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.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

UROC 100k

Photo: Matt Trappe
Wow. I am still in total unbelief that I was able to pull off this race! UROC was the race that almost didn't happen for me. I'm sure glad that I changed my mind and toed the line. It was an incredibly hard sufferfest and I am SO, SO glad I raced!

Irunfar post-race interview HERE

1 Week Prior
A week before UROC I was enjoying my taper and went for  an easy run. About halfway through I felt a sharp pain on the side of my left foot that forced me to a walk. I've had lots of little niggles before, so it wasn't totally alarming. I figured it would feel better the next day. Not the case. It actually hurt just as bad. The funny thing was it only hurt when I had a shoe on. Barefoot was totally fine. I joked that I should run UROC barefoot. Ha, not really. 

I nursed it over the weekend and stayed off it the best I could. No running whatsoever. On Monday I was starting to get pretty worried. I was supposed to fly out on Tuesday afternoon to Colorado and my foot was not better. I set up a last minute appointment with my Dr. and called my coach, Ian Torrence, to figure out what the heck I should do. Ian is familiar with all the injuries I've had this year and wisely advised me to wait until I heard back from the Dr. I got an xray, which showed nothing, so they ordered me an MRI to really find out what was going on. When I walked into the room to get the MRI, the technician greeted me like we were old friends (NOTE: I've had 3 MRI's this year). Not someone you want to recognize you! After a nice 30 minute nap in the MRI, it was almost 6:00pm. I needed to make a decision. I wasn't going to find out the results until the next morning, but I just didn't feel good about it. I called Ian back and we both decided that it would be best for me to sit out UROC. The last thing I wanted to do was travel all the way to Colorado, start the longest race of my life, and end up injured again. I was so bummed, but proud of myself for facing the reality of the situation. I called up United and cancelled my airline ticket. No going back. Or so I thought….

The next day I met my PT to discuss the MRI results from the Dr. It was totally clear! No sign of any bone problem or inflammation. I was so relieved! I was prepping myself for bad news, so this was great! I just had a case of tendonitis that should heal quickly. Good news, but I was still sad about having to miss racing. I missed UROC last year too after I got hit by the car and fractured my hip. I am cursed by this race! 

I bummed my way through Tuesday and Wednesday, trying not get too down. Sometime on Wednesday I realized that my foot was actually not hurting. Like not at all. I called Ian again and told him I was having second thoughts. He instructed me to go for a short run to test it out. Since it was only tendonitis, what did I have to lose? If it got sore while running, then I'd know I wasn't ready, but it wouldn't cause any further damage. I went out on some flat trails and ran 6 miles. I even cranked out a mile at 6:00min pace. No pain. As soon as I got back to my car I called Ian again (who deserves a beer for putting up with my needy-ness all week). He told me to go for it! I got really excited about the thought of racing again and went straight to work on setting up logistics to get my butt down to Breckenridge. 
Long story short, I made it to Colorado last minute. I tried to keep a low profile (which is hard at a race like UROC) because I still wasn't 100% sure I'd be racing. I waited until Friday night to fully commit. I hadn't run all week, besides my test run on Wednesday, and was feeling good to go. I was back in :)

Pre-race Dinner with Amy, my BFF from growing up and my fantastic crew!!

Race Day
The race was exciting for me. Lots of back and forth with other women, adversity, and moments of greatness. The recipe for a great day :) I started off pretty easy, just kind of feeling out how my foot was going to react to running. It was a great way to ease into the long day. I was third woman up to the top of the first climb. Not bad. I could see the other two, but wasn't interested in chasing them down for the preem. Usually not something I go after. I like to finish hard, not start hard. 

Rolling down the first hill into the aid station I was passed my Michelle Yates. It was actually great to see her. We ran together for the next hour or so, chatting a bit. I was SO impressed with her strength, running a 100k just two weeks after winning RRR 100 miler? Wow. 

Somewhere in the first long downhill I rolled my ankle. Badly. It was one of those where I teared up and had to stop running. And right when that happened I was reminded of the kindness of fellow ultra runners. Both Michelle Yates and Mike Wardian stopped to make sure I was ok. Wardian even gave me one of his handheld bottles because the hose on my hydration pack was frozen and I couldn't drink any water. So much gratitude. 

After a few minutes I was able to start walking, and then jogging. I was determined to make it further than 8 miles, so I tried to run it off. It sort of worked. My ankle was sore, but not so bad that I couldn't run. Onward I went.

The next section was a long uphill climb- the longest of the day. I felt amazing here! It was the uphill grade that I excel at- not too steep, and very runable. I kept moving up as I passed people and eventually caught Michelle and Emilie. I stayed behind them for a few minutes then realized that I wanted to move a bit faster. I passed them both and kept going uphill. I felt great! I was moving pretty fast but it felt easy. If only the whole race was like that section!

Photo: Matt Trappe

At the top there was a whole lot of snow! Before going back down we ran on the side of a hill for about 2 miles, of course a left slopping side hill that hurt my foot/ankle pretty bad. I pretty much hated that section of trail. I was not moving well and I was worried what it would do to my foot! 
Fortunately it didn't last too long and the trail started a steep decent down into Copper Mountain. I had the pleasure of running this section with Martin Gaffuri. During this decent I rolled my ankle THREE MORE TIMES! What the crap?! I realized then that I had done something stupid. To relieve some of the pressure on my tendon on top of my foot I had laced my shoe one loophole further down. It didn't put pressure on my foot, my it made my ankle very unstable. Hence all the rolling. At the bottom of the hill I stopped and fixed my shoe. And you know what? I didn't roll it again the whole race. 
Running with Martin

The next section was on the bike path up over Vail pass. It was the longest run on pavement I've done in a couple years. I know Killian got a lot of grief for saying this section was "boring", but honestly it was boring. And long. Emilie passed me early on the bike path and stayed ahead of me. I tried my best not to loose too much time, but I really had a rough time moving on the bike path. I really should have grabbed my ipod!
Running up Vail Pass

Getting some help at the Vail Pass Aid Station
About 2 hours later.....the end was in sight. I was relieved to be off the bike path- it was really hurting my foot and I couldn't run very well. I'd love to say that I was able to push again once I got on the trail, but it wasn't the case. My rough patch continued up the next climb. I was walking way more than I should have been. My body was just tired! The climb took quite a long time and the following decent even longer. I'm sure Gary Gellin can attest to my slow pace here because I sent him my Garmin data so he could geek out the stats :) I'm sure most runners beat me over these 10-15 miles!

Photo: Matt Trappe

The last 15 miles were a blur. I just tried to keep going. My body was tired. My foot hurt. I was ready to be done. The course was actually longer than expected which was not a pleasant surprise. At the Minturn aid station, supposedly mile 51, I had 55.85 on my Garmin. There were still 10 miles to go. It was going to be a long day. I was into Minturn aroun 5:15pm. This was the last opportunity I had to see Amy, my crew, before the finish. I decided against grabbing my headlamp. I still had 10 miles (actually turned out to be over 11 miles) to go with the sunset around 7:15ish. Two hours. I knew I'd be running in the dark, but hopefully only the last couple miles.
Minturn Aid Station
I made may way out of Minturn and slowly up the last 5 miles of climbing. I tried my best to run, but I was so tired that I walked a lot. Finally after what seemed like hours I made it to the top. Thank Goodness! I joked with the guys at the aid station that they better not tell anyone behind me how tired I looked. They told me to get my butt moving and kicked me out of the aid station. I grabbed a handful of peanut m&m's and got moving.
Photo: Matt Trappe
The last 5 miles were a gradual downhill to the finish. It was starting to get dark and I could see the lights of Vail. So close! These last few miles didn't go by fast but I also didn't think about much except that I hoped I could hold onto second place. I didn't want to have a sprint at the end. It wouldn't have been pretty. The last couple miles were in total darkness, but I didn't really mind. The trail was wide and smooth so nothing to worry about tripping over. When I finally ran the last switchback and saw the finish line I was estatic. I ran 100K! And I finished second! I couldn't have been happier!
Photo: Matt Trappe

There were lots of things that I could havce done much better, but for my first 100k I was pretty pleased. I definitely learned a lot and can say I was pleasantly suprised with how well everything turned out. I mean, just a couple days before I wasn't even planning to race. I'm sure glad I did!

Photo: Matt Trappe

I really have to say the other women in the race impressed the heck out of me! So many stories of strength, determination, and perserverence! Great job ladies! Also, I really couldn't have done this race without Amy, who took care of me ALL day long! You are the BEST!!! Also thanks to Ian Torrence for coaching me through my first 100k and helping me make the decision to race. You rock!

Now I am resting. I'm trying to take 2 weeks off running. So far I've made it one week no problem. I need to let my body recover and heal up after all of this. If you see me out running this next week, kindly remind me that I said TWO WEEKS! I'm actually enjoying the time off, it's been good to take a step back. Soon enough I'll be gearing up for The North Face 50 in December!!