Monday, May 25, 2009

WS100 Camp, Day 2: Thrashed Quads

I awoke Sunday morning for Day 2 of the WS100 training camp (you can read about Day 1 below) feeling better than I expected. The quads were sore from those killer descents into the American River canyons but at least I was still walking.

My friend Frankie woke up with swollen eyes from possible poison oak so she decided to pack it in and head home. That was a smart move.

My daughter's friend was having a birthday party at 2:00 so that was my time goal to finish by 1:00pm. Check in was at 7:30am with the run starting at 8:30. Well, I decided I didn't want to wait around. I arrived in Foresthill by 7:00, checked in by 7:10 and hit California Ave by 7:20. I knew I would need the extra time to try and catch the first shuttle at White Oak Flat back to Foresthill at noon.

Early morning on the trail

Today's run would consist of 20 miles from Foresthill to Rucky Chucky then a climb out of the canyon to White Oak Flat and the waiting school bus. Robert Mathis is the race director of the Rucky Chucky Roundabout which is the run from Foresthill to Rucky Chucky then back for 50K. For the last couple years I've tried to do this event but for various reasons I haven't been able to do it. So this would be unfamiliar territory for me.

The first few miles are downhill and my legs did fine as it was gradual. Then the steep descent started and my quads started yelling "NO!" I must have looked pretty funny with my stiff-legged, painful running style. It was not pretty.

A picture from Day 1, the funny looking tree near Michigan Bluff

The funny thing about this "downhill" run to the river, is all the uphill. Steep uphill. Not real long sections but enough to be annoying. I didn't know what was worse, the demoralizing uphill or the quad busting downhills. Plus, I didn't know where the aid stations were so I had to conserve my water a bit. Another thing about this section is at points it seemed we would never reach the river and when we finally got close, the trail would climb up and away from the water. What the heck?

I know my attitude was a little bad just because I was tired from the day before. But then that's the point of doing these big back to back runs, learn to run and keep moving forward on tired legs and spirit. So that's what I did. I ran when I could, walked when I couldn't but I always moved down the trail, getting ever closer to the Rucky Chucky aid station.

The first aid station was at Cal 2 or Peachstone, manned by none other than the Twietmeyer family and other wonderful volunteers including John Medinger. Wow, I was surrounded by ultra legends! That's one thing I absolutely love about this sport, it doesn't matter if you're a mid-packer, front-runner, or running legend, we're all the same in our love for the sport of trail running.

I was about 10 miles into the run when the fast runners finally caught me. I'd try to pick out a wide spot in the trail to let them go by but sometimes there was just no safe place to move over so I'd pick up the pace trying to keep the faster runner from having to slow down too much until I could finally move over for them. They were always very nice and would usually say something encouraging as they went by.

After what seemed like forever, I finally arrived at Rucky Chucky. We had the option of running another 1/4 mi down to the river to check out the actual river crossing area but I was on a time limit so I grabbed some food and water and started the 3 mile climb to my ride. I also met up with Mark Winkelman (from yesterday's water bottle squirting deal) and he introduced me to Jenny Capel who is an incredible runner from Reno.

I mentioned yesterday that one thing I've discovered is I'm a very slow climber so I figured this hill would be a good chance to work on my speed walking skills. I was moving right along when another female runner came up beside me and struck up a conversation. She was incredibly nice and kind of soft spoken and I asked her name. She said Rena. Holy smokes, Rena Schumann. I see her results all the time in Ultrarunner magazine and I know she's fast and yet she took the time to walk and talk to me. She almost sounded apologetic as she announced after awhile that she was going to go ahead and try to run a bit.

After climbing away from the river that I had just spent the last 15 miles trying to reach, I got to the final aid station of the day and the bus was still there. Yeah, I'd made it within my time goal. I was impressed with the layout of food, bbq, drinks and lots of folks hanging out. However, I didn't have any time to spare. Greg Soderlund announced that the bus was leaving and the next one wouldn't be for another hour. So I grabbed a hot dog, 2 oreos, and 2 pieces of red licorice (I know, my mind wasn't functioning right) and hurried to the bus. I found myself sitting behind Rena and we were able to visit on the ride back to the elementary school. She stated that after the last couple days she was really confident in her ability in the upcoming WS100. I wish her well.

The final aid station and my ride
I made it back to my car and arrived at the party just as my husband and girls got there. Perfect timing. First thing I did? Jumped into the pool with all the other 5 year olds. Ahhhh, I'd been dreaming of this moment for the last 10 miles of the run.

I worked Monday so didn't participate in the third day of running. I didn't do any running that day actually. I was impressed that I could just walk. Getting into and out of the fire engine was a feat in itself. Luckily we had a slow day. It's now been a few days and I've done a couple runs and bikram yoga and things are finally feeling better. But most important is my attitude: I'm excited about really training hard and seeing what I'm truly capable of.

Help, My Legs Have Been Murdered and I Can't Get Up

Or, The Weekend I Fell in Love With Payday Bars

This is the weekend of the Western States 100 Training Camp, held every Memorial Day weekend. The camp is designed as a last big mileage push for runners to familiarize themselves with the course over 3 days covering about 70 miles from Robinson Flat to Auburn.

This is my first time attending the camp (even though I didn't camp since I live less than a hour away). I was really excited about running parts of the course that I've never seen before. I participated in only 2 days since I'm working today (Monday). I was able to run today's section last February during another training run and after running 52 miles in 2 days, I'm not sorry to be at work today.

I checked in early Saturday morning and spent the hour before the buses would leave visiting with friends. It was a who's who of ultrarunning with past winner Hal Koerner, Beverly Anderson-Abbs, Scott Dunlap, and many others. I ran into my friend Frankie who would be following me home that night in her words, "like a stray dog". She wasn't set up to camp and I was able to coax her with the promise of a hot shower and soft bed.

Greg Soderlund addresses the crowd

By 8:00 we were loaded on the buses and heading to Robinson Flat, about an hour away on a narrow, twisty road. We were warned that there would be snow at RF so after unloading we should all follow Tim Twietmeyer up the road until we could get onto the trail.

We unloaded and started walking up the road, slipping and sliding on the snow a bit and getting warmed up. It was a beautiful day, not cold but also not expected to be smoking hot in the canyons.

Soon we were off the snow and onto the trail leading down through burnt over Duncan Canyon. It's a pretty rocky trail so not a lot of looking around. I found myself at the head of a line of runners which can be a little stressful because I know a lot of faster people were behind me. We got down to the logging roads and things started to work themselves out.

It wasn't long before I felt cold water being squirted on the back of my leg and Mark Winkelman, a captain I work with, laughed as he ran by. Said he wanted to make sure I didn't over-heat. Thanks for your concern, Mark. Sure hope you don't dehydrate without that water :)

Watch your step. My friend Rose

The trail is a combination of dirt roads and singletrack through remote country and soon we were in Last Chance, the beginning of the canyons section. As I started down this steep, narrow, rocky, leaf-covered, treacherous trail, I couldn't help but get chills as I thought about all the history of this area. It's hard to believe this was a major pack-train route to get supplies to all the miners.

It wasn't long before I felt my quad muscles getting sore. Uh oh. It's too early for this to be happening. After an endless descent I finally came upon the swinging bridge. What a site. I recognized the bridge from all those Western States DVD's I watch repeatedly (which I know my husband just loves). I saw runners down at the river soaking their feet but I just wanted to start the climb out the other side after taking a couple minutes for pictures.

I love this sign: Bridge Limit: 5 runners or 3 horses.

It wasn't long for me to understand why everyone calls this climb up to Devil's Thumb brutal. It is steep. It also didn't take long for me to discover a real weakness I have: I am a very slow climber. I think an old lady in a wheelchair could have passed me, everybody else did. There was a lot of shade and a nice breeze which kept me from getting too hot and I was grateful to finally reach the top where the aid station is usually located. For today's run they moved the AS about a mile further down the trail to Deadwood.

I saw my friend Gretchen taking down runners numbers then took advantage of all the good food and cold water. Now, to the subtitle of this post. It seems like every ultrarunner I know loves Payday bars and I always see them at aid stations and everybody seems to rave about how wonderful they are. So I bought some and tried them out. I wasn't impressed and have steered clear of them since.

But during the early miles I had been talking to my friend Rose about them and she also stated she loved them. So when I saw them on the table I decided to try one. Ummm, good. Really good. So I grabbed a couple and stuck them into my pocket and continued down the trail. And I continued to grab them at every aid station and am a Payday convert. Like GU's, some things just taste better 20 miles into a strenuous trail run.

The next descent into El Dorado Canyon is longer and not quite as steep. At one point I thought the trail would never get to the river. And like the descent, the climb out isn't as steep but longer than the last climb. A man came up to me and said when we get to the tree that looks like an elbow we'll be at the top. We started talking and it turns out he was Bill Hunter, President of the Sierra Trailblazers, a local running club in Nevada County that I belong to. As we arrived in Michigan Bluff he introduced me to Peggy Davidson who is a local ultrarunning legend and our Vice President. Since I have 2 young kids I don't make it to many meetings or club runs which explains why I had never met them before.

The next section from Michigan Bluff to Foresthill was a bit disappointing. You spend quite a while on a dirt road in an area that has been clear-cut and thinned and it just goes up, up, up. Finally I found myself back on a trail that descended steeply to Volcano Canyon. I reached the creek and realized there was no easy way to cross and stay dry so I forged right in. The water came up about mid-calf and it felt great.

One last climb up to Bath Rd and finally back to Foresthill where it all began about 9 hours earlier (32 miles and 8 hours of running). I was hoping to do a little better but I've had limited training the last 3 weeks and it showed. But I've got 3 months to Leadville so I'm not too worried. It will happen.

After phone calls to family letting them know we were safely off the trail, Frankie and I headed home picking up pizza and about 40 lbs of ice for those wonderful ice baths in our immediate future.

Since this post got a little long I'll be back later with Day 2: Foresthill to Rucky Chucky (and up to White Oak Flat).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Silver State Half Marathon

The last week has been incredibly busy with a whirlwind trip to southern California to visit family, preparations for my daughter's 5th birthday, and of course, a quick run up Peavine Mountain in Reno.
This post will be about my not so glorious run in the Silver State Half Marathon and I'll tackle the other 2 topics in future posts.
N is for Nevada of course, on Peavine Mountain
I signed up for the Half knowing that it would be tough since I had taken 2 weeks off running and only done a few runs of 3-4 miles in the week before the race. The race was on Saturday and also included 50 mile and 50 km events. I had to work Saturday so I took a few hours off and arrived at San Rafael Park just before 7:00am to watch the 50K race start. The 50 milers had started at 6:00am.

50K races milling around before the start
The day started beautiful but promised to soon turn hot. Another reason I was happy I was only going to be out there 2-3 hours. This event was created by the Silver State Striders in an effort to provide a tough ultradistance event for the local runners for training for Western States 100 and other 100's. It provides a quality race and a way for Nevadans to run on their local trails and not have to "drive over the hill" (Donner Summit).

Runners getting last minute instructions from RD Scott

And they're off!

Eventual womens winner Bev Anderson-Abbs

My race started at 8:00am so I had a bit of time to do some last minute race prep before we lined up to receive our own instructions. Our course would follow the 50/50 course for the first 7 miles, pretty much all uphill on the flanks of Peavine Mtn. At the "pond" we would make a left hand turn and after a short but brutal climb start the descent on some fun singletrack.

I've run on some of these trails during training but I was looking forward to exploring the mountain further. My fire station is right near the course and anytime there is a fire on Peavine, we respond. So you can also call this a reconnaissance run to familiarize myself with the confusing web of the many dirt roads and trails on this mountain.

We lined up for the start and I could already feel the sweat forming. I looked around and was impressed with all the fit looking women there. I swear it seemed like the women outnumbered the men for this event. (sorry there won't be any more pictures because I didn't take my camera on the run).

We started promptly at 8 and immediately we were faced with a muddy, boggy section that was created by some excess irrigation of the surrounding lawns. Some ran right through but most tried their best to skirt the mud, me included. Too early to be running in wet, muddy shoes.

I settled into a pace and tried to keep my heart-rate from sky-rocketing on the early climbs. I knew I was going to be slow and that proved correct as I was passed by many runners. I reminded myself that this was just a good, solid training run and I was in no condition to try and race it.

After climbing through the Evans Creek Canyon which was familiar to me, we started the more serious climbing onto unfamiliar trails. The course was really well marked and there was never any doubt about which way to go. The trail was real rocky in places and you had to really watch your step.

I reached the first aid station at 4 miles in relatively good shape. A quick refill of my water bottle and I was soon climbing again. I was able to continue a slow jog on some of the hills that I noticed others were walking but it was slow going. I was sluggish and my legs felt heavy, no spark in them. I continued the grind up to the pond enjoying the beautiful wildflowers where Dave Cotter personally refilled my bottle with ice and water, Thanks Dave. I told him I'd see him in a couple months at the TRT 50 mile.

After fueling myself with some delicious and refreshing watermelon and some M&M's, I headed for the final steep climb. It wasn't too long but it was the "head down, hands on the quads" kind of climb. I guess you have to earn the final 5 miles of downhill. It was definitely warm but a nice breeze kept it from getting too hot. I hit the high point of the course (for us anyway) and started down some sweet singletrack. Normally this is where I feel myself kick into over-drive and start to really push the pace. However, that extra gear just wasn't there this time and I just continued my consistent pace down the hill.

Of course it can't really be "all downhill to the finish" (is it ever?) and I found myself walking a couple of the uphills that I should have been able to run. Finally I was back down to familiar territory and through the muddy bog and onto the grass to the finish line in 2:36:48 (good enough for 61st place, UGH). It was a tough effort on a tough course but it was just what I needed to jumpstart my return to training.

I enjoyed the post-race BBQ and visited with some other runners. For one guy this was his first trail run, he's now a convert from the road! I ran into Mark Winkelman, a captain that I work with, who had spent the morning running the 50K course making sure the markings were still in place. He had recently done the very challenging Miwok 100K in tough conditions and he was feeling good in his preparation for WS100.

I had that really good achy soreness in my legs as I laid in bed that night and it felt good knowing I had worked hard. The WS training camp is this weekend and it will be a tough test of my fitness. But I know that running on those historic trails with a lot of other amazing runners will help the miles fly by. I can't wait.

Thank you Silver State Striders and all the volunteers that made this a fun run. I look forward to doing the 50K or 50M next year and seeing more of Peavine Mountain. For full results go here.