Across The Years: Race Report & 6th 50K

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….and My Story Runs On….

Where do I even begin? First I have to try and explain how this type of event works. Across The Years is described on the Aravaipa website as:

“the original fixed-time multiday running event celebrating the New Year. Runners have 24, 48, 72 hours or 6 days to cover as much distance as possible.  Each runner is free to walk, stop, eat, and sleep whenever they wish, but the clock is always running!”

What does this mean?  It’s basically you against the clock. You can sign up for minimum of 24 hours to a maximum of 6 days and log as many miles as you want or your body/mind will allow you.

I’ll be honest, I have very mixed feelings about this event. In 2014, my boyfriend and I volunteered during the midnight shift at New Year’s Eve and we had a blast!  We decided to do it again this year and The Running University sponsored two volunteer shifts on New Year’s Eve so I received a free entry for filling those spots.

I was excited to have the opportunity to try this type of event out.  The course is a 1.04 mile loop at Camelback Ranch and you basically go around the loop as many times as you want or your body/mind will allow you. I’ve done an event before that was looped but it was a 4 mile course so this was a first experience for me.  Every 4 hours they change the direction so you go around the opposite way.

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I can’t wait to get my official bib number. It’s yours for the lifetime of the event. Apparently once you get to 1,000 miles you get a jacket! not sure I’ll ever shoot for this goal!

I ran this mostly with my friend Heather and we decided that we were “just” going to follow our training plan for the weekend and our plan was to do a 50K (31.1 miles). I also had dinner plans that night so I was on a bit of time crunch. We started at 9am (the 24 hour clock is from 9am-9am).  The first several loops felt great…actually most of it wasn’t bad at all..as a matter of fact at one point I was thinking, maybe I can do 48 hours next year and do my first 100 miles…break it up in four 25 miles segments over 48 hours…that sounds doable, right? Well…..by the time I was done, I was done with those loops.  Heather and I spent most of the time chatting together and with other people on the course. At one point she needed to make a stop so I kept going knowing we find each other on that loop at some point. I started listening to one of my new favorite Running Deep playlists that I purchased awhile ago and had not had chance to get into (guided meditation for runners).  It was perfect timing to be zoned out and zoned in at the same time.  I was also hoping to PR my 50K time. Doesn’t really mean a whole lot as this type of event is much different than running a 50K on a trail with an actual elevation profile. But still, I was running a lot more than I would’ve on a trail so that had to count for something.  I did set another PR and I found my results from my Tom Tom amusing. Mostly the elevation profile and the map of my run. 😉

It might be easiest to break this up to pros and cons (of course just my opinion!). Would love to hear comments from anyone who has done these events!

Pros:

  • The course is a 1.04 mile loop so there is no way to get lost. It’s probably one of the safest ways to get rack up mileage.
  • You set your own goals and it’s just you against the clock. This will also be a Con.  For me, I liked that my plan was to stick to my training plan and I purposely scheduled dinner plans later because I knew that I could be convinced to keep going since I technically had many more hours to go. But if someone was “afraid” to do a marathon because there are normally cut offs, you can sign up for 24 hours here and finish a marathon no problem in 24 hours…you could crawl it!
  • I’ve never eaten so much at a race! LOL  There is a main aid station with lots of goodies. We purposely skipped it many times.  I’ve taught my body to go for longer periods of time with little fueling but it’s so hard not to stop by and visit at the aid station…and maybe grab a few M & M’s or piece of pizza or peanut butter pretzels (my main trail staple). I’ve heard people say they actually gain weight on this event.
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Should’ve got a better picture but this is the main aid station…lots of goodies here!

  • No need to carry anything.  There is also another water station half way through which means you really don’t have to worry about carrying anything with you on this race as you have it all right there.
  • Seeing lots of friends!  It was fun to see so many people I knew. Unfortunately because I was on a mission to get done by a certain time, I couldn’t stop and slow down much to talk with them as most of them were going longer so moving slower that I wanted to at that point. But there are a lot of local runners along with people who come internationally for this event so a great place to listen to people’s running stories and goals.
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Heather and I at the start line getting ready for the 9am start 😉

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Had to get a selfie with the pretty “lake” behind us. There were some scenic spots on this loop!

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Hanging with Ed The Jester. I found out today that he placed 1st with 451 miles completed in 6 days! Just google “ed the jester” and you’ll find out some amazing things about this guy!

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Sharill! Her and her husband used to own Solemates which was a racing company that only did these type of timed events but shorter starting with 6 miles up to 24 hours.

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Ron! I see this guy volunteering everywhere! And you can’t help but love that shirt!

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Ila! Still waiting to hear on her finish as of right now. She is an inspiration and I blogged about her too: https://myownrunningstory.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/running-marathons-at-70/

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We reached our goal of a 50K! 31.8 miles on my watch 😉

  • Relaxed atmosphere.  People are all just doing the same thing going around this loop…some running, some walking, some talking, some listening to music or whatever.  There didn’t seem to be much “race” pressure that you can normally feel in a race.  You get to do whatever you want when you want.
  • Strategy.  You basically create your own race strategy. I met people who were planning X amount miles in X amount of hours, some people were just going with the flow and people like me were using it as a training run.  Your time, your strategy.
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My strategy was to complete a 50K but my mantra is the same thing I have on the back of my The Running University shirts 😉

Cons 

  • The course is a 1.04 mile loop and all you do all day and night is go around in the same circle for hours even though they change the direction every 4 hours.  One of the things I love most about ultra running is being out on a trail and seeing places I’ve never seen before. I don’t know how people do 6 days of this but all power to them!
  • You set your own goals and it’s just you against the clock.  As a running coach, this type of race can really push people to a level that I believe is not healthy.  Don’t get me wrong, I am all for people pushing outside their comfort zone mentally and physically!  However, to be smart about doing that, training your mind and body really helps too. I know several ultra runners that were out there and used to do this kind of mileage…however this race brings some people out that have not been spending the time training and it’s an injury or many waiting to happen. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your goal and I can’t tell you the number of times I heard people complaining about body parts hurting (there is a difference in knowing when you can push through “hurt” or “injury”) and when you are mentally exhausted, you are not always making the wisest decisions. It was painful for me to watch some of these people limping along (there is a medical tent on site and they do an amazing job…but I know people who wouldn’t go in there in fear of hearing they needed to stop). As much as it’s an inspiration to watch an 82 year old with a walking stick or a 10 year old achieve a 100 mile goal,  it’s still begs the questions, when is too much too much?

So, 4 days later, do I still want to do 100 miles in 48 hours next year?

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Will I do the event again next year?  Hell yes!  My plan would be sign up for the same 24 hours with friends, hopefully convince some people to do their first marathon, and have a walking/running party and just have fun with it!

Have you ever done a timed event? What’s your experience? Would love to hear your opinion!

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Race Report: Capitol Reef 50K with Ultra Adventures

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….and My Story Runs On….

On Saturday, I completed my hardest race to date…The choice words for the day were FUCKING BRUTAL (there are a few more swear words in this blog)…..it was also the most humbling race experience I had and one of the most gorgeous courses I’ve been on.  It was Ultra Adventures’ Capitol Reef 50K. Now I get why they are called “Adventures”. You may remember that I did my first 50 miler with them at Antelope Canyon. This was the highest elevation I’ve ever ran in with the steepest uphills and downhills I’ve ever done in my life.  Based on my standards, mostly an unrunnable course as you’ll read and see my pics below.  Before I break this down, I found this photo online yesterday as I was googling “mental toughness” and dang it, it pretty much summarizes my event!

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I was invited by a friend to do this race awhile back and I read some blogs and some info about it so I knew it was not going to be an easy one. Click here to see the map and elevation profile. Looked like a great opportunity to visit a new place I’ve never been to (one of the main reasons I love ultra/trail running is that it brings me to places I would not visit otherwise).  I was ready for the day to finally be here as you may remember my last blog post on Burning Out.

Our road trip up to Capitol Reef included a quick stop at Monument Valley which I had never seen before.  It was absolutely stunning and I am sure I’ll be doing that race at some point as well.

We went and grabbed our packets on Friday and had the honor of meeting Arnulfo Quimare, the famous Tarahumara Indian from the Born To Run book. I already had Caballo Blanco’s autograph in my book so I added his as well.

On race day, we arrived at the finish line where we would be bused up to the start line for this point to point race.  This is the 2nd time that my friend/trail wife, Elaine and I ended up wearing the same shirt…which fit well with this race #RunSteepGetHigh.  Matt Gunn, the race director, gave a briefing at the beginning and I tried not to worry about some of the words he was using like “bushwacking” and “boulder mountain”.

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Run Steep Get High 😉

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Obligatory selfie with Elaine and Lori (this was her idea in the first place)

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Matt Gunn, race director giving the briefing.

The three of us agreed ahead of time that it was each woman for herself and if we ended up together that would be fine but we were “running” our own race.  My goal was to finish and not got lost (this is their 2nd annual and blog reports from last year mentioned people getting lost.  Matt does a great job in taking feedback from his post race surveys as the course was marked very well in my opinion.  Actually looking for those pink flags helped keep me focus and made it “funner” by seeming like a bit of a scavenger hunt.)  The 50K course had an 11 hour cutoff (my average has been a little over 8 hours) and Ultrasignup forecasted that I would end at 11:45 (not sure what their algorithms are based on) and I was determined to prove them wrong.

I knew the first 8 miles were going to be an uphill climb so my plan was to hike this entire part to save energy so I could “run” later. These pictures don’t do it justice. I will say that I could feel the elevation change but it didn’t effect as much as I thought (giving some credit to some exercises I’ve been working on from The Oxygen Advantage book).

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The scenery was breathtaking and such a different experience from running in the desert which is my usual trail running play ground. The first half of the course was a combination of beautiful meadows (mainly single track but fairly runnable although you couldn’t see the terrain under the grass sometimes so you had to be careful for rocks); rocky trails; and boulders:  IMG_9149

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Cow bones?? Dead trail runners??

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more nonrunnable terrain…for me anyways!

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Caught Arnulfo with some amazing running form in his sandals!

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Seriously??

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Channeling my Spiderman skills again..

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Boulder Mountain…this seemed like at least a mile of this type of terrain.

Lori and I “ran” together up to about Mile 14.  We were bumming a bit as we had done some good training and really just wanted to run.  We would find a good runnable trail but then 50 feet later it became unrunnable again (although clearly runnable for the many other experienced runners that are used to this type of terrain). She got ahead of me and at this point I was comfortable being alone as I knew the course was marked well and I was not worried about getting lost.

More beautiful water scenery on this course with lakes and creeks…I used to be “afraid” of crossing creeks and we had several of those. When it worked out, I would use rocks or logs to cross but I got over that fear after some of our Black Canyon trail runs so when it didn’t work out, I would just walk right through them. The cold water felt good on my feet and I knew I wouldn’t get blisters as I’ve done this several times in my shoes before.

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I finally got to the Donkey Reservoir Mile 19 Aid Station.  A lady said that my friend Lori was about 2 minutes ahead of me but I was ready to take a little break here.  There was a 4pm time cutoff at this aid station and I got there around 2:30pm so all was good at this point. I had been following my nutrition plan and was feeling great (outside of being bummed that I wasn’t running as much as I wanted to).  The volunteers were great. I ate some quesadillas and had a little Coke (I only drink Coke on trail aid stations and it always hits the spot!). Got my water pack filled up and off I went. The next aid station was going to be 10 miles away so I was prepared for that…or so I thought…
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I noticed the battery in my Tom Tom was close to dying. I wasn’t too worried about it at this point as I was comfortable finding the course markers.  It died at about mile 21 and I was fine for a bit. This is when my mind started playing tricks on me. It was really hard to gauge how long it would take me to get to the next aid station. I wasn’t doing my normal pace for sure and it’s so hard to do math at this point on the trail.  I started doing one of my favorite ChiRunning meditations on the 5 senses to keep me present and distracted. I focused on all my senses:
Eyes: I had to keep my eyes on the trail a lot since it was pretty technical but I loved to see the pretty flowers, the views, the pink markers that were guiding my way…
Ears: I could hear the birds chirping, the wind in the trees, the water flowing through creeks..my heart rate going up on the uphills (at points it sounded like it would jump out of my chest!)..at one point I played music on my Iphone via the speaker so I could still be part of nature..I kept it low but needed some more distraction to get through it…I could hear footsteps behind me once in awhile as runners were passing me (this messed with my head a bit too as 50 mile people who started an hour before me and had completed more mileage were actually running this course…I knew they had more experience running in this terrain but still!!…)…I could hear my breath as I was focusing on my cadence and breathing together..
Smell: I could smell cow patties but never saw any cows which was weird (I heard some too) and my favorite was going through a few patches of pink flowers (which could be easily mistaken as the pink course markers) and the smell of them was overwhelming yet soothing.
Touch:  sometimes the wind would pick up and I could feel it on my skin…the sun on my skin…being brushed by the bushes on the side (wait for the bushwhacking part in a few)
Not much to do with Taste outside of the ginger candy I picked up at the last aid station.
Even though this worked for periods of time, the non runnable parts seemed to never end…and the steep uphills and downhills continued…THEN we got into the bushwhacking part Matt had mentioned in the briefing…

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Can you see the pink marker in the top left hand side of the photo? You can barely see the trail but we were literally going through shrubs..so hard to see the ground and run this part too..

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Do you see the pink marker in the top left hand side of the photo again? Yes, I crawled over logs and this was not the only place..

I kept wandering when the heck I would get to the aid station at Mile 29. There were several times that I could feel a lump in my throat and I just wanted to cry.  Mentally I can usually get through races by working on the meditation above or just enjoying nature and knowing that I am doing what I love to do most: run around in nature….but by this point, I was so freaking ready for it to be over…a few times I just wanted to sit down and have a helicopter come and get me..I’m not a religious person but I prayed to God, Jesus, and Mother Mary several times..and then there was Rikki (bottom line, my friend Lori M bought these for our adventure..there is more to that story but I’ll save that for another blog post)
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A few times (and yes, I realized I was talking out loud) I said “I just want my Mommy”..or I would think about my boyfriend and how bad I just wanted to be in his arms…I’ve never felt like I wanted something to be over so bad before…Every time I turned a corner, I kept hoping for that dang aid station…I had to be close….
Finally I reached it….it was 6pm and I had been on my feet for 10 hours.  The volunteer said that there was only 3.8 more miles to go…yeah! but were they runnable miles?  He said yes but again, I couldn’t rely on his idea of runnable as clearly my definition is a bit different.  I had Coke and M+Ms and took off.  If it were truly runnable, no matter how tired I was, I could do this!  I know I can run 4 miles in an hour! And thankfully it was mostly runnable!  Heck, all of the sudden there was sand and I was so happy to run in it!
These were some of the views from the last part of the race:

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Since my Tom Tom died, I was using my phone for time…I kept pulling it out to check and see how I was doing..I am sure if I had the info, my last 4 miles were the fastest in this race…I still had to walk a few times and at this point, my goal was to finish within the 11 hour cutoff…that’s all I kept thinking about…I finally saw the road that we would be crossing before the finish line..my phone time was 7pm so I’m thinking it’s too late…I wasn’t going to have the same epic finish as my 50 miler…but I kept running as fast as my legs could take me as I was SOOOOOO ready for this to be done! I couldn’t wait to see my friends at the end…I finally see the finish line and the clock…the clock is at 10:59:55 and I’m running as fast as I could…the seconds were counting down…I crossed the finish line at 11:00:01 (unofficial time)…and then there I was standing there, finally done with this darn race and no one was there to greet me! Where the heck were my friends?  Lori M came up right after and was so bummed she missed my finish..apparently Lori C had told them I was about an hour behind her so they figured they had time (it was a long day for all of us so I think we were all confused by this point!)…..it didn’t matter…I WAS FINALLY DONE WITH IT!

I realize this is a long blog post but here are my Thorns, Roses and Learning Lessons (in addition to what was already mentioned)
Thorns:

  • I would train more on technical trails (not that I plan on doing this one over again), read more blog posts about the race and be better prepared in general
  • I didn’t get much sleep before the race..I had a total of 14 hours the 3 nights before the race and I know that effected me.

Roses:

  • ChiRunning:  I worked on my form as much as I could and I know that helped me mentally and physically! Used lots of the hill technique, arm swing and lots of work with my breathing/cadence especially when I could get into a running groove.  Lots of form work with my walking as well.
  • Nutrition: I followed the same plan I did for my 50 miler and never bonked. Felt good all the way!
  • Scenery: even though it was tough terrain, it was amazing scenery!

Learning lessons:

  • Running is always a metaphor for life. I learned that when I put my mind to something, no matter how hard I can do it. This race.pushed my mental limits like no other race has before.  This will certainly prepare me for any hard life experiences!
  • Being alone was hard but knowing what to do helped me. Make sure you have a plan on what to do if you get close to a break down. I’d love to hear what other ultra runners (or anyone doing long events) does when they know they are so close to that point.
  • I overcame a lot of fears and mental breakdowns…during this race I became my own inspiration! I don’t mean to brag but every time I made it through another mental mind fuck, I was cheering myself on. When it’s just you out there, you need to dig deep (like the photo above) so you can call yourself a bad ass!  I am so proud of myself for getting through that….even though my official time was an 11:03:03 and I was 2nd to last..I FUCKING FINISHED!!

Would I ever do this one again?  HELL NO! As a matter of fact, if someone told me I had to redo the Antelope Canyon 50 miler in sand or Capitol Reef 50K, hands down I would be doing Antelope!  But this race had a huge impact on my character..sounds cheesy but I’ve been feeling like my soul was shaken up a bit …I know that during those 11 hours, my mind/body/spirit grew a little bit more…isn’t that why we do these things? To reach out of our comfort zone and stretch ourselves?  To see how far we can push our body, mind and spirit and conquer things we never thought possible?

I absolutely love the Grand Circle Trail series. Matt and his crew do an amazing job. My goal is to do all of them at some point since they are all strategically placed in amazing locations…who knows which one will be next?

I tweaked this quote: “A mind, body and spirit that are stretched by new experiences, can never go back to their old dimensions.”

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Finishers! 3 of us did the 50K and the other 2 did the half marathon (which was brutal too!)

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seriously gorgeous views!

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Yes! Not only did I inspire myself but love to hear that I can inspire other people to do epic shit too!

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Race report: MASS Gathering Memorial Day Marathon

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….and My Story Runs On….

I guess I’m more likely to blog while I’m on “vacation” since this is my 2nd blog in a week!
About a month ago, I realized I needed to get in 20 miles on Sat and 10 on Sun during Memorial weekend for my next 50K race (Capitol Reef, UT on 7/9/16).  I knew it would be hard to get this is in MA by myself.  My trip consisted of: being in my friend’s wedding in Boston last weekend, 5 days at Kripalu assisting Danny Dreyer, the founder of ChiRunning for 5 days and then a weekend in Pittsfield MA to visit family (my home town). I knew I wouldn’t get any long runs in the weekend of the wedding so I started googling races…lo and behold I found this marathon: MASS Gathering Memorial Day Marathon.
I started looking into it and figured: it’s 30 min from Pittsfield, 26 miles in one day is close enough to 30 in 2 days, it would be my first marathon out of state (7th one), first marathon in my home state and the icing on the cake was that it was benefiting Team RWB (I’m a member of the Phoenix Chapter) and Soldier On. I thought about it for a few days and then decided to go for it.
This past week I tried to follow my training plan but also was on my feet a lot due to teaching and coaching.  Even though I took Thu and Sat “off” of running, I went into the race with some mileage on my legs (61.2 according to my Jawbone but that’s including all my steps so a bit exaggerated…still a lot though).

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I was on tired legs already!

The eve of the marathon, my head starting messing with me a bit.  It was my first marathon where I didn’t have any friends or people that I knew.  I couldn’t find any information about the course and elevation (I used to not care about this but as my running story evolves, I realize knowing this information really helps me prepare for the race and strategize).  I knew it would be a hilly course so that made me feel better since I love hills due to the unique way we go up and down them with ChiRunning technique.  I was also worried about the weather as it was supposed to rain (I’m too used to perfect weather conditions in AZ) and it was going to be humid (I’m used to a dry heat.) I even started googling ‘running in dry heat vs humidity’! Then I started thinking, do I want to “race” this? Could I possibly PR (have a personal record) on this course with the hills (my best time for a full is in Sedona with a 4:58 and it was because of my hill strategy). Then I realized, I was wasting too much valuable energy  so I decided to go run it as the training run it was meant to be. I knew the cutoff was 7 hours (race director said they wouldn’t leave anyone on the course anyways) so I had plenty of time.

My aunt drove me the morning of the race and I was there in plenty of time which is rare for me.  I had 50 minutes to kill so I did my ChiRunning body looseners and found a seat to relax in.  IMG_8642

I noticed a guy from afar doing the body looseners and I knew he was a ChiRunner as we are the only ones who do this sequence (later I talked to him and he had been in the Kripalu class I assisted with last year!)  He was doing the half though. The race started 10 minutes late and I felt good right away going down the gentle downhill.  The race started with 80% humidity which I was not used to.

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My biggest goal in a long race is pacing myself. I had to slow myself down as I knew I was going faster than I should, especially knowing there would be some uphills and I had several miles to go. The course was beautiful!  I was bummed that I couldn’t find a trail race as I prefer that over the road but this race was hilly and nice enough scenery where I felt I could’ve been on a trail.

Roses:

  • Mentioned already in paragraph 3 above 😉
  • Loved the hilly course!  I know this is not normal but I was fresh from teaching ChiRunning.  I worked on my form quite so I could be as efficient as possible and maintain my energy throughout the miles.  I practiced active and passive pelvic rotation on the uphills and downhills; had some great aha moments when my legs felt heavy by allowing my ankles to lift behind me and could feel my legs be more relaxed;  I used my arm swing to help me on the hills and headwind we had on the last 3 miles of the race; focused on nose breathing as much as I could.
  • The scenery was beautiful!  I love all the green and it’s one of the things I miss from MA that we don’t have in Phoenix.  Here are some photos:
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Added to the humidity I’m sure!

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Lots of pretty flowers along the course!

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Honoring Memorial Day

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Love New England scenery!

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Hills….

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More hills…

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Settled in 1750!

  • They said there would be aid stations at every 2-3 miles and there were! This was necessary for me as the day got hotter and hotter and more humid. I poured more water over my head than down my throat! I also kept imagining the scenery with lots of snow on the ground just to keep cool thoughts.
  • RAIN at mile 21 was AMAZING!  I will say I was ready for the race to be over due to the heat and humidity and that rain definitely helped out.
Thank God for the rain!

Thank God for the rain!

  • The Mom/boyfriend team cheering squad!  These guys kept moving along and cheering us on. Past the half way point, she had a cooler with wet cloths and ice that really helped. I even stuck some ice down my bra to stay cool for a while. I found out later that she was cheering on her 2 daughters (we were leap frogging) who were doing their first marathon together! I love this!  I was able to get a photo of them at the end of the race.
Great running stalkers!

Great running stalkers!

  • There were several home owners along the course that came out with water, oranges, etc which was great (although I think there could’ve been more)
  • My aunts at the end of the race cheering me in!
  • My dog tag medal and local craft beer which is a must at the end of any race for me 😉
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Finisher showing off the dog tag and my Team RWB shirt!

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Great craft beer from Big Elm Brewing. Had the stout…yummy!

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Souvenirs from my training run 😉

Thorns:

  • I could deal with the heat but the humidity sucked!  I wish the race would’ve started earlier but I chatted with a guy before the race who said he did it a few years ago and it was snowing.  The frequent aid stations really helped though!
  • Not too crazy about the cant in the road. I had to move from left to the right side of the road frequently as I could tell my legs were not even with the pavement.  I could feel this in my hips the next day.
  • I was disappointed in the lack of representation from Team RWB folks.  Although I think in Phoenix we have an abnormally active chapter so I am used to seeing at least 20 other RWB shirts and running through the finish line with an American flag.  I think I saw one other person with a shirt. (Although still happy to know that proceeds benefited this awesome charity!)

At the beginning of the race, my pace was good and I started thinking I could PR until the humidity got to me.  I am still happy with my results. It’s my 4th best time out of 7 marathons and considering the amount of running I had done the week before, the humidity, etc. I was happy.

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Placed 56th out of 98 total and 18th out of 38 women.

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Dark blue is the elevation change

I normally judge my “success” on how I feel when I am done and how I feel the next day or two after a big race. I finished strong, I was a bit sore the day after and felt great 2 days after.  My abs and obliques were sorer than my legs which is always a good sign that my ChiRunning form is good 😉

Overall, I would recommend this race! Not sure I would take a special trip for it as I like to experience new scenery and prefer trails… but if I happen to be up there and I’m trained, I would do it again.

What is your favorite race that you’ve done out of state?

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Race Report: Crown King Scramble 2016

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….and My Story Runs On….

“Come on, you’re already trained” she said.  These words coming from my friend Suzi who years ago swore she would never trail run yet ran me in my last mile of my 1st 50K, just did her first ultra in February (Black Canyon 60K) and now decided to do her 2nd one.  My boyfriend Greg kidded around and said, “Serves you right.  Now you know what it feels like when you’re trying to get people to drink the Kool Aid.”  Soooooo….I signed up for Aravaipa’s Crown King Scramble 50K.

This race is no joke…The Crown King Scramble is a point to point uphill 50 kilometer foot race which starts at 1700 feet elevation and tops out at mile 28.7 at 6520 feet elevation before a final 600 foot descent into the finish.  This is the elevation profile:

Elevation profile!

Elevation profile!

We had an option for the early start at 5am and I’m glad we took it. Not only did it get us out of the heat for the one hour but more importantly, it took the edge off for getting to the first cutoff (disqualification point) at mile 15.3 in 3.5 hours.  (After the cutoff experience at Antelope Canyon, I knew I didn’t want that extra stress again.)

I considered going for a personal record (my best time for a 50k is 8:19 but I knew this race may not be the right one).  And of course, I was “lucky” again and had the same issue as my last 50K (yes, it was that time of the month again!).  I decided I was just going to enjoy the race and our beautiful Arizona landscape.  One of the things I love most about trail running is being outdoors and enjoying nature.

We barely got there in time and got in the start line about 2 minutes before starting. This was the first ultra for Deb and Kerri, Suzi and Krista’s 2nd, and my 4th. Unfortunately Elaine had the flu and wasn’t able to join us (she’s done two 50 milers but hadn’t done a 50K yet).

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I normally like to do my body looseners but didn’t have time for that. My plan was to run the first 15 miles as much as possible as I knew I would be hiking a lot of the 2nd half. The weather was perfect. It was still dark so we had headlamps but we got to see an amazing sunrise!  I love that I know quite a few people that are trail/ultra runners. I ran into several friends along the way and got to catch up with them a bit.  I met Deborah and Mark a long time ago when I co-taught a ChiRunning workshop for the Mountain Milers group in Prescott.  As much as I wanted to run this part, I was in no rush and wanted to conserve energy for later. This first half had some rolly polly hills but nothing crazy yet.  The night before, I had reviewed a few of my ChiSchool videos on breathing and steep hills so I started focusing on my form and matching my breathing with my footsteps.

From miles 15-19 we started getting the harder hills.  I was by myself on and off and totally OK with that.  I love to run with people just as much as I love being alone on a trail.  I saw Chris, Amanda and Mechaela.  I couldn’t wait to get to the Mile 19 aid station as I know several of my friends were volunteering there. It’s always great to see your friends at aid stations (it’s always a hard choice to pick in between running a race and volunteering at one!).  I normally stick to my nutrition plan (thanks to Brooke who helped with my 50 miler!) but the theme of their aid station was Fiesta and they had some Tecate so I had to have a small shot glass of beer ;). Surprise: Baby G Growler was there as well!  He is the mascot of Running for Brews Tempe (a social running club that I’m in charge of) Right before this I saw my friend Krista and she wasn’t feeling too well. We got up the aid station and I told her to cool off (it was getting warm) and get some food down.  There is also an elevation change to consider for this race and it’s easy to feel nauseated (I felt it several times).  She felt better and we moved on.  My TomTom died at some point because the storage was full.  This never happened for me and was a good learning lesson.I hadn’t downloaded quite a few of my training runs apparently so it didn’t have enough storage for my run. I was a bit annoyed at first but it was a blessing in disguise.  When you don’t know what mile you are at, it’s quite liberating. We just kept setting our next goal to get to the next aid station.

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Cooling off and getting food at the aid station with Krista

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Beer shot with a random stranger names Patrick at the aid station

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My good friend Lori at the aid station volunteering 😉

I ran into a few more friends.  Marina and Jamie were doing their first ultra. Marina’s been having some calf issues so I gave her a few tips on how to limit using it.  I also met Becki and ran into Lynsey (both of their first ultras too!). We did quite a bit of leap frogging for the remainder of the race.  At some point, I tripped over a rock and had a little tumble. Not a big deal…it’s actually been a long time since I fell trail running so I was due for a fall.  I normally am able to catch my balance before falling but my hydration pack was full and I couldn’t counter balance the fall.  I barely got a few scrapes on my hand and we kept moving. I heard my friend Tommy coming up behind us and he’s a great runner and positive guy.  He ran with us for a bit, shared his big smile and positive energy and then moved on.

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Selfie with Tommy and Krista

The Fort Misery Aid station was at mile 22.3.  Apparently they win Best Aid Station contest every year and it was evident by the amount of alcohol they had available.  Again, not something I would normally do but I was feeling good so I had a small Bloody Mary and was proud of myself for resisting the Fireball shot.

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Open Bar coming up!

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Why not have a Blood Mary?

This was the hardest part of the run. You can see how far we climbed. We passed creeks which were great for dunking our hats and buffs. I walked through them purposely as the cold water felt really good on my feet.  I had an extra pair of socks for back up but never used them.  We also had to deal with ATVs and cars four wheel driving. We knew this would be possible as they can’t close the forest road down.  It was a bit annoying although most people were very nice.The smell of diesel from their vehicles was worst than the dust they were creating.

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Creeks! We were looking forward to these!

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We came a long way up that hill!

It’s really weird because sometimes you look back and think, wow, what was I thinking/saying for all that time?  Somehow the time goes by chatting with friends and enjoying the scenery.  I have lived in AZ for over half of my life and have never seen this part of our state.

One of my favorite parts was when we started getting into the pines. The tag line for the race is “spines to pines” because we leave the desert landscape at Lake Pleasant and get to Crown King which is at 6700 feet of elevation. I love the smell of pine trees and hearing the wind blow through the needles.  The slight breeze felt good too.  The last aid station was 2 miles away from the top of the hill and we knew we had 2 miles of downhill after that. We were close!  We kidded around about our heavy legs and whether they would remember how to run downhill (free energy!) after doing so much hiking.

Running downhill was no problem and before we knew it, we were in “town” and people were directing us to the finish line.

My official time was 8:45:22.  Considering I had no expectations for this race other than enjoy it and finish it, I’m happy with it!  As a matter of fact, this is a 50K I would consider doing again. I love a challenge and I love hills.  If I do it next year, I may try and PR the course but for now, I’m just happy to have my 4th Ultra under my belt. I will say finishing a 50 miler 6 weeks prior to this definitely boosted my confidence.  I also love to finish a race feeling strong rather than feeling like a truck ran over me.  I finished strong and even though I was a bit sore the next day, I felt great!

I personally would recommend this race. It’s no joke so make sure to train for the hills and elevation (physically, nutritionally and mentally). Read other blog posts to get the scoop but make sure to have a buff to cover your mouth and nose when there is dust being kicked up.  If you are worried about time, do the early start. It was well worth not worrying about the cutoffs and having an hour in the cooler weather.

I would also recommend spending the night. We stayed at one of these cabins (highly recommend them!) and enjoyed Crown King.  We had dinner at the Saloon and breakfast at Prospector Mall (both were yummy).  And last but not least, you cannot leave Crown King without visiting the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club on the way back to I-17.

Not only was this another great race, but another great weekend with good friends!  Love my running friends and the fact that I have more of them getting into trail running but more importantly into ultra running! Thanks to Aravaipa Running for putting on another amazing event!

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At the Cleator Bar and Yacht club and “ran” into Jamil, the Aravaipa Running Race Director

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Hanging with my friends and the Cleator Bar and Yacht Club 😉

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Mascots! Baby G Growler and Baby E-vil from Running for Brews and Vaip Daddi from Araviapa Running chilling at Cleator Bar and Yacht Club 😉

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Sunrise!

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My first finisher jacket! Well deserved I might add!

 

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

50 Miles of Gratitude: (8) Altras & Meeting the Co-Founder

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….and My Story Runs On….

I love meeting people while running. Sometimes people run past you and just say hi or good job and sometimes they will chat with you.  I have personally found that trail and ultra runners tend to be a bit more laid back and more open to a quick chat while in the middle of a race.

So while Elaine and I were in Waterhole Canyon after the 28.5 Aid Station, we found ourselves in a bit of an obstacle course.  There were several ladders that we had to climb to get up and over some of the cliffs.  At one point, we were right behind this guy….and after he got over the ladder, Elaine went right after him…well, it wasn’t the easiest ladder to get up and over so while he was still there, she asked him to help her up.  He was very nice and helped her…and I needed help too.  I remember hearing him say something about “your hat” and “your shoes” but I was concentrating on not falling off the ladder.

One of the ladders we had to go over. (picture courtesy of http://www.runningwithoutlimits.com/antelope-canyon-50k-not-always-what-you-expect/)

One of the ladders we had to go over. (picture courtesy of http://www.runningwithoutlimits.com/antelope-canyon-50k-not-always-what-you-expect/)

We ran a bit together and Elaine asked him, “Why did you mention the hat and shoes? Are you an Altra Ambassador?” (Elaine had her Altra hat and I had my favorite Altra Lone Peaks shoes).  He was pretty humble about it and said…well, I’m actually the co-founder, Jeremy Howlett.  Whoa!  How cool was this?  As a running coach, I’m not one to be tied to a particular brand of shoes but if there is one brand that I tend to use the most, it’s Altras. I was so excited to have a chance to meet him! I told him I was a ChiRunning Instructor (we tend to like Altras because they a natural shoe for your foot: Zero Drop™, wide toe box) and how much I love the shoes.  He said he knew Danny Dreyer (the founder of ChiRunning) and mentioned what a great guy he was and how supportive he is of the shoes as well.

Met Jeremy Howlett, the co-founder of Altra shoes ;)

Met Jeremy Howlett, the co-founder of Altra shoes 😉

We chit chatted with him for awhile and then started running again. We leap frogged with him a few times and then we lost each other.

I met a few other cool people that I’ll be blogging about. I’m very grateful for my Altra shoes and so glad I had the chance to run and chat with Jeremy!

My current Altras: 1 pair of trail shoes, 1 hybrid and 1 road shoe

My current Altras: 1 pair of trail shoes, 1 hybrid and 1 road shoe

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My friends love their Altras too!

For any of my local peeps that like to support our local shoe stores, you can find them at I-Run and Sole Sports!

(I am not an Ambassador for Altras….yet…might have to look into it though!)

50 Miles of Gratitude: 50 Posts about my first 50 Miler

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)