Thursday, November 5, 2015

Javelina Jundred

I have no idea how to race 100 miles. Seriously. Just when I think I'm doing everything right, something goes wrong. Having finished two - Cascade Crest in 2014 (race report) and now Javelina - I have figured a few things out though. Mostly I've learned what not to do. Here are some of the things that my second go at 100 miles has taught me.
Javelina Jundred is an absolutely fantastic race. I'd highly recommend it!
Photo credit: Cetons Photo Place
Run with a Pacer

If you have the option, always say yes to a pacer. Pacers aren't mandatory at Javelina and with the reverse direction loops there are always others out on the course with you, but in my opinion, it makes the experience so much richer to have someone there by your side for the good times, and the bad. Mostly the bad.

Some of the funniest conversations of my life have happened in the wee hours many miles into a race when I'm somewhat delirious and slightly deranged. Here's an example of one such conversation, a variation of which I had with both my pacers at some point when my stomach was starting to go off.  

Pacer: Fart
Me: I don't have to fart.
Pacer: Well, just try.
Me: No.
Pacer: You'll feel better if you do.
Me: (silent, not wanting to continue with this subject)
Pacer: Come on, you can do it.
Me: buuuuuurp
Pacer: Nice - that's almost as good as a fart! Now give us another. It's good for you.

Ridiculous, right??! And that wasn't even the worst of it. There will be things discussed at mile 80-something of an ultra that can never be brought up ever again anywhere. What happens on the trail, stays on the trail.

I was fortunate to have two amazing pacers, my husband Dave and friend Katie, by my side for the last 40 miles and they really helped get me through my low moments. Sure, I could have done it without them, but it was so much better to have them there.

A final note on pacers, always remember that you're getting a lot more from them, then they're getting from you so show them lots of love. They deserve it! Often, they're sacrificing time, sleep, warmth and food to walk/jog in the cold, dark night with you for many hours. And, in my case, having to watch and listen to me throw up several dozen times! (And burp. For the record, I never did fart.)

I feel particularly bad for Dave who has been stuck with me at the point in both 100 milers when the wheels have come off and the barf fest has started. I can't imagine how hard it must be for him to see me with vomit dribble on my chin and a tear in my eye as I tell him "I feel sooooo sick" and yet because he loves me and knows me better than anyone, he knows I won't quit. So he gives me some water to rinse out my mouth and we carry on 'cause that's the only way to get to the finish line.

Who's happy to be running again after a year of injuries? This girl!
Photo credit:
Beware of Bears

Not the scary, hairy kind we have here in Canada, but the colourful, chewy variety that taste delicious and stick to your teeth. At some point during my third 25km lap, I decided I wanted to have something to nibble on between aid stations. There are pockets on the back of my favourite North Face race shorts that will hold two little handfuls of candy I discovered. Perfect! As much as I love chocolate, it melts and I didn't want a suspicious brown stain down my bum for obvious reasons so I went for the gummi bears. For some reason, I thought it was very amusing to have pocketfuls of smiling bears with me.

In the heat of the day, my bears were getting a little sticky but I was still enjoying them and I ate quite a few. This would come back haunt me later when I became violently ill and starting rejecting everything I had ingested over the past 12 hours, including a large family of little bears. When things were at their worst, I was spewing bile out my mouth and nose simultaneously and I'm quite convinced that a partially digested bear got lodged in my sinuses. I don't know if that's even physiologically possible, but post race, sinus pain was the worst discomfort I had so it must be true.

On site camping - nice! Betty White the VW is in there somewhere.
Photo credit: Katie Hicks
The Splatter Factor

Last piece of advice with any mention of bodily fluids, I promise. I learned the hard way that because the desert floor is so dry, it does not readily absorb liquids so anything poured on it from some height or with force will bounce back and splatter you if you're not careful. This is is true of say water or Gatorade, but also of urine or vomit. Enough said.

Ultras are gross but the desert is beautiful.
Photo credit: Sweet M Images
Don't Judge

Another runner was coming towards me singing loudly and poorly to music that only he could hear on his iPod. At the time, I thought to myself, "Man, that must be annoying to the other runners around him. I'm glad I'm not them." And then a few hours later Happy by Pharrell Williams came on my iPod and I was shocked to realize that I was not only singing along - loudly and poorly - but also dancing - badly and in public which I just don't do. Ever. Don't underestimate the effects of sun and fatigue on your ultra addled brain. They can make you do all kinds of things you wouldn't normally do.

Be Cool

Even during the "cooler" years by Arizona standards (think low to mid 20s), this is a hot race with full exposure i.e. no shade for almost 12 daylight hours. Come up with strategies to manage the heat and use them. Also have a good understanding of your fluid and electrolyte needs. I didn't and I think that's one of the reason I ran into problems later in the race.

The crew support zone at Javelina Jeadquarters.
Photo credit: Katie Hicks
So those are just a few of the little nuggets of wisdom that I wanted to share. I finished in 21:48 (my new 100mi PB!) and 9th woman. (Full results here.) Obviously, I still have A LOT to learn about the 100 mile distance if I'm going to do another one, which I probably will. I think. Maybe. Maybe not. Ask me again after the Western States 100 lottery on December 5.

I'm so thankful to the following for helping me get through yet another 100 miles relatively unscathed:

The Coury brothers at Aravaipa Running and all their wonderful volunteers for organizing a super race that I'd definitely recommend for anyone looking for a destination 100km or 100mi race. It has everything I look for in an event: beautiful scenery, fun trails, good schwag, yummy food (yep, even made on site pizzas) and local beers.

The North Face Canada - You've been a great sponsor and so supportive even though I've been injured almost all year and not able to race which makes me feel like a huge dud. As soon as I mentioned that I was thinking of doing this race, your immediate response was: "What can we do for you to help make it happen?" Thank you for having such a super attitude, believing in me and making great products that I'm excited to use and recommend.

Dave and Katie - I couldn't have hoped for any better crew or pacing support. You both claim to be "bad cops", but you took very good care of me on and off the course and I am so lucky to have had you there. When do we get to do it again - ha ha! ;)

Mom and Dad - Thanks for coming out to cheer me on in the blistering heat! I know that you don't always understand why I do what I do, but I'm grateful that you're still willing to get behind me no matter what my latest crazy scheme is - even if it puts Dad on the brink of a heart attack. Love you!

Jesse (RMT), Mark (PT) and Christine (PT) - You've invested so much time trying to put my broken body back together and I know that you probably didn't approve of me doing this race, but thanks for not giving up on me. I wouldn't have made it to the start line - let alone the finish line! - without all your poking, prodding, manipulations, cracking, needling etc.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fitness & Funness

It took awhile to fill the running shoe sized void in my life, but I can honestly say that I'm now in a really good place mentally and physically. To keep fit and sane during almost eight weeks off running, I've been swimming, biking and working on my strength and balance.

I also spent a couple weeks in France...

Supporting Team Canada in Annecy at the World Trail Championships

Consuming waaaay too much yummy French breads, cheeses, wines etc.

Relaxing on the Mediterranean coast in Cassis.

Visiting the local markets. Mmmm...olives...

Biking to the top of Mount Ventoux.

And through quaint little villages.
If you ever tear your meniscus and LCL and need a place to go for rest and rehab, I'd highly recommend France! ;) I'm now 10 weeks out from my initial injury and my knee has healed well and is now stable enough to allow me to start running again - yay! Not a lot, and not very quickly, but it's great to be out on the trails.

I'm also finally making progress with the chronic hamstring and glute pain that has plagued me for over a year. In my unofficial quest to have every healthcare professional in town assess my ass at some point, I'm working with a couple of new therapists who are trying different treatments that seem to be helping.

My biggest issue seems to be a curve in my spine (also known as scoliosis) that is pinching the sciatic nerve. The hope is that if the alignment in my hips and spine is improved it will reduce the sciatica and the pain will disappear. Fingers crossed this new approach works!

It's probably completely foolish and premature to even start thinking about races when I've only got two weeks' worth of runs logged on Strava, but I am. Since I had to withdraw from this year's UTMB (due to the injury issues mentioned above), I'm without a Western States qualifier for the 2016 lottery. This would be my fifth consecutive WS lottery and I really don't want to lose those tickets so I'm tentatively eyeing up Javelina 100 as my qualifying race.

There are a couple of other Fall events that I'm considering if the next 6-8 weeks of training goes smoothly and my body stays happy. (As happy as it can when preparing to run 100 miles!?) I've been told it could take up to a year before my knee is 100% so I've adopted a wait and see approach to everything, including racing.

For the rest of the summer, my plan is to enjoy as much activity as I can - in whatever form I feel like. It's actually really fun to train like a triathlete without actually having to do triathlons. :)

I'm also hoping to spend some time in the mountains with this girl.
(And Dave too, of course!)
I wish everyone a happy summer full of adventures!

If you like reading running blogs, you might enjoy Pam Smith's recent post Coming Back from the Dead. I've never met Pam, but she's on my list of random people I'd like to drink beer with.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Butterflies and Unicorns

Disclaimer: This is a running blog and while being a runner is a big part of who I am, it’s not all I am so if I sound like a real downer – or worse yet, a whiner – please believe that I’m generally a pretty happy person and my negativity in this post relates only to the current state of my running life and not the rest of my life (which really kinda rocks in all the ways that matter). 

On a recent run, a friend promised butterflies and unicorns at the end of the trail if we were willing to push on just a bit further. It got me thinking, when was the last time I found anything magical while out running?

Well, it’s been a really long time. In fact, it’s been nearly two years since my last good race. And I don’t necessarily define a good race by time or placing. For me, it’s having a solid run where more things go right than wrong.

For too long, I’ve struggled with a variety of injuries and ailments and my running has suffered. My body has suffered. My spirit has suffered.

Is suffering.

The last four months have been particularly hard as I’ve had to deal with a fractured sacrum, a GI parasite, hamstring tendinopathy, anemia and, most recently, a torn meniscus. Nothing debilitating on its own, but the combination has been rough.

With the 2015 world trail championships coming up at the end this month, I’ve had to make the difficult, but necessary decision not to race. To say I’m disappointed barely touches on how I’m feeling. While I’d love nothing more than to compete for Team Canada, my focus right now has to be on getting healthy and running pain free.

My relationship with my body and its image is complicated at best. Self destructive at worst. In yoga, we’re taught to send love to the places that hurt. Like full lotus or pigeon pose, this is a challenge for me. I prefer the tough love approach to pain management: no pain, no gain, etc.  

I exercise regularly, eat healthy foods, get plenty of rest, take fistfuls of vitamins, stretch and roll daily and go for regular massages and physio treatments. In return, I expect to be fit and strong. When I’m injured, I expect to recover quickly. Only sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. Injuries don’t care if you’re frustrated or exasperated with them. They won’t be bribed, coerced or threatened.

Ah, yes. Patience. The virtue I lack. (Probably not the only one.)

Now if my life was a cheesy made-for-TV movie, this is when the turning point would happen. (Or if you’re an Oprah fan, my “Aha!” moment.) I’d realize that what I’ve been doing isn’t working and that I need to make some changes.

Okay, I can roll with that.

Changes…hmmm…let’s see.

No running until my meniscus mends. (4-6 weeks?)

Get my hamstring pain sorted out. Avoid triggers (sitting, bending, hills) and work on pelvic stability and glute strengthening.

Increase my iron intake. I can’t (won’t) eat steak, but I can remember to take a daily supplement. 

No more racing until these three things are achieved. I’m tired of disappointing results and DNFs! The next time I pin on a race number, I want to feel like I’m floating on a cloud with a powerful tailwind pushing me towards the finish line and at the finish line there will be butterflies and unicorns dammit.

And maybe even a double rainbow. Why not? Dream big!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Winter Cross-Training

Up until I broke my butt a couple of weeks ago, I was hitting the ski trails often enough that I'm sure my Norwegian ancestors were looking down upon my sloppy, but enthusiastic tracks with pride. All the skiing has been really beneficial for both increasing my strength and endurance and also for improving my mood just by being outdoors.

In case you missed it, the Winter 2015 issue of Trail Running Canada is out now and includes an article I wrote called "Ski Your Way to Better Running" on page 37 (as well as a picture of my handsome husband). And if cross-country skiing just isn't your thing, you should still check out the e-mag - it's full of lots of great content. (Back issues of this fantastic publication are available here.)

Injury update:
I'm happy to report that my sacrum is healing up nicely and it should only be a few more weeks before I'm back to all my usual activities. Until then, I'm keeping busy - and sane - with water running and walking/jogging on the treadmill. Hopefully, I'll be able to add skiing to that list after this weekend. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2015!? Where did you come from?

It may not be obvious from the lack of blog activity, but I have been keeping busy. I'll try to summarize the past few months as briefly as possible so as not to bore you...

After the Cascade Crest 100 in August, I took a six-week break from training. Physically I probably didn't need it because - other than my GI tract - I didn't tax my body too much and recovered quite quickly, but mentally I like to take some time off at the end of my racing year to reflect, regroup and relax. During this time, I enjoyed some low key adventures with friends and just chilled.

Peak bagging in WA with Dave and Dora.

Dave and I took a little road trip down to Moab, Utah in October for an adventure race that he was doing. I took full advantage of being the support crew (i.e. non racer) and enjoyed spicy foods, extra pints and later than usual bedtimes. So naughty - I could get use to it!? :)

Checking out trails near Park City, Utah en route to Moab.

Mountain biking in the desert.

In November, I did The North Face Dirty Feet Tunnel Run in Naramata. Having only been back running for a couple of weeks prior to the race (literally), I didn't feel very fit, but I really like the Dirty Feet races and the couple who puts them on, Phil and Grace, so I decided to go for it. Costumes are encouraged so I pulled one out of the tickle trunk and had some fun.

Photo credit: Jerry Mitchell

I was pleased and surprised to finish first woman and fourth overall (even though I was two minutes slower than when I'd run it two years ago).

The rest of my winter has been filled with lots of yoga and cross country skiing. I've haven't done a lot of either in the past, but am really enjoying both activities and think they nicely complement all the running. I feel stronger and more balanced for both sport and life in general. It's a good feeling.

I've also been training hard for the Phoenix Marathon in February. Fortunately, it's been a very mild winter so I've been able to do much of my training outdoors. (As opposed to other years when the snow and ice have forced me to log many miles on the treadmill.) My training has been going well and after my last long run, I started to believe that I might actually be able to pull off a sub-3 hour marathon, which has been a goal of mine for some time. 

Look - it's me on a Caution sign! :)
Unfortunately, due to a fall on the ice last week that resulted in a fractured sacrum, I may have to pull out of the marathon in order to allow my body to fully heal. I'm hoping it won't come to that, but I have to be sensible. I have a couple of really big, exciting races planned for 2015 and I don't want to jeopardize them by rushing my recovery. It's not easy, but I'm taking my injury a day at a time and I'll just have to wait and see how I feel over the next few weeks.

One of the races that I'm wildly excited about is the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). I got in through the lottery and I have no doubt it'll be a highlight of this year. It's a race that I've wanted to do since I knew it existed and I'm looking forward to spending a lot of time in mountains this summer preparing for it.

Last but definitely not least is that I've been invited to join The North Face Canada running team again this year. After a lackluster 2014, I wasn't sure that they'd want me back, but they've been incredibly supportive through my injury highs and lows and I'm grateful to know that they've got my back (and will keep it clothed in sweet, technical gear!). 

Happy 2015!