Spring Trail Races: Black Canyon 100k, Land Between the Lakes 60k, Yamacraw 50k

Spring Trail Races: Black Canyon 100k, Land Between the Lakes 60k, Yamacraw 50k

Black Canyon 100k – 2/18/17:

I decided to go to Black Canyon to get my Western States qualifier out of the way and enjoy some nice warm weather after being in Indiana for the winter.

Leading up to the race, I had a rough training cycle. After the 100k World Championship (end of November),  I took 2 weeks off to rest and eat like a champ. I wasn’t sure if I just hadn’t taken enough recovery time, or if carrying a built-in fuel belt (my extra weight) was making me feel slow. I had days where I felt semi-okay and days where I just felt plain tired. I was sleeping a lot, because that is what you are supposed to do, right? I was sleeping 9-10 hours tonight, but still felt tired. I backed off my training. I ate good foods. I kept stress low (only did what was needed). I was quick to set-off, easily annoyed, and low on patience. All of things were symptoms of times where I have been overtrained in the past.

I went to Black Canyon with hopes to be competitive, despite my rough training cycle. I didn’t want a Golden Ticket because of the 24-Hour World Championships on 7/1 & 7/2, but wanted to do well. I was dismayed by the weather forecast. It was supposed to rainy, cold, and windy. So much for my winter reprieve…Bring it on! I have been training in the cold and I do well in crappy conditions. I felt like this gave me an advantage.

Nicole, Zach, and I Pre-race

Nicole, Zach, and I Pre-race

Race morning was freaking cold. I lined up behind some other fast women and decided to run by feel. Within a mile, several women were screaming down the road in front of me. I was breathing soooo hard. I knew I had to let them go. I was still optimistic, thinking people were going out too hard and they would come back to me. I ran, and enjoyed the descents. However, the climbs (totally runnable) seemed insurmountable. I couldn’t breathe and my legs felt like lead on the climbs. Oh well, this is an ultra…I will “hike” them, I thought. It was clear to me by 20 miles into the race, that I wasn’t going to “warm up” and feel better…Let the sufferfest begin. I saw Nicole Kaladropalos coming back to me (probably 4 miles ahead of me). She was leading, so I cheered her on. She wondered if she should continue because she had gone extra miles off course and thought she might be d/q’d. I said YES! You never know! Finish it up! (Spoiler Alert: She won and earned her Golden Ticket).

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Race conditions: cold, rainy, windy...sufferfest

Race conditions: cold, rainy, windy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got to the turn-around (the course was changed due to all the rain to an out and back) and headed back out. There was a gravel downhill. My tired legs started spinning faster than I could manage. I was out of control, trying to keep my body upright. No luck. “BOOM”, down I went. My protective reflexes were quick as a cat, but my tired arms couldn’t support my chubby, downhill momentum. BAM, my arms gave out and my forehead literally bounced off the gravel road. I laid there, stunned like a bug who just flew into a bug zapper. Well, not completely stunned. My sailor mouth wasn’t now on overdrive. F, F, F. Despite my terrible rhetoric, 2 nice guys on their way to the turn-around stopped to help me. They sat me up. Immediately, I felt and tasted blood dripping along the edge of my eye, down my nose, and onto my lip. I got cleaned up, and the guys helped me to my feet. I said “Thanks, Let’s get this F’-er, done!” I ran for the next 6 miles wiping the blood every few seconds off my face and onto my capris (thankfully I wore black capris and it wouldn’t stain-crazy thoughts). Runners headed to the turn-around gave me shocked and empathetic looks as we passed, asking if I was ok. At the next aid station, I stopped at medical for a fun quiz (who am I, where am I, did I black out, did I have a headache, did I have vision issues, blah blah blah). Since I passed with flying colors, they patched me up and sent me on the way. They told me to check in at the end of the race, recommending stitches and a head x-ray.

img_0924I pressed on. About an hour before the last aid station as I slogged along, the rain began again with a vengeance, the temperatures dropped, and the wind began whipping against us at what felt like 20 mph. I got to the last aid station with 7 miles to go and couldn’t imagine going back out. I was soooooo incredibly cold. All of us were. We crowded around the one heat lamp, trying to get our body temperatures up. My husband was there asking what I needed. I told him I needed to change clothes. I took off my jacket, shirt and bra. I didn’t care if anyone saw. I put on a shirt and a rain proof jacket, and rain proof pants. I didn’t have an extra bra and I didn’t care. I wasn’t moving that fast anyway. I wanted to quit. I had an excuse. I had fallen hard. He asked if I wanted to warm up in the car. We asked if it was legal for me to do so. The aid station people said ok. I sat in the car, heat blasting, not wanting to get out. I did the math. Moving well at that point through a mud river for the next 7 miles would take me at least 15 minutes/mile…2 more hours…I didn’t think I could. He said “get out, and get going.” I did so grudgingly. Thankfully, the rain-proof clothes I had that are normally soooo HOT that I would NEVER run in them, were just what I needed. They helped keep me semi-warm. I trudged to the end. Finishing in just over 13 hours. As you can tell from the picture…I look thrilled to finish.

fullsizerenderAfter the race, medical checked me out. I was to fly out of Phoenix early the next morning and didn’t want to spend all night in the hospital. So, I consulted a nurse friend from home (Thanks Michelle Mires) and got Hibiclens and steri-strips at a pharmacy. I later got medically checked out when I got home. I now have a scar on my forehead as a souvenir from the race. I thanked my husband later for making me finish the last 7 miles. He said it wasn’t an option not to finish. He said he would have tricked me to get out of the car and driven off without me if necessary…NOW THAT’S A GOOD CREW! Plus, I am thankful for his constant support. He stood in freezing rain all day to support me, not to mention all of his support before and after and during training. I would never be the runner I am (successes and failures) without him.

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Status Check…What’s Wrong With Me?!

I knew there was something out of sorts with me, so I decided to get my blood work done. Results: LOW Ferritin, LOW Iron, LOW Total Iron Binding Capacity, LOW Iron and Binding Level. AHHHH, at least this made sense. I started crying when I got my results back. There were times in January and February where I felt like maybe my good times were behind me, that I sucked, that I should turn down my spot on the 24-hour team. I had felt soooo incredibly low, depressed, and angry. Now, I knew what was wrong, but I knew it takes forever to get iron levels back up. 2 more months of slogging 🙁  I was having trouble getting my head around 2 more months of feeling crappy.

I learned A LOT about Iron, how similar low iron and overtraining can feel, and about supplementation. I am having labs run again in early May and plan to write a blog about Iron, blood testing, and what I have learned.

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Land Between the Lakes 60k – 3/11/17:

I was originally planning on doing the 50 miler as a training run. I had just started supplementing my iron 2 weeks earlier. My smart coach, Howard Nippert, suggested I drop down to the 60k, with the goal of running it easy and feeling good at the end as opposed to running myself into the ground. This turned out to be the perfect choice. I ran by feel, and didn’t care about my place or time. 3 loops on a course I knew well. I love Steve Durbin’s races and this was a fairly easy single track trail loop race. I felt good the majority of the day except on the “climbs” which are ALL runnable. However, my low iron made hills feel incredibly hard. So, I hiked them. Whatever. It is what it is. I had a relatively uneventful day, slowing a little each loop, but not bonking hard. My goal of the day was to run, and be happy. It wasn’t my best race, but it was positive, fun, and what I needed to start getting my confidence back.

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Yamacraw 50k+ (33-34 miles) – 4/8/17:

6 weeks post iron supplementation. My average week was: feeling good 2 runs per week, okay 3 runs per week, and tired 2 runs per week. This was a HUGE improvement. I came into Yamacraw with a similar goal as LBL. Run by feel, have fun, and be happy.

Pre-race briefing

Pre-race briefing

At the start of the race, Race Director, Brian Gajus, said to make sure to look up and see the beauty the course had to offer. I thought it was the perfect day to do just that. I decided to look around and enjoy. I know sometimes I get focused looking at the ground and miss my surroundings.

Oh my gosh! I have run many trail races, but this was/is my favorite trail race. It is beautiful the entire way. I ran by feel not worrying about my place. The Yamacraw 50k is a point-to-point (mostly single track, with a bit of fire roads thrown in) trail race that runs through Daniel Boone National Forest and ends in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation area. Within a mile, there were already cool things to see. I ran past numerous rocks as big as buildings with green moss all over them. A lot of the race, was run along the Big South Fork Cumberland River and adjoining creeks which was pretty and wet. There must have been at least a dozen water crossings. I slowed down across the water crossings not wanting to fall and get soaked…the temps started in the 30’s. The course runs in a lush, green, beautiful area which includes the longest trail in Kentucky, the Sheltowee Trace Trail.

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Much of the course was runnable and I felt good. The “climbs” still felt hard, so I stepped aside and let people pass me early on as I hiked them. Despite my hiking, I found myself in the lead (from 3rd place at the first aid station) about halfway through the race. Bonus.

In the first section, the 50k’ers ran a lollipop loop on the far side of the water (20k’ers miss this section). It was my favorite section. Runners go down some steep stairs, run around some cool rocky formations, but the best part was run under a rock overhang with Yahoo Falls cascading down from the shelf above! I was in love. Then I was mad at a friend who told me not to bring my phone to take pictures. Still, I couldn’t stop smiling. Not much further, I was relieved to see a photographer was taking photos in this super cool spot. EVEN BETTER!!

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I continued my race, enjoying the scenery as I went. The race ends with an awesome crossing over the river on a 100 foot high pedestrian bridge that leads runners straight to the finish. The course has 3965′ up and 4440′ down of elevation and was approximately 33 miles.

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I have nothing but positive things to say about this race. The organization is fantastic. Volunteers were nice and aids stations were plentiful. The course was gorgeous. I had been in Zion National Park 2 weeks earlier for an Altra Summit. While at the summit, I was sad I lived in the Midwest with cornfields and cows. This race was the slap in the face that I needed to remind me how pretty the Midwest/Southeast can be. Plus, the race gave nice shirts, sweet wooden medals, and really went overboard with awards for the podium finishers. I WILL BE BACK WITH FRIENDS. I am posting A LOT of pictures from the race. The pictures speak for themselves.img_1224img_1220img_1222

Thanks to all my sponsors for sticking with me through my rough start this year:

Altra Running: I love, love, love Altra’s shoes. I wore the Superior’s for Black Canyon and LBL, and the Lone Peak’s for Yamacraw. I am happy to report, happy feet and no blisters despite mud, snow, and water crossings through all the race conditions.

Nathan Sports: I wore my new Howe Vapor 12L pack. This is thee most comfortable pack I have ever worn. I was able to carry water, gels, wipes, supplements, and lots of clothes (at Yamacraw, I striped off my jacket, earband, gloves, and eventually my long sleeve shirt). It is lightweight, uber comfortable and extremely functional.

Hammer Nutrition: I have been with Hammer since 2012. They have quality nutrition products with lower sugar content to keep me from having GI distress. During the races, I used Apple Cinnamon, Niccola, and Huckleberry gels. I also took Anti-fatigue Caps and Endurolytes Extreme during the race. After the races, I used Recoverite just like after every hard or long run. Recoverite is my favorite Hammer product.

Running Skirts: I love your skirts. Unfortunately, all my races were too cold for them, but I have had a few warm days to train in them and look forward to racing in them the rest of the year!

Drymax Socks: I am sooo thankful for getting referred to Drymax in 2013. I used to have such blister problems and now I don’t! Happy feet that are sandal-worthy 🙂

Sundog Eyewear: I love the glasses that I don’t have to worry about fogging up. They are light-weight and stay snuggly on my head whether I wear them up or down. Plus, they are super cute and don’t cost a ridiculous amount!