Course record

Javelina 100 mile

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission

Over the past few years, I have lost my running mojo. It slipped away gradually or more, got slowly worn down over time when I wasn’t able to attend to it. Frankly, since 2012, I just haven’t been able to run or race with the focus and energy I need to maintain it. And for the most part, it has been worth it because Nathan and I have been devoting our energy into building a business and a community around that business. But that doesn’t mean it has been easy to watch the awesome development of the ultra running community and the exciting happenings of the running world. I wanted to be a part of it. I have talked about this a lot this year because I started this year thinking this would be the year that I would re-emerge in racing and start chasing down big goals again. I was hungry from the start of this year to passionate pursue races that made me excited. 

But the year didn’t unfold the way I hoped. I went back to the drawing board so many times on “where to?” in racing. My training has been great this year but my confidence in myself as a runner has been almost non-existent, my mind highly critical of myself. It wasn’t until my trip to Cape Town and running Ultra Trail Cape Town 100k four weeks ago that I even felt like half the runner I use to be (mentally). That trip renewed me and inspired me. It showed me that I could battle through the hardest race I’ve ever done and overcome. After that, I wanted more challenges like that and again went back to the drawing board for my race schedule and decided to run Javelina 100 on October 31. Just 4 weeks after running my first 100k in 4 years, I was going to run my first 100 miler in 5 years and 7 years since I last finished my only successful 100 miler. I felt excited and ready after UTCT 100km to take on the challenge.

I sit here now three days post race wondering, “did that really happen?”. I went to Javelina to get to that finish line. I went to see if I could go the distance. I went to the desert to find my mojo. I went to find my strength and courage. I went to battle my demons and face the darkness. I went to see if I could rise again like a phoenix from the ashes, if I could find a new runner me. I could have never imagined the day unfolding the way it did. 

Before the race, I wrote a letter to myself. In that letter I wrote: “Be led by passion, love and perseverance. I will rise to a new level and see what I am capable of. Yes, it is going to be hard as hell. But don’t back down. Walk across the fire and let it burn. You can handle this.”. I didn’t merely handle it, I instead put together the performance of a lifetime. I truly went to a new level and not only found that I was capable of running on the level that I use to, but that I was in fact capable of so much more. I have never run like I did on Saturday, I have never pursued my limits so hard, run with so much guts and found moment after moment that I had more to give. I not only finished, I crushed it. First woman, second overall, new course record in 14:52 in the 6th fastest time ever in the 100 miler for a North American resident and 3rd fastest trail 100 mile time ever. I ran the last 41 miles faster than anyone including faster than the male winner (besting him by 6 mins, he finished in 13:49). People have asked, “where did that come from” since and I truly believe that this kind of race has been a long time coming. I have had the physical tools for a long time, the combination of speed and endurance. But mentally, I have worked very hard to get to the place where when I ask myself “How bad do you want it?”, the answer is “MORE”.

I am truly grateful for Aravaipa Running and the amazing race they put on. Top notch event with incredible organization. I am beyond words with gratitude for my crew and pacer, Hollis and Yiou. I could not have put together this day without them. I am so thankful for my husband, although he couldn’t be at the race, has been extraordinarily supportive of me trying to find my runner self again. Thank you to my awesome sponsors and supporters: Oiselle, HOKA One One, Julbo, Psoas Massage and Bodywork, Stance Socks and San Francisco Running Company, as well as all my awesome friends and training partners especially my girls Yiou, Liz and Maddy K! And my incredible coach, Ian Torrence!

Photo by UltraSportsLive

Photo by UltraSportsLive

You can stop reading here if you like, I know race reports can get long and boring and all sound the same. But for myself, I am going to keep going. I want to remember this race. I want to remember how it felt, I want to revisit it over and over and over again to say to myself: this race, I saw who I really am as a runner. It was a game changer for me and I feel now, that it is just the beginning.

Javelina Hundred (Oct 31, 2015) 6am

I wanted to do this race because I wanted to “do things that scare me” and challenge myself in a new way. After signing up for the race 3 weeks ago, that feeling slid from scared to terrified to feeling on the inside like the cowardly lion being pushed toward the Wizard by his companions. I stood on the line more nervous than I ever have been before. I kept wondering “can I do this?” and then the gun went off and I shrugged my shoulders, started running and thought “guess I will find out!”.

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission.

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission.

Work the problem (Loops 1 & 2)

The day before the race I did a run through of all my crewing stuff with Hollis and Yiou. I told them that things would come up, challenges would arise and we would have to find a way to keep going. We would have to find a solution to problems, a work around for obstacles. Yiou pronounced, we needed to “work the problem”. I liked this, it gave me a mantra to hold up for myself when difficulties arose. When she said it, I naturally thought it would be helpful in the second half. But given my starting line apprehensions, I actually had to utilize it quite early. 

I headed out into the desert with 458 other runners and settled in to a nice comfortable pace. I planned to run on the easy side of comfortable and not press at all. The Javelina course is very runnable, but that is also dangerous early on because it is very tempting to run too fast. I wanted to be smart, but I also accepted that my first two laps would be on the faster side since I was fresh, it was the cool of the morning, etc. I clipped along hoping for the nervous energy and “can I do this?” monkey mind to slip away. I tried to NOT focus on the distance and instead just focus on that moment and that loop and getting into a groove. I excepted to face demons in the race, but I didn’t think they would attack from the start. But within 5 miles, my mind had already slipped into a very pessimistic place. Every bad thing I could think about myself, I did. I listened to the demons tell me every reason I would fail, every reason I wasn’t good enough, every reason I was not enough. And then I heard Yiou’s voice saying, “Work the problem”. What was the problem? I was being negative, I was indulging the demons, I was giving them a voice. And then, out in the desert as the sun rose and a pack of coyotes raised their voices and howled, I exclaimed, “shut up brain!”. I started pelting the demons with every positive phrase and mantra I could think of. I pushed them back, beat them away with a stick. They didn’t belong here. I had barely even started running for goodness sake!

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission.

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission.

And so I settled in and just focused on this lap, this moment. Being within myself and letting the miles pass. I had set my watch on “OK” setting so that I would have battery life for the whole race. This meant though that the GPS accuracy was pretty poor and before I knew it I was back at Javelina headquarters (the start/finish line/party). My watch had me at 14 miles, but the loop in actually closer to 15.5. I was under 2 hours for the loop and kind of sheepishly entered the headquarters knowing that was way way faster than even my fastest projected split that I had give my crew. I had given them (even) splits for 15 hrs, CR pace (15:40), 16:30 and 17:30. I was well under 15 hour pace, but I also knew I was running easy and comfortable. I knew I would back off more in the heat of the day but was fine with being a touch fast early on. Hollis shook his head and told me, “Dev you are running way too fast!”. I set out on loop 2 and just continued to run comfortable. I was joined by Brian Tinder for a few miles who had been ahead of me on the first loop, but fell behind when he did a wardrobe change just outside of HQ (if you don’t know what I am talking about, you must find out!). It was nice to have the distraction and we passed the uphill miles to Jackass Junction which is the “middle” of the loop. The course is uphill to the midway point and is done in machine washer style, so loop 2 was novel since it was seeing the trail and terrain from a different perspective. The first two loops had a novelty to them that I knew would wear off. I could tell I was going to get really tired of running giant loops in the desert. 

I didn’t really slow much on the second loop and was greeted coming into HQ by Karl Meltzer who has more 100 mile wins than anyone on earth ever (35 wins). He is a smart runner and knows his way around a 100miler. He was heading out on his 3rd loop and took the time to stop me and say, “Devon, you need to slow down!”. I said, I know I know. And I knew I would since now, exactly 4 hours and 50k into the race, it was starting to get hot. I got in to the HQ, grabbed my stuff from Hollis including doubling up on bottles and taking my headphones for distraction, and headed back into the desert ready to battle the heat and take my time.

I needed a hug. Thanks Laura for providing one. Photo by UltraSportsLive

I needed a hug. Thanks Laura for providing one. Photo by UltraSportsLive

What do you mean?

I was not looking forward to the heat of the day. The high was projected for mid 80s. But in the desert that feels much hotter. There is no shade, the heat reflects off the ground and bakes you from the ground up. I have been running in the heat of the day this summer here in San Anselmo, days reaching up into the high 90s, so I felt at least moderately prepared. I knew I would have to keep myself cool and calm. 

Through the first two laps, I had only taken in liquid calories in the form of Tailwind. I was doing 200 calories of Tailwind per hour and my energy, hydration and electrolytes felt solid. Hollis had encouraged me to try and gel on loop 3 and about half way I tried to take one and immediately threw it back up. Uh oh. My biggest trepidation coming into this race was the heat effect since my last 100 mile start in 2010 ended with me in the med tent with 3 IVs. I knew things could go south fast and if I couldn’t stomach calories or liquid I would be done. I was able to continue to get in small sips of tailwind, but my head was not in a good place now. I was focused on not feeling good and by the end of the loop, after a few more rejections of sips of water, my mind amassed a good list of all the reasons I wanted to drop right then and there at 45. I came into HQ in a negative place, ready to be done. I dramatically described my issues straight in front of the Ultrasports Live live feed camera and friend Laura Bello who was part of their team, just said, “you look like you could use a hug”. She gave me a hug and I walked over to Hollis and sat down in the chair. I told him, “my stomach isn’t good. my foot hurts. my colds not gone. I am not having fun”. To me, it all seemed so clear that I was done. I had run the whole loop still and Hollis pointed out that even after running 2:30 for that lap that I was still well under even my fastest projected split. My response? A very snappy “I don’t care”. He cooled me off. Listened to my complaints and indulged me for a minute. After 5 or so minutes in the chair, I got up, resolved that I would do one more loop and then quit. After all, my legs really were fine and I was still running quite well. 

I headed out on loop feeling cooler with a nice ice bandana around my next and started running again. Since I had resolved to stop at the 100km in my head, every time I felt bad from there on, I just told myself, well at least I’ll be done at the end of this loop. It wasn’t a fun loop. Nothing really changed. In that 30 miles of running, I hated all but about 2 miles. I just listened to my music and kept going. I was running in 5th place overall and was first woman, but I just wanted to be done. It didn’t matter to me anymore. I just wanted to stop.

My pacer Yiou had arrived and I complained to her all my various problems that made me want to quit. She pointed out that my running form looked great and that I looked comfortable. I responded that yes, I was able to run but ick, I was just done. It was like the Justin Bieber song that I had listened to at least 5 times on that loop, “what do you mean?”. I was saying one thing and doing another. I was nodding yes and running, but I wanted to say no and stop.

I again took the chair and Hollis and Yiou went to work trying to get me to get going again. My foot was still hurting and I was worried that 41 more miles might injury it since I had some issues since UTCT 100k because of all the rocks. My stomach was same as it had been, fine but not great. Yiou gave me my iced coffee and I asked for asprin. Maybe, just maybe I could caffeinated my way into another loop. I had been careful to avoid caffeine up until that point so I wouldn’t have a terrible caffeine crash late in the race. Meanwhile, Yiou got ready to start running with me. I had planned to have her from 75-finish, but she knew that I might quit right then if she didn’t tease me out of the chair. It worked. I got up. I finished my coffee and ate a handful of gummies.


I had yet to walk in the race at all and still 10 mins ahead of even my fastest projected split. I told Yiou I would have to walk to the road crossing of loop 5 which is about 1/3 mile from HQ. I didn’t want to throw up my coffee and gummies. We made it about 1/3 of that distance before I started running, walking was boring. I still had legs and screw it, I was going to use them. Both the coffee and the aspirin kicked in and I had Yiou to pick up the pace and distract me. Slowly, the overwhelming desire to drop diminished, then disappeared. For the first time all day, I heard a whisper in my mind “you can do this”. And I believed it.

Yiou and I settled into a fast pace and she reminded me to take gels (which I finally was able to stomach) and told me how strong I looked. We run together FAST a lot. And part of why I was excited to have her as my pacer was because she is so fast and that our natural pace together tends to be very quick. At this point, I was astonished how good my legs felt. They didn't feel like legs that had more than 60 miles on them. They felt like legs that could run. The heat of the day had been survived and I had legs. I began to push. Not too much, but I inched the pace up and my mind opened up to the idea of not just surviving the race, but crushing the race. Just like that I was ready to see what I could do. We pushed and pushed. I knew I opened myself up to a massive meltdown at some point, but I just felt so good, I didn’t want to be afraid of what might happen or some potential later crash, I just wanted to break down barriers and push my limits. At the end of loop 4, I had been behind Karl, Michael Carson and Jon Olson (who has run a stagger 11:59 100 miler!) by more than 30 mins. By the end of loop 5, I was behind them by less than 10 mins. I had just completed a loop in 2:16 and flew threw headquarters, eager to get out onto my final full loop. The sun was going to be setting soon and I grabbed my headlamp, and we set off to chase down the boys.

Photo by Aravaipa running.

Photo by Aravaipa running.

I was running so well at this point. Smooth and comfortable. I had Yiou give me 15-20 min reminders to take gels and focused on making sure that we didn’t make any nutrition or hydrate mistakes. My legs felt amazing. Within 3 miles back out on the loop, we started to catch the guys. Now, if you don’t know them, they are all incredibly fantastic runners. All very strong and accomplished. To be catching them was an insane boost to my confidence. I first caught Jon Olsen, he smiled at me and said, “So happy to see you bounce back Devon!”. I thanked him and encouraged him on and hoped he too would come back to life. I set my sights on Karl, whom I could see up ahead. We caught and passed him easily minutes later. As I passed, he exclaimed, surprised, “Devon, WHAT are you DOING?!” “Running!” I responded, to which he said, “well, I will see you later” indicating he would catch me when I cracked and slowed down. But in that moment, I said to myself, no you won’t. And I doubled my resolved to run the remaining 21 miles of the race as hard as I freaking could. 

Yiou and I moved like a bullet train in the night. We gathered more and more momentum as darkness descended over the desert. I ran silent, pushing myself, not backing off, but trying to give a little bit more, a little bit more each mile. I told Yiou that I didn’t want to have anything left at the line. I wanted to see what I was made of. We made it to the top of the loop and gathered more speed, Yiou yelling out “on your left, on your left” as we sped past all the runners that were out on course, some of them multiple loops behind me. All the other runners, whooped and cheered when they saw me coming. “Yeah girl!” “Woman you are amazing”. I fed off it. I chased down the next headlamp after next headlamp. I exclaimed at one point, “Sorry Karl, you ain’t catching me today.” And Yiou and I started yelling, “Run like a girl! Run like a girl!” It was thrilling to be there in that moment flying along, feeling so strong with such a good friend at my side. 

We were nearly to the aid station that is 2.1 miles from HQ when I said to Yiou, “I just wanted to say that I really appreciate you jumping in a loop early. I could not have gotten here without you. It changed the game. That said, I know that this was more distance than you had planned and am not going to ask you to run 41 miles with me instead of 24 as planned. You don’t need to go out on Loop 7(a smaller loop) with me.” She said, “ok! Because you would drop me anyways”. It was a proud moment, she had done her job beautifully and would let me fly on my own. We crushed it back to Headquarters, smiling and laughing. I sprinted through the start/finish area and headed back out as quickly as possible.

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission.

Photo by Sweet M Images. Used with permission.

Next level

I was alone then. My legs churning up with gradual hill, my path illuminated only by a small light, just the sound of my breathing and the stillness of the desert. I pushed. Yiou had told me before the loop that I could run the next loop in 2 hours and still break the course record. I thought the loop was just under 9 miles, so I set my sights on running closer to 1:20. I arrived back at the 2.1 mile aid station, grabbed a coke and thanked all the volunteers for being out there. I pushed onward and made my way towards the Loop 7 cutoff, a teasing sign I had seen all day that said Mile 97.3 —->. About a mile later, I crossed paths with Karl again. He saw me and said, “simply awesome Devon”. I was on fire. I felt so good and I wanted to see how much I could push. I finally made the turn towards home and came into the water stop at the turn. The volunteer said, “your on your final loop?!?!”. I responded yes I was and he said, “wow you are in second place!”. I had no idea I had passed Michael at any point and I got a boost. Then he continued, “4 miles to the finish line.” My water bottle filled, I took off. Wait, 4 miles? I thought there was only 2.7 miles to go! Doh. I am such an idiot, I just assumed the race was perfectly 100 miles for some reason, I hadn’t even bothered to loop at how far it actually was since trail races are rarely exactly on. Turns out the course was 101 miles. Having digested this information, I realized that I was really going to have to hustle to get in under 15 hours. I was on target for a low 14:40, but with the extra 1.3 miles, I knew I would have to go as hard as I could to get under 15. The trail was runnable, I felt fresh. I yelled into the night the Oiselle mantras, “head up, wings out” and "go fast, take chances". And I flew. I pushed and with each pushed discovered I had a little more to give. I tried to find my limit and with each step discovered that I had more to give, more to push. I have never run that hard. Hollis once told me that I needed to run “eyeballs out” in a marathon and in that moment I finally understood how that felt. To go to the next level, you have to push in a way that risks everything, holds nothing back. And for the first time, I was going to leave nothing out on course.

Coming into HQs, I was flying. Yiou and Hollis were with me and running me in (or trying to keep up). I dropped my headlamp, bottle and waist pack where my crew station had been and turned the final two corners to the finish line. 14:52:06. Holy Shit, what did I just do. First woman, 2nd overall, CR by 50 mins, sub 15. That is 8:46 per mile pace, even with sitting in my chair for 10+ mins. 

I had just put together the best run of my career. I had come back from the dead. I had pushed myself harder than I have ever in a race. I asked myself for more and continually found another gear, another level.

I came to Javelina to do something that scared me. To do something that challenged me and pushed me. I did that but I realize now that I also came away having discovered the runner that I can be, the runner that I am. This is me and this was my day.

Photo by UltraSportsLive.

Photo by UltraSportsLive.

Full results here:

Napa Valley Marathon Race Report

Photo by Leigh Ann Wendling 

I never get too hopeful that I will actually make it to the line at Napa Valley marathon. Since winning in 2007, I have been signed up twice more and both times have been thwarted by serious illness. After spectating the race last year, I was excited to run the race again for myself. The timing of the race was perfect for my 2012 schedule. It allowed enough time for me to recover from the Trials and was a perfect lead up to first big race of the year: Two Oceans (April 7 in Capetown, South Africa).

I recovered well from the Trials and was back up to training hard starting about two weeks after the Trials. Since then, I have had some very confidence boosting workouts with Nathan and have sought to dig deeper than ever before. My coach Howard threw some of the hardest workouts I have ever done at me and I really have started to enjoy really really really pushing my own limits.

I came into Napa with a race plan that suited my continuing training schedule. I wanted to keep my training volume up before the race, so I only did a short taper. I ran 40 miles the week before the race and part of me was wondering if I had too steeply curbed my training. I didn't want to run the race rested, I didn't want to run the race tired, but I also didn't want to completely miss the mark and run it flat. I crossed my fingers the week of the race and hoped for the best. Nathan was racing again and I looked forward to getting dusted by him (he was 3rd last year in 2:33) or possibly, using him as a rabbit to pursue.

We headed up to Napa mid-afternoon on Saturday and enjoyed a nice dinner at Bounty Hunter in Napa. We had my favorite pre-race meal: steak, baked potato and green salad. And a glass of Pinot. I figured, why not? I am actively trying not to be on the "no fun diet" (aka what Nathan calls the way I eat leading up to a major race), so a glass of wine was a nice pre-race treat.

We woke up at 3:30 am and Nathan fired up the Jet-Boil to make a French Press of coffee. I was not feeling that good. I had all sorts of niggles in my legs, my breakfast had to be choked down and I was not feeling the way I would like to on race morning. It made me a bit worried of how the day would play out. Or more, it made me completely relinquish any pressure I put on myself for being the race favorite. I was just going out for a hard long run and focused on my plan.

It was cold and calm at the start and I was happy for my sleeves and gloves as we got ready to start at 7am. Nathan and I did a bit of a shake out run and lined up with the other 2,500 runners. Off we went. Three guys (who would finish as the top 3) shot out on mid 2:20 pace and I settled into a nice group with Nathan, Victor (fellow ninja), Elvis (aka Ian Sharman) and one guy I didn't know. It was like a fast, road ninja run! As soon as we started going I felt pretty comfortable, I think my body just found that switch and flipped it. We cruised out just about 6 minute pace and rolled our way towards Napa for the first few miles.

6 min pace felt effortless and I just tried to lock in and not be tempted to go any faster. I knew the course would keep rolling and I didn't want to push it too hard on any of the hills. 6's felt good but when we would let the pace creep down into the mid 5:40s, I could tell I was working harder (duh, I know).

My race plan was to run 6 min/pace (if it felt controlled and comfortable) until mile 20 and then push it if I could. I was rocking my new Timex Run Trainer watch and had it set to take mile splits (It was a fantastic watch and really easy to use/read). Even from the very first mile it was doing splits before the official race sign, but I didn't worry about it since my pace was showing up spot on and Ian, who is an absolute metronome, confirmed via his GPS we were right on pace as well. I had noticed that the start was moved back a ways since the last time I ran and there is a huge variance of tangents one can run to add extra distance.

Photo by Rick Gaston

Somewhere around mile 6 or 7, our group of 5 splintered as Nathan took off on what I would consider "his pace". I was actually surprised he was with us for so long but he soon disappeared down the road like he was riding a bicycle. Victor and the other guy gave a bit of chase and I consciously stopped myself from pursuit. I had a plan and I intended to stick to it. If I was feeling frisky at 20, then I could do all the chasing I wanted to. But until then, I held back and stuck with Ian, who is a fellow North Face teammate. He was going for the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon in an Elvis costume and needed to run a 2:42 to do so. He said he was planning on 2:37 pace as long as his fitness would allow him, so we carried on, chatting and rolling down the Silverado Trail. Every time we'd pass a mile marker, Ian would tell me what our pace was and what pace we needed to run to each break our respective records. Going in to this race I knew the course record was 2:39:42, so I used it as a motivator to not let up the pace just because I was far ahead of second place.

We made it through 10 miles on target in 1:00:xx and blasted on through the halfway mark without losing any ground in just under 1:19 (can't be exactly sure of the splits since my watch was not splitting on the mile markers as I mentioned).  I was still feeling really good and controlled at the halfway mark and was also feeling a bit antsy. My energy was good and my GU that I had taken was not bothering my stomach as it had in Houston and NYC. It was getting much warmer and I was really happy that I had shed my sleeves and gloves along the way. Around mile 17, I decided to put a bit of a move on for a bit and see if I could let the pace out just slightly to spice things up for myself. I knew there was a pretty big hill around mile 20 which would slow me down, so I wanted to let out a bit of the reins to see how my body handled it. It felt really smooth to transition to a slightly faster pace and I just went with it. I am really trying to experiment with my limits in the faster racing, so I figured if I was going to make a mistake, a training race was the time to do it.

 Mile 18, pulling away. Photo by Rick Gaston

I started pushing it a bit and Ian dropped off me a little bit, but not far. He would charge back on a downhill and we were still pretty close heading up the climb at mile 20. I came through mile 20 under 2:02 and figured that if I could just maintain or even speed up, I would make the record. I thought back to the hard long runs Nathan and I had been doing with fast finishes and the various hard tempo workouts I had done leading up to this race. I was confident that barring an epic blow-up, I could finish this race strong.

Around mile 20, I did notice that my left foot was hurting. I had once again tied my shoes in a way that was putting pressure on the top of my foot. I had done this in Houston as well in fear of a shoelace coming undo. Instead, it was hobbling me a bit and I tried to decide if I could make it the rest of the race without fixing it. I kept running trying to navigate pushing harder and overreaching. I was tired so "pushing harder" translated more into "maintaining earlier pace". I was close to 6min/miles as I hit the valley floor and started making turns to work my way to the finish line. 

It was gorgeous out and super sunny but it was also quite windy after leaving the Silverado Trail. I remembered from my previous run at Napa that the last 6 had a pretty steady headwind. I appreciated the wind only because it kept me cool, but it certainly did nothing for speeding up. At mile 23 I couldn't take it anymore and stopped to adjust the tongue of my shoe. I came to a complete halt, yanked the dang thing around and relieved the pressure on my foot. It was a risky move since I knew stopping meant my legs would have a chance to seize up. In the 15 or so seconds I was stopped, my legs definitely tightened and it took me another 30 seconds to get them moving again. My foot felt much better, so it was worth it to me to stop.

Throughout the race, I had a race marshall on a bicycle nearby and she would call in updates on my times to the finish. I was back cruising pretty hard, trying to calculate how close I was going to cut it to the course record with the stop. I passed mile 24 and a large group of spectators. I noticed that there were cones blocking off the streets where we weren't suppose to turn and I felt confident in the obviousness of the course. I ran passed one such intersection and was about 10 feet beyond it when the bicycle pacer screamed, "STOP!!! You missed the turn! Come back!" I screeched to a halt, about faced towards here, looked at the intersection where all the spectators were now yelling, "No, no, no keep going!". Even though it was obvious I was suppose to continue straight this was an official race marshall telling me I was about to go off course, so I had to take the time to make sure I did not in fact go the wrong way. Another 20-25 seconds lost. I sprinted off in the correct direction, now with no room for error. I was starting to doubt with the time lost that I would even make it under 2:40. I felt surprisingly calm about it. Found it humorous even. Sure I would have loved to run a PR, but circumstances were not in my favor and things had conspired otherwise. My effort was there to run a PR, so I was pleased with that. 
I really had to push it, I had less than 13 minutes to make it 2.2 miles to get the record. I was going to go for it and push out the run in the way I had intended to: HARD. Now that the record was in jeopardy, I wanted it even more. It stood for 20 years, I was so close, I could not let it go.

Photo by Rick Gaston

I hammered it home, making the final 5 turns towards the high school. I churned my legs as hard as I could and used my arms, glancing at my watch to see how close I was. I turned the final straight away and charged to the finish line, victorious. And with a new course record: 2:39:37. 

Thinking about it now, I am so pleased with how this race went. I got to run on a beautiful, challenging course on an amazing weather day. Face some random debacles to test my head (and stay unfazed). Try out a different race strategy and paces. Push myself. Wine a ton of wine. The rest of the day was filled with good friends, delicious food (at Oxbow!) and savoring our accomplishments (Nathan was 4th!!). I am now looking toward Two Oceans in a month with excitement and am hungry for the challenge!

  Nathan and I at the finish
Photo by J.L. Sousa/Napa Valley Register

And of course, the best part: Wine!
Photos by Rick Gaston

Mad City 100k National Championship Race Report

A week before Mad City, chasing gazelles up and down mountains.

With LA marathon only three weeks ago, one might think that I would be back to regular running by now, feeling recovered after taking a few weeks easy. Ha, have you met me? Instead of having time to bask in the awesome feeling of success brought on by reaching my goal and qualifying for the Olympic Trials, I was trying to power recover/taper and also acclimatize to sleeping at altitude in our new Hypoxico altitude tent. I immediately started sleeping at altitude after LA and it took me until the middle of last week to finally wake up and feel like I had actually slept. If I was just in recovery, this wouldn't really matter but such was not the case as this past weekend I lined up to race the Mad City 100k USATF 100k National Championships to attempt to requalify for the 100k national team. This was an insane idea, I know, but I one of my main goals for the year was to race in the Netherlands as part of Team USA in the 100k. I thought I was already qualified with my Tussey 50 mile time, but found out a few weeks before LA that I was not. My coach advised me strongly to run Mad City to secure my spot, even though we both knew it would not be ideal since I haven't run over 26.2 miles since November and haven't run more than 50k since Tussey last year. In other words, I would be doing no training for Mad City. LA marathon was my most important goal, so I did not let Mad City enter my mind until after I crossed the finish line there.

Apparently, 2000 foot rocky ascents in less than 2 miles are excellent for taper

After LA, I was feeling pretty good. My legs and body recovered pretty well considering how hard I ran. The Thursday after LA, I was even back running with the ninjas feeling pretty spry and powering up the big long climbs. With less than three weeks between LA and Mad City, I really only had time to cobble together a few runs, throw in a few strides and focus on getting as rested and recovered as possible. At least in theory. The reality is that I ran hard and fast with a great group on Mt. Tam 6 days post- LA for a friend's birthday (think 8 minute pace up railroad grade) and ran nearly 60 miles that week. Then followed that with an 80 mile week that included a nearly 40 mile weekend with huge climbs and descents with a seriously fast crew of displaced Lake Sonoma 50 mile runners (who's race was cancelled due to flooding). It was one of the most fun weekends of running I've ever experienced but things like a 2,000 foot rocky ascent are not exactly the type of activities one should do 1 week out from running a road 100k and just 2 weeks after a marathon. With the lack of sleep, I started my final taper week not sure of what to expect from Mad City. I don't think I expected much. I hadn't had time to think about the race, let alone get jazzed for it. I think I had mentally exhausted myself through highly motivating myself for Houston/LA races. Mad City all I could do was get to the start line and hope I made it through the day. I packed my bags and flew off to Madison on Thursday and got ready to get loopy on Saturday.

Early on, still in my long sleeve (source)


Before the race, I focused on the details of things I could control and spent very little time actually thinking through the race. I got my fuel plan together, made a pace chart for time, checked the weather over and over and over (since it kept changing-threatening high temps and thunderstorms) and got my crew bag together for Beth (the baker's sister) and Mike, who drove up from Illinois with the best cheerleader ever (Ellie, their 1 year old). I worried over my shoe selection and finally decided to wear my KSwiss Kwicky Blade Lights even though I had not run more than 8 miles at a time in them. I was considering wearing the same shoes I wore for Tussey but the reality was, they were a tab smaller (which means less room for swelling feet) and I hadn't really been wearing them either. I made up a drop bag for the start with the alternate pair, just in case. The night before the race, I met up with Beth and Mike at their hotel, made myself an awesome dinner of herb roasted potatoes and onions, skirt steak and salad and hit the hay early. As I lay there, I didn't have any of that "I am racing tomorrow" feeling. When I forced myself to think about it, all I could think was "I have no idea how I am going to mentally wrap my mind around running for 8+ hours". I woke up at 4:45am, had my gluten free oats with peanut butter, coffee and soon Todd Braje and I were off to the start together (we stayed at the same amazing host house- Thanks Suzie!!). 

Webcast: Participant Image
Pre-race mug shot.

The race is pretty low key. 10- 10k loops around the Arb and Lake Wingra. There were 30 participants in the 100k race which has served as the 100k road national championship for the past few years (including 2007 when I ran it the first time). However, most of those 30 participants were gunning for a fast or faster time including lots of hopefuls for this years 100k national team. The men's field was stacked would certainly go out fast. I didn't know much about the women's field except that Pam Smith was coming to try and qualify for the team. I was happy there was at least one other woman in the field going for a qualifier since it meant I had hope for having someone to run with. Actually, I thought she would smoke me since I was feeling not recovered/tapered at all.

We arrived at the start parked in the nearly empty parking lot and got our bottles and drop bags arranged at the start/finish area. Todd did some warming up and I sat in the car and watched the clock inch towards the 6:30 am start time. I figured I would warm up in the first few laps. The last thing I wanted to do was get hyped before such a long race. My biggest fear going into the race was that my target pace would feel too easy and I would run to fast at the start and burn out in the later laps. I had written my 10k lap splits on my hand and the word "patience" to remind me that I should not run any faster than the splits. My goal time was about 8:10 which Howard, my coach, thought would be sufficient enough to secure my spot on the team. I had 8 hour pace on my hand because it was just less math. I knew that the course record was 8 hours run the year before by my friend and teammate Meghan Arbogast. My 100k PR is 7:59 so I figured there was no way I would PR but the spilts were suppose to stop me from overreaching. 

With a few minutes to go, I stepped out into the cool morning air, did a few hip swings and walked over to the start. There was no time for me to think or get nervous, we were off with a ready, set, go. My strategy with loop courses is always to break it down mentally into digestible chunks. I tell myself just make it to 50k, then coast into 80k and then my favorite part is the hammer drop of the last two laps. I like to close a race hard, so the last 20k I look forward to. As I predicted the men's field went out strong and I settled into pace with a few runners with Pam just a bit ahead of me. 

Pam and I running together. photo: James Mills, Madison Examiner

She and I would be soon running together and spent the majority of the first 6 loops in relatively close contact together. We chatted a bunch and focused on just being steady and running together. In all of my world championship experiences, I have run at least the first 50k with the company of a teammate and I find it is the best way to pass the time. I was really glad to have the company and felt Pam and I worked well together. Occasionally, she would lose me as I stopped pretty much every other lap for a bathroom break, but I would accelerate a bit to catch her because it was more fun to run next to someone than 150 meters behind them. 

Making an awesome face while getting the handoff from Beth

Each lap, I would come around and Beth would be waiting for me with a waterbottle swap and a Gu and  Vespa. I carried a small 8 ounce water bottle and finished it easily every loop. It wasn't too warm so it was the perfect amount for me. I focused on my plan: GU every 45 minutes, Saltstick every 1 hour, Vespa JR every 1.5 hours. The first few laps were faster than my 8 hour splits, each lap was 47 or under including a 45:56 on lap 4. I felt good, my legs were not feeling pounded at all, my energy was good. I will say, I think that the lack of recovery served me well because the 7:30 pace felt just right instead of incredibly slow. I think my absent recovery kept me physically reined in which was nice so I didn't have to mentally do it. 

Round and round we went. I passed the 50k mark in 3:53 which was 7 minutes ahead of CR record pace. I kept telling myself to focus on my time and chill the heck out. I didn't feel like I was pressing though and I didn't feel tired, so I just kept running. In a loop course, I just start mentally pulling myself along from one landmark to the next to break up the loop. I could feel myself mentally fatiguing though my physical energy was fine. By the 50k mark, I was full out funky. I was having a "crisis of motivation". I just suddenly could not for the life of me figure out why I was running this race. I decided that my coach had pressured me into it and I didn't really want to be there. I was feeling like a petulant child and complained to Pam that I wasn't sure I was self-motivated to be there at around the 55k marker. She responded, "well, if you didn't want to be here at least a little bit, you wouldn't be here" and ran off as I eased my pace back a bit hoping that maybe an easier pace would make me more into it. By the time I came into the start/finish area at 60k, I said to Beth and Sam (Chad Rickleff's wife- another 100k teammate) "I need some motivation!!!! I am not into this!". Sam told me just to chill out and focus on my time. I took my sweet time going through the start/finish area and was 30 seconds back from Pam. I started my 7th loop, took an FRS chew from my pocket and hoped that a dose of caffeine might change my mind. I could feel my mind start to lift, I realized that I would soon be on my favorite laps and was less than a marathon from the finish. I knew that I just had to get enough momentum to get out of the 7th loop and I would find my killer instinct. Thanks to the FRS, I found it about 65k and I swallowed up the distance between Pam and I pulling along side her on the small climb up to the mile 4.2 aid station. I told her I appreciated her comment because she was right: if I didn't want to be there, I wouldn't have been there. I did want to be there and I definitely wanted to qualify for the team. She said she was feeling a bit tired and I tried to encourage her along. I was speeding up though and left her behind shortly after the aid station.

I came into the start/finish line and said, "I've stopped being a punk! I was just being a punk!". I knew I was about to turn into a machine. Even though, when I stopped to think about it, I had 18 miles remaining, I felt like I was launching my kick. I was easily maintaining my pace and had to start holding myself back in my 8th and 9th loops so I didn't get to crazy. I was still way ahead of my spilts on my hand and I started to actually consider that I might not only make the team, but win the national championship and set the course record.

I was shocked how good my legs felt. I just kept cranking, smoothly and comfortably. I zoomed around and finally made it to 90k. I wasn't sure how far up I was on Pam but I knew I couldn't take any chances. I went through the start/finish in 7:01 and got ready to hammer it home. I could hear the announcer when Pam came into the start/finish, I was 3 minutes up and knew that was not enough to rest on my laurels. I took an extra caffeine gel at the start of the loop to not take any chances bonking. I passed once more by each significant marker that had pulled me through each loop, thanking the volunteers and the spectators including one awesome lady who stood at the top of a one of the longer hills and cheered us up for the entirety of the second half of the race. It was awesome. I got to the 5k marker and saw I was on pace for my fastest lap and I felt myself growing stronger and stronger. I was excited and I was happy. I was present and enjoying the moment. It is a cool feeling to go far beyond what you thought you could. I grabbed a sip of coke at the final aid station and zoomed down the small hill on the other side. The "Arb" was my favorite part, I had about 2.2 miles to go. "Less than 18 minutes until I am done, less then 15 minutes until I am done, less than 10 minutes until I am done". I could see the start/finish through the trees, even though it is 5 minutes away. I pushed, I cranked, I extended myself. My body, surprisingly, let me.

I hit the finishing stretch and gave it a nice kick up. I could see the finishline, I checked over my shoulder a couple of times before allowing myself a smile, a huge goofy grin as I barreled into the finish line in 7:46:33. National Champion in the 100k, a new huge PR in the 100k (and in the 50 mile with a 6:17 split) and an automatic qualifier for the 100k Team USA! (Also turns out it was the 11th fastest time for an American women in the 100k-cool!)

They immediately presented me with medals, a giant crystal trophy, gift certificate and winnings. I walked around a bit with Beth and Ellie to make sure I didn't cramp up. It felt so great to be done. I almost couldn't believe what I had just done. I just ran 13 minutes faster than my 100k PR and I felt great! How is that possible! I changed my clothes and talked to the men's winner Andy Henshaw. He had run a blazing 6:47, won and qualified for the team! He came over to (re-) introduce himself after I finished because he had been the guy that I death marched out of the Canyons with at WS before be both dropped. He had hurt himself and my kidneys were shutting down, it was so nice to meet again on such a better day for both of us. And seriously, he averaged a minute per mile faster than me for the entire distance. He is a beast!!!

I hung out at the finish for a while, cheered in Pam who came in well under the old course record as well in 7:53 and enjoyed the sunshine which was (thankfully) just poking out. Beth, Mike and I headed over to the Old Fashioned for a late celebratory lunch and it really made my day to be able to spend some good time with them.

Split Calculations
CheckpointMileageTimePace  DistanceTimePace 
1st Loop - 10 Km 6.214 47:04.5  7:34.5 
2nd Loop - 20 Km 12.427 1:34:15.5  7:35.1  6.21 47:11.0  7:35.7 
3rd Loop - 30 Km 18.641 2:20:49.9  7:33.3  6.21 46:34.4  7:29.7 
4th Loop - 40 Km 24.855 3:06:46.3  7:30.9  6.21 45:56.4  7:23.6 
5th Loop - 50 Km 31.069 3:53:12.5  7:30.4  6.21 46:26.2  7:28.4 
6th Loop - 60 Km 37.282 4:40:48.7  7:31.9  6.21 47:36.2  7:39.7 
7th Loop - 70 Km 43.496 5:26:51.3  7:30.9  6.21 46:02.7  7:24.6 
8th Loop - 80 Km 49.710 6:14:16.6  7:31.8  6.21 47:25.3  7:37.9 
9th Loop - 90 Km 55.923 7:01:25.9  7:32.2  6.21 47:09.3  7:35.4 
10th Loop - 100 Km 62.137 7:46:33.4  7:30.5  6.21 45:07.5  7:15.7 

It was a whirlwind weekend. I flew back to San Francisco crazy early Sunday morning. Before I could even think about it, the amazing experience, the sheer gravity was slipping through my fingers. In some ways as I write this blog post, it feels like it is something that I experienced in a dream. I am so excited to once again be a part of Team USA and represent at the 100k Worlds in the Netherlands in September. I am curious to see what I can do. In the end, I am glad I took a chance to run this race, it was an insane idea but it worked out. I would like to say that I am kicking me feet up and enjoying some well-deserved recovery time, but the reality of the situation is, I am on to the next adventure in just another week! And I couldn't be more excited. Thank goodness I don't seem to be that sore!