Friday, July 13, 2018

Cascade Super Marathon

When I sent an email to my coach (David Roche) at the end of May saying: 1. that I wanted to add a marathon to my summer race plans 2. said marathon was taking place in one month and 3. I wanted it to be my fastest marathon ever; I'm pretty sure his initial reaction must have been "ARE YOU CRAZY?!? (He probably would have inserted an F bomb in there too because he's very expressive that way.)

Fortunately, David is a wise man and probably realized that I was foolish enough to attempt it with or without his blessing so he'd better get on board and try to minimize the damage that I might inflict on myself; thus, undoing all the careful and cautious post-injury running babysteps we've taken together over the past year and a half.

His one caveat to agreeing to this last minute marathon was that I would scrap my plan to do the Fragrance Lake Half Marathon three weeks before it. To which I relied, "um, nope, I think I'll still do that one too." (Race report here.) Good lord, who knew I was so difficult?? (Lord to Stacey: EVERYONE knew! Your husband, parents, brother, friends, colleagues, neighbours, even the freakin' mailman had his suspicions and he's only been on the job a week.)

So long story short, I did the marathon and it was AWESOME! I won't bore you with all the details of what I ate the night before or how many trips I took to the porta potty race morning, but I will say that I had as perfect a race as I could have hoped for.

Nearing the turnaround at mile 2.5.

Being an old rail bed, the mostly downhill course was fast and slightly more forgiving than asphalt as the surface was comprised of dirt and gravel. There was a very cool 2.4 mile tunnel that we ran through requiring flashlights because it was so dark inside. Race day temperatures where mild and calm and, thanks to all the aid stations, I didn't have to carry anything for hydration, which was nice for a change.

One of several trestle bridges we crossed.

Like I said, it was a good day. The race was well organized and everything went smoothly, yet I still missed my long sought after goal of a sub-3 hour marathon by four minutes and 57 seconds. Sigh...I guess that means I'm going to have to do another one of these damn things!? (Full results here.) Instead of dwelling on what I didn't achieve, I'm going to celebrate the fact that I won the women's race and got a marathon personal best time by over two minutes. That, my friends, deserves a woo hoo! And also a round (or two) of beers. ;)

I have no plans to go to Boston, but it's nice to have qualified!

There's a very good chance this won't be my last Cascade Super Marathon. I would definitely consider returning for another sub-3 hour attempt. But next time I'll give myself more than a month to train for it. (You're welcome, coach!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Fragrance Lake Half Marathon

If I'm drinking beer at 11am on a Saturday, it's either been a really good or a really bad day. This time, fortunately, it was the former. I'd only decided to do the Fragrance Lake Half Marathon about a week in advance and wasn't specifically trained or tapered for it, but like most of my races this year, I just wanted to run fun trails, visit new places and meet cool people, and I succeeded. 

I love the trail running community and am continually impressed with the amazing people that I meet. This weekend, I had the pleasure of sharing a few miles and laughs with my SWAP teammate, Nikki, right from the start which put me in a really good mood and filled me with positive energy. 

Me and Nikki cruising along the Interurban trail
I had run parts of the Fragrance Lake course before when I raced Chuckanut 50km and the Bellingham Trail Marathon so I had an idea what to expect. With over 3,300 feet of vertical, it's definitely not an easy race, but I knew I'd be okay on the climb (always my favourite part), could handle the quad-pounding descent if the footing wasn't too tricky (it wasn't) and then I'd just have to try not to die on the technical ridge trail (slick from heavy rainfall the day prior...ugh). 

Although, I didn't exactly enjoy the ridge trail, I did survive it with no blood shed or bones broken so that's something. I know I lost a fair bit of time along that section (exacerbated by an emergent yet still annoying "pit stop"!?) so I expected someone to overtake me, but no one did. Whew!

Love the up!
Once Nikki and I split up at the start of the climb, I ran almost entirely alone. The second place man was within sight for most of the first half but then I caught him near the top of the climb. He later passed me in the final kilometre which burns me a bit because I thought I was doing pretty well on the downhill. I guess I'm going to have to work on my finishing kick!  

After the race, I had a nice chat with Maria Dalzot who was the OVERALL winner and holds the women's course record. I'm totally okay with coming in second to an elite runner like Maria! It's also pretty awesome to see four women in the top 10. 

Full results here

Top 3 ladies - speedy and colourful :)
Thanks to Tad Davis for the photos and to Destination Trail for putting on this fantastic race!

And, as always, my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to my husband Dave and coach David for their roles in getting me to the starting line of every race happy and healthy. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

9 Months, 8 Races Later

I'm back! Now before I start making excuses for essentially abandoning this blog, I'd like to say this...I love running again! It's true. For awhile (hmm, like most of 2014-2016) I didn't, which really sucked because running has always been my thing, my go-to happy place. Except when it wasn't. Those times when my hamstring throbbed after every run and my stomach revolted during every race just left me feeling sad, frustrated and empty.

But I kept on running (and occasionally racing) partly out of habit but mostly because I thought I could force happiness. It didn't work - shocking, I know! However, things have finally turned around. My hamstring is nearly back to normal and I am getting some speed back in these old legs thanks to Coach David. (I never expected to be posting some of my fastest times at almost 40!!?)

I've done eight races since my last blog entry and as I have neither the memory nor patience to write that many recaps, I'm going to be lazy and simply add a few pics and words about some of them.

Sun Mountain 25km
I think my face says it all: I love this race! This photo was taken just past the halfway point of one of my all-time favourite trail running events. Put on by Race Director extraordinaire James Varner of Rainshadow Running, the Sun Mountain 50km was my first ever ultra (and blog post!) and will forever hold a special place in my heart. I have been to this race four times now, having also run the 50-mile and 100km distances, and always had a blast. I thrive on these trails and this course has been kind to me. This year, I was second woman and sixth overall. So much fun!
Photo credit: Glenn Tachiyama Photography
Leona Divide 50km
My first big race of 2018 and the kick-off to our California road trip. I lucked out with great weather and a beautiful course, consisting mostly of the Pacific Crest Trail. My favourite takeaway from Leona Divide is running almost 40 kilometres with this amazing gal. Not only an incredibly talented runner, but also an absolute sweetheart and it was wonderful to share the trails with her. We were both aiming for a sub-5 hour finish and decided to work together to make it happen. Even if my stomach hadn't started turning during the final 5 miles of the race forcing me to drop back, I would still have been rooting for Emma to take the win. She's just that nice. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to catch the 1st place lady but finished strong in 2nd and I was about 5 minutes behind her in 3rd. (Three ladies in the top 10 - woo hoo!!) We both easily broke 5 hours and made the list of top 10 fastest times ever.

Photo credit: Rudy (Emma's man)
Interior Running Association (IRA) Races
I'm pretty sure at some point I said (with a sneer) there's no way I'd ever go back to road racing. Well, never say never. I've done two IRA road races this year (the Oliver 10km and Blossom 10-miler) and enjoyed them way more than I was expecting. Shifting focus from 50-plus mile events to mostly 25- and 50-kilometre races means racing shorter distances more often and at a faster pace. I find both of those things kind of scary, but that's probably why it's good for me to do them. It's also nice to occasionally be social (as an introvert I struggle with this) and to support the local running community. Plus, there are good prizes like wine!
Photo credit: Vlad Zamecnik
Dirty Feet 20km Tunnel Run
This is always a fun end-of-year race to do. Phil and Grace Hiom of Dirty Feet have it dialed in terms of putting on a well organized and attended event with a fun, low-key vibe. I've done this race at least three times and what makes this one memorable is that I decided to run to and from the race, almost doubling the distance. My intent wasn't to be heroic. Quite the opposite actually. As you can see from the photo below, conditions were not ideal and since I hate winter driving, I decided it would be safer to run to the race.
Photo credit: Phil Hiom
Frosty Mountain 27km
I don't know why I didn't do a write-up for this one - it was my best race of the year! Maybe that's why. I think bad races are easier to write about because inevitably something funny and/or embarrassing happens that you're going to want to share with a bunch of random strangers on the Internet. Good races are just plain boring. On this occasion, though, I'll take boring.

A former coach used to encourage me to "go Kamikaze" in races, but it's just not in my DNA to go all out. My self-preservation instincts are too strong. I've probably done more than 100 races over the past two decades and can recall exactly three times when this crazy competitive drive kicked in and it was both terrifying and exhilarating. Anyway, Frosty was one of those times when I decided to go for it. I had a perfect race, winning outright and setting a new women's course record. (My father-in-law is still in disbelief that I, a girl, could beat ALL the boys. Every time he brings it up, it makes me smile.)

Photo credit: Daryl Spencer
Mighty Quail 100km
Frosty might have been my best race of 2017, but the Mighty Quail 100km was by far my favourite. I didn't run it, but instead helped organize it, along with Dave and our friends Andrew and Magda. It was probably one of the most stressful and satisfying things I've ever been involved with and I am so proud of what we created. Find out more at:

Photo credit: Aaron Barry Photography

Since the theme of this post seems to be love, friendship and gratitude, I'm going to wrap things up by thanking my husband Dave for his support through all my racing highs and lows. I think my struggles with running and injuries have often been harder on him as I have a selective memory and forget the really bad times. I'm pretty sure all he wants is for me to retire from racing and yet he knows how happy it makes me when things are going well so he's willing to stay up late scrolling through event calendars with me and planning all our holidays around my race schedule. What a guy!

I'm also grateful for my wonderful friends who put up with me even though I often can't do anything with them because I'm going for a run, recovering from a run or going to bed early because I have to run in the morning. And they refrain from making piggy noises when I eat twice as much as everyone else at the table!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Waldo 100k Race Report

Where's Waldo? Well, he's not hanging out in my GI tract because I emptied it on the course and didn't find him there. I didn't realize that when I added the Waldo 100k to my bucket list of races, that I would literally need a bucket during the race for all the puking I'd do, but perhaps that was short-sighted of me. Based on previous long-distance race experience, a bucket should be on my mandatory gear list. When will I learn??!

I can make light of it now because I fully get that in the grand scheme of things, having a shitty race doesn't matter, like, at all. Still, I'm disappointed. My training for Waldo went really well and I'm healthy and uninjured for the first time in years so I was expecting good things. Maybe even great things if I'm being completely honest.

Since joining the SWAP (Some Work, All Play) training group in February and working with coach David Roche, I've been logging some of the biggest mileage weeks I've ever done and instead of getting sick or worn down like I have in the past with larger training loads, I'm feeling strong, fit and happy and that in itself is a huge accomplishment.

Earlier in the year, I made the conscious decision to race less with the hope that I would enjoy racing more. I only did one 50k event (Slay the Dragon) leading up to Waldo and I can see now that that was probably a mistake. While my stomach held for 50k at Slay the Dragon, it was starting to go off by the end of the race which is about the same point things went sideways at Waldo.

And I think I took for granted that I didn't have any nutrition issues on my long training runs. But then again, I never do! It seems there's something about racing that triggers a seriously leaky gut and I have yet to find a solution for it. The other possibility is that I've developed a psychosomatic aversion to racing that manifests itself in severe and prolonged vomiting episodes in events over 50k. Either way, it blows...chunks - ha, ha.

Race week was dreamy. I slept well, ate well and even gave up beer (mostly). I couldn't have asked for a better lead up to a big race. I was so excited to run this one. Having seen a lot of the course beforehand, I knew it was totally up my alley - non-technical, cruise-y singletrack trails with lots of climbing. It's like a roller coaster made for running.

The first half of the race flew by uneventfully. I was pacing well and staying on top of my food and hydration. I had a minor fall descending the rocky summit of Mt. Fuji leading to a bloodied knee and shoulder which the aid station volunteers wanted to clean up, but I politely refused because A. it didn't hurt and B. I thought it looked badass.

My only photo from Waldo
Coming into the Charlton Lake aid station at mile 32, I was on track for a sub-12 hour finish (my goal) and sitting comfortably in 4th place amongst the women. Then I started getting queasy. I decided to slow my pace considerably in the hope that I could settle my stomach, but it was too late. Within half an hour of leaving the aid station, the barf fest started and the party didn't stop until I rolled into the finish many looooong hours of slow walking - and puking - later. (Total time 14:22, 12th woman.)

It was an absolutely miserable 8+ hour period of my life that I would love to get back. I probably should have dropped out earlier but quitting is no fun either and I was pretty sure I could make the cut-offs even in my compromised state. Plus, I really needed another trucker hat for my collection...

Fortunately, there were some lighter moments. In a failed attempt to win a booby prize (not real boobies), I decided to go for the Show Us Your Waldo (also not what you're thinking) contest which is a spirit award voted on by the aid stations. Lacking any real talent, the best I could come up with was to Prancercise in and out of the aid stations. Yes, Prancercise. Based on the blank - and often confused - stares I received, it seems not a lot of people are familiar with Prancercising. If you're one of them, I suggest you check out the video below. It's kinda awesome! (But didn't win me the prize.)

I also met my doppelganger at Waldo and she's a lovely wife and mother of one from Bend, Oregon, and her husband and daughter were very excited to point out that not only do we bear an uncanny resemblance and race day fashion sense, but apparently we also run the same and share a fondness for stopping to pets dogs at aid stations.

And then there were the amazing ladies running the med tent at the finish who were able to give me a wonderful prescription strength anti-nausea medication that fixed me up well enough that within a couple of hours of staggering across the line (with Dora by my side!) I was up and actually able enjoy some of the post-race festivities that Rainshadow Running is known for - like pizza!

It was sweet how many other racers who had seen me struggling on the course stopped by after the race to tell me they were happy that I finished. Apparently, I looked as bad as I felt out there!? This sense of community created out on the trails - in good times and bad - is one of the best things about ultra racing.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Dragon Slaying

For my first race of the year, I decided to do a new 50k at Silver Star Resort called "Slay the Dragon" which includes the nearly completed Beowulf trail that has been four years in the making and was built by bikers for bikers. And it felt like that. I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way, but there are trail features for mountain biking that just aren't as much fun for running, like berms and tight switchbacks...

Part of a 10k descent, followed by a 10k climb

It was still a fun course, though, even if some sections lacked flow, and I'm pretty sure my mountain biking friends will love it.

Random internet guy, not an actual friend

Mostly, I just wanted to get in a low-key training race before the Waldo 100k in August and this was the perfect event for that. I got to test my gut and hamstring on a hot, tough course and both held up well (sorta...keep reading). Hopefully, that means those concerns are mostly fixed, or at least good enough to run hard and get a few more miles on this body.

Since February, I've been working with David Roche at Some Work, All Play and his guidance has been incredibly helpful. I credit his cautious and conservative approach for my successful return to running with a torn hammy. He's also hilarious and makes training a lot of fun!

As for my stomach, well, it got me through the race just fine. I ate and drank throughout and didn't have any problems...until the car rode home and then things went south. Dave was forced to pull off the highway with little warning so I could fall out the car door and do some retching into the gravel. I thought that was as bad as it could get until we got stuck in a traffic jam near Peachland and couldn't pull over so I had to do my barfing into a plastic bag which I later learned had a hole in the bottom. I think the resale value of our Subaru went down that weekend.

Random internet dog, not my actual dog

Anyway, we finally made it home (longest drive from Vernon EVER) and after a couple hours of moaning miserably on various flat surfaces (i.e. the floor and couch), I was totally fine and able to take down every edible in the kitchen like a professional eater.

The working theory for my post-race bout of pukiness is the evil Ibuprofen I popped mid-race to counter an increasingly throbbing headache. I probably won't do that again. But headaches suck too so I might have to.

As for the race itself, I was able to run the first mini loop of about 13k with a few friends doing Grendels' Mother  - the 25k distance - so that was fun and helped passed the time. After that, I was pretty much on my own for long stretches. It was not a large race so the field was quite spread out.

I was happy with my pacing and on track for a 5:20 or so finish which I thought was pretty good, especially considering the course was looking to run a bit long and had a decent amount of vertical. Unfortunately, an unmarked (sabotaged?) intersection at around 44k earned me a few bonus kms as I tried to figure out where to go. I finally found my way back on the course and dragged my ass over the finish line (or finish area since there didn't actually appear to be any kind of line or chute) in 5:46 for 54k. That was good enough for 1st woman and 5th overall. Results here.

For a first-time event, I thought the organizers did a great job. There were a few minor hiccups along the way, but I'm sure they'll have them sorted out for next year.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Winter Hibernation

I definitely tend towards introversion on the social scale at the best of times, but come winter, my hermit-like tendencies kick it into high gear. And this winter - with its prolonged periods of cold, snowy weather - was no exception.

Not that I'm complaining, I've read some excellent books (I highly recommend anything by Chimamanada Ngozi Adichie), made enough soup to fill a swimming pool, filled every available inch of freezer space with baking and did a lot of nothing.

Well, almost nothing...

There were some fun family snowshoe adventures.
Ski touring on the KVR.
And unusual yoga classes.
After The North Face San Francisco Endurance Challenge in December, I took two entire months off from running. I needed the time off to complete a series of prolotherapy treatments on my torn hamstring. I'm happy to report that I have a much happier hammy now. Not entirely pain-free, but at least improved enough to start thinking about some races.

Since I've been off for so long and gotten terribly out-of-shape, I've decided not to plan any early season races so that I can gradually build up my mileage and, hopefully, avoid more injuries and burnout. 

My tentative 2017 race schedule looks something like this:

March - Elevator Multi Sport Relay (road biking)
April - Rainshadow Running Yakima 25km
May - Dirty Feet Kal Park 25km
June - Chelan Century Challenge 100-mile (road biking)
July - Slay the Dragon 50km
August - White River 50-mile
August - Waldo 100km

Hmmm, now it kinda looks like a lot!? Well, I'll just have to see how things go and how my body holds up to a bigger training load. I'm no spring chicken anymore after all ;)

I am, however, pretty excited that spring is coming! And I'm not the only one. My hairy little friend is looking forward to hitting the trails again too. 

Bring on spring; we're ready for it!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K

My arms and legs are pumping furiously and I keep looking over my shoulder for a glimpse of the girl in the hot pink shirt. I passed her a couple of kilometers back and now I'm certain she's chasing me down. Being more of the slow-and-steady type, a sprint finish is my worst nightmare. I know I'm close, I just need to hang on a bit longer.

I sneak another peak behind me. There are so many runners on this final, slightly uphill road section where four of The North Face Endurance Challenge events -- 50mile, 50km, marathon and marathon relay -- converge that I can't spot her, but I sense she's closing in. And then I hear spectators shouting "Get her, Kelsey!" and "Go, Kelsey, go!"

I'm pretty sure my face looked like this dog's as I sprinted for the finish!?

In my mind, there were thousands of them all cheering for this Kelsey girl. In reality, it was probably only a couple of people, but it lit a fire under me and I was able to pick it up a bit. In my head, I'm thinking "sorry, Kelsey, not today, this is my day." (For the record, I don't know Kelsey nor have anything against her. I chatted with her after the race, and she was very nice.)

This mad dash to the finish seemed more exciting when I thought I was racing for 3rd place and a spot on the podium. It turns out you can't always believe what well-meaning volunteers and spectators tell you as I was actually 4th. Oh well, whatever, it was fun. And painful. But mostly fun.

In fact, the whole day was a blast. I can't remember when I last felt so strong and consistent for an entire race. It makes me very, very happy and relieved. Like I said, it's been awhile since I've experienced such euphoria on the trails with a number pinned on and I thought maybe that part of me was broken. Was it my best race result? Nope, but the races I find most personally satisfying usually aren't.

Amazing views and lots of climbing (over 7,200ft)
Photo credit:
This was my third time at the Endurance Challenge, having run the 50-miler in 2011 (race report) and 2012 (race report), and I continue to be very impressed by how well organized everything is, especially considering how many different events and athletes are involved. The course is scenic and well-marked, and there are plenty of aid stations. Plus, there is a nice selection of beer and hot food at the finish. And for once I wasn't suffering from post-race nausea so I could actually enjoy it!   

I had originally planned on running the 50-mile distance until a random knee injury mid-October set my training back a few weeks, and I decided 50k would be smarter. And since Dave was also signed up for the 50k, I thought a little spousal rivalry would be fun. (Dave had a good day and finished 15th OA and 2nd in his age group; thus, kicking my ass - surprise, surprise. Full results here.)

We arrived in San Francisco late Wednesday and spent the next two days exploring the Bay area on foot. It's such a beautiful city with so much to see and do, and we lucked out with perfect weather for the entire five days we were there. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the best idea to walk that many city miles before a tough run, especially in hilly San Fran, but those are the trade-offs with a race holiday.

Another potential attempt at self-sabotage occurred the day before the race when we made the unwise (yet delicious!) decision to have the extra spicy Thai curry at lunch. I knew it was a bad idea even as Dave was ordering it and yet I said nothing. Miraculously, for a girl with a looooong history of GI probs during races, my stomach was totally fine on Saturday. Whew! Still, I probably won't do that again.

For once, I had absolutely no race drama. Everything went smoothly, which unfortunately means no funny stories for my race report -- sorry. All the things I worried might flare up (and it's a fairly long list these days!), didn't and I was able to focus on simply running, eating and drinking. I couldn't even obsess over the data as my Garmin hadn't charged properly so I went watch-less for the first time in an ultra. Initially, I felt a bit lost without it, but after awhile I didn't miss it at all and may race without it in the future. If I race again that is... ;)

Usually once my last race of the year is over, I can't wait to start making plans for next season. Not so this time. I really don't know what's next for me. For now, I'm going to take a bit of time off from running to deal with a few chronic niggles. I'm also looking forward to getting out on skis and snowshoes, and tackling the tower of books on my nightstand. I suspect before long, I'll be pulling out maps and scheming on spring road trips and adventures, but for now I'm going to enjoy some downtime with no big plans or training programs to follow.

This year has had its share of ups and downs but overall I'm satisfied with where I'm at and what I've accomplished. I've tried to listen to my body even if I didn't like what it was saying and that meant taking time off to rest, racing less, healing injuries, building strength and, most importantly, finding joy in running again.

A huge thanks to The North Face Canada for your steadfast support and for making me look way cooler -- and faster -- than I actually am for the past three years. I'll never know why you decided to take a chance on sponsoring me, but I'm sure glad you did! #NeverStopExploring

Happy December my friends!