Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bandera 100k Race Report, Pearls of Wisdom after Acts of Stupidity

Bandera 100k was a last minute decision for me (I decided 2 weeks out from race day just in time to get decent priced plane fare). I had hoped to get into Western States via the lottery in early December, but like the most of us, was not lucky. I sooooo want to redeem my 2013 race, where I puked more times than the amount of miles I walked it in (mile 70)...true story. When my name didn't get drawn like the majority of people, I started fantasizing about earning a Montrail Ultra Cup spot at Bandera. 

I ran Desert Solstice on 12/13/14, logging 147.676 miles for the 4th best on the UR Magazine All-Time list (sorry life & the holidays interfered with a race report getting done), 4 weeks after running a fast 100 at Tunnel Hill (14:45). Now, I know that I just ran 2 huge mileage races (with PR’s in both) in a month span, and would be looking at adding Bandera 100k within a month of that (3 races in 2 months). It was a decision that I knew wasn't bright and was advised not to do by a couple of smart friends, but decided to do anyway. It was after all...only 62 miles :) I knew there would be fierce competition, but maybe my legs, which had been racing well had one more good race in them...NOPE.

I learned many things at Bandera 100k. Here’s the jist of my discoveries:

Recovery is Key, I knew it, but like many, didn’t listen. I will now fully buy into Pam Smith’s doctrine of 1 day off for every 10 miles run. I thought that it was crazy to take off 24 days after the 48 hour, so I didn’t. It took me much longer to come back to good running from the Dome because I didn't give my body enough of a break. I know, that was in August...I should have known, but sometimes we have to make the mistakes multiple times to prove it to ourselves. I am NOW a strict follower. NO MATTER WHAT. If that means that I can’t be ready to race something else, then I shouldn’t be doing it anyway.  

Racing Frequently is Stupid (unless you are Michael Wardian). In 2014, I did 4-100 milers, 1-24 hour and 1-48 hour. It was too much. I plan to only do 3-4 big races (100 mile+ or more) spaced with at least 2 months in between them. I want to race my best, and cannot race well if I am over-racing. I will have fun with shorter distances interspersed. 

Practice What You Preach (#2 leads into this gem, which I promise to adhere to in the future). Many people ask me for running tips/advice. I have fairly good advice and would have advised against the 3 races I did in the 2 month span. However, it is easier to make decisions from the outside looking in (like giving someone else advice). Sometimes our emotions can skew our decisions. I will now ask myself what I would say to someone else when making decisions. I will also ask my "smart friends" who advised against Bandera, their opinion. 

Downgrade Your Goals on the Fly: I had the following goals for Bandera: 1.Earn a MUC spot for Western States 100 (VERY optimistic, NOT realistic). 2. Run under 11 hours. I knew from previous results, I would likely need a 10:15 to 10:30 (given conditions to garner a coveted spot). 3. Finish and get a qualifier done for 2016 Western States, and be eligible for the Montrail Last Chance Drawing. 3. Earn a USATF medal and maybe win some money. I knew within 10 miles, that I my legs were dead. I came through 50k in 5:30 (goal was 5:07) and debated quitting. However, nothing was majorly wrong. I was happy and my stomach was good. I was just unable to convince my legs to turnover faster. So, I trudged on and held onto my lesser goals. 

Be Happy and Positive Even When Things aren’t Going Your Way: I was in a good mood despite the icy and muddy conditions and dead legs. After I realized that my main goal was totally out of the question, I just decided to enjoy the journey. I took more time at aid stations, ate regular food (mashed potatoes with ramen mixed in is delicious :), and made sure to overtly thank the volunteers for braving such a cold and nasty day. I stuck my tounge out to the photographers and laughed, thanking them for being out there in the cold as well. 

Be Thankful for Aid Station Volunteers: (#5 leads into #6). I always try to thank aid station people who are out in often crappy conditions just so we can race. It is a selfless act. It doesn’t take long to say thank you as you pass through an aid station. So, do it! The headlamp I had was so poor that I couldn’t see anything. Luckily, I had twilight until I got to the last aid station, where an aid station worker lent me another light. It wasn’t great, but combined with the kindness of another runner, James, who helped me to leech off his light, I made it slowly to the finish.

Read Race Materials Before You Go/Plan Ahead: Because I signed up for this race late, I hadn’t read the race details. I printed off information to read on the flight there. After securing crew help, I realized that crew can only get to 2 different aid stations. They have to park and walk 1.5 miles or .5 miles in each direction to be able to crew you. My friend Brenda was going to come, but the conditions were supposed to be horrible and I didn’t want her to be out in bad conditions all day. So, I told her not to come. However, because I thought she would be able to get to most of the aid stations, I didn’t plan in advance. I didn’t have anything to use as drop bags. I also forgot my headlamp. A friend who lives in San Antonio, coming to run the 25k bailed me out. She brought me 2 plastic garbage bags labeled appropriately and a headlamp!!  

Adapt or Die: Ok that’s a little harsh, but conditions did take out many runners yesterday (out of the race, not life). I fell about 15 miles in (shocker...I know :). Anyway, upon falling, the strap on my handheld broke with 4 miles to the next aid station. I took the strap off and stuck the bottle in the back of my tights. It wasn’t super comfortable, but what’s a girl to do? I know it pulled my pants down a I am hoping no one got too much of a show. But, there is no use boo-hoo’ing about it. I had another handheld at Cross Roads AS, but decided not to pick it up. I felt more comfortable having my hands free to catch myself just in case. 

Failures Make Victories that Much Sweeter: This can be taken in the figurative sense (you don’t have to win the race). It’s awesome when things come together and you have a good race result. However, we wouldn’t appreciate them as much if we didn’t see the flip side. 

Make Friends and Enjoy the Scenery Along the Way: Because this was a USATF race, headphones weren’t permitted. I LOVE my ipod, but was happy not to have it early on. I met four women during the course of the pre-race, and race that I hope to keep in touch with. It is nice to talk to people and get to know them better. I think 99% of ultrarunners are super nice, down to earth people! I also made sure to look out at the scenery during the race, which I don’t always do when focused on my footing. But, I was in a new place for a short time, so I paused at the top of climbs to glimpse at my surroundings. It’s a gorgeous course. I will be back. 

Condensed Race Report: 

Pre-race: Evy Gonzales, a fellow Hammer Athlete saved me by bringing me 2 bags to use for my gear. I thought I would have a crew at each aid station, so didn’t plan accordingly. I met with her at 7am and posed for a picture with my eyes closed apparently :) Nice photography Roy Pirrung. I also talked to Caroline Boller who would run well and claim the last podium spot. We discussed clothing, gear, and wished each other luck. 

The race started out fast, and I let people go. I knew from looking at previous years splits, that many people had second lap splits of 40 minutes+ and wanted to pace myself, thinking that was my chance to claim a MUC spot. However, after 15-20 miles and a fall that broke my handheld strap, I knew my legs were crap and it was about enjoying the day. I did get a chance to chat with Kelsie (5th) and Leslie (6th) about life, school, and family. It was a nice way to pass the time without my tunes. 

Melanie Fryar, Kelsie Clausen, Leslie Allan Howlett & Me in the black letting everyone go 

The weather was crappy, starting around 28 degrees. I slipped on icy rocks in the beginning. It would later heat up to a balmy 35? degrees, with added precipitation creating mud hazards. The rocks became slippery with mud later in the day. There were several stretches where mud stuck to your shoes like cement blocks commiserate of a gangster movie. When your legs are dead, adding what felt like 5# of mud to each of them was not uber helpful.

Regardless, I pressed on. I was hoping to get through 50k in about 5:07 and came through at about 5:30. I stopped and apologized to Joe Prusitas for being such a slacker. I had hoped to be more competitive. He was sweet and told me he was just happy I was there. I told him I wasn’t quitting, just in for a longer day than originally planned. I also talked to Jeremy from Altra who was nice enough to bring me a pair of shoes to try (I know...don’t try anything new on race day...but if you can tell from the pearls above, I am not always the wisest). However, the shoes worked brilliantly! For the first time in forever, the wide toe box on the Altras proved to save my toes from blisters. I found this amazing, because I did my best to blister my toes by inadvertently kicking rocks all day. After pausing at the lodge to chat with Joe and Jeremy, I ate some soup and ventured back out for loop #2.

These are course pictures from a previous year...all that was
missing were cold temps, cloudy skies, ice on the sotol
and rocks, rain, mud, mud, mud, and more mud.

#2 was a slog. I “ran” most of the flats and downs, paused to see the views, thanked the volunteers and enjoyed the fact that I have the privilege to run. Sometimes, when I have a race that doesn’t go well, I think of the kids I work with who will never know what if feels like to walk or run. It makes me thankful. I was glad I stayed positive instead of having a pity party for myself. At this point, I was hoping to just run an hour between each of the aid stations, figuring that I could get done in about 12 hours. However, the darkness came and the headlamp I had was awful. I held it in my hand and pointed at the ground and hardly any light was cast. I actually looked at it to see if it was on. From Cross Roads to Last Chance, I was losing twilight. I was able to stumble my way through the last mile in the dark to get to the Aid Station. I got another light, that was weak, but better than what I had from an aid station volunteer, which I greatly appreciated!!! I set off with both, one in each hand and two guys who let me leech off their lights. Thanks James from Michigan!!!!  I sooo appreciated their help!! Again, the niceness of ultrarunners...can’t be beat!

Ultimately, I crossed the finish in 12:30 and change, 8th female, 6th USATF female, and 1st Masters USATF female, winning me $200. All in all, it was relatively fun and a great learning experience. The course is quite runnable, but rocky with short, but steep climbs. I will be back someday, more rested, and more trail ready!

Thanks to Joe and Joyce Prusitas for a great race, with fantastic organization. I love the shirt and buckle...the design is very cool! Thanks to all the volunteers who braved the nasty conditions to be out there supporting all of the runners! Special HUGE Thanks to the Aid Station worker who loaned me the headlamp! Joe said he’d get it back to you, advising that I didn’t walk it back to you because the road was sooo muddy to get there. 

Thanks to my sponsors: Hammer Nutrition. I felt great all day thanks to your supplements and energy products! Thanks to Drymax for socks that kept my feet intact! It was too cold for Running Skirts gear :(  And thanks to Coast! After forgetting my headlamp and running with subpar ones, I know appreciate Coast Headlamps all that much more and won’t forget mine ever again!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Tunnel Hill 100 Race Report 11/15/2014

I was a little worried about accomplishing my goal at Tunnel Hill 100. I wanted to run a sub-15 and knew this was the best course for me to give it a shot. Normally, before a race that I want to run well, I try to get ready mentally, by having some positive self-talk. However, I was more excited about my planned break in December than racing another 100 miler. I kept trying to force positive talk in my head two weeks prior during my daily runs, but soon thoughts of laundry or errands would seep in, leaving me sort of uninspired. I had done all the training, tapered, eaten right, taken my Hammer Supplements, planned for the weather, etc. But, couldn’t get that spark built up to accomplish what I knew would be a hard goal to knock down. Well, it is what it is, my husband always says. Sometimes, you just can’t force it. So, I just went with the flow for the week and never really got worked up about the race. I planned for the weather, which was much colder than it usually is this time of year (normally low of 40, high of 60). I am not a huge fan of the cold, is what it is. The forecast was for the low to be 20 degrees and the high to be 38 degrees. I packed accordingly.
Race morning came, and I waited with my husband in the car until I was pushing my window to be able to go potty one more time. We hopped out of the car together and walked to the starting area. As we are waiting in line, I said, “Crap, I forgot to put on Chapstick...I’m going to want some later when you see me.” My husband reached into his pocket and pulled out some Chapstick. I looked at him with wonderment and said “Wow, YOU ARE THE BEST CREW EVER!” He laughed and said, “Well, just don’t ask for a Pony.” I busted out laughing...”that was really random...where did you come up with that? I suppose it would be a lot quicker if I had a pony!” 

Me, Troy Shellhamer, Mike Crowder, Mark McCaslin, and 3 others in the early miles
Being a race not far from home, it was awesome to see a bunch of friends. I had just enough time to chat a bit and say hello to everyone. I lined up at the start with my friend, Troy Shellhamer. We run together regularly and both had the same goals for the day...break 15 hours. We watched as about 20 people (some doing the 50 and some doing the 100) took off at the start...we let them go. We had both talked about how important pace would be and planned to run together for as long as we could. We started off a little faster than we wanted (in the upper 8:30’s), and kept working to slow ourselves down. We had amassed a group of about 7 runners and just chatted, enjoying the day. We remarked about the “frost roses,” which I had never heard of...bunches of icy snow that came together and looked like chunks of raw cotton (or roses I guess). It was cold, but it wasn’t totally overcast as forecast, and actually was rounding out to be a nice day. I was thrilled I picked the perfect clothes to run in. (Initially when the season changes to colder weather, I forget how to dress). We all ran together through the first out and back (26.6 miles) and then started to get separated. I handed my jacket to my husband and asked gleefully for my pony...epic crew fail (no pony provided)  :)  I suppose he did tell me not to ask for one.  Regardless, it made me smile to think about him having a pony for me. It probably sounds dorky, but I am easily entertained, especially as I get tired. Throughout the day, thoughts of Starlite (Rainbow Brite’s pony) flashed into my head and made me smile.

I was a little ahead of Troy, but I was going to stop for my first potty break around mile 30 and figured my small lead would give me enough time so that we could run together again. Perfect. I opened the port-a-can door, and there he went running by. I ran a little faster to catch up with him. We got to talk some more. It was nice to catch up on kids, life, etc. At one point, he had me laughing so hard, I actually buckled over and stopped running. At this point, it felt like a long run with friends. The second out and back section was prettier than the first. It had hills on either side of the trail with rocky formations. Every now and then, there would be bridges to cross and a river or creek meandered on either side of the trail. Just before the aid station, I got to pass through an old railroad tunnel, which was dark inside. It was cool, but made me slow a bit, as I couldn’t see where I was going, and the water that drips from the tunnel had weathered the surface inside the tunnel, making the footing feel a little uneasy. 

Troy & I
At the next aid station around mile 40, I had started to separate from Troy and had started to pass people who had gone out too fast. I was feeling good and averaging around 8:40 pace. My company was gone, so I happily turned on my ipod. It was nice to have company early on, but I am content to run alone and sing to my tunes. I remember seeing a guy at least 2-3 miles ahead of me who was looking strong. Back to the start/finish marked 50 miles. For the first time in a race, where I could drop down at 50 miles after coming back to the start, stopping early NEVER crossed my mind.  

Coming through the tunnel around mile 38

My husband was seamless as a crew all day. I never had to even break stride with him crewing. He had exactly what I wanted, how I wanted it, and when I wanted it. He went with the flow if I asked for something different and had it ready at the next aid station (except for my Rainbow Brite pony...hehehe). I had based the crewing schedule off of 8:50 pace, and was slightly ahead at 50 miles (averaging 8:41 pace). I was okay with being a little ahead, as it was supposed to be sunset at 4:41pm and I wanted to wait until mile 60 to pick up my headlamp. When I got to the aid station at mile 60, I stopped briefly to put my jacket back on and get my headlamp. My husband told me that “rumor had it that the guy in front of me had only run 50k as his longest run, and that I’d likely pass him”. I left the aid station, and saw him within a mile, equating to him being about 3 miles ahead. He still looked good. I thought about what my husband said and thought...he is wrong. He has 30 minutes on me with less than 40 miles to way I will catch him. Good for him, I thought...first 100 miler and he’s going to run a sub-15! That’s the cool thing about ultras...rookies have break out days all the time, which keep reinvigorating the sport. I hit the turn around and headed back. Just before I got to the aid station, I saw my friend Troy. We gave each other high fives and exchanged “good job”.

Now it was dark. I tried to make out my friends and tell them along with other runners “good job”. That’s the one thing about out and backs that makes it nice. It’s great to always see people and cheer people on. I made it back to the start finish with 26 miles to go. I was still at 8:43 or 8:44 average at this point. I was starting to get tired and started to slow a little from miles 80-90. I was making “deals with the devil” so to speak. I wanted to walk, so I would let myself walk for 10 seconds every time my Garmin beeped a mile. Also, every half hour, when it was time to take a gel, I’d walk briefly to take it. Finally, I got to the Tunnel Hill aid station at the top of the hill ( wasn’t much of a hill, but I reclassified it). I exchanged bottles with my husband and grabbed some Pringles and Coke. I got to the out and back and the two ladies at the turn-a-round cheered that I was first, saying “we were hoping it’d be the girl”. I chuckled. Then, I thought about the guy who had been ahead of me. I never realized that I had passed him. I came back to the aid station and asked my husband where the guy in the lead was. He informed me the previous leader was now 10 minutes behind me. WOW! Cool! At this point, I knew I had my sub-15, and now I was leading too. It doesn’t happen very often, so I always relish a bit when I chick all the guys. This invigorated my last 9.6 to the finish. 

I ran through the tunnel, seeing my friend Troy coming towards me. I figured he was about 5 miles back. I hollered at Troy to get his fight back and told him that the guy who had been leading was dying...he could salvage his race and maybe come up with a win.  I was looking back and cheering him one minute, and the next I was on the ground. I laughed out loud. Man, I am so clumsy. I fell on a 5’ wide limestone path. I had gotten too close to the edge, tripped on a rock and Superman’d it down. I got back up, took a moment to assess myself and started going again. I tried to figure out who was coming towards me in the dark to cheer people on. I realized my friend Cynthia was in 2nd place for the women and I told her that she was in 2nd. She was excited to see me leading. Around 98.5 miles, I saw two headlamps approaching and tried to avoid them (runner and pacer). I put my hand up to block the lights from blinding my eyes. Crash! We all three rammed into each other, bouncing off each other like pinballs. They thought I was going to give them a high-five and I couldn’t see anything which resulted in the collision. We all apologized and continued running once we realized everyone was OK. We all laughed about it later. 

I was thrilled to run the last bit in, knowing I had accomplished my sub-15 goal! Plus, an overall win, and a top ten place on the all-time couldn’t have been a better day. I had a few low spots where I let myself be talked into walking when I could have probably pressed on or just slowed a bit. But, I am not going to be hyper-critical. I took my nutrition like clockwork, ran happy, paced myself, and it all paid off...even without my pony! :)

Troy Shellhamer (men's winner), Steve Durbin (RD), me (women's winner)

I left to get out of my wet, cold clothes and came back to see my friend Troy finish and claim his 2nd 100 mile victory this year! It was bittersweet. I felt bad his race didn’t go as he had hoped. We are both competitive and wanted to beat the other, but I never dreamed I would beat him. We had always talked about a how cool it would be if we could go to a race and get a “Team TnT” (Troy-n-Traci) win. We were thrilled that it had finally come to fruition. 

Awesome Finisher's award made of rail road ties, buckle, and bib

Tunnel Hill is probably the fastest 100 mile trail course in the US. If you want a PR or want to finish your first 100 miler...this is the course for you. This was a first year race, but Steve Durbin is an awesome and experienced RD who along with his volunteers made the race seamless. 

I cannot thank my husband, Mike enough! He is a phenomenal crew person! I would not be as successful without him! He has saved me time in many races, playing an enormous part in my success. I would not be where I am without him. Crewing is harder than running. It was cold and sleeting, and all the while he was out there supporting me! Make sure you all thank your crew! 

Thanks to Hammer Nutrition for making my belly the most content it’s ever been. I took Race Day Boost 4 days prior to the race, gels every 30 minutes (love the new chocolate hazelnut flavor!), Race Caps Supreme and Anti-Fatigue caps every hour starting at hour 2, and Fizz for electrolytes.  Thanks Coast for the uber bright headlamps that I wore for the last 40 miles! Thanks to Drymax for the awesome new Trail lite socks. My feet looked better than ever after the race! Thanks to running skirts which I look forward to wearing in Arizona next month...the new honeycomb pattern is adorable!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

50 States sub 4 Hours: Mission Accomplished 10/12/14

50 States sub 4 Hours: Mission Accomplished 10/12/14

50 sub 4 finish at GMAA in Vermont on 10/12/14

After 3 marathons, I swore I’d never do another one. They took sooo much time to train for and I hated doing all the long runs. So, how did I end up with a marathon in every state in America? After losing 80 pounds in 2003/2004, I wanted to cross an item off my bucket list and run a marathon some day. I joined a running group in July 2004, and the leader of the group, Tom, was planning on running Rocket City Marathon in AL in December. He printed out Hal Hidgon’s  novice training plan for me and offered to train with me. I thought, “why not?!” Long story short, I ran it in December of 2004 with goals to:

1. Finish
2. Run under 4 hours
3. Qualify for Boston. 

I always set multiple goals which are often high reaching. I was thrilled to have accomplished all 3 goals, running a 3:32:59!!!  I was sooo sore afterwards.  We had a hotel with no elevator and rooms on the 2nd floor.  Man, how would I get down the stairs after my shower?  I think everyone has had that moment!  I discovered walking downstairs backwards :)

I qualified for Boston, so I went! Loving to go out fast and loving downhills, Boston was a bad set-up for me. It was also a hot year in 2005. I ran a 3:36, disappointed I that didn’t run faster than in Alabama. In 2006, I went back for Boston redemption and ran slower. My race was not what I’d hoped, and I thought, “I suck.” Three marathons and SLOWER each time (I thought I should keep getting better, not worse). I know what some of you are thinking...someone call the WhaaaaaaM-bu-lance!! Many people would kill for those times. It seems ABSOLUTELY petty looking back, but we have all had those moments where things didn’t go our way and we had a pity party for ourselves. I swore to my husband that I was done running long distance races. No more marathons!

About a year later, a girlfriend of mine had heard about the Goofy (1/2 marathon on Saturday/marathon on Sunday). I thought that sounded insane, but I LOVED DISNEY (my kids had all the animated Disney movies mostly as an excuse for me to watch them)! She sold the race well. She offered that we could just do it and have fun. There were supposed to be characters on the course...we could stop and take pictures with them and not worry about time. Four people in my running group decided to do the Goofy in 2008, plus my husband would take on his first 1/2 marathon since we were going to do it leisurely. It was a blast! I realized that I didn’t always have to beat my time. Running could be fun and should be fun. (I had so much fun, I did it four years in a row, and even got my daughter to do her first 1/2 marathon)! 

Disney Marathon 2008 Mike, Traci, and Sulley :)
I learned that sometimes I need to reassess what and why I do things in life. I started running because I liked it. I needed to make sure that I didn’t take it so seriously that I sucked all the fun out of it. The Goofy Challenge opened back up the marathon world to me. In 2008, I did 3 more marathons that were close by (KY, OH, IN)...6 states down. 

In 2009, I did another 4 marathons (FL, OH, IN, TN). 7 states down. The Goofy and Flying Monkey Marathon (TN) had such AWESOME medals!! I started on a quest for other cool marathons with FUN medals. 

2010 was the year I started to get a little crazy in terms of race quantity.  I found that the Texas Marathon had the biggest medal in the US! It was as big as a hot plate and weighed 1 kg!! 2010 was a great year for me! I finally broke 3:30 (3:29 in January in Texas, 3:21 in September (Tupelo, MS) & November (Monkey), and 3:14 in Baton Rouge in December). I actually won a couple of marathons and started doing doubles (Saturday/Sunday marathons). I also found out about the 50 States Club, 50 States & DC Club, and the Marathon Maniacs. I joined all of them!  Along the way, someone told me about the 50 States Sub 4 club, so I joined it too!! I ran 21 marathons in 2010 (TX, FL, CAx3, AR, WA, KY, IL, OHx2, ND, MN, NCx2, MS, MO, NY, TN, LA , and DC (I know it’s not a state, but I needed it for the DC club)...19 states and DC down.

2011 got even crazier. I was pumped that I had won a couple of races and was getting faster. I never rested...I just pushed harder (not a good idea I would later find out). I ran 3:21 in September & November of 2010, 3:14 in December, 3:09 in January, 3:07 in February, and won 3 races between January and March of 2011. In April, I ended up with a partial tear of my hamstring which brought my running to a hault. I was humiliated as my hamstring literally took me out at the Gansett Marathon. I had bib #1 and finished almost DFL. I literally walked the last 7 miles and drug my leg through Boston two days later in a new PW of 5:22:48. My Physical Therapist, Lauren, miracle-worker extraordinaire, helped me work to get back sooner than expected. I actually still managed to run 24 marathons (FL, SC, AZ, GA, MD, HI, RI, MA, CA, OR, IA, SD, MT, MIx2, NV, ID, CO, OH, UT, IN, WV, TN, KY), my first 50 miler (IL), and first 100 miler (LA) run a PR of 3:01:19 in St. George, UT...36 states and DC down.

St. George 2011

Long story short...2012 brought 24 marathons (IN, AZ, LA, KY, VA, IL, NJ, ND, WI, OR, WY, AK, CO, MN, OH, PA, NH, NY, NM, KS, TN, DE, KY), 2-50k’s (KY, MS), a 50 miler (PA), a 100 miler (NC), a 12-hour (IN), and a 24-hour (NC). 2012 was by far my craziest year in terms of quantity. In 2012, I also met Keith Straw and under his pink tutu spell agreed to do the Grand Slam with him if we both got into Western States. I had no idea what I had just agreed to.  In addition, I met Connie Gardner at Tussey Mountainback 50 miler in October who informed me about the USA 24-hour team. I decided to try to qualify for the team on New Year’s Eve and managed almost 138 miles to secure a spot...46 states and DC down. 

2013 was amazing. I ran for Team USA in the Netherlands and was 4th in the world with  142.730 miles! We won gold. The Grand Slam was 6 weeks later. Little did I know that I couldn’t race ultras as frequently as marathons. I ran the WSER training runs (70 miles in 3 days) 2 weeks after the Netherlands, a marathon a week later, and a 12 hour the week after that. I started the Grand Slam in a hole, with grand expectations and was just happy to finish. I wasn’t even close to the goals I had set for the Slam, but I LEARNED A TON! I learned a ton about nutrition, mountains, and A LOT about the importance of Recovery. I puked more in 2013 then my entire families lifetime incidences combined. 2013 brought major highs and major lows. I did a 50 miler (KY), a 12- hour (IN), 9 marathons (IN, KYx3, OH, CT, RI, WI, TN), 4-100 milers (CA, VT, CO, UT), and a 24-hour (Netherlands). 2013 added only 2 new states: CT & VT and helped me get a sub 4 redemption in RI.

2014 brought 8 marathons, and 6 ultras so far :) I got a new PR in the 100 mile twice and set records (pending ratification) in 48 hours in AK! 

I finished my 50th state in Maine (May) completing the 50 States Club and 50 States and DC club!! It’s been a fantastic year so far! My family came out to celebrate my 50th state in Maine. It was nice to have everyone there! My husband, Mike has been my biggest supporter and has tirelessly been to the majority of my marathons and spent gazillions of hours crewing. My daughter, Mackenzie even ran 1/2 of the race with me, which was a wonderful mother’s day present. My son Logan, ran briefly with me as he and my husband hopped along the course to cheer and crew. My parents were there to cheer, take pictures and help me celebrate! One of my friends, who I met marathoning, Jennifer, came to run the whole marathon with me. The RD gave me bib #50 and was super welcoming. I was interviewed by the race announcer at the end of the race, and given a momento to remember the event!  
I finished my 50th sub 4 state in VT (October) Vermont. I had to repeat VT for the 50 sub 4 club, because I couldn’t run the VT 100 in under 4 hours :)  50<4 was a weekend with friends who I have met marathoning. Kino, Steven, Jeff, Ken, and myself. It was nice to have an extra day and a half to see Vermont. We toured Vermont at a beautiful time of year when the leaves were changing.  We did some sight-seeing, wine tasting, maple syrup scouting, and ate a lot of great food! The marathon course and weather were beautiful! Ken and Steven drove around the course crewing and banging cowbells with drumsticks. They were an awesome support and photographic crew! It was a laid back and hilarious weekend and a phenomenal way to end my 50 state journey. 

50 States Quilt :)
This has sort of turned into an autobiography which I always thought were boring to read, so I was thinking what could make this tolerable? :) TRIVIA

Best Marathon Medals:
Surf City-wooden surf boards
Boston, Big Sur B2B, Newport (from left)
North Country, ET, Grand Island Trail, Missoula (from Right)
Flying Monkey-laser wood with monkeys
Wineglass & Newport OR for blown glass
Tupelo-skull & cross bones
Airforce-quality & cool
Flying Pig-love the double sided medal and pig butt
Texas- ENORMOUS, presented in a satin-lined box
Minneapolis-stained glass wedge
Backside Trail Marathon-real horseshoe

Airforce, Monumental, Flying Monkey, Texas, Goofy (3), Surf City
Airforce, Erie, New Hampshire, Wineglass, Day of the Dead, Pilgrim Pacer, Monkey, Rehobooth, Otter Creek, Carmel, Backside Trail Marathon

"the shrine" as my hubby calls it. My marathon medals are along the
ceiling in the basement in chronological order.
Best Swag:                                      
Flying Monkey
Baton Rouge
Backside Trail
Western States 100 miler

Fastest Courses
St. George
Newport OR
B&A Trail

Most Scenic
Big Sur
Maine Coast
Newport, RI
Yakima River Canyon
St. George

Best Big Marathons
New York 
Marine Corps. 

Most Fun: 
Grandfather Mountain-stay for free admission to the Highland Games afterwards! 
Marine Corps-great sights and everyone is dressed up for Halloween
Disney-stopped to take pictures with characters and ride Rockin’ Rollar Coaster

Coolest Awards
Charleston (framed photos)
Lost Dutchman (framed prints)
Flying Monkey (crochet monkeys)
St. George (red rock awards)
Tallahassee (pottery plates)
Destin Beach Ultras (shell from AC-130)
Newport, OR (hand carved gray heron)

Best Value
Baton Rouge

Best Post-Race Spread: 
B&A Trail
Flying Monkey
Fargo (cookie dough & chocolate milk)
North Country
Favorite Shirts
Destin Beach Ultras
B&A Trail
Flying Monkey
Six Days in the Dome
Kettle Morraine
Planet Adventure Winter Trail Marathon

Most importantly, I want to thank my family for all their support in this journey. Visiting all 50 states was a super cool way to see the USA, but also took a lot of time. My husband, Mike has been phenomenal! He has driven all over with me to go somewhere, get up uber early, and drive around a course cheering in often crappy conditions. He has crewed me in the rain, sleet, wind, stayed up for 48 hours straight, put up with my sometime grumpy, ultra persona, massaged me, talked me off the ledge when I was nervous before racing, and countless of other supportive tasks. Thanks to my kids who think I am crazy, but support my running dreams. Thanks to my parents who worry about me damaging my body, but knowing that running is my passion and supporting me anyway. 

Thanks to my local friends who keep me company on all those long runs, let me bounce crazy ideas off of, give me their advice, and help me with my training plans! Thanks for your help with crewing, pacing, know who you are :)

Thanks to all the friends I have gained along the way!! It is amazing how many people I have connected with through races over the years. I have gained many good friends and connections! I appreciate all of your support!

Thanks to the Running Skirt girls who started sponsoring me in 2011 after I won the Hawaii marathon! Thanks to Dry-Max who picked me up in 2013 prior to the 24 Hour WC. Thanks to Hammer Nutrition and Coast Headlamps who have picked me up in 2014!!  

I couldn’t have been as successful without everyone!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Running Down A Dream: 48 Hours in the Dome-August 4th-6th, 2015

I’ve never made my goals a secret.  I know that some people like to keep their goals to themselves, but I don’t mind putting mine out there.  I feel that there is more pressure to accomplish goals that I make public.  Plus, by saying my goals aloud, I feel more committed to them and saying my goals aloud helps me to BELIEVE!  I have a few LIFETIME RUNNING GOALS, which are stated on my blog. The biggest one was to set an American Record (AR).  I looked at ultra AR’s and believed it might be possible in the 48 hour.  The AR for 48 was 234.811 miles held by Sue Ellen Trapp from 1997.  I always seem to do better the further I go.  So, I pitched the idea to try the distance/time (one time only) to my hubby.  He graciously agreed to crew and help support my crazy dream :)   Months after committing to the event, Joe Fejes informed me that the Indoor World Track Record was 231.408.  Holy crap, I thought!  If I run 235, I’d have an American Record and an Indoor World Track record!!  Wow, if I didn’t already have enough motivation...that was it!!  A TWO-FOR-ONE :)

People asked me what I was shooting for in terms of mileage at the Dome.  I stated my that I wanted run 135 the first 24 hours and run 100 miles the second 24-hours.  It wasn’t originally how I planned it (130/105 was the original plan).  I upped the first days mileage after I found out the 2014 24-Hour World Championships in Taiwan were cancelled and my qualifying spot from 2013 would be too old to count.  I found out that my 24 hour split would count as a qualifying mark.  I knew that there were women with marks of 133.4, 132.65, 131.56, and others in the 120‘s.  In order to re-qualify for the US Team/24-hour World Championship in Torino in April 2015, I wouldn’t feel safe unless I bested the top mark.  So, 135 was the new goal for Day 1.    

Prior to the Dome, I consulted Joe Fejes on training and running a 48 hour.  I have done 24 hours twice and have been out longer than 24 hours on 3-100 mile trail races, but 48 hours seemed daunting.  I don’t even think I have the 24 hour race figured out, as I have gone out too hard and died in both of the 24’s I have done.  I knew I would have to run as sloooowww as I could to not blow up at the end.  I was relieved that Joe doesn’t go crazy with mileage and can still manage to run 48, 72, 6-days, etc.  I work, have a family, and don’t have time to log insane mileage.  I built my training plan up to a 90 mile week at the highest.  My training went well, but I started to feel a little tired around the 4th of July, when I raced a 10K, and followed it up with 22 more miles after the race.  For the next 2 weeks, I cut my mileage down a little, and made sure to sleep a little more.  By the end of July, I felt good...I felt ready.  I had a lot of positive talk in my head.  

The Dome on Sunday, August 3rd
On Sunday, the day prior to the race, there was a Dome familiarization meeting so that you could check out the set-up in advance.  Afterwards, was a meet and greet.  Holy cow!  This race was a veritable “who’s who” in Ultrarunning.  Valmir Nunes (former 100k WR holder in 6:18!!), Joe Fejes, Phil McCarthy, John Geesler, Roy Pirrung, Martin Fryer,  Connie Gardner, Frank Bozniack, Zach Bitter, Rimantas Jakelaitis, Liz Bauer, and Jennifer name a few.  I was sooo excited to meet sooo many cool athletes!  It would be awesome to watch the race unfold.

48 Record Holders: Valmir Nunes, Roy Pirrung, Phil McCarthy, Me, Martin Fryer, John Geezler

Monday morning, I woke up, ate my new yummy chocolate chip bagel that I fell in love with since arriving in Alaska.  We got to the Dome about an hour before 9:00am (race time) to get my chip and check-in.  All of us were ready to go, when Zane (the RD), came over and said there would be an hour delay, as they were having problems with the timing system.  I was proud of myself, because I normally get stressed on days where I have big race goals and things don’t start off well.  Instead, I simply laid on my blow-up mattress, closed my eyes and tried to relax.  We were now thinking it would start at 10:00am, but at 9:45, Zane said they still weren’t ready and they would notify us at least 15 min prior as to when it would start.  Still, I stayed calm and rested...who am I?  I’m normally a spaz on race day.  At 10:35am, he told us it would start at 11:00am.  Ok.  Great.  Now what?  I ate 2 hours before the race like usual, and took my pre-race supplements an hour before.  It had been 4 hours...what do I do?  I hadn’t run, but I probably should eat something, I thought.  I perused the table and thought, gels are safe...Nah, I will eat enough of those.  Never having had a pop-tart in an ultra, I decided Cherry Pop-tarts looked yummy...the Keith Straw whatever looks good and your hand, like a hand on a Ouija board, I reached over and grabbed a  pop-tart. 

11:00am the race started!  Yes!  We were off!  I knew that it would be hard to run as slow as I needed to run.  My first splits were all around 2:15-2:20 (1.028 mile/4 laps) ~ high 8”s, low 9‘s for the first marathon.  I kept trying to slow down, but couldn’t run slower comfortably.  A guy named Hung, decided to run with me.  We ran for the first 6 hours-ish together.  I enjoyed the company, and we laughed about him “stalking” me, since he always ran behind me.  Zach Bitter was flying around the track at sub 3 marathon pace.  He was fun to watch and super nice.  I had fun calculating how many laps I could get done before he would pass me again.  The first 6 hours went well without major issues.  I ran 38.036 with one potty stop and a shoe change at 6-hours. I knew the key to my 48-hour success would be keeping my feet healthy.  I still have some trouble with blisters in long ultras and the track was hard...someone mentioned it was concrete with textured paint on top.  It didn’t feel spongy like a newer high school track, but then I train mostly on asphalt, so no biggie.

Zach Bitter and the Jester-Ed Ettinghausen
K-G, me, Hung in the early hours

12 hours in, 2 more shoe changes and 2 more pit stops.  I was still rolling and had now clocked 74.787 miles...eee...I needed to slow down.  I was consuming a gel every 30 minutes and drinking water as a gel chaser.  Every 3 hours, I was taking Fizz in my water to get some electrolytes.

The next 6 hours was uneventful in a good way.  I hit 100 miles at 16:30.  I had been taking tylenol for a nagging headache that I had since I woke up that morning.  I had switched bras wondering if it was the straps, but nothing was helping.  So, I took my ponytail holder out and ran with my hair down.  Several people commented that I was now sporting my “sexy Traci look”.  I guess we all have low standards of sexy in an ultra on an indoor track :)  Thankfully, the tylenol, and my free-flowing hair did the trick.  My headache went away.  

From 18-24 hours, I struggled a bunch.  I was popping Immodium like candy to no avail.  Stopping for frequent pit stops, and walking on occasion.  I was still eating fine, but just was mentally in a funk and my potty stops weren’t helping my mojo.  I had 2 laps that were super long: a 23 minute lap and a 30 minute lap.  I know that one of the long lap splits was switching back to the type of bra I started in because it is the only one that doesn’t eat all the skin off my chest.  I know I had potty stops, shoe changes, pop tart consumption, and an ipod change.  Neither my husband or I know what the other stop was for.  Neither of us think that I laid down until after 24 hours, but we aren’t sure.  

I needed mental inspiration in the 18-24 hour window.  My husband told me to just focus on getting my qualifying miles in and to get to 24 hours.  It helped to think of it that way...break it down to the first goal.  Three of my best friends wrote me some notes to help me mentally if I hit a low.  I told my husband I needed a letter.  He randomly grabbed one, and I read a note from my friend Tom who told me I couldn’t look at it until at least 30 hours into the race.  Oh well, I thought...I need it now.  Tom’s letter said: think about your arms...are they still working...good.  Think about your legs...are they still working...good. Basically if my feet/hands/legs were still working, then keep going.  It helped for a bit.  There was nothing physically wrong with me except sore feet, blisters, and diarrhea...Ok...that’s nothing new for me in an ultra...shut your pie hole and run.  

Inspiration from kids-handslapping :)
An hour or so later, I needed more inspiration.  I asked for another letter.  My husband gave me Troy’s.  Troy and I have similar personalities and he paced me through the Grand Slam.  He knows what to say that hits home, so I was anxious to read it.  He said many things that were helpful, but what hit home was: 
-NO room for emotions! Run steady. RUN SMART!!!
-Relentless forward progress. 
-Shut down any negative thoughts! If you're not happy figure out why. You own the race. -Back off your pace and figure why you aren't happy! You HOLD THE CONTROL! Take back the control!  Remember that a lot of times negative thinking during a race is from low sugar or pushing tooooo hard. Just back off a few minutes and recover, get in food. 
-Remember its supposed to be fun! The pain will be worth it!

I got through the low!  Phew!  By the end of the 24 hours, I was at 135.182.  I had run 60.395 miles the 2nd half of 24 hours.  

At this point, we had decided that I would stop and have my blisters tended to, dry my feet, change whatever clothes I wanted and take a nap.  I probably laid down for 30 minutes of my hour break and slept about 15.  It felt good in the Dome, until you stopped.  Then, I got cold super fast.  I put on a short sleeve and long sleeve pullover and laid on the inflatable mattress.  The blanket we brought was thin, so I had a hard time relaxing, because I was shivering and my legs were throbbing.  But, after an hour (25 hours elapsed), my husband woke me and told me it was time to get going again. me up, please.  My legs felt awful.  I couldn’t get up by myself.  How am I supposed to run, I thought.  I started walking.  After 2 laps, I went from wondering if I could move to walking to shuffling to back in the rhythm of 2:35-2:50/lap.  Weird.  I never thought you could feel so crappy and just will your body to go and it would!

I ran for about 4-1/2 hours (29-1/2 hours elapsed) and started feeling dizzy.  My husband said to lie down for 10 minutes.  It helped!  But an hour and a half later (31 hours elapsed), I felt dizzy again.  I laid down for another 10 minutes.  I was back up, alternating between running and walking an occasional lap.  But two hours later (33 hours elapsed), I started feeling dizzy again.  My husband starting spewing some metaphor at me: “it’s like your pushing a car.”  “The car needs gas, and then it can run again.”  What?!  Like 33 hours into an ultra, I can translate metaphors.  I said what are you talking about.  He said he had talked to Joe Fejes (or Rich-his crew), my friends Troy and Jeff, and everyone thought I was dizzy from not sleeping.  He said sleep for 30 minutes, but then you will have to get up and run!  I said OK.  My 30 minute break turned into a 50 minute lap, as I asked to sleep 5 more minutes two more times.  I probably slept 15-20 minutes.  I got up and felt horrible...worse than ever!  My husband, Mike had done the math.  If I started running at 8:30pm, I would need to average 13:27 to get to 235 miles.  I could hardly move.  Mike told me to get walking...he said we came to Alaska to do this.  If I wanted it, now was the time.  I got the message.

Best Crew Ever, Mike Falbo!!!
I started walking, but was now stressed.  I know that 13:27 was not a hard pace, but I had been dizzy, been in the bathroom a million times...if that continued I would have to run a lot faster.  I was whining/boo-hooing/doubting myself aloud to my friend Jennifer Aradi who was doing the 6 day.  She said awesome things... “We always hit lows in ultras.  They pass...You can do this...walk with me.”  I walked a lap with her, feeling a bit better, but still mad at my husband for “making me lie down” and losing 40 minutes of time.  I had started shuffling and boo-hooed to Joe Fejes.  He said I was doing well, and it was good for my first time at 48 hours.  I could be 2nd or 3rd on the all time list and could give it another attempt in the future.  Hell no, I thought.  I told my husband that this was a one time try at this distance/time.  That got me going.  It had been about 15 minutes since I had gotten up from my last nap and all of the sudden, I was running between 2:40-2:55/lap.  I felt good again.  Uber weird!

I hit 182.12 with 12 hours left to go.  I had run just 47.03 miles in the 3rd, 12 hour block.  I needed 100 miles on Day 2.  I needed to negative split the 2nd day.  I was a little worried, but with more motivation from Jennifer, Joe, and another letter from my friend Jeff...I was positive and rolling.  
Jennifer Aradi & I

Joe Fejes, Valmir Nunes, & I

Amazingly, from 8:45pm on Day 2 until 10:15am, I ran every lap between 2:40-3:00 (257 laps), with the exception of 19 laps that were 4-6 minutes for either shoe changes or potty stops.  Crazy.  Around 9 hours to go, I was doing math.  I knew that 4 laps was a little over a mile and if I ran sub 3 laps, I would do a sub 12 mile.  That was my focus.  Just come through every lap under 3 minutes.  I calculated that 12 minute miles were 5 miles/hour and that I would hit the American Record with and hour and 20 minute buffer.    I smiled proudly that I could still do math at this point (I know it’s easy math, but still).  My plan was to “run” until I got to 235 and then walk the rest of the time.  It helped me mentally to know I wouldn’t have to run the entire time.

There were 2 huge digital clocks on each side of the Dome.  I would look at them and tell myself to just run the entire time to the next walking!  I repeated that hour after hour.  I felt surprisingly good. I was singing quietly aloud (sorry everyone) at times with my ipod.  I was happy.  What the heck?  Oh well...go with it.  I was smelling the barn, but didn’t want to count my chickens...just keep this pace and keep eating and drinking.  Time ticked away.  I kept rolling.  As I got closer to the records, the timers informed the runners that I was getting close to breaking records.  They also informed me that I had extra time (which I had already calculated), and that I needed to “run” to get at least 240.  I said “why?”  They said that 240 miles would give me the 2nd best mark ever by a woman in the 48 hour event.  There were several women who had run 239, and they thought I should get to 240 miles.  It took me several laps to get my head around running for another hour than planned...After all, walking after 235 miles, had just kept me going for the last 9-10 hours.  Everyone was super nice and encouraging!!  When I hit the records, the timers and some of the runners stopped around the timing mat to cheer as I passed the marks.  I surpassed the indoor track world record of 231.403 at 46:08:05, and the previous american record of 234.811 at 46:46:23.  

It was super emotional for me, as I took down the records.  I had Katy Perry’s “Roar” playing over and over on my ipod, as I ran (see note at the end).  When they announced the records as I passed, I started to get choked up and started to get teary-eyed.  I almost started crying, but told myself to stuff it back down.  I knew if I started bawling, I wouldn’t be able to breathe, which would affect my running.  Not the time for emotions, I told myself.  I gave a bit of a fist pump when I got the American Record.  I was soooo excited.  I was having a fantastic, dream come true, race.  

At some point after the records, the timers told everyone to get out of lane one so that I could accrue as much mileage as possible.  I apologized to many, telling them it was fine if they stayed in lane one.  After all, why is my race more important than someone’s six day race?  Many obliged the timers, and were happy to move out to lane two for the last 45 minutes to an hour.  I felt like I had been starting to list to the right for the last hour (although, my Physical Therapist who was watching the live feed said I had started listing Tuesday night).  Unfortunately, an hour before my race ended, we changed directions on the track, running right turns again. 

I picked up the pace with about 45 minutes to go, upping my pace to 2:20, then 2:17.  It felt awesome to pick it up from the 2:55-3:00 range.  But, after 2 laps, I thought...Crap, I can’t hold this for 45 minutes...slow it down.  I settled into a 9:15 average pace for the next 2 miles.  I hit 240.037 miles with 21.5 minutes to go.  The timers cheered me on to go as fast as possible and pad the record as much as I could.  I said I would go for 8 more laps/2 more miles.   I picked it up more, wanting to be done.  I ran an 8:34 mile, then an 8:06 mile (the fastest mile I had run the entire 48 hours) for the last mile.  I almost fell into the inside of the track on the last lap.  I was listing more to the right, and leaning forward horribly, my body losing control from fatigue.  I basically felt like I was a cartoon character, just moving my legs as fast as possible under me to keep up with my body for the last 2 miles to keep upright.  I finished 2 more miles and fell into my husband’s arms.  Several people were cheering for me to go one more lap to get to 390k, but I was worried about falling and was spent.  They told me I still had 4 minutes and could practically walk it.  I felt guilty, and broke down to tears...I couldn’t go anymore...I didn’t have any more.  At that point, my husband said, “she is done.”  No one pushed me to go any more.  My wonderful husband, protector, and crew, helped lower me to the ground, and later scoop me up with the help of Mike Dobies to a high jump pad where I recovered after the race.  
Mike Falbo & Mike Dobies helping me to the high jump pad

Thanks to everyone who organized the event and helped me through my 48-hour journey (Joe, Zane, Collette, Rich, Valmir, & Jennifer...just to name a few).  However, I could NOT have done this without the support of my husband, Mike Falbo who crewed me the entire 48, putting up with my crap, giving me nudges to get my butt moving at times, and keeping me grounded when I had negative thoughts.  Remember, I like apple and watermelon :)

Zane, the fantastic RD

Katy Perry note:  I took my daughter to the concert to celebrate her good grades her junior year on 8/16/14.  As Katy Perry opened up her concert with "Roar", I started tearing up, but couldn't understand why.  I mean, I like Katy Perry a lot, but not enough to cry about.  I successfully wiped my tears away without my daughter seeing (I didn't want her to think I was crazier than she already thinks I am).It didn't occur to me until the next day that I was crying because the song was playing when I set the records.  Crazy how something such as a song or smell can bring emotions forth :)