Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mesquite Canyon 50k and Other Recent Ramblings

The desert is HOT. Especially for a northern dweller who hasn’t run in shorts yet this year. Yes, I was that runner who was glowing white amongst all the bronzed legs of more ‘acclimatized runners’. So what was I doing in the desert? Well, a last-minute decision to pull out of Chuckanut and a need to get a race under my belt sent me packing my bags to Phoenix for the Mesquite Canyon 50k. What? Yeah, and it was awesome!

To back up as to how I ended up in Arizona, running through cacti, this is what happened:

Data collection for my dissertation
I was planning to race Chuckanut this year and was psyched because in the past couple years I’d missed the registration and it was full. But, my body had slightly other plans. What was wrong? Well good question. A couple weeks before the race I came down with the crud. Ugh. I felt like I was hit with a brick wall. I would be out for a run and it felt like every step was so much effort that I was just dragging my body around the trails. NOT a good feeling. So I did what any runner would do…..I totally freaked out and called my coach! After talking me through that this wasn’t the end of the world, I was told to rest. And I did. Physically anyway. It actually wasn’t hard; the thought of running was totally overwhelming. I did squeeze in a few walks that exhausted me way more than they should of. Hmm. As the days went on and race week approached I wasn’t feeling any better. What the %^*? I saw my Dr. only to find out that everything was normal. I was healthy. But I didn’t feel good! I made the decision to pull out of Chuckanut a few days before the race. So frustrating! But I was still just feeling shitty. I could hardly jog a couple miles without having to walk.

So what was the problem then? Well, as probably most people know I’m working on my dissertation study right now. I’m actually in the data collection phase- which means lots of long hours at the lab and worrying about every little thing despite it being out of my control. I was a mess. For a detailed account, consult Zach: he’s had to put up with a zombie-like, freaking out, stress case, otherwise known as Stephanie for the past few months. It was not good. (NOTE: at the time I’m writing this I’m done with 99% of my data collection) So when your mom told you not to worry so much or you’d make yourself sick……she was right J

Pre-race. Ready to go!
ANYWAY, on to happier things. Mesquite Canyon 50k. What a great race! I was feeling better the following week so decided to try my luck racing a 50k in the heat. The course was just outside of Phoenix at the White Tank regional park. It had it all- long climbs, technical sections, and some great smooth, single track. I had a great time racing and was humbled by the challenging course. The 50k started at 7:30am, and I showed up wearing arm warmers. I’m pretty sure people were giggling at me and I jogged around before the start. I wised up shortly before the race started and ditched them. At 7:30 it was a very pleasant temperature. I wasn’t cold…..that never happens.

The first couple miles were pretty flat, rolling through cacti studded sand. It was a nice warm-up. From there we began a 7-8ish mile climb up 1,500 ft to the top of the hills. The uphill actually wasn’t as steep as I was expecting and I was able to get in a good rhythm and
make good time up the hill. At the top of the climb we took a sharp right hand turn and descended down a very rocky, technical section for 2-3 miles. It was rough. The heat was also just starting to become apparent, adding to the difficulty. I didn’t move very fast down this section. In fact, I was passed by a few men, whizzing by me like billy goats. Oh well. I was trying to stay within myself because I wasn’t sure how my body was going to handle 31 miles.

Start of the Mesquite Canyon 50k
At the bottom of the hill was an aid station and the turnaround point. Yep, we were heading right back up that hill. I actually enjoyed the 3 miles uphill much more than the downhill. Sure it was tough and I was sweating balls, but it was fun J At the top of the hill we took a slightly different way back, which was nice, smooth single track for the next several miles. I felt good and was having fun cruising down the trail. My hydration and nutrition were going pretty well too (yeah Clif shot gels!). Just a few more miles to go!

Somewhere around mile 25 though the wheels came off. I was no longer feeling good and I was really hot and tired. Even though I was suffering greatly, I was present. There is something about being on that edge that makes me feel alive, and I embrace it. The last 5 miles descended through another canyon with yet more technical sections and some fun ‘sandy bottoms’ running. I didn’t really run very well here. I still wasn’t feeling 100% healthy and it was apparent. Nothing to do but keep running though.

Finally I saw the glorious site of the last aid station at mile 29. Not much further to go! I put on my happy face and braced myself for the last few minutes of pain. Honestly, the last two miles were a wonderful way to finish a race. The trail was pretty flat and fast. It was nice to run after the last few miles of 15+ min miles. I breezed on by and passed my sister on the side of the trail just before the finish. That made me smile! I knew she was coming to watch (she lives in Tucson), but I hadn’t seen her for months.

As I ran across the finish line I smiled. What a tough 50k! It wasn’t expecting that much of a kick in the butt. I have some tough, hot races on the horizon though, so this was great practice! PLUS, I was greeted by delicious food AND a skull trophy at the finish. Does it get any better than that?!


Thanks to Jamil Coury for putting on a great race and giving me the opportunity to race last minute! I’ll be back!

My sister and I.


Monday, March 3, 2014

2014 Goals & Race Schedule

Better late than never, right? As of lately you can find me spending most of my time in the lab pipetting blood samples. Yes, I am FINALLY collecting data for my study! This is happening. In a big way that doesn't leave much free time. Hence the radio silence. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel though- I have all of my subjects scheduled and should be done with the data collection by the end of March. Woohoo!

In other news I've got some big goals lined up for 2014! Last year I learned quite a bit about myself, with many lessons learned the hard way. But, I took each as a positive learning experience and I hope to be a better (or at least smarter) person because of it. Without further ado, my race plans for 2014:

1. Chuckanut 50k, March 15
2. Lake Sonoma 50, April 12
3. Western States 100, June 28
4. The Rut 50k, September 13
5. The North Face Endurance Challenge, December 6

I'm pretty excited about all the races on my calendar this year. My big race for the year is Western States. I've not yet attempted a 100 mile race, so this is a big one for me. I'm excited and nervous at the same time!

I've also set some non-running related goals for 2014 (ok, one of them is running related :)

1. Stay Healthy
2. Get married
3. Complete my PhD
4. Run 100 miles
5. Keep life fun (meaning taking the time to maintain relationships with friends, be spontaneous, and not to worry about the small things)

I like to set these goals too because it reminds me to stay well-rounded. Although I LOVE to run, it's not my whole life. I have lots of other things that deserve attention as well.

And finally, I'm happy to note that I have some SUPER sponsors for 2014! I couldn't race and train as much as I do without their support! THANK YOU!! Great sponsors for 2014:

The North Face
Clif Bar

Now back to the lab….I have 3 subjects coming in today to test!

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: A Review in Photos

These are some of my favorite photos and moments of 2013. Enjoy! Happy New Year!!

Women's podium at UROC

Cif Bar HQ

Goofing around at the Clif Bar Athlete Summit

Emigrant Pass

Treadmill challenge at Footzone

REP open house

Snowshoe National Championships

Wintry day at Mt. Bachelor

Skiing near Devil's Lake
Too Cool for School

Christmas in Minnesota
On the beach in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Paulina Falls
Running the Napali Coast trail with Mike Foote
My favorite running partner
Jillian! Can't wait for more visits in 2014
Gorge Waterfalls 50k
Swiss Alps
Small island off the coast of Croatia
Speedgoat 50k
 Speedgoat 50k
Rooster Rock

Camping near Yellowstone
Sisters Rodeo

Hiking the Obsidian Flow

 4th of July Adventure
Middle and North Sister

Post-race wine tasting
Tiny D and I the day before WS
Middle and North Sister
One of the most difficult races I've run
The Source Lust List Issue
 UROC- this photo captures the moment perfectly
Hiking up to Hidden Peak during Speedgoat 50k 

I was very fortunate to have some great opportunities and experiences. Big thanks to my sponsors to making it possible! See you in 2014!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Reflections on the past year…a novel :)

[NOTE- this is a long post. I'll post another version of my 2013 reflections in PHOTOS for those who don't want to read my ramblings]

So I didn't get to race TNF 50 last weekend. I was pretty bummed. BUT, I was happy to be letting my body heal! After UROC I had some lingering pain in my left knee, nothing serious, just an angry tendon. How did this happen? Well, most likely because I ran my little butt off at UROC already slightly under the weather. In fact, as I've reflected back on my 2013 year of racing I found a pretty clear pattern.
Hanging out with Riley

It all began with getting hit by a car in August 2012. Ugh. I was riding my bike and got hit by a car and fractured by left lessor trochanter in my hip. It was a total bummer, but I healed eventually. In fact, I healed pretty fast and was able to cross train within 6 weeks of the injury. I cross trained hard- I hit the pool and started swimming (READ: flailing) in the water. It was hard, but it kept me fit. In December I ran the 2012 TNF 50 miler and finished 2nd! I was more surprised than anyone- I thought the injury was going to set me back a long way. I was totally undertrained going into TNF, but it seemed to go alright for me. So begins the pattern.

Next up was Banderra 100k in January. Bad idea to race in January. It's really snowy and icy in Bend and not a fun time to be training for a running race. Much better time to be skiing! Anyway, I trained to the best of my ability, got really sick with the flu, attempted to race, and DNFed. My first ever. Ugh. It wasn't pretty, but it was a good learning lesson. What was I thinking starting a race with the flu? I actually coughed out a rib during the race from coughing so hard. Stupid.

After I recovered from the Banderra fiasco I started my spring build up with the hope of racing my way into Western States. I had a 50k race, the Gorge Waterfalls 50k, in late March to use as a training race. The race went spectacular, but after I started feeling some pain in my calf. I ignored it as long as I could until it really started to hurt. Then, I did the most rock bottom move of my running career, and decided to race in a local 10 mile race. I was told by my PT it was ok to race (not knowing what exactly was wrong) and I did try to race. Everything was going great until around mile 6 or 7 when my calf decided to pull off my tibia. You can imagine how painful that was. I felt it happen and immediately had to stop. I walked backwards on the course for a mile to the previous aid station, hobbling and crying my eyes out. The worst part was I saw everyone and their brother from Bend racing as I made my way back to the aid station. It probably took me about 45 minutes and I everyone kept asking me "Are you ok?" I will say though, despite my annoyance at the situation, it was amazing to see how many people stopped mid-race to make sure I was ok. I LOVE this sport. Silver lining on the day. Anyway, I was hurt. I figured I tore my calf muscle and that it would take 4-6 weeks to heal. I waited and twiddled my thumbs for 6 weeks and then tried to run. My calf muscle was feeling better, but something still didn't feel right. My test run lasted 3 minutes. Something was off. I went to the Dr., and sure enough there was a stress fracture in my right tibia. Awesome. I didn't know for 6 weeks. I should have been in a boot the whole time, but managed to escape that one.

Fast forward a few weeks and I was healed enough to cross train. I still had States in the back of my mind and was going to try to race Leona Divide or Ice Age 50 to earn a spot. I cross trained HARD on the elliptical and got myself into good shape. However, it was too late for racing one of the qualifiers. I wasn't healthy in time. I accepted the fact and moved on to other fun things, like pacing Zach at Bighorn and pacing Denise Bourassa at Western States.

Pacing/Crewing for Zach at Bighorn
Speedgoat 50k
By early July I was healed and ready to start training. I had 3 weeks until I was supposed to race Speedgoat 50k. I wasn't sure of my fitness or the status of my calf, but I sure wanted to race. I got myself to the starting line healthy and fresh off of cross training. The race went spectacular! I finished first with a new course record. And off very little running. Most of my training had come from the months of cross training on the elliptical. See the pattern.

Racing Sierre-Zinal
In August I took a trip to Swtizerland for Sierre-Zinal. I raced and then took some time off training to enjoy a vacation in Croatia. When I returned state side, my focus was on UROC. Since I missed a lot of training, like all spring and most of the summer, I felt I had some catching up to do. I trained hard for the 5-6 weeks I had before UROC. It was going well until the week before the race, when I felt some pain in my left foot. No stranger to injuries I was immediately alarmed. There was no way I was risking another stress fracture! I took a few days off and went to the Dr. for an xray. This was on the Monday before the race. I was supposed to fly out on Tuesday. As I sat in the waiting room for an MRI (xray didn't show anything), I thought to myself "How dumb is it to think I can race on Saturday when I'm getting an MRI on a sore foot today." I decided to pull the plug on UROC and heal up. The next day my MRI came back totally clear. I was diagnosed with tendonitis in my foot, which by Wednesday had totally cleared up. I felt foolish that I had cancelled my whole trip and was now, what it seemed, healthy. I panicked, called my coach Ian Torrence, and we decided I should book a new plane ticket and get my butt down there. I'm sure glad I did! I finished second at UROC and finally got a 100k race under my belt. But the race didn't come without consequence. I had a really slow recovery following UROC. And by slow I mean I had to take 8 weeks off running. By going into UROC slightly at the edge of injury and a bit undertrained (again) I set myself up to be broken. What was the deal? I couldn't understand what was wrong with me.
Hanging out in Croatia

As I started to think about the past year, I finally saw the pattern: Get injured & take time off -> cross train really hard and get really fit -> enter a race undertrained, yet fit enough to push really hard -> put my body through an intense running effort -> end up injured or with some sort of niggle on the other side. I did this pattern at least 4 times this year! Not good! Fortunately I recognized it (finally!) and decided to put it to rest. So, in an attempt to 'reset' and get healthy the correct way I decided not to race TNF 50 this year. And it totally broke my soul. I hate missing races! Especially that one because I LOVE it. But I had to do this so I could run in the future.

And, I'm happy to say that I'm pain free now :) :) :) I was able to run a couple good test runs and am certain that I'm healed. But, that doesn't mean I'm going to jump into full on training mode. Nope, that's not part of the "be smart" plan. I am still going to take an off season, despite having 8 weeks off of running already. I want to slowly get back into running and build up a base again. I really don't have much of a good running base after this past year- I cross trained more than I ran! My plan right now is to start running every other day, just easy. No forced runs, nothing hard. Just getting outside and enjoying the feelings of being able to move my body without pain. The other days I plan to ski or take a yoga class- two of my other favorite things to do.

Part of the reason I'm being so diligent about staying healthy and building back up a good base is that I got into Western States this year! What are the chances?! I was SO excited and terrified at the same time! I am not sure how I am going to get my body ready to race 100 miles, but I am very excited for the journey. And, if anything, I learned a lot this past year. I never was a fan of junk miles, but I've learned even more how important rest and quality over quantity are to longevity in the sport of ultra running.