Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Puzzles And The Missing Piece

This weekend there was a major attack on the kids' rooms. It started with just a cleaning out of the old clothes, getting ready for the new school year, but it soon expanded to all aspects of their rooms. On Sunday when Liam told me he was bored I quickly directed him to some old puzzles that I had just pulled from Megan's closet. "Here, go do these," I instructed.

"Mo-oom," he whined,"can't I go watch TV?"

"Do a puzzle first," I said, handing him the easiest puzzle in the stack: Jumbo Dinosaur Puzzle, 48 pieces, age 3+. I was pretty sure my bright seven and a half year old could handle it.

He took it to the table, got out the pieces and just stared at it. "Mom, I can't do it. It's too hard."

"Liam, you didn't even try."

"Mom! Yes, I did! I can't do it. Can I have screen time now?"

"Liam, you can't have screen time till you finish the puzzle." Oh, yeah, I was drawing the line in the sand.

There was a temper tantrum, wailing, and something about the meanest Mom in the world. The storm seemed to blow over when I sent the kids outside for some good old fashioned fun.
Buck naked kids in a cow trough with squirt guns. That's what 'good old fashioned fun' means to everyone, right??
But Liam was persistent when he got back in. "Nowww, can I have screen time?"

"No! You haven't finished the puzzle!" The pieces went flying across the room, the bench got tipped over, there was more screaming, and lots and LOTS of tears.
I am the Worst. Mom. Ever!

After dinner, Megan offered to help Liam with the puzzle. "Megan," I whispered to her, "make him do most of it." She was a willing accomplice.

As the puzzle came together, Liam looked at me and said, "Mom, puzzles are like fishing when you try to find the right piece. I like it. Puzzles are fun."

WHAT??!!?? Oh, I could punch that kid! "So should we give it to Goodwill now that you finished it?"

"No, keep it. I like it." Arrgh!

But we did decide in the 100 piece arena that the Tinkerbell puzzle was ready to go and we would just keep the two fuzzy baby penguins. Monday eight big bags of old stuff left our house: 2 for clothing recycling (too worn for anyone else to use) and six bags to Goodwill. (Or "Suckwill" as my son calls it, "because it sucks when you get rid of things we like.")

On Tuesday, when we were playing in the living room, Mac found a puzzle piece. I was devastated. "Oh No! That goes to the Tinkerbell puzzle!" Surprisingly, Mac shared my angst, "Oh, man, it sucks when you do a puzzle and one piece is missing."

I put the piece in my car. Today after work, I stopped by Suckwill, er, Goodwill and I scoured the puzzle shelf. No Tinkerbell. I cornered an employee and asked her where the puzzle might be; she didn't seem concerned. Maybe when you spend your days surrounded by the cast off junk of others, you come to expect a few missing puzzle pieces. But ultimately, she agreed to take the piece and go look in the back. I waited a bit but she didn't return in a timely fashion.  I finally left feeling a little forlorn that somewhere Tinkerbell was out there with a missing piece.
****
It's been ten days since Angeles Crest and ten days since I have run a single step. I used to be very conservative when it came to training again after races. I took a lot of time off. But that rest period has gotten smaller and smaller during the last couple of years. And the training load has increased. I guess that caught up to me this year sometime around mid-June. The emphasis on rest and the minimal training between WS and AC proved to be successful and I am once again focusing on the importance of recovery. And so I went back to my old guideline: One day off for every ten miles of racing. And today, day ten, was the first day that I felt a little bit like the Tinkerbell puzzle, like a piece of me was missing. I'll be keeping things easy the rest of the month, especially because I think I have a little popliteal tendinitis (I am telling you, those downhills at AC are brutal, especially if you aren't trained for them!), but I am excited to piece some physical activity back into my routine.
Finding my missing piece


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Rejoice at AC100

I am a doctor, a scientist, and a Meyers-Briggs INTJ; I make decisions based on logic, facts and research. I am certainly not the type of person to be looking at tea leaves for life's answers. However, mid way between Western States and Angeles Crest, my Stash tea bag contained a message that somehow resonated with me: "Intuition is your best friend." Two things became clear immediately:
1) I need better friends; and
2) I need to rest, because that's the only thing that felt right. I was tired going into Western States, tired running Western States, and even more tired after it was over. It is pretty obvious to me that I went in on cooked legs. I don't think it was entirely due to the high training load, rather I don't think I accounted for the stresses of all the kids' activities and the diminished sleep I had this year as opposed to last and it eventually caught up to me to the point that even a long taper wasn't enough recovery for race day. But I knew I was fit - I just had to trust that the fitness would still be there if I let the legs recover.

And so I rested. In the five intervening weeks I ran 85 miles. Yeah, total! Add in three yoga sessions and sauna time to keep up the heat training, and that was it. Of course, I am not good at truly resting. Our family spent 9 days in Yellowstone, the Tetons and Craters of the Moon with 3-5 miles of kid paced hiking most days (but no running!) and I put in lots of time in my garden. July is when there is tons of stuff to start harvesting and there are always plenty of weeds to pull and other projects to do. But running was kept to a minimum and the more I didn't run the better I felt. It seemed a little weird going into a hundred miler having done only one run over ten miles in the preceding five weeks, but I was trusting my new best friend, Intuition. Although, I didn't actually trust it enough to have full confidence for a great day at Angeles Crest. I sent a warning text to my pacer, super-star Meghan Arbogast, a few days prior, letting her know that I planned to finish no matter what and there was a possibility that could mean 30 hours. It was important to me to finish because I DNF'd my first attempt at AC in 2010, and this was another one where I felt like I needed redemption.

But the rest did seem to be the ticket, and I felt significantly better in the opening miles than I did at WS. Still, a bad race rocks the confidence and there are always the doubts, the doubts that whatever happened last time will be back to take you down again. I just kept telling myself "You're fine!" as more of a stubborn inner-bravado than inspirational message. But to make sure I was fine, I made sure to take things very easy in the opening section, hiking the majority of the Acorn Trail, Mt. Baden-Powell and Mt. Williamson. Despite the easy pace I nearly caught Tommy Neilson on the Baden Powell climb (and then he buried me on the downhill) and I was right on Angela Shartel's course record splits from the previous year. My tea bag the day before the race said, "Let things come to you," and that was my plan. Oh, Stash Tea, you are so wise! Who needs a coach when I can get all the ultra-running advice I need from twelve cent tea bags?? When Mac asked how I was feeling at the first few aid stations, I only had one answer: "I'm fine."

Mile 9- Inspiration Point
Mile 25 Islip Saddle - I feel fine enough to smile! (photots: Sally McRae)

In 2010, I hated the section between Eagle's Roost and Cloudburst (mile 29.9 - 38) with the dreaded Cooper Canyon. It starts with a 2M detour along traffic ridden Hwy 2 to keep runners out of the endangered yellow legged frog habitat. It is somewhat uphill, right as the day is heating up and the tarmac just bakes. There is a nice little section down to the bottom of the canyon and then 4-5 miles of relentless should-be-runnable-but-soul-sucking uphill with no air movement at all in the canyon. But this year I was ready to battle and was soaked to the bone before I left Eagle's Roost with ice in my hat and bandana and three bottles of fluid. I caught and passed three guys in this section, including Tommy. At this point, the legs really did seem fine!
Heading to Cloudburst (ph: Pam Everett)

Cloudburst (38M) lived up to it's name and dark grey clouds filled the sky and the wind began to gust. I was still getting wet from time to time and I used lots of ice in my bottles, but I didn't use any more ice in my hat, bandana, or clothes for the rest of the race. Quite a surprise given the weather forecast of 98 degrees and cloudless skies for the day! By this point, the rest of the women's field was over 45 minutes back and it seemed like the real race would be against the ghost of Angela and her CR pace, which I was now under by about ten minutes.

The whipping wind on my wet clothes almost made me a little chilly on the next downhill, but the weather wasn't the only thing out of the ordinary. About a mile and a half later, there was a man in jeans and a leather jacket spread eagle across the trail. Another well dressed man was directing me to go around him carefully. As I tip-toed around, I noticed dozens of pieces of shattered plastic, all pieces of a destroyed motorcycle. At first I had actually thought this was some sort of rescue simulation (the sprawled guy looked remarkably clean and he even lifted his head to look at me). But Hwy 2 is known for fast driving motorcycles on the curvy mountain road and this guy had obviously missed a turn and hurled over a small cliff. The well dressed guy told me Search and Rescue was already on their way, so I just continued on. However, serious kudos has to be given to David Villalobos, who left Cloudburst only 5 minutes before me. He was the first to come across this guy and without a second thought, he scrambled up the embankment to flag down crew and get help. That embankment was so steep he didn't feel comfortable going back down it, so he back tracked up the highway to rejoin the trail and continue on with his race while one of his crew (the well dressed guy) went down to help. When I asked him about it afterwards, David just shrugged and said, "It was good to let you get ahead because then I could stop worrying about when you were going to pass me."  David not only played hero, but went on to finish 7th overall with an impressive time of 21:59. Unfortunately, I heard the victim did not have the same good ending as David. Several later runners were stopped for a couple minutes while the guy was evacuated including 24:00:20 finisher, Billy Yang. Kudos to Billy, too - that guy deserves a sub-24 buckle!

Motorcycles may have been wrecked, but I was still chugging along. The sun popped out again climbing Mt. Hillyer, but I was moving so well, I finally told myself, I wasn't just doing fine; I was doing great! At Mt. Hillyer (Mile 49) I was so thirsty. I downed as much icy cold water as I could and some ginger ale, too. Oh so, good! Well for about two minutes, that is. 100 meters out of the aid station it all came back up and I was violently watering the lush purple poodle bushes in this area! Umm, maybe I am not great, but I am still fine! 

In 2010, I dropped at Mt. Hillyer and last year I paced a friend from mile 52 to the finish, so there were only three miles of this course that I had never seen before, and just guess where the only unmarked turn on the whole course was. Fortunately, there was a sign at the junction pointing to the Silver Moccasin Trail and I was pretty sure we stayed on that for a while. I passed a group of Asian women out for a hike, but when I asked them if they had seen runners, they just did a lot of nodding and smiling, clearly not understanding what I was asking. So it was actually a relief when Jorge Pacheco passed me a few minutes later, but the unmarked turn, getting passed and not eating left me a little grumpy coming into Chilao.

Mac ran with me for the next short section, and I guess I was still a little grumpy, because I kept getting annoyed everytime he would tell me to eat something. He is the perfect crew, because he is always trying to take care of me, but I really didn't want to be taken care of out on the trail. Our running group has a joke about how one's running is inversely related to how one's relationship is going, and I guess that applies to the short term, too, because I had a great split through here and picked up a few more minutes on the CR.

Meghan was ready to go at Short cut Saddle, down, down, down the five miles of dirt road. I was starting to feel the stiffness of 60 miles, but there were a few 7:30 miles in there! Halfway up the other side a cat-like animal darted into the brush in front of us, it's long tail swishing twice before completely disappearing.

"Whoa! Did you see that bobcat?" Meghan asked.
"Did you see that long tail? That wasn't a bobcat!" I answered back. Though the size was not very impressive, we agreed it must've been a juvenile cougar (Google corroborates no other long tailed wild cats in So. Cal). How cool is that, we saw a cougar!!

I still felt great all the way to the base of Chantry, passing an ailing Jorge back. But that 0.6 mile paved road to the top just sucked all the life out of me. I got to Chantry at 7:46pm, 28 minutes ahead of CR pace, but I felt completely spent and a bit overwhelmed by what lay ahead. But I was touched to see Mac's sister and uncle out there to cheer me on. Mac did what he does best, and once again took care of me and I ate quite a bit, including stealing Meghan's soup from right out of her hands. And then Mac gave the best pep talk ever: "Just decide how much pain your willing to endure for the course record and then go do it. You've got this. I know you can do it."

And with that we set off on the long climb to Mt. Wilson. At this point I let Meghan run ahead, and told her to make me run everything she thought I should. After the race I joked she was a slave driver, because she worked me so hard!! But it is everything I could've hoped for and exactly what I wanted and needed. She knew what the goal was and as a top competitive athlete herself, she knew not to let up on me, even when I was gasping, grunting, and moaning in pain. We talked little, and I just followed her lead, even it if just meant a few steps of running here and there. And I don't think she told me to eat even once!

The first two miles out of Chantry are quite gentle and we ran almost all of it, eking out the last bit of daylight, before turning on to the steep 4 miles to the top. Ugh! my legs were toast for this steep stuff and I knew I was struggling. But I was still moving! And then something even more unusual than motorcycle accidents and cougar sightings: it started to rain in August in Southern California! There was something refreshing about the rain.

On the final climb to Sam Merrill, I was dying. It all seemed so gentle, so runnable and yet I had to walk pretty much every step. And the aid station taunts you with its flickering lights that are visible for almost a mile before you actually get there. Again, I was so, so thirsty, but icy water just found me with my head in the garbage sack brining it all back up. The volunteers tried to offer everything (except soda- why is there no soda at this AS??) but I was ready to be done. 11 miles to go, but I had lost a few minutes to Angela.

The technical downhill section hurt, but then Meghan really put the hammer down on the downhill dirt and paved road. My quads were screaming, but I wasn't about to say anything. Frankly, I didn't have the energy to talk! I just did my best to try to stay with her. They were cheering loudly at the last aid station, but we weren't stopping. Meghan basically had the task of trying to squeeze water from a rock at this point as my energy was so low. My Garmin had died with 7 miles to go, so I was relying on her to keep us on pace and to keep track of distance.

"How much do we have left?" I whined.
"3.3 miles," she answered.
We ran in silence for what seemed like a long time.
"How much farther now?"
"2.9 miles," Meghan replied.
"Are you shitting me??!" How could we have only gone 0.4 miles! My toes hurt, my feet hurt, my hamstrings hurt and my quads and calves were just wrecked. Please just let this end! I started grunting and panting to "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" - anything to take my mind off of how slowly the distance was ticking down.

The last half mile is on the road. There is a small grade that even road marathoners wouldn't call a hill, but I needed a walk break! Finally, the park was in sight and we ran to the finish- 21:04:18, a 17 minute course record.

At some point in the night, Split Master AJW tweeted that I should be able to do Chantry to the finish (26 M) in 6 hours and break 21:00. But looking at the splits of the top runners this year, I think that was way too aggressive for the time I was running. Here are the top 7 runners finish times and final splits:
1. Ruperto Romero (19:28) - 5:33
2. Michele Graglia (20:25) - 6:02
3. Dominic Grossman (20:41) - 6:32
4. RandyVander Tuig (20:49) - 6:15
5. Christophe Sigel (20:55) - 6:14
6. Pam Smith (21:04) - 6:15
7. David Villalobos (21:59) - 6:40

So while it would've been sweet to break 21:00, I really don't think a sub-6 split was feasible for me and I know I absolutely had nothing more to give on that last section. I will point out that Angela ran the last 26 in 6:04. I can offer two explanations for why her final time was faster than mine.
1) Angela Shartel is a badass! Though she lost the CR, I think she deserves a huge amount of recognition for her CR last year. She basically re-wrote the women's standard for this course and shifted the focus from low- 22 to low-21 for what top women can do on this course. And she finished so strong. Not to mention she is a total class act, cheering for me on course and being one of the first to congratulate me at the finish.
2) I was really fricking tired! I did my best to recover after WS, but there was no denying a little bit of lingering fatigue from running 100 miles five weeks ago. Additionally, this type of terrain takes a lot more out of me because I don't have anything like this to train on. The biggest "mountain" I train on is McCulloch Peak at 2,100' and 1,500' of climb and those are gentle buffed out Oregon trails, not steep rocky stuff. My calves and quads were shot! So I think the women's CR could get lowered below 21:00 in the next couple of years, but I feel like I gave it my all and am very happy with my 21:04.

Rejoice for the chance to sit! Angela is not only a class act, but she is super brave. Do you see how dirty and sweaty my legs are and she is touching them without even flinching! (ph: Carl Siechert)
At the finish, several family members came out to see me (I grew up in So. Cal and still have family there), but I wasn't much for socializing. I just wanted a chair and please, somebody bring me some ice water. Uh oh, I should've known better on that! All I wanted to do was sit, but I finally agreed to have my picture taken by Larry Gassan. He said he would do another one with my crew, if I wanted, but I was too tired to keep standing. I made my way over to a park bench, where I promptly hurled. Then I laid on the bench like a homeless person (only stinkier!) for the next 20 minutes or so while Meghan chowed a hamburger and Mac chatted with family.



At the award ceremony the next day, I got a special belt buckle for breaking the course record, with a scripted word in 14k gold at the top.
"See, it says 'Record'", I showed Mac.
"Umm, No. It says 'Rejoice'", he laughed at me.
"They all say 'Rejoice'", Katie DeSplinter pointed out, "Yours just says it in gold."




Rejoice?!?? Who wants a belt buckle that says 'Rejoice'??!?, I thought at first. But then I realized maybe that is the perfect thing for the belt buckle to say. Because in running this race I had plenty of things to rejoice: a great day in the mountains, a win, a course record, the support of friends and family,  redemption for a DNF, the preciousness of getting out and living when a motorcycle accident reminds you how fragile life is, a cougar sighting, and even my intuition being right. Thank you, Angeles Crest, for all of those things. For that I rejoice.

Rejoicing with RD's Ken Hamada and Hal Winton (ph: Pam E.)



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Western States 2014: One Great Big Fake Orgasm

For the past ten days I have been digesting. Digesting everything in this year's Western States experience. Oh, and also digesting just about everything in our pantry - man have I been hungry!!

I don't expect a whole lot of sympathy for a 19:10 4th place finish at Western States, but after running an 18:37 in a lot higher temps, I think it is fair to say my race didn't go as I had hoped. I openly stated that my goal was 18:11. It may have been aggressive to aim for a time that would be the 5th fastest women's time on the course, but I am not one to set "soft" goals or say things like "I just want to finish" when everyone knows that is a load of crap. I am not afraid to set goals that I may not attain, yet, at the same time, I really felt I had that time in me. Last year's run felt very conservative both in the beginning and at the end and the cooler temps should've made a big difference. And I was fitter, stronger, and leaner for this year's race.

But things were off from the get go. Last year, I felt like I floated up to the escarpment. This year, it seemed like I was working too hard from the beginning. My legs just didn't have the usual ready-to-go feeling after coming off a big taper. In the high country, I had the pleasure of running with Kaci and Larissa, but I wasn't comfortable. That's big trouble to be uncomfortable less than ten miles in to a 100 mile run! I knew I had to run my own race and backed off a bit to let Kaci and Larissa get ahead, but when I got to Duncan Canyon (mile 24) in 4:12, I was not a happy camper! Even when I took 29 hours to finish WS, I got there in 4:09. Last year, I was there in 4:09 and I felt like I was out for a walk in the park.

"I am running 20 hour pace!" I whined to my crew. Fortunately, Dennis is Mr. Optimism and he was like, "three minutes, big deal, you can make that up, sunshine, rainbows, flying pink ponies." Fortunately, my head was SO on task and I ticked off everything I needed at the aid station- chug a soda, new bottles, hand held with ice, sunscreen, sunglasses, Vaseline, Chapstick and a few sponges of water on the neck- and I was out of there pronto.

I love, love, love Duncan Canyon, the climb to Robinson Flat and Little Bald Mountain. Along with Volcano Canyon, this is my favorite part of the course. I had a strong split here last year, and ran the exact same time this year and was still only three minutes off last year's time. My legs still felt weak on the climbing, but I seemed to be chugging along ok. Hmmm, maybe this wasn't too bad after all. Again, I felt calmer than ever at the AS and got everything taken care of according to game plan. I chugged up Little Bald Mountain, but then my legs were just hurting on the downhills and the flat roads were pathetic. My gait was stiff, my legs were sore, and still I was breathing so dang hard even on the downhills. Tropical John Medinger was about a half mile out of Dusty Corners, but I was so embarrassed by how I was running that I don't even think I looked at him. And when I saw my crew, the tears just started.
Robinson Flat - looking better than I feel (ph: Ally Speirs)
But even through the tears I never really gave in to the pity party and I never had any thoughts except how to fix this. "I need a soda, two Endurolytes and a Naproxen." I don't take a lot of salt tablets (zero at WS last year) and I know NSAID's are risky, but I also know that I needed to do something. And it seemed to work; by the time I hit the Pucker Point trail I was feeling much better. During a better stretch, I cruised up on Emily Harrison. She said her legs hurt and she was just done. I told her my legs felt like shit from mile 16 to 38 but I was doing better now and her situation could turn, too. But while I was feeling good, I decided to mosey!

At Last Chance I got a nice "car wash" from the awesome volunteers before heading off to the canyons. Craig Thornley was there and again, I was ashamed that I wasn't running up to expectations. But I seemed to be doing ok on the downhills and decided to push through the canyons. I know I still wanted to make up time. Crossing the North fork of the American River was awesome! I am not sure I want Swinging Bridge repaired after that! I felt refreshed and ready for the climb. Even on my best days, the climb to Devil's Thumb is a hike. I seemed to be moving ok, but again, I just felt so tired and I was breathing so hard. Joe Uhan was at the top offering sage advice and race updates. It was good to see a friendly face, because I needed all the perking up I could get.

Last chance "car wash" with a very excited Craig Thornley. ;) (ph. Allen Lucas)
Again, the downhill to Deadwood felt good and I pushed a bit harder. 18:11 was out the window, but maybe I could sneak under last year's time?? On the way down, I passed Kaci and she looked terrible! I tried to offer her salt, gels, even an asthma inhaler but she just kept telling me to go. I am so impressed with her for sticking with it and finishing a strong 6th place!
Me at Michigan Bluff: "My uphill legs are shit!"
Ken (Denise Bourassa's awesome S/O): No problem, there's only downhill left.
Me: I think my downhill legs are shit, too!
The hike to Michigan Bluff sucked. My legs felt so weak and they were starting to ache again. On the logging roads after Michigan Bluff, I walked more than twice as much as what I walked last year, but I still managed to catch up with Natalie Mauclair when we hit the downhill. I didn't think she looked very good, but she was right behind me when I took a dip in Volcano Canyon. And despite running nearly every step out of the canyon and every step of Bath Road, she came into Forest Hill right behind me and left before me.
Kisses from the kids at Forest Hill (ph:April Smith)
I stayed right behind her for the next three miles, but it was too much. I had to let her go. My chugger pace was all I could do if I wanted to make it to the finish. By the river, we were 50 minutes up on Nikki and Kaci and I knew I wouldn't be giving chase for a podium spot. It looked like my F4 was petty well sealed up. I still feel like I gave my best effort, but my legs just weren't there and by this point even the downhills were painful. The miles actually went by fairly quickly, but I was losing all kinds of time. A slow, painful shuffle was all I could muster. I was sure my quads were shot. And yet, at the finish I had a burst of energy. I actually had the fastest women's time from Robie to the finish, so somewhere, deep down, the legs had some spark.
Leaving Green Gate. I dropped my pacer! Ok, he is just at the AS still. (ph. Rob Goyen)
Finishing was bittersweet. It was great to have my family there and to run around the track again with Megan, but it wasn't what I had hoped for. The funny thing is, I was totally prepared to not win. I know less than half of the WS winners ever repeat and the repeat stats are even worse on the women's side. I feel completely honored and still amazed that I even won once, and I know there is a very short list of people with their names on the Robie Cup. But I wasn't prepared to not run at my best. That was a very hard pill to swallow. In fact it has taken me almost the entirety of the past nine days. I spent the first week pissed and really angry at myself. The only explanation I could come up with was that I went in tired. I felt like a rock star all through Beacon Rock, but the week after that race I was sore and the taper never brought back the pep. Did I blow my WS chasing a CR at a silly 25k?? Three weeks out seemed like plenty of time to recover, but based on how things went, I guess racing on tired legs was just too much. The thought made me so angry at myself. And then my CPK came back at a measly 3,900. My quads weren't shot; was I really just being a big wimp?? Arrgh!

It's blurry, but if you look carefully, both feet are off the ground in my finishing "kick". ;) (ph. Rob Goyen)
But I am slowly letting it go and looking at the positive. I told my pacer Dennis that this year, I wanted to leave everything out on the course, no taking it easy the last 20 miles. I had pain in my chest the last 20 miles and I kept on running. I was pretty sure it was heart burn, but I was working so hard, a little piece of me actually wondered if I was having a heart attack! No heart attack, but after the race, I puked a stomach full of partially digested blood twice. It wasn't the time I wanted, but I am certain I gave everything I had on that particular day. Heck, the effort felt like a 100 mile tempo run! I am also pretty impressed that I ran that fast given how bad I felt all day and just how off my climbing was, which is normally my strong suit. I think I ran the downs to the canyons better than last year, and that makes me feel good. I think the game plan and strategy from last year is what kept me going as well as I did. And my head was rock solid and in the game the whole time. It wasn't the run I wanted, but at the same time, I don't feel like last year was a "fluke"; I feel like I know how I need to run this race. Despite being an hour off my goal time, I am actually more confident that I have that time in me somewhere. I only hope I can find it in the future.
****

One mile into the race, I saw Gary Gellin just up ahead of me. We had done a bit of trash talking before the race and I thought I would say hi. He greeted me back and added, "Are you practicing your fake orgasm or something? You are breathing way too hard this early in the race!" I backed off a bit because he was right; I was working hard from mile one of the race. At the time I thought his comment was just a funny joke, but now it seems like a metaphor for the whole race: I went through all the right motions, I was hot, sweaty and breathing hard, but in the end I didn't get what I was looking for and I left completely unsatisfied.

I told at least three dozen people that I was going to take next year off from Western States, "no matter what." It turns out I was prepared to lose, but not to have a bad race and I am not ready to go out on a bad note. I'll be back at WS next year for another shot, wearing my F4 proudly. And after that, I'll take a year off Western States, no matter what...maybe. ;)

Thank you, Mac and Dennis for being my super team. Thanks Mom and Dad for watching the kids and coming out to the race with them (BTW we'll be visiting the last week of June again next year). And thank you to La Sportiva, Ultimate Direction and Injinji for you support.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

M.I.A.

I've sort of been missing in action in the blog-world as of late - action being the key word! Man, has it been a busy month! But it is taper time now, so I got to sleep in till 5:15 this week!! It may sound early, but it is an hour later than most days.

Of course the last month has been filled with lots of training, but the real shock to the schedule was the kids baseball and softball. These sports have about three fold the time commitment of soccer, plus this is the first time we have had two kids playing, and Mac was a coach for Liam's team. It was a real shock to the family schedule! But it was fun watching them play and both kids improved a lot. We also managed to get in a trip to the Channel Islands National Park to celebrate my dad's 70th over Memorial Day weekend.
Play Ball!

Grandpa turns 70 on Santa Cruz Island with Megan and cousins Luke and Brooke

I don't usually do "training log posts" but my last peak week gives an idea of what life was like for training. And maybe you'll understand why I haven't been blogging! Also, because people often ask me how I balance work, family, and running. Balance??? That sounds so calm and pleasant! It's more like juggling chainsaws! Basically, just make sure your don't mishandle one so badly that you cut off your hand, otherwise, I figure whatever technique gets you by is just fine. Instant macaroni and late night runs on the treadmill may not be glamorous but they get the job done!

Week of June 1 - June 8: Last Peak Week for Western States

Monday - 5 am: Track (12.5M). 4x1200m (4:26, 4:21, 4:18, 4:21); 2400m tempo (9:19); 4x200 (0:40). My first interval is always my slowest, no matter what we do. I am an ultra-runner: slow to warm up! 4:18 is faster than I did any 1200's last year, but I was upset I couldn't hold it. 40 second 200's are pretty much the slowest 200's I have ever done, but I was coming off a little calf tweak from the week before and didn't want to push it.

4:00 pm - gym: SQUATS!! Back squats working up to 7 x 95#; 30 kettle bell swings; 45 thrusters at 45#, plus some mobility, hip stretches and the "lizard lunge".

5:00 pm - Home in time to pickup Megan for her softball game. Mac took Liam to music and they both came to the game after. Home at 8:15. Scramble to get everyone in bed including myself!

Tuesday - 4:30am start; easy 16 miles

pm - No kids activities! Easy 3.5 miles on the TM after kids in bed

Wednesday - 5am: Downhills on Crestview Road (0.5M @10% grade); 4 repeats of hammer the down and hike back up, with an extended cool down to 13M

pm- gym: Deadlifts!: working up to 8x155#; then alternating 10 deadlifts@105# with 10 lunges (45#); some stretching and a little upper body work (don't worry - I am still a T-rex!) Home by 5:30 so Liam and Coach Mac could get to baseball practice and I could stay home with Megan.
Did some prowler pushes, too! These are great for the hammies!


Thursday: (25M) My day off work (yeah, I work, too! But I am fortunate to only work 4 days a week with Thursdays off most weeks). Left home at 5:00 am to drive down to McDonald Forest. Met one friend for 7 miles, and to another trailhead to meet another friend for a ten mile loop and then headed back the direct way to my car. My Garmin said 24.92 miles when I got there, so of course I ran up the road for 0.08 miles just to make it read an even 25.00. Yes, I know it is stupid, but I can't help myself! Easy pace with some good climbing. 4:22

pm- take Megan to practice; watch Liam's game, pick Megan up, see the end of Liam's game and once again scramble to get everyone to bed!

Friday: 5:30 am: 10M with 20 minutes of tempo (3.2M); first day of heat training: 30 minutes sauna and People magazine! I mean, I couldn't miss Kanye and Kim's wedding coverage now, could I?? (I swear I only read this stuff when I am heat training!).

pm- Mac took Megan to music; Liam and I goofed around the house.

Saturday: Now this day was crazy! 6am: 15 miles easy. My goal was 8:15 pace or slower as I knew I needed an easy day. We slipped a little with an average of 8:07, but overall a good recovery day.

Home by 9 am - shower; pack up kids
9:30 - Leave to kids piano recital
11:15 - Tear out of the piano recital before the clapping ends to get Megan to 11:30 warm up for her 12:00 game. The regular score keeper didn't show up, so I got to pay extra close attention to this one while I kept the books. Mac and Liam left early to get to Liam's game.
2:30 - leave game, take Megan to ropes course party. Deal with a melt down because Mac didn't pack any tennis shoes for Megan and she had to wear her cleats to the party.
3:00 - Watch Liam's last game of the season (got there at the top of the third)
5:00 - The whole family celebrates Megan's softball season at the team picnic
7:30 - we arrive home looking like zombies!

Sunday: Up at 4:00a, off to Dennis and Sharon's at 4:30a and then off to the Beacon Rock 25k. 25k sounded like the perfect distance to race for a little tune-up three weeks out. With 3,700' of gain, it offered a few nice climbs and descents. With 95+ miles on the legs already for the week, I knew I'd be tired going into this one, but I still had my sights set on Amy Sproston's course record of 2:36, as I figured she probably didn't race this one all out either. I could feel the fatigue on the opening 4 mile climb, but could push through and hang with several of the lead boys (full disclosure: many were running the 50k). "Just like Bath Road," I kept telling myself. Of course, I got left in the dust on the downhill trail section, but caught a few back when the downhill hit forest road. I can do downhill, just not technical downhill; it makes me go into pansy mode. I don't like it, but I also don't like feeling like I am about to fall on my face! I should've studied the course map a bit more because I was so confused as to where I was and how we would get back to the aid station on the middle loop! Thankfully, James Varner does a great job of marking his courses, so I was only lost in my head. I got back to the aid station with 11.5 miles on my Garmin and 1:55 run time, but they said it was still 5 miles back to the start. I knew it was mostly downhill, but I was going to have to push it to get under 2:36. I gunned it down the road hard for about a mile when I caught another runner. He let me know it was only 4 miles to the finish from the aid station, so it looked like I'd get the record. But, hey, didn't I come for the quad pounding? So I kept my foot on the gas till the end for a 2:25:13 CR and 7th overall. The great after party, sunshine, and pizzas were calling my name, so my cool down consisted of changing my clothes and flopping on the grass.

Race start! I'm on the left right next to William Emerson.

Up on the clouds and we aren't even to the top yet!

Post race sunshine!

I had planned to hit the afternoon yoga class after I got home to stretch everything out, but Mac texted right as I was getting in to Salem that he and the kids were at the Rogue Valley Brewery and did I want to join them. Umm, yeah, that definitely sounded better than yoga! I did get in a little snail's pace three miler on the treadmill that night just to get the legs moving and get the junk out, before hitting the pillow hard.

All said and done, I had 114.5 miles for my biggest week ever (and one of the most stressful!). Definitely, good for the confidence and definitely good that softball, baseball, and music are over!

These past weeks mileage was way down and the gym sessions were replaced by lots of sauna time. Plus, I copied what I consider to be one on my most important workouts from last year: The skip-your-Sunday-run-and-take-a-three-hour-nap-instead workout! Trust me, it's a good one, and when I do it, I know I need it. Sometimes a day off is better than slogging through a run just to put a number in the log book. Knowing when to back off is just as important as knowing when to push a little harder and I think giving in to a nap every now and then instead of a run has helped keep me pretty healthy through all the hard training the last few years.

May is in the rearview, and with mid-June comes the onset of the Western States hype and loads of speculation. I have no idea how the day will unfold. To be honest, my track record doesn't really make me a good one to bet on: I've had two mediocre races, on abysmal race and one out of this world race at Western States. I think of myself as a consistent runner, but I have been anything but consistent at this race! That being said, I feel ready and I know I have a great race plan to rely on. Cool temps definitely favor the speedsters, so I am once again hoping for a scorcher! Hmmm, better go check weather.com and accuweather again, because I haven't done that in the last 30 minutes!

See you in Squaw! Can't wait to see how the day unfolds.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Titus van Rijn - Salem, OR Edition 2014

(Thought I'd post my Titus van Rijn race report here. The event is a self-directed one hour track time trial and like all timed races the goal is to see how far you can get. This is my 5th year since 2009 and I've improved my score every year except for 2011, when I ran nine days after Miwok. I don't ever taper or rest for this, but just incorporate into my training. Over the years, the event has been a nice little test of fitness and a great workout all wrapped into one. Unfortunately, I didn't do it last year, so I can't compare this year to last, which would have been kind of fun. Anyway, here is my report and the results from the Salem contingent. For a bunch of old folks (excluding Josh and James) running around a track at 5 am on Monday morning, I think we did pretty good! There are five days left to compete for anyone who is interested!)


Salem, OR sits smack between two of the most venerable Track and Field sites in the US, with “Track Town USA” Eugene, and the hallowed Hayward Field, about 50 miles to the south and Portland, with its fabled Nike campus and the Project Oregon team, about 50 miles to the north. Salem has almost no track claim to fame, with the exception of Nick Symmonds, a Willamette University graduate. But there are a few dedicated runners who are doing their best to bring track glory to Salem, at least in the small and obscure world of the Titus van Rijn One Hour Distance Classic.

Last year Salem did not participate because our group could not find a mutually agreeable date. Things hadn’t changed much in a year: two people were gearing toward a marathon, another wanted to fit it around a 50k; there were a few vacations and other life events. Basically there was no good week that suited everyone. It was decided that interested runners could turn our usual Monday morning track session into their 1 hour time trial, so Salem’s event actually took place over three different weeks. At the conclusion of the final day, black cherry soda was awarded to all. We also upped the ante by providing “incentive beverages” (ie. beer) for those exceeding the 9.5 and 10 mile marks. I had a personal TVR best, but I missed my free beer by 21 meters. I maintain that if the incentive had been free cheesecake, I would have made it. ;) Maybe next year! -Pam


Salem, OR - South Salem High School Track, May 5 - June 2
Dan Meireis, 56 - 15450m
Brian Villarette, 39 - 13599m
Pam Smith (F), 39 - 15279m
Don Gallogly, 46 - 16675m
Josh Zielinski, 31- 16481m
Mike Tyler, 47 - 16000
Angie Smith (F), 41 - 13975m
James Dunning, 32 - 13300m

Thursday, May 8, 2014

10 Rules For Relationships With Fast Women

Last week Mac and I were featured on a popular finance blog about "Breadwinning Women" and how the situation works for us. While the traditional stereotype has the male partner earning more, in today's world approximately 25% of women earn more than their spouses. Like in finances, the athletic stereotype is that men are faster than women, too.

A few years back, Mac and I sat with Ian Sharman while enjoying burgers after the finish of the Waldo 100k. Ian asked Mac if he was a runner and Mac said yes, but emphasized that he was just a mid-packer. Ian said, "You've got to be pretty fast to keep up with your wife." It was all friendly banter, but Ian looked a little surprised when Mac told him that he doesn't even run as fast as me on my easy days.

I don't have any statistics, but I know we are not alone: there are plenty of relationships out there with "fast women": ladies who routinely outpace their male counterparts. So here are my "Rules for Relationships With Fast Women," but it can certainly go the other way, too, or apply to just a good friend.

1) Face the Facts: While the average men's times are faster than the average women's times, there is a lot of overlap in those two distribution curves. Women's world record times for most distances are only about 10% slower than the men's world records.  (Ian has good reason to know how much faster men are than women; he wrote a great blog entry about it.) So, as a guy, unless you are consistently running within 10% of the world record times, there are women out there faster than you. The farther off the men's world records you are, the more women there are capable of "chicking" you and the greater your odds are of dating one of them!

2) Stress Personal Accomplishment: Everyone has their challenges and obstacles to overcome. Running a sub-four hour marathon may be as significant to one person as running a sub-three hour marathon is to another person. For others, just being able to run a 5k is a big deal. Each runner has challenges unique to them, so focus on your own personal accomplishments rather than how you compare to others.

3) Level the Playing Field: If you do want to be competitive with someone you know you can't race head to head, find ways to level the playing field. A few years back, Mac and I both ran the Autumn Leaves 50k with the course consisting of five 6.25 miles loops. So we had a friendly spousal bet: Could I lap Mac or could he make it through the 40km mark before I finished. It allowed for some fun trash-talking and ended up being remarkably close (I passed him with less than a kilometer to spare). Another couple I know had a bet to see who could set a marathon PR by the greatest amount of time. Two friends I know give time handicaps for certain races. There are many ways to come up with fun competitions that don't just involve running the fastest time.

4) Do workouts at the same time, but run different paces: Every Wednesday, our local running store hosts a tempo or fartlek workout based on a certain number of minutes. Everyone runs at different paces, but we all start and finish at the same time and are able to warm up and cool down together. Everyone gets a good workout, but everyone can run at a pace that is comfortable to them.

5) Use your faster friend/S.O. to get better: Alan Abs (husband of Beverly Anderson-Abs) used to joke that his New Year's resolution was to "Be a wife beater." Having someone around you who is faster can be very motivating, whether that means making you train more to get better or training with that person to make your workouts a little harder. You can also take a look at how the faster person is training and use some of those strategies yourself.

6) Enjoy Non-competitive Running Events Together: You can jog together on easy days or better yet, head out on a running adventure. Mac and I have done several long runs, such as last year's Mt. St. Helen's circumnavigation, where there was no emphasis on speed, but rather just being out in the wilderness, seeing new places, and having a good time.

7) Be part of the crew: Ultra-running takes a team! You can get very involved and be part of the team by being part of the crew. And that way you can share the accomplishments, too.

8) Be proud: If you love someone, obviously you want them to do well. If your spouse is kicking butt (including yours), be proud!

9) Don't get sucked into the "Why is (s)he faster trap?": Admit it - at some point you have wondered why somebody older, fatter, less experienced, or less trained beat you in a race? People have different genes, different training, different strengths - and sometimes they are a lot faster than they look!

10) Never Fake It!: I am talking about speed, of course! Don't ever fake your running talents or throw a race, thinking that it is somehow good for your relationship.

Bonus- Mac's rules:  I asked Mac if he had any tips for dealing with a faster spouse. His tip: "Enjoy the view," and then he jokingly added, "and maybe don't hang out with Ian Sharman!" :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

"Dreamy" Hal Koerner

Maybe I shouldn’t run right before going to bed. Running already consumes my mind for a large number of my waking hours, but last night, running related subjects made their way into my sub-conscious as well. It’s a pretty funny dream, so I thought I’d share. As a little background, for the last two years, I have served as a mentor at Team Red White and Blue’s Camp Eagle trail running camp in Texas in November (veterans and civilians are both welcome - you should check it out!) and last year Mac came along to volunteer, too. Liza Howard serves as the event's main organizer, and she does a wonderful job packing the days full of great running related activities and making sure everything runs smoothly.

Ok, cue the wavy TV screen that indicates we have stepped out of reality (I am pretty sure things in dreamland would be in purple type) :

It was the beginning of camp and Liza was introducing the different groups to their trail running mentors for the week. As each person was introduced, their new group would clap for them and they would go join their team.

And then Liza introduced Hal Koerner and said which group he would be with and the group went wild, hooting and hollering and just cheering like crazy. Hal had his usual big grin and kitty-wampus hat and was giving his group fist bumps, when Liza next announced me and Mac and pointed to the last group. And the room was dead silent. There was no cheering or even polite clapping and the group looked forlorn. Mac and I asked what was wrong and one lady quietly offered, “We were really hoping we were going to get Hal.”


Then Liza announced the first activity: a trivia contest with a great prize for the winning team. I got really excited and told my team I was great at trivia, and that they were going to be really glad they had me.

A picture of an animal came up on a large screen and the first question was to identify the animal. Whoever wrote down their answer first won the round. I immediately started scribbling “Siberian Tiger” on my card. Though Hal is known for his cougar collection, he was able to identify this large cat and got his sign reading “TIGER” in the air much faster than me. I tried to complain that his answer wasn’t specific enough, but the judges all agreed “tiger” was acceptable, and Hal was awarded the point.
My son can identify all 17 species of penguins, so you better believe that I am going to sub-speciate my tigers, even in my sleep. Did I also mention we are kind of a nerdy family??
The last thing I remember from my dream is somebody on my team mumbling, “They are so lucky they got Hal.”
Sure, everybody wants to be on Team Hal! (Image steal from Sarah Lavender Smith)
(End of dream sequence; ie. end of purple ink)

Rough dream crowd! Any dream psycho-analysts out there? :)