peak experience 4 turtles

Mile nineteen of my 50 kilometre ultra run. We had ascended the mountain on switchbacks, deep in the forest beside the American River Canyon on the Western States Trail. About 2,000 vertical feet on single track. Some of the steeper parts I had to hike, but it was no less strenuous than running on the flats or descending. My hands were freezing cold from the wind and rain earlier that morning, and I had brought arm sleeves (the cotton tops I cut from knee socks) which I repurposed for gloves. We had crossed the river a couple of times and the muddy trails were causing runners to slip and fall. Yet here upon the ridge at mile 19, above it all, the trail was paved in pine needles and the sun was beginning to shine. The scene opened up to a fantastic new world! The mountains lush and verdant on the far side of the canyon. A chorus of tree frogs opened up. Then the sky began to hail, and the raindrops froze and bounced off of my skin. I came into a narrow part of the trail ever so slightly ascending, with brush on either side, and I swear it was like a royal flush running through there! The hail had formed crystals all caught up in the treetops and the light was reflecting several ways, glancing  and shining upon us like a dream! I knew then that I had made it. I was not gonna hit the wall like last year, a painful and demoralizing affair. I found myself in the refuge of this peak experience, 5 hours or more into my endurance run. Lucky me. It gave my spirit a burst of feeling uplifted. Now, several days later, I wanted to write it down and share it with you, for it stands out like a gem in my mind.
success! heading home after the race
I learned by the race last year (when I hit a wall at mile 17) not to run the first half too quickly, keep a realistic pace and have patience. I also learned not to change my diet, despite all the yummy offerings at the way stations. These two major lessons, combined with my efforts to load on carbohydrates (90% of my intake) in the 72 hours leading up to the race, gave me ample strength to manage the ascent and finish the race strong. After mile 20 on the Wendell Robie Trail, many of my fellow runners were complaining of dead legs and fatigue and slowing down to walk and enjoy the scenic ridgeline over the canyon. I found myself feeling energized and running fast for a turtle, completing the last 10 miles without stopping, and running close to 10 minute miles on the flats.
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40.post.dated

I ran 40 miles in the past week. The winter olympians in South Korea inspired me. My longest run was a personal best (non-race) distance of 22 miles up river from Sacramento, north toward Auburn, where my next race will be held on March 3rd. I will rest my legs between now and then, and focus on my diet and yoga. The #WTC Ultra 50K looks to be a great challenge for me again this year, as I got poison oak while hiking in Winters and could not do much hill work. As in 2017, I am not prepared for the steep ascent midway through the trails. No matter! What I love about the ultra is how it tunes me mentally and spiritually, and to endure physical pain. This tuning benefits me in myriad facets of life.

talk show generics -ii

He was demure in between binges. She was the polliwog in his flying fish fry, hiding under the curtain in the fringes. They were mutuals who secretly willed a corruption, playing hide-n-seek in a hobby lobby of manipulations. She got busy with telemarketers on the home line, keeping them guessing in a cold steep run up of daytime, followed by the evening news, the blackouts and hysterics. The whole enchilada was ready made for talk show generics. Not her. People like her.

simpatico

I got out of simpatico when I began to speak the plain truths. It was useless trying to be liked all your life long. No one who liked you would make it to your funeral, anyway, due to the inconvenience. Find a way to be helpful and get out of yourself. You don’t have to like yourself, either, I discovered. Self-deprecation was less static and much more fun. There was a dog bit me while I was running up over the rails to the river, yesterday. A little brown Pekingnese with a seething growl rolled up on me and bit my ankle at the joint. I coulda started yelling at the river rats who owned it, about a leash and tags and sorta legalese. But I already was detested enough by their dog. I checked for blood, and there was none. So I kept on running and started thinking how long it had been since I got bit by a dog. Maybe twenty years or more? About time.

run 4 life

ultra (run 4 life) – conclusion

Goat Hill was a vertical climb for about a half mile or so, around miles 25-6, up to the second to last aid station where I had some more broth and rested for a while before my run to the finish. There was no running up Goat Hill, no way. I kept asking people where the goat was, who was supposed to carry us up the hill? but nobody knew of any such thing. There were a couple of volunteers halfway to the top of the hill with loudspeakers encouraging us on and doing a little comedy routine to keep us lifted. I was thrilled because I knew I was gonna make it to the end (and my boyfriend’s arms), and there was no rain.

I took a strip of K Tape and got someone’s help to anchor it on my neck, too, cuz my neck begins to ache late in a race; I think it’s because I have such a big head! The tape worked wonders and there would be nothing stopping me for the last stretch to home, not even the great riverbed which we had to climb for a couple miles to the finish line. I powered my way across to the cheers of all the kind people who stuck around, wow, I couldn’t believe I was hiking and running for close to 8 hours! I found Tosh and we got the signature frog cupcakes and I showed off my silver medallion and had some BBQ, and we talked to the lively volunteers and runners who I crossed paths with earlier. The wind was whipping up and it was about to rain, so we got in the car and headed home.

post race with Tosh

What a day! The night before, Tosh and I drove up to Auburn so I could pick up my race pack at the Auburn Running Company. While we were there we met some runners, and I was able to go over the map of the race and got some pointers from a nice lady who ran it many times, herself. Then they drew my name from the lottery and announced I had won entry into next year’s race, 2018. I was somehow not surprised. Just felt like I was destined to do this one again. Auburn, nestled in the foothills of the Sierras and home to this friendly and down-2-earth ultra community, reminds me of where I come from: the White Mountains, Lakes Region, New Hampshire. It’s nice to know I can drive up here anytime from Sacramento, and feel like I am home. It’s nice to know I get to do this again, and be with my new friends, next year.

ultra

ultra (run 4 life) part 3

Mile 20. After walking and talking with Davin (a race volunteer) for a while, and having taken whey protein and plenty of electrolyte water, I began to get my legs and my head back. The trail was leveling out after the long ascent. Only then did I realize how hard I had hit the wall. As you approach your physical limitations, you risk losing mental focus and becoming cognitively impaired. Had I been out here alone I could have been in serious trouble, out of water, tired and dehydrated. You cannot see changes in your condition as quickly as your friends can. If you get disoriented and the trail is not well marked, you never know, you could end up lost in the woods for days. Both internal and external conditions can change faster than one might imagine. Apparently my speech had become kinda lethargic and was now picking up, but I wouldn’t have known without Davin telling me. I am pretty certain that had he not noticed something was wrong and pressed me a mile back, I wouldn’t have asked for help. My mind was doing me a disservice! telling me to stay strong and persevere to the next aid station.

I thanked Davin profusely and he went on to help another runner who needed him. I got inspired by all the runners passing by with words of encouragement. Then I was able to help an older man who needed a strip of K-Tape for the pinched nerve in his neck. I brought some in my wristband. I would see him and Davin again, eating BBQ in the village at the end of the race, and we would be all smiles and gratitude.

The trail leveled out, thank god, and we came up on the mile 21 aid station, only ten miles to go! The sun came out (despite forecast for afternoon rain) and I grabbed some tasty broth and an energy bar and sat myself down in the grass for several minutes to catch some rays and thank my lucky stars (with a prayer) that I had survived the wall!

finish line 2017 wtc50k

The next 5 miles was like one long even cut in the side of this mountain, overlooking lush foothills and the canyon. They call this area ‘Auburn Lakes Trails’ and what with the sun peeking out of the cloud cover this afternoon, the river far below us, it was magical! All our climbing paid off. The pain I felt earlier was replaced by an inner calm, and a woman named Lydia stopped to give me her own special cocktail, two Advils and a Tylenol. She said ‘they tell you to stay away from the NSAID’s while running, but i say fuck it’ and we both shouted ‘fuck it!’ together in one burst of comradery before she flew on past me up the single track. I was gonna take my time getting home.

run 4 life

run 4 ultra (run 4 life) deux

The single track led us down to our first river crossing and my feet were suddenly cool and wet, but my socks and shoes vented the water perfectly, turns out I would have no trouble with the half dozen river crossings throughout the course. I looked forward to the cool waters. Next we rose up and traveled along a hillside which afforded beautiful views of the forest and the river now far below. There would be a lot of mud in the first 8 mile loop, before coming around to the starting gate and our little ultra village and family. I ran with a nice lady for a while who told me all about her horses on a ranch in Livermore where she lives. There was a man behind me who took a heavy tumble, and we stopped to see if he was okay and he gave a spirited yell, ‘it’s not a race unless i fall!’

K before 50k

I was in great spirits by the time I saw Tosh (mile 8) who ran a quarter mile alongside me to the first aid station, where I stopped for a tasty chocolate peanut butter bar, and said goodbye to my brother who wished me well. He even put my nieces on the phone for me to say hello before we parted ways; he had to go back home to the Bay Area. I was so happy he showed up for me today.

I got back on the trail feeling good. We made our way down and around and down a few miles to the fire road, crossed and headed down the long quarry road in the canyon which ran alongside the roaring green river for another 5 miles or more. I did well on the downhills, running 9 minute miles. I thought I was in good shape with my belt full of roctane and water bottle full of gatorade, and my potassium salt S-caps. But I realized on Quarry Road that my legs were starting to feel heavy, and I began to worry about my failure to train on hills all winter long. I could be in big trouble! The only elevation I trained on was a 5 mile run up and down the Blue Ridge Trail, overlooking Lake Berryessa in Winters. The problem was I got poison oak on that trail and so I never went back to the hills.

K finishes 50k

No amount of energy I consumed was gonna help me up the side of that canyon, which switched back and forth from about mile 15 to mile 20… it became a truly brutal and endless hike for me. My head got light, legs heavy, and my asthma kicked up, and my hopes of having a strong and level journey like I had running the CIM just 3 months earlier, were dashed. I had to slow and step off the trail to let dozens of runners hike up past me, and several were kind enough to ask me was I okay and offer help. I finally agreed I needed help around mile 19, when one of the ‘Safety Sweeps’ named Davin saw I was in trouble. He began refilling my empty bottle with electrolyte water, while telling me about his quest to run the coveted Western States 100 mile race before he’s 50 years old. He has 3 years experience running ultras, and he’s 47 now. Parts of this particular race, the Way Too Cool, overlap with the Western States Trail. Listening to Davin’s story helped me take my mind off of the wall…