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"To give anything lest than your best is to sacrifice the gift" ~Steve Prefontane
She looks nothing like a champion. Exhausted, depleted, dehydrated. You could probably tip her over with 1 finger. But she's a beast. She battled mountains and monsters and finished with a full heart and a hunger within....not a metaphorical hunger, the very real get me a burger and a beer hunger!
We arrived on Thursday before Saturday's race. We decided to stay in Springdale, Utah instead of Bryce. We had been to Bryce before, but had never seen Zion. Springdale is essentially at the mouth of Zion Canyon. This put us at about a 90 min drive from the race start.
The Plan was for the boys to crew me...meeting me at the aid stations that allowed crews. The only problem was that the race started at 5:30am. That would mean they would have to get up at 3am for a really long day to catch a few minutes here or there with me at designated aid stations.
I decided they would have way more fun enjoying another day of Zion together. This would also keep me from worrying about them and feeling bad for making them go through the rigors of crewing. It is actually harder for me to "race" with crew in many cases. Often, the benefit of having someone help me is negated by my empathy for their plight. This course had frequent aid stations, good course markings, and the weather, while anticipated hot, would not be particularly dangerous for a prepared runner.
We ate like kings Thursday and Friday before the race. On the course I would regret the richness of my diet and the particularly creamy, over the top margarita cheesecake desert that was sent straight from heaven to my table the night before the race.
So, no crew, no big deal. I'd bring my drop bags so I could have the type of gel (Spring Energy) and snacks that I knew would sit well on my tummy during the race. I Checked the race website... how early do I need to get up to get my drop bags in place for the race?
Typically, you have to have drop bags at the check in by about an hour pre race. With this race the drop bags had to be left at the race start the night before....by 8pm. Well shit, that wasn't going to happen. Oh well, I knew they would have snacks and gels at each aid, and while not my preferred, it would be ok. My stomach can tolerate many aid station options.
I made it to the start feeling great. Oatmeal and coffee in and ready to GO!
I had no clue my race would go south so fast, literally. Within the first or second mile my gut was cramping and I was deciding which tree to go hide behind. Ok back on track. Got that over with and out of the way.....Then 2 miles later...again, off trail. This went on every 2-3 miles to the first full aid at 9-10 miles. Fortunately, I wasn't nauseated or feeling "sick" per se. My gut was just in overdrive, likely from the richness and excessive dairy the night before.
Here are views of heading up the canyon to the top of the plateau.
At mile 9-10 aid station, I took a little extra time to sort myself out, take inventory of what I would need for the next 10 mile stretch, and of course spend more time in the potty. Grateful for hand sanitizer and wipes! I ate 2 cups full of potato chips while filling my water bottles and grabbing gels. I downed 2 dixie cups of cola as well. Pulled my hat out for the next more exposed segment.
Miles 10-20 were no better. I was grateful for the sage brush and few trees to hide myself. Mentally this was a tough segment. I was losing several minutes every 2 miles to time spent communing with mother nature.
I decided not to spend time thinking about the time I was losing. It would not help anything. Instead, I focused on drinking plenty of water and minimum 200 calories of gel per hour. "Don't sacrifice anything" became my mantra.
That meant don't sacrifice mental energy on things I couldn't control or any would've, should've, could'ves. It meant don't sacrifice calories. Eat, take in gels, drink sport drink, whatever it would take to get minimum 200calories per hour in. I knew if I dipped under 200 with the losses I was experiencing, it could end my race. It meant don't sacrifice any physical energy. Make it efficient and make it count. Always asking, can you move a little faster here? Can you move more efficiently? No checking out mentally. Engage in the moment, the people, the scenery, soak it in.
At mi 19-20 I pulled into the next full aid station. I took a couple of electrolyte capsules, and again took stock of where I was at and what i needed. I ate probably 200 calories at the aid station, consisting of chips and pb&j wraps cut up in pieces.
Mi 20-25 my calves and hamstrings started to ache and feel like they wanted to cramp on climbing. I continued go as fast as I could without seizing up.
At mi 25 they had real bathrooms, it was a campground. I was so happy. I ate more chips and cola and loaded up with gels. It was now getting hot and we were going to be hitting the most exposed sections of the course.
This next segment would also be one
of the most scenic. I would trade places with runners, passing on the downs, and being passed on the ups.
My gut had eased up, and I was able to make it 5-8miles without having to hit a potty or bush. But now, my climbing really sucked. Any moderate effort took me to feeling like I was floating, like rising above my body. A weird bonky feeling. I still had energy unlike with a typical bonk, I just couldn't expend it without that floaty, out of body feeling. This was dangerous as a fall could be life threatening, so I kept my effort while climbing just sub-floaty.
Fortunately, when I went down, the floaty feeling disappeared and I could run hard down with good focus. I figured I would cramp and have more diarrhea running hard down, but it was the ups and associated increased effort and body temp that made me look for bushes.
Miles 32-38 were relentless steep up and downs.
Coming down into mi 38ish my quads started feel quite tenderized. Unusual for me this early, even on courses with more elevation change and longer descents. I suspected it was a combination of being a bit depleted and running quite a bit harder on the downs to make up for the slow climbing.
At mile 38 I ate Ramen and more cola and grabbed more gels to get me across the next segment. With the heat, getting 200 calories in became a challenge. No way solids would stay down at this point. So 1 gel every 30 minutes had to be downed. I was not having any problem drinking enough. I was extremely thirsty and was taking in enough water despite my losses, I just likely was not getting enough electrolytes. I was swelling some. Very typical and fairly mild for me at altitude.
The Battle to get gels down was comical. The conversation in my brain.."ok, start that next gel packet", my mouth, my stomach, my everything saying "nope" like a toddler with lips pursed, arms crossed. My brain, "just open the packet, you have 5 minutes to take one sip". I tried to take a sip every 5 minutes, but sometimes at 25 minutes with 3/4 pack of gel left, and negotiating no longer working, my brain just said "times up, get it down". There were a few occasional gags and 1 real heave but all the gels down, every 30 minutes for the next 3-4 hours.
The last significant climb was 47ish to 50.
The course turned out to be a little long, closer to 52 miles. At the last aid station, they had bacon. It sounded amazing. I ate half a slice of bacon and dumped the rest of my gels in the trash, giddy that I didn't have to eat another gel. The last 2 miles were down all the way to the finish. Quads still tenderized I managed a couple 11 min miles.
I milked everything I had out of myself the whole day. I never let up on making sure I did everything possible to create the best race with what I had on that day. I took nothing for granted and never relented. Everything was a conscious choice, even giving myself grace when necessary to catch my breath, settle my gut, bring myself back into my body. Never a moment of "I just got lazy" or "I just wasn't paying attention".
The whole way I was assessing what I could do to make sure I stayed in this race, what I needed, what I was taking in, how it was helping or hurting and maintaining the max effort I could expend without negative returns.
I loved the problem solving and it really kept my head in the right space and out of self pity.
As I came close to the finish, I could hear all the cheering. I was a little sad that my ending would not be met by anyone I knew, that I would get my stuff and leave knowing no one. Now I was feeling sorry for myself. I just wanted a hug. I had never finished a big race with no one there.
As soon as I crossed the finish, a familiar face appeared and said "hey Lori, great job!" It was Don Sims, a friend for years. His wife was still on the course. He gave me a big hug, or more likely, I grabbed him and hugged him. It was the first really big hug I've given to non-household member in over a year. It felt so good. Poor Don, I surely stunk. We chatted for a few minutes, and then I started getting that out of body, floaty feeling again. I went over to medical and explained my situation and desire to get horizontal on my own volition rather than involuntarily. I knew I was fine. All of the blood vessels that had been constricted trying to take care of the essentials during racing were now dilating, and gravity was not helping. My blood was rushing to my feet.
It didn't take long for me to regroup and call Todd and Ethan. They were anxious to hear of my finish and gather together for a big ole meal..... minus the margarita cheese cake!
I am so so grateful to my family, and my coach Eric Orton. They have helped me accomplish the Cool Impossible over and over again.
To coach....the guidance you gave to "stay on it" every mile was critical to my finish. Your coaching guiding me through the difficulties of this course was critical.
I have the Book COOL IMPOSSIBLE. I just cannot thank Eric for the foot strength exercises, especially, the Slant board. I started running at the age of 58 with some seriousness. I felt very awkward to be in the Group where the Team had to wait for me to catch up with them. In fact I was dragging the team. Slant board for 2 months as mentioned in the Book and Lo! the position had reversed- Literally. The ease, the push and the style- all too impressive for the inconspicuous & easily dismissed "little" exercises. Thanks Eric once again.
I do not need to over emphasize the benefits. Check it out yourselves.
The carbon plate has become the star of the Olympic Trial build up and all of the rage in shoes these days. For good reason as it increases propulsion and energy return.
The idea behind the plate AND the new innovative mid sole foam is to create more STIFFNESS that creates more energy return. Just like our muscles, tendons, and ligaments are meant to coil energy and then release it - elastic energy!
Stiffness, tightness, force production, all of this is necessary to improve run performance AND for heathly, strong longevity in the sport.
Here is my "DON'T DO THIS, DO THIS" list to help train this way:
-> DON'T underestimate how crucial it is to train the feet. They are your foundation of stability, force production, power, and energy return.
DO train your feet as YOUR MAIN focus of strength. You are only as strong as your feet. For those of you who have my book, The Cool Impossible, you know how potent my foot strength program is.
Using the FREO Slant Board trains the feet to engage the big toe and arch, which in turn activates the calves for superior muscle elasticity - or your body's own CARBON PLATE. HOW we train the feet, dictates how we fire our muscles and create stability at our knee and glutes/hips. And this is the holy grail for running performance and health.
-> DON'T rely on gravity or leaning when running.
DO focus on providing force into the ground to propel yourself forward.
-> DON'T continue to rely on stretching and group classes that focus on hyper mobility that deflates elastic energy, stability and strength.
DO focus on power metric drills to create more force, elastic return, and stiffness to improve health and speed.
-> DON'T focus on developing strength in the gym thru heavy and slow lifting or high rep, low weight.
DO focus on developing proper run strength by doing power metric drills, short, fast sprints, eccentric and isometric training.
-> DON'T stop focusing on foot strike and resist that their is a proper way to run.
DO be patient when transitioning to a forefoot to heel strike technique. How we use our feet and strike the ground dictates everything.
-> DON'T consistently rely on tempo and long easy runs for ongoing improvement. This is no different than relying on the above gym strength.
DO incorporate short sprints, short uphill AND downhill intervals, and VO2max workouts, regardless of the type of runner you are.
I'm a 1984 grad of Ohio State. At the center of campus is the "oval," which is every hour treated to the clock chimes emanating from Orton Hall. I cycled down to campus today and the chimes just happened to sound while I was shooting this video. Not to do with the subject of this site, but I thought Eric might like it anyway.
Croakies® Teams up with Born to Run Coach, Eric Orton and a Collection of Industry-Leading Brands for a Unique October Trail Running Adventure in Jackson Hole, WY
PLAINVILLE, Mass., September 3, 2019 –Croakies, the original manufacturer of industry-leading outdoor retention products, today announces the launch of its biggest Not your Everyday Adventurecampaign to date. The campaign features a grand prize of a trip for two to Jackson Hole, WY to experience the trails of the Tetons with acclaimed running coach, Eric Orton and an assortment of the latest gear to inspire your fall running adventures from Croakies and partners, Smartwool, Suunto, Skinny Skis, NATIVE Eyewear, and more.
Conceptualized as a means of celebrating Croakies’ mission to utilize its best-in-class retention products as a vehicle for inspiring everyday adventure, over the course of the past two years, Croakies’ Not your Everyday Adventure campaigns have become a pivotal and recurring component of the brand’s quarterly marketing efforts.
Croakies’ latest Not your Everyday Adventure campaign deploys today and seeks to blend a true mountain town adventure with the goal of demystifying trail running as something only the die-hard running community can enjoy. Winners will be announced the last week of September and then flown out to Jackson Hole on October 4thfor an unforgettable 3-day weekend in the mountains with Eric and Croakies.
“Through Jackson’s diverse trail system and varied mountainous terrain, alongside Eric’s unique coaching style and approach to running, we’re aiming to show just how inclusive and accessible trail running can be as a form of daily adventure, whatever your experience level” explains Chris McCullough, Croakies Director of Marketing.
With a total prize package of over $5,000, don’t miss out on a rare opportunity to experience Jackson Hole without the crowds, decked out in the latest gear by some of the most sought-after brands, and your very own celebrity running coach and Jackson local showing you the ropes. Head over to croakies.com/not-your-everyday-adventure-jackson-holefor a chance to win this unique 3-day adventure in the Tetons.
Full prize details include:
- Roundtrip Airfare for two to Jackson Hole, WY
- Lodging for two at the Mountain Modern Motel
- Private 2-Day Coaching Session with Born to Run Coach, Eric Orton
- 2 Daily Tram Passes at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
- 2 Croakies Swag Bags Full of the Brand’s Latest Outdoor Retention Products
- 2 Suunto Smart Watches
- 2 Smartwool Apparel Kits
- 2 $100 Shopping Sprees to Jackson Hole-Based Specialty Retailer, Skinny Skis
- 2 Annual Subscriptions toTrail Runner Magazine
- 2 Pairs of Sunglasses from NATIVE Eyewear
- Plenty of Meals, Adventures, Memories to Last a Lifetime, and more…
"I am often asked where my favorite place to run is in the World; my answer is always the same, ‘Jackson Hole!,’” states Born to Run Coach, Eric Orton. “Jackson has extensive world class running, and I am extremely excited to be working with Croakies to create a one-of-a-kind, running experience right here in my hometown.”
To learn more about Croakies’ latest collection of outdoor retention products and to stay up to date on upcoming events and campaigns, please visit croakies.com. Complete details and guidelines for the Not Your Everyday Adventure contest can be found at croakies.com/not-your-everyday-adventure-jackson-hole.
Often imitated but never duplicated, the original Croakies were invented in 1977 by a local ski patrolman from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming. Today, Croakies products are still proudly designed amidst the mountains of the American West, with most of its production in Bozeman, Montana. With Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks as a backyard, the brand’s inspiration remains unchanged: to create best-in-class retention products that inspire everyday adventure and provide comfort, style, durability, and functionality to active people of all ages. For more information about Croakies and its latest product line, please visit croakies.com or follow the brand on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter using @croakies. Croakies is part of the Hilco Vision portfolio of brands.
My watch died before midnight, so I had no idea what time it was. The moon had disappeared somewhere behind the canopy of trees and I was now heading down what seemed like a long steep trail to the Weaver Creek Aid station. I was still being attacked intermittently by gnats. I felt like I was descending into the depths of the earth....or possibly hell. It felt surreal to be going down, down, down in the dark depths of the forest. This was some of the trail, only now it was pitch black....
My spirits and energy were still up, I just took note, as I would have to climb back out once I hit the aid station at mile 64. As I returned back up the trail I had the sense that dawn was coming. I popped 2 more caffeine gums and drank and ate, readying myself for the hardest part of the the race...a full 12-15 hours ahead of hiking and running. Yesterday, I only had to experience the sun and heat for 6-8 hours, in fresh legs. I was thinking, “Ok, soon we get to find out if I was patient enough, if my training was enough”.
Dawn broke and the birds sang and the biting gnat attacks subsided. I hit the paved/dirt road section early enough in the morning to avoid the heat. I was very grateful. After the road segment came Wilscot Gap aid at mile 81.
I was climbing slower as it was heating up, well after 10am, and my low back was starting to ache on the climbs. You can see it in my face in this picture. I used my poles to help myself on the climbs. It was good to see Dad again. He helped me with my pack and I refueled.
I picked up my other watch so I could have time, miles, and pace again. He again offered a chair, I again declined. I never sat down, only because I knew the pain of getting up would not be worth it. I had moved from 59th position to 27th through the night. I knew I was in good position among the women, but not sure if 3rd or 4th. My goal at this point was to not get caught by any women, and hopefully continue move up.
The last segment would be “The Dragon’s Spine”. Aptly named for it’s jagged, quite steep, up/down sawtooth terrain. It was also way more technical and narrow through this section. I knew it would be this way for the next 15-20 miles. Funny thing is, we did this once already on miles 1-20. I’ts amazing how perspective changes after 80 miles. I would have sworn it was a different trail. Mile 80-97 were just painful. My low back restricted my uphill speed to a seeming crawl. My quads
were really starting to feel tenderized going down. I just tried to stay focused, move as fast as my legs would allow. I accepted the pain and tried to relax with it, instead of tending up. I continued to push calories and water to keep my energy up. I controlled everything I could to make the most of what I had left and mitigate the discomfort. I thought about friends and family supporting me, about Kevin Rolf and his battle, about the #lovehopestrength we share.
I used my bandana and filled it with ice at every aid, wrapping it around my neck to try and cool myself. I managed to pass a few more guys, no girls. One or two guys reclaimed their spots on the climbs ahead.
Darkness came in the last 3 miles. I finally hit the paved road leading into the finish. I looked at my watch with 1 mile left to go. 32:49. Any neurotic runner will understand what I was thinking. “If I run hard, I can finish in under 33 hours”. Why it mattered at that point, after 106 miles whether I finished in 32:59 or 33:05, God only knows. But, I wanted to see 32, not 33 on the clock. Damnit, I started to run harder. A 10min mile on fresh legs is not a tall order. A 10 minute mile after 106 miles feels darn near impossible. So here comes this stinky, bug eaten, quad ripped, back aching, runner blazing (not really, but it felt blazing) a sub 10 minute mile to hit the finish line at 32:58. I immediately sat down next to the 3rd place female in a heap. 4th female and 24th overall. I couldn’t be happier with how I did, with how I ran my race.
Now a bit of rest and back to training…. I have a date with a 238 mile race in Moab, UT in October! Onward and upward.
I can't give enough kudos to Coach Eric. He knows how to dial in to what I personally need to become a better athlete year by year. His coaching is individual, always taking into account where I am at and where I want to be. He is very strategic, but intuitive. He sees the forest, but pays attention to the individual trees in my training, and adapts and adjusts my training based on how my body and mind respond, helping me jump from one level to the next. I feel like this race was a jump to a whole new level, a level I needed to hit before Moab. Thank you coach.
My goals for the night: Stay steady, get in and out of aid quick. Eat more food, use caffeine at dusk and dawn. As the sun began to set I began to feel a little lazy. I popped 2 pieces of caffeinated gum and continued to eat bites of sandwich and drink water. The thick green canopy was starting to glow with the sunset, and the bright orange orb was visible intermittently as we crested knobs in the ridgeline. I contemplated the difference between knobs and gaps and peaks and valleys. It was still very warm and humid. I started rethinking my strategy. I was planning on really conserving all night long and making a hard all-day push the next day to the finish. But considering how hot it would be tomorrow, I decided I would make the night really count. I knew if I tried to push hard 12-14 hours tomorrow, I would die in the heat. I would need to conserve some in the midday heat. So my new goal was to maximize my focus and effort in the dark.
The trail would be a little less technical throughout most the night. The caffeine perked me up, and with the heat pulling back, I sped up without increasing my effort much if at all. I turned my waist light on. I was glad to not contend with a headlamp for 2 reasons. First the strap always gives me a headache after several hours and bugs. The bugs were thick and they flew straight to the light...which on my head would’ve meant my face. I came into Wilscot Gap a little after 9pm in 59th position. I had moved up 58 spots from 117 earlier in the afternoon. I suspected quite a few people had dropped out due the heat/terrain. I sure didn’t remember passing that many people. There was a group of guys that we traded positions all evening. They would pass me on the ups and I would pass them on the downs. We did this virtually all evening. Once it was dark I was mostly solo, seeing people only at aid stations or a few as I passed on the trail.
The moon was almost full and super bright. In Cherokee, as with most Native American cultures, the moon is masculine. I think it was former Chief Wilma Mankiller that joked, reasoning the moon is the man is because the woman is always the constant stable factor, like the sun, the sustainer of life, taking care of her children. The moon just shows up when he wants to and usually isn’t all there. I was also seeing more wildlife. A few deer, a hoot owl, small snake, occasional field mice crossing the trail, and some sort of bigger brown furry animal the size of a mole. It moved so quickly, I couldn’t tell exactly what it was. Then a red-tail hawk, a few lizards, and a turtle. I listened to the frogs sing. It reminded me of a Cherokee story about the animals and birds that I’ll share at the end of this looong post.
I kept myself at ease, but focused. No laziness through the night. I made sure I was getting a steady stream of calories and water. I wanted to be primed for the sun that would drain me the next day. Every runnable uphill I ran, every downhill I ran, relaxed and fast and smooth as possible, no quad banging, no overheating. I was a bit disappointed that there was no coolness to come that night. We soon hit the 5 mile paved/dirt road segment. I ran all but a small steep portion. I remained focused, It was around 11pm and mile 33. I would hit this same stretch on the return, around mile 70. I wanted to hit that exposed road section before late morning to avoid the heat. That would really suck late morning or midday.
I made it to Camp Morgonton, mi 52 around 2:45am. I decided I would allow myself up to 10 minutes here to deal with any issues and really get good food in. The volunteer handed me my drop bag. I immediately opened it and grabbed the vaseline and asked “where’s the restroom?”. He looked puzzled for only a second, then grinned and nodded as I said, “I need some personal time”. Anyone who has run more than a few miles in the heat and humidity knows that there is “chafing”. Before leaving. I ate several squares of grilled cheese and headed back out. My only issue through the night was intermittent attacks by swarming biting gnats. All of a sudden, my ankles and lower legs would light up on fire. The only remedy was to keep running and rub my ankles and legs so vigorously as to kill the little bastards. This usually took about 30 minutes of running and rubbing. I would be in peace for another hour or so and get attacked again. This happened over and over through the night. One of my race goals was to remain as positive as possible. As soon as my brain started to lead me down a negative path I would intervene. “The gnat attacks are keeping me awake and alert and moving at least”, and “At least the attacks are intermittent, not constant”. And so ends part 2 of Cruel Jewel 100.
Now that I’m home, I can tell the Cherokee story I had in my head better by abbreviating an excerpt from Meditations with The Cherokee by J.T. Garrett. The full exerpt can be found at www.northerncherokeenation.com.
The animals challenged the birds to a game of ball. The birds discussed the challenge, and finally decided though they were smaller, they were swift and agile, and the animals were slow and awkward, so they figured they had a chance. The animals boasted that they were strong. The bigger animals were proud and boastful, they told the small animals to get out of their way so they would not be stomped. 2 little field mice scrambled up a tree to sit by the little birds watching. Eagle saw them and asked why they were not with the animals. The 2 mice explained that they were asked to leave and that the animals made fun of them because they were so small. The Great Eagle told the mice they could join them and the birds made them wings out of the leather and string used on the ceremonial drum.
The game began, and the ball was thrown in the air. Hawk caught the ball. He threw it to the field mice. One caught it and glided into the air to the next tree. To this day, he is called bat. He passed the ball to another mouse with wings, who flew into another tree. To this day he is called flying squirrel. The birds ultimately won. So through this story the young Cherokee are taught to never boast about what they can do based on size or strength, but be humble true to their family, their clan.
Although not representative of this story, here is a picture of one of Murv Jacob's paintings. He is one of my favorite artists, and I think of his work often as I encounter nature and think of the animal stories I have heard. Although not Cherokee, he was recognized as a Master Artist by the Five Civilized Tribes. Much of his art brings to life the fables and stories told through animals in Cherokee tradition. He lived in my home of Tahlequah, Oklahoma and had an art studio down town. Of course he also has quite a bit of street cred for designing posters for the Grateful Dead.
I chose this race for the sole purpose of getting another Hardrock qualifier. This was definitely the hardest qualifier I have done. We started at noon on Friday. The temps were already in teh low 80s with high humidity and almost no breeze. My goals for the first day, 1. Keep heart rate down and feel “too good” at the top of the climbs 2. Run the downhills easy, steady, no tension. 3. Eat a variety of real food. On the first long climb, I was passed and passed and passed some more. “This is where you have to behave”. I knew the keeping my heart rate down would be a challenge. It seemed too easy. By 8 miles I was in 145th place. I just kept thinking, “you are going to have to do this ALL day tomorrow in the heat”. “Don’t destroy your ability to perform tomorrow”. I pulled out my bandana and soaked it in every stream and wrapped it around my neck to cool me. Conserve and Perform.
Dad came with me, my only crew. No pacers. These are the mountains where my Cherokee family lived. Everything there had Cherokee names. The trails, lakes, streams, towns, all had Cherokee names, but there was an abject absence of Cherokee people. They were all moved to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears in the 1830s. Gold was discovered at Dahlonega. The name itself is the Cherokee word for yellow. That was the final nail in the coffin for the Cherokee people. They were forced to leave under the Indian Removal Act.
The lands were seized by the State of Georgia, without a treaty, and divided among white settlers in a lottery fashion. 4,000 Cherokee men, women, children died en-route. 4,000. They were not allowed time to gather their belongings, and as they left, their homes were looted. Many of the people bought into the land lottery for a chance of getting a lot with gold or other profitable resources. Once most realized their lots were not profitable, they sold or abandoned them and moved away.
After 25miles up and down the mountains on technical, single track trail, I entered Skeenah Gap aid station in 117th position. I had moved up almost 40 positions. It was getting evening and it was good to see Dad. He tried to offer a chair, “would you like to sit for a few minutes?”. I proceeded to shake my finger no, as I stuffed piece after piece of watermelon in my mouth and moved on to grilled cheese sandwiches.
I was trying to get as many calories in as possible. One of the lead male runners had cramped up on the side of the trail, and someone was going back to help him down. I caught the conversation between the aid station captain and a younger volunteer. The younger, “Well, it’s early, we can get him back up and going again”. The captain adjusted his cap and said, “yes, but the price has been paid, he went out to hard and now he’s going to suffer”. That’s exactly what I had hoped I was going to avoid. “Don’t write checks your body can’t cash”, I told myself. I gave dad a kiss and headed off for the night.
The Trails Are Open. But how's your IT Band?
What goes up, must come down. And for the most part, run form should not change relative to speed, or in my case today, terrain. Especially footstrike.
It is fairly easy to have goog forefoot to heel strike going up, and challenging to have good foot placement coming down, as gravity will try to pull you into mistakes.
Every Spring I get calls from local athletes complaining of IT Band issues. Because as the trails open, more and more runners are doing more and more descending.
Poor footstrike places a lot of stress on the quads and a huge demand for stability that is hard to have with bad form.
This all can create IT Band issues, and eventually tight hip flexors.
The simple, long term remedy is to use the early season to develop eccentric loading strength and stability. This is done by slowing down on the descents so you can have ideal forefoot to flat foot strike under you.
The key is to be patient with your speed and practice "good" so you can have good muscle equilibrium and the ability to go faster later. This all goes in concert with the foot/leg strength program you are doing in my book.
More is not better, better is better.
MS1: 1,000 ft climb at threshold watts.
MS2: downhill easy for foot strike practice and strength.
Too many strength programs focus soley on building concentric strength, with full range of motion exercises.
These movements are loaded and usually too slow to be very functional for running. And target building muscle fiber MASS/DENSITY rather than utilizing MORE muscle fibers. More fiber mass just requires more oxygen and energy - not efficient. Creating more muscle fibers allows you to use more mitochondria, which is the muscles energy powerhouse!
And most times these slow, heavy, massive range of motion exercises do not target tendon strength, elastic rebound, and the stretch shorting cycling in the running gait.
In running, the range of motion is not very great and therefore tendon strength and stability come into play, and why the strength program in The Cool Impossible focuses so much on foot, leg, glute isometric and stabilization strength. It's not sexy, but very potent and works very quickly.
Bottom line, if your concentric strength over powers your eccentric strength and isometric transition, your running will suffer in many ways.
Today's Second Run Session after morning track:
WU: 10' easy.
5 X 60" fast downhills with a focus on good foot strike, quick knee drive and relaxed propeltion downhill.
After each, a very easy 90" run back up with a focus on forefoot strike and very quick cadence.
》Downhills = train my eccentric and isometric abilities, the landing. This is tremendous strength training BUT foot strike must be a focus.
》Uphills = this trains my elastic properties in my arch creating a better "spring or rubber band" to help propel me forward.
This race is directed by Chrissy Ferguson. Need I say more? She is a powerhouse and puts on top notch events. The MANY volunteers were awesome. The weather was extremely challenging, with almost constant rain, very heavy at times, wind, and temps in the low 50s. I don’t know how they kept from freezing to death waiting on us for hours at aid stations.
Advanced warning...this is the long version. This helps me go back and pick through my thinking and what I did so I can be better prepared for the next race. I try to do this quickly after my races so my thoughts aren’t modified by time and the ability to process and change how I perceive my race. It’s amazing how quickly those first thoughts are modified by time and reasoning. I can also remember details of what I did better, and the devil is often in the details.
This was a “train through” race. No planned taper, not much recovery post race. I had done longish runs the previous saturday and sunday with hard long intervals. I also did intervals and speedwork this week. This left me with tender quads through Wednesday. Thursday was my only really easy run this week and Friday no running. Race strategy was to keep things very easy and controlled for 30 miles, then race with constant focus for the last 20 miles. My goal race this year is Moab 240, a 238 mile race in October. We’ve been working on speed early this season to get the legs accustomed to “faster feeling easier”. The focus will shift later this season to translating that “faster feels easier” to “faster feels easier LONGER” in other words speed endurance.
With the predicted weather, I packed my 2 drop bags with dry long sleeve tech shirts, dry light, but waterproof, jackets and some caffeinated chocolate and various snacks I might decide I want. I knew from experience that even with a totally waterproof light jacket, with sustained wind and heavy rain, water would eek it’s way in over the hours around my head and neck, and along with sweat, gradually saturate me from the inside out. A heavier shell would keep the water out, but I would suffocate and sweat more. I wore shorts, as wet leggings are no fun. With the temps, rain pants would also suffocate me. If I could keep my chest and arms warm, I would stay warm.
Race start was 6am, so headlamps on, we headed out of the park’s shelter into the rain and onto the road. Fortunately, we had a couple miles of road to warm up and spread out a little before hitting the rocky, rooty, muddy, wet trails. Initially, the trails were saturated. There were frequent pools of mud and water, some stretching several meters. We crossed some small streams and made our way over to Pinnacle Hill. We climbed a little, but were restricted to the base due to the weather. The dogwoods, blooming shrubs, and other trees were on full display. The bright green leaves were almost glowing in the early dawn. My mood was good, but not particularly “happy”. I knew the nature of what lie ahead….50 miles of rocky, rooty, muddy trails and cold rain. My mind was not excited. The race strategy, which seemed like it would be nice and “ez” (compared to most of my 50 mile races), was actually going to be challenging. I knew I would be in this mode for the next 20 miles... not racing, but not dilly dallying. Being in this place still required focus or laziness sets in. I felt decent energy was, but knew I was not rested, and I wondered how that would play out over the long haul.
I was tolerating solid food and water very very well. I started with pb&js i had stashed in ziplock baggies. I was probably taking in 200-300 calories or even more per hour, due to pace and effort, my stomach was absorbing it well. Normally on a 50 miler, max caloric intake for me is closer to 200 calories, and usually in the form of gels. By 10 miles I was starting to realize this would be the scene for the next 40 miles. Rocks, roots, water, mud, wind, rain. I had to pull my jacket hood on which limited my view to my feet and about 10 feet around me. It also limited my hearing to only the wind and rain. It was somewhat like being in a sensory deprivation chamber. Normally, at races you have the varying terrain, the changing views, the noises of birds, animals, leaves, and the chatter of runners to distract the mind. Not today. The scene unchanging. Everyone dead silent. Only 2-5 word exchanges here or there between runners. My body felt fine, my mind not so much. I was amazed and frustrated by how limited my senses were wrapped up in my jacket and hood.
By mile 13, I was calculating how many more hours of the same shit. 8? 10? It’s always a bad idea to calculate how much farther/longer one has to go this early in a race. Not only that, but I had to return on the same damn trail. The nasty shit I was treading, I would be treading again. I typically shoot for courses that are point to point and mountainous, so this was a huge shift for me. Quite frankly, I was being a baby. I thought about how many people would love to have the ability to be on a trail for 5 minutes, and at that moment, I realized I didn’t care. Normally, that thought sets my head straight. That’s when I knew I was facing the biggest challenge of the day...my own damn candy-ass mind set. I knew it was off…. and I was wallering in it, thank-you-very-much. I knew at 16ish miles I could make the decision to drop to the 50k, that is where we would split off from them. Go left, day done early, go right and it’s the whole enchilada. I knew i just had to get my ass past 16 miles so I would no longer have a choice. As time went on and my head did not clear, I was actually nervous I might just take the 50k turn. Fortunately I passed it.
At 18 miles I hit an aid station and was informed I was now in 2nd place. The 1st female runner was dropping and I was about 5-10 minutes behind the second. I knew this was a good sign, and very possible for me to catch her if she was going at a less conservative effort than me. I knew the cold and the rain would catch up and slow everyone down, and that most people were probably exerting a little higher effort to stay warm and get done as quickly as possible. I also knew that the next female was probably 20 years younger than me. Youthful legs count, but so does age and experience. And today’s course and conditions lent itself to experienced legs. So I was cautiously optimistic. Unfortunately, this knowledge did not lift my mind/spirits.
At 18 miles my mind was struggling, but I was doing nothing to help it. “Well, that’s just dumb” I thought. If my belly is grumbling, or my feet are hurting, or I’m cold, I’m going to try and help myself right? You would do something to try and alleviate those problems, right Lori? You would be stupid not to. My mind was hurting, no different than my feet or my belly….so what was I doing? Throwing salt on that wound. Beating myself up for having a bad head game. Soon, I remembered that research shows that just talking optimistically to yourself actually boosts performance. This was shown in repeat studies to boost performance by 6-10%. That translates to speed. So just like calories make you faster, taking care of your mind makes you faster. I was at a loss for positive thoughts. “You’re doing really well….”. I laughed…. “is that the best you can really come up with?” Then I started thinking, what is the goofiest, silliest thing you can think of….and (don’t judge)...King Julien from Madagascar came to mind. The fuzzy, self absorbed, ignorant to the world around him, lemur. He is totally oblivious to his own ignorance and he dances. I visualized him dancing and talking in front of me, oblivious to the miserable conditions. The song he dances to in the movie?..… “Move It”. So I was singing, “I like to move it, move it” and following King Julien. I was not dancing, but it worked to put a little salve on my wounded brain. Then, I got out of myself enough to visualize how Todd would treat me at the end of my 100 mile races. He almost always paces me the last 10 miles. Always in front of me, with his black calf sleeves and black shorts. Making silly moves, shrugging his shoulders when I’d whine, saying “meh, you got this” Totally chill, totally confident. Just shake it off and lets go. Then thoughts drifted to my kids, oh man….I would not want them to feel defeated. One of my mantras in parenting, “show em how to be”. So, even though they couldn’t see me, I straightened up as if they were watching, to show em how to be, persist, be strong in adversity, finish what you start. By 24-25 miles I was back. I only had 5 more miles before I could “race”. I knew I could “race”. I was already passing people steadily and I knew I had a nice physical reserve just waiting.
Fortunately, I had restocked/refueled my mental tank over the past 5 miles as well. I ran in to good friend James Reeves as he was coming back. He looked great. I was worried about him as he did not wear a jacket, no vest. Shorts, long sleeve tech shirt and 2 handheld cold water bottles. He’s tall and lanky. I was afraid he was going to freeze to death, so I was really relieved to see how fresh and good he looked. This also boosted me. Damn, if he can feel that good/look that good, so can I.
About 2 minutes from the turnaround I met the lead female. She looked to be feeling really good and moving well. I just hoped I was moving and feeling better. I took my time at the turnaround and downed a full cup of warm noodles and a square of pb&J. I did not feel the need to change even though I was completely soaked. I was comfortably cool, and thinking my effort would increase, was worried I would actually get hot if I added layers. I also didn’t want to take the time to change, knowing where the lead female was. In 15 miles I would have another opportunity to hit my drop bag with fresh clothes, so I took off. I still had 4 miles before I was to “race”, but with the lead female not far off, and a small road section and easier trail, I picked things up just a little and ran more focused. My heart rate didn’t go up much if any, but I felt like I was moving a little faster and definitely more efficiently.
The new focus really helped as well. I was focusing on my effort, increasing it enough to be steady and strong and not fade. My only concern was my heart rate. It was not going up despite my higher effort and perceived faster pace. I knew it wasn’t lack of calories or dehydration. I knew it was likely the cold, even though I wasn’t “cold”. I was cool. I kinda let go of the concern about heart rate and just focused on the effort, calories, water. I added some salt stick and started picking some saltier crackers from the aid stations. I caught and passed the lead female around mile 29. We exchanged a few words of encouragement. I stopped looking at my watch so much, as I was noticing the awareness of my heart rate was making me too nervous. I just focused on effort, calories, water, not getting cold. I hit the aid station where our final drop bags were around mile 32. Here was my mistake. I was still not “cold” and the rain had let up just a little. I did not change jackets or shirts. I left in my saturated self. I knew I was soaked under my thin rainproof jacket. I had no gloves and I was really just completely soaked. I saw everyone else the same way, so I lulled myself into thinking I didn’t need anything more, I didn’t need anything more to sustain. But sustaining and performing are 2 different things. IMPORTANT. Sustaining and PERFORMING are 2 different things. I needed more, dry clothes, dry jacket to PERFORM better. The problem was, I was ok, but I could have been much better. And, later I would find out that I did truly NEED that dry shirt and jacket.
The weather deteriorated even further. The wind picked up and the rain become a more sustained downpour. There is definitely a significant difference between a steady rain and a steady downpour. The trail also changed. What was wet, rocky, rooty, muddy, frequent extended areas of water to ankles, was now a river. A muddy, rocky, rooty 3-6 inch river, with few exceptions of ankle deep mud where there weren’t rocks. The numerous stream crossings were now calf to upper thigh (on me) deep swift moving water. It was like cold immersion torture. I could feel my body temperature drop with each deeper immersion, which was literally every ¼-1/2 mile. This next stretch between aid stations was 8 miles.
At about mile 36 (halfway between aid stations) I ran up on a slender, 20 something, fast looking kid. He was weaving and had a very distant look in his eyes. I asked, “are you ok?” Shivering uncontrollably, he shook his head “no”. He was shivering so hard and uncontrollable he was groaning with each really hard chill. I gave him my most stern motherly look and said, “ok, this is going to suck and it is going to hurt, but you have to get on my heels and run with me”. “We have to get your heart rate up, that is the only way. If we get your heart rate up, you will get warm”. I made him eat 2 of my sacred oreos to try and ignite his engine...or cause him to vomit. Either way, the calories or the vomiting would increase his heart rate, I thought sadistically. “We are going to run hard for 4 miles, that’s it, just 4 miles to the next aid station and then you get heat” I reassured him, “You are way faster than me, you can do this, but you HAVE to focus!”. He shook his head yes and I took off. It hurt. And, concerningly, my heart rate was still going up only slightly. My legs were now cold and gelling. My mind was fine, I was full of energy, but my legs were rigging. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to run hard enough to get his heart rate up enough to get him out of danger. I could hear him dry heaving and groaning behind me. He faltered and fell back a few times at first, but after about 10 minutes he was doing a little better. I knew we had a good 40-50 minutes to the next aid station. He continued to groan and heave.
I was working hard and trying to navigate the very slick terrain. I didn’t feel like I had time to slow enough to dig out food for myself or drink. I did manage to get a few nibbles and sips though, as 2 hypothermic runners would not be of any use. At what I thought was about 2.5 miles left, I told him, “ok, less than a 5k, you got this, a hard painful 5k and it’s over”. About that time we passed another runner. He said “only a little over 3 miles to the next aid”. I was like, “shut the f up!, i told him less than a 5k several minutes ago”. Finally, we made it to the aid station around mile 42. Got him fixed up and grabbed a large zip-lock and threw a bunch of cookies in.
Filled my water bottles and took off. Time to get fueled back up and hydrated. That 4-5 miles of hard running was good, in that it gave me focus, but it was scary and hard. Hard enough that I needed to recover, I slowed down, telling myself, “just long enough to get your breath back and calm your screaming tired quads” The slowing gelled my legs even further and my pace was set. I couldn’t will my legs any faster and my heart rate dropped more. I got cold. Not dangerously cold, just miserably cold. But, I could see the barn. 8 miles left. I continued to stuff food in and water and ran as steady hard as I knew I could sustain without falling apart. Falling apart would mean walking, walking meant uncomfortably cold would become dangerously cold. I was so grateful to hit the last 2.5-3 miles of road. My feet and quads were not. The asphalt hurt. A lot. My legs were rigged, my feet on fire and my big toes screaming. I finished 10:27, first female 10th overall. I found out my hypothermic friend John was fine. He was pulled from the race and warm. I was so amazed at all of the runners. Like 180 people out there, amazed that most everyone did ok, amazed at the hikers. Amazed at the volunteers that endured those conditions to hand us food and drink and go above and beyond, taking my bottles, asking before I was finished with one cup of noodles if I wanted more and even asking, ”is the temperature of the noodles ok?” Seriously? You are freezing your ass off handing me noodles and worried that I might not like the temperature?! I was humbled….and so grateful. I learned much that I will unpack over the next weeks of training and reinforced things I already know. But King Julien? Really? I may have to watch Madagascar again. Hopefully I will have some pictures from the race to show how nuts the course was.
Spring time. Sprint time.
Sprinting plays a tremendous roll in endurance development for ALL distances.
- improves isometric strength, one of the key strength factors in cadence and forward propeltion.
- trains precise and efficient use of the reflex muscle tension during eccentric landing. This helps your down hill and prevents injury.
- improves economy, helping your cruising speed feel much easier.
- increases your ability to store and release elastic energy in your muscles. This improves endurance efficiency.
- trains absolute strength which actually improves your ability to run well for a prolonged period.
- improves tendon health and strength, due to the short range of motion during the concentric running movement. Squats are not functional, running is your strength and resistance training!
MS1: 5 X 100m building
MS2: 2 X (400/300/200)
MS3: 5 X 100m descending
Spring is in my step.
The great Grete Waitz ran 19 marathons in her career, winning 13 of them.
She was the first woman to break the 2:30 barrier, eventually lowering the world record to 2:25:42.
She believed that speed training was imparative for all runners of all distances and abilities.
Her marathon training reflected that of her 3,000 - 10,000 meter race training.
Many marathoners and ultra runners do not have the requisite raw speed to match their desired race pace speed, yet they continue to try and train their race pace speed and endurance.
Speed dictates endurance capability and potential.
Here is one of my Raw Speed practices on a soccer or football field:
WU: 10' easy.
Drills: quick feet, quick skip, skip for height/distance, one leg hop, standing jump, one leg high hop. (Watch Drills)
MS1: 10 X 15" moderate sprints.
MS2: 20 yards longer than MS1 - 10 sprints faster than 15".
MS3: 10 diagonals at 4:30 pace, (run what is fast for you) with easy jog on horizontals.
Sometimes you have to HOLD YOURSELF BACK:
Today was a recovery run. After taking the day off yesterday to heal a mild cough in the lungs, my legs felt great!
I stayed patient, with my sights on the upcoming week.
Patience + Practice = Performance
At the 1972 Olympics, all of the pre-game buzz was on rock star USA 5,000m runner Steve Prefontaine. The anticipation was high to see how he would do against an international field. Would his front running style hold up?
And then there was the 800m race, featuring American Dave Wottle. Recently married he was written off as having got "soft" in his training build up and wedding bells.
Well, since I am writing this you can guess what happened. Prefontaine faided, stumbling to 4th.
Wottle was in last for most of the 1st lap, and then out kicked everyone for Gold.
Running Takes Patience
This weekend I have several athletes racing: La Marathon, 6 hour ultra, and a training run 5k.
Their race strategies employ being patient to perform.
》the marathoners are looking to stay patient during the first 20 and then "race" the last 10k.
》The 6 hour ultra strategy is to run in zone 1-2 for the first 4 hours and then run trail marathon pace for the last 2 hours.
》the 5k strategy is to hold back the 1st mile about 15 seconds slower than 5k pace to avoid going too fast, and then building to the finish.
I believe there is always a way to improve our running, regardless of age, experience, ability, and goals. And this path to improvement usually includes patience and practicing something new.
Run Strong and demand the impossible.
With Teton National Park 30 minutes up the road from my house, this usually gets most of my attention for running. But this Fall I decided to change things up and look to create some run projects that are even closer to home and focus on exploring more vertical gain, peaks, and off-trail ridge line link ups (My Training). So I have spent the last month exploring to develop some of these adventures for the future, either leaving directly from home or after a very short drive approach.
My first reconnaissance project was to run Cache Peak. The trail head is a five mile drive from home, with a 5 mile dirt road/double track trail approach to the Gros Ventre Wilderness Boundary. So I decided to ride my snow bike up this 5 mile, 1,000 ft elevation gain, section and ditch the bike at the start of the Wilderness line that marks the beginning of the climb to Cache Peak.
I am very blessed to live here in the Jackson Hole area, but it is a choice and more importantly, I feel adventures begin with a mindset and rely on originality and creativity.
creative: characterized by originality and imagination.
creator: one that creates.
We all have this ability, regardless of where we live. Any location can provide stimulus for doing something different and creating something original for your running.
Here is my adventure, Five Mile Drive from Home. What can you create, five miles from your home?
Ditching the bike at The Gros Ventre Wilderness Boundary
Cache Peak in the distance: The Start of the Run
Heading towards the Divide Looking back at the trail
Cache Peak Approach: right side ridge
The Ridge line Route to Cache Peak - 10,167 ft
Western view of Jackson Hole heading up the Ridge
View from south end of Cache Peak Summit: looking at the next project
Date - October 25, 2014
Mtn Bike Ride Approach/return - 10 miles total, 994 ft elevation gain, 80 min total
Run Moving time - 2:30
Run Distance - 8.7 miles
Run Elevation Gain - 2,992 ft
Shorts/shirt - Marmot
Shoes - older pair of La Sportiva X Country. Great sticky rubber good for rock scramble.
Snow Bike - Surley Pugsley
Compression Socks - CEP
Hydration Pack - Marmot Kompressor
Hydration - 1 bottle SOS Hydration + 1 bottle water
Fuel - Coconut Taos Mountain Energy Bar
I stood high on this peak during the Fall season in the Tetons, enjoying the reward of magnificent views that come from 6,000+ feet of running and climbing. I took the below winter photo during a ten mile run. These two photos grasp the beauty of the Tetons in different ways, BUT also show the SAME peak in both shots. Two ways of looking at the same thing - two different perspectives.
You could agrue that they are both stunning in their own right, and maybe even the winter landscape is more beautiful in many eyes. It depends on your perspective. To look at the first photo, you get a dramatic look at the rough, jagged rock, and an intimate feel. But the second landscape photo actually brings the first photo into perspective and gives the context of the effort required to be on top of one of those peaks in the distance. Both photos, independent of each other, are beautiful, but you need both of the photos to put the experience and effort into perspective.
Many times, our running represents just one photo. We get stuck doing what we always do, running that same route or loop each morning. Or, our long run sub-consciously has morphed into always 12 miles, or one long hill is enough.
But what if you start creating another photo and challenge your personal perspective - giving way to an elevated sense of ability and performance. All of a sudden with two photos, you experience things differently. You "up" the ante and set a new bar for yourself that creates new motivation and ultimately you begin to see that you are capable of much more than you think.
And more importantly, you begin to seek more photos and more perspectives that allow you to understand that we now have an infinite process and way to improve.
Get up earlier and do two loops, do that long hill 2 or 3 times. Add more miles to your week by doing some night running and make it an adventure. Run twice a day to get in more miles or get a group together and run to breakfast and continue running until it is time for lunch.
Create your own personal challenges and adventures using a bit of creativity or what I call a home grown adventure. Go run the Grand Canyon and experience what it is like to run DOWN first, and then UP, after a long day.
Our minds have a tendency to get stale, that gives way to a comfortable sense of belief and truth that is just an illusion and our worse enemy. Don't believe your thoughts, believe your experiences! Reality is not how you look at it, reality is how you see it.
We don't need mountains, everyone has the potential for new perspectives and new ways to improve, regardless of location, age or ability.
BONUS: Using the second photo, who can guess which peak I am on the summit of in the first photo? Let me know below.
Sitting at Grouse aid station, mile 59, I see that line again. I see it in front of me, kinda like a mirage. Imaginary, but real, tangible but elusive. Like the end of a rainbow or the floating heat waves off of a hot highway. You squint to see it clearer, drawn to it. You want to chase it, touch it, but you can’t ever quite reach it. There it is again, “come... try to step across” it whispers. “Follow me”. I just didn’t have the heart, or quite honestly the back, lungs, or legs to follow that line, to reach out to it again. My quads were completely trashed. I had tip-toed, hopped, and danced a funky chicken sorta run down the 3-4 mile descent into Grouse. I was still moving, but it felt like my quads were tearing apart. I had been struggling on the previous 2 climbs as well, with my breathing and effort. I felt like I had a rope tied tight around my chest, pulling a heavy sled behind me on that last climb up Engineers.
We started at 6am at the Silverton school gym. I gave the kids and Todd one last hug and kiss and joined the rest of the runners at the start line. The weather was perfect. We made our way out of town, across a stream and up into the San Juan’s. I kept my effort in check, running the flatter and downs easily and hiking the climbs. I used one pole in my right hand as I climbed. I had torn my left rotator cuff last year during a fall on Hayden trail while doing trail work for the race, and ended up having 2 complete tendon tears that were repaired back in November. My left shoulder still not strong enough to use a pole. The sunrise was amazing as we hit Putnam Cataract Ridge, sitting at around 12,600ft, just 9 miles into the race. I ran easily down, staying relaxed and comfortable, knowing my quads were in for a looooot of downhill running. Coming down, we ran into volunteers representing the Golden Gate Dirty 30 race organization. They gave us kisses and well wishes. Below a pic of what a Hardrock aid station looks like for those who always ask..."what do they have at aid stations?" Well...at Hardrock...a little bit of everything served by angels.
I entered KT aid station at about mile 11 and emptied out granola bar wrappers, filled my hydration pack, and gobbled up a BLT sandwich made by the aid station volunteers and took off. About ⅛ mi from the aid station, I realized I had forgot to grab more fuel. Grrr. Back to the aid station, I grabbed a granola bar and a PB&J sandwich for the next climb. As we made our way up toward the next mountain pass, I met up with Louis Escobar, a very accomplished ultra runner, race director, and photographer. Although physically and cognitively far more superior, he has the cool accent and demeanor of Cheech, from Cheech and Chong. I was climbing with my PB&J in a baggie in my left hand and pole in my right. My intent was to have that sandwich eaten by the time I hit the peak. After a fair amount of climbing and no eating, Louis started making fun of me and my “sammy”. “Is that your security blanket?”, he teased. “Are you going to just carry that with you for 100 miles?”. I let Louis ahead of me as we got close to the pass and finished off my “sammy”.
We were now up at near 13,000ft and I was severely anxious about going over Grant’s Swamp Pass. I picked up a stone on my climb, and set it down at the memorial of Joel Zucker. He was a beloved Hardrocker who passed away shortly after his 3rd consecutive finish. I had been up there a few weeks earlier and peered over the edge. It’s a rock/dirt scree field at least ¼ mile long and STRAIHAIT down. My options were to ski on my feet or sit on my ass and slide down. Sliding down a rock scree on your ass is about as pleasant an experience as, well, sliding down a rock scree on your ass. Standing and skiing, I risked toppling over and rolling down the mountain; again, about as pleasant an experience as.... Louis looked like he was jumping off a diving board. I Don’t remember what he said, but he whooped and hollered and jumped landing feet first in the scree, surfing his way down. The hilarity of the scene removed my terror momentarily, and I jumped in behind him. Below PC @silentsummits.typepad.com.
The trick was to not send rocks and boulders down onto the person below while at the same time, avoiding any rocks being hurled at you from above. We all tried to pick different lines, but invariably I heard “roooock!” from above, and had to dart a few times to avoid getting hit. It was rather like skiing on top of an avalanche of rock and gravel, the whole mountain feels like it’s sliding out from under you. It turned out to be a blast.
Once I got to the bottom, I took a few moments to look back at what I had just done, and hoped I’d never forget how that felt. PC@endurancebuzz.com
The next 5 miles down the mountain were gorgeous. We ran across a grassy bench, then down around into a canyon of rocky dirt trails, grass, streams, and across rock slides. We continued to switchback down the meadows and rock into the pine forest. We reached an old, no longer used, jeep road and crossed a low river to get to Chapman aid station at mile 18, around 10,000ft elevation. I refilled my water, grabbed more bars and a couple of sandwiches and headed out. My feet were wet from stream crossings, and I was starting to notice a few hot spots on the bottoms. My feet were sliding around just ever so slightly in my shoes and creating friction when I ran. I tightened up my shoelaces, which took care of the problem.
The next climb was up Oscar’s Pass. Not a terrifically long climb, 3 miles, but a terrifically steep one, or seemingly so. It would top out at 13,400ft. I struggled up this climb. Breathing hard and moving oh-so-slow. I felt like a caterpillar on valium. My lower back was starting to ache as I climbed. “Pain is not a catastrophe... explore it” was the comment made by Dr. Halvorson, one of the medical directors at the pre race meeting. Pain automatically triggers anxiety. “Fix it, make it stop,or do something different”. But pain is just a signal. It doesn’t mean death is eminent, and it doesn’t always mean action is required. The pain I was experiencing was to be expected, it was not a dangerous sign, it was normal for the situation. Just tired muscles that wanted rest. Just seeing pain as nothing more than that helped me relax and climb. And, funny enough it dulled the pain. Yep, this is gonna hurt. Nope, it’s not serious. And, it will ease up when I get to go downhill, it always does.
Once again, the downhill revived me, relieved my pain, and I was witness to beautiful streams, meadow shelfs, rocky trails, and thousands upon thousands of wildflowers popping pink, purple, blue, yellow, and orange all around.PC@irunfar.com
The skies had intermittently thrown a little rain and thunder around, but very little at this point. We had a good 4 mile descent down into Telluride. All systems were go when I arrived. It was around 4:30-5:30, about 10 hours into the race. I was definitely behind my anticipated ETA. I sat for the first time and ate soup while my crew prepared me for the night. Knowing I wouldn’t make it to Ouray before dark, I added to my pack a headlamp, warm base layer top, and rain jacket. With full hydration pack and plenty of fuel I was in and out in about 9 minutes. I gave the kids and Todd kisses and headed out and up again.
We headed up the next mountain toward the infamous Kroger’s aid station. This aid station is perched precariously at a 13,000ft jagged tip on Virginius Pass. PC@FRederick Marmsater Photography. The volunteers here back pack up this aid station. They all have hard hats on. Complete with cook stove, and elite athletes Joe Grant and Anna Frost preparing perogies on demand. This climb proved even more challenging than the last. By about 2 miles into the climb, I was struggling again. Dog sled behind me. As I approached the first ridgeline, I could see that line again, wavering in front of me, my edge, my outer boundary... would I actually reach it on this climb. Each climb my breathing was more labored and my pace slower. That sense that something was pulling me backward while I was fighting forward was returning. It was here I was starting to wonder if the little hole in my heart the cardiologist found the week before was making things harder for me.
I have always had difficulty with altitude races. I love them, but I have always felt like i’ve had way more difficulty than I should when I do them. I just never seem to perform to my ability at altitude. I’ve always chalked it up to not living or being able to train much at altitude, and just maybe lack of mental or physical fortitude, but when I came out to Silverton 3 weeks ago for a training week, I had severe problems and became worried enough to seek medical attention.
3 weeks prior to the race, I had planned a BIG training week in Silverton. I was planning to get as many miles on the course over a week as I could, up to 20 miles/day for 5 days. With each consecutive day I became more short of breath, more swollen, and slower. By the 4-5th day, I could hardly walk from the car to a restaurant without stopping to breathe. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut, tender and sore over my stomach and right upper abdomen, and very swollen by day 5. When I got back I had an echocardiogram and EKG done. I have a patent foramen ovale (small hole between the upper chambers of my heart) and some EKG changes. I also have a genetic mutation causing me to have high iron levels. This too can cause heart problems. As I write this, I am still in the process of having all of this figured out. At this point, we don’t know if this is actually impacting my performance at altitude or if it is just incidental, but either way it definitely impacted my psyche on this race. The cardiologist felt I had also created a lot of my own misery on this training week, creating a perfect storm by going from 600ft elevation to 9,000-14,000ft elevation and exerting myself over high mountain passes within less than 24 hours of arriving. We reviewed my electrolyte supplementation and fluid intake and I overdid it there too. The cardiologist encouraged me to run the race, assuring me, I was not in any significant danger as long as I allowed myself to acclimate for a week and avoided electrolyte tabs and only drank to thirst, no regimented water/fluid intake. So needless to say, when things started getting tough, I had this in the back of my mind as well. I had plenty of slow uphill miles to convince myself I was going into heart failure. By the time I reached Kroger’s I was pretty shaken and It wasn’t about to get easier. The freshly cooked perogie was amazing, and I sat until I caught my breath and a little more sense of mind.
Three weeks ago, I had climbed Virginius with now 13 hardrock finisher Chris Twiggs. We descended the other side, sliding down scree and bits of trail. I had assumed this was the route we would take down again. I wasn’t prepared for what we were about to do. I had heard there would be a rope to help with the down climb, but I didn’t realized the rope would BE the down climb. A gentleman with a hard hat and a rope dangling the length of a football field or more down stood to the right of where I had gone down in training. We would not be taking the trail, we would be down climbing the rock and scree face. No harness. No hard hat. I had not downclimbed in years, and never without a harness. Not to mention that bum left shoulder that can’t even lift a cast iron skillet. I did have gloves. I did have gloves. Ok, “I can do this”, I told myself as the bright blue-eyed gentleman gave me a 30 second in-service. I grabbed the rope and took my first step off. My left foot planted on a rock sticking out of the mountain, which immediately crumbled out from under me. It sent me swinging out wide to my right, hitting the mountain with the entire right side of my body and swinging me back to where I started. I dangled free of the mountain, hanging onto the rope looking despirately up at the gentleman with the bright blue eyes, eyes that were now the size of saucers. I’m sure I had the same look on my face. He was too far up to help me. I looked down, I couldn’t hold on like this forever. My options were a 50-75 meter fall, or get my feet back on the mountain and work my way down dammit. I did my darndest to accomplish the later, and finally gained footing and remembered how to down climb...feet out front, keep that left hand behind your butt, right hand in front of your face and work your way down. And I did it. Once again, at the bottom of a gnarly descent, but this time not so sure I wanted to remember that moment forever like the descent of Grant’s Swamp Pass.
Grateful to have that over with, I slid and skied down the next 2 pitches to the jeep road at the bottom. Now would be 8 miles down a secure jeep road to Ouray. The first mile or two were ok. The next 6 my quads become more and more tender. By the last 2-3 miles I was barely running on veeeery tender quads. They felt like they were bleeding. At Governor’s aid station, about halfway down I refueled, ate 2 cups of soup as quickly as I could, and turned on my headlamp. I ran with several different runners. I met a few Aussies and came upon Kirk Apt, working on his 24th finish. Yeah, fathom that! In retrospect I could’ve run faster down, it wouldn’t have hurt any more and it would’ve meant less overall time banging my quads.
I finally made it to Ouray, still somewhat convinced I was in heart failure, or maybe just wishing I was so I could call it done. Good friends Chris and Janet Cantwell were working Ouray aid station. Janet, “doc” checked me out. Normal oxygen level, normal lung sounds….I wasn’t dying. Damn. “I guess I don’t have a good reason not to keep going”, so with my tail between my legs I took some dry clothes to the bathroom to change out of sweaty shorts, bra, t-shirt and into warm dry clothes for the long night ahead. It was about 10:30pm. This was mile 44, and time to pick up a pacer. James Reeves would be running the night shift with me. When I changed clothes, I took off my bad attitude and in my brain, put on my superhero clothes. With each new piece of clothing, each bite of soup/food/whatever-the-heck I ate, I felt stronger, more confident, happy again. Headlamp back on. Backup batteries in pack, gels, water... let’s roll.
I ran the streets and as we started to climb out of town, I ran the flatter sections. When we hit the Bear Creek trailhead we started the steeper climbing and the long hike began. We were headed 8 miles up to Engineer aid station at around 12,000ft. Bear Creek trail had been closed to the public due to damage from rock and dirt slides caused by flooding during some heavy rains earlier in the week, only the Hardrock runners and their pacers were allowed to go up. I’ve decided Bear Creek trail is far less nerve wracking at night. You simply cannot see how far down you would fall if you took a misstep. Hundreds of feet in some places. We could hear the creek roaring beside and below us. It runs and falls, and is beautiful to see during the day, but a bit daunting to hear so far below at night. I felt pretty good for a while, but after 2ish hours of climbing, my back was spasming pretty good on the left side. I stopped every little bit to stretch and try to release it. It worked temporarily. The higher we got the worse it spasmed, and once again the rope around my chest tightened and the proverbial sled behind me felt heavier pulling me back as I pushed forward. I no longer feared heart failure, I was just pissed off that it was so f’ing hard.
We entered Engineer aid station and ate more soup and regrouped for the final push up Engineer. Another hour or more of back spasms and heavy breathing and we were at the top. I was determined to continue to fuel and hydrate, and take such good care of my body that I could know I had given myself every chance to feel better, to hurt less, to make it as far as possible as fast as possible. About that time a gel exploded all over my gloves. Nice. We hit the pass and started running down, 3 miles down to Grouse aid station. Once again, my quads were pretty busted, feeling like they were ripping apart as I went. We made it into Grouse at mile 58 at 5:30am. I ate, I slept a little, promising myself I would refuel and rest before I made my final decision. After an hour, I told James I was done. I felt like I had at the very end of 100 miles of other mountain races. I could not coax my back or quads to climb and descend another mountain. They were done. I knew without a doubt I would not be able to make it over 4 more peaks/passes on these legs. I wasn’t willing to torture myself any further to go any farther. I didn’t want to hate the experience.
A big part of racing for me in these mountains is the joy it brings me. Pain is part of it, it always is, and sometimes lots of pain. But going on would be torture. I finished my race with not an ounce of disappointment. I wished I could’ve taken James over Handie’s peak. That was my only sadness, that he would not see it, but I was wholly satisfied. Back in Oklahoma, I’m still grateful and pleased with how hard I worked, how far I went. I was the best me out there. Now it’s time to take care of myself, check out the ticker, and start working on the next adventure! Onward and upward.
Thank you to everyone who has followed and supported me on this journey. Todd, my rock, my love, my biggest fan. My kids who love and support me, and tell me to keep going. James and David, who have crewed and paced me on more than one mountain adventure, and their families who sacrificed their dad/husband/boyfriend to support me and help me through the race. Jeremy Harrison, pinch hitter crew. Thank you Jeremy for stepping in last minute to crew, sorry you didn’t get to pace me….although I think it was a blessing for you that you didn’t have to! Thank you to coach Eric Orton, coaching me now for over 6 years. Best coach in the world, bar none. Thanks to my Dad, ever present on my runs in my heart and in my head. You all are a part of who I am, and forever hold a piece of my heart.
In this Vlog post, I discuss how to improve your marathon time and the importance of getting faster at a One Mile time trial. Here is a simple chart to help you compare your One Mile test time with an equivalent marathon potential time.
Your Cool Impossible Marathon speed training zone is SP Zone 2.
One Mile Test Time Marathon Potential Time
Back in September 2015 I spent a few days in Jackson Hole with Eric on one of his run camps
I’d been hatching a Cool Impossible to run (solo) one of the long distance footpaths in the UK. I challenge not only of running ability but also navigation and logistical support.
The run camp provided a lot of support, knowledge and advice around what was needed to run “all day”, in particular around HRZs
At that time the CI was a long term aim, and I had no races or events planned
I clearly remember Eric saying – “Rich make sure you have a goal”. Waiting at the airport to fly home I wrote down a lot of what Eric had said, but I didn’t write down “make sure you have a goal”.
So this is what happened. Came back to the UK after the camp, re-did a mile test, set some new HRZ boundaries with Eric’s help, and ran to the zones that would support going “all day”. By spring 2016 I realised I was running faster by running slower – the whole fat burning thing was right (not that I doubted Eric). Around May 2016 I did a test ‘adventure’ run from seal level on the coast up to a town on the high moors – 20 odd miles, testing navigation, hydration, fuelling and running ability. All worked well, but I didn’t set any “goals” other than the long term CI aim I had – and that was the problem I had it pinned as “long term” “one day” “may be”, and then my running started to drift
Autumn came around, my youngest moved up to senior school (my other two were already there) my eldest started a critical exam year at school, in October 2016 we decided to move house, we moved in December 2016. Spent early part of 2017 settling into new house, my eldest kids exams came and went, and all the time the running just drifted.
The long term CI goal, seemed even further away and I was only running about once a week (previously I’d run at least 3 times a week)
I dug out my note book from when I’d first planned my long term CI back in 2015 – something jumped out at me from the page – “for build up do an organised race”
I could hear Eric’s voice in my head “Rich make sure you have a goal”
I’ve been on the case, I have two possible races lined up for 2018 – just waiting on confirmation of dates from the organisers to make sure it all fits – but even if they don’t work out there will be an off-road race of at least 50k for me in 2018. These and no doubt others will be my stepping stone to my CI to run a long distance footpath – solo.
This Sunday’s run was awesome as a result – took off out the door full of ideas for race training – and aced the heart zones on the run – best feel run I’ve had in ages
Folks – have a goal – stay on track!
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