Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Behind the Scenes

He blew away the competition. More to come....

Monday, July 28, 2008

Speedgoat 50k

Amazing photos are here.
Results and maps are here.

So after my dnf at Devils Backbone a couple weeks ago, my next race was Speedgoat 50k at Snowbird up Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake. My friend, Cole, who I am pacing and crewing at Wasatch was out for a week before Speedgoat for some training. He lives in Ohio (que the tears) so there was some work to be done (or so I thought). He came out Sunday before last and by Thursday, he had logged 70 some miles and 20,000 feet of climbing and systematically kicked my ass. Here are some pictures of our fun:

We took Friday off as a rest day and travelled to Salt Lake after a late start out of Jackson complete with breakfast burritos and ice cream shakes. The ride was uneventful but hot seeing I have never owned a vehicle with air conditioning. We checked into the Lodge or the Inn I forget but it was nice, right at the start with a pool. My only goal for the day was the pool and that got done around 7 that nite. We ate dinner with our friend, Eric Johnson from Logan who was racing too and went to bed.

Not too early of a start 6:30 and we just had to check in and get our bags. Sweet goat shirts, mine's black and looks incredibly menancing. I can't wait to wear it on an overcast day. I think with the sun hitting that thing could kill me within minutes but cloudy, I'm busting it out.

The actual course or vertical weren't really decided on until the last minute and you know I like it like that. Keeps it interesting. I decided not to study the map even though my friend Todd had printed us out a nice big color coded map. I just daydreamed when they were going over it because one look at that thing and I knew it wouldn't help me much, more confusing. I heard words like "intestinal loops" so I knew I was relying on the flagging job of fellow runners who were volunteering.

We figure out drop bag, one for both of us. I put in extra gels, trying to roctane (and loving them), extra socks, shirt and my inhaler. In light of my recent hamburger feet, Cole kindly suggested I try another pair of socks and as a true gear whore (I mean horder), he had an extra pair. So I wore his Wright socks underneath my smartwool and low and behold, not that many blisters at all.

We headed to the start and were off in no time. I should explain where I was in the morning, let's just say I was dragging ass. Too many great days and nites of running followed by palty 5-6 hours of sleep were catching up to me. I had my black period pretty much right off the bat. I woke up in a mood funk (not funky) and in a lot of pain. I had worked on my achilles and calves (constant annoyance) in the car on the way to SLC and proceeded to fire those things badly. You know when you are saying things like "come on, baby, you can do this" in the first 15 minutes, it's not good. I tried to get Cole to go on as he was strong and felt good but wouldn't. We were way back and Cole said he got worried when he looked back and our only competition was the guy picking up the flags, oh god.

But as we all know, these periods do not last forever. Mine usually last exactly one hour, so at 7:30, the monkey slid off my back and I climbed. And oh how we climbed... 4000 feet in the first 8 miles but it's Karl Meltzer race so there were little downhills in the middle of the climbs and towards the end of the race, you didn't want to do the downhills because you knew what came after the downhills. Got to the first aid station at 4 miles, peed, watered and had a little downhill feeling better. We climbed up to 11,000 at the top of the tram and hit the aid station and drop bag there. Saw some folks I know, Becky and Jarrod and said hi. Filled up, grabbed some chips and a peanut butter/jelly sandwich and knew there was some downhill coming.

Downhill wouldn't really describe what was next (see above topo), more like a glissade but with rock and dirt. Dumbass (me) still had the sandwich and chips in my hand and thought I was foot-worthy enough to tackle this without hands. And you are not going to take food out of my hands, but I wised up and shoved everything into my mouth and attached my handheld to my pack and went for it. The first pitch wasn't too bad but the next one was something you wanted to give your full attention to. There was Black Diamond kids patroling the area and they were all wearing helmets. There was a section that was roped and me, having no pride at all, clunged to that rope like my mother would. We pretty much laughed throughout the day about the absurity of the course and how great it was to be doing it. We were then treated to a ridge run that reminded me of the Devils Backbone and totally runnable for at least 15 feet at a time before some climb brought you back to a walk.

After that was a plunge down into Mineral Basin, pretty much 4000 feet down in about 4 miles to that tall drink of water, Roch Horton's aid station. Now, I don't know Roch personally but we both agreed when we grow up, we want to be Roch. First, the name, it's got it all and says it all. And he's supernice, knows what you want and need and always has kind words. I got a popsicle, ice and water for my bandana and they had cold wet towels. This was a runners aid station and it had it all. Finally Cole pulls me out of my swoon and we head up.

Next up was a 2000 foot climb and it was here that we started to make some progress with steady, strong climbing. We passed about 11 guys on this climb, some just looking hot and tired from the big descent (that we had taken fairly easy) and some looking not so great. I commented to Cole that the reason we were making such great progress is that we were working as a team but he totally poo-poo'ed that idea, whatever. We get to the top of the climb thankfully and were still doing okay. We were good to remind each other to eat, drink and take S caps regularly.

We were climbing up something (the climbs gets muddled after a while and I might have things out of order) and we saw Eric up ahead. He was with my friend Todd from here so it was good to see familiar faces. We climbed together for a while and it was a beautiful section with flowers and beautiful views from up high. Sometimes, we would leave a full functioning and lovely singletrack to take a hard left or right on what can only be described as an old abandoned goat path, possibly some stamped down grass but that was about it. We passed some volunteers and the woman said I was running in the top 10 for woman which was surprising in light of my demise at the start but it was just what Cole needed to hear and he said he would keep me there. My goal was just not to dnf.

We then got into the tunnel which was dark and pretty cool. It felt great to be out of the unrelenting sun for a minute or two. From the tunnel, we went down a good ways on a service road and it was a little confusing. I thought we might be off course because there was some construction flagging and it was hard to differentiate between that and the race flagging. And I didn't want to go down if I was wrong and have to head back up. But we found our way and I ran into a woman I ran with at Devils Backbone two years ago. We passed her but I knew what an efficient runner she was and that she would be back.

We had another great climb through some shaded switchbacks on narrow singletrack and then came the (I swear everyone called it this) demoralizing ridge climb. It lasted forever, was unrelentless, hot, steeper than hell, actually it felt like hell would feel and it made me yell at Cole (sorry buddy). He was saying something nice and he stopped and there was no stopping on that hill (besides the "let's just make it to that bush" stops). So he stops to say something and I lose it, "don't stop keep going", there might have been more words than that. I was in survival mode and there aren't that many niceties there. I told him I would apologize later but I could only just make it up that damn ridge first. I have discovered that I am not a multi tasker and being nice and climbing that ridge were mutually exclusive.

So we climbed up to the top of Hidden Peak again and there were two people standing at the top. They were smiling so I knew they were not doing the race. I thought, great, we will hit the aid station, my drop bag and head down to the finish because I thought I had the mileage in my head that there was about 4+ miles.

Imagine my surprise (in my jaunty mood to boot) when the smiling volunteers pointed us not to the aid station but down some more and then back up before we get to the aid station. I asked the dreaded question, how much further? The guy said once we got back to the top (again), it was about 5 miles and he said this all while smiling. I think he had the toughest job of the day because people really broke down on that ridge. So I was about 3 grueling miles off. Demoralized and abused but asking for it, we pressed on. We were still on the homestretch (even if it did involve some wretched climbs), we ran the downhills and there was some great scenery and were able to put some snow in our hats, bandanas and bottles so that cheered me up.

I was definitely looking forward to the downhill because my quads felt really solid and the downhill didn't hurt my ankles. Finally, we get to the top, re-supply, have some coke and food and head off for the downhill to the finish. I swear we were flying downhill and I was barely keeping Cole in sight. It was heating up and you feel it as you descend especially a 1000 feet a mile. We passed a few people on the way down and in all, probably passed about 40 people all day and were only passed twice or three times. Helps to start in way back for that to happen.

So we run and run downhill and start to see signs of civilization. I see the big white tent and look across the canyon to see how low we are. I know we are close and it is heaven to come around the corner and see the finish line. We finish together and come in at 8:47. I was shooting for sub 10 so I am thrilled. I was the 8th woman and third in my age group (when you throw out the top 5 women overall). Those Utah girls are fast and tough and the top woman, Anita Ortiz, is from Colorado and was third overall. There were some amazing runs done by those top people, running the stuff I couldn't even imagine powerwalking.

So we hang out for a while, drink some recovery stuff and then head to the creek. I enjoy a good soak and clean off pretty well in the creek but we head to the pool for some real relaxing. We ask someone in the parking lot for the temperature from their car, 102, that's why it felt so hot. We head to the awards ceremony and I get a cool goat picture and pick up a pair of Native sunglasses. Todd was also third in his age group so I pick up his picture and we meet for dinner with him and my friend Marty. Beef is consumed in large quantities and throughly enjoyed.

Sleep comes quickly that night and the next morning is another early one. I take Cole to the airport and then head home. I pick up tubby dumbo at the kennel and spend a good portion of the day on the couch. My legs feel pretty good, tired but not injured. In the meantime, a little time on the bike and I think an open water lake swim might be in my future. I feel my appetite raging so I see some 5 meals days coming up too.

So if you like the idea of a hot poker to you know where, definitely sign up for Speedgoat. It's a masochist's course put on by a couple of sadists (and we all know who we are). But, I think the confidence and strength you get from finishing a race like this goes far to other races. So I think Cole is ready for Wasatch and I have El Vacquero Loco up next in Afton in three weeks (so excited because I thought it was just two weeks but three is great). Check out the website for more info, it's another great one with lots of climb and great views. Website is here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Devils Backbone

Jackson is a hard place to beat for good living. I can't think of one other place I would rather live than Jackson, except Bozeman. Bozeman offers a bit more city life without taking the small town feel away. Throw in a sweet new library and a college and it runs a close second to Jackson.

I look forward to heading to Bozeman each summer to see old friends and hit their trails. Tom and Liz Hayes-McGoff are the race directors for two great races up there, Old Gabes 50k, an asskicker with 12,000 feet of climbing that I missed due to BH and Devils Backbone, a 50 miler of such shear beauty (and asskicking) you almost...almost (but not quite) ask for more.
I had some company coming to join me in Bozeman this weekend. My friend Roman from Houston was flying in to visit and run the race. Yes, I have flatlander friends. Roman lived out here and we worked together for a short time many years ago. We were the Spartan Cheerleaders for Halloween and I say this without a doubt; Roman has the best herkie and split jump I have seen. The vert he gets almost baffles the mind and coupled with the fact that he's about 6'2", 220 linebacker type, it's amazing. That's why he's my friend. That and we can talk about anything which we did most of the weekend.

So he flies in, we have too many beers at the brew pub on the way home and I drive to Bozeman with a big fat OB-1 headache the next morning. The drive was beautiful, through Yellowstone and the Gallatin Canyon. We get there in time to check into a hotel (high style for ultrarunning) and take some funny pictures of a big bush before heading to Tom and Liz's house for pre-race dinner and meeting.
The course hadn't really been decided on before the dinner. There was a lot of snow up high and getting to the first peak, Hyalite was iffy. Iffy became impossible when it took Tom, multiple Hardrock finisher 10 hours to do 25 miles, which was past the cutoff time. So it was decided we would start from the other way, up Portal Creek to Windy Pass and do 12.5 out and back, 10 mile loop in the opposite direction and then 7.5 on the first out and back. Tom claims this was going to be easier than the original course - yeah, right. Ate tons of food, a little hair of the dog and won a container of Mild Melon Heed. I was hoping this flavor was going to be better than the current flavor I have which can only be described as belly button lint, rolled in fish guts set in the sun then sprinkled with orange cream powder. Let you know how it is.

So we have to get up pretty darn early to get to the start line by 6, like middle of the nite early as the start was about 1 1/2 hour away. Roman, still on Central time, had us up at 2:50 instead of 3:50 so we laid there not sleeping until the real alarm went off. We got there with about 15 minutes to spare. There was some confusion at the road forks and somehow I was making navigational decisions which is a really bad idea. My confidence highly overshadows my complete inability to tell direction but we all got there.

The Devils Backbone touts itself as unmarked, unaided, and unequaled. If you know me, you know these are my races. It leaves the whiners, sissies and people that regularly shower at home. It's not that I like getting lost or running out of food and water but I know it's probably going to happen to me on any course, so I might as well sign up for a race that promotes right there in the brochure. People who stress over the hand drawn maps or no maps at all, ask the millionth question and then look around worried trying to find that person they are going to attach themselves to, those people don't have fun at these kind of races. I avoid eye contact with those people. I like the people that listen, shrug their shoulders and go back to their lasagna.

I did run with an interesting person who rocked old school. This guy was a lawyer by trade but was building a house in Livingston. He showed up to prerace meeting in Wranglers and cowboy boots (beat up, not new). His hydration and nutrition for the race went something like this. A Pure Simple Organic Limeade bottle (gallon) filled with I think limeade (really wanted some) and a small baggie with what looked like a sandwich in it. He was doing the longest distance he'd ever done (25 miles) and finished really well.

I got to see my friend Herbert, who pulled my sorry ass from Crybaby Land at the Big Horn with his sage words and understanding. And my friend Fran, who did GT100 with me and never fails to amaze me with her laid back attitude or sunscreen application. For those of you who don't know, zinc oxide is not dead and I wish I had some on that day. And her dog, Bok Choy had a great time on the trail and ran about 125 miles.

I knew it would be a long day but was surprised by how much the elevation and constant exposure to the sun drained me and quickly. I started out with my normal speed, snails pace, and then slowed a little bit from there. Our first 2 miles climbed about 1300 feet, then there was a bit more climbing before getting out on the ridge. Once out there, you could see for miles to other runners out ahead on the trail so you had a good idea of where to head and really, even I can't get lost on a ridgeline. There was a lot of snow on the course and that took a toll on everyone especially as the day wore on and the snow softened.

I reached the turnaround (12.5 miles) in 3 1/2 hours and was able to hook up with my great friend, Kim Taft for a little while. Her good cheer and constant smile brightened me up and I am lovin the hair. She was doing the relay with her husband and they had a true exchange in the form of their 17 month old son, Theo. Devils Backbone allows the relay people to start whenever so technically this year relay partners could run together. In years past, you and your relay partner started at different ends and met somewhere in the middle.
On the way back from 12.5 out, I was feeling pretty good although a little tired. I ran into Roman who was cold (Texan) and said he was thinking of doing 35, then driving back to town for some more clothes. I told him he would probably warm up as the sun got higher and hoped that I wouldn't be left. I ran back mostly alone but had far away company in sandwich/limeade guy. I had to backclimb a small cliff band where I had lost the trail and gone too high, you get your money's worth at the Devils Backbone.

Hit the 25 mile mark and felt fairly close to shit - tired, snow blind and sunburned but couldn't think of anywhere else I would like to be. I hit the pickles hard, and the pringles harder with some to go. I cleaned the sticks, pine straw and other grass cousins out of my handheld from all the snow I had stuffed in there. Someone filled my bladder and with everything stuffed in it, I looked like I had a papoose back but it worked. However, I headed out without the two things that would indicated I was going to finish this thing, my handheld and my headlamp. Consciously (headlamp) or unconsciously (handheld), I left them both behind. I did manage to clean out the scree field that was my shoes, put on some more sunscreen and get some calories on board. I also asked a few guys around me when they were headed out so I could hook up some company for the 10 mile loop.

One guy took off pretty quickly which wasn't a gear available to me. I ran the flat fairly well all the while trying to digest Tom's verbal directions. I had him give it to me like you would talk to a 3 year old. Don't tell me what I shouldn't do because "don't go left at the tree" sounds like "go left at the tree" when you are out there. So I just had him to tell me what I should do and I took it from there. So the directions went something like this,

Go back a ways, take the trail that heads South (great, I don't know direction but I just nod my head), then look for a weather station and head for it. He said it was only a 700 foot climb but I am thinking that he must have been referring to "the other" weather station out there because this one seemed a lot higher than 700 feet of a climb. You have to touch the weather station (thankfully the weather was clear, no lightning in the area) and then run to the second rocky knoll (rocky knoll?) and at the second rocky knoll there will be some ribbon, turn around and go back to the weather station and touch it again, then run away. There's not much of a trail so head for the station and then when you come back, don't go to the turnaround but head back out on the ridge. You will probably lose the trail but just keep high. Crystal Clear, I love these races.

There was a lot of snow out there, just big mounds of snow to go up and over. My Achilles were hating life but still answering my call. I hooked up with a guy named Scott, pretty much I just started talking to him until he put his ipod away. Cool guy from Helena doing his first 50 miler, he was a biologist who geeked out on maps, so jealous. The good thing about that big hill was there was the most beautiful rocks and I loved that a lot of the girls picked some up. I didn't see any boys saying "look at this pretty rock" but the girls all stopped to show off our rocks. This is why I like running long distances, more breaks for chatting. Alas, another reason I am not gonna win these things, too busy walking and showing off pretty rocks.

There was a definite glissade down from the weather station. Scott had given me some pointers on good techniques when he first spotted the humongous snow field on the mountain and even went first so I could see if he was going to crash. We watched Herbert pull off some great tele-turns in running shoes. I worried the whole way to the rocky knoll and had my sharp stick ready to self arrest when I started down. All my nervousness was for naught because it was like being on a big slide with snow butt wash chaser, none of which I didn't enjoy. So we get off the weather station mountain and head back to the aid station because our day is done.

On the way back to finish the 10 mile loop (that took 3 1/2 hours) I had pretty much made up my mind that the thought of a good nite's sleep won over finishing in the dark. I was shocked at how easy it was to make that decision and how psyched I was to not have to hit the ridge again. My first DNF was Devils Backbone, never thought it would be but it was okay. I equate it with seeing your long lost love and then leaving immediately to run off for a flight to Tahiti that serves all you can eat bacon, both are pretty good options.

So we ran back to the turnaround just to make sure Tom wasn't there but he had already started to sweep the course and actually shepherded a great guy from Texas, Ali on his first 50 finish, way to go dude. That was a big smile out there all day and he was the big winner of the day. Ali definitely deserves the hoodie. So then we walked down the steep 1.3 to the finish. We debated whether we should run it in but decided seeing we were dropping that we shouldn't. I asked Scott if he would kick me real hard so I had an excuse for dropping but he wouldn't so we strolled in as the winners of the loser 35 mile category. We got tee-shirts instead of hoodies and sat around, compared blisters (I won) and talked to some relayers about their day. Then went and soaked in the creek for a while and Roman and I headed back to the hotel.

We had big plans of going out on the town but ended up eating chicken in our respective beds while watching reality tv, also a good option. Brunch is at Looie downstairs the next day and it was great food and good race stories. We checked the Hardrock results and saw how well everyone had done. Kyle's new record and an amazing job done by my new friend Bushwacker, beautifully paced by Olga.

We drove home after brunch and went through Yellowstone which still takes my breath away with it's beauty in spite of the large crowds of people. Enjoy the photos.

So I am kinda glad that I got my first dnf under my belt. I was wondering when it would happen. I think my mental strength tank was on empty from Bighorn but both were still worth it. I think next year I will do BH100 and then DB relay. Next up is Speedgoat for a little punishment, lots of climbing in not very many miles. Then El Vacquero Loco, that my friend Ty Draney puts on down in Afton, Wyoming. This week should be a good week of running with Cole coming for some elevation training. Lots of trails, lots of friends to run with and finally the Teton summer is here and all 12 days of it will be appreciated.

Recovery has been good, took three days off mostly just being busy but I believe in rest (really just lazy). Wednesday, I ran my favorite run to Phillips divide and reflected on the last time I had been there. I hadn't yet done a 100 and now I have done 2. There was only one other person on the trail I saw that nite, an old friend. He said that he turned around at the snow and told me where it was, seemingly impassable to him. Funny, when I got there, I just went right through it thinking how nice it is to do distances and not let things like snow stop you. I probably would have stopped before but now you just keep going. Things are very good in life and I am grateful for it. Summer is fleeting so get out there and don't take it for granted. Here's a picture of Phillips, enjoy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ain't Nothin Wrong with the Bighorn, Part Deux

All the pictures can be found here.

The french is for the French Ultrarunning team that I leap frogged with all race. And to be honest, I don't think they really liked being passed by a woman, but I busted out my best french and finally figured out how to not have them consider me a dirty american (not that way). But eventually they passed me for good along with a good number of other folks that day, especially on the last 5 miles of dirt road at the end.

I love the Bighorn, it's all Wyoming, all the time. It was my first ultra in 2006 and my favorite wild and scenic trail outside of the Tetons. The race director, Melanie Powers, is not a runner herself but shares the enthusiasm and did a phenomenal job of re-routing our snowy course and getting all of us up to date. Her and her crew, along with Sports Stop Store in Sheriday were amazing.

I took an extra day off and left Jackson Wednesday caravaning with my friends, Kris and Julie, who I had married a couple of weeks ago. Julie was doing her first 100 and Kris, his first 50 miler. We stopped in Cody at Sierra Trading Post, the Wyoming Saks. Coffee at the Beta and then went through beautiful Shell Canyon and up and over Burgess Junction to come down into Dayton. Shell Canyon

Of course, we were staying with Lea and Marshall at the Foothills Campground right in Dayton and thankfully, right at the finish line. We set up camp, mine being a new tent someone has graciously given me and chilled. We were next to Dan and Pat Spurlock of Pocatello, who came with their son, Aaron to run. We caught up on things and enjoyed a nice quiet nite at the campground.

Thursday found us packing drop bags and wondering what we would need. The new course with it's extra loops and one out and back afforded us the chance to see Footbridge and Dry Fork Aid stations three times each so we only had to pack two bags. And the size of the bag was not brought up by race officials.

We checked in at the Sports Stop in Sheridan and met Kris's dad and stepmom for a meal. Being the health conscious runners we are, I opted for the chicken finger platter, Kris got about 2 lbs of nachos and Julie went with the hamburger. Got back to the campground and it had about tripled in size thanks to a troop of boy scouts from Colorado. Imagine the scene - 20 or so 13 year old kids and their dads (seemingly enjoying the trip more), no less than 7 vehicles all pulling trailers, canoes and other assorted crap. We stood there agape while Lea promised us that she threatened them with death if they were loud. And they were so quiet, helped by the delouge of rain and hail for the second nite. The worry was that the next night, if the skies decided to hail again, we would be in it, possibly on a ridgeline.

This being Julie's first 100, we had discussed reasons for a dnf. Last year, I read the running manual for the Cascade Crest and it made me want to run the race, just from the manual. But one thing struck me in my reading. It was a section for first time runners written by a woman named Melissa Berman, a 5 time CCC finisher and she writes

"Figure out ahead of time what would have to happen to make you quit and do not quit unless that thing happens. For some people it might be that they are not making some time/distance goal. For me it is I will keep going unless I injure something so badly that I am physically unable to proceed. And I finished with some very nasty blisters and I have spent 1.5 hours at an aid station (Kachess Lake) where my crew thought I was a goner, but I came back from the dead and finished. To finish CCC (and maybe any other 100 or any ultra for that matter) one must be determined to finish because inevitably something will happen out there and you will have to get past it or give up."

I don't know this woman but I think she pretty much hits it on the head. So with that quote, which I had taped to my drop bag on my first 100, we came up with a suitable list of things that be the reasons for Julie to drop. Please note that while Julie was allowed to negotiate some of these, the panel gave her no slack. Here they are:
1. Big Horn has rattlesnakes in the canyon, so Julie could drop if she was bitten by a rattlers BUT ONLY if she presented the rattler still attached to her jugular.
2. Lightning - In light of the recent weather, Julie could stop if she took a direct hit BUT ONLY if smoke was coming out of the bottom of her feet.
3. Hail - couldn't be ignore and Julie could stop BUT ONLY if she took a direct hit from a baseball size hail or larger and she had to present the hail. When the hail was Whopper candy size the nite before the race, we made her go out and see how it felt just have to gauge, she said it hurt.
3. Animal Attacks - Moose attack BUT ONLY if she presented a large hoof print on her cheek. Bear - no grizzlies at the Bighorn, so keep going.
4. Loss of Limb - BUT ONLY a leg and it had to be above the knee. From the elbow down, she had to continue even if it meant holding the severed appendage (with the handheld still attached) as she ran.

A lot of people were involved with that list (read it wasn't only me) and while some people might think it inappropriate, it cut the mood.

The race started at 11am Friday so we didn't have to get to bed too early and had plenty of time in the morning. The prerace meeting was standard, door prizes, excellent outfits and familiar faces. We didn't have to get dressed too early seeing we were right there and just had to make it to the starting line 2 miles up the canyon by 11, easy. The one good thing about a late start is I was able to get in about 1000 calories that morning, which is fairly easy for a piggy like me.

Kris drove us up to the start with another friend Katherine Dowson doing her first 100 (finished 2nd woman). I found a nice size leak in my Nathan bladder and Kris did some quick duct tape work on it before the start. Saw my friend Aaron from GT100 and caught up a little bit. We missed the prerace prayer that my friends wanted me to lead seeing as I was recently ordained but enjoyed the national anthem. Then we lined up in the back and started the race.

Julie and I were with some other ladies and we chatted and figured out where we knew each other from. Saw Olga from Oregon for the first and last time as she busted out a 3rd place finish. The first part of the race is a big climb up the canyon and it can be hot. I was lucky enough to run into Wendell, who I believe is the creator of the Bighron and he shared some great history on the area. It passed the time on the climb nicely. It's hard to imagine when you first start a 100 that you will be back in this very place in somewhere between 20-34 hours, definitely a different person. What person you are coming back as is the real mystery.

We climbed about 8.25 miles to the first aid station, Upper Sheep Creek. Julie felt slow but was doing well and the sun was in and out of the clouds. And we had just missed seeing a bear with her cubs by minutes I guess. Only a black bear, so no out for Julie. Our next section was beautiful from Freeze Out Point to Dryfork, one of our first main aid stations. Kris and his parents were there and crewed us beautifully. We hooked up some good energy named Debbie from Virginia. We hoped she would stay with us but she had a pacer coming in sometime. I don't do pacers; prefer to make my way with fellow runners. I will pace others, but have never had one myself.

We felt pretty well at Dryfork which is at mile 15.3 and headed out for a loop up Riley's Ridge via which was one of the course changes and something that usually only the 50k people do. But before we headed up Riley's we visited my favorite aid station, Cow Camp for some bacon. Anyone who knows me, knows my obsession with bacon. If you saw someone with a grey skirt and pink shirt with bacon shooting out of the front pockets of a Nathan pack, that was me. And it was high quality bacon, not that thin crap that falls apart, this was Wyoming bacon. I was a strict vegetarian for 14 years and when I drop off the vegetable truck back to meat, the first and only thing I wanted was bacon. It's still the thing I want everyday. I.love.bacon. and they had bacon for me.

The climb up Rileys is good climb - 2000 feet in about 3 miles and then goes along the ridgeline until it drops again into Dryfork. First time up was great, I love these climbs and was doing well with my eating and drinking. Julie caught up on the ridgeline and I was glad to see her. She's the descender and I am a climber so we usually meet in the middle. Down to Dryfork again and no crew this time, Kris was signing in for 50 miler the next day. We grabbed lights, dinner and weighed in for the first time. I had dropped 4 lbs and needed to drink more. Then we headed out for some nite running. With the later start than usual races, we had to put our headlamps at mile 29.6.

We headed back to Cow Camp (more bacon) and then headed to the remote Bear Camp where supplies come in on horseback. From Bear Camp, we headed into the Little Bighorn Canyon which is beautiful during the day but we would miss it in the nite. It was around 9:30 and at that difficult dusk time. I had avoided candy and cookies all day as well as caffeine until the nite, but two hard falls on slippery rocks and logs around that time that wrenched my back and hips reminded me that I should get something in me that would sharpen my focus. I took some just in time for the big descent down the Haul (or the Wall, I get them confused). I followed an agile runner down this section and made it quicker than I thought.

It was dark by the time we reached our second big aid station, Footbridge. The river was raging and sounded angry in the dark. When I think back to this section, I realized it was where things went a little south and probably the part of the race I would choose to forget. My feet were wet and had been most of the day. I could feel hot spots that aspired to be blisters and there were a lot of people going up and down the mountain because it was the turnaround. Before climbing, we had to do this out and back on a rugged jeep road and I felt like I was going to get mugged here, just creepy. After that 3 mile out and back we changed shoes and headed up to the turnaround.

I was a little confused at this point *surprise* and thought it was only 4 miles to the turnaround. I saw these really fast people coming down and I thought, wow, we are in good shape. But then realized it was 4 miles to the next aid station and then another 4 miles (which really turned out to be a demoralizing 5.3 miles) to the turnaround. I saw Katherine on the way up coming down and running with Bushwhacker, she looked good. Saw Aaron looking stellar and Tom H. from Bozeman. Good to see friends and share a few words of encouragement.

At this point, I was with Linda from California who achieved mini-fame in our mind when we found out she could pee standing up and another couple of folks that came in and out of the pack. We got to the Narrows aid station and they were fun, fueled by a good story from me that I had promised I would tell Julie at 3:00am (good motivator). Then we did the climb up to Leaky Mountain and the turnaround. And believe you me, that f-ing mountain leaked, all over my shoes and the blisters started to form. It was a slog up, during the nite probably when you want to do slogs but so tough. Made up to the turnaround, had some soup, espresso gel and headed down with my sore feet. Ran partways down and again found the difference between me and people who finish 10 hours before me, a lot of walking.

Made it back to Footbridge and past the halfway point mile 63.9 and another medical check. Due to my bacon afflication, I was now up 3 lbs over my official weight, nothing like gaining weight during an ultra. It's always nice to be past the halfway point and on the slide down but really, you feel like shit and can't imagine how you are going to get home. Thoughts aside, it was time to climb back out of Dry Fork Drainage back to Bear Camp. Up to this point, Julie had encouraged me to go and I had refused but suddenly thought of a good goal that she would appreciate so I took off. The sun was up and I passed a good many people on the climb.

The 50 milers started to bomb down as I was finishing the climb and I took a bit of energy from each of them. Matt Hart came down first, then two guys I didn't know, then Damian Stoy, then friends Eric Taft, Kris Quandt and some others. They all smelled shower fresh and looked really clean. They gave me energy to keep going to Bear Camp where I was still leapfrogging with the Frenchies. I passed them and continued back to Cow Camp and my last brush with bacon. I also took a look at my feet which I tried to fix at Footbridge but they were not looking good. Big blisters on both forefoots and spreading. A nice ER doctor or nurse try to deal with them with derma something and some mole skin but the skin is so saturated, it didn't stick. So I loaded up and headed for the big climb up Rileys for the last time. It was heating up but other than my feet, I felt pretty good.

I saw Laurie Andrews on the ridgeline as I was headed up. I threw on the ipod for the climb for motivation. I only use an ipod when there is no one around to talk to and this was a good situation for it. I got to Laurie and her pacer and found her really sick. Intense cramping, nausea and lack of food and water since the nite had taken it's toll on her. I unloaded my pack and gave them ginger, gel and my rain poncho for a sunshade and took their handheld to call back to their crew from the top. I pushed on and hiked with a relaxing man named Gort who helped me with the instructions I was given for what to tell the people on the other end of the handheld. I don't really get sleepy during ultras, just really ditsy. Finally got someone on the two way and figured that all out and made it to the top.

From there, my recollection of the trail and the actual trail were vastly different. I felt like I walked forever on that ridgeline waiting for the downhill to take me back to Dry Fork. It was approximately mile 79 at the top and my feet were in bad shape. At this point, I thought I would be off the ridge by 25 hours, but 26 hours creeped up and past and I didn't get down until 26:30. I had some 30 minute miles on that ridgeline and I knew if my feet got worse, I could miss the cutoff or worse yet, get pulled at the finish. One of the big blisters popped on the descent and I was kicking the other one trying to get it to go but I wasn't sure what the best thing to do.

Finally got back down to Dry Fork and Kris's parents were a soothing presence. At the aid station, I had an old lady shake (generic ensure, no fiber) and then saw the beer. I had half a cup of beer along with the old lady shake and the combo made me throw up a little bit in my mouth. I was hurrying worried about the 34 hours cutoff. My feet were hamburger and I decided we weren't looking at them anymore. 18 miles to the finish, that was what was ahead of me on feet that really didn't want to work anymore. My heels had been in acute pain for at least 50 miles but it was the blisters that almost brought me to my knees. I thought of Julie behind with her blisters and kept going. Also, the frenchies were ahead of me as they had passed me on the ridgeline during my crybaby period.

This is where you realize that a 100 is at least three times as hard as a 50. I used every distraction trick I could think of, I thought of my family and friends and their love, I thought of the good energy of Sweatpants and Steve and my friend Cole, I sang and there was some more crying. And then I ran into a guy from Bozeman I remembered named Herbert. I met him at Targhee couple of years ago when he was running the 100 and me the 50. He said three things to me and I repeated those three things for at least 10 miles like a mantra:

I know you are hurting
The hard part is over
Now enjoy it.

I think acknowledging my pain was the greatest thing he could have done for me. It freed the brain lock that was only focusing on the pain and discomfort in every step. And while it didn't take it away, it helped. The frenchies passed me for the last time on a climb and this is where we made our euro/us connection and all I had to do was defer to them which is fine when your feeling kinda crappy and defeated. We discussed Mount Blanc (dream race), "very difficult" they kept saying and I asked them if they liked this course and they just shrugged (euro for not really). Then they went on. About 8 miles from the end, I ran into a guy that had some ankle issues so we limped and bitched to the Tongue River Trailhead. We didn't bother with names, we didn't really care. We shared few words but the company was better than our own minds. I got to the road and knew it was 5 miles to the finish. They sprayed us down, put ice in our bottles and pushed us out. This section sucked, I knew it did, it always does and I was living for the last aid station, which has popsicles, lots of love and sometimes wine. The nice lady there gave me a grape popsicle, some coke and then she filled my handheld with ice and coke.

At this point, I was moving at about 25 minute miles and people were passing me a lot. I couldn't even acknowledge them and that's a rarity for me on the trail. The road went on and on, I kept looking for the bridge signaling the end of the road section. I couldn't walk because that rubbed the blisters more, I couldn't run because that just wasn't an option so I had that bad old lady ultrashuffle that really feels like you are going backwards. I tried to practice a smile but they weren't coming. I wanted the end real bad. Finally, finally I see the nice traffic girls who held traffic for me as I sorely crossed, then short sidewalk to the park and a gravel track. I heard the bagpipes, heard my friend Jenn who did the 50k cheering for me and ran to the finish banner. I will attach pictures that Kris took at the finish because I think it speaks volumes.

I tried to soak in the river but couldn't stand up. Kris and Julie were there and laid me down, took off my shoes and immediately took pictures of my gross feet like any good friend would do. I laid on the riverbank and convulsed for a bit under a blanket. I couldn't really talk or form real sentences for a while. This behaviour worried Julie, who stopped at mile 75 with her blisters but Kris had scene worst carnage than me. I wondered how I was going to get back to my tent because the 200 yard walk seemed impossible. I ate two bites of hamburger and managed to get down some recoverite and shook for a while.

Became human again and talked to Ty Draney who pulled out a phenomenal sub 20 performance for third overall. All my 50 mile friends did so well. Scott Griffith from Afton was 7th in 9:18, Eric Taft was 8th in 9:24 and Kris, in his first 50 was 13th in 9:49, Kim Taft in 10:50 as the 7th woman. And my friend Jenn Staph, who trained so hard for this and cried probably as much as I did on the trail finished proudly in 14:46 and is probably still wearing her finishers shirt. Results are here

I did make it back to the campground aided by my friends. I drank a beer and ate little. Remembered to call my worried parents and sister to let them know I was okay. I didn't sleep well or at all that nite, mostly just twitched. My feet were bad but not as bad as I thought but walking was defintely an issue, the blisters about the size of half a credit card. I peed outside the tent that nite and maybe a little inside too.

We woke and broke down camp and headed into Sheridan for the pancake breakfast, yum. I asked for extra pork products and we sat with the Oregon folks. I went to check the times and heard my name called. I was third in my age group and got this kickass rock with the race info burned in it. My time was no third place time but lucky me, I am still in the 30-39 age group and have one more year before I am throw in with the lions of 40-49. These women are truly mortifying to me. They have absolutely no limit on their threshold for pain. They have had multiple children and probably tied off the umbilical cords with their teeth. terrifying. But I was pysched to have an award, the buckles were sick - skateboarder style with wood and of course, the finishing jers. I have to say the Bighorn is up there for swag, top 5 at least.

So I filled my belly and we headed for some coffee. Ran into Marie and Kevin some folks we had run with during the nite and they had both finished. Kris and Julie were headed for some more camping but I had to get home. I wasn't going to make the kennel hours to pick up Scoobie but I had to work Monday. I got to the top of Burgess Junction and was hit with exhaustion so extreme I almost drove off the road. So I pulled off on a beautiful camping road and took an hour nap with the bird quietly chirping. Felt much better after and drove on. I only got tired again in Yellowstone but was only an hour and a half from home so I toughed it out. I saw a beautiful grizzly male on the side of the road digging for grub, so gorgeous and also got within three feet of a buffalo who wanted to go down the yellow line and more power to him. I love buffalo with their leg warmer fur around their ankles and their enormous heads.

Finally back through the Tetons and I went the inner park road to enjoy the view. It was that perfect time of the evening when the light is right and it feels like both the animals and the humans are settling down for the nite. Got home around 8:30 and dragged everything inside where it still sits. Made some mac and cheese with tuna for dinner and went to bed.

My feet are healing, I walked with my friend today with the dogs and my legs feel great. I iced the stovepipes in the creek twice and that felt good but the swelling up again and I need to put them up. I think recovery will be easier than my last 100 which was almost 4 hours faster because my legs feel relatively fresh. And that's good because I have Devils Backbone in 3 weeks in Bozeman. This race is so amazing, run by Tom and Liz McGoff-Hayes and there are still spots open in the relay of 25 miles each. Here's the website.

Good luck to my friends running Western States this week, not jealous of you at all. Keep cool in the canyons and run the last part (that's just what I hear). Steve, I will be thinking of you hammering it out with Olga, do what she tells you.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Shafer Butte

My life this second is narrowed to Steve's shoes, they were brand new this morning, Asics - white with red stripes, maybe Gel Eagles, maybe something else, but now are looking dusty and old. I know he will be pleased with that, no one wants their shoes to look new. My hat is pulled down low to block the sun as my sunglasses sit on Steve and Marni's bookcase where I forgot them this morning. Having blindingly white skin, blue eyes and freckles, sunglasses are a necessity but they aren't here so I forget about them. My whole focus is staring at Steve's ankles. And I am close to his ankles because we are all bent over climbing this hill, like ants. I notice he's wearing Smartwool socks, olive green with a hole on the left inside ankle bone and I wonder if that happened in the wash or whether he painfully hits his ankles together sometimes like I do and it wore a hole in it. I guess he could have caught them on something too. I think he shaves his legs too.

We crest a break in the hill, more to come but we all stand straight for a few steps. Ben, possibly the youngest person there this morning proudly claims that we have 48 miles to go having only gone 4. I want to throttle him and it's only 6am. We are on the side loop that we are going to do on the way out only. RD Frank said, "just take trail 4 to lower side of trail 6, it's real easy". Real easy consists of a couple of unmarked turns and this heinous hill. Debbie asks Steve if this is the worst the climbing will be, which I think is a really bad question, especially 4 miles into a race. But he allays my fears by saying yes, besides getting back up Mores Mountain and Shafer Butte, this is the hardest climb. Sweet side trail.

When Steve and I ran into each other at Desert Rats in Fruita in April, he told me about this race, Shafer Butte in Boise. Laid back race put on by an old school ultrarunner, Frank Hanson whose knees were shot but could still put out some pain for others. 52 (give or take) miles, 10,000 feet climbing with minimal aid,no medical help, no course markings, no entry fee, self timed, no published results, no photos, no proof, sounded perfect to me. For a second, I thought doing a 52 miler with that much climbing less than 2 weeks before a 100 that I was minimally trained for could signal trouble. But then I remembered that I don't live and train for any one race, my eggs are spread out in so many baskets, I'm kinda a bunny slut. I'll have a good time this weekend, meet some Boise runners and do a funner run than I would here in Jackson, so I accepted his invitation to stay with him and his family. And Sweatpants would be there too.

Sweatpants is an icon, in my opinion. He ran the entire Bear 100 in grey Hanes sweatpants and held (no handhelds) two gatorade bottles that he probably bought at the Preston gas station on his way over. When he got hot, he pulled one leg (just one) of the sweatpants up. Hand helds and shorts are for ninnies, Sweatpants rocks it old school. He's also a damn good runner, eternally positive with lots of good stories and commentary for the trail. Steve and Sweatpants do a lot of races together. Simpatico in their running style, I felt like I was being let into the inner sanctum of great duos, like the Lenny and Squiggy of the running world.

So I get there Friday in time to drive over with the guys to the pre-race meeting. This meeting mostly consisted of dropping off your goods to the race director, namely beer and water. I like a race where the runners provide the water, make sense to me. Frank said about 10 times how easy the course was to follow but I later learned that the only time Steve had gotten lost during the race was when he was with Frank. I knew that I needed to stay with Steve and Sweatpants tomorrow because I have crappy orienteering skills. There was no prerace crap talk about who had done what, how fast and when. I couldn't tell last years winners from this years newbies, very low on the ego meter, another good sign for a good day. Marni, Steve's wonderful wife, made us a great prerace dinner of spaghetti and meat sauce and we went to bed.

Got up around 3:45am for the 5am start, had coffee, cereal (Apple Jacks, love people who have kids), some power bar and hit it to pick up Sweatpants. We dropped off more water and our drop bags at the start. Frank said that the drop bags to be put at the top of Bogus wouldn't be watched the whole time so if you had a "family heirloom drop bag", this would not be the time to use it. We all had the same white garbage bag and the bags were fairly communal during the day. I pretty much rifled through the bags looking for better snacks than mine.

We started the race and it seemed like a record turnout this year, about 17. I was running with a woman named Debbie that I had spoken to the night before. This was one of her longest races and she was nervous but excited. She didn't know the course and I remembered what Frank had said, to stick with someone who does so I told her I had no idea of where I was going. I had a map and some bad directions but I was pretty sure, if left to my own devices, I was going to get lost. Steve and Sweatpants were up ahead but within sight. There were about 4-5 women in the race, all nice and unassuming, which meant fast.

So we are all kind of bunch together and Debbie asked me what my hobbies were and I thought, do people still have hobbies? I stammered for a bit and then said "I read a lot", which isn't a lie, I just didn't say that it was sometimes Star Magazine. What was I supposed to say? I love to watch tv, read ultrarunning magazine and eat more food than my stomach allows sometimes. They were going to find out I was a geek at sometime, but let's make it later. I quickly changed the subject.

Steve and I had started together around mile 4 and he was giving me lay of the land on the way up, which was pretty much a good, mellow climb up to Bogus Basin, the local ski hill. The paved road goes 16 miles up but there are trails the whole way up as well. I was so impressed with Boise trail system; the greenbelt has 125 miles of trails (Jackson, wake up!!). We were on mostly single track, some jeep trail and a few gravel roads. We wound our way to the first aid station mile 9 and Jack, the man with friendiest face you have ever seen greeted us. I was eating and drinking fine, thinking I was going a little faster than I would if i was alone but felt good. The scenery was beautiful, terraced green hills filled with balsam root and lupine in bloom. We wouldn't see him for another 35 miles so we said goodbye.

From there, we were on a dirt road that went by some summer cabins, quaint and sketchy at the same time. We also ran into Leon, the local running nerd. He's mostly a road runner, evidenced by the dink shorts and ever present breathe right strip. But he comes out for these things and has been around for a while posting some fast marathon times and loving the ultracentric races now. Ben, his mini protege, talked about these races, mile loops done over and over. Sounded like torture to me. I did enjoyed listening to the stories Steve and Leon told of old Shafer Butte races going back years. Leon had cut the extra 4/6 loop and was going to turn around once he hit snow (road runner) but he helped pass the time.

So the four of us made our way to the second aid station and drop bag site at the top of the ski hill and mile 19. It was a steady climb up but still felt good and was eating and drinking well. We did have the added benefit of a very cool Boise day. Steve was hoping for some Western States heat training and he wasn't getting it. I was bummed that I didn't have gloves because it was cold and windy when we got to the top. We changed out some things and filled up our bottles and bladders. Frank told us that they couldn't get to the turnaround because of snow so we were on our own for 14 miles until we got back here. We left the aid station and headed towards some downhill, straight downhill because the snow was blocking the road so it would be a straight shot down the bowl. We ran into Sweatpants going the other way, he and Teresa had thought they were going the wrong way and turned around. They were going the right way but Teresa was done for the day, a recent injury flaring up. She headed back down and we traded Leon for Sweatpants and headed for the turnaround.

We were now 5, Ben, Sweatpants, myself, Lynnete and Steve. We headed straight down the snow filled backside of Shafer and I got conservative real fast which means I wasn't sliding but walking and sidestepping. Steve was gone, sliding his way down, Sweatpants on his heels. They waited for us at the bottom and we had a 2 mile interpretative trail loop to do both on the out and the back. It was a nice trail, fairly good climb and beautiful views now that we were up high and on the backside of Shafer.

We went up Mores Mountain, down the back and hit the turnaround, 6 1/2 hours with most of the climbing done. We started back up and noted that we hadn't seen Lynnette at the turnaround. On the way over to Mores, we saw the leaders and a couple of other runner. I saw Trevor from Victor and we shared a quick hi. But no Lynette, Sweatpants called her name in case she went the 07 route which included an additional mile on the road because of some other shortcut. We started back up and saw Debbie and Dane who were together and looking good. On the way back up Mores, Sweatpants told us a good story about his second HURT where he took some "magic powder" recommended by a weightlifter co-worker of his. He said he came to somewhere on the second lap covered in his own vomit being slapped by someone but did manage to finish the 100k that year. It made me laugh and we shared some corn nuts.

We had to now climb up the snow bowl back to the top of the ski hill and we all took our own routes and time. Sweatpants had shoes with baloney slices on the bottom because he was slipping and sliding all day like Scoobie on a soapy floor. I chose to stay far right of him in case he came down so he wouldn't take me with him. He did manage to break through the snow to the water running underneath, bummer but no complaints from him. We made it back to the top, grabbed some food, got some race reports from Frank, who's in first (Craig Thornley) and who dropped.

We start to head down running and the first 4 miles goes quickly. There's a climb in the middle of this section and I am glad because my achilles is started to ache from the hand over hand climb out of the bowl, bad sign. I try not to mental discuss this with myself because it won't be a good conversation. At this time, I am with Ben only, who I have dubbed Napolean Dynamite because when I close my eyes and he talks, it's like I am in the movie. And he says the same kinda stuff as Napolean would, num chuk, things falling out of the sky that you just have to ignore. He tells me he's in the Marines, which surprises me, but Steve later explains that he's the Marine band which makes much more sense. So Ben is no help with my Achilles but some downhill, then uphill, then stretching while peeing seems to be a help and we continue on.

We are now all together and make it back to Jack and his smiling face. Cliff's dad offers to take what we don't want to carry for the last 8 1/2 miles down and we gladly give him everything but our handhelds. We were moving well before, always glad for the walking break but running all the downhills and flats but now we take off knowing we are in the homestretch. We run the last 8+ miles, walking the few hills in 90 minutes. We are on the spine of the ridge leading us out of the foothills and down to town and it is beautiful. We pass kind and polite mountain bikers and I am loving Boise running. It's the three of us now, Ben has gone ahead after phoning his parents to come pick him up at the finish. He said he would get our picture at the end which pissed the guys off. We were running (end of race) fast having found that rhythm of running with others when the conversations are done, the friendships are set and its just about finishing up.

We see the road that will take us to less than a mile. I notice houses I didn't see in the dark on the way out and lots of flowers that went unnoticed this morning. I am hurting at this point but who cares, almost done. We hit the road and Steve and Sweatpants are ahead and I am running in between them. They are blocking the wind for me and I am getting pulled along by them and I couldn't like them anymore for it. I am dying now but still running and we are all ready for it to be over. We see some people ahead and say that it's Sweatpants fan club and sure enough, they cheer for him as we make the final turn to the tree. You have to touch the tree (Ben humped it) to finish. Frank is there so he has the official time which is charitable by 3 minutes, 11:28 fastest 50 I have ever done. It was slow in comparison to prior Shafer Buttes for Steve and Sweatpants but still a great day in the mountains.

I have my regular post race recovery drink, beer and we chat with others who had finished before us (almost everyone). Marni is there to meet us with Jed, Steve's 21 month old twin. We say goodbye to everyone, hit the Boise River for an ice bath and drop Sweatpants off at home and head to Steve's. I take a shower, we eat pizza and then brownies with ice cream and go to bed at 8:30, a perfect day.

Sunday morning, wake up, have some coffee and I need to hit the road for the 6 hour drive back to Jackson. I have to pick up the canine from the kennel before 5 so I say goodbye to the Boyengers and head home. It's a beautiful day and I enjoy the drive. My legs are a bit tired and my feet ache, but not terribly so. I will now put the recovery phase into play which will include some trips to the accupuncturist and maybe a massage, lots of protein, minimal running and lots of down time. Some runners hate the taper, not me, I'm lazy by nature and it's more time for tv.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Strength of a Weiner Dog (Memorial Day Weekend)

Every once in a while, life presents you with a series of days that renew your faith in fun. It shows you the ease of friendship and surprises you with the strength of your feelings for people. This was one of those weekends. See, lately I have been in a funk. I know the exact nature and cause of said funk and won't bore you with the details. I just know it will pass soon enough but it makes my legs dead and my motivation nonexistent. But in the meantime, I got a diversion from myself in the form of visitors.

I was planning on heading down to Salt Lake to meet my friend Cole who was flying in from Ohio. The weather was crap here and in Salt Lake so Cole decided to drive up to Jackson instead with another friend. Seeing I live in the Brady bunch house, they were both staying with me. I was beyond excited, one to have guests and two, they were boys. Hey, a girl can dream. And honestly, I am just lazy so people coming to me was so much more appealing.

I am Cole's pacer and crew for Wasatch, a job I am taking way too seriously and one which I begged to have. Currently, I am negotiating my duties with him and am hoping for complete artistic freedom to assist him in getting it done in under 30 hours. There's a lot of convincing on my part and head shaking (back and forth, not up and down) on his but thankfully, he's one of the most easy going people I know so I think I will get my way. I will study maps and elevations, learn his middle name so I can scold him like his mother would in the middle of the night. I will dispense meds, lies, encouragement and without physicially assisting him, drag his ass through the mountains if need be. The only fear being he has to drag my sorry ass instead but I will train for my pacer duties hard.

All weekend, the rain was relentless but it didn't seem to deter our fun. There was a wine tasting complete with Jackson's best decked out in bedazzled cowboy hats and sequined jeans, late nite sushi, new friends, girly drinks drank by men and cookie candles that smelled faintly of urine. Life always hopes for good stories (all true), good food and sometimes too much alcohol and it delivered. We did runs, there were climbs in the mountains and every season was experienced. My soul was fed with late night talks on wine loosened tongues. The truth comes out when the sun goes down. Anyone who has run through the night with another knows that.

So after a hearty 2nd night of 4 hours sleep, they left early Sunday morning to drive back to Salt Lake. I was left with a too quiet house and beds showing the indentations of bodies and heads of hard sleep. Often times, I find it easier to hang out with guys. There is less emotion and thought involved in the basic art of hanging out. I can say the wrong thing and get away with it easier. While I have grown in my appreciation for time spent with my gender, its fun to be one of the boys when they let you. You feel cool.

On another note, the wedding is coming up. I am feeling my sermon juices flowing again and hoping to channel one of those Southern preachers that shout Hallejah and have their perishners swaying with their heads down, eyes closed, palms facing up. But it might be a bit more serene than that.

I have changed around my race schedule too. I was talking to a friend last nite and she was mentioning Leadville, a race we were going to do together. For some reason, I have not signed up even though the entry form is sitting on my desk at work and I look at it every day. Sometimes my inaction speaks louder to me than what I actually do and what it's telling me is that I don't think I want to do it. It's too much travel, cash and nites in the back of my truck. Once I thought that out loud, it made me happy so there you go. It also frees up two races that I have wanted to do - El Vacquero Loco, a really cool low keyed ultra just down the road from me put on by Ty Draney and Speedgoat 50k in Utah. My only bitch on Speedgoat is the claim that it's the toughest 50k in the US. That's a steep claim but 10,000 feet of climbing is a good amount, there are other races with more. I just think that superlatives are being thrown around too freely these days.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I'm back...and really white

This is not a picture of me, but it felt like me. I learned really just how white I am a couple of weekends ago when I donned my running skirt for the first time since last year. I am like blue-white, so white you can see veins and so happy to let the skin breathe. You get used to 4 layers of clothes everyday that you feel jubilantly naked when you get to wear just one layer.

Tax season ended, anticlimactic as always. Glad to be done and have life back, but there's always a few days of wandering around lost with so much free time on my hands, but one adjusts. And I had made a last minute decision to do a race inFruita, Colorado on the 19th of April especially with all the training (not) that I had done this winter. So I signed up for the 50 miler, really begged my way in after registration had close.

I was running around the day I was going to leave and ran into my friend Kathleen that I did the BMT with. It took me about 15 seconds to talk her into coming with me. We decided that things like a last minute trip that you can say yes to makes being single without kids really sweet. We hit the road around 4, hoping to get to Vernal, Utah, a singular scary place to go but still about halfway there. We made it at dark after dodging deer on the descent into Vernal only to find most of the hotels booked because of their recent oil and gas boom. Finally found a room available,got in one hour of Blades of Glory and slept.

Lazily woke up the next morning and got on the road after a ginormous breakfast at Betty's Cafe (highly recommend it) complete with sides of biscuits and gravy and two kinds of breakfast meats. We made it to Fruita around noon and met our friends Kris and Julie who were also doing the race and letting us poach their campspot. They had gone for a run near the starting area, but I didn't want to ruin my streak of nonrunning days leading up to the end of tax season which was at about 8.
Fruita is unbelievably beautiful with red rocks, slick rock, amazing trails and the Colorado river flowing through. I guess it's becoming the mecca for mountain biking but I think it's a great trail running destination as well. The temp was perfect, 60-70s with a strong wind. Kris cooked us dinner of grilled cheese and soup and we hit the sack.

Race started at 6:30 and we got there at 5:30 and hung out in the car. We saw Ryan Burch who had done a couple of the same races, didn't know him just knew who he was. He put on an amazing display of sunscreen application; had to have lasted a good 35 minutes, every nook and cranny. I saw him after the race and not a bit of sunburn and I can't say the same thing. My friends Greg and Dana from Colorado were up randonly to mountain bike the same time so they greeted me at the start with a hug. I helped paced and crewed Greg at Leadville last year where he was 24th in his first 100. It was great to see them.

Race got started and Kris, Julie and I ran together for a while and then Kris had to go faster because he can and he was doing the 25 miler. We all started together but the 25 milers were doing 1 lap (which was a series of loops within the lap) and the 50 milers would do 2 laps, the second being run in the opposite direction which for someone like me (whose not always paying attention) is like running a completely different trail. I was thrilled to be outside after the long winter, stomping some dirt and also realized I was feeling damn good.

Julie and I ran the first 20 miles together and a great woman joined us, never her got her name though. I was amazed when she told us this was the longest she had run and she had MS. MS, along with Parkinson, are my feared diseases; the ones I don't want (not that you want any). I was interested in the disease and how she dealt with it and especially how she ran with it. She was so open to my questions and shared a lot of information on diet, stress and sleep that is probably good for all of us to strive for. Needless to say, that section passed quickly and she went on ahead to finish her first 25 miler in fine fashion.

I was moving well, running the flats, walking the small hills. My Achilles was quiet, the calves behaving and the stomach was bomber, of course supplemented with the required crystallized ginger that I am never without. If you have ever been offered ginger during a race, it might have been me. I am a big fan. So we get to the last aid station before the end of the 25 miles and it's a hot heinous climb out. The tough part was coming up, running back to the start, seeing your friends, your car, your flip flops, cold beer and eschewing all that saying "thank you, may I have another?".

The last 1.3 miles are on a dirt road and you can see the people heading back out. I counted up the girls ahead and thought was somewhere 6th or 7th, not that I cared just counting. I also saw my pal, Steve Boyenger from Boise, Idaho. Steve has volunteered at the top of Fred's Mountain for the Targhee races that I have done three times so it was great to see him out. I knew he was at least 2 miles ahead of me so I wouldn't be able to catch up and chat.

Dana crewed me like a champ, I hit the head hoping for glory, but no luck, it would have to happen out on the trail. She filled my bladder, scolded me for not bringing it in empty, Kris gave me gels and I headed back out, no thoughts of stopping. I did feel bad for my friends that they would have to wait 6+ hours for me, but not that bad. First lap, an even 5:30. The race has about 4000 feet of climbing per lap, I like a little bit more because I suck on flats.

Lap 2 - it's heating up and I knew I was going to get into my head sooner or later and that's not a good place to be when it's hot, you're alone, fatigued and had a ways to go, but I still felt pretty good. And get this, I run into that .01% ofultrarunners that are a-holes. I see this guy ahead thinking maybe I can run with him so I catch up with him and here's how the conversation goes:

Me: "Hey, how's it going?"
Him (ahole): "Slow"
Me: "I think you're doing pretty good"
Him: "No, slow"
Me: "Well, if you are calling yourself slow and i am running with you, then you're calling me slow too" (totally joking)
Him: "Well if shoe fits"
Me: "Well, you are gonna have to be slow alone today with your bad juju" and went by him.

So I kept going and keeping in mind I always have the arsenal to call on, which consists of little prizes or things that keep me going. My arsenal consisted of my ipod (only for truly desperate times), green apple powder for my water (I decided I could have that with 10 miles to go), and some food items that I love. I set my sights on two girls ahead of me, just keeping them in sight for far away company. Get back to the aid station I had left 12 miles ago and there's Steve there. I chatted with him and he said he was going drop. I didn't see anything wrong with him and told him that. The car was there to take him back to the start but I talked him out of it.

So we headed out walking and the 2 girls I passed right before the aid station passed us back but I didn't care, I had some company. And good company at that, Steve's the perfect race companion, equal parts funny and positive. We spent the next hour nonstop talking and walking. He caught me up on his Western States training, a few races he had done this year and his friend Sweatpants, who cracks me up. We just made it from aid station to aid station, the talking trickled but not the companionship, it makes all the difference in the world. I love being the middle/back of packer because you get to talk and meet people. I asked Kris, who had a great, fast run, if he met anyone that day and he said no one was talking, what a shame.
It was a great day and I was glad to be outside for 12 hours of it. 12:12 to be exact, we ran it in and got a few finish photos. My loyal friends were waiting for me to finish. Steve had to head home to make it back to work by 11 the next morning, so we said quick goodbyes. And me, with my keen sense of smell for the beer cooler found it, but it was stocked with NA beer, whatever, had one anyways. Julie was there and she had gallantly headed back out for lap 2 with a painful IT band and pulled at the aid station I met up with Steve, 31 miles of great running.
So here's the crackpot of it all. My longest week of running this winter was about 25 miles, longest run 18. and I felt better in this race than I ever had in an ultra. The runs I did this winter were short in length but I was pushing myself more because I had less time (think frantic running). Then, I went to aslideshow last week that Eric Orton, a local trainer, was giving about his time with the Tarahumara
Indians in Copper Canyon Mexico href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/23/fashion/thursdaystyles/23Barefoot.html">
with ScottJurek , Jenn Shelton and some writer a few years back. He thought about what made them great runners and said that they did less, more often (think bursts of speed in their ball game), no junk miles and more speed and hill work. Without knowing it, I think I had done that more out of need than intelligent choice. Now, I just need to continue to do that.

And on another completely different topic, you are know looking at newly ordained Reverend Lori Bantekas. I was ordained (online for free at http://www.themonastery.org/) with the Church of Life and for perpetuity, I can perform the following services:

Weddings,Funerals, Baptisms, Last Rites and my favorite, Exorcisms. I cannot perform circumcisions though. The website gives instructions and suggestions for each of the services along with links to purchase all the accoutrements I would need. I am considering getting the parking placard because I hear you can park anywhere with those things. The only two tenets that church asks
that I follow are: promote freedom of all religions (check) and to do that which is right (struggle everyday). I will be marrying some very good friends soon, an honor for me. And that I become a reverend in the process is cake.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Running outfit? Optional

I am getting creative in my running ways or possibly creeping ever so slightly out of touch with what's proper. Coupled with less time and an increasing freak out intensity over a race in about 80 days, I have come up with a plan to run anytime my feet hit the street. Need to walk the dog? We're running and Sophie's not happy, she's peeing like Olga, not stopping, point it to the side. No 2's are reserved for the backyard, no time.

The other day, I had to head over to the hospital for a check on my skin cancer removal site (boring crap) and I put on my shoes and ran over there, wasn't that far. I saw one of my clients in the same office and he said "were you just running down the street?", I said "yeah" and he looked me up and down at my outfit (not a running outfit). I have also been seen running in myUggs and pajama bottoms, jeans, chinos, etc. Uggs are really not that bad to run in, cozy and warm, socks optional. I can go a good couple of miles in them comfortably.

Yesterday,I found myself running (twice) in my pajamas, undergarments be damned.
They were the same pajamas that I wore to work (it was Saturday). All you need is shoes and (in Wyoming) a down coat. This winter I have forgone a jog bra. Anyone who knows me realizes that it's optional for me to wear one so that went out the window. I am gonna save a bundle not having to buy those torture devices anymore. It's incredibly freeing, quicker to get dressed but you can't be Pamela Anderson, then
its not fun.

And when I run in these spurts of time I have, it's like a bat out of hell. I am running, not jogging, not ultrashuffling. I am getting my money's worth and I come back to the office sweaty and out of breath, snot running. And it's the running that takes me back to being a kid, you never jogged when you were kid, at least I didn't.
Energy wasn't this finite thing like it is now. I was possibly being chased, possibly by things you didn't see or that didn't exist except in your 7 year old mind. Remember scaring the hell out of yourself walking home from a friend's house and by the time you reached the front step at mach 4, you were convinced that you just barely outran thebogeyman (which in my head at that time was Wolfman Jack, that dude scared me).

Shower you ask? No thanks. I have regressed a bit in my showering habits as well. In reality, I have never really liked showers, requires effort to stand up. I'd rather lay down so I am a bath person. After long runs, everyone wants to shower, be clean whatever. I would rather eat first.

I have just realized that I have morphed into a 12 year old boy.

I guess care a lot less about certain things than I used to and care a lot more about certain intangibles. Not going to name them, this isn't a motivational piece and everyone has their own. But I think winter can strip us down or at least remind us to stay vigilant. It can remind us of what we need to thrive or sometimes just survive by the sheer lack of it (and it's not ajog bra or a shower). When winter lasts a good six months and the sky has been dirty white for 2 weeks straight, it really comes down to surviving or resisting crazy within the isolation of it. I have always said that I wished I could have been a cave woman; I think I would have excelled at gathering.

I think that's why I like running, esp ultras. They come down to those basics - breathing, eating and moving. Not competition or expectations but merely
surviving. And I look forward to surviving all summer and fall.