the top of the bluff aid station again and passed right by it after a quick check in (check in’s were required for all ultra runners). I hadn’t really drank anything since hitting the 25 mile aid station at Steinke Basin. Whatever, I was feeling good. I knew it was mostly downhill from there, at least for a while. I went over the slick large stair rocks again, being extra careful this time. I plowed through the trail at the top and met the downhill with vigor. All the pains I had? Gone.

It occurred to me that I had not had much hill training in the past few months other than Zion and a few runs back in April in Virginia, so I might end up being sore just from bombing the downhill sections of the course. Oh well, I can recover from that. It was too late, and there was too much vertical in this race that was unavoidable to save the muscles. THE PLAN though! I had 3 miles left, time to run. I had power hiked the last two going all uphill, it was time to release the beast. Most of the last three were rolling and some of it new! I passed so many others that had passed me before, including the Swiss girl I had a yo-yo run with. And there he was, the guy who had been so encouraging before in the singlet. I ran up to him and told him he had been so nice to others and to keep going and there was only less than a half mile left! What came out then was sometime of despair and disbelief. He said “I wish there was only that much left”. He was still moving forward, and I told him he was almost there, I promised. I looked down at my watch, I was at mile 30. I hit 7 hours. Darn. I had secretly wished I would have broken the 7 hour mark, but oh well, aid stations killed that dream, and I wasn’t here for time, I reminded myself. I then wondered if the course would be short like the half course, or if it would be long like my first 50k. It’s a trail, anything is possible! No wait, is that Ironman? Trails.

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I power hiked my best hike up the steep short incline to the finish hill, I knew this from doing the race before, it gets steeper every year I swear. I then bolted down to the finish, which seemed also longer than it was before haha. I ended up with 7 hours and 5 minutes and some change. An average pace of 13:51, which was better than the 14:00 minute miles I had predicted for myself. I had a negative split by just a wee few minutes, but YAY! And the second half was harder than the first. The course was about 30.8 miles, but others who recorded got anywhere between 30.5 and 31.5 miles. Good enough for me!

I came across the finish and someone told me to head to age group awards, and I’m like “what?” in the most disbelief. Like I must have looked like a basic white girl right then, mouth agape, eyebrow raised. I gave up that a LONG time ago I thought. I headed over and they asked my age. I told them, and the girl said, “congrats, you got 2nd!” What? How the HECK did that happen. I had a glance at the first place finisher for my age group and she was only 8 minutes in front of me haha, whatever, I was NOT gunning for a place. I am still pretty much in disbelief, like what happened?!

I walked over to get a picture of my finisher stuff with the start/finish line, and here came the nice guy in the singlet.

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He’s actually in this picture!! Just now noticed it.

He was running fine, and then all of a sudden started breaking out in tears. He was super emotional. The way I figured it, and this is my own perception based on how it seemed to went down, was that he had lost a LOT of weight, it looked like he had carried some in the past at least, and this was a huge HUGE step in that process, a goal he wanted and didn’t think possible. His wife was waiting for him at the finish and ran up to him and gave him the biggest hug, it was so touching. It was heartwarming. He was so positive, and to see him finish was an inspiration to me. I do not know if that was his story, but it’s something I remember from the race and had to write it down. Congrats to you man if you ever read this, let me know the story. ❤

I didn’t feel really beaten up at the end, I could walk normally, but I was SOAKED, I was drenched and wetter than a drowned rat, dipped in a bucket of oil over and over. It STUCK to me. I went over to the food table, handed away my beer ticket, and got Rich a burger and got me a nice helping of fruit salad. THANK YOU for having this at the race every year, I love it so much. The pink lemonade was a nice touch too. When I was in line though, I was getting bitten by SOMEthing, no idea what, maybe it was flies, maybe it was mosquitoes, but I guess it WAS the food line, and the bugs were hungry.

I heard one guy talk about how bad the horse flies were out there, but I don’t remember anything like that. I was pretty unscathed of bug bites despite not putting on any bug spray. I also did not bother with sunscreen, there was never any sun. In fact, as soon as we went to leave, it started raining! As we were heading to the car, there was a guy throwing up pretty badly. I felt like everyone was doing pretty good on course, but obviously there was a lot that went down! (or up, bad joke, I know)

Rich told me about the three spry young fellas that were out doing their first marathon, at the Steinke Basin aid station, and how one ate a banana, and three steps later, the banana revolted. I liked those boys, they were so happy when I saw them on the out and backs!

Now for the post race damage report. Up until about mile 12 or so, I was unaware of any chafing on my back, but then it got bad. I thought that was going to be the worst. But that was a far cry from what happened other places. I went the whole race unaware of the chafing to my legs.

I have giant slits, some of it still white, from chafing of my shorts. The way coach put it was that salt was draining to the bottom of my clothes and sitting there building up causing it, and this make a whole lotta sense. I got chafing in places that had never chafed! The waistband. My calf compression socks at the top! Mind you this is nothing against the things I wore, I don’t think what I wore caused the chafing, it was the fact I did not reapply anti-chafing agents and did not rinse off salt during the race. I had plenty of experience with the items I wore during the race, and the shorts I wore I wore during the 100k at Zion and didn’t get any chafing from that, nor the sock which I wore on the bike and run of Ironman Wisconsin! Goes to show how harsh saturated air can be. Quick dry clothes can’t dry if they are in water. I put my clothes out to dry outside when I got home, and 48 hours later, they are ALMOST dry, since the air was also pretty saturated yesterday too! Yuck! My feet, with the traditional baby powder before socks on, were almost flawless other than being prune like due to sitting in my own sweat pools in my shoes for hours on hours. I used my brand new Altra Lone Peak 3.5s for the whole race, which had probably 10 or less miles on them before the race. Altra really does create the best trail shoes! Thanks for keeping me going forward! I also got some chafing in the unmentionables…it happens, and it’s healing. I won’t go into further detail, but I always make sure that’s coated in anti-chafe stuff. Need to reapply next time! I still can’t believe I went the whole race not noticing until I took my clothes off afterwards. I’m feeling really good muscle wise, no DOMS to be found, which is a new and exciting experience! Just some mild soreness from not having done the distance with such elevation changes. But after a massage or two with some rolling thrown in, I have no complaints. I’ve been more sore after a hard 5k! The plan from here is a marathon this coming weekend (HEAL FAST LIL BRO!) and then another long attempt to be decided which distance the weekend after that.

It’s total madness, but I am enjoying it and the challenge. As for a brief rundown of the course, it’s what I expected, mainly because I had done the half twice before, and it’s a great place to have a trail race, and it reminds me of my home in the Virginia mountains. I love the geology there, and how unique a place it is. Devil’s Lake is basically where two glaciers collided! One of these days I’ll actually take a dip into the lake after the race. I swear if the course changes to include part of the lake, it’s going down. The course is very well marked, and although the flags changing from pink to white close to the end didn’t make much sense in writing, it made total sense in practice. I realized the second time around following the white flags made more sense (there were pink, white, and blue flags marking the course for the first part because that’s what everyone followed and only pink for the ultra runners and the white flags disappeared somewhere in the middle), then there were only white and blue flags at the end, and now it doesn’t make sense when I am typing this but oh well! The race shirts, I always hope they keep the saying on the back, and they still do! “Dances with Dirt 2018. … I realize that my participation in this event entails the risk of injury or even death…”

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Age group!! ❤

Volunteers were awesome as always and very helpful. Trust me, they don’t have to be helpful, it’s their time! It’s a tough little course, that is trails from Devil’s Lake State park and the Ice Age Trail (was marked in yellow blaze at some point, but my memory is fuzzy). I love it when the trail has mixed terrain! It’s a hard race. But every year it keeps me coming back. I hope to tackle the 50 miler next year and beat that cut off time. Again, thanks for the read everyone out there making it this far. I know my reports are long but I hope they are good bedtime reading or helpful in some way and entertaining.

Lastly I’d like to thank my new team, Team Becoming Ultra (Team BU) who have been so supportive even not knowing who I am. I love keeping up with you guys out there and welcoming me so warmly and then Scott throwing me out there to the wolves and accepting my crazy mentality and working with me. Couldn’t be doing this without all you! ❤
Here is a quick link to last years’ DWD Devil’s Lake Half: The pictures really do look different!
Dances with Dirt Devil’s Lake Half Marathon and Xterra Illinois Wilds Recap

The Solstice Challenge 2018

The Solstice Challenge – 50 miles in 48 hours

The idea behind this is to celebrate the longest days of the year by running with the ample daylight hours. I missed out last weekend, I was still traveling and then paced a half marathon 4 hours after getting back home (bye bye sleep!). The idea of running smaller runs over a period of time seemed fun, so it got penciled in on my plan as I take steps training for a 100 mile run in August.

I decided to write this up and how I felt for two reasons: 1. to share my experiences, and 2. to remember what I learned from this training and adapt. So I decided to start at 6pm Friday when it was predicted to start being “hot” outside with our excessive heat warning for Wisconsin. I wanted to get in additional heat training for my Texas race (in August) and make up time in case Sunday’s forecast came to fruition (it did). The idea was to do a bunch of 4 mile runs (two 6 mile runs) between 6am and 10pm over the weekend. 6 am, 8 am, 12 pm, 4 pm, 8 pm, and 10 pm were the scheduled times for both days. I adjusted a few of these and ended up with this schedule:
1. Friday 6:17pm 4 miles, feels like 101°F, 10:52 average pace
2. Friday 7:53pm 4 miles, feels like 98°F, 10:39 average pace
3. Friday 9:50pm 3 miles, 84°F actual, feels like 90°F 82% humidity, 11:38 average pace
4. Saturday 6:05am 6 miles, 80°F actual 93% humidity, 13:25 average pace (running with a group)
5. Saturday 8:59am 4 miles, 82°F actual, 12:30 average pace, 12:30 average pace
6. Saturday 11:10am 3.6 miles, 89°F actual, feels like 101°F 61% humidity, 11:47 average pace
7. Saturday 3:19pm 4 miles, 91°F actual, feels like 101°F 57% humidity, 12:21 average pace
8. Saturday 5:46pm 4.4 miles, 88°F actual, feels like 96°F 61% humidity, 11:55 average pace

– big storms roll through –
9. Sunday 9:01am 5 miles, 73°F actual, 12:22 average pace
10. Sunday 11:27am 4.58 miles, 83°F actual, feels like 91°F, 12:25 average pace
– another storm rolls through –
11. Sunday 3:09pm 4.44 miles, 82°F actual, feels like 89°F 62% humidity, 11:52 average pace
12. Sunday 5:09pm 3 miles, 83°F actual, feels like 87°F 62% humidity, 9:58 average pace

So from here on out, I will refer to runs by their number to make it easier. I started out with the husband, so pace was a little higher than I wanted. Walked a few parts of hills. This was done on a new route, going down from our house to the highway south of us past a few farms. There are a few issues with this route…in order to get out of our little “hole” (we live at the base of two hills), you have to run up a steeper hill; once you are up and out of there about half a mile later, it’s ALL downhill until you have to come back ALL uphill, which most near the turn around points are gradual grades for the most part. This went well except I had to stop for a minute about 5 minutes in to relieve pressure in my calves that were crying from doing the speed work two days before. 85% of this run was in the sun.

The second run. By myself. I took my car out to a lower starting point, a junction between a crossing of the military ridge trail. I quickly learned while making a short video of my journey that this run would be hard for one reason: mosquitoes. I was covered in seconds. I took off one mile west and then going back to do one mile east. Kept a really solid pace, but at the cost of having a higher heart rate. This I’m pretty sure ended up being the highest my Heart rate got during the event. The second run was mostly shaded, if not all shaded. SHADE MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE! I saw not a single soul on this run…no one was outside.

The third run was harder to get out the door for. I had to use a headlamp by this point, and thought it would be safer to run inside our (very hilly) neighborhood. The sun sets here around 8:41pm, so it had been dark a while. I learned a few things on this run. Frogs come out at night around our house. Frogs will jump on you even if you are trying to avoid them. My headlamp hurts pretty bad without some sort of hat or buff between it and my skin. I need to gather another headlamp anyway before the big night. Another thing was I found out that my new headphones by Bose started acting broken…well finding it was broken in the end. So while trying to listen to the latest and greatest Becoming Ultra Podcasts (so many to catch up on this week), the button on the headphones would communicate to the ipod that it needed to repeat the title of the podcast continuously. Or repeat my list of playlists over and over again in alphabetical order. OR when listening to music, randomly go to the next song or pick a song in another playlist and play that, or just stop altogether ever few SECONDS. This run was mentally tough because of that. I eventually (after quite a few walk breaks) decided to just put Pandora on on my phone and carry a useless ipod and headphones for the rest of the dark run. After this run, I drank a some BCAAs. By this point, I had not carried water, nor had I had replaced electrolytes before/after runs. We were supposed to be getting groceries the next day, so no solid food except dinner which was just a McDonald’s cheeseburger and shake and fries after the second run.

Night fell. I slept ok, but not well enough. The alarm went off and I headed out for the group run at 6am, just five minutes away by car. They took a route that went around town instead of through the trails (I had worn my new trails shoes, the lone peaks, thinking it was going to be on military ridge), I had been wearing the Altra escalantes for the first three runs. I dread running the mornings. They are always harder. I didn’t have any water beforehand, but did bring a handheld for the run. It ended up being enough for that run, using a scoop of tailwind for that run. I started with the main group, averaging 11:20 min/mi but my legs still felt pretty tight and sore, so I held back a bit. I noticed a girl in the group struggling with the heat a bit. I found out she was training for her first marathon. I stayed with her and helped her through the run. I did not care about pace, and was glad to help out. I still had a mile past when the rest stopped, so I went on and finished it off. 70% of this run was in the sun.

I came back home for a hot second. I realized how little time I had between runs to rest and regroup for the next bout of running, sometimes only 40 minutes. There still wasn’t anything to really eat in the house, so I filled up the bottle again with tailwind and drove back out but this time to the local park and ride on military ridge trail. My genius idea was to do loops out in this trail/field/prairie? In a cotton long sleeve shirt to test the idea that cotton would keep you cooler in hotter weather. So many things went wrong! It was like a continuation of the previous night! The ipod issue escalated. I was targeted by more mosquitoes. And then, the first appearance of the red wing black birds. If you don’t know much about them, the gist of it is they are ground nesters and tend to attack pedestrians and bikers who get too close to their nests going for the head of the victim (and yes, this includes the fierce predator: the runner). I got maybe four loops around, which are about 0.45 miles each time around, all in the sun, yay, before the birds started circling close to the end of the loop. I bailed, and headed out on the short single track, before realizing it was ankle deep mud. Turning around, I went back to my car and bailed on the long sleeve shirt and did a few out and backs on the dirt paths that surrounded the park and ride. About 90% of this run was in the sun.

One more run before the large lunch break. World Cup Ball was on, and I devised a special run for this one. It was going to be hot, we all knew that. So why not run from my house to McDonald’s and get a freezie drink? I did some magic and extended the course out to 3.6 miles (which is why this run was shorter). I started at the house, went up the nasty hill to get out, and headed out to the military ridge trail and out west. I took this path all the way to the park and ride and then out into the pavement to the golden arches. It was a very nice treat. I felt better on this run a little than I had been feeling. This run I did by heart rate mostly, allowing it to go up a little to account for the heat. But kept an eye out and forced it under 160 bpm (these are MY zones, just a reminder, and I know what they mean for me), and usually that number is 154 for reference. After my neighborhood, the route was basically flat. 80% of this run was in the sun.

LUNCH BREAK! I had the boys pick me up from McD’s and we headed to Dominoes (I swear I don’t usually eat this much salt in a weekend, but I knew I needed to replenish and didn’t want to really cook during this event). I had two slices of cheese pizza and some stuffed feta/spinach cheesy bread. Carbo overload!! Warning Warning! Nap time. And asleep I fell (after putting on fresh clothes for the first time, head to toe), in an awkward position while sports ball was playing on the tv. I woke up to some wicked chaffing? That’s the only word that came to mind, specific “places” had been injured and it was only skin deep, but it HURT to move. Crud. I am so thankful for my pacer, Sonja, STILL for taking care of me post 100k, and still have the diaper rash cream stored. I used that sucker. It didn’t make an immediate difference, but long term, it helped so much.

Energy wise I felt great after the nap and food! It was the first real nutrition I had had since the late dinner the night before. 3 o’clock rolls around and I head out the door with my tailwind/ice combo in my handheld. Oh wow IT HURTS (the weird chaffing). For the first 1.5 miles, I wanted to quit. I wanted to call it quits and have Rich come pick me up. I couldn’t move well. I was trying to take it easy because I knew I wasn’t done with what I had to do still and because the heat was unrelenting and I needed that practice. But a thought came to me: If this was my 100 miler race, would this be enough to make me call it quits? NO. It really would not be, no matter how bad it was right then. Sometimes things get better. This did with time. I wonder in retrospect though if it was because of adrenaline that kept the pain at bay later on. I pressed on and found it hard to keep going to. My legs were starting to feel it, I had basically a marathon on my legs at this point. What would be a good idea to try? Intervals. Coach Scott had me do 2 minute on one minute off when I was on the cruise, and that seemed like a good idea to try out. I had read about another fellow ultra runner, Heather, who did 1 minute intervals or something for her 100 miler attempts and it seemed to work well for her. So I thought, in the thick of the race, would this be a good thing to switch to if I got mentally bogged down with how my body was feeling? The intervals kept me moving forward because there was no longer an excuse to stop and look at my phone, or watch the clouds cross the sky, think about how hot it was…there was always a walk break and a minute is a lot of time to walk things off. If I could recover from holding 8 min/mi paces for 2 minutes and be able to recover during 1 minute walking, I could make it work really well for 10 min/mi paces. Anyway, this is probably way more in-depth than it needs to be. But I had passed the half way point. This challenge was hard, there was no doubt in my mind now. This route was the same as the first I had run and I wore the escalentes for this one. Also for this run, I tried a wet buff. I really felt no difference using it around my neck. Am I doing it wrong?

Dinner time run! I would earn dinner after this one! I switched to tailwind/ice/BCAA (blue, have to specify this). This was amazing actually. The ice basically melted before I was mile into each of my runs, but whatever, it was nice for the time being. I decided on a point to point for this run. I would run to where my husband worked. (I have to go to places that he knows he can get to without me, else he will get lost.) This was more overall hilly. I am getting really really tired of climbing the hills to get out of our neighborhood…

This run went very well. I ran a warm up mile and then stuck with my intervals for the rest of the run. I saw some spooky looking clouds on my way out and stopped for a minute to check my radar to make sure I could get through the run safely. I thought I could make it, so I pressed on. By the time I hit the walking trails near the campus (his workplace is very large), mosquitoes were making their presence known, and so were the red wing black birds…again. I had a few scares, it pushed my intervals a little faster than I wanted. I had a few circle me towards the end of the run, so I opted for the streets nearby to run on instead. I wore the escalantes for this run. This whole run was in the sun.

Dinner! Did someone order storms? So much lightening! This ended up lasting all evening. This also kept me awake that evening, so I didn’t get much sleep. I slept in a little on account of that, but woke up and promptly headed out the door. The chaffing was 75% better! It was totally manageable now. But my feet were starting to ache a lot, specifically under the ball of my right foot and I could feel a little favoritism in my stride, I want to fix this. So I switched to the torins, which I don’t normally ever run in. They’re my “town” shoes, but I wanted more cushion without using trail shoes.

I felt horrible on this run mentally and somewhat physically. Some of it was due to not being a morning person. I tried to make Guac toast, but I don’t think it helped with my energy at all…but I probably just needed more fluids (but I wasn’t dehydrated). I went out and decided to do a loops. I forgot how far this loop was but I remembered it was more than 3 miles. I could make up the extra distance if I needed around the house when I got back. I went out on what was similar to the first run but instead of turning around I went out onto the highway. Mind you, this is not an incredibly busy highway and it was early on a Sunday morning too. I probably met less than 10 cars the time I was on that stretch of road, which was probably close to 2 miles. I had enough shoulder and the shoulder was gravel and grass with no drop off, so it was safe enough. I probably would not have done it if I hadn’t done it prior. My energy and general feeling of not being in a great mood were the least of my issues, because for the next 1.5 miles I was in constant defense of the red wing black bird. I swear every 25 feet there was another bird perched somewhere VERY close squawking at me loudly, louder than the others had been, and then starting to fly up above me. I mainly kept to the intervals here, but I ignored a few just to get through this stretch of road. I made it back to a familiar stretch and relaxed a bit more. I felt with each run now I was running out of water faster and faster and the need to drink more was happening even though the runs were mostly the same length and my pace did not really change much. 90% of this run was in the sun…but it was pretty cloudy.

Part two of running to husband’s workplace, but this time the other direction around. I had done part of this point to point in the group run, which I did not look forward to the gradual hill half way through the run. I switched to my Olympus trail shoes by this point looking for more cushion (this seemed to work more). My feet would hurt for the first few minutes of the run, but then they would get better and better to the point I wouldn’t notice. Weird. These shoes I had had for over a year and have served well on the trails taking me through my first (also mountain) 50k that I happened to sign up for as a training run for a mountain marathon back home in Virginia (WHO DOES THAT?). So they could stand to be on pavement without feeling sticky or hindering or that the lugs would get shaved down (they are almost gone anyway). I mixed my water with the red BCAAs. I started walking up the darn hill in front of our house by this point, I was so tired of trying to run it, spiking my heart rate within seconds of my run…feels bad man! Ran through downtown, hit the lights and had some stoppage time (hah world cup joke), which I knew would happen and why I have generally avoided this (that and the military ridge trail bypasses all this and is TRAIL y’know). I got about 2.8 miles in and called Rich. I was running out of water now. I needed more than I was getting and it was too late to replace it. I needed him to meet me now and get me out. By the time he a) got the message, b) remembered to grab water for me, c) drive to me, I had reached over 4.5 miles. Goal achieved! But I was out. I found out the red BCAAs made me way more thirsty I think (which has happened on general workouts before but never put two and two together), so let’s not use those again. 70% of this was in the sun if I recall. The sun came out the last half of the run.

A quick and wind swept storm came rolling in after this, and cooled the air slightly. Slightly. But it kept me from running for a while since there was lightening associated with it. I don’t mind rain, but I want to be safe.

2nd to last run. Ok motivated was increasing. I actually did not think I would get in all the runs, either due to excuses, or weather, or injury or someTHING. I did the route that I did the first run again with some additional neighborhood running (in case it started to storm again). I knew this route was safe from the birds. I got my role in my own Hitchcock film don’t you know? Temperatures rose back up, but not without the wind picking up too. This was pretty nice. I did some blue BCAAs this time for water, and because I had eaten lunch not long before, I decided to forego the tailwind. Was fine. Ran the first 1.7ish miles and then started my intervals to motivate me to get back up the hill without walking the whole thing. (Although I did walk up the first hill out of the neighborhood….AGAIN.) The sun was back and happy, better than ever! Kept this run close as well in case more storms popped up. 90% of this run was in the sun. Used the Olympus shoes for the rest of the runs.

LAST RUN, which is super motivating and I had worked up enough “miles” that my last run was only 3 miles and not 4. I quickly computed a quick loop on garmin (which ended up being short when I ran it? I have had this issue with every run where garmin cuts my routes shorts when actually tracked by GPS, where as on garmin connect it’s longer?). I found a perfect loop, with the exception that it started at our house and I had to END with going up this big hill heading INTO our subdivision complex…very steep and accounts for most of the elevation gain in my runs when I’ve had to head up them – another reason why some runs were “point to point”…to avoid that hill. I would do it anyway, there wasn’t much time to argue since I needed to get this run in before 6pm, the 48 hour mark if I wanted to stay true to the challenge. I was going to give it all I had. I started with walk-run intervals up our hill to get out of the neighborhood, and then bombed the downhill out of the subdivision (quad performed beautifully still) to make up some time I knew I would lose going back UP that hill later. Hitting downtown, I avoided stopping at lights by taking all inside turns to the left. My mile splits were fantastic. It elated me, because by this point, I would never dream I’d hit sub 10 min/mi under any circumstance. The route headed back out into the sun, and the final stretch of gradual uphill until it hit “the” hill back up. I maintained my pace, and even sped up a little (very little). I hit the hill and jammed in an interval. I pushed the rest of the way. I was very happy to have finished.

A lot went wrong, but I learned from what went wrong (hopefully), and a lot of things were tried out without real consequence. I am very tired now and a little confused. Confused in that I feel like I did this huge thing, and I stuck with it, and never gave up, I trained in the heat and trained hard while pacing each run the best I could without really knowing how to do this whole challenge and take it on, but feeling unaccomplished because I have run 100k, and in that I finished a 50 miler straight in much much less time. I realize that a 50 miler altogether would have trashed my body complete and recovering from that would cost me a lot in several ways. Right now I am just tired, mostly from lack of sleep, but my body is fine for the most part, needs a little healing in time, but nothing extreme. The 4-6 mile runs were perfect for recovery. I got to test food between runs, and see if something bothered me (running and heat wise), try and recoup anything I’d lost and see if that worked too. For runs that “short” you don’t need excessive nutrition; you don’t need gels or chews…just water and electrolytes. So in that respect it’s quite simple. It’s complex in that you have to keep planning and adjusting each run to your needs, and you may not know what those needs are right away. For me, I needed a different route each time, and it waned on me that I needed to find new places to run the same distances at that I may not be able to drive to due to time constraints between runs. Otherwise, this was really fun to try out, and would probably have been very hard by myself and without posting 100 millions times about it on social media.

I hope this was interesting to read!