Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lake Sonoma 50 Mile

Lake Sonoma is one of my favorite races ever. Not only is it a beautiful, challenging course; but the atmosphere that Tropical John creates and the buzz surrounding the pre- and post-race events really make a great weekend! Lake Sonoma was also my first 50 mile race a couple years ago, so I was excited to come back and see if I could run it a little faster (and I did...by 40 minutes :)

Video: JourneyFilm- Lake Sonoma 50 mile

Clif Bar Media Summit
A couple days before the race I had the opportunity to spend some time at Clif bar HQ for their media summit. Ian Sharman, Linsey Corbin, and I spent Thursday doing some fun interviews and discussed our race day gear and quirks with the media. It was a lot of fun! One of the highlights was interviewing with Mitzi Dulan, one of the most well-know registered dietitians in the country!

Clif Athletes with RD Mitzi Dulan

Lake Sonoma 50 mile
I drove up to Healdsburg Thursday night after playing at Clif bar so I could have at least a day to relax. I've been traveling a lot in the last month, so a day to relax and recover was exactly what I needed. And what better place to do than in wine country!

The day before the race I parked myself at a coffee shop to get some work done. Turns out a few other familiar faces had the same idea :) I was a great way to relax AND be social.

Pre-race interview

Later that night I was trying to get both myself and my gear ready and I realized I was a little fuzzy on the details. "How many gels do I need? Should I have a drop bag? Oh yeah....I should get some coffee ready for the morning." Needless to say I was a little scattered. I made a rookie mistake that night as I ate brown rice and Indian curry with some kale. Kale? Really? You ate kale and Indian food the night before a 50 miler? Ooops. Yep, I had some stomach issues in the first half of the race. Next time I'm eating white rice and salmon!

Race morning I woke up to some drizzly, foggy weather. Not a problem for me. I don't like to be cold, but I love crappy conditions. I planned to arrive at the course by 6:10 for a 6:30 start. For some reason (I did this last time too) I arrived just minutes before the start. I grabbed my number and pinned it on just in time to hear "Two minutes until the start" I ran back to my car to get my pack and jogged to the start line with less than a minute to spare. Guess I wasn't going to have a drop bag :) I actually didn't mind cutting it close. Less time to sit around and get nervous.

Once the race started I quickly found Emily Harrison and Jodee Adams-Moore. We chit chatted a little for the first couple hours. It was nice to have some company! We took turns leading but were never more than a few seconds apart.

Jodee and I early on
The first 11 miles of Lake Sonoma consists of rollers, with a net downhill. It's so easy to run too fast- I made that mistake last time. My goal during the first part of the race was to relax and be patient. I think I accomplished my goal because I felt great (besides the stomach issues) and was smiling quite a bit.

Somewhere around mile 15 or 16,  I had to stop yet again and Emily got away. And I never saw her again. The gap between us stayed pretty consistent, but I was never able to chip away at it.

My favorite part of the course is the long grinder hills (3 of them) near the half-way point of the race. I struggled a bit with the short rollers, because I couldn't get into a groove. The long hills were great though! I surprised myself by running the whole time. I usually like to hike, but the running was feeling good, so I went with it.

I was greeted at the turnaround by a lot of great energy at the aid station. Among the spectators, Jorge and DBo were especially enthusiastic and encouraging, which motivated me to keep up the happy demeanor (seriously, how can you not smile around Jorge?!)

After leaving the halfway point, I realized that I was pretty much running alone. Which I was ok with. I was just in my own little world, enjoying the day. I felt great from mile 25-40, which is not normal for me. This is usually where I have a little rough patch or low energy section of a 50 miler. Not today though! I was really on top of my nutrition (every 15 minutes!) and my energy levels were great. Woohoo! I was actually having a lot of fun.

Since I was running solo I may have gotten too comfortable and slowed down a little bit. I was enjoying myself, but at 45 miles to go you have to do a little out and back section. Here I got a split that I was about 12 minutes behind Emily. Yikes! Welp, guess it was time to run a little faster. So the next 5 miles I picked it up a notch. (NOTE: not sure if that split was actually correct, but it motivated me to get my butt moving!)

The last mile is always hard. It's uphill and there are a few little rocky patches. I made it 49.5 miles without falling, and then in the last half mile, just before you cross the road to the finish, I took a digger. Figures. I tend to fall when I get tired because I don't pick up my feet enough! Ha. I was still in a good mood though, so I laughed out loud at myself.

Still smiling! Photo credit: iRunfar.com

Emily and I post-race
Crossing the finish line is always such a great feeling. I finished in 7:33, which was under the previous course record. Success! Emily set new a new blazing CR of 7:26. Wow!

I was especially excited because I knew there were tamales at the finish :) Mexican food is my absolute favorite after a race!! I also love the energy at the Lake Sonoma finish line. Most runners stick around and shoot the shit afterwards. I met quite a few new runners and worked on my tan (tan lines?) a little bit :)

Post-race interview

Overall I was very please with the weekend. This winter/spring I've been conservative with running. I've been trying to get back into shape while staying healthy and only running 3-5 days per week. In fact, my mileage was around 50 miles a week going into LS! So to run 50 miles in one sitting and feel great the whole day was very positive for me! I'm excited to start preparing for Western States next. Oh boy......

Good day for 2nd place finishes for TNF athletes!

Easter weekend Zach and I have a tradition of doing some crazy adventure and making cioppino for dinner. And this year was no exception. Well, this adventure was a little tame for us, but to my credit I was still recovering!

On Saturday we did a run in Sisters and then on Sunday we went out to Prineville and did a 23 mile loop in the Mill Creek wilderness. It was a beautiful day and we only ran into a little bit of snow :)

Homemade Easter bunny treats :)

Next up: lots of travel and running. I'm looking forward to it!

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.