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.

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.

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.

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…

ultra

run 4 ultra (run 4 life)

March 4th, 2017 in Auburn, California (#wtc50k) was the longest (7hours:46min) and farthest (50 kilometres) I ever ran in my life. Not a particularly impressive pace, just an extreme athletic effort to keep myself in tune with the world and its demands.

This was a trail run through the American River Canyon, with river crossings and over 4,000 feet ascension, and my first major ‘norcal ultra’ event. I was very excited for a whole lotta fun and adventure, and the only problems I faced leading up to the event were poison oak and heavy rains in January and February in Sacramento where I live and train, which caused the American River to grow and grow, and some of my runs had to be cut short due to trails and water fountains I relied on being deluged and underwater!

K before the 50k

What an exciting winter -2017- watching the drought in our region come to a muddy and verdant conclusion! The same could be said of my run.

I arrived with my boyfriend by my side in the little town of Cool, and we parked the VW and met up with my brother by the starting line (along with 999 other runners) where the little ultra village was setting up. I realized I had forgotten my inhaler and found the medical tent where a very kind lady (one of the volunteers) decided to rescue me with her own inhaler, which she ran off to get from her car. She would be the first of many volunteers who stood out for me this day, and without whose support I never would have finished the race. I am grateful to them all!

famous wtc frog cupcakes

We took a couple pics and I did a little dance on a snapchat my brother recorded for my nieces to enjoy, and before long I was off with the second wave, running down the access road past our little cheering norcal family assembled there on this little hill, heading for the muddy canyon trails. I was wearing my New Balance Leadvilles and my Run the Parkway shirt from last November’s 20-mile run in Sacramento, which was my first ever race. I hit a wall pretty hard in that race, then made it through the CIM (one month later) without a bonk (my first road marathon). I had to wonder, was I headed for disaster today, or another strong and even finish?

ultra.runner

#ULTRA!

finished my first norcal ultra! #wtc50k

8 hours. turtle frog
thanks 2 all the volunteers and safety sweeps
who made this event possible and
great fun in Cool, CA!
k – wtc50k – finish

make me

make me get outta bed

Getting up last night for work turned out to be the same as getting up was last year, this year. I felt simply unwilling to push the blankets away and step into the cold unheated air. I thought what with my incredible anti-depressive mentality things would be different this year, but they weren’t. The logistics are always painful. Once I got outta bed and put my malt-o-meal on the stove and took my meds with leftover cadillac (the chocolate residue on the bottom churned back into the mix with some flexible wrist action), I could breathe again. The cats were all crying for food and I must provide. Otherwise it will be a claw to the neck when you least suspect.  Life is demanding as always. And faith is still there, waiting to be called upon, to get you through.

K. #6099 CIM

running and nutrition

how to run a marathon – part 3

Nutrition. I decided on an ideal race weight based on my build, by comparing against a professional runner of similar build. Taking off pounds is important because it eases the incredible impact of your weight on your legs. I lost about 10lbs in 2 months and though it’s not much, it made a really big difference. Gravity didn’t hurt so bad.

My staple diet for the 4 months of training consisted of oatmeal, peanut butter & jelly, pan-fried tilapia in olive oil, garlic, shrimp, tunafish, honey, granola, fruit, fruit juice, wheat bread and pasta, lots of tomatoes, cup of noodles, all the V8 juice combinations, bananas, oranges, muscle milk (which i found tasted pretty good mixed with hot coffee), tea, broiled turkey/chicken with veggies, jamba juice, spinach, eggplant, salad, almonds, quinoa, almond milk, salads, eggs, sweet potatoes, soups. On weekends after long runs I often treated myself to the stuff I cut out: pizza (cheese), chicken wings, hamburgers, steak, butter, bacon. So I could get the cravings out of my system once in a while. I also took B-complex and multivitamins every single day, and sometimes those green tea extract pills.

I usually start my day with some oatmeal/granola and honey and fruit, maybe some brown sugar. And a thermos of coffee/tea mixed with almond milk. Then I will snack while I’m at work on apples and oranges and granola/protein bars. After work (I work a nightshift) I will fry eggs, sometimes a whole wheat muffin, garlic, onion, ketchup (sandwich). Rest for an hour or two before my daily run (unless it’s summer when I have to get on the road/river early. After my run it’s a good idea to have some protein of some kind within the first half hour, otherwise hydrate through the day, fruit juices, water, granola bar, jamba juice. When I wake up at night before work, I might broil chicken or fish with veggies, or pan fry in olive oil. I rarely do both the big breakfast (eggs) and the big dinner (fish/meat/pasta) on the same day when I am training. I don’t need that much food unless I ran for over a couple of hours. I substitute something smaller, soup/salad/oatmeal/tunafish/pb&j, in lieu of one of those meals. This is what works for me.

The week leading up to a race, you wanna hydrate and carb-load religiously if you can. Meaning small meals several times a day, keep drinking water. I found that eating well makes me feel good, running makes me feel good, yoga makes me feel good, so I would just remind myself of this! It makes sacrifice and effort a whole lot easier when you see the bigger picture. You are a star! You are so healthy! You are the lean, mean, running machine!

ultrawriting

ultrawriting and the swing-arm scorpion

Life is good getting better, all the running when mixed with yoga is another return to the moving current, out from the eddies where modern life traps us. I am also more involved than usual with a man who cares about me. The summer has gone quickly and quietly, a couple of heat waves and otherwise plain old lovely northern california sunshine. Yesterday morning I ran a half-marathon on my own along the river, for the first time ever and it felt great. I especially noticed falling into a sweet rhythm of breath and motion. I am hoping to use endurance running towards developing a discipline for endurance writing. There, the cat is out of the bag! I’m gonna start an ultrawriter craze. Writing entire novels at one sitting while choking down powerades and peanut butter! Think I won’t? Watch me.

on a heli-tour

Last night I had a dream I was at work with a clipboard with a checklist of items had to be done on the shift. I was working with perfect strangers and asked them for help but they didn’t want to help me. Turns out some woman with a big mouth who looked like a swing-arm lamp scorpion was in the hallway talking shit about me and some perceived hurt I caused her. I immediately confronted the scorpion and she blabbered this nonsense to my face and I didn’t even have to look closely at her to know she was lying. After all, I have never before met a swing-arm lamp anyone! I told her to shut the hell up and she started inching up my leg, and I woke up terrified. If that doesn’t get you out of bed, nothing will. I scrambled out and into the kitchen for some coffee, and worked up this joke:

What do you do when someone’s telling lies on you?
Hang them by their toenails and feed them the truth!