100k worlds

WC100k- Partial race report (or a full report of a partial race)

Team USA before winning Team Silver (women) and Team Gold (men)

In some of my darker moments since the race, I had decided that I was going to name this blog "flunking out of ultrarunning school" because this is my second DNF this year and that makes me one for three on the year at even completing ultras. I feel like DNF's are highly judged in our sport even if the reasons for dropping on valid and intelligent. It is hard to not internalize that judgement and let it stack upon the feelings you already have about having to drop from a race. I don't want to be seen as a quitter, because I am certainly not one. Over the past few days, I have felt less of an ultrarunner or some how a fake because I have dropped from races.  I know that is not true, but the emotions one feels after dropping out of their goal race are anything but rational.

Now, three days later, back home and recovering, I am able to forgive myself more and actually believe (at least mostly) that some days just aren't your day. I was fit and ready as I could be and the result of the race was not because of fitness, it was just what the day had for me. And I was faced with a problem that I could not fix. 

The race

I adjusted pretty well to the time change and for once, the few days before the race passed quickly and without a whole lot of nerves. My body didn't feel fantastic but I knew that the creaks and niggles would shake themselves out as the race unfolded and would likely help make me run my goal pace instead of starting out too fast.

The race started at 10am, so I got up before 7 and had my oats and peanut butter and coffee. I was feeling pretty good. Very calm, no nerves, just ready (I think running 4 sub 2:56 marathon/ marathon splits during longer training runs helps feel that way). I feel that way going into races that I know I have prepared myself as best I can for. It is not a cocky, I've got this feeling, it is a feeling of knowing that I have done all I can and that the race will be what it will be and I am prepared to do my best.

I hopped on the shuttle with the other Team USA ladies, Meghan, Amy, Pam, Annette and Carolyn and we made our way to Winschoten for the start. Meghan and I had similar time goals (around 7:30 finishing time), so we had planned to run together and keep pace as long as we could. In flat loop courses like this, there is nothing nicer than having company. And Meghan is one of my very favorite people, so that makes it a nice thing too. Meghan ended up running a 7:51, which is a World Best for 50+ age group. 

photo from Amy

We lined up at the start line and were off before we knew it. We got caught in a major traffic jam and had to weave our way around until we finally found some space to run in and settled into our pace. Meghan, Amy, Jo (from Great Britain) and I ran together. We were clocking sub 7:10 min/mile but it felt very comfortable and easy to me. We chatted and clicked off the kms as comfortable as possible. 

The day itself was incredibly warm, especially for someone like me that has been training in 50 degrees and cloudy. It was high 70s with 70% humidity. The days leading up to the race were very "San Francisco" cold, rainy and cloudy, so I had not anticipated that the race would be hot. I was very wrong. When I planned my race nutrition strategy, I had planned to get a salt tab every other lap (so every 20k) because I don't drink that much when it is cool out. 

I felt really good for the first few laps. We went through the 10k splits ahead of 7:30 finishing time pace, but I was unconcerned. I felt that if I was comfortable at the half way mark, it would be possible for me to negative split. I just wanted to get through halfway feeling good. On lap 3, my stomach started flopping a bit and I could tell that I was going to have an issue. Luckily we were coming into the aid station and I called for Nathan to grab me some Immodium. I knew the Immodium would dehydrate me a bit, but not nearly as bad as having diarrhea would. I hit the port-o-potty once but then the Immodium kicked in. I upped my water and did my best to keep myself cool. I had fun trying to catch Meghan again because I wanted to still run with her and threw down some 6:40s in her pursuit.

 It must be 45k. On my race plan that is the first time I get kisses.
High speed kisses can be dangerous.

We kept on cruising and my legs were still feeling fresh. I took a gel every lap from Nathan and felt like I was right where I wanted to be. We were running in the top 10 and on perfect 7:30 pace as we crossed the 50k mark in 3:45. I was stoked.

And then I was concerned. Just after the 1st crew aid station (at the .25km mark), I started to notice that I was having some cramping in my stomach (about where my kidneys are). It was a dull ache, annoying but not overly concerning. I was already passed the aid station so I couldn't get another salt which I quickly realized was what I needed. I made it to the next aid station but was cramping severely by the time I got there. I had Nathan get me a salt pill and requested that they inform the other side that I was going to need salt every time I came through. I was forced to back off the pace and figured that the salt would kick in and the muscles would release. But they didn't.

I made it through 60k and got to the aid station in severe pain. It felt like my ab muscles were getting a charlie horse. It is the worse cramping I have ever felt and I have never felt cramps like that in a race before. It wasn't my stomach cramping, I could eat and drink fine, it was the muscles. It was like a sword was being driven into my abs. I wanted to give it some time to resolve and so I kept going. The abs would release a bit and I would start moving again and then after a few more minutes they would tighten even worse and I would have to stop doubled over or run slightly stooped. I took another salt tab at 65k, but was not feeling any relief. I felt like I was barely moving and was not pushing myself anymore and I could feel nothing but worse. I practically walked the loop, running 11 minutes slower than I had been. I crossed the 70k mark and the cramps redoubled their strength and the pain shot down through my legs and up around my lungs. I hobbled into the aid station and asked Lion what to do. They fed me salt and gave me coke but I knew I could not go on. I couldn't even stand up, let alone run. I knew I was done.

I had spent the entirety of lap 7 considering if I could or would just walk it in. I decided that what was happening was happening and that I wouldn't drop just because my race wasn't going as I planned. But that changed when I came to the aid station and it felt like my abdominal muscles were pulling. Not being able to stand up is problematic when it comes to run/walking/continuing. I decided to sit down for a while and see if things would release. My whole body became one big cramp when I sat down. After sitting there for 30 or more minutes, I finally acknowledged I couldn't go on. I have never felt that bad of cramping in my life and I still didn't want to quit but I also didn't want to go on. I relinquished my chip and broke down. Nathan came running from the other aid station and helped try and console me. I cheered on my teammates and watched them finish.

The team did awesome. The men won team gold and the women team silver. I am very proud of them and appreciate the support that many of them showed me. 

The day after the race, I was beating myself up pretty bad, second guessing, comparing, and judging myself. This was my goal race and it was hard to have put all of my eggs in one basket and then have it not work out. I was fit enough to stand on the podium and yet didn't even finish the race. I bashed myself plenty both internally and out loud to Nathan over lunch in Amsterdam. It is just the natural emotions of missing a goal. It is nothing more nothing less, I am allowed some disappointment, some sadness and anger. 

But then I had a bit of a change of perspective. Sunday evening after we went to bed, I was awakened by severe food poisoning. I spent the entire night in the bathroom very ill and could barely take a sip of water. I finally stopped barfing and crapping after about 7 hours, but was left very weak and still nauseated. We were flying home that morning, so I only hoped that I wouldn't spent the entire flight barfing or in the toliet. I spent the flight in great discomfort, all 11 hours of it, but thankfully I didn't get sick on the plane. Nathan and the KLM staff took good care of me and I did my best to ride the waves of feeling good and bad. The reason that this offers a change in perspective to me is because despite the fact that I prepared all of my own food in order to ensure that I didn't eat any gluten before the race or other things I couldn't have, I still got sick. Sometimes, it doesn't matter what you do or how much you try and control the factors, it still doesn't work out. I am not sure whether or not the food poisoning happened before the race ( food poisoning can occur anywhere in a 48 hour period after eating the contaminated food) or if the cramps were a symptom of the food poisoning (as that is one of the symptoms, along with the diarrhea that I had), I don't think it matters really. While it would explain a lot, the perspective it offers is enough.

When my head was in the toilet, I was not lamenting my DNF. I was not judging myself based on my running accomplishments. All I wanted in the world was to feel good again. I knew even at the worst moments of the sickness that it would pass and I would feel better, maybe not right away but I would. The same goes for running. In the grand scheme of things, what happened happened. It doesn't make me a bad runner to have a bad day. There will be plenty more good and bad days in my life and the way we weather them is what matters. I won't chastise myself any long for my DNF. I will move on. It doesn't change anything about me as a person or me as a runner, it was just what the day had. It is sad, it is unfortunate, it is painful, but it will pass. Now, I just look forward to the next opportunity I have to try again at having the day I wanted. That is part of the adventure, that is part of the reason we do this. The challenge, the uncertainty, the huge potential for failure- that is what makes the successes that much sweeter.

The Pretender

Post 100k WC 2009 in Belgium. 4th place, team gold.

After Hardrock pacing, I switched gears and started focusing on my goal race for the early fall: the 2011 WC100k as a member of Team USA. My training started off well and I was feeling fast and strong, focused and like my training was progressing in a promising manner. One of my first big long runs on the road was a 5:07 effort for 42 very hilly miles from San Francisco to Fairfax to Stinson Beach. It was suppose to be a 4 hr effort but when I mapped out the route, I missed that google maps had sent me down a little known or possibly non-existent trail from Bolinas Fairfax road and I proceeded down the road that I was familiar with. After that run, I decided that it would be the only 5 hr effort I would do before the 100k. More than one might tax my body too much and I felt that I wanted to heed the lessons from Mad City 100k earlier in the year: that less is more.

I recovered well from that effort and a week later pounded out a solid effort at the SF Marathon with Nathan. I was very pleased with a 2:53 on that marathon course without any taper to speak of and the long run the week before. I took my normal day off on the following Monday and was back to training Tuesday with a good track workout in which I felt very strong. Wednesday I did a solid double workout day for a total of 20 miles. Thursday I hit a wall. I am not sure if it was a mental or physical one, probably a bit of both. I had moved my 4hr long run from Sunday to Thursday because I was heading out of town for the OR show on Friday and couldn't be sure I would have the time to do an effort like that while in Salt Lake. I doubted it. So in the wee hours of Thursday morning (I started running at 4:30am), I headed out with the intention of getting in my 4 hrs. It was raining, cold, windy and foggy. My body was feeling fatigued from the marathon on Sunday and my mind was saying, "I am just not that into this". I decided that physically and mentally, it was better to NOT push through so close to the marathon and did a modified route, covering 22 miles for the day. I finished up the week strong, including the hardest 15 minutes of my life at the Uphill Challenge, followed by a fantastic double day with friends on the trails in SLC. I ran 108 miles, despite no "long" runs and was satisfied.

Pre-100k training with Bestest Everest in 2009. 40 miles in 4:42.

Last week, I put in solid effort after solid effort (with plenty of recovery efforts in there too). I had a good track workout on Tuesday (400, 800, 400, 800, 400, 800, 400, 800. All repeats 1:17-1:19, 2:40-2:43) and ran doubles everyday. By Thursday morning, I could tell that I was feeling off. Not physically, just mentally. I was feeling down in the dumps. I was feeling unmotivated. I was feeling grumpy. I think the weather was just weighing on me and couldn't talk myself out of the negative space I was occupying. So on Thursday afternoon, I did something drastic. I just drove and drove until I found the sun and then ran on trails until I was tired, a bit sunburned and uplifted by a few hours in the sun. It meant 25 miles for the day, but unlike what my training plan called for. I didn't care. I needed to be happier above all else. I needed to crawl out of the doldrums. Friday morning, Nathan and I chased the sun again, this time on Mt. Tam above the fog. I was feeling more uplifted, more like me. I had my long run planned for Saturday and Nathan and I made a plan for meeting up in Tennessee Valley after I did a 42 mile road loop (the Paradise loop+ more from the city). I set off in the wind, cold and fog but couldn't get my mind into the effort in from of me. By mile 7, I was texting Nathan that I just wasn't into the run. I decided to have him pick me up at mile 11.5 and I would run with him on Mt. Tam for a couple of hours. I managed 4 hours for the day with 2.5 hours of that in the glorious sun on Mt. Tam but the workout was not the confidence booster I wanted or needed. I still remember back to my last Worlds in 2009 where I had a fantastic 40 mile run which Jonathan joined me for the second half of. I had not yet had a fantastic indicator workout on this cycle. Instead, I was just worrying that I had overcooked myself somehow. I ran on the trails again Sunday and gave myself a break from the road. I just ran and enjoyed myself again instead of worrying about the miles, splits and what this meant for my race. I covered 110 miles for the week, again with no real "long run" and 4 days of pure trail.

WC100k 2009.

I went into this week determined to have quality workouts. I decided that it wasn't a matter of hoping for a good workout or week, I would simply decide it to be so and it would be. And in the two workouts thus far this week, it is abundantly clear that I am ready. Tuesday I headed to the track and focused on hammering out my relatively light workout of 5x400 repeats with 200 recovery. I smashed the workout, finishing my last three repeats in 74, 73 and 70. I pushed myself and found, much like I did during the Uphill Challenge, that I had yet another gear. I finished the last workout and received applause from a few onlookers. One came over to me and said that he has seen me working out at the track and that I really inspire him with my hardwork. It was a really nice compliment and I appreciated that someone took the time to say it. I warmed down with Nathan and was very stoked to have run a 70. I don't think I have run a 70 yet this year and I am encouraged by the thought of getting faster at the track.

This morning, I planned to do my long run as we have fun trail plans for the weekend. I didn't want to miss out on a good road effort, even though I was worried about my ability to motivate myself to hit another 4-ish hr road effort. I decided to run 50k and see what I could do comfortably hard. 

Before I headed out this morning, I read an interesting article entitled "You Become What Your Pretend to Be". It really resounded with me. It was exactly what I needed. Last Saturday, I did a lot of negative self talk and talked myself out of my workout. I was determined not to do that today. Instead, I would simply pretend and therefore make it so. So I pretended:
that I was strong
that I was fast
that I was motivated
that I was worthy of a gold medal
that I was ready
that I was inspired
that I could do anything

And from the start, the workout was completely different. I ran comfortably but felt a levity about the journey ahead. Instead of worrying how the workout would go, I simply told myself it would be a good one. By the time I reached the other side of the Golden Gate bridge, I was dripping with sweat and beaming with pride (mind you it is only mile 7 at this point). I knew I was going to have a breakthrough workout. I knew I would never have doubts. I knew that I would run strong and fast and push it harder with each passing mile. And it was so.

I ran out to the end of the bike path in Mill Valley and turned around, laughing at the headwind that seemed to blow in both directions. I was 13.5+ miles into the run in 1:29. I popped a gel and headed back towards the bridge. At this point, I decided that I would push the remaining miles despite knowing that all of the bigger hills lay before me. I wanted to get to mile 20 steadily and then do a fast finish. I hit the 20 mile mark in 2:14 and pressed across the Golden Gate bridge with a smile on my face. Making it back across the bridge is such a nice feeling. I feel almost home, even though when I got across I took a right turn and headed away from home. I was determined to hit a sub 3 for my marathon split despite miles 22-26 being very hilly and partially on trail through Land's End including a sand ladder. I made it through Land's End and sprinted down the hill towards the beach hitting the marathon in 2:55:44. I realized that I was what I had started out pretending to be. I cannot remember the moment when I crossed from "fake it til you make it" into this being the reality of things. I was LOVING the run. I felt strong and fast and inspired. I just felt good. My body felt alive even though I was running really hard.

The final 4.5 ish miles home were no easy task. It is uphill all the way from the beach but I was determined not to relent on the pace and zig zagged my way up the park, up each hill and sandy bit of trail. The miles ticked away and I approached the final giant hill up to my house. I pushed up it, grunting, sweat flying everywhere. I wouldn't go easy on myself even though I was nearly home. I pushed up and over the top and sprinted down my block and beyond my house. I simply couldn't finish my run .01 short of a perfect 50k. I didn't have to go far and I dramatically hit stop on my watch 3:29:13. 6:44 min/mile for a 50k. Wow. That felt good. 

As the article mentioned, "our attitudes influence our behavior" as well as "our behavior influences our attitudes". On this run, I definitely found this to be true. I started off the run with a positive, even if just pretending or slightly uncertain, attitude and it made my behavior positive as well. Because I felt positive, happy and hopeful about the run, my running was comfortable, strong and inspired. Then, because my run was going well, my attitude continually got more positive and inspired. By the end, I am sure I looked like a crazy person running 6:40s through the park with a wild grin on my face. I became what I pretended to be. It was the breakthrough I was hoping for and it shows me that come race day there will be no pretending. There will just be a goofy grin and joyful running as I count off loops in a small town in the Netherlands.

Two for the road- SF Marathon race report

Photo from the article about us in the SF Examiner
Copyright Cindy Chew/ SF Examiner

Last Sunday a great article about Nathan and I running SF Marathon came out in the SF Examiner. We had fun being interviewed and doing the photoshoot and were look forward to the first time actually running a race together. We have run the same race before, but we have never stuck together the whole time. We have run plenty of miles side by side, but I was curious to see how it would play out in a race circumstance.

I signed up for SF marathon quite some time ago as a training race for the upcoming WC100k. In years passed, I have run a marathon as training for other 100ks and like doing a hard "speed workout" by racing a marathon. I asked Nathan if he wanted to join me and he did so we got signed up as elites. I never was focusing on this race and neither was Nathan. For me, it was a part of training. The week before the race, I ran over 115 miles including a hard 42.5 mile run. The week of the race, I trained pretty well for the beginning of the week and did a mini (2 day) taper for the race. I wanted to go in tired, but not wrecked. Nathan has been in recovery for the past few weeks after Hardrock. He runs when he wants (still mostly every day) but without a specific race in mind, getting his legs back moving and feeling things out. Before the race, we discussed our goals. I wanted to run a low 2:50 (right about 6:40/mile pace), even though the course is very hilly and slow. Nathan had no specific time goal, didn't really know his legs would feel and thus, just wanted to hang with me. 

My mom was in town for the weekend, so I kept myself busy Friday and Saturday playing host to her and didn't get much into the race hype, except for a brief visit to the expo to get our packets. The SF Marathon is the 13th biggest marathon in the country (despite it being crazy hilly for a road race) and the energy from everyone involved was great. 

Marathon morning was way too damn early. Ultra early. We got up at 3am, ate and headed out in a taxi down to the Embarcadero. We headed into the VIP area and caught up with friend (and eventual winner of the marathon) Mike Wardian. We did a little shake out run down the embarcadero and were soon enough standing at the line ready to make our way into the darkness (5:30am start!). Even after the warmup, I was not really sure how my legs were feeling. They didn't feel great, but not horrible either, just kind of tired, without zip. I figured I would be able to tell soon enough how they were feeling. I looked around the starting corral at the other elite women and I didn't really feel like I was racing against them. Instead, I felt like I was focused on my goals to run my race.

Off we went and Nathan and I fell in to step quickly off the line and were joined by Scott Dunlap. He said his race strategy was to stay behind me. We chatted for a bit and I felt he and Nathan quickening their step a bit and I pulled back. Scott continued ahead and joined up with the lead female pack which was about 30 seconds ahead (5-6 women). I felt no desire to chase and figured that things would shake out with the first hills and the group would splinter. At which point, I would pick up the pieces.

Nathan and I just clicked along. I wasn't wearing my foot pod but checked the time on my Suunto T6c when we'd pass mile markers. I did the occasional lap to gauge a mile here and there. I felt like we were running pretty consistent and Nathan assured me we were running strong. With tired legs and "training through" a race, it is sometimes hard to gauge your own speed. What feels fast in a training run, might actually be quite slow comparatively. Luckily, we were right exactly where we wanted to be: clicking off the miles. I won't say it was easy, but it wasn't a struggle to maintain the pace. The hills, although quite challenging, actually felt fantastic to me and we would eat up ground on the lead pack and even started picking off women after the turn around on the bridge. 

Nathan was making it look easy and I wondered if he was having to work hard at all. Coming off the bridge we easily cruised up a decent grunt of a hill and found our way in to 3rd place (well I was, who knows what place Nathan was in). I was drinking water at all the aid stations and finally popped a GU at mile 11. I was looking forward to getting into the park and starting on the easier half of the course. We ran into friend Jimmy Dean, who was out to pace a friend to a BQ. He was a week out of rocking AC100 and it was great to have him cheering us on. Nathan and I had a lot of support out there. It is so much fun to run your hometown marathon!

 Cruising in the park. Photo by Paul Mosel.

Arriving in the park is a nice feeling because you get a good 2 mile gradual downhill before another extended (but very gradual) climb out of the park. It also marks halfway, with the "easier" half remaining, so that was good too. Nathan and I had discussed my race strategy before the race. I had decided that I would establish in the park whether or not I would actually start racing or if I would settle in wherever I was and just cruise. Hitting the bottom of the park, I was also hitting a lull in my energy. I was in the weeds and not feeling awesome. Nathan was feeling good, at least good enough to grab a beer at mile 16 from the Hash House Harriers, chug it and then catch up to me. I was not feeling good enough to be amused. I think he was actually a bit tipsy for at least a few miles. Running makes the alcohol get into your system quick! I started to feel better and though I could still see the lead two women, I was not feeling that I would give chase. I decided to stay consistent and let them come back to me in the waning miles if they faltered. I popped another gel to get me out of my funk and we worked our way around Stow Lake and out of the park. Reaching Haight St the crowds increased and I got to see my mom cheering for me. It is the first time she's seen me race, so it was as exciting for her as it was for me!

Nathan was still chugging along side me, steady and seemingly strong. He said that he was definitely feeling the lack of speed work and was tired, but I was confident he would hang with me. I was feeling less funky and we picked up the pace a bit as we rolled up Haight St. I was a good 3 minutes behind the lead women, but was unconcerned. We continued to cruise, rile up the cheering sections and thank all the volunteers who were out there.  Once we hit mile 20, the miles started to feel quicker and easier. I was coming in to my favorite part of the race: the furious finish! I could smell the barn and was certainly ready to be done, as was Nathan I think. We continued to pass guys, moving up past at least a dozen or so in the last 6 miles, if not more. We caught up to Scott again just before mile 24 as he was suffering from a foot issue. The last miles wind around Mission, Potrero, Dogpatch and then finally head towards the ball park and finally the Embarcadero and finish line. We zoomed through Dogpatch and were picking up speed passing mile 24. Then came the headwind. I wanted to push in the last few miles, but also was walking a fine line of not wanting to run too hard, especially since I couldn't see if there was any reason to chase. Near the ballpark, I could see one of the lead bike escorts and calculated she was a good 1:30 ahead of me. Not a distance I was going to make up in less than a mile (into a headwind). I was happy with the race we were running, it is exactly the race/pace/time I wanted to run. Nathan and I zoomed onto the Embarcadero together, enjoying the cheers of the crowd and passing a few more guys for good measure. With less than 100 meters to the finish line, I sped up to pass another guy (I am so nice) with Nathan on my heels. I made sure to get him next to me and we crossed the finishline holding hands in 2:53:55. Good enough for 3rd place.

This was a good race for me in my training and a good confidence boost. I have had some good long road runs, but there is nothing quite like a race to gauge fitness. 2:53:55 is a fast time and even faster considering how slow the long grinding hills make you. I am excited for the rest of my training in the next 6 weeks. I have some longer quality sessions remaining and some mileage to be done, I can't wait to see how things shape up on September 10th in the Netherlands! I finished the week at about 80 miles total with a few quality sessions and a good race. That is a very satisfying feeling. What's even more satisfying is running an entire race with someone you love. The first time I ran SF marathon it was with my sister and we crossed the line hand in hand. This time, I got to run my 4th fastest marathon time with Nathan and cross the line hand in hand with him. It was great to have his company, pacing and encouragement along the way. Even though I got a lot of attention for my third place finish, to me it is a shared victory because he was there with me every step of the way! 

The difference a year makes

Vermont 100-2008

Earlier this year, around late Feb/ early March, I signed up for a 100 mile race (Burning River). I felt at that time, for the first time since Vermont, that I was completely intrinsically motivated to race Burning River. I felt excited about the race, I was all in.

However, after my racing unfolded as it did soon thereafter- qualifying for the Olympic Trials and securing my spot on the 100k National team, my racing goals for the year had to realign with those events. Sadly, I withdrew from Burning River and shelved my 100 mile aspirations for the year. I know that I COULD run Burning River this summer and still race the 100k in September, but I know that it would not have me in top form for that race.

Last year, when I toed the line for WS100, I was not all in, I was not primarily intrinsically motivated to do the race. After what happened subsequently at that race (which has nothing to do with my motivation, but more with the sometimes freaky weird curveballs of ultrarunning), I was not excited to tackle the distance and decided that I would wait to run another 100 miler until I really really felt compelled to. I finally was able to overcome the pressure to run 100s (whether real or perceived) and accepted that being an ultrarunner doesn't have to mean running 100 milers. It took me sometime to unravel everything surrounding WS, but I came to a good place. I knew I'd be back, but I was in no hurry to rush back and try my hand again this year. And then suddenly, one cold wintery day, I decided I was ready again. It is significant that I decided I wanted to run a 100 miler again when I did because it wasn't a feeling I got immediately following pacing/crewing/attending a 100 mile event. It was just a random day. And that is why I know for sure the desire is there.

Anxious on the way to the pre-race meeting, Vermont 100-2008

Now that the 100 mile season is upon us, I am even more excited about the possibilities of future races. And by excited, I mean absolutely petrified and exhilarated, all at the same time. I really love the 50 mile and 100k distances. They suit me well- road, trail, everything in between, I just love the distances. I don't know if I love 100 milers or not yet but I remember how much Vermont 100 changed me, how much of a journey the process was and how I felt I had lived an entire lifetime of emotions in one day. Getting to the start line of a 100 miler is a terrifying thing. It is scary as hell to line yourself up for such an undertaking. I see now that my ability to take on a 100 mile race mirrors my current ability in life to tackle the things that intimidate me or are daunting to me. Last year, I was not in the right mental frame for such an undertaking. Now, I am enthusiastically taking on challenges, ferociously going after the things I want and following my heart without fear.

I will run 100 miler again. And this past weekend, I realized I will run Western States again too.

Crew, pacers and runner Brett Rivers on the track at WS100 2011
Brett ran 17:38 for 16th place.

Even though I had decided I wanted to run a 100 miler earlier this year, I was pretty resolute that it was not going to be WS100. Last years experience was scary. And after that experience, I realized that I have really, really, really want to go back to WS before I consider attempting it again. I cannot go if I feel pressured into it or any other extrinsic motivation. 

I was, however, very excited to be a part of my fellow ninja, Brett River's, 2011 WS crew and have the opportunity to pace him from Foresthill to the river.

Nathan and I surfs up on the snow
Photo by bestest everest

Nathan and I headed up to Squaw Valley on Friday morning after a nice hard tempo run, caught up with lots of friends at the pre-race meeting and then ran up the mountain to enjoy some nice views from the top of Escarpment. It was fun to run through the snow with Nathan, Randy and Jonathan and even more so because the altitude which last year felt problematic (between 6200-8200 feet), felt like nothing at all (yeah for awesome altitude training with our Hypoxico system!)

I lost count of how many times I said (out loud or to myself) "I am so happy I am not racing" while I was there. It was great to just be at the race and feel all of the excitement but none of the nerves, the fear, the taper crazys. I know that is part of running and racing, but it is a part I struggle to grow fond of. 

We grabbed some dinner with Brett, Larissa and Randy (the all-star runner and crew) and headed to bed. This year would be a different crewing experience for me since there was no crew access until Michigan Bluff (mile 55). Thus, instead of the usual mad dash into Auburn and up to Robinson Flat, we had a leisurely morning, packed up our things without hurry and headed in to Auburn to have brunch at Awful Annies with Sarah and Steven, who were pacing and crewing for Rick. We bumped into fellow Salomon athletes Ricky Gates and Simon Mtuy and they joined our crew for breakfast. Ricky and Simon are both individuals that I find hugely inspirational and they just happen to be bad ass runners as well.

Leaving Foresthill with Brett

After we finished a leisurely meal, we headed to Foresthill to get our pacer numbers and then Michigan Bluff to finally see Brett. He came through all smiles and business and we got him in and out quickly. It had been really cool hanging out at Michigan Bluff anticipating all the front runners. It was fun to cheer each of them on. Once we saw Brett, we hightailed it back towards Foresthill as it was my turn to pace. I hopped out at Bath road and ran the 1+ down the road to where I would meet Brett. I had a few minutes to socialize with Topher, Kim and Krissy before Brett was popping out of the woods and ready to rock. He was running smooth and comfortable and we ran/walked up the hill and into Foresthill. We got him in and out of the aid station quickly and were on our way back to the trail.

See you in 18 miles!

Brett had talked a lot of smack leading up to the race to both Nathan and I, mostly about how he was going to drop both of us. Despite him throwing down this challenge, I was pretty certain that from miles 60-80 my job was to keep Brett together, eating, and moving quickly instead of trying to break him. I had set a goal to run 2:45 for this section and get Brett to the river at 6:30pm and running with Nathan by 7. I didn't tell Brett this goal, but kept it under advisement as I monitored our progress. We flew throw the first few miles as I filled him in on all the happenings in the race and all the various dramas and scenes playing out. After the first aid station, we settled in and Brett went quiet and just kept plugging away. We were a little slow on this section and I could tell he was hurting, not bad, but he had lost a bit of time in the 5 miles leading to Cal 1. We passed and started running with David La Duc whom Brett had run some miles with already for the day. We probably ran a good 8 miles with David and his pacer until Brett finally found another gear and we passed them for good. A few minutes after passing David, Brett's laces on his Salomon Crossmax came loose and he caught his foot in them crashing to the ground and snapping his lace. Since the lace is one piece and not meant for tying, this could have been a big problem, but I calmly macgyver'd his shoe lace and informed him that he would have to cut off his shoe laces at Green Gate where he intended to change shoes anyways. It was a turn around moment though and Brett started flying. We hammered to the river crossing passing an additional 3-4 guys before hopping in the boat and meeting Larissa and Randy on the other side. We ran Brett up to Green Gate (nearly 2 miles) and I handed him off to Nathan to finish the day. I had done my job, we had reached the river at 6:25pm, Brett was in good shape and ready to run hard to the finish. 

Crossing the river before 6:30pm. My job is done.
Photo by Gary Wang

We hustled to Hwy 49, saw Brett and Nathan there and then sprinted to the track to drop our car and run to Robie Point to run the final mile in with Brett. That final mile, actually all the miles I ran with Brett, were some of the most pleasant pacing miles I have ever done. It was super exciting to bust on to the track with Brett and help push him to the finish. He crossed the line in 16th place in 17:38. I am very proud of Brett and our whole team. Soon thereafter, we got to witness Ellie coming in for the win and then Kami and Nikki sprinting in for a close battle for second.

Watching the race and being part of such an awesome crew really got me fired up again to try Western States. Everyone had fun-runner, crew, pacers. Everyone was easy- no drama. Everyone was present. I really liked that. Being a part of such a positive experience helped me come full circle on my own experience. I am able to see that I can have a different experience and that I am in a completely different place now then I was then. While before the race I was saying "I am so glad I am not racing", after the race I am thinking "I look forward to the opportunity to try again". 

I am fired up to be a part of the race again and to run another 100 miler. Now, I just practice one of the main skills of 100 mile running- patience, and wait until the time is right to go after it again.

Insanity by any other name... sounds like a good idea?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Insanity by any other name would sound like a good idea?

One week from today I will celebrate my 4 year anniversary of running my first 100k road race and qualifying for the WC100k team. That picture above is from after that race. My friend Mackenzie is taking great joy in dumping ice into an ice bath after I ran around in single digits for more than 8 hours.

Last year, I didn't run on the US team because of a lot of reasons, but my enthusiasm for being a part of the team has never diminished. I love the 100k road event. I love the team, I love the excitement of running the world championships, I thrive at the distance. One of my big goals for the year was to run for the team again this year. The WC100k is back in the Netherlands where I ran my first worlds 4 years ago. I love that course and the race support is immense. Even though that was one of my "A" goals for the year, I hadn't planned on running Mad City to re-qualify for the team. In fact, I naively thought that my 50 mile time at Tussey would have easily secured my place on the team. Unfortunately, the way the team is selected, my spot based on that time is tenuous at best.

A few weeks after Houston, as I tried to decide what race to try and do another attempt at the OT qualifier standard, I received an email from my coach Howard, who was also a long time team member of the US 100k team. He told me that he thought I should run Mad City and explained the selection process for the team. I was faced with a decision. I could either run National Marathon like I had planned (March 26th) and hope my Tussey time got me in or I could push my qualifier earlier, run LA marathon and then run Mad City 100k three weeks later. Neither situation was ideal but on my coaches advice, I tentatively agreed with the second option. I was more keen to run LA marathon and ultimately that turned out brilliant. Until LA was over, I didn't think or consider Mad City in any way. I didn't want it to affect my race at LA. It was not a reality until I crossed the finish line at LA or much of one until the warm fuzzies started to wear off and I came down from my race high.

Feels like only yesterday, oh wait it almost was.

It is barely two weeks after LA and I am packing my bags and preparing to head to Madison to try and make the team. I am equally un-prepared for this race as I was when I ran it 4 years ago. Then I had never run a race over 50k and now, I haven't done a single specific training run for Madison and my longest runs have been two fast marathons. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I am doing the same thing over again and hoping for the same result, so I guess that makes it a good idea. Right? Right.

I am not sure what to expect from this race. I really don't have any expectations which I guess is a good thing. I haven't had time to consider a strategy or what will carry me through the day. I finally got around yesterday to even calculating out some splits for my goal pace. I think my bigger challenge is going to be running nearly a minute and a half slower per mile than my marathon. I am going to have to remember patience and moderation in a hurry. Even though most trail ultrarunners would never consider a road race an adventure, that is kind of how I see this race. It will be an adventure and an experiment of what hard marathon training means for a much longer ultra. I am very curious to see how it plays out.