Ahh… racing. It seems that I have found myself toeing the line a lot more frequently than in years past. This can mean either of two things: I have gained enough confidence and enjoyment out of running that I am eager to race, or I have a lot of extra money lying around that I can’t wait to spend on races ( yes, I pay for these things). I’m pretty sure it’s not the latter of the two.
When you sign up for so many races though, the races themselves do not become special. Running becomes monotonous. Races become routine. Training is not race specific, and you don’t focus on race ‘A’ because right after it is race ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, and ‘E’. Even though my theory is logical, for some strange reason this race didn’t fall into the same routine. In the past 6 weeks I have run 3 races. That is one less than all of my races last year.
Just like the last two races, The Cougar Trail Half and The Holcomb Trail Run, my training for the Sidewinder 10k was not really there. I mean I did have time to spend running trails and visiting family in the Reno/ Tahoe area and go camping in Big Bear, CA. I planned and executed three birthday parties, a slumber party, and a Fourth of July shindig. I know, lots of excuses. In the last week though I did manage a 2.5 miler and a trail 10k with my best running buddy Trisha.
So coming into this race I had very low expectations and I had already seen first hand how lack of training can damage you mentally and completely sabotage a race. I honestly can say at the time I could have cared less about even showing up for the race. Why put myself through such torture? Again? And it showed when I decided that the night before the race I was going out for sushi dinner. This could have ended up as a horrible disaster race day morning. Bad fish = Bad Race. None the less, after dinner I went home and for the very first time actually prepared all my race goods the night before, like a big girl. The next morning I woke up and it was so easy to get everything and go (imagine that), but I was halted by excruciating stomach pain. It wasn’t the sushi, don’t worry. I have been luckily diagnosed with a wonderful little thing called endometriosis, but more on that later. I decided though that it wouldn’t be fair to myself to miss this race, so as I winced in pain, I made my way to the car right on time.
I drove out to Tecolote Canyon where the race was scheduled to start. I had never been in the area and was pleased to discover that it was easy to find as well as a beautiful niche off of the freeway. I arrived 30+ minutes early to check in and wait.
Funny thing, I never got pre race jitters, or had to use the port-a-potty. Hmm. So as the time came for wave 1 to take off and scare all the snakes out of the trail for us slower runners, I stood towards the back of wave 2. I learned my lesson in the Cougar Trail Half when I started too early in my wave. I quickly became stuck on single track as I waited for my legs to warm up. I didn’t want to hold anyone back that was faster, and I also didn’t want to feel too pressured in the beginning.
And GO!!! The first hundred feet or so of the trail was covered in rocks, and not the natural kind of rocks that you may see scattered along a trail. No, these were like landscaping rocks, not the kind that are comfortable to run on, especially if you’re wearing Merrell Pacegloves. So I headed to the edge of the trail where the rocks seemed to be minimal. The trail was mostly flat from the get-go and I held my pace at a steady 9:00 minute mile. Then I saw the hill. It was funny to me that at a point in the beginning I actually considered that this course might just be flat. Ha! It was at that point when I started playing the game. I learned from my last race, the Holcomb Valley Trail Run, that my uphill hiking really sucks, and if I wanted to endure to the end of the race, I was not conditioned to actually run up these hills. So I hiked, FAST. In fact my uphill hiking speed was faster than some of those who were running. That strategic move worked for me, and when I came within 10 feet of the summit, I cranked up the gears and got back onto pace so the momentum coming over the hill would propel me down and FAST! I know that my downhill running is so much stronger than my uphill, and I flew by people like it was nobody’ s business. I knew that once the trail leveled out and went back to single track I would very unlikely be able to pass, so I made sure it happened while running down the hills. There were 3 up hills and 3 down hills as well as 2.5 water crossings (the last one didn’t really have much water). When the runners near me approached the water crossings, it seemed that most of them stepped with caution on the large river rocks, making sure to not completely engulf their feet in the water. I tried to just plow right through, seeing this again as an opportunity to pass people, and it worked.
We were nearing the aid station and turnaround point, and when running an out and back, I tend to run cautiously until this point. I am terrible judge of distance so it’s hard for me to gauge how far I have left to go.
I finally made it to the turn around and was greeted by two smiling and familiar volunteer faces I remember from the Cougar Trail Half. I drank a cup of electrolyte drink, graciously thanked the volunteers and headed back out on the course. This is when it got kind of tricky. Most of the runners in the race were running on single track now, and passing with caution when coming around the many corners of the trial can be a bit scary.
At this point in the race, I was plowing through the trail, and passing people on my left every chance I had. I used my quick downhill legs to run by those who were a bit more cautious on the steep down hills, and once I cleared all the hills on the course I kept a pace of 8:20 until I saw the finish line, and tried my best to remember to extend my legs as I ran, taking advantage of the long legs that I have.
I crossed the finish line with an official time of 1:02:34, 6th in my Age Group. Not too shabby!
It’s crazy how I was so mentally nonchalant about this race, and mid race an animal instinct overcame me and led me to actually RACE. Somewhere after the turnaround point I started on my mantra, ‘IF YOU WANT IT, GO GET IT!‘ I haven’t felt that urge in a while, and I must admit, it makes racing pretty damn fun.
I headed over to the Bayhill Tavern where the after party as well as where the awards would be handed out, and had a blast! I walked into the place not knowing anyone, and walked out with new friends and happy new memories, all over some after race beers of course 🙂
You know what was awesome about the after party? Every single one of us at our table won in the raffle! What a bunch of lucky kids!
The race, the raffle, the organizers, the volunteers, and the new friends that I made were all worth it, and to think I wasn’t even going to go.
I can’t wait for the next time I get to run with Dirt Devil Racing. It truly became a memorable and special race, one that will stand out in my mind for a very long time.
The campground started to fill with light as I snuggled in my nice warm sleeping bag, in my tent filled with too many people and a dog, underneath a beautiful pine tree. When I signed up for this race, I signed up for the camp spot right across the street from the start of the race, so the fact that I was up at 5am and the race started at 7ish, and that I had absolutely nothing ready for my race of the day didn’t worry me.
My race of the day: The Holcomb Valley 33. This would be the longest run and race of my running career. Was I worried? For some strange reason, no. For a race of this magnitude, I did absolutely no justifiable training. In fact, I didn’t even try to counter that by eating clean and healthy. According to my boyfriend, I was eating pizza, mozzarella sticks, donuts, chicken tenders… So I corralled my group of support along with my hydration pack, an empty handheld, and some snacks, and headed to the race start.
I never really got nervous for this race, and I think it’s because I never really got ready for it. I had looked at the map of the course, but didn’t really pay attention to the total elevation gain, or what kind of terrain I would be running on. It was a trail race right? The 33 mile race as well as the 15 mile race ran along the same course, and I had the option at aid station #3 to drop down to the 15 mile race if I felt I needed to. I think this information acted as a security thought, but I was still going to give it a go. So here we go!
The wave I started in had about 10 women, 30-39 female, and 40-49 female. As I looked around at my competition, I realized that I have never run in a race where I had this much of a chance at placing in my age group. I’m a terrible judge of age, but the odds were looking pretty good for me. If only I had trained!
So we all started running at the sound of the horn, and I knew what my game plan was going to be. I had to survive 33 long miles on a trail I knew nothing about. All I had to do was endure and make it. I figured I had 10 hours to get this thing done. Right off the bat the trail became very technical, and went up for almost 4 miles.
I had planned on hiking up all the hills, and running down when I could. Usually I have a hard time making myself slow down or walk at the start of the race because I feel like if I am at a race, I should be there for a reason, and that is to run. I felt very much relieved though when most everyone around me also started walking. At the top of the technical trail, was the first aid station. I didn’t think I needed anything yet, so I yelled out my bib number and continued on, and to my sheer joy, to be connected to the PCT. At this point I was already starting to become bored. Sure the first 4 miles were interesting, but I still really had not run anything, or looked at anything other than the ground beneath my feet.
At this point I had already tripped on rocks over a handful of times, and was anxiously awaiting the one trip that was going to land me on my face. Once I realized that I was on the trail that I had learned so much about, in the book Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, I was rejuvenated.
The trail itself was a beautiful single track under the cover of the pine trees of Holcomb Valley. The trail was nice and smooth, without all the rocks I had become accustomed to running on.
The trail meandered a bit up into the hills again, then connected us runners onto fire roads.
I really should have done more homework in this race, because it would have been helpful to know how far apart the aid stations were. This is the point in the race that I realized that I didn’t think I was going to make it. I knew that I had be through aid station #5 by 12:45pm to continue onto the remainder of the race. I began to climb once again for what seemed like a couple miles, until finally I reached station #2. When I got there I decided that some salted watermelon along with a handful of peanuts would satisfy me. I filled my handheld with some Hed, and found out that I was only at 8.6 miles and it was 10:30am. I had been at this for about 2 hours, and in 2 more hours I had to be a 20.5 miles. I knew from this point on I would have to keep up a faster pace in order to make the cut off. Leaving station #2 put us right back on the PCT. A runner in front of me that at the pace he was running he would should make the cut off by 12:30pm, so I kept up with him for a few miles. Meanwhile, I contemplated on whether I really wanted to run 33 miles.
After all this I had to contemplate whether I really wanted to run 13 miles more after I made it to station # 5. It didn’t seem like something that sounded like fun, and then I tripped. I tripped so hard that I was surprised that I actually caught myself. I thought for sure though that my toenail was bleeding, and it became painful to put pressure on the front of my right foot. My decision was made. I called it quits at station # 3 and dropped down to the 15 mile race. I notified those in charge at station #3 and headed on back down the technical trail. Usually running downhill is my favorite part of the run. Not this time though.
The trail was so littered with rocks, that actually running down it was not an option for me. It drove me crazy to be so close to the finish line, but I couldn’t go any faster than a hike. When I finally got to a point that I could run, about a half mile to the finish line, I ran with all I had left in me and crossed the line at 3:17:14.
So what did I learn? Well, it does help to train for a race. Even just a little. Second, I should do my homework. I knew that I had to be through station # 5 by 12:45pm but I kept forgetting that important detail because I was so focused on running slow and steady because I had 10 hours. I should have taken a look at the elevation profile, and possibly have had an idea of the distances between stations.
So overall I had a great race, even though it wasn’t what I had in mind. I am thankful for the opportunity and the fact that my legs carried me for 15 miles, and I was able to walk the next day! This race was hard, but I definitely would love to give it a go again.
Sitting next to a morning campfire with the rising sun casting light through the trees and a nice brisk chill to the air, gives a person a chance to think and reflect.
By the time you will have read this, my race, the Holcomb Valley 33 miler will have already been completed. Since I’m a stickler for leaving technology at home while enjoying the outdoors, I didn’t bring along my laptop to type this all out for you before the big day. What I did instead, was bring along paper and pen to document my thoughts, ideas and worries before I take off to run my heart out through the hills of Big Bear and Holcomb Valley.
This race is my race of the year. At least that’s what I decided when I signed up for it earlier this year. I had a plan too. Take the family camping (which I love) and also spend one of the days running. The logistics were perfect since the race’s start and finish were located steps beyond our campground. Now here I am though sitting at the campground and realizing that in my planning for the event, I failed to include one very important detail. Training.
Two weeks ago I ran my first trail half-marathon and for a week after I was hurting. I knew though what the problem was, and fortunately for me, I can recognize these things pretty quickly. My training for this race was minimal if not really non-existent, and I went out the start gate like I had actually trained and was prepared for it. I had to keep reminding myself that this race was merely a training run for a much bigger race. That race did it’s job of checking me mentally and forcing me to realize that I’m not going into the Holcomb Valley race as prepared as I should be.
The Holcomb Valley Trail Run consists of three distances, 7 miles, 15 miles and 33 miles. Me being the badass that I am of course signed up for the 33 miler. Being that I’ve never run any of the trails in Big Bear area, although I have hiked some of them, I only have expectations as to what kind of challenge I’m up for. This is going to be no walk in the park. When I ran my 50k last year, I trained 80% on trails. I ran the course and knew the difficult areas before toeing the line, and I still struggled to finish under 6 1/2 hours. This one though, I knew when I signed up, could never be compared to the last or any other ultra race I ever run. So up until the last week, I knew that I would be destined to run 33 miles. Then I received one of the final information packed emails with last-minute instructions for the race. Those running the 33 miles have the option to drop down to the 15 mile race while running the course at aid station #3.
The Thoughts of Others
Nearly everyone who knew about my race in Big Bear said, “What about the altitude?” Yes, I understand that the altitude is going to play a big factor in whether or not I can do this thing, especially since I live in a nice valley in San Diego county. Did I ever run a practice run in an area of higher elevation? No. Is that going to alter my chances of completing this race? Perhaps not.
We arrived at our campsite on Friday and in the evening I had a slight headache which I credited to the altitude, but I think that giving myself a couple of days of camping before the race also helped me adjust. The air is definitely different here. Maybe it’s a shock to your system as you pass through the thick layer of smog on your way up the mountain, and you finally get to breathe good clean air. My lungs, as well as my mind are definitely appreciating the yummy mountain air.
People have also told me to just drop down to the 15 mile race before it starts. I don’t want to do that because I signed up for the 33. If I wanted to run 15 miles or thought that I couldn’t go anymore, then fine. That’s not the case though, and my stubborn competitive attitude won’t allow me to start off that way. If during the race I believe it’s a no-go, then and only then, will I drop down. Until then I have 10 hours to complete the race. 10 hours that I can take my sweet time with. I know my disadvantages coming into the race, so I’m not going to push it, but I do plan on enjoying myself, the trails, and the wonderful opportunity I have to be here and able.
Last week my family and I went on hopefully the first of many camping trips over the summer. Our camping spot, was located directly from the start and finish of the Holcomb Valley Trail Run, the race that I would be attempting to run 33 miles in (more on that later).
This was my first real grown up camping trip, and by that I mean that I did not rely on my mom and dad to plan, organize, and shop for the trip.
I wanted to have an easy to prepare meal for the first night we were there and so comes in this chili, a perfect meal for a summer camping trip.
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
2 hot link sausages diced
1 white onion
1 bell pepper
1 stalk celery
1 cup frozen corn
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cans (32oz.) crushed tomatoes
2 cans (32oz.) chili beans
1 16oz can of water
What To Do
1. Heat oil in a large pot. Add turkey, hot link, onion, bell pepper, celery, corn and sauté for 5 minutes or until soft and turkey is cooked.
2. Add everything else in the pot and turn heat to low. I continued to let the chili do it’s thing for an additional 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
When the chili was cooled enough, I put it in storage bags and packed it into our camping cooler, and the flavors continued to meld.
During our drive up the mountain, the little bags of chips that we brought along opened due to the pressure change, and then Rosco laid on all of them. So we had a bunch of busted up chips that we just decided to put on top on the chili. Yum!
The morning was chilly and as I stood around waiting for the race to start, I realized that running a race that morning was what I was supposed to do that day. The Cougar Half Marathon put on by Dirt Devil Racing, was a race that I had signed up to do months and months ago. I was excited for this race at the time of sign up, but as the weeks got closer, and it seemed like more and more personal misfortunes came upon myself and my family, the less and less I prepared to run a race. It seems logical that training for a race would be put on the back burner as life gets busier and more stressful, but essentially going for a run probably would have made things a little but easier.
As I stood in the gravel on race morning waiting for the race to start, I started to psych myself up for the events to follow. I was about to partake in something that I loved. Something that I signed up and paid to do. I was about to complete this race while most people I knew were stumbling out of bed. The feeling that I would have after the race, is all worth being there so early in the morning, cold and tired.
As I lined up with my wave, my adrendaline started pumping and I was ready to go! As the gun sounded, my wave took off like a pack of wild animals. I started out in the front of the pack, heading down the single track trail on a mission to get this race under my belt. I knew the course well and after about 2 miles, the trail spilled out into a gravel track along the side of the road. Running along the single track made me realize that I started out too quick in my wave, and I should have stayed towards the back. The pressure from the runners behind me kept me moving at a pace that was beyond me at that time, but I couldn’t slow down because I already had runners on my ass.
Almost from the beginning of the race I had to start with my mantra, “Slow and steady, steady and slow, that’s the pace I like to go. Slow and steady, steady and slow, that’s the pace I like to go.” This course is mostly flat with the exception of Raptor Ridge hill. If I were properly trained I maybe would have considered attempting to run the hill just to better my overall race time, but that was not the case. I had to remember that this race was nothing more than a training run. The Holcomb Valley 33 is the next race on the agenda in two weeks, and the Cougar Half race was merely taking place of a training run.
About halfway into the race I had an overwhelming feeling of enjoyment and appreciation for the trail, and I remembered the reasons why I became a trail runner. The smell of the earth beneath my feet and the light breeze through the grasses are things that are unmatched in any other type of run. The sound of wild animals at the nearby San Diego Safari Park calling for mates as well as roosters crowing at family farms, are reasons I choose to leave my earphones at home when venturing on the trail. The elements of the trail are precious and priceless. Their is nothing in a road race that can replace these special details of trail running, and it was at this moment that I became excited again for the race.
Continuing with my mantra, I found my place along the trail. The front of the packers, the ones whom actually trained for this race, started heading back my way, so I cheered them on as each one passed me by. Most of the runners thanked me for the encouragement, some reciprocated it, some ignored me and others didn’t hear me at all (they had earphones in, grr!).
So as I neared the end of the course, I happened to glance down at my watch and to my surprise I was at just about 2 hours with only 2 miles or so left to go. I knew heading into this thing that I could in no way compare this race to the others because it was a trail, and I had only completed road half marathons, and those of course I had trained for. So once again with so little to go, my adrenaline amped up again when I realized that I could actually finish in under 2:30, which was my conservative goal.
The best part of the race for me was the finish. I couldn’t wait to cross the line and get this thing over with. As I came around the corner, my legs wanted me to stop, but with the end in sight, I plowed on through and got blasted with a huge spray of water!
This race was hard, and as strange as it seems, it was even harder than my last 50k. Throughout I had to continue to play a solo mental game, work through the pain of a huge blister developing on the bottom of my foot, try to hydrate myself after a couple nights of drinking, and curb my boredom.
Onto the next one…
So a few days ago I decided to sign up for Dirt in Your Skirt’s Summer 100 Challenge. This simply means that over the course of 90+ days over summer, participants must run, walk, skip, hike or crawl, basically whatever it takes to finish 100 miles. At the completion of the 100 miles participants will earn a buckle.
What I like about this challenge is that it gets people moving! The idea of running 100 miles during 1 race seems outrageous and completely out of reach for some. Who knows though, something like this could show people that they are capable of far more than they give themselves credit for. This challenge can perhaps turn goals into realities.
This challenge starts May 27, 2013 and ends on September 2, 2013, so don’t wait to sign up! The last day for sign ups is May 30th.
So stay tuned as I hunt down the miles, and a challenge under my belt!
Two weeks ago, while I was at work, I received the most devastating news, a friend of mine had passed away. Misty was not only my friend, but she was an amazing mother, beautiful daughter, and an awesome soccer player. She had the kindest heart, and cutest little laugh. The news hit me really hard, and as the week went on, friends and family pulled together to celebrate her and her life.
Running is a funny thing, and it solves many problems. It can make you feel strong, clear your mind, fill you mind with thoughts, and help you grieve.
I knew I needed to run to grieve.
My friend Misty was one of my biggest fans. She was amazed at how far I would run. She was proud of me, and always said she wished she could run as far as me. I would tell her that she could and she would reply with a ‘yeah right.’
As I set out on my first run in weeks yesterday, I knew I was going to run for Misty. Unfortunately I hadn’t been running in two weeks and I was on a time crunch, so I knew the distance wasn’t going to do her justice. As I ran by places that were familiar to both of us, my mind filled with happy thoughts and memories of her. I know that from above she has many people to watch over, her beautiful babies, her family and friends who are grieving for her, but I couldn’t help to feel that she was watching me run also.
Midway through the run I decided to find the biggest hill I could find and I was going to run all the way to the top for her. I knew that this was going to be difficult on my legs and lungs, due to my mild onset of a bronchitis-like sickness, but I didn’t care. I had my hill in sight and made my way over to it, and something amazing happened. I went to start my climb, and suddenly my song on Pandora changed to the song played at her memorial, “Don’t You Worry Child,” by Swedish House Mafia. As I ran up the hill, tears of joy and sadness and love ran down my face. It would appear to anyone that I must have looked like a lunatic because through all of that I had the biggest smile on my face.
As I made it to the top of the hill, an overwhelming feeling of emotion came over me. Like I said before, running is funny. Running can ease pain, and create more pain. It can relieve stress and anxiety. It can make you feel alive.
This run helped me heal, and I will always hear that song and be reminded of her. I will remember how she helped me get up that hill. When I run my ‘crazy, insane distances’ she will always come with me.
Misty left behind three beautiful children, an 8 year old and 7 month old twins. Please consider to donate to the future of her children.