That Time I Showed Up At The Starting Line And Didn’t Start

This was supposed to be my one and only ultra this year.  After getting injured in early April and recovering six weeks later, I signed up for a 50-miler as well as a 100K to get my training back on track.  Except it didn’t, and I took my 100K off the table.

I’ve been on a bit of a free-for-all over the past two and half months. A marathon and half marathon – two distances I could get through with minimal training, were completed. Pacing 16 miles of a major 100-miler was also done, so a 31-mile race should be doable, right? As the SOB (Siskiyou Out Back) approached,  I was excited about the opportunity to visit Ashland, camp solo for the night up at Mt. Ashland Ski Lodge, and run on the PCT.  What I wasn’t anticipating was a lack of mental drive, crabiness from a miserable night of sleep, and a strong desire to get back to my kids who’d been gone during the week prior.

I was planning on dropping down to the 50K (from the 50-miler) the morning of the race, as I was instructed to do by the race directors.  Unfortunately, my one fellow running friend that had signed up, also had to drop due to injury – so I was looking at a very solo effort, with no one holding me accountable. After arriving to a full parking lot at Mt. Ashland Ski Lodge the night before, I holed myself up in the back of the truck and tried to enjoy the quiet, disconnected evening by picking up a book and actually reading(!).  As the sun went down, the view of Mt. Shasta faded, and off to sleep I went.

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The sunset view from Mt. Ashland with Mt. Shasta in the distance.

Unfortunately I woke up freezing cold numerous times and was unable to rest soundly.  At 4:45 a.m. the van next to me started up its engine. And at 5 a.m., the race directors gave us a hearty wake-up call by blasting the Beatles into the parking lot.  It was race day.  I opened my eyes that morning, unmotivated, and thought about dropping down to the 15K which started at 8:15 and then realized I could be close to Salem by that point. At 5:30 a.m., I pulled out of the parking lot with no regrets.  It was Salem and my kids, for the win.

I used to think that if I bailed on a race without any physical injury to blame, it was because of performance nerves and anxiety.  And there are still race day mornings when I wake up anxious, asking myself, “Why do I do this?” But this was not one of those days.  I felt tired, and knowing I had a 4.5-hour drive once the race was over, was nagging at me.  I would be even more tired after the race. And god, I missed my kids.

So I drove away from the festive start line still in my pajamas, and made my way up I-5 knowing I would being seeing my kids much sooner than I had originally anticipated. Yes, I knew that the post-race comments on social media would give me pangs of immediate regret, but I am experienced enough to know there’s always next year. My bigger realization was that I had signed up for the 50-miler which was truly the race I wanted to run.  Not the 50K or 15K. 50 miles.  A race where you are awarded with a sweet-ass cermic mug at the finish line.  Because I’ll do any race for a mug.

 

 

 

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Race Report // Newport Marathon

I finally completed my first Newport Marathon on Sunday. After having gotten sick in 2013 on the day before the race, and then trying to sign up in 2014 but finding out I was a week too late in February, I got to spend the weekend running and getting in some much-needed beach time.  The Oregon Coast is my favorite place in the whole world, and I always jump at the chance to make the 3-4 hour drive over from Bend.

Coming off a couple months of ultras, my training had been substantial but significantly tapered.  I was getting in at least one speed workout a week, but favoring runs with friends over a second speed session.  My weekday morning  runs had all but been eliminated, and I could tell I was losing my desire to really push and achieve a PR or anything faster than what I have been running over the past few years.

All I really wanted was a cool finishers medal and sushi. Really.

After we arrived on Friday evening, we made our way through the Old Bay Front on our way to packet pick-up.  As soon as we reach Ripley’s Believe It or Not, I look over and my favorite sushi place is GONE.  Windows are papered up. No sign of sushi signs ANYWHERE.  WTF!?!  My only thought was finding a back-up. Where could I find sushi after the marathon tomorrow, so that my intentional deprivation of sushi over the past few months would not go unwarranted?

Newport Loves their Marathoners

Newport Loves their Marathoners

After a dinner at Mo’s, we were off to the hotel to wind down for the evening.  Setting out my race clothes for the next morning, I was surprisingly calm.  This was my 14th marathon, and it seems that running ultras has helped me prepare better – mentally – for marathons.  My anxiety seems to be much more under control, and I know what to expect.  My body handles the longer mileage well, as long as I fuel when it tells me to.

Saturday morning arrived quickly, and I made my way (along with most of the runners) down to the start, which was only 3 blocks from the motel.  The weather was cool and in the 50’s, overcast and perfect for running.  We were soon on our way back north, looping through Nye Beach and then back toward the Old Bay.  At mile 4.5, we climbed a small hill and started out to the turn-around at mile 15.  I will admit, this was daunting as I wasn’t sure how I could mentally tackle an out and back for the majority of a marathon.  The first few miles went by incredibly slow.

Fortunately, by about mile 12 I knew I only had a couple miles left to the turn-around and they were ticking off quickly, so I set my sights on the return. We got to see the lead runners fly by which was amazing – this is a very flat course and they were cruising.  Lots of people were hanging out on the course to cheer on runners including the Oregon Oyster Farms (oyster shooters for those who dare), a cute couple who had balloons strewn across their yard and continued to clap and encourage all the runners and walkers (cowbells would have saved their poor hands), lots of high school students at aid stations, and a guy whose house was near the road offered beer to any runner who took him up on it.  Upon returning back to Newport, there is a slight hill and then a steep downhill to the finish, which was crowded with people.  After hoping for a sub 3:45, I was happy with a 3:48.  I really had a seamless race with no problems, and I finally got my cool medal.

Coolest Marathon Medal Ever

Coolest Marathon Medal Ever

This race has a capacity of about 1,000 and I highly recommend it.  You risk encountering rain or wind, but the two years I have been in Newport on marathon day have been perfect.  The race course is well-stocked with aid stations every 2 miles, and the medal, shirt and post-race party are great.  Chowder and beer were my choices for re-fueling.  Rogue Ales had a tent with beer for all runners who prefer some suds after their hard effort.  There was even a band.

Boden the Surfer

Boden the Surfer

Later that afternoon, I looked up the one and only sushi place left in Newport.  I finally got 2+ rolls into my belly that evening, and felt satisfied.  Definitely wasn’t as good as the old sushi place, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. Hoping for another trip to the coast before next year rolls around – it’s one of the most peaceful places in the world.

Perfect Day at the Beach

Perfect Day at the Beach

Race Report // Peterson Ridge Rumble 40-miler

Running the Peterson Ridge Rumble 40-miler had been a goal of mine for a couple years. My friend Sean is the Race Director, an incredibly experienced ultra runner, and knows exactly what runners need and when. I have run the 20-mile course the last two years, and had wanted to do the 40-miler last year. Unfortunately, I succumbed to a nasty cold that lasted a few weeks, and training didn’t go as planned.  But I was back this year, more determined than ever to run a 40-miler “before I turn 40” next January. Makes sense, right? The idea inspired me, and so it became my goal. To conquer two birds with one stone, I decided to also sign up to run the Newport Marathon just six weeks later. More on that in a bit.

The Gorge Waterfalls 50K left me with a runner’s high that lasted most of the following week. Not sure if it was the race, the effort or the course, but it was truly an unforgettable experience that kicked off two weeks of tapering for PRR (here is a link to The Ginger Runner’s Gorge Waterfalls 50K video). The race also left me with a boosted level of confidence that helped me mentally prepare for a 40-mile race. My single worry was that PRR was much more runnable than the 50K, and I didn’t want to kill my legs early on which might leave me with no gas left in the tank at the end.

A Drone Flying Over Us at the PRR 40-mile Start

A Drone Flying Over Us at the PRR 40-mile Start

Race morning was a bit chillier than expected at 24-degrees, but the sun was out which was all I could ask for. Thankfully, my nerves weren’t on the fritz and I was surprisingly relaxed for race day. Again, the 50K had given me the boost I think I needed before running this distance, so all I had to do was believe in myself. And that I did. After a “Go Amy Clark!” from Sean (behind the mega phone) the first 20 miles went by quickly, especially after we merged with the 20-mile folks at around mile 18. They were speedy, and it was a little hard to not be intimidated by their faster pace. Or speed up with them, for that matter, as the second half of the first loop is mostly a gentle downhill. But I held my own and once we got back to the road, it was time to pull over for a pit-stop behind a tree. I honestly never stopped to pee in the two 50K’s I ran prior to this race, so this was new – and thank goodness I had a place to go. Sometimes privacy – believe it or not – can be hard to find off the side of a trail. Looking for a “quick” spot to squat is just another thing that takes time.

At the top of Peterson Ridge. Photo by Paul Nelson

At the top of Peterson Ridge. Photo by Paul Nelson

Then it was off to loop number two. Before I forget – the aid stations throughout loop number one were AWESOME – as expected. The volunteers were incredible, and the selection of food and drinks was plentiful. Local races are always fun  because of the familiar faces greeting you at the aid stations.

Venturing out onto the second 20-mile loop of the race was uncharted territory. I had never run this section of the course, and was feeling a bit lonely as I made the turn off of the road that returns the 20-mile runners back to the finish line. There was another runner that was just ahead of me, and it turned out to be one of my fellow “Twitter buddies,” but unfortunately we were both in the zone and not really up for conversation at that point. When you are facing another 20 miles, it’s hard to make small talk – at least for me. I had no idea what to expect. So on I went, traversing what appeared to be a long, country road. The road soon turned to cinder and went up. And up. This was the point where I decided I could use a good hike, especially since it was almost the afternoon and the sun was bright. Throughout the rest of the loop I would often leap-frog, or pass runners as we were all battling our own inner races. Then the scenery went from really nice to AH-MA-ZING between mile 30-35, where the top of a ridge overlooked a meadow of bright green manzanita bushes, and just above those was the tree line, which sat just below the whitest, most stunning mountains (Three Sisters) backed by a bluebird sky. Took my breath away, and I chose not to take a photo so that I’ll remember that moment just as it happened in my head. A picture could never do the view justice. And by the way, the volunteers on the second loop were just as amazing as those on the first. Thank you to all of those wonder people who were out there!

Then it was down, down, down to the aid station at mile 35. It was a shaded horse camp and I was ready to fill up on my usual – oranges, PB&J, potato chips and coke. No rush though – just five miles to go. Finally, off I went after feeling like I could finish strong with a full belly. Eventually, I caught another runner I had been leap frogging with, and passed her with about one mile to go. Then – CRASH. Yup – fell right into the dirt. Luckily no damage was done, and I got right back up and followed her into the finish. Around the track I went, where lots of people were still around cheering us on, and crossed the finish line of my longest race to date. 40 miles. Done. My time was exactly the same as the Gorge Waterfalls 50K – 6:57. And I got in about 9 miles more.

Sean and I at the finish. The best RD ever!

Sean and I at the finish. The best RD ever!

I felt fortunate I was able to chat with Sean after, as I rarely get to see him now that he’s living in Arizona. And I felt good – no niggling aches or pains, just the usual overall soreness from running for seven hours (and a little chafing from piece of bark that got stuck in a snug spot during my pit stop).

I was incredibly happy after completing the 40-miler, of course, but felt like it was just the icing on the cake. I had completed months of training, and capped it off with an absolutely beautiful, yet tough 50K. Now I get to jump back into training mode for the Newport Marathon on May 30. No time to waste – one down and one to go!

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Race Report // Gorge Waterfalls 50K

You gotta love when a cool volunteer opportunity turns into a cool volunteer opportunity AND a race entry.  A week ago on Sunday, I helped the awesome crew at USL.tv (ultrasportslive) live-stream the Gorge Waterfalls 100K, and was also granted an entry into what is normally a very hard race to get into via lottery.

The weekend started at 2am on Saturday, as I had to get up and get ready while staying at my parent’s place in Salem and then pick up my fearless USL.tv leader, Marie, and drive to the Aid Station at mile 13.  We were pressed for time, as the lead runner was due into the Yeon Aid Station (miles 13 & 49) around 5:40am (the race began at 4am).  To prepare for a live broadcast/streaming on a trail, in the woods, IN THE DARK is a thing of wonder.  But just as if she’d done it a million times, Marie got the camera, generator and computer, all up and running in no time. Soon the lead men came through the aid station and were back out into the dark – with the lead women right on their heels (although they were pretty hard to identify due to the darkness). The sun eventually came out from behind old growth forest, and we put in a full day of broadcasting from the trail (every 20 minutes) until 4:30pm.  Even though we stayed in one spot, there was a lot of excitement throughout the day – including watching the elite runners fly by, the Ginger Runner also flew by while chasing the lead runners with his GoPro, and mostly – all of the smiles and determination from all other 100K runners.  What an amazing bunch of people.  Every single one.  I was in awe all day long.

Marie broadcasting from the trail. This was our set-up.

Marie broadcasting from the trail. This was our set-up.

Ginger Runner (aka Ethan Newberry) chasing Bob Shebest

Ginger Runner (aka Ethan Newberry) chasing Bob Shebest

After we had completed our broadcast at 4:30pm, it was time for a quick dinner at the Charburger overlooking the Columbia River and Bridge of the Gods, then back to the hotel for a lot of shut-eye.  We earned our rest, and definitely needed every minute of it.  Then it was back up at 6am on Sunday to prep for the 50K.  We arrived at Benson State Recreation Area and loaded up on buses that took us out to the start at Wyeth (the half-way point for the 100K).  We were off after a few words from James Varner – Race Director for Rainshadow Running.

View of Bridge of the Gods from Charburger

View of Bridge of the Gods from Charburger

The first few miles were a slow trudge under towering old growth trees high above the Columbia River.  All the runners were very close together, as there was no road or wider trail that allowed us to spread out and find our pace.  This was a GOOD thing for me, as I was using this as a training run for the Peterson Ridge Rumble 40-mile just a mere two weeks later.  I didn’t want to go out fast and kill myself, so it was definitely fine by me – until I found myself behind a runner who felt the need to snap 20 pictures on his phone over the first two miles.  Sorry dude, I’d rather get this done sooner than later. Buh-bye.

I got through the first aid station with a quick fill of my water pack, a Gu and orange slice.  I was feeling good, and there was no need to slow down. Before I forget, the volunteers and support at all of the aid stations were tremendous.  What an amazing bunch of people volunteering their day to cheer on runners and make sure they are getting what they need.  I’m always amazed at the time people take during these events.

Then it was on to Elowah Waterfalls and the next aid station – Yeon (flashback from Saturday).  The course has a bit of pavement, but I felt good running on it, and the change of pace was welcome.  It allowed me to spread out a bit from all the other runners and not feel like I was watching my footing the ENTIRE time.  The rocks on this trail are a constant hazard, which means any sight-seeing is out of the question if you’re trying to stay upright.

Running past Elowah Falls. Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

 Elowah Falls

Once we were through Yeon at mile 18, it was down the road for a couple miles and up yet another climb.  The terrain on this section didn’t have as much old growth as before, but the trail was incredibly narrow and windy, which made for even trickier footing (read: tripping).  Especially when following other runners who were also tripping. I caught up to my USL.tv compadre and found out she’d been suffering since mile 10 from nausea.  Frankly, I was a little surprised I wasn’t suffering either, as we had had a long day on our feet with hardly any food the day prior.  Traveling can take its toll when running a long distance. I went ahead, knowing full well she had it in her to find a gear to make it to the finish.  We only had about six miles left.  I soon heard a cowbell and a woman kindly told me the aid station was just ahead.  YES. My other USL.tv colleague had already made it to the aid station and told me of his cramping after the last stop, and I shoveled PB&J, potato chips, oranges and Coke in so fast that I was ready to go once again.

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Running past Elowah Falls Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

The last section of this race is the toughest, and I bow down to those 100K-ers who ran it in the dark and then looped back knowing they would have to tackle it again from the other side. The last climb is 1,500 feet in three miles.  It was a warm, beautiful day – so add a bunch of hikers/tourists and you’ve got a busy trail with a bunch of people trying to go up. The first climb was paved and had 11 switchbacks which were clearly marked (6 of 11, 7 of 11..), then the trail dipped and climbed again.  This time it was rocky and unpaved, alongside a couple cliffs.  Again, not sure how those 100K-ers did it in the dark. Then there is an additional climb to the very top and – you guessed it – a steep drop down the other side.  Bombing down part rocky trail / part pavement is the only way to explain it.  We got to run under one of the falls – Ponytail Falls – and I got whacked in the chest by a young kid I passed behind just as he lost his balance.  Fortunately it wasn’t too hard of a hit.  Heading down, I could see I-84 so I knew how far I’d come and how much more I had to go.  The end was in sight.  Next it was up and over some steps and then through the parking lot of Multnomah Falls Lodge, under a bridge and along I-84 to the finish (a trail next to the Interstate, mind you).  Funny thing – I have never actually been to Multnomah Falls.  Now I can say I’ve been there, but I’ve never seen it.  After 30 miles, I had no idea all I had to do was look up behind the Lodge to see the Falls.  Fortunately I saw plenty of others along the rest of the course.  Oh well, next time.

Into Benson State Recreation Area and across the finish line.  Received a hi-five from James Varner, the Race Director (he hi-fives all finishers) and then went in search of pizza.  I am not one to hang out at the finish line – especially when no one is there waiting for me (not a big deal, I assure you).  I looked for my new friends from USL.tv and headed to my truck to change when I didn’t spy either of them.  I needed a Chipotle burrito and that was that.  I was on a mission to get home and see my kids and EAT.

My finish time was only 3 minutes slower than my McDonald Forest 50K finish from last year.  It shouldn’t have surprised me with all the hills, but it still felt much better than my last 50K and I feel good about the effort.  Definitely feeling ready as I go into this weekend’s Peterson Ridge Rumble 40-mile trail race.  Another race report coming soon!

Trail Selfie

Trail Selfie -Yeon Aid Station

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Race Report // Mastondon 10-ish Mile Trail Race

Boy it feels good to be back racing.  Especially right here in Bend.  Sunday was the unofficial start to race season, and running a Superfit Productions Race always feels like coming home.  Not only are the races super low-key and a good time, but I always get to see some of my favorite running compadres.  This was only the second annual Mastondon 10-ish Mile Trail Run (last year it was 12-ish miles), and I was happy to get in early enough before it filled up.

Maston Trailhead  Photo: Cory Smith

Maston Trailhead Photo: Cory Smith

The Maston Trail system is uncharted territory for me – so wasn’t sure what to expect besides lower than the average elevation gains compared to the other trail systems in and around Bend.  Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

The skies were bluebird, and the sun was blazing.  Trails were compact – hardly any mud or ruts to navigate – which meant this race was fast.  Flat too.  The first five miles seemed to cruise – mostly flat or even a little downhill.  Once we hit the sole aid station at mile five (no others were needed), the course climbed a bit.  But that was it – a brief climb that put us along the Deschutes River Canyon which, while beautiful, was hard to enjoy while navigating the rocky trail along the edge.  Once we were beyond the Canyon, we were offered stellar views of the three Sisters to the west.

Me running Mastondon. Photo:  Cory Smith

Me running Mastondon. Photo: Cory Smith

I was happy with my 1:26 finish for 10+ miles.  My hamstring had been bothering me for about a week, and I wasn’t sure how it would hold up while racing.  There were only 81 finishers (the race gets capped around 100), but it was a good crowd with awesome volunteers.  Fearless Baking breakfast sandwiches at the finish, along with a finisher’s mug made this an ideal event.  Superfit knows how to do it right.  There was even a keg of Deschutes for those who prefer their suds in the a.m.

A big thanks to Super Dave and all the volunteers.  Great times were had by all.

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Race Report // Portland Marathon 2014

Oh Portland, how I love thee.  On a sunny day, you are my city – the place I could move in a heartbeat and feel like I was home. Your coffee, music scene and population of runners remind me of this every time I visit. So why did you have to hurt me so? Apparently, Sunday, October 5 was just not my day to run a marathon.

Let’s back up a couple days to Thursday, October 2.  I had just bathed the kids and was upstairs draining the bathtub and doing a load of laundry, when I hear my husband telling the kids, “Go get mommy! Go get mommy!” As I’m coming down the stairs, all I can see are their naked bodies backing up towards the front door, their eyes widening while looking down at the ground, and panic on their faces. All I remember thinking is “you can’t go outside – you’re naked and it’s too cold!” But the gushing water coming out of the toilet wasn’t stopping.

Yes, our main floor with our kitchen, dining and family room flooded when the toilet in the powder room next to the kitchen started overflowing with water.  And would not stop.  No one flushed, it just so happened that it was a blocked sewer pipe in the front yard that had finally had it and wasn’t going to let any water through. So the bath water went down and came back out the toilet. And went all over our floor. And through the floor into our newly carpeted basement. Ugh.

Time for a reconfiguration of the weekend, if you will. After a long night with the plumber and calming the kids, we packed up on Friday leaving my husband to demo the damaged parts of the house, while the kids and I drove to Salem to stay with my parents. I was a little stressed and could feel it winding its way through my core, but I was trying so hard not to let it get to me.  My friends were running in Portland with me, and I was so excited for the race this year.

Saturday we headed up to OMSI so the kids could have a little fun. We probably would have been better off riding the OHSU tram, given all they wanted to do at OMSI was ride the elevator.  Most of the exhibits weren’t really age appropriate, and if they were, they were occupied or broken. Oh well. Next time.  We ate lunch and my parents took the kids back to Salem for a little ride on the carousel – which is ALWAYS age appropriate.

Checking out bones at OMSI.

Checking out bones at OMSI.

I stayed in PDX, checked into my hotel, and finally met up with my friends, Rainie, Kristen and Glenn at the Marathon Expo. I was finally feeling a little less stressed and lighter on my feet. Truly happy to be in Portland on such a beautiful day.  We shopped, ate ice cream and got to join our former Cascade Lakes Relay teammates, Ed and Martin, for dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory that evening. Rainie, Glenn, Ed, Martin and I had all been in Van 2 of the relay this year – and had a wonderful time together.

Views of Portland from my room.

Views of Portland from my room.

That evening I relaxed in my hotel room by watching as much cable TV as I could soak up – and had complete control of the remote.  I honestly don’t remember the last time I had control of a remote. I also laid out all my gear and food for the next morning. Had to make sure I remembered everything, because I was all alone – no one to help me remember to pin my bib on.

Ready to run.

Ready to run.

Race morning came quickly, but after 12 of these, I am finally getting the hang of them.  I put on my gear, made sure everything was tied, packed, pinned, and secured with rubber bands (pony tails), then quickly ate a bar and an apple. A Japanese runner who shared the elevator with me was quick to take off and run his warm up after leaving the lobby.  I jogged a bit and my legs felt good, so I walked the rest of the way to my corral.

Soon we were off, and the sun was up.  The drums from the marching band overtook downtown as we ran by in the early hours – one of my parts of the Portland Marathon.  I started off with the 3:40 pace group, and was feeling good – even pulled ahead of them for a while.  But too soon, I started to feel like I was working too hard. I was sweating too, which meant it was humid. Not good.

Around mile two, I passed Ed and Martin cheering us on from Waterfront Park – so great to see familiar faces.  I ended up seeing them again at miles 17 and 26. They were such an amazing support team. Throughout the first half, especially the out and back section of the course, I was feeling like I needed fuel. Unfortunately, I was taking it and not feeling any better.  I made the mistake of trying something new and wearing two sports bras (extra support, which I really didn’t need), and was struggling to breath deep enough.  I popped in a porta john around mile 11 and took one off, thinking it would help. It didn’t.

I then got a uni-side stitch, meaning it surrounded my core.  And it didn’t go away.  Through the half way point at 1:49:50, I knew if I didn’t get a second wind, things weren’t going to go well.  I had the strength, but really needed something to kick me into another gear.  My stomach also wasn’t handling things super well.  At this point, I’m not sure if it was the Ultima they were handing out on the course, but it was the only thing I did differently.

On the way out to the St. John’s bridge I was suffering.  Desperately looking for any aid stations I could find that would offer water or electrolytes.  Fortunately, I ran into my friend and running partner, Glenn.  I informed him that this just wasn’t my day and to go ahead.  But it was sure good to see a familiar face.  That is a tough stretch to go alone.  Finally it was up to the bridge. While I ran up to the top, going across the sun hit me and I had to stop and walk. This is my favorite part of the course so I didn’t mind soaking in the views.

St. Johns Bridge

St. Johns Bridge

Over the next stretch, my body was just not coping well with the heat and direct sun. I tried GU and water, but never got the extra kick I needed from the caffeine in my gel. I continued to struggle with an upset stomach, side stitches and an uncomfortable fatigue from the heat. I even stopped at the beer aid station around mile 23 to see if that would settle my stomach. Couldn’t hurt at this point.  And I must say, it wasn’t bad.  Finally, after making it over the bridge, I was able to cruise in on almost all four cylinders, all the way to the finish. Finally, it was over. 4:06:18 is my slowest time in years. Number 13 was definitely an unlucky one for me.

Finished. Happy to be headed home.

Finished. Happy to be headed home.

Fortunately, I am feeling good. I am convinced that it was a combination of stress, heat/humidity and maybe making the mistake of drinking Ultima. I had run the Sunriver Marathon a month prior and felt great.  Heck, I felt great up until we started. But life happens.  I used to plan an entire year around one marathon hoping that I wouldn’t get sick or injured on, or before the event.  Now I’ve gotten wiser and have decided that running two or three marathons a year is a much better plan.  Life’s too short.

My friend Rainie ran her very first marathon that day, and had a GREAT experience. That’s really all you can ask for, right? Coaching a friend to find the love of marathoning? Made it all worth it.

So guess where I’ll be next year in October?  In Portland, ready to run and have a much more fulfilling experience than last year.

I love you, Portland. And I’ll be back again next year.

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Race Report // Sunriver Marathon for a Cause 2014

On Sunday, August 1st I ran my 12th marathon in Sunriver, Oregon.  I completed the same marathon last year, but had a rough race due to high temperatures. The entire 26.2-mile course is peaceful and breathtaking, and I was determined to have a great race this year.

Fortunately, the forecast called for cooler temps throughout the weekend, and that was certainly the case on Saturday.  We made the quick drive from Bend out to The Lodge to pick up my packet, and decided to stay and eat lunch.  The cloudy, cool weather was not keeping the Labor Day crowds away, as the Resort was packed with families.

Luckily, my nerves were non-existent the day before, which is new for me. But I had my clothes set out, fuel bottle full of GU, and proceeded to wake up every hour or so after 2 am until my alarm went off at 5:15.  And of course, I woke up with thoughts tainted by nervous energy. But soon we were driving to Sunriver, and I was ready to run.  Once we arrived, we made a quick retreat to the Lodge in an attempt to stave off the bitter, 39-degree temperature.

With five minutes until the start, we ventured outside and I knew I’d be OK with my attire of capri tights, short-sleeve Nike Dry-Fit shirt and gloves.  After a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by a young girl who’d lost her mother to breast cancer, we were off. My legs felt fresh and I tried to keep my pace comfortable but strong. The sun was up and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky except a white layer of fog that had settled below the tree line, with Mt. Bachelor towering in the distance.

I was on pace and feeling good through mile eight, but definitely starting to need fuel.  My bottle of GU was full but not squeezing easily, so I started grabbing Clif Shots from the aid stations – which were also stocked well with water and Gatorade.

The course is mostly flat on roads, golf paths and bike trails with beautiful scenery.  The first half runs through Crosswater – an immaculate golf course near the Sunriver Lodge, along the Deschutes River.  Then runners meander through the Caldera Springs Resort Community – a quiet neighborhood – before re-entering the Sunriver community and crossing back through the Start/Finish area near the Lodge. The second half runs out to the opposite side of the Resort near the airport and stables, also along the scenic Deschutes River.

The aid stations were stocked and the weather was optimal (start in the low 40’s with a blue sky, warming to the low 70’s).  Once I started fueling regularly (after struggling to suck down a Mocha shot, which ended up giving me a major boost), I went from negative thoughts at mile 13, to a second wind.

The course markings were perfect, the volunteers were amazing, and even the Resort guests were great cheerleaders.  I had very few, if any, problems.  The second wind took me from mile 15 through mile 22.  Each mile marker seemed to fly by until I slowed down a bit due to typical fatigue at the end of a marathon, and I was stopping at all the aid stations to refuel, just making sure I got what I needed so as not to bonk (like last year).

Soon I came upon the SHARC (Sunriver Homeowners Assoc. Rec. Center) and knew I was close. I kicked it into gear and cruised to the finish line.  I finished almost 10 minutes faster than last year, in 3:48, and got 3rd in my age division, with an 8th place overall women’s finish.  I was incredibly happy.  The marathon was a good “warm up” marathon for the Portland Marathon in October, where I’ll be attempting a Boston Qualifier.

The Sunriver Marathon went all out with Nike Dry Fit long sleeve finisher’s shirts, a fancy finisher’s medal, draw string backpack-style bag, pint glass (with a free beer), and large post-race spread of snacks.  There’s no doubt I’ll be back – this little race is definitely an awesome one.

On the podium (far left) with my friend, and super-fast runner, Charmion in the middle (she finished 2nd woman overall)

On the podium (far left) with my friend, and super-fast runner, Charmion in the middle (she finished 2nd woman overall)

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Cascade Lakes Relay 2014: Race Report

My brain and body are still a bit rummy (pun intended – keep reading), but I am slowly recovering from last weekend’s relay. I ran with the same team as last year – We Thought They Said Rum – but in a different van.  The difference between the two includes new legs and different running/rest times.  Basically, you’re on when Van 1 is off.

Van 2 "We Thought They Said Rum": Martin, Jen, Amy, Rainie, Glenn, Kathy

Van 2 “We Thought They Said Rum”: Martin, Jen, Amy, Rainie, Glenn, Kathy

Our adventure began on Friday morning.  While runners from Van 1 were off and running at 7:20am, Van 2 was loading up gear, eating a quick bagel breakfast and traveling south to Exchange #6 – about a two hour drive. Members in Van 2 included two of my teammates from Van 1 last year, two teammates from last year’s Van 2 and “Jeeves” or “Maude The Motorhome’s driver” whom we got to know well during our rest periods in 2013. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for better Van mates.

Our first runner hit the road running at approximately 3pm. Instant support mode set in, and we stopped ahead during each leg to offer water or whatever our runner might need. The weather was hot and muggy, but soon cooled down with the evening hours approaching.  With a red ball dropping out of the sky, dusk turned to night and our van was headed back to La Pine High School for a quick bite and a couple hours of sleep.  My first leg was approximately seven miles, and while there were a couple of hills, the rest of the route was a fast one. I was happy I met my estimated goal of running 8:30/mile.

We devoured our BBQ’d chicken prepared by “Jeeves” (most of us know him as Ed), who greeted us with a smile and warm hug.  While some of us elected to shower, all of us hit the hay to try and get a bit of shut-eye.  Unfortunately, my mind could not rest and therefore I did not find sleep mode.  We were up again just a mere two hours later – on the road with full bellies and a bit of rest to tide us over.

Our second set of legs was a stretch from the depths of the woods to La Pine.  Our first runner, Glenn, was decorated in bright lights for a “rave run” competition and continued his rave run -lights, music and all- for the first three miles. Surprisingly, he only ditched a few of the lights during his 8.5 mile leg. As the sky began to get lighter, all of us woke up (with a little help from coffee) and we were back in support/party mode. I say party mode, because at 6am on no sleep, you kind of get a little party going in your head and the adrenaline kicks in.  Our van had a seriously fun time with good tunes and great peeps.

This image doesn't do Glenn's lights justice.

This image doesn’t do Glenn’s lights justice.

Rainie Runs Her Heart Out

Rainie Runs Her Heart Out

On my 2nd leg, I once again ran at my estimated pace down to Elk Lake. I ticked off over 11 road kill (or passed 11 people, if you will), and felt strong to the exchange with Van 1.  It was definitely time to rest before we headed back out for our final legs, which meant a little free time at the lake.

Unfortunately, we were not welcomed at the Resort restaurant as graciously as we’d hoped. And the food we were offered for purchase was quite miserable. But beyond that, Elk Lake was calm and about as relaxing as you can get.  We cooled off our tired muscles in the water, *tried* to nap, and enjoyed the reprieve from the relay chaos.  Only a couple hours later, it was “Finish Line or Die” time.

We departed the Resort (and Jeeves) with a “Farewell Until The Finish,” as I prepped for my uphill leg. I was runner #2 this time, and my leg was all uphill starting at 5450′ and traveling to 6350′ in 4 miles.  It was hot. 2pm in the afternoon. 80-some degrees. But I kept a steady pace and even passed people.  Starting with a nauseous stomach, I certainly was NOT in race mode, but with the support of my Van, I finished. And it felt good.  It was all downhill at this point in the relay, and we couldn’t be more excited.  Lots of great spirit in our van and FREE BEER from 10 Barrel Brewing Co. made our descent into Bend just that much better.

Martin for the photo bomb

Martin for the photo bomb

Finally, our last runner was on her way just as a rain/hail storm hit the Old Mill.  Not to worry as we were all able to crawl under tents. As the clouds parted, Jen crossed the bridge and made her way over the finish line.  What a wonderful ending to a truly fun adventure. CLR 2014 is a unique experience that is truly a “team” effort, and I’ve got memories I feel honored to be able share with all my van mates for years to come.

Favorite Memories from CLR 2014:

  • Watching the truck of firefighters pull up at the first van exchange with “Where our hose at?” scribbled on the side of their truck. And a keg in the back.
  • Getting “skittled” by another team (we left our van and came back to find dixie cups of skittles in our front seat.
  • Watching the “red ball” sunset
  • Hangin’ with my awesome van mates, and rockin’ out to Nelly’s “Hot in Herre”
  • Rainie’s commentary on the scene at La Pine HS
  • The Rave Run competition – lights, music and the DJ at the van exchange
  • Glenn’s “ultimate raver attitude”
  • Running on Cascade Lakes Highway and all the support from other vans, as well as my own
  • Candy orange slices
  • Free Beer
  • Entrada pool peeps laying on their chairs cheering for passing runners
  • A rainy/hail-infused finish line
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Words to Live By

I am reading commencement speeches today – a post you can find here on NPR.org.  I have only read/listened to two, but was read these words by Nora Ephron to the Wellesley College Class of ’96, as was inspired:

“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women. Thank you. Good luck. The first act of your life is over. Welcome to the best years of your lives.”

As I sit at a desk, Monday-Friday, 8-5pm, I am always looking for moments of inspiration to be myself to the fullest.  And this was one of those moments.

Race Report: McDonald Forest 50K

Last weekend I finished my first ultra marathon.  The fact that I’m calling it an “ultra” marathon – even though it was only five more miles than a marathon – seems a little silly. Mathematically, anyway. When it comes to finish time, well yeah, I guess you could call it an “ultra” marathon.

I registered for the McDonald Forest 50K with the impression that it was a popular 50K and a well-organized race.  Given that it takes place in the Willamette Valley meant that I could leave my kids with my parents on race day, too.

McDonald Forest 50K start

McDonald Forest 50K start

With an elevation gain of 6,800 feet, this race was a lot different than most 50Ks (or so I’m told). Rain had been falling the evening prior to the race, and most of the trails were under a canopy of trees.  The first half of the race was a winding whirlwind of ups and downs, and then finally up, up, up on a variety of single track and logging roads. Stellar views from the logging roads and the top of Dimple Hill were almost deceiving.  During this time, I befriended a fellow runner who was running his 13th “Mac” after turning 50 this year.  We chatted briefly on a stretch of logging road, and  separated at some point before the Dimple Hill summit.  But we’ll get back to him in a bit. The descent down Dimple Hill seemed to wear on everyone’s legs, as there was no choice but to pound it out.  And then we were in for a surprise.

Amy & Cory Smith at the Start (photo: Lisa Smith)

Amy & Cory Smith at the Start (photo: Lisa Smith)

Mud welcomed us in the lower elevations. Lots of mud.  So much mud that our run was turned into a scramble, and my mindset went from keeping pace to keeping upright. And funny thing, the hills didn’t level out – they got steeper.  Every corner I turned, the hills went straight down or straight up.  And the mud just kept coming.  There was one point where I got stuck mid-climb on a hill (one of those “I can’t move my foot or I’ll slip, and I can’t grab anything or I’ll slip” moves that renders you motionless). And then I felt a hand.  On my butt.  Fortunately, it was a familiar voice – my friend running his “lucky number 13” Mac was back behind me, able to give me a little “lift.”

We finally emerged at mile 20.7 – out of the mud and to an aid station.  I quickly grabbed a bite to eat after teetering on the brink of nausea, and walked it off until I felt like my stomach was satisfied.  And then it was back up yet another hill.

MUD

MUD (photo: Lisa Smith)

More climbing and then more mud.  And more climbing. And yes, more mud. And finally – the last aid station stop of the day at mile 26.4. The cups were gone, but a nearly empty bottle of Coke was calling my name and so I swigged as much of it as I could. Still fizzy, unfortunately, but it worked.  I got my last kick and up I went.  I felt for the woman running near me who I’m sure, deep down, knew that we’d be running to the towers she saw up ahead. She kept asking if we were running to the towers. “Please tell me we are not running to the towers.”  Yep, you guessed it. We ran up to the towers.  And then there was still another hill with a mile and a half to go.

And of course, a steep drop down to the finish. That’s the only way you can get down when you’ve climbed so high. And then, Gong.  Done.

Total time = 6 hours 55 minutes

Yep, that was an ultra marathon. But it was fun, beautiful and an adventure if I’ve ever had one.  And highly recommended.