Archive of race reports for ultragrrl.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Lake Stevens Half Iron 2006

Picture it: 90+ degrees. Full sun. A long, straight stretch of road. Running towards the shimmering blacktop that never seems to get any closer. Now do it again. Welcome to the run at the Lake Stevens Half Ironman.

Sunday was a great day for me. Everything worked. It is rare for me to have a major race that I can look back on and feel like I've successfully executed on a plan. Usually that is because I get distracted and forget to drink or take my electrolytes or some such silly thing. It was so hot on Sunday that I was constantly worried about dehydration so I drank regularly and since my Perpetuem was in all my water bottles it meant that I got in most of the calories I wanted.

Before I even got the race I had a crisis that I was sure was going to screw everything up. When I checked my registration confirmation it said that I had signed up for the international distance, not the half Iron.!!! Nooooo.... panic panic panic panic. This screwed up my methodical preperations to the point where I couldn't fall asleep. I was so worried the half would be full and I wouldn't be able to switch. Stupid stupid Jen!

Sunday started at 4:00 am when the alarm went off. We had to be on the road by 5:00 to make the 1 hour trek to Lake Stevens. We packed up the car, put Katy in the back seat and left by 5:10. Pretty good for us. This whole time I'm trying to mentally prepare myself in case I can't switch the registration. Duncan kept telling me to calm down but that never works. In fact, it pisses me off even more because can'tyouunderstandhowstressfulthisisforme!!

We arrive just after 6:00 and found a great parking spot close to the transition area. Unpacked the car and headed to registration. I ran into Doug T., Simone & Bobby, Sheri and others along the way. Its nice to have so many friends at these races. I got in line, fingers crossed and lo and behold, the let me switch! What a relief!

I do the usual transition area setup and pull on my wetsuit. The water is blissfully calm. We start in waves with mine being pretty good sized, pobably about 75 women. I am able to get a good rhythm from the start and settle in for the 1.2 mile swim. I find myself in a nice little pack of about 6 women who are all working at about the same speed. This is great, cooperative drafting! The next wave start 2 minutes later and within a couple minutes are happy little pack is broken up by super aggressive swimmers coming through. It is at this point that the swim gets nasty. I'm being bumped, pulled, swum over and generally knocked about. Really rude people. I find my rhythm again and finish up in 45 minutes. Right on target.

Swim goal? Check

A relatively fast transition then off to the bike. On the way out of transition I see a jackass riding his bike through until the line where he dismounts, crosses the line, the mounts his bike again. As far as I know this should be a DQ but no one stopped him. Very annoying to see cheating like that. The ride starts out on a really nice flat road where I am able to maintain 18 - 20 mph without much effort. I'm feeling really good and taking advantage of it. It is a beautiful day for a ride, still isn't as hot as it is forcasted to get and the road goes through some really pretty areas. I'm at mile 10 or so and my chain drops. I try switching gears but no go. I have to get of my bike and try to get it unstuck. It has managed to wrap itself aound the pedal and wedged between the derailer and cog. Grr...probably 5 minutes lost there.

When the first hill comes up it hurts a bit but nothing serious. Then, the next hill, and the next, and the next, and the next. At about mile 18/46 there is a monster. The kind of hill that you look up at, mouth agape, and wonder how you are going to get up the damn thing. At the top is a nice reward of some flat riding then the next ugly one. This is quite short but very steep. I get to the top of that and seriously wonder how I am going to do the second loop. First loop finished, on to the second. The hills are still there and I tackle them one by one. Somewhere around mile 40 I come up on a crash that had just happened. There was a girl in a heap in the ditch and another one running up the road to her. This was a pretty steep section and curvey. I asked if she needed help and clearly the girl who was on the way to help was totally freaked out. I stopped and did what I could. The girl in the ditch was conscious and semi-coherent. She was banged up pretty good though. All her fingers and toes worked which was good but I'm pretty sure she'll come away with at least one broken bone. I stayed with them until the EMTs showed and and said they didn't need our help anymore. That was about 10 minutes. I get back on my bike, shaken by the whole thing and spend the rest of my downhills squeezing the hell out of my breaks. No high speed crashes for me!

My bike took me 4:05. If you take the 15 minutes back from the crash and chain wedge then I came in right about goal at 3:50. I was shooting for a 3:45 - 4:00 so I'll call this a success.

Bike goal? Check

Now for the really hot part. The brutal hills of the bike had really taken it out of my legs. I had managed my hydration and nutrition very well and felt mentally alert and capable as long as my legs got moving. I got through a pretty quick transition and took to the road. This was around noon so the sun was at it's peak and very very hot. Right from the start I knew this was going to be a serious test. The bike was tough but I knew I could finish it off. The run had me worried because of the heat and total lack of shade. The first couple miles are on this flat straight section of road that is down right depressing. The heat is like a furnace and I'm getting worried about my ability to stay cool. The aid stations every mile mean I can dump a couple cups of water on my head, drink a couple cups then move on to the next mile. Since this is a double loop I will be seeing all of this again and that is what really takes the air out of my tires. After the nasty section we pass back by transition to an out and back in a nicer area but still hardly any shade. At least we are by the lake at this point. I'm managing to stay fairly cool with my strategy of water on my head, water in my mouch routine. About half way through I'm getting a little sloshy in my belly so I slow down the drinking for the next two stations, still drinking but not as much. That seems to take care of it and I'm back on track. During the run I'm taking Endurolytes two at a time and I think I took a total of 6.

The run takes me longer than I wanted it to. There are two ugly hills on the route, which means I saw them both twice, and I walked them so I lost some time there. And, I took it very easy.

Run goal? Not quite, but it was extreme conditions so I can live with it.

Recovery is going suprisingly well. Monday I was stiff but had no problems walking around.

Ironman Lake Placid 2005

I signed up for Ironman USA Lake Placid a year ago on what felt like a whim. It is very easy to fill out a form online and give them my credit card information. Too easy. I said this in an email to my friends before I left for Lake Placid and I’ll say it again; I think there should be a 10 day waiting period between the time you give them your credit card and you are actually charged. No penalty if you change your mind. That doesn’t mean I would have backed out but it does give one time to think about the impact training for an Ironman will have on life as you know it.

For the last 6 months I’ve been keeping a training blog so I won’t go into details about how I got ready for the event. Let’s just say, it took more work than I thought. And I learned training for an Ironman can’t be done alone. Without my husband, training partners, friends and CoachCal I wouldn’t have been able to do this.

I arrived in New Hampshire 10 days before the event to stay with my parents and get acclimated to the weather. There had been high heat and humidity for several weeks and it would take some getting used to. We don’t have that kind of weather in Seattle and I’d mostly been training in the cold, rain and wind. When I arrived it was hot, very hot, and so humid it felt claustrophobic. I would be in trouble if this is how the weather was on race day. I got in some easy training and spent as much time outside as I could. Not exactly a scientific approach to acclimation but it seemed to help.

My race wheels arrived on the Tuesday before IMUSA. I had rented Zipp 404s from because I wanted to be fast and look good while doing it. There is a local bike shop in Plymouth called Rhino Bike Works. Big props go out to them for getting my bike in shape for the race. They swapped out the cassette, gave it a tune up and made sure everything was straight and trued for the race. My bike has never performed as well. If you are ever in Plymouth, stop by and say hello. They are great. With my race wheels on my bike I took a few short rides around the neighborhood and packed it up in the car for the 5 hour drive to Lake Placid. We arrived Thursday afternoon and went to our cabin to get settled in. The cabin was right on the bike course and was about as cool as you could get. This place was an old-school Adirondack log cabin with a huge center room. It had lots of space to spread out my gear and pace around packing my transition and special needs bags.

Duncan and I headed down to the expo on Friday and poked around, checking things out. There was the usual assortment of race stuff and I restrained myself and only bought things that implied I was there, not that I had finished. Registration brought the coveted silver arm band and a weigh-in. I had apparently put on some weight at my parents’ house. Damn, too late to do anything about it now. I was given the run-down by a nice volunteer who told me about where to put my race numbers and how to check in my transition and special needs bags. We went back to the cabin to start packing my bags for the race. I didn’t want to be rushing around trying to get everything together because I knew I would forget something. I had made lists of what to put in each bag so I knew what was going in, it was just a question of remembering to actually put it in.

Karl had flown up from Florida to cheer me on and he met us for breakfast Saturday morning. Having him there was great since he had been through all of this a month earlier in Coeur d’Alene. After breakfast we headed back to the cabin to get my bike ready to be checked in. I rushed around for 45 minutes doing last minute checks then headed down to transition and the athlete’s meeting. We met up with Karl afterwards and he came back to the cabin with us. About 10 minutes after we got back my mom arrived with the two terriers, Brodie and Maggie. Having dogs around really helps relieve the tension. They are a riot and kept me entertained while Duncan, mom and Karl went for a drive. I stayed behind because I needed some time to myself and a nap. I made some Kraft macaroni and cheese and ate that for dinner with potato chips. Iron fuel. Some ice cream for dessert and I was ready to finish up my special needs bags and get to bed.

I woke up at 4:30 am to get in something to eat and pull my stuff together. I drank a Carnation Instant Breakfast and some coffee. More Iron fuel. Critical to my success! It was a beautiful morning with a bit of a chill in the air. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky which bothered me a bit since racing in full sun all day can really dehydrate you and get damn hot! At least the humidity had cleared thanks to the thunderstorm the night before. We arrived at the transition area around 5:15 so I could drop an extra tire tube and Co2 cartridge in my bike bag then headed towards the swim start. The lake was beautiful. The fog was floating on top of the water and the crowds were lining the shore already. The pro women had their own start this year and they got going at 6:25. By that time the full implications of what I was about to do sunk in. This was going to be a very long day.

I chose to place myself about 2/3 back from the start and about ½ in from the right. It was a water start which gave me an opportunity to spot a line without getting trampled on the beach. The horn went off and I was on my way. I didn’t suffer near the abuse I expected I would. I had mentally prepared myself for being kicked, grabbed and swum over since the field was almost 2000 strong. Instead, I was able to find open spots and if I stayed to the right I could still have people on both sides without feeling penned in. I didn’t experience the panic that I usually get when starting the swim and that alone made me feel great. I got into a rhythm pretty quickly and started plugging along. I did get some foot grabs and bumps but nothing I couldn’t handle. I made my first loop in 43 minutes, right on target, and still felt great. Back in the water and this time the field had spread out a bit and I could move closer to the line under water without getting mauled. The problem with this was I kept bumping into people who were stopping to get a look around. I became trapped behind some slow, confused swimmers and had to go around them. Being on the line also meant more traffic in general so I decided to stay to the right for a while and have a clear swim area. This ended up costing me time on the second loop but my goal was to be out of the water in 1:30 and I pulled it off. Swim time: 1:29:51. Close! Still, I felt really good about how it went and knew I was off to a solid start to the day.

The run from the lake to the transition area is very long. It goes down a block or more from the lake and since my bags were about as far away as one could possibly get from the changing tent I lost a good 3 minutes just getting to the damn tent. Once inside I moved quickly but carefully to get on my helmet, shoes, sunglasses, etc. Then, off to my bike, which was also about as far away from the changing tent and bike start as you could get. Another 1:30 or so lost just getting my bike. My total transition time was 8:44. Much slower than I wanted it to be but much of that came from travel time. I was in and out of that tent a quickly as I could be without forgetting something. There were two notes in my bag. One was from me, reminding me to race my plan and some notes on drinking every 15 minutes, taking it easy on the first loop and not forgetting the salt tabs. The second one was from Francesca. She made me promise not to read them until race day and I had kept my promise. She had some words of encouragement to share and she made me smile. What better way to start the day? My strategy of only packing what I need into the transition bag really helped me stay focused. I’ll remember that for the next time. I see Karl on the way out and I give him a wave.

I hopped on the bike and headed out on what I knew was going to be the most difficult part of the day. The course starts through down, down a hill with some very sharp turns. Once outside of town the road opens up and there is the first hill of the day. This one isn’t nasty, just enough to wake you up and get your legs pumping. At the top of the hill was our cabin and my mom was standing at the end of the driveway keeping and eye out for me. I yelled “Hi, mom”, as I passed by and everyone got a huge kick out of it. I told her I was feeling great and headed off down the road. I had decided the day before not to drive the course. I was tired and needed to sit on the couch more than I needed to strategize my bike. I was in this thing for the long haul and as long as I stuck to my nutrition plan I would get through it. Plus, it was a double loop so the first loop would give me the information I needed to get through the second one. This is really unusual for me since I typically like to plan out every detail but when the event you are doing is this huge there isn’t much more sweating that can be done over it. I figured it would stress me out more to know what was coming.

Whenever I told people I was doing Lake Placid they always said, “Why?? That is a really hard course!” That never inspired confidence in what I was doing. The bike has the reputation of being one of the most difficult Ironman bikes and I found out why. It isn’t really one specific hill, although there were some monsters, it is the continuous hills. The downhills were great but the uphills were killer. Many people told me to take it easy on the first loop because I would need the energy on the second loop. They were right. It is easier said than done, however. I was feeling good and decided to go with the flow. I didn’t hammer the hills but I did push myself on the downhills and flats. I knew my second loop was going to be slower so I didn’t mind getting in a little extra speed on loop one. There are a couple places that were particularly hard on the body and on the psyche. There is an out and back on Hazelton Road with a very healthy hill. It was tons of fun going down to the turn around but what I found disturbing was the look on everyone’s faces as they were coming back up the hill. Wow, that was a blow to the mental game. At this point the song “No Sleep ‘til Brooklyn” by the Beastie Boys popped into my head and never left. It served as my anthem.

During the ride I was playing yo-yo with a couple people, particularly Benjamin with the Speedy Reedy jersey and a guy with “Wrinkles II” on his numbers. I had asked him how many Wrinkles there were and he said not many. They were both good company and provided some much needed comic relief along the way. At one point I saw Benjamin in the side of the road, peeing, and told him he needed to learn to pee on the bike. He said maybe next year. Funny stuff. Of course, later on, I stopped by the side of the road to do the same thing. I hadn’t peed at all on the first loop of the course and that made me very nervous. My stomach was cramping something awful at this point and I got really worried. Was it because I wasn’t hydrated? Was my stomach shutting down? Was it my saddle pushing in the wrong place? I decided there was only one way to get this party started and it seemed to work. Back on the bike for me but I spent the rest of the ride worried about how I was doing physically. My stomach continued to cramp and I had a hard time convincing myself to drink anything. I made a quick stop at special needs and was able to get down a half a pb & honey sandwich with a few potato chips. Duncan and Karl were there and I didn’t want to worry them so I didn’t say much about how I was feeling. Back on the bike. Things were starting to look pretty grim by mile 70. I was overheated from the sun reflecting off the pavement, I couldn’t see any other bikes in front of me and I was beginning to doubt whether I could finish the bike in time. The road was shimmering in front of me like the road at Kona does in all of the Ironman coverage. I felt like I caught a small glimpse of what it would feel like there. I sat up on the bike thinking that being in aero was contributing to my stomach problems. That seemed to help a bit but not enough to make me worry any less. I finished up the bike at 4:53 pm and headed to the changing tent. This time I took a few minutes more than I intended to because I was pretty out of it at that point. I had packed only what I needed in my t-bag and put that on a little slowly. I was given a rub-down of suntan lotion and off I went, starting the run at exactly 5:00 pm. I had 7 hours the finish the marathon and it was at that point I knew I would finish the race.

I had committed to running the first half of the marathon and was determined to stick to my plan. The first mile of the run was really painful with stomach cramps. I ended up walking much of the second mile in an attempt to get my stomach to settle down and relax. That worked and off I went again. I was mentally a bit foggy so I took a glucose tablet that Francesca had given me in her special goody bag. I was also popping the Rolaids and between the two I started to feel a bit human again. What also really helped were the pretzels I had brought along. They absorbed the acids in my stomach and really tasted good going down. The run is a pretty out and back along some of the same road the bike was on. It passes through the swim area and town before another quick out and back for a flattened figure 8. I felt surprisingly strong on the run. I was able to manage an enthusiastic jog for the first half and felt I was going to come in under my goal time of less than 16 hours. Imagine that, not just finishing but finishing under my goal time! I was focused and stayed with a good rhythm. I saw Wrinkles on the run and we kept each other company on and off. We were going slightly different paces but managed to catch each other occasionally. I saw Benjamin pass by me inbound on the long out and back and I said hi. He looked strong and said “hi darlin'!”. That gave me a boost so I picked up my pace a bit. That lasted maybe 5 minutes. My jog was starting to slow down but I expected that.

I didn’t feel worn down mentally until I had to pass through town again. There is a steep hill, although short, coming in to town that was lined with people. It was great having so many cheers and shouts of my name but many of them assumed I was coming in from my second loop and would be finishing. That was hard to take. I was only half way and at that point I started to get angry. It was childish of me but I was mad at everyone for saying I was about to finish when I still had another loop to do. The bad mood had settled in. I stopped at run special needs for a couple minutes. I changed my socks because the ones I was wearing were pretty wet and disgusting. This turned out to be a mistake. I had to keep fiddling with them for the first mile or two out of special needs because they weren’t on right. A waste of time. Next time I don’t think I’ll stop for more than a minute. The water stations are spaced close enough that they have everything I need. All I’ll do is fill up on Endurolytes, Rolaids and glucose tabs. There wasn’t anything else in there I wanted. The stations were liberally stocked with pretzels so I didn’t even need to pack those. Plus, starting up again after you have stopped is really tough. On my last pass through town before heading out on the long loop I saw Karl, Duncan and Mom. Karl walked with me for a minute or so and called ahead to Duncan to let them know I was coming down the hill. They were waving madly as I passed and I smiled and kept going. That was a huge help. The mental battle had begun but there wasn’t ever a question in my mind that I wouldn’t finish. The question became when would I finish and in what condition. Going out for a second loop can be really depressing because at that point you know how far you really are from finishing. It was starting to get dark by the time I hit mile 18 and I had hoped to get one of those glowing necklace thingys. The aid stations were out of them and I got really sad. It seemed everyone around me had one except for me. The bad mood had settled back in. The stations were also out of Coke and because of that all I could think about was getting a Coke. That seemed to be the answer to all of my problems. I didn’t seriously slow down until mile 20 or so. The, I hit mile 23 and everything just stopped. I had come into town to face the hill but I just didn’t have any gas. Karl saw me walking the hill and I told him I wanted to run but I couldn’t. I wanted the race to be over but by that time my body just stopped cooperating. My legs were stiff, my arms were tired (??), my stomach was upset and my body started to fail in other ways I am too much of a lady to discuss. I still had the short out and back to do and I resigned myself to walking much of it, which is exactly what happened. I managed a shuffle occasionally and did an airplane impression when I came around the last turn around but that was all I had left. I was watching the time and back at mile 13 I was pretty sure I could hit 15:30. At mile 20 that was downgraded to 15:35-15:40. Mile 23, it was downgraded even farther to anything below 16:00 would be awesome. When I came down that last incline and headed into the speed skating oval I lost it. I was weepy, laughing, hooting and hollering all down the finish chute. In the video on, if you skip ahead to about 1:08 into it you can see me coming in for my finish. And, you can see my leap across the finish. I wanted to finish with a flourish but I also didn’t want to fall on my face so I didn’t do a big jump, just a little one so my final photo would be of me in mid-air.

This is an intensely personal journey. It is hard to write everything I was going through because I can't necessarily articulate it. What I do remember is never wanting to quit. It just wasn't an option. When I worried it was because I was having stomach cramps and wondered whether I physically could finish. The pain was pretty intense but it wasn't enough to make me want to stop.

I have shared much of my journey over the last year with friends. Many of them have kept me company on training rides, runs and swims. When it came down to it though, it was really is all up to me. My friends helped me get there but no one was going to get me across that finish line but me. I spend many miles and laps by myself in training and spent much of the race by myself as well. Strength can be borrowed from friends but if you don't have your own personal reserve, you won't survive Ironman.

I am continuously awed by what my body is capable of. Back when I was smoking a pack a day and drinking beer every weekend I knew there was a limit to what I could do. Now, I don't believe in limits.

Many people have asked me why I do this crazy stuff. Mostly it is a test to see how far I can push myself before I break. So far, no breaks. When asked how I got into it I have a weird answer. The first endurance event I ever did was the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day walk in 2001. That showed me I could tolerate a lot of pain. Then, what kept me pushing myself was September 11th. Not because I feel a fierce sense of patriotism but because I decided that I wasn't going to be one of those people who couldn't make it down the 70 flights of stairs to save myself. I wasn't going to be one of the people who needed help, I wanted to be the one who helps. Strange, but there it is. Self sufficiency and wanting to be the hero when one is needed. I'm not sure what that says about me, maybe it is arrogance or the desire to help people who need it, but it is the most honest answer I have.

Yes, I'm signing up for another one, Ironman Canada 2006. It is a nice time in the season, end of August, so I will have time to get in some races beforehand and do most of my training in decent weather. But, before that, ultra marathons during the winter. A whole new way to see what I am capable of. New crazies to become friends with and an even smaller club to belong to. Yipee!

Thank you family, friends, Cal and thanks to my body for taking me places most people will never go.

Chuckanut 50k 2006

Wow that hurt! I mean, it was about 10 times harder than I thought it would be. It will be hard to put into words what I went through yesterday but I'll do my best. BTW - I'm not going to tell you my finish time because on a day like this it just doesn't matter. If you have to know, Google it.

Simone and I headed up to Bellingham after work and got there around 7:30 - 8:00. We arrived at the Days Inn to hear that they were overbooked and our room was gone. They sent us down to the Travelodge and said we wouldn't be charged. I hope not since I paid for the room when I made the reservation. They guy at the Travelodge was very nice and we got the last room. I have to say, it was a pretty bad hotel. The carpets in the hallways were really dirty, the first floor smelled like smoke and our clock radio didn't work. Once we settled in we walked to a convenience store and picked up snacks. While there we got treated to some of the local gangsta wannabees. Lovely crowd. We spent the next couple hours watching bad TV and getting ready for the race. We had the lights out by 10:30 and our phone alarms set for 5:45. Sometime in the middle of the night I was woken by the sounds of very drunk neighbors. Great. And, the room was steamy hot; so much that I was sweating. Yummy. So, I didn't get a great night's sleep. After a quick stop at the espresso stand drive through we were on our way! Ken had shown up and planned on doing the race. It was good to see him and know he was out there too.

Scott Jurek was there and I was pretty excited to see him. I thought he was going to run but it turns out he was there to volunteer. It was so nice of him to support the local ultra community like that. He is very down to earth and you’d never know he was such a great athlete because there was no attitude. Enough gushing.

The weather was overcast but it didn't look like we were going to get any rain. It was darn cold so we struggled with what to wear, going back and forth multiple times. I settled on a short sleeve shirt, a long sleeve high collard shirt and my trail jacket. Turned out I did pretty good. Finally 8:00 arrived and we were off. I got about 200 yards and realized my water bottle that I had put on my Fuelbelt wasn't going to work so I ran over to the car quickly and dropped it off. So, I was behind, as usual. Actually I was content since that meant I wasn't going to try and keep up with the big kids out in front. That is so tempting to do and I knew I had to stick to my plan otherwise I would never finish. I felt super strong and confident. I was smiling and had a very positive attitude. Thank goodness because that would be what saved me later in the day. The first 6.5 miles is on the flat urban trail and while my legs were stiff from the start I was able to work through it and kept right on my goal pace. The first aid station was right at 6.5 miles and I was able to get some water and and a bathroom break and I was off.

After the aid station we started up. And up. And up. I'm pretty sure we didn't stop going up for the next 25 miles. At this point I lost track of the miles and was perfectly OK with that. I stopped trying to keep track of what time it was and compare it to my projected mileage and moved with the terrain. That is all you can really do on that race. I'm glad I did that instead of worrying about how far I was and what time it was, it allowed me to go with what my body was feeling it was capable of doing. I can't describe how many hills there were in a way that someone who hasn't done it can full appreciate. The amount of walking I did was far more that I could have predicted going in. And, I wasn't the only one walking them. I talked to Simone after the race and she walked quite a bit too. This was actually pretty frustrating because while I knew it was the right thing for me to be doing I really wanted to run. But, I held back. I'm glad I did because the 3 mile uphill between aid station 2 and aid station 3 would have killed me if I'd try to run all of it. I had a lot of company walking that so I didn't feel bad doing it. I was able to do some running as there were a few flat areas but not nearly enough to make good time. I'd just have to settle for getting to the top.

I was able to trudge along to aid station 3 and I was feeling really good. At this point I was about 13 miles in and I was a little behind what time I wanted to be there but oh well, must just keep moving. I raided my special needs bag, drank some soda and off I went.

Unfortunately it was in the wrong direction on the loop. I took a right and I should have taken a left. Amazingly I went past 2 dozen people and no one said a word. I got about .75 miles along the trail, on the steepest part. Luckily there was a course volunteer there that told me I was going the wrong way and sent me back up the hill. (Note, I said "up" the hill). I got back to the aid station and told them what had happened. The woman was stunned and said "I don't know what to say." I told her that no matter what, don't sweep me, I was going to finish this race. She said OK and the amazed crowd watched me run off. I am not ashamed to say I was bawling my eyes out for the next 10 minutes. Not a little hiccup, a full on tears streaming down my face, howling. Lord that was bad.

I really didn't know how I was going to make any kind of cut off. And, I had to go back up that hill. This part of the course was extremely technical. I was hiking, not running. I had to scramble over rock, huge steps up over tree roots, slippery rocks and very narrow trail. At some points it was hard to tell where the trail went because there was no visible way to get through the obstacles in front of me. About 3 miles into the loop my iPod died. Dammit! I really needed it at this point but there was nothing I could do but suck it up. I gave myself a stern talking to, out loud, and keep moving. The view from up there was beautiful and a great reward for the hard work.

The problem with whole this trail run isn’t just the uphill, it is all the downhill and what that ends up doing to your legs. My thighs were just nothing at this point.

I finally came to an area where it was flat and I could run again. By this time my legs were quivery jelly and it was hard to get moving but I was happy to see the flat and managed to get in a decent run. Then, the mud. It stared off not that bad and I could negotiate around it but after a while it got pretty icky and I gave up wasting so much time finding a good path that I went right through it. It was so slippery I was twisting my ankle but I was over half way through the race at this point and was still doing OK. I had gotten past the upset of going the wrong way and was refocused on the task at hand. At this point I had gained 2000 feet in elevation and there was snow all around me. It was beautiful but cold. Now it was a question of making the 2:30 cut off at aid station 3/4. All along the route there were cute little signs that made me smile. It is amazing how much they can make a difference when you are feeling down. Just knowing someone was out there putting them up made me feel like they cared about every runner. They understood how hard it was and did what they could to make it easier.

I saw the sign for Chinscraper and knew this was the hardest part of the run. If I could get through this I will be able to finish. I was worried about the 2:30 cut-off and about half way up it I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it. To say Chinscraper is steep is to make a huge understatement. I was using trees to pull myself up some sections and was using my hands to pull myself up over roots in others. I’d try to give you some sort of grade percentage but I don’t think I can. This wasn’t hiking, it certainly wasn’t running and the only reason it was rock climbing was because it was dirt. I stopped to rest multiple times because by then I had nothing left in my legs. I realized that even if I couldn’t go on I still had to get out of there so up I went. My thighs were trembling and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get to the top, if I could ever see the top. Somehow I did it and closed the loop, back to the aid station where I initially took the wrong turn. I came in and there were a surprising amount of volunteers still out there and it was completely set up. I asked if I’d made the cut-off and they told me there wasn’t one. If there was, I’d come in 20 minutes ahead of it. Unfortunately my special needs bag was gone. Serious bummer because my Perpetuem and a Baker’s Cookie where in there. I really needed/wanted both and was going to drop off my jacket because by this time I was getting warm. I loaded up on the food that was there, some flat Coke and got moving again after much cheering, sympathy and
encouragement from the volunteers.

From here on out it was downhill and mostly flat. I knew this and was really excited for the last 9 - 10 miles to go. Three miles to the last aid station, downhill. Scott was there to direct me to the left and when I ran up and told him and his friend about the detour they both went a little happy/crazy and whooped it up. It is nice to impress someone like Scott and his friend, who I could tell had many trail miles on him. Boosted by that I cruised into the last aid station. I was pretty out of it by this time. Bad nutrition and dehydration makes for a funny girl. I learned at this point that a woman I had passed before Chinscraper had dropped at aid station 3/4. I’m not surprised because she looked pretty bedraggled when I saw her and I can only imagine how she was when she pulled into that aid station.

Those last 6.5 miles hurt. I was thinking the interurban trail was flat but it turns out it was on a gentle grade of about 2%. Not much you say? Ha! Try that after 26 miles. I had to stop and stretch a couple times and made some deals along the lines of run for a mile, walk for a couple minutes. I was whimpering around 4 miles out but pulled myself together onece again. There is one area where you have to go up some switchbacks and at that point Ken called. They were getting concerned because it was pretty late in the day by then. I was close to a mile and a half out and I was hoping to be finished less than 20 minutes. At the rate I was going that was realistic. I was doing some walking/running after I reached the top of the switchbacks. I knew that was all I had left. At this point it was just a drive to the finish. The park snuck up on me quicker than I expected which is really nice. There was a small but happy crowd waiting for me. Simone and Ken where cheering and everyone was congratulating me. I got a nice handheld water bottle as a reward for the hard work.

I immediately had to sit down. I was so out of it when I finished I couldn’t think of what I needed to eat. Simone kept asking me what I wanted and I had no idea how to answer her. I was thrashed. Those downhills had really done a number on the quads and knees. My left leg was hurting from the uphills stretching out my calves and I had some really impressive blisters. I felt great though. This was on par if not a little harder than Ironman. With Ironman you get to coast on the bike if you get a little tired and the marathon is less time on your feet. With this, you are on your feet the entire time, battling hills/mountains and screaming thighs. I don’t remember outright crying on IM either.

Somehow I was sure I could finish if I made the cutoffs. Luckily it turned out there wasn’t one. I’m pretty proud of what I went through and survived. I don’t think I’ll ever do that one again. It was really frustrating not to be able to run and the ankle twisting and downhills were brutal. It did give me confidence that I could finish the 50 mile. There were many times along the way that I reminded myself this was essentially a training day for Mt. Si. Since that will be on relatively flat, wide trail it might even feel easy compared to this. I will need to be sure the iPod is charged and that Duncan’s Shuffle is ready when it dies out. And, I need to eat and drink more. Having friends and Duncan at the aid stations will be critical to my finishing and Debbie pacing me for the last 20 will be a life saver.

This was a huge learning experience. On the drive home I was wondering what I could have done differently during the day or training for it. The answer is nothing. There is no realistic way for an athlete of my ability to get ready for that. Even if I was stronger on hills I couldn’t have run them and done well. The middle 30k was killer and there isn’t a way to prepare for that. I did the best I could out there. I went through a huge emotional range and physical range. I came out the other side relatively in one piece and overall happy with how I did. Total distance = 32.5. I was only supposed to go 31.
An ice bath, lots of sugar and alot of love from my family when I get home. Recovery begins.

Mt Si Ultra 50 Mile 2006

I've been thinking about the Mt. Si Ultra for months now. First it seemed really far out of my reach but being who I am, I signed up anyway. Basically Cal talked me into it. I'm not sure he knows that but he told me I should shoot for it so I signed up. I said this about Ironman and I'll repeat it, there should be a waiting period after signing up for something crazy then after 10 days or so they'd charge your card. It is very easy to sign on the dotted line but not so easy to get cross the finish line.

There are a couple people who I really have to thank. Ronan showed up right when I needed him the most and Debbie helped me get through the last painful miles. Duncan was at all the right places with Katy who always had a waggy tail when I came up the trail. Without all of them I would have dropped out, no question.

It was darn chilly when I woke up at 5:00am. Duncan saw that it was 32 in North Bend overnight and I believe it. We left the house at 6:00 to get to Snoqualmie by 6:30 so I could pick up my registration packet. I knew the weather forcast was beautiful so I planned a long sleeve shirt over a sleeveless shirt and my regular running shorts. Turned out I had picked out the perfect clothes, for like the first time ever. I had struggled with what to wear for my hydration and chose my Fuel Belt with some modifications including adding a water bottle and a small pouch for all the magic things one needs when you are suffering for hours on end. This too worked out pretty well although a little heavy.

The start of the race consisted of everyone lining up behind a white chalk line. There were a total of 56 people starting out for the 50 mile. I had plenty of company. Right from the start everyone left me in the dust. I had one woman run beside me for about 45' until I had to take my first bathroom break. After that, it was all me, the last runner. I had my iPod for company and moved along at my expected pace. The plan was 25 minute run followed by a 5 minute walk. I was able to stick to the plan. I was feeling good and my stomach was holding. I moved along on cruise control for the first 20 miles. After that things started getting really rough.

One of my toes on my right foot suddenly hurting really badly. There was no way I was going to be able to run on it. I stopped at a van that was supporting another runner and was helped by a really nice woman who gave me Advil, a bandaid and water. I had worn two layers of socks and that also turned out to be a good idea. My toe had a nasty blister starting on it so I pulled off one layer and let my toes breathe. That left me with room to wiggle and my toe stopped hurting.

When I started up again my mood had really taken a downturn. I was really depressed because not only was my toe hurting my left leg was really tight in a way it had never bothered me before. Was this because I was compensating for the sore toe? It didn't loosen up and I got very worried about how I would get through the upcoming marathon. I started seriously considering dropping and right then, at about mile 23, my knight on a bike showed up, Ronan. I actually said out loud "Thank god you are here." He had told me he was planning on riding out and meeting me around mile 20 and I was counting on his showing up to keep me going. If you ever need a sherpa, I hightly recommend Ronan. He had packed bottled water inside a plasic bag with ice and stuffed it into his knapsack, riding a solid 15 miles, if not more, in the hot weather to bring me cold water. Amazing. He also held my fuel belt to take some weight off of me and stuck with me until mile 35 where I met Debbie. Having him there made all the difference.

At this point there were quite a few runners on the trail. The relay teams where cooking along and I was quite jealous they were headed in the opposite direction because that meant they were headed to the finish.

I arrived at the mile 29.5 aid station and was told I had just beat the cutoff by 4 minutes. I was stunned. How could that happen? I thought I was moving along ok. The good mood I had gotten back was gone. I literally deflated. That meant I had 1:10 to get to mile 35. 5.5 miles. That was within my goal min/mile but it also meant I didn't get my usual walk break, and the entire 5.5 miles was on a 2% grade. That isn't bad on a bike, or for a short run, but at mile 30+ it really sucks the life out of you. I only walked for about 2 minutes when I came to a nice cool spot out of the sun. Ronan rode ahead and let everyone know I was on the way. Duncan was going to be at mile 35 with Debbie. That was strong motivation to keep moving. Ronan said I was keeping a really good pace and I felt it.

When I got to the mile 35 aid station I knew I would finish. Debbie was there, ready to run the last 15 miles with me. Duncan was there and Katy was very happy to see me. The volunteer was super friendly and it was hard to leave. Duncan walked with us down the trail for a couple minutes then he was off to meet me at an aid station around mile 40. I held pretty strongly until I saw him again and then it started to really wear on me. I was getting sore and tired. At around mile 42 I was negotiating for a 15 minute run then a 3 minute walk. That turned into a 10 minute run followed by a 5 minute walk and at mile 47 I stopped running altogether, it just hurt too badly. My legs were screaming. My feet were throbbing and I was emotionally just worn out. I'd had so many conversations during the day to convince me to keep going that I didn't have any left in me.

A nice volunteer came riding up on his mountain bike to check up on us. Turns out we were the second to last people out there. Back at the school they were breaking down the finish line and everyone was going home. There was one last self serve aid station that had animal crackers. I was very excited about animal crackers and I really needed something to cheer me up at that point. I had totally given up on running and was resigned to walking it in.

At around mile 49 Duncan drove up along side us in the car and said there was no one left at the finish and asked if we wanted a ride. I said "no way in hell, I'm finishing this damn thing" and walked the rest of the way with him driving along side and making sure we made all the turns we needed to. About 20 feet from the finish line I just crumpled. My legs gave out and I couldn't go any further. There was a pathetic white line, Duncan, Katy and Debbie, that's it. I managed to stand up again and walked across the line.

Once again, no crowds clapping, no food, no timing clock and no hero's welcome. In fact, I had technically DNFed since I didn't come in by the time they left. If I'd started an hour earlier everyone would have still been there. They had let a group start at 5:00 and there were people still there so I wouldn't have finished in such quiet.

Yesterday I sent email to the race organizer and let him know I finished in 12:06 because I couldn't face having a DNF next to my name. He put down my time on the official results because I finished.

There were 5 drops, all of them men. Wimps.

I'm having a tough time with this one. It is really hard to go through a day like I did and not have the finish line celebration. I can't even image what I would have done without Debbie, Ronan, Duncan and Katy.

Sunday really made me question why I am pushing myself to do this. I'm just not ready. I don't want to be the one dragging myself across the finish line and have whomever is left feel sorry for me. I don't mean I have to win, I just am tired of being embarassed by how long it takes me to do these things. I want to be proud of my finish time because at this point being proud of just finishing is getting old.

I'll come around, I just need a good race result. Hopefully I'll get one or two this season.

Blue Lake Olympic Triathlon 2005

Time Div Place Swim T1 Bike T2 Run

3:10:22 9 34:02 5:54 1:26:05 2:51 1:01:30

The weather forecast for the weekend did not bode well for my first triathlon of the season.

Full of hope and crossing my fingers, I packed my transition bag, a few non-triathlon related pieces of clothing, my bike and my husband in the car and headed to Oregon for the Blue Lake Olympic Distance Triathlon. A large representation from the Seattle Critical Speed team with the amazing Coach Cal were headed down and I couldn't wait to spend a weekend, or another weekend I should say, steeped in triathlon bliss.

We arrived in Gresham just in time for me to drop Duncan at the hotel and to head down for a quick workout with the kids.

We pushed the boundaries on where we were allowed to swim and a few of us got spanked for it. The water turned out to be pretty warm, despite some concerns. We all worked out the kinks then headed onto the bikes for a test of the course. I felt really strong and played catch-up and pass with Lynda and Christy. The course looked like it was going to be nice and flat with no areas for concern. A quick 10 minute run then off to shower for dinner.

The poor people at the Olive Garden didn't know what hit them when we showed up. We were quite the rowdy bunch and we weren't even drinking heavily. The other people at the restaurant generally pretended we weren't there but it couldn't have been easy. Hats off to our servers, they were excellent about keeping us with water, sodas and food.

First, a word of thanks to my husband. Duncan was there for all the transitions. He ran with me up from the water to the transition, from the bike to the run and was there right when I finished. I love having him there even though I know it can be deathly boring. At least this time he had entertainment in the form of my teammates and friends. And, he is a great photographer! Thanks to him for the race report photos except where noted.

I woke up at 5:30 race day morning. I wanted time to pull my act together, get something to eat and soak in the tub for a few minutes to get in a good stretch. When I pulled the curtain aside to check the weather I was saddened to see it was raining, and had been raining for quite a while. Nice fat puddles were all over the parking lot. The sky was solid, Northwest gray and showed no signs of clearing up. I couldn't believe it. I swear the Tri goddess is messing with my head lately. Horrible winds and rain for most of my rides this last month. Very frustrating. I knew I couldn't bail on this one since it was a race so I just decided to deal with it and hoped it would clear out.

I packed the car, got a half a bagel and we headed to the race site. By this time it was raining very hard. When we got there and parked everyone was walking around in a bit of a daze, is if stunned such a thing could happen to good people such as ourselves.

I found my spot in transition and got set up. While I was chatting with someone across the bike rack from me I hear my name. I turn around and there's JoannaP!! I haven't seen here is a really long time! She rode with me last year on a long ride and humored me through my shock of when I signed up for Lake Placid. Awesome! We got caught up while I finished laying out my stuff and trying to figure out where the heck I am supposed to be going once I hit transition.

I pull on the wetsuit then head down to the water. It looks colder than yesterday but doesn't seem to be too bad once I decide to go in. Lynda and I find each other and head in together. The race organizers had us out treading water for almost 5 minutes before we heard the starting horn. This whole time I felt great. My swim yesterday had been strong and I knew I would hit my goal if I could find an open spot to swim.

Unfortunately my body and mind decided not to cooperate and I panicked. I haven't panicked like that in the water since my disastrous attempt at Black Diamond two years ago when my swim took me almost an hour. I kept getting water in my lungs, I couldn't find an opening and I had to stop and catch my breath several times. All of this added up to quite a bit of lost time and I came out of the water much later than I would have liked at 34:02. I had been shooting for 30. What a disappointment. But, onward. Can't help that now and can't think about that now, must get through T1 and out onto the bike. The weather is really horrible by this time and I'm pretty sure the bike is going to suck. I was right. I fumble to get on my arm warmers, jacket shoes, etc. then I'm off for the hunt. I spend the next 1:26 battling the wind and rain. All I kept telling myself was that I had to go faster than 16.5 mph and it was only 25 miles. I've ridden this distance many times and I've even ridden in worse weather so just suck it up and keep going.

I really felt good on the ride. I felt strong and surprisingly had a sense of humor about the whole thing. I mean, what are the odds? I reminded myself that the winds at Penticton were worse. If I could bike 78 miles in that wind this was going to be cake. My goal for this whole race was to go less than 1:30 for the ride. I did the math and figured I would have to average 16.5 mph to do it and I was capable of that.

I saw everyone on the route. Justin, Brian helping someone with a flat, Simone flying past in a blur, Lynda and Christy looking like hotties. I felt great and knew I was going to nail that split. Turns out I was right. I came into transition and had managed to average 17.1 mph despite the rain.

I keep telling myself how awesome that is and that I nailed the goal. Even though the swim was terrible, I still hit my primary goal for the event. I really needed to prove to myself that I am a stronger cyclist than I was last year and I proved it. I beat my Ft. Lewis bike split by almost 10 minutes. And, both courses are very similar terrain. So, while 17.1 doesn't seem like much to most of the athletes I spend time with, it is a big improvement for me.

I ran into transition and saw Cal over by his bike. He had just finished up and I was headed out on the bike. I was surprised to see him and when he said he was finished I told him he sucked and kept running. He agreed and kept cheering me on despite my snottiness. What a great coach.

After the bike my feet were totally numb. I pulled off my shoes even though I couldn't feel my feet. I knew they were off when they got even colder, as if that was even possible! I struggled with my running shoes, pulling them over numb feet and wet socks. I grabbed my hat and hobbled out on the run. Oh yes, and put on the skirt. Can't forget the skirt.

It took a mile and a half to get my feet back into working order. It is really tough to run when your feet are frozen and worse when they start to come back to life. It is quite painful. I was running very high on my heart rate and the only way to lower it would have been to walk. That just wasn't happening. I wanted to see what I could do to hit my goal pace on the run. I couldn't get my legs moving. No matter how hard I tried I didn't feel like I was running fast even though my HR was going crazy. Ah well, forget the HR and just run. And I ran, hard. I was barely functional at mile 3 and I couldn't figure out how I was going to keep moving for another 3. I was almost hurling and yet I kept going. Mile 4, two more to go. Lord, I can't make it. Maybe I'll just walk. But, if I run, this will be over with and I can get something to eat. And, maybe a soy latte. Chug chug chug. I see lots of folks on the run, including Simone who flew past so fast I caught a breeze. Justin gave me 5 as I ran past and Karl, Mike, Lynda and Christy all passed by along the way. Then, Justin again. Wait...what the hell?? I thought this was really wrong. There is only one out and back, we don't do this twice do we?? Thankfully, no, only one out and back, he was just going for an extra lap.

I found a rabbit to chase. I guy with a green and black jersey was far in front of me and I decided he was my target. I had to pick off intermediary targets along the way but he was the big one. I passed him and felt pretty damn proud. Then I had to take a nature break. Damn. He passed by while I was behind a bush. Back on the trail I find him again in front of me then decide I couldn't let him beat me. I had to make the big comeback from the potty break and recover my lost time. I turned on the little flicker of flame I had left and caught up to him. He turns around and says he though he lost me back at the bushes. I told him no way and we ran together for a couple minutes. I though he had me though. He really didn't want me to get past him but I really didn't want him to beat me. I kept at it and finally passed him as we were heading around the corner to the finish. So, I had made up for lost time on that last break in the woods. It almost killed me but I did.

One of the many great things about traveling with friends is that you have a huge cheering section when you finish. It was amazing. I never have that kind of support at the finish of a race and it was the best finish I've ever had. We all felt it. All of us had a cheering section at the end.

So, thanks to everyone. It was the best race experience I've had. So many friends, a performance I can be satisfied with and a well earned chocolate shake on the way home. What more could a girl ask for?

Black Diamond Half Iron Relay 2003

Jennifer Huffman-Swift
Sheryl Tullis
Debbie Swanson

Swim Leg - Jennifer

I had originally signed up to do this race myself but my knees weren’t cooperating this summer. So, not wanting to miss out entirely, I talked two friends into racing with me, Sheryl and Debbie, who is my long time training partner.

The race started the day before with registration, the usual packet pick-up with the twist of changing our registration. I was told the lake temp that morning was 60 degrees and I was so nervous I had to ask the registration lady four times what the balance was that I owed. I then walked down to the lake to check out the course. It was then that I realized how much trouble I was really in. One lap was OK but two was impossible. I tried to stare it down, as if to challenge it, but what came back was a challenge to me.

That night I didn’t sleep much.

The race day started off bright and sunny. My hopes of a warmer swim were lifted but dashed again when the race director again told me the water was again 60 degrees. I looked around the transition area and EVERYONE had a full wetsuit and all I had was a farmer john. Again, extreme nervousness. After the usual struggle to get the wetsuit on while trying to look like I do this all the time I headed down to the water. There were only 4 or 5 of us dipping our toes in. Ten minutes later the area had more folks but again, no one in a farmer john. The water didn’t feel too cold for me and I paddled around, feeling much more confident than I expected.

I was in the last leg so we took off at 9:15. For some reason I froze. Half way to the first buoy I was still dog paddling and I was freaked out at the thought of having to do TWO laps of this hell. I fell behind everyone in my wave, which meant I was dead last. Wow, how depressing. I struggled to find my rhythm and finally found it after the third buoy but by that time I was too late. Everyone was ahead of me and I had no hopes of catching them. I wanted to give up but couldn’t face a DNF because there were 2 more people on my team waiting for me. I kept swimming. I felt really good once the rhythm was found and didn’t feel out of breath. By the time I was around the third buoy on my second lap I saw a group ahead of me by about 5 hundred yards. I focused on them, thinking to myself that I might be able to catch up. Each time I looked up to sight the buoy I was closer. Then, I spotted her. The gap between us was getting smaller and I knew I could catch her. My only thought was that maybe I won’t be last after all.

I came up behind her like a shark (OK, a guppy) and passed her with at least 200 yards to the finish. I couldn’t believe it. My steady rhythm worked! The crowd went wild, literally. Everyone was cheer and the announcer was doing a color commentary of my race to the finish line. I got up to run to transition and was so disoriented I had to use a buoy to catch me so I wouldn’t fall. My husband tried to reach out and grab me but someone from the crowd told him I would be DQ if he did. He ran along beside me as I tried to negotiate the cones to the transition area. He told me about turns, where to enter the transition and where to find my team. If he hadn’t been there I might have ended up in the parking lot.

I tagged off to Sheryl and sat down. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. On one hand I had finished on the other I had finished in an embarrassingly slow time. The girls made a valiant effort to make up the time I lost but there was no way they could account for that much. That night I sat on my couch, slurping down a Subway veggie sub and though about the day. Before I made up my mind on how I felt I was asleep on the couch.

The next day I woke up decidedly happy. I realized the time really didn’t matter. I had learned some really important things

  • You can be terrified by something but still rise to the occasion  
  • The person in front of you can be a great motivator but your friends are the best
  • Finish time really doesn’t matter when you face down the monsters out there and survive
  • I can do better next time

 Bike Leg - Sheryl

When Jen asked me to do the bike leg in a relay of the Black Diamond Half-Ironman, I hesitated. I knew I would be running the Outward Bound 170-mile team relay in Colorado the week before, and I knew I wasn’t trained for either event. I accepted because I want to move up to Half-Ironman distance next season, and I wanted to see what the race was like. However, I decided to focus on the running event since I had committed to it first. Since I had done long distance rides in the past, I wasn’t worried about completing the bike leg, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to maintain a competitive pace. My longest ride this season was ~30 miles, just under half the distance of the 63+ miles my odometer showed at the end of Black Diamond.

My strategy was to go out at a decent pace to make up some time early on, knowing the “significant climb” halfway through the course would sap some strength and that the last third of the bike course would be more will power than muscle. I carried two water bottles, 3 GUs, a balance bar, and Chapstick. I planned to take 1 GU every 20 miles or 1 hour; whichever was closer to a flat section of road. I took 1 GU and lots of water while the swimmers were doing their thing. I was extremely well hydrated at the start. In fact, waiting for the tag from Jen, I wished I would have made one more trip to the Honey Bucket. I accepted that I would just have to stop at some point to answer nature’s call.

The bike course was three 20-mile loops. Loop 1 was a combination of rolling hills and flat stretches. Loop 2 was the Mud Mountain loop, with the course’s only “significant climb” around mile 28-30. Loop 3 was exactly the same as Loop 1, only slower. J

My ride went something like this:

 T1: Where’s Jen? I got undressed too soon and I’m freezing. My spiffy leopard print arm warmers look very cool with my purple jersey though.

Loop 1

Mile 1: Dang, where are all the other cyclists?
Mile 3: Dropped my Balance Bar onto the road. Bummer.

Mile 10: Dang, where are all the other cyclists?

Mile 15: Hey, the “significant climb” isn’t supposed to be for another 13 miles! I take it seated and my left hamstring wishes I hadn’t.

Mile 17: There’s my Balance Bar! I’ll just cross over and grab it so no one hits it on their third loop.

Mile 19: Hey, there are the other cyclists! Wait – that’s the race leader, coming back for Loop 3 before I even finished Loop 1! He’s as hour ahead of me
Loop 2

Mile 25: Finally passing people – have 8 confirmed kills (defined as “passing people who are actually moving”) and 6 more road kills (“passing people who are on the side of the road repairing tires or visiting the bushes”).

Mile 28: Begin ascent of Mud Mountain. This isn’t so bad. Couple flat spots to catch my breath, keep pedaling….passing people….

Mile 28.5: OK, this is getting steeper.

Mile 28.8: Is this the only Granny Gear I have?

Mile 29: Please, Santa, bring me a triple chain ring for Christmas!

Mile 29.5: Water bottle exchange – supposed to toss an empty but I’m using my favorite Ben and Jerry’s water bottle that Karolina gave me, and the other bottle is still full. I tell them I don’t want water or sports drink – just a Honey Bucket. They tell me there’s one a half mile ahead.

Mile 30: Top of the hill and a Honey Bucket – Hooray! I make a quick pit stop and am very happy. Plus I get a nice long downhill to spin out my legs.

Mile 31: Have a dozen kills now, plus about a dozen road kills. Lots of flats.

Mile 35: Who turned on the wind? Part headwind, part sidewind, not too bad yet, but I wish I had leg warmers. They would really complete my fashion statement.

Mile 40: 2/3 done! Avg. speed has slipped from 19.1 mph to 18.2, but not too bad a drop considering the hill. Still feeling ok but legs are getting tired.

Loop 3

Mile 43: Legs really starting to hurt now – need to stretch out. I start standing up on the small hills just to stretch.

Mile 48: My speed has really dropped. I realize I haven’t been drinking water and my legs are paying the price of dehydration. Mentally I’m not focused enough and I almost run off the road into a ravine. Adrenaline kicks in for a minute.

Mile 50: Suddenly I’m starving. I realize I’m bonking, so I take a couple of bites of the rescued Balance Bar. I feel better quickly and pedal against a now-stiffer headwind on toward that insignificant climb that my hamstring remembers.

Mile 55: Just before the hill, an Army helicopter formation flies over, with Apaches and Scout helicopters that make me think of my brothers who pilot those aircraft. This distracts me enough to get up the hill with no difficulty.

Mile 57: I am whimpering aloud now, just telling myself to keep going because Debbie is waiting for me.

Mile 60: Two women pass me. And they’re doing the whole tri, not a relay.

Mile 63.4: I roll into the dismount area with a final avg. speed of 17.3 mph. My time is a humbling 3 hours, 40 minutes.

T2: I tag Debbie, tremendously happy I don’t have to run a half marathon at this point.

T3: After a quad/hamstring massage and some post-race food, I’m a new woman. My Loop 3 reservations about doing a Half-Ironman myself start to diminish.

I notice I’m the ONLY person in a purple jersey at the race. Everyone else recognizes the leopard print arm warmers. Definitely racing in these again – got comments all along the course. Maybe when I do a Half next year……

Run Leg - Debbie

Since I've never started a race so late in the day before, I spent most of the day trying to figure out what and when I should eat. I ended up having a couple of bananas and an energy bar, even though what I really wanted to do was to hit the post-race BBQ early. It was almost 2 p.m. when I tagged Sheryl and started my run.

The race web site described the run course as "a combination of trails and beautifully paved roads that is totally closed to traffic." It ended up being mostly roads open to traffic. Most of the route was down a bunch of dead-end roads and back again. I kept trying to figure out which side of the road I needed to be on to avoid oncoming runners, but they were running towards me on both sides. I'm sure I lost time by crossing back and forth so much.

I've never felt so not worthy in a race. I felt bad every time I passed someone. I knew they'd feel better about being passed when they saw the R on my leg. It just felt very cheap, since I spent my day resting while almost everyone else had been swimming and biking.

Biggest mistake: My biggest mistake was taking my shoes out of retirement for one last run. I was planning to wear my new shoes that were only slightly broken in. However, I changed my mind when I thought that the course would be mostly trails and didn't think it would be too hard on my legs. Unfortunately with hardly any cushioning between my feet and the road, my legs were hurting my mile 9.

Closest to getting sick: One of the volunteers offered me "Gatorade." Forgetting that the drink was AllSport, I grabbed it and drank some.

Closest to getting lost: At one turnaround, there was a cone indicating that it was a turnaround but I somehow missed this obvious sign. I started running down someone's driveway before turning around and asking the volunteer if I was heading in the right direction. He said, "Oh, no, sorry, you go back this way." Glad I asked.

Worst part of the run: The worst part was a busy road where runners in two directions (most were running towards me) were sharing the narrow shoulder. I kept slowing to let runners by so that I didn't have to run into the road.

Best part of the run: The last part of the run was the best. It was great coming back into the park and knowing that I was close to the end. Plus, I finally got to run on the trail, which was nice and shaded.

My time was 2:14:05--pretty leisurely. I was treating this as a training run (for the Seattle Marathon), but was hoping for under two hours. Oh well, it was fun.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Javelina Jundred 100km, Halloween 2009


That pretty much sums it up. Here it is a week later and I am still sore. Finally did a short treadmill run tonight and mentally I was ready but my legs were NOT happy about it. WTF did I do to myself??

I signed up for the Javelina Jundred 100k back in August after having a good run at Ultraman Canada.The JJ100 is a full 100 mile race with a 100k "wimp out" option. This was only 10 more miles, how hard could it be? I love Arizona, love the desert and Halloween was great timing with regards to weather. It would also give me a chance to finally meet Coach Brian face to face. The flight was cheap and I got a great deal on the hotel. Everything was booked so all I needed to do was run. Oh, and listen to Brian.

I flew down on Phoenix Thursday before the race, rented a Mustang convertable and drove to the hotel out in Fountain Hills, about 8 miles to the park where the race was taking place, McDowell Mountail Regional Park. I found a nice little Mexican food place for dinner then hunkered down in the hotel room.

Friday I got up and took a trip into Scottsdale to check out the Microsoft Store.  The mall there is HUGE. I wadered around for a bit then headed back to Fountain Hills for the pre-race meeting.

When I got to the park I couldn't believe the carnival atmosphere. Tents, RVs, lights, food, it was great.  The awards were the most unique I'd ever seen. The race organizaers had done a great job working with local artists to create something really impressive for the winners of the divisions and a few unique awards like best costume and best butt.  This was Halloween, after all.

I got home around 7 after a quick stop at Target and Safeway. I did more errands than I'd wanted to but since I was travelling by myself I didn't have much choice. Next time I'll go down another day earlier. 

I got to bed pretty early and set my alarm for 4am. I had a terrible night's sleep, waking up every hour wondering if I'd missed the alarm clock. I hate that! Since it was just me I had no one to count on to wake me up.  As soon as the alarm went off I was up, drinking coffee and munching on a waffle.  I got to the race start at 5:30, was too late for parking right at the start line so had to park at an overflow lot. Damn. A bit of a rush to catch a shuttle and get to the start but I ended up with plenty of time to get settled.

For some reason I wasn't really into this race like I usually am. I think travelling alone really threw me for a loop. I was super excited when I signed up, while training and  was looking forward to meeting Brian.  Up until about 2 weeks before I was totally on track mentally then somewhere I lost it. I think it went to hell when the light shifted too much and I couldn't run in the daylight anymore. That just really kills me.  I'd lost my training rhythm and was spending too much time on the treadmill.  I did a fantastic 23 mile run and was really excited about how I felt but the days were getting too short for me to get in a full run after work during daylight hours. Fall had arrived.  Thankfully we had 2 weeks of beautiful weather with fantastic foliage but when that goes, it gets really depressing.

This is where my head was leading into the race.

Everyone was nervously watching the start clock. It was the typical pre-race nervousness and since it was still dark at 6am an extra level of tension was present. Headlamps were on, everyone had their water bottles or packs and we were ready to go. 

The race started with everyone walking but the people in the very front. We all knew it was going to be a long day. Most people were there for the full 100 miles so they weren't in a big hurry to cover the first few miles. It was great. The sky got light fairly quickly and the sun was up by 7:00.

I'd finally gotten nervous when I'd arrived at the start and was still wound up. I was anxious to find a good rhythm and get moving.  I ran whever there was flat or downhill and walked the uphills. It seemed there was a LOT of uphills. The course was basically a long uphill for the first half of the 15.4 mile loop then a long downhill for the second half.  The course was a washing machine multiple loop course so we reversed direction on each lap.

The first lap took longer than I'd planned and I'd realized pretty soon into it that it was going to be a long day. Thankfully Brian would be there between loops and that kept me moving and motivated.

Loop 1 took 3:20 and I'd been hoping for 2:45 - 3:00. Hmmm....not a great start.  My legs were hurting already and I could feel my mood starting to slip. Brian was there when I finished the loop and kept me company while I started the second one. This is when things started to get ugly for me.

I don't know what happened but I'd gotten myself into a funk and couldn't shake it. My legs hurt, it was starting to get warm and I had 45 miles in front of me. Each lap was successivly slower and every step was harder to push through.

I got through loops 2 and 3 because I had someone waiting for me between loops. My feet were getting mangled by the sand, I was hot and my legs hurt. I just wasn't having fun. I love the desert. I love the heat but I just wasn't loving this. I met some great people out there and for that I am thankful. They helped me keep going. 

After the 3rd loop Brian had to leave to get back to Tucson. The sun had set and I was in for a long final loop. Honestly I don't think I would have started it if he hadn't walked with me for the first 45 minutes.  Once out there I started to see how beautiful it was. I was in a lot of pain, I wasn't enjoying myself but I did finally see why I'd come: the stars, the desert and to see if I could do it. Once I got through the first aid station and kept moving forward I knew I'd finish. Up until then I was pretty sure I wouldn't.  I was trembling uncontrollably whenever I stopped moving. The aid station folks would sit me down to warm me up then I'd get u and get moving again. It took me forever to get through that last lap.

I finished in 19 hours. Well past what we'd thought.  I'd lost quite a bit of time getting my feet worked on between laps and on the last lap I lost at least 30 minutes just at the aid stations. After I finished, I immediately changed into my sweats and sat down at the fire to warm up. I stayed there for an hour, snacking and coming back online. It took a while to get another ride back to my car and I'd picked up two other people staying at the hotel. I finally got back to my room at 3:30 am after almost splatting a coyote and a real, live javelina on the drive back. I worked on my feet then fell asleep at 4:00 am, 24 hours after I'd woken up.

I slept until noon, got up to eat and sent people notes letting them know I'd survived. I chatted with Brian then went back to sleep at 2:00. Woke up at 5:00, ate a lot of food, then slept for another 9 hours. I was in so much pain I never left the room. My feel hurt, my legs hurt, even my shoulders hurt from the hydration pack.  I'd gotten too much sun on my face and especially my lips. No other sunburn though so I got lucky.  I got out of the room for breakfast on Monday, took another nap then headed to the airport to come home.  I decided to be a nerd and wear my compression tights for the flight and I'm glad I did. I was much more comfortable. 


I went into this in the completely wrong place mentally. I'll never travel to a race alone again. There has to be someone there for me the entire trip, even if I meet friends there who I spend the weekend with. Having Brian there saved my race but I really need someone before, during and after. 

I was a little over confident too. I should have been more worried about it but I just wasn't.  Ultraman was so different with regards to the race itself and somehow that didn't click in for me. At Ultraman, I had Vince and Maria crewing me every half mile or so. Out at JJ, an aid station every 5.5 miles with nothing in between. For most ultras that is a lot of aid stations but I not what I'd had at Ultraman. I'd prepared for it from a logistical point of view but not mentally. I didn't realize what a toll it would take to be without company for that long. I met people along the way but few of us were going it solo. When covering that distance you can't go with someone else's pace. If you don't find someone at your pace, you are on your own.

I didn't eat enough. My stomach wasn't bothering me per se but I was taking in so much water I just wasn't hungry. I never got dizzy or spacey but I know I could have done better. That likely would have made a huge difference in my mood.

I think I did really well with my water and salts. I was super careful of both because I knew it was very dry and no shade on that course. Things could go to hell in a handbasket quickly.

My feet were a mess. I still have to figure out the best way to prevent that with the style of course JJ is; sandy and rocky where my feet slide around in my shoes quite a bit. Changing socks is the knee jerk response but I don't think that is the full answer because I did.  I haven't had feet problems that bad in years. I gotta solve the puzzle for my next race.

I should have done more course specific training. Hills, rocky and find sandy areas.

As painful of a race it was, I learned a lot from it. The race itself wasn't fun for me but everything around it was. I want to go back next year for the full because everyone there is so great. The race organization is fantastic, the people are a hoot and the desert is beautiful.