Monday, July 28, 2014

Grand Mesa 50 (55) Miler!

*This race report is rated R for inappropriate language and partial nudity

After my spontaneous 50 mile attempt back in June, that unfortunately ended at 43 miles due to medical complications (because I’m dumb and didn’t eat or drink enough) I was determined to complete a 50 before the summer ended. I literally signed up for Grand Mesa two days after that race. People were like, “you should rest” and “it starts at 10,500 feet you probably aren’t ready for that” and “it’s a really hard course with technical trails.” So naturally I ignored all of their warnings and signed up anyway. I mean, my summer basically consists of working and then running mountains in my free time, so I wasn’t concerned about the mileage or the altitude. Honestly, I was more worried about my shitty rolling turd (aka the green minivan) surviving the 7 hour trip to Cedaredge, Colorado.

Thankfully I got to the race with no car complications, checked in, went to the pre-race briefing and dinner, and then set up camp. I swear I sleep better in a tent than I do in an actual bed. I don’t know if it’s the fresh air or the sounds of nature or the threat of being attacked and killed (that’s what my mom always tells me will happen) but camping alone is spectacular.

So I woke up for the race at 4am and I was like, alright I’m feeling good! And then I was like, well I haven’t started running yet so maybe it’s too soon to make that call. But when the race started at 5am and my legs felt fresh I knew it was gonna be a great day for running. I cruised along the first 13 miles, talked to some awesome people, and met the selfie guy (who I actually didn’t talk to at all). He would literally stop running and take selfies, it was fantastic. Like don’t worry about the race, man, I just hope your pictures turn out nicely.

Anyway, after the first 13 miles there’s this 3.5 mile section that sucks balls. I hated it. There wasn’t really a trail, just rocks and branches and bushes. Plus this part of the course was marked horribly. I was basically just wandering around in the woods trying to find the pink flags that marked the course while getting attacked by a million mosquitoes (that’s not an exaggeration, there were a million of them). I ran off course two times in this section which was a little frustrating, but it didn’t add too much time and it was still early in the day so I felt great.

The next 15 miles were fantastic; the mesa was amazing, running felt incredible, and the rocks and dirt looked beautiful (possibly had a lot of endorphins at this point). Anyway, I was loving life and extremely happy. This happiness continued through the next aid station, through my third time running off course, and until about 7 hours into the race. I had just run off course for the fourth time and was hitting a low point. Pretty sure the only thing I thought from hours 7 to 8 was “I fucking hate this mesa” which was definitely a change from my earlier “I love this mesa!!!!” attitude. I tried to pull myself out of the low point by thinking of inspirational quotes but all I could think of was “may the force be with you” and that didn’t really help much.

I finally ran off course for the fifth time (adding a total of about 3 miles to the 52 mile course) and I was PISSED. I came up with an analogy for how the course was marked:

So some guy goes to the bathroom and takes a huge shit. He flushes the toilet and half of the poop goes down but the rest resurfaces, so there’s still kind of a lot of poop in the toilet. But the guy’s like, “ehhh, good enough.” And that’s how this course was marked.

So I was angry, upset, and drained. Basically on the verge of tears (like I never cry but there’s something about running for so long that really breaks you down). And let me tell you, if I wasn’t so pissed I would have cried. Thankfully I was still feeling good physically (hurray for properly training for an ultra!) and I was only breaking mentally. Plus I was so tired of eating Apple Cinnamon Gels. I’m pretty sure Apple Cinnamon Gels are made by the devil. Actually, I’m positive they are (to be fair, at the start of the race I did like them). But when I made it to an aid station at about 9:20 and only had 12 miles left my attitude changed completely.

I pooped at one point during the final climb and noticed this random old man about 200 feet away from me mid-poop (who was definitely not associated with the race). So when I ran by him I was like “hey, sorry for pooping right in front you.” And he was like, “you gotta do what you gotta do…” which is apparently pooping in front of strange (homeless?) old men. So I got to the final aid station and I was incredibly happy. Only 3.5 miles to go and I could hike the whole way back and still break 13 hours (because at this point my legs were pretty sore). So I hiked and ran a little and got attacked by more mosquitoes and then I crossed the finish line in 12 hours and 51 minutes. Fourth place female in the 50 miler! And as soon as I crossed the finish line this guy was like “hey, you want some Gels?” And that was probably the funniest thing that anyone said to me all day. So I was like, “you know, that’s really all I want right now.” And this conversation might not make sense to people who don’t run ultras but basically when you finish a race you want some real fucking food and Gels suck. A lot.

There were a lot of ups and down during my race. For a few hours I loved running more than anything and for a few hours I hated running so much and probably would have squirted Apple Cinnamon Gel on you if you annoyed me. But when I finished the race the bad parts didn’t seem so bad. That’s always what happens. And I’m guessing that’s what happens to most ultra runners because we always come back for more. When I’m running in the mountains I’m in a state of pure and natural happiness (even if it is one of those moments when I’m not actually happy).

The ultra running community is incredible. It’s a place where strangers with one common interest gather and leave as friends. It’s a place where 30 and 40 year olds will hang out with you after a race, let you use their shower, and take you to dinner. (Although when they found out I was 18 I got a lot of, “you’re ONLY EIGHTEEN??!?!” comments). It’s a place where everyone is included and everyone simply loves to run.

After the race, someone asked me why I run. Is it weird that I’ve never been asked that before? Or I’ve never been asked that in a serious manner, where someone is genuinely curious why an 18 year old wants to run so much. I didn’t really know how to answer. I do now.

I love that I can push myself to do something so many people can’t even imagine doing. I love that I can block out pain and push forward because that’s just what you have to do. I love being outside in the fresh air and mountains. I love the ultra running community. I love being in shape. I love that I can literally run 50 miles. Freedom. Mountains. Endorphins. Adventure. Determination. I just love to run.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Angel Fire 50k....50 miler.....43 miler?

Ambition and stupidity. That's the moral of this post. But I actually have a lot to say about this race, so much that you'll feel like you were there with me, laying on the side of the road after 11 and a half hours of running, covered in dirt, sweat, spit, sunscreen, Vaseline, and blood.

I signed up for Angel Fire 50k last Sunday, a week before the race. I had done three 50k's at that point and was basically doing marathons on my long runs alone. So Friday night before the race I decided I would run the 50 miler instead  (I mean, it was only 19 miles longer I could totally handle that....). And with the encouragement of Toph White (previous Angel Fire 100 mile winner) and Steve Nelson (father of Luke Nelson, a crazy fast ultra runner who is sponsored by Patagonia and just won Bighorn 100) I was convinced I could do the 50. 

We got to stay at the fire station because Toph has ins with the firefighters. (I got to sleep in a bed before the race!) The next morning my contacts went in super easily on the first try, and I was like, if that doesn't mean I'm gonna have I good day I don't know what does. So my perfectly fitting contacts and I headed to the race. The city of Angel Fire is elevated at 8,600 feet (Glen Allen, Virginia is at 207 feet.... So it's a litttttle different). The highest point of this race is only 10,700 feet though, and I've been to 14,000 feet so I thought I could handle the elevation, which I could for a while. I didn't even notice it.  The 50 mile course consists of a 6.5 mile loop, with minimal elevation gain/loss and then a 5 mile climb up the mountain, a 4.5 mile descent to the other side, and then you get to a turn around aid station and climb the 4.5 miles and descend the 5 miles back to the starting area.... Where you then repeat that whole thing.

The race started at 5am and I was not feeling good. I was like, shit shit I still have 49.8 miles to go I need to feel good! But then I was like, I still have 49.7 miles to go (I had run .1 of a mile by this point), I definitely don't need to start freaking out yet. So as the 6.5 mile loop went on, with my headlamp lighting the way through the trails, I started to feel alright. I made friends with a lot of old men during this race (pretend that doesn't sound creepy). Jim was the first. We ran together for about an hour and he told me all of his race stories (it's weird that I have race stories to share now too, although not nearly as many since he's been doing ultras for 16 years and I've been doing them for 5 months). He told me that my race was gonna go really well, "I can tell this is gonna be a really good race for you, you're talking fine and aren't breathing hard at all!" And I was like, "we've only been running for 45 minutes I better not be breathing hard yet!" So we finished the loop together and got to the first manned aid station, where I ate some fruit and handed my headlamp and clothing to the Nelson's (LITERALLY THE GREATEST CREW OF ALL TIME I LOVE THEM AND THE PINEAPPLE THEY BROUGHT ME) and took off up the mountain. 

This is where I talked to Peter. Peter is the nicest most humble racer I've ever met. We talked for about an hour and I learned that he was doing the 100 miler, one of only two people to  finish it (75% drop out rate... It's a TOUGH course.) Then we got to the dreaded climb. It's one mile basically straight up a rocky road. Hell. Two steps forward one step back type of deal. People were sliding and falling, it was so hard. (Coming down was pretty freaky too.)

The next couple miles flew by as I ran down the mountain and got to the turn around aid station: Larry's infamous truck. I took off my pack, Steve filled it up, and some lady was like, "your back looks awful!" I mean, it wasn't feeling good but I'm used to ignoring pain. My backpack had been rubbing against my back (I was just wearing a sports bra) and despite the body glide, my back had huge bloody and oozing abrasions. She put a lot of Vaseline on  my back,  I sprayed myself with sunscreen, ate some fruit, and thanked everyone for their help before heading back up the mountain.

This  climb was brutal, but I talked  to Dan here,  who has completed Leadville 100 seven times and was super cool. I made it up and then back down the mountain to the 25 mile/halfway aid station in under six hours, so I had plenty of time to make the 14 hour cut off time. Once again, I'd like to thank the Nelson's  and Philmont for taking care of me at the aid stations. I would get there and immediately had water  and gels in my hand, someone filling up my backpack with water, and people rubbing Vaseline on my back (that must have sucked for them). First class service.

I started the 6.5 mile loop, which hurt. I passed Spencer, who was the one who told me about this race but had twisted his ankle a few miles back. He finished and did great despite his ankle. So I got to the aid station, 50k completed, and all I had left was the 18.5 mile mountain loop. I did the first part with Phoebe who told me that this race is the hardest race she's ever done, even harder than Leadville 100. She also said I was crazy for making this my first 50 miler and was shocked that I was doing this at 18 years old. 

I made it up the mountain but started feeling pretty bad on the way down. I made myself drink a lot of water and forced down GU. When I finally got to the turn around aid station I learned that only three females, including myself, were left in the 50 miler. I was feeling drained but excited to only have 9 miles left. As I climbed up the mountain I felt worse and worse, but I knew I would be done soon and had to fight to make the cut off time. After 43 miles I was so dizzy and light headed that I laid down on the side of a dirt road. I gave myself 2 minutes to pull it together and then start climbing again. But when I walked I got light headed again so I would lie down. This happened a couple times, and then a car drove by and asked if I needed help. They drove me to the ambulance at the top of the mountain, where some extremely nice medics helped me. Turns out  I had low blood sugar and electrolytes, low blood pressure (which dropped over 20 more points when I stood up) and I was dehydrated. 

So after 43 miles and 11 and a half hours of running  I was medically disqualified from my 50 mile race. It was a great day on a beautiful course spent with fantastic people and I ran longer than I've ever run. Of course I wish I could have finished, I was so so close. Just 7 miles! But what happens happens and I'll be more prepared for my next one. Hanging out with friends at the end of the race and sleeping in a chair at the aid station while waiting for the 100k and 100 mile racers to finish was also really fun. Overall a very enjoyable weekend (with minimal pooping and only running off course three times).

Thursday, June 12, 2014

New Mexico Adventures!

Hello friends, strangers, and people who have nothing better to do with their time! So I don't know much about blogging but I was clicking around earlier and it turns out you can see where your audience is from. I'm excited to say that my blog is international! Many thanks to the one person in India who read my blog (or at least clicked on my webpage...). I'll try to remember you all when I'm famous (but don't count on it).

So I'm in New Mexico for the summer! It's basically a shit hole except for the mountains which are FREAKING AMAZING. But the altitude can be brutal. I'm living at like 6,400 feet (which is higher than the tallest mountain in Virginia...) but I'd like to think I'm adapting (hurray for shitty air!). Now I'm not as lucky as some people, who are just camping and running and adventuring all summer (cough cough), I have a job. But you better believe in all my free time I'm off exploring mountain trails!

After serious calculations it has been determined that I have a 72% chance of death out here. Polls will be opening so you can choose how you think I'll die. Option 1: dehydration. Option 2: trying to train a mountain lion to run with me and then being eaten by it. (Option 3 is too gruesome to write). Option 4: getting lost in a mountain alone at night with a broken headlamp and no map, breaking my leg, and falling of the side of a cliff. Option 5: Gang fight.

So I'm probably the least prepared ultrarunner ever (although I do run with water now, so I'm getting better). I just drive down the road until I see a trail or cool mountain and then hope for the best. 100% success rate so far! (Although I tend to break into unauthorized backcountry or trespass on ski resort property or run on mountain bike trails or climb radio towers... You get the idea. Basically I suck at following the rules.) I also usually go alone. You may be surprised, but it's hard to find people who wanna do 20+ miles in the mountains for some reason. But that's okay because I love love love adventuring alone, it's my favorite thing ever.

That's about all I have to say right now. I'm doing a 50k next Saturday so that'll be exciting! My injuries are getting better ish so things might actually go well! Maybe. At least it'll be fun. The internet is being kinda suckish but I'll try to upload some pictures so you can live vicariously through me (if that's something you wanna do). Oh and my tan lines are getting pretty intense, try not to be jealous, but I'm rocking a backpack and knee brace tan (along with the typical watch, sock, shorts, and sports bra tan). I mean, it's pretty attractive so I'll leave it at that. Enjoy your summer!