Sunday, January 24, 2016

What My Recovery From A 150 Miler Looks Like

I'd say I'm still in the recovery phase from the 150 mile run at Across The Years. I'll give you an idea of what "recovery phase" means at my house:
  • Eating a cinnamon roll the size of my face to help me forget about how sad I was to pay $1200 for a roof repair. (I just broke into sobs AGAIN when I typed "$1200".)
  • I bought the "Insanity Max 30" exercise DVDs. Do you want to know how bad your muscles hurt after running 100 miles? Just do a 30 minute DVD for two days in a row. Holy ouch.
  • Almost constant listening to Bruce Springsteen. (I'm giddy as a school girl that I'm going to his concert in a few months.) 
  • I snapped this picture from my front porch as I was leaving for work. That mountain in the distance is Gooseberry Mesa which is part of the Zion 100 course. 

I've also spent some time out on the trails. One morning I enjoyed the Prospector Trail with my amazing friends Alex and Cherie Santiago.

Alex does amazing things with cameras and is working on some cool new videos I'll share with you when he finishes. I admire what Alex is doing right now. He has set a goal to get in shape and has been so consistent with hitting the trails for 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 miles everyday. That perseverance and dedication is admirable.

I love the contrast of the red cliffs against the snow on Pine Valley Mountain.

Another evening I visited Kolob Canyon to hike a canyon overlook trail.

We hit the trail at the golden hour when the red mountains were really glowing.

Kolob is part of Zion National Park. The entrance to Kolob is many miles away from the main park entrance so Kolob receives far fewer visitors, but there are some sweet trails there.

I went with my brother-in-law Matt. There were a few times he broke through the snow and sunk up to his calves in that yucky white stuff that I'm allergic to.

We climbed the trail high enough that we could see Pine Valley Mountain in the distance,

Then a few days ago I hit the cinder knoll in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. While out there I found a pony galloping across the trails so I put a collar on her and asked if she wanted to join me.

This was Little Debbie's first visit to the cinder knoll. I think she loved it almost as much as the piece of pizza she snatched off the counter when I wasn't looking earlier in the week.

I've seen some really cool pictures of people running with their dogs so I thought I'd try taking one. I set the camera on the ground and we ran past it. This trick did indeed take a cool picture. And in the process, that sweet, innocent-looking pony kicked a shovel full of dirt into the camera lens:

THANK GOODNESS for that $33 accidental damage policy I bought with the camera a year ago!! I sent it to them explaining what happened, and didn't have high hopes. But they have already given me an Amazon credit to get a new one! It's a good thing. Otherwise I'd have to buy a new one, feel sad, and have to eat another face-sized cinnamon roll to make me feel happy again. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

2015 Running Year In Review

2015 ended up being quite the adventure for running.....aside from losing a toenail, which incidentally hurt worse than listening to 1,000 Justin Bieber songs. Here is a rundown of some of the cool places my legs carried me last year. I'll link to the individual race reports if you want to see the stories or more pictures.

I ran the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival in Las Vegas with Mel and Jackson. I had originally been shooting for 100 miles, but with the aforementioned pesky toe, I dropped to 50. It was seriously awesome to watch Mel and Jackson both get 31 miles - their first ultramarathons!

In February I was also interviewed by Ultrarunner Podcast. You can check out the interview HERE or check out Ultrarunner Podcast on iTues. I've listened to all their podcasts on my long runs so it was cool to be interviewed by them.

I ran the Monument Valley 50 miler. There is a little bonus if you get to the area early - you can take a jumping picture in the exact spot where Forrest Gump ran!

Running Monument Valley was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. Many of the trails are private trails on the Navajo Nation, so it was quite an honor to see these views. It was honestly like running through a postcard the entire time. I put together this video with scenes from the race:

I kept my streak going of being one of the few people who has ran the Zion 100 every year since the race started. Living only a few minutes away from the course, this race feels like home. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

I became BFFs with Marie Osmond through doing some coaching with her nephew who did a long run through most of the state of Utah. My mom was super jealous.

I ran the Ultra Adventures Bryce 50 miler. The first few hours were cold and foggy which was a photographer's paradise.

I almost got barfed on by a stranger. I ate a Snickers bar while standing in a flash flood. I prayed that I wouldn't get struck by lightning. I got mud in my underwear. I helped people keep going when they wanted to give up. Then later they kept me going when I wanted to give up. I saw God's fingerprints in the beauty around me. You know, just your average ultramarathon.

In Utah there is a legendary mountain called Timpanogos that I have always wanted to climb to the top of. Finally in July I was able to make it up there with my friends Catherine, Carin, and Alessandra.

I've seen lots of crazy things on the trails, but our run to the peak of Timpanogos was the first time I've ever seen this:

Also in July I ran my first marathon before going to work for the day. That work day became unofficially sponsored by Dr. Pepper.

I ran the inaugural Tushars Sky Marathon which was ridiculously beautiful and ridiculously difficult.

This race will teach you what a 10 hour marathon feels like.

The wildflowers were spectacular. The greens on the mountains were just I had no idea that a landscape like this existed outside of Europe, let alone in Utah!

I made this clip with views from the Tushars race:

I ran the Wasatch 100 which was as difficult and crazy as everyone says it is. I was paced by my amazing friends Clair, Jared, and Catherine. Temperatures reached nine billion degrees and I was embarrassed when I my skeleton stood at the finish line because all my skin had melted off. I finished a comfortable (cough, cough) 35 minutes before the cutoff.

I became the first person to do a quadruple St. George Marathon. I started running at the finish line Friday morning, ran up to the start line, then back down the course, then made it back up to the start line Saturday morning to run my last marathon with the official race. My stomach shut down at the finish line and it took every ounce of will power I had to not throw up on this girl who stopped to tell me everything she learned from the book "Born To Run". The race was a challenging, rewarding experience.

I ran my first ever Rim To Rim To Rim run at the Grand Canyon. I started at the South Rim, ran down to the bottom, then up the North Rim, then turned around and came back which ended up being 53 miles after getting lost, then turning around to retrieve some lost trekking poles. The run was certainly harder than I expected.

I did a little bit of exploring before the Grand Canyon and got one of my all time favorite jumping pictures at Horseshoe Bend:

The last few days of December and the first day of January I ran 150 miles at the Across The Years three day race. It was the perfect culmination of such a fun year of running.

I feel incredibly thankful to be working with St. George Running Center, Altra Running, Tailwind Nutrition, UltrAspire, and Ultra Adventures. It is an honor to help represent brands and people that I believe so much in.

I can't wait to see what adventures are in store for 2016!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Across The Years Race Report - 150 Mile Run

My dad died when he was 38 years old. Ever since I started running ultramarathons I have wanted to run one at age 38 to honor him. He had a number of health problems and would have never dreamed of something like this. Well, a few weeks ago I hit that age (I have the gray hair to prove it). The Across The Years 72 hour race last week was to be that 100+ mile race for him.

The course for Across The Years is a 1.05 mile loop around the spring training facilities for the Dodgers and White Sox in Phoenix, Arizona. There is some pavement, but it is mostly a packed dirt trail. Runners can set up tents and tables right next to the track which is nice because you're never too far from whatever supplies you might need.

Across The Years has a 24 hour, 48 hour, 72 hour, and 6 day (yes, SIX DAY!!!) race. Runners from those different divisions are out on the loop at the same time and you run as far as you can in your given time. I signed up for the 72 hour race which I ran last year. (You can see that race report HERE.)

I had the pleasure of spending some time with my AMAZING friend Barbara Macklow who completed a total of 79 miles - at age 81! She is remarkable. (Check out a cool video about her HERE.)

St. George Running Center set me up with some clothes and gear before the race. I wore the new Altra Olympus 2.0 for the first couple days, then the Altra Torin on day three. I set a goal to take a jumping picture each day of the race no matter how crappy my legs may be feeling. Here is the jump from day one. (My friend Andy was with me when I jumped. I showed him the picture on the camera to verify that I didn't Photoshop some extra air underneath me.)

A few months ago I found a hideously absurd cat suit. I figured I'd bring it to the race with me to wear for a few miles and hopefully distract runners from their grumpy legs. I believe I may have found the only thing that could make runner's eyes hurt worse than their legs. The cat suit made it three miles.

With a timed race like this, you can rest or sleep whenever you want. My plan, as I did last year, was to go through the first night without sleeping. It was bitter, bitter cold. One runner said his car showed that it was 27 degrees. Do you want to know something that is not the slightest bit awesome? 27 degrees. Since when did Phoenix, Arizona become hospitable to polar bears? Not cool. I was so thankful when the sun finally started to rise on day two.

I finished the first 24 hours with a total of 80 miles. Mentally, the last thing you want to do is let your mind start thinking about the future. But it is INCREDIBLY difficult to turn off those thoughts yelling in your brain that say "If I feel like this after one day, how in the world can I do another two days?" Thinking about the future is the worst thing to do. It's just so hard not to.

One great distraction was spending some miles talking with my friend Patrick Sweeney. I met Patrick at Across The Years last year. Since that time he's had a few minor accomplishments, such as, um, running across the country. (HERE is a cool spotlight Redbull did about him.)

I used mostly liquid calories during the run (thanks Tailwind Nutrition!!), but didn't shy away from food at the aid station during times I felt hungry. The Across The Years aid station is the best I've ever seen. They had staple foods available 24 hours a day but even more food at meal times.

During a 100+ mile run, you experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. There are moments of loneliness, despair, frustration, and discouragement. For the first time at any of my races, I brought a picture of my dad to pull out during tough times to remind me why I was running.

I broke out the cat suit for two more miles on day two. I don't always wear a hideously absurd cat suit during an ultramarathon, but when I do, I take a jumping picture. This was around mile 100.

As with last year's race, my 14 year old son Jackson came to Arizona with me to hang out, crew, and run some miles with me. He ended up getting in a total of 14 miles. He was so helpful and it was great to have his support throughout the race. He is a good kid.

In the late 1800's six day races were huge. Back then, the elite six day racers were like the Michael Jordan and LeBron James of our day. I still regard them this way. What's so impressive is that the Michael Jordan and LeBron James of ultrarunning are the nicest, most down-to-Earth guys you could ever meet. I feel so fortunate to be able to call these guys friends. Case in point Ed "The Jester" Ettinghausen who last year set the World Record for the most 100 milers in a year. He won this year's six day race running a remarkable 481 MILES! He is one of my running heroes.

Another runner I really admire is Dave Johnston who ran an astonishing 450 miles in the six day race. He told me hilarious stories as we ran together and I was able to pick his brain about how he does what he does. But seriously, it's so awesome that the LeBron James of ultrarunning is so humble and friendly! We decided we needed to get a picture together. He said "We should take one standing in front of the porta potties!" Good call.

By the second night, my legs weren't cooperating very well. My muscles were tight and kept cramping. My knees were sore and the best I could muster was a fast walk. Jackson joined me for a few miles in the dark.

I was so incredibly sleepy after not sleeping at all the first night. I went to our tent in hopes of catching a few hours of sleep. Unfortunately the second night was just as cold as the first night. I laid in my sleeping bag covered by a pile of blankets but was still frozen to the core. I was so cold that I'd fall asleep for a bit but then wake myself up again shivering. It was approximately as enjoyable as getting a root canal while watching The Golden Girls. Eventually I decided to just get up and start walking again.

I survived the second night and felt so thankful when the sun started to rise on day three.

The latter miles of an ultramarathon are always so inspiring to me. Runners have been in forward motion hour after hour after hour. They are tired and worn down and raw. So, so raw. They are determined and brave and dedicated. It is really remarkable to see runners who are clearly struggling, but are continuing to push forward.

On the third morning of my race, a new batch of 24 hour runners started their race. It's nice to get some fresh blood out on the course and see some runners who aren't (yet) doing the ultra death shuffle.

In a perfect world where there is a Butterfinger under your pillow every morning, Celine Dion is banned from grocery store PA systems, and unicorns are for sale on Amazon, I would have loved to hit 200 miles. But one of the things I love about ultramarathons is the adventure of never knowing what is going to happen. Results aren't guaranteed. A race can go good or bad, but you'll never know unless you get brave enough to click the "Register" button. I love the uncertainty. I resolved that even if I didn't hit 200 miles, I would keep fighting. My goal was to reach the 72 hour cutoff knowing I had given my absolute 100%.

By this time, my body felt like I had been boxing with Mike Tyson. Unfortunately I have as much muscle composition as a #2 pencil, so Mike Tyson was winning this battle. In a race that lasts 72 hours, you don't need to worry if something is hurting. Just give it a little time and something else will start hurting to take your mind off the first ailment. This little game continues day after day.

On the last night I got into this slump where I was sleepwalking and moving at the speed of a filing cabinet. It was freezing cold like it had been the previous nights. Dave Johnston who I mentioned earlier zoomed past me and said "I want to go home. It's too cold here!" Dave is from ALASKA! Jackson came out and did some miles with me to get me moving again. He went up ahead and I worked hard to keep up with him.

During the nights at these races, the course becomes far less populated with runners. The small handful of runners who aren't in their tents trying to get warm or get some sleep push on, mile after mile, into the darkness. When you see a runner far ahead, you know who it is because you've seen each other for so many miles that you have memorized what everyone's running and walking gait looks like. At night people look less like runners and more like zombies.

Though I wasn't moving very fast, I felt proud of myself for being out on the course during the nights. Those were really hard parts of the race and I was happy that I didn't give up. My soul was filled with happiness when I saw the first light of day on the last morning of the race.

I finished Across The Years completing a total of 150 miles, a number that seemed unreachable during the points of the race when I struggled the most. I'm consistently amazed at what can be accomplished at ultramarathons when you keep moving forward and don't give up. I had just enough energy saved for a jump at the finish line.

Huge props to Aravaipa Running who put on the race and does such a good job of taking care of runners. I'm so thankful for the support from my family, and Jackson coming to the race. Enormous thanks to the amazing people at St. George Running Center, Altra Running, Tailwind Nutrition, UltrAspire, and Ultra Adventures for supporting this crazy hobby.

Across The Years was an inspiring, challenging, rewarding adventure. If my dad had been there to watch the race, I think he would have been happy.