Our 50K Plan

We’re in our taper weeks (thank goodness) for our first 50K (2 weeks out!).  It’s been a interesting journey to get here from that first 5K I agreed to 2+ years ago when I was a 100 yard runner and 100+lbs heavier.  A journey filled with learning about shoes and socks, shirts, shorts, tights, watches, training, hydration,fueling and the list goes on and on.  There have been injuries and forced layoffs as well as high points of PR’s set and re-set for shorter distances.

And now here I am about to travel 31.5 (ish) miles in one stretch.  To get here I’ve picked up a few things that work for me and by necessity have worked for Bunny.   One of those is what I feel is a winning strategy for me to finish this thing in a time I won’t be too unhappy with and doing it injury free so we can jump into the training for Rocky.

To wit: for me a run/walk is faster than trying to run until I can’t run another step and being forced to walk and less stressful both physically and mentally.

We’re going to be running the following workout on our Garmin’s for Dead Horse –

  1. Warmup (walking pace) for 0.5k
  2. Run 1K at a pace between 11:00 and 13:00
  3. Walk 0.25K with no pace target but typically my walking pace is between 18 and 20
  4. Every 6th walk will be a double walk of 0.5k
  5. Repeat 2-4 until we cross the finish line.

We will also walk every incline of significant excessive slope.  Because literally 80% (an out of my ass guess) of the first 25K is uphill we can’t walk every uphill since we’d be walking the front half of this course but any excessive inclines we’ll walk it out.

We’ll take time to enjoy the folks at the aid stations, the scenery and the entire process and experience of our first ultra.

I doubt we’ll finish DFL but I know we also won’t finish above the 50% mark.  It’s been my experience and observation the longer the race the farther back I place.  And I’m fine with that.

For Rocky 50 Mile race , pending the results of the Dead Horse 50K run, we’re considering splitting the difference.  The first 25 miles we’ll do a distance based run/walk.   The remaining distance we’ll do a time based run walk of 7 minutes / 3 minutes.   At our cruising paces these are fairly equivalent but it would be interesting to do the 50 mile and see how it changes the ‘feel’ of the race.

For that one it works out like this –

  1. Warmup (walking pace) for 0.5k
  2. Run 1K at a pace between 11:00 and 13:00
  3. Walk 0.25K with no pace target but typically my walking pace is between 18 and 20
  4. Every 6th walk will be a double walk of 0.5k
  5. Repeat 2-4 30 times (a hair under 25 miles in total).
  6. Run 7:00 min at 11:00 to 13:00
  7. Walk 3:00 min
  8. Every 6th walk will be a 6:00 minute
  9. Repeat 6-8 until we cross the finish line.

Ultra Marathons for Mere Mortals

The sport of ultra marathoning, i.e. by technical and literal definition any race that is longer than the established 26.2(ish) miles of a marathon, has grown quite rapidly.   In no small part it’s my firm belief because let’s face it these it’s a little cooler to say “I’m going to be running my first [50K, 50Mile, 100K, 100Mile] that there are a greater number of people who are attempting these distances.

But after purchasing and reading multiple books on the subject of ultra marathoning I find there is lack of information for folks like myself.  The published training plans are aimed at doing well in ultra marathons.   At finishing in the front pack, not the mid or back pack.

And a 100 mile ultra is yet another step toward my goal to see how far I can go before I break in the trying.

Websites with how to run your first 100 mile have anecdotes like “marathon time of sub 4” which frankly for a lot of us isn’t even a dream.  You can train for endurance, anyone barring physical disabilities can train to ‘go long’.  But to go fast requires a certain amount of physical ability.   To endure a 100 mile race that does not include a high level of vertical and technical terrain and do it in under the typical 30 hour cut off only requires an average of 18 minute miles.  A fair number of people, not me, can sustain somewhat easily a sub 18 minute walk.  Me, my walk pace is closer to 19 minutes.  So for me to do a 100 mile in the 30 hour cut off I have to run some portion of it.

For us mere mortals let’s ‘do the math’ and see what we have to accomplish in order to finish a 100 mile race purely from a moving pace perspective.  I think it’s not as bad as you might be assuming if you’re just looking into the crazy notion of moving 100 miles without stopping.

For me, let’s choose a moderate pace assuming some levels of moderate vertical and technical terrain.  A 6 minute run at 12:00m miles and a 4 minute walk at 20:00m miles is an average of 14:17 minute miles.  That’s a sub 24h 100 mile.   Granted that’s not possible for anyone to actually be able to finish at as there’s no AS breaks, potty breaks, food breaks, scenery appreciation breaks etc.  But still that leaves 6 hours for all the breaks.  (Again assuming a 30 hour cut off)

Drop the run pace a small touch so you average 15:00m pacing and you still have yourself a 25hour 100 mile.  Based on a 6/4 run/walk schedule that’s a 12:52 run pace and a 20:00 walk pace.

Which oddly enough a 12:52 is exactly my average pace for the very first 5K I did 2 years ago this month.

So for those of us who merely desire to do the distance these numbers should be of some at least small inspiration in that yes we too can aspire to completing an ultra marathon of even the bigger distances.

Many of the books and online guidance do have it right I believe, an Ultra, especially once you get past the 50k distance is going to be a combination of two factors.  Time on feet because our bodies, especially our feet, have to be prepared to be upright and mobile for these increased time frames.   And mental endurance to sustain the discomfort, boredom, fatigue that our minds will suffer from being upright and mobile. These are both very much trainable.

My ability to do boring things for extended lengths of time has greatly increased thanks to our long runs.  I can sit through 2 hours of kids choir concerts a lot easier now than I could 3 years ago.   You learn/gain the ability to speed the passage of time, an analog mode organic based time machine if you will.  While it passes at the same inexorable rate it always does, you no longer are part of ever tick.   Think of it like using an Acceleration Wand in Minecraft, except in reverse.  You’re decreasing your own ‘tick rate’ so that the world speeds up in relation to you rather than speeding you up in relation to the world.

Time on feet becomes more and more important in my opinion the larger a runner you are. Yes I speak from personal and painful experience.

It’s quite simple, more weight equals more impact because gravity is a bitch.  More impact is more stress.   So the larger you are the harder on your feet and every impact absorbing component of your body it is.  This physical stress is a lot more difficult to remediate. You can ‘will’ it away to some extent and medicate it away to a larger degree but the human machine that you are does have a point of failure.   I recently hit that this last weekend in fact where I started cramping bad from pushing things too hard over the course of a long day in my calves and shins.

Mental stress has more available remediation.  Simply finding someone else on the trail and hanging with them if they’re amenable can be a major boost for most runners although it’s my observation that ultra running tends to be a solitary sport to a larger degree than street running. Listening to audio of some kind, music, podcasts, books on tape can also help.  Or simply zoning out of everything but your focus on where you’re going to place your next 10 steps.   Just don’t zone out in general as that’s the fastest way to take a dirt nap.

In terms of training most, even perhaps all, of the plans available on the internet are created by and aimed at front packers.   Front packers are just literally the folks who will finish at the front of the pack.  They’re the ones who have the physical and mental resources to travel 100 miles in under 20 hours, in most cases well under 20 hours.

These leaves a gap for those without their level of abilities, i.e. the mere mortals.  When we try to do their training plans we end up injured, burned out or find out we can’t hit those 70-80 mile weeks and those 30+25 back to back weekends that we simply cannot do an ultra marathon.   And I believe that couldn’t be further from reality.

It makes for an easy rationalization to pull back to the safe distances we’ve done and if we need that rationalization / opt-out then there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  You do you as the saying goes.  But you’ll never know how far you could have gone if you don’t push yourself.

If you’re still with me then I think as long as you can achieve the following with an average pace of under 17 minute miles including all breaks and recoveries then you can be an Ultra Marathoner.  Granted for the typical cut off times you just need to average 18 minutes but realistically you need to allow for a little slack for unexpected events, terrain etc that might cost you some time so I feel an average pace of 17 is a good value to shoot for as your upper edge-

  • 50K – 3-4 weeks prior to the race having done 20-26 mile long run.
  • 50Mile – 3-4 weeks prior to the race having done 30 mile long run.
  • 100K – 3-4 weeks prior to the race having done 30 mile long run.
  • 100M – 4-6 weeks prior to the race having done 50 mile long run.

Is this a very simplistic rule of thumb?  Yes of course it is.  It’s yet another one size fits all kind of blanket statement.

Now to get to the above long run goals then you need to build your training plan based on your own abilities.  The “I’m an elite and this training plan is how I train” plans are unlikely to work for most of us, at least in the early years, especially the first year.

You can obviously pay to play and hire a trainer and there’s certainly value in having an experienced open minded trainer helping chart your path to your first or 100th ultra marathon.  Unless you live in a small town it’s likely there are plenty of runners out there in your area who can offer thoughts and recommendations on trainers.

If you’re going to roll your own plan then take any online plan with a big dose of salt and skepticism.  Unless the author goes at length to indicate it’s aimed at someone of your current ability then assume it’s going to be a good plan for the upper 25% of ultra runners.  If you fall into that category then no issue but if you might not be there yet then I’ll offer the following recommendations based on my own experiences.  Much like every other plan and guidance out there come at it with salty skepticism that it will work for you (this assumes you have at least the ability to do a 20 mile long day).  If you can’t do that much yet then jump on any of the 3 to 4 day week, 4 month marathon training plans out there.  You don’t have to race the marathon, just have the ability to do the distance –

  1. dial back the weekly mileage to something manageable (you’ll have to judge this for yourself but a reasonable guidance might be start with 20 miles a week and peak at 50 not withstanding the race week in #10 below)
  2. have at least half the weeks with 3 or 4 runs instead of 5 or 6 and potentially average 4 workouts a week.
  3. weekday runs should in general be speed runs (400’s/800’s, thresholds, intervals etc) to improve your VO2 max and running efficiency.
  4. restrict your double long run / back to back weekends to 2 per month
  5. do not increase your total mileage per week by more than 10%
  6. do not have a long run more than 30 miles in general, exception one 50 mile long run a few weeks out if you’re doing a 100 mile race.
  7. do not have a back to back weekend of more than 50 miles
  8. do not have a same day back to back runs of more than 30 miles
  9. one recovery/light week a month at the start of the plan with one recovery week every 3 weeks as you hit your peak mileage.
  10. Add in a race if you can manage it in that 3-6 week time frame of a lower distance before your target race.   So a marathon before a 50k, a 50k before a 50 mile/100k, a 50 mile before a 100 mile.

After the last year of training to move from a half marathon to something bigger these are my personal truths based on my own abilities right now.  I’m a 27m 5k, 60m 10k, 2:15 half, 5:30 full runner.   I’m 6-3 and currently 238 lbs as of this morning.

And a 100 mile Ultra is yet another step toward my goal to see how far I can go before I break in the trying.

The 100K Unicorn

Although it’s very much a cart before the horse, we’ve been forward looking at our next distance milestone, in this case the 100k.

We’re already signed up and travel plans made for our first 50K, Dead Horse Ultra and our first 50Mile, Rocky Raccoon 50.

It’s a shame too as I would so win the best ass award.

But Ultras are a little different than shorter races in that there are in most (all?) ultra’s there is a small fixed number of slots for runners.  And these can be as few as 40 slots to as high as 500 (that I’ve seen).   So a popular race tends to fill up fast.   We were looking at a very pretty race in the great lakes area and it had filled up like 2 weeks after they opened sign ups.   And it was 8 months before the race date.

Long story not very short we’re trying to plan our races out in the long view so we don’t miss a sign up for a race we really want because that means another year before we can try for it again.

So assuming the 50K and the 50M doesn’t kill us (me really) then the next step is the 100K.

There’s some key pieces I’m looking for in our first 62 mile race.  I don’t want multiple short laps for my first race of any distance.   I want to get my monies worth out of scenery and experience.

There also can’t be a bad amount of vertical because we have no way to consistently train for long verticals around here.   So less than 8K mandatory, less than 5k preferred.

Technical terrain is fine, I’m slow anyway so it doesn’t hurt my pride/pace to have to slow down to crawl up a vertical cliff face.

Scenery is important, there has to be something worth seeing at the race if I’m spending money on a plane ticket.

Best Ass

Time of year is critical.  I physically would have serious issues with a warm/hot race.  The Javelina Jundred seems like a party race for example but 12 hours in the sun in the desert in the heat would probably kill me.   It’s a shame too as I would so win the best ass award. 😉   I need something between September and March and preferably between November and February.  This is due in large part that I have dehydration problems with heat.   My water intake mechanics are not on par with my water outflow mechanics.  i.e. I sweat like a pig and my body doesn’t keep enough resources in reserve to process water fast enough.   This isn’t a performance concern, it’s a serious health concerns.

Soooo I’m painstakingly going through all the race calendars I can find and filtering them for 100k’s and then going through each one and documenting their laps/route types, their total vertical, the time of year and historical temperatures for the race, distance between aid stations.

Another key piece is tracking down race reports for the races and seeing what other people thought of them.  Were the aid stations good?   Was the route well marked?  Were there any surprises?  How was the bathroom situation? And was the race enjoyable, as much as one can enjoy pushing oneself to such ridiculous extremes.

My current rough initial list is.  All of these need further looking into but they made the initial cut just based on vertical and time of year and cut off times.  Where I could find any I added links to race reports/reviews.

Secret Beach

ORegon
October early
6600 feet vert, 16 miles of sand running, 5 miles of road running
Out and back loops
17 hour cut off

Mines of Spain

Iowa
October late
8400 feet vert
20mile loop repeated
23 hour cut off

Cuyamaca 100K

California (SD)
October early
8800 feet vertical
3 separate loops
19 hour cutoff
highest 6500k

Race Report, Race Report, Race Report

Cave Creek Thriller
(Not technically a 100K but an 80k with the Double 50k + 30k)
Arizona
Temps in the 90’s
October mid
50K day run, 30k night run
Race Report Race Report

Ordnance 100K

California
2 separate loops (40 and 22)
7200 vertical
Aggressive cut off of 16.5 hours
Finisher medal is a glass
DFL award
Race Report, Race Report, Race Report

Zion 100

Utah
April mid
7300 feet vertical
Large route, minimal out and back branches
Some major slopes from time to time
21.5 hour cutoff
Race Report, Race Report, Race Report

Crazy Desert Trail Race

Texas
March early
15 mile loop repeats
Has actual dinosaur footprints on it.
22 hour cut off
Race Report, Race Report

Black Canyon

Arizona
February mid
point to point
20 hour cut off
7000 of vertical
buckle for 100k
Race Report,Race Report, Race Report

Trail Trashed

Nevada (near vegas)
March early
31mile out and back
20 hour cut off
5900 of vert

Race Report, Race Report,

Grandmaster Ultras

Arizona
31 mile loop x 2
3800 feet of vertical
48hour cut off

 

Is there a hundred out there?

Ever since I met Rabbit and learned of her accomplishments… well she made me question just how far I should go on this crazy journey I’m on.

Hand to heart when I started I had no intentions of doing any races. None, zero, zip.   That was two years and 3 months ago (June 2016).

“You could do that.  You can’t do that.  You can do that.  You can’t do that.  You won’t know unless you try.”

18 months I had no intention of ever doing more than maybe a half marathon.  I even designed and 3D printed a PR display that only went up to half marathon.

And then I met Rabbit who, as I’ve mentioned before, the first question she asked after we met for the first time in person was did I run or something like after she saw me wearing a pair of Altra Lone Peak 2.5’s as my daily shoes.

Since then we’ve shared stories of runs, opinions of running, gear and training.  In spite of our 1500 miles of distance apart we’ve even run together albeit in a virtual race.

Somewhere in there after I made her acquaintance, I find myself signed up, cash paid and travel plans made for not only a 50K in 10 weeks (OMG) but a 50Mile in 5 months (OMFG).

For those of you for whom these are mere training run distances now, do think back and remember a time when you weren’t quite as awesome as you are now and what you went through to get to where you are now.

And now I’m reading race reports of 100 mile races.  I’m skimming and moving on from the race reports by runners who talk about their PR’s and 8 minute paces for 100 miles and their place on the podium.

I’m not ‘casting shade’ on these runners, their abilities are awesome, no doubt about it.  But there’s absolutely nothing relatable to their reports for me.   I can barely hold a sub 9 minute pace for a 5K and it had better be cold and non-hilly that day.

No the race reports that resonate with me are the ones by the folks who worry about making the cut offs.  The ones who push through enormous, soul shattering amounts of pain both mentally and physically to cross that finish line before the last seconds tick off.   I read how they trip and fall, wrenching body and mind, their battles with darkness, hallucinations, nutrition, hydration and boredom.  Their tales of everything that goes wrong, travel plans, forgetting to pick up their head lamps, trying new foods and really regretting it, but most of all the walls they have to break through to keep putting one foot in front of another make me try to figure out how, when, if this might be me one day.

And my association with Rabbit and her endeavors in this ridiculous sport we participate in and there’s an ear worm in my head that plays over and over, “You could do that.  You can’t do that.  You can do that.  You can’t do that.  You won’t know unless you try.” make me believe it might be possible one day.

Note I have my own walls to worry about in this regard, age, weight, training time and let’s face it sheer physical resources.  But you know what?  I’m pretty sure that if such a time comes that I let this flight of fancy take root and become a reality some day that Bunny and Rabbit will be encouraging me the whole way and I’m pretty sure one or both of them will be there force feeding me liquids and calories, making sure I don’t leave an aid station without everything I need to keep pushing forward.

Tearing down the Wall

I have written a bit before about what it’s like to face my personal walls while running, but I encountered an interesting experience during our back-to-back 30K/15K and I feel it is worth a few lines to describe it as it seemed rather significant and useful for future use.  At least to me, myself, and I anyway.

As T-Rex mentioned in his report, I have had a bit of knee pains the past week or so. I don’t think it is my shoes as I am alternating between 4 pairs of shoes and don’t quite have enough miles on them to be the cause. As such that pretty much leaves strain due to weakness & overuse, sooo I am going to have to up my PT game a bit. I have done band exercises (mostly) on the two days a week, that are our only non-run days, but I guess I will have to do them more fervently and frequently.  I would rather not have to do all this work only to bench myself as a result of injury.

Anyways I have had a bit of extra pain while running. Who doesn’t really? So after we started our second long run for the day my knees complained loudly. My right knee especially using rather colorful profanity from the beginning threatening to force me to turn around. The right had griped a lot after our earlier 30k, so during the day I iced it and applied liberal amounts of Biofreeze gel. I don’t know that any of this helped but it made me think I was doing good anyhow.  So not one to listen to “a bunch of b*tchy little [knees],”  I willed them into submission by running long enough for everything to warm up and loosen up. Thankfully this only took about 15 minutes. Bunny 1, knees 0.

So as the pain subsided I found the 7-min/2-min run/walk cadence helped me get into a decent zone faster for the first half of the run. I agree with T-Rex, our runs have improved with the return of the run/walk repeats.  But one problem I have with this pattern is that towards the end of our longest runs I hit a point when the stop/restart of running and walking becomes extremely painful and it feels better to just simply trot than to change gears. So painful in fact that at the restart of the last run of the night, after an extra-long walking bit, both T-Rex and I, in unison, belted out four letter expletives at our discomfort. The pain was real my friends.

It was during the last 3-4 miles or so of our run/walk that I felt my wall beginning to form. Brick by brick. And not the Yellows kind either.  Perhaps it was the hypnotic atmosphere created by the dark, mingled with the strong light of the high full moon, (or the delirium brought on by the pain and late hour), but somehow I was able to consciously observe the construction process in an almost disembodied state which gave me the opportunity to deconstruct the wall before it could form a solid obstacle.  This disconnected deconstruction process struck me as rather remarkable, and as it repeated itself over the last half run cycles, it allowed me the opportunity to meditatively experiment with my thoughts over my state of being. It went something like this….

Muscles: “Everything hurts, we are sooo done with this sh*t.”
Brain: “I concur, this sucks. F@#k it I’m out.”
Conscience Observer: “Wait a minute, we’ve totally been through this before guys, remember? Let me remind you that we have twice this distance to cover in a few months so cut this moaning crap out and let’s finish strong!” (Rocky theme begins to play)
Muscles & Brain: “But it hurts! And it’s hot. And we are tired. And this sucks. And it HURTS!”
Conscience Observer:  “Ya ya heard it all before, shut the hell up, we are just fine and we are damn sure not quitting. Here think of this…. We are half way from finishing our first 50k and the end is nowhere in sight, we are in the middle of the high desert with no aid nearby and, did I mention, we sure as hell aren’t quitting now? So what would we do then?” (Duh duh duuuun)
Muscles  & Brain: “Sh*t.”
Conscience Observer: “That’s what I thought. Now shut it, we’ve got a long way to go.” (Whip crack sound effect)

I know what you’re thinking… but as Sheldon would say “I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested.”

The not-crazy-like-at-all thought cycle continued to roll through my brain, and each time I would conjure up the idea that “we” simply were in the middle of a much longer run and, in fact, had no choice but to carry on. I basically tricked myself into thinking the end wasn’t near and it worked!   Well that is until the next time my muscles and brain tried to unionize and strike, forcing me to remind them of their ‘At Will’ contracts as I cracked my proverbial whip. (cue Devo song).  In those moments I somehow, not through the use of hallucinogens, stepped outside of myself and talked some sense into my brain and body. It was a rather surreal experience. But I am curious to know if other runners have a similar trialogue with themselves, or if perhaps insanity is creeping in with stress and age. Probably the latter. Hoping it’s the former, for Trex’s sake.

While I can’t say that I didn’t struggle with the wall, I can say I learned how to not allow it to form solidly, gaining me the clarity and abatement of the pain needed to reset mid-run. It also gave me hope that I have what it takes mentally to finish Ultra distances.  Or I am mental. Either way as long as I can keep my machine from giving out on me I intend to give it a try.

Livin’ on the Ridge!

Livin’ on the Ridge!

Pacific Coast Trail Runs

60K Race Report
(My apologies to Aerosmith)

Blips in my consciousness:

– It’s 3:30 AM. But at least we’re near the beach?

– We’re all on a school bus (AKA “shuttle to the start”) and someone drops their phone, setting off a cricket sound effect. “So nice to be out in nature,” someone quips. We’re all just awake enough to laugh.

– I’m biologically confused as I swing violently between passing out asleep and snapping awake to nearly vomit. What I get for riding a bus on a windy road in the dark.

– Rush for the accordion door. All of us praying after the 45 min ride that the bathrooms are open. They’re not.

 

The Whole Enchilada today

Consciousness booting…. Please wait….

While we all do our own versions of dances over lack of faculties (and in SF you can get in deep shit – ha ha – if you hit the bushes), the RD jumps up on a nearby park bench and bequeaths that he was going to do the race briefing while we were all a captive audience. As his audience barely holding onto code yellow, we pleadingly look up at him and do our best to be attentive.  [TRex:  RD is Race Director aka the person who gets all the blame when anything goes wrong on a race.]

First thing’s first, the police are on their way to open the restrooms.
Second “thing” was a ball of too much:
1. There was zero fog over the Golden Gate Bridge. We were instructed to enjoy the views but be advised this meant it was going to hit triple digits. We’re looking at you 60K runners.

Official Race Photo

No fog:
“It’s beautiful!” – tourists
“We’re screwed…..” – locals

2. There was a bike race scheduled for the same day on an overlapping course. We were informed not to panic however there were going to be thousands of bikes, non specified type (mountain or road), out there “somewhere” and they were not going to be looking for us and our small event.
3. The markings were out yesterday so they were most likely still there. However we were to be aware that this area has a high level of vandalism and so we had better be familiar with the course. The first stretch towards the Golden Gate Bridge should be the easiest as we “really don’t need the markers, just run towards the bridge. You’ll be fine.” [TRex:  I’ll never understand this.  You can’t get people to clean up their own trash but they’ll gleefully pull up marking tape just to screw with people.]
4. Other stuff I tuned out at that point because the police had arrived.

We all abandon the RD to rush the stalls. We’d been informed we’re going to be running on the sun, while dodging murderous cyclists and were using the Golden Gate Bridge as a landmark to get across the bay then follow markings that are “probably” there to the finish. What else did we need to know?

Official Race Photo

Go towards the light! I mean the Golden Gate Bridge!

Bathroom break over, we all line up and figure out that we’re supposed to go as the front of the pack takes off. That or they were just done standing around and decided we should start.

Thoughts by the Mile

Mile 1 – Made it to the Golden Gate Bridge! And we only had to have one trail running convention to figure out an intersection in getting here. Can I throw up now?

Official Race Photo

Running towards the Bridge

Mile 3 – Wow the Golden Gate Bridge is really this long. Can I throw up now?

Mile 4 – Off the bridge and the view is spectacular. Problem is, the noise isn’t. There’s a runner latched onto me who is doing a damn good impression of Tim from Jurassic Park prattling at Dr. Grant in their first scene. Word score 1,000 him to my 1. I’m still pretty nauseous so probably just as friendly as the the good doctor as all I want to do is slam a door on him. “- I heard that there was this ah, meteor, um, hit the earth. Some place down in Mexico, and made this big crater-…” I use my uphill gear to lose him. Or toss my cookies. Or both.  [Trex:  Neat, an oblique dinosaur reference.]

Will someone get that runner out of the way! She’s ruining the photo!

Mile 6– ‘Look at you eat like a big girl! I’m so proud of you. Yes I am! You ate 1/2 a waffle just like a big girl!’ Great. I’m already having an internal conversation with 1 extra personality that has shown up thus far. I’m thankful it’s the encouraging one instead of an alternative since I needed to figure

out how to eat while still bus sick.

Mile 8 – Rolling into this aid, the race plan of my coach surfaces in my mind again. The goal was to arrive here feeling very fresh, like I had just started. Unfortunately his exact words were, “like you just got off the bus”. No coach no!!! Not like I just got off the bus please…..
In due diligence, I took a PB&J quarter away from the table feeling the plaid start to materialize on my face again. [TRex:  By mile 8 I’m usually feeling like it’s time to head to whatever the local better version of IHOP is.  You know the place, where they have good pancakes and service.]

Mile 10 – The sun starts to take jabs at us as we traverse Miwok. I’ve joked about our fire trails acting like solar panels however this is not far from the truth. There are a couple of outings where I’ve been concerned about burning the underside of my nose as rays ricochet off the ground. I backed it down a little knowing that overheating would keep me from eating too and I’m behind in calories already. While it’s not near that high temp, I knew this was an going to be an inevitable race feature.

Official Race Photo

Ice Princess’ Aid Station

Mile 12 – Bikes! BIKES! Heads up! Fortunately they were on the road and not the trail as we feared and there was a volunteer to cross us to the aid. It seemed like something out of a cartoon stoplight as one direction of traffic halted on a dime (them) while the other (us) floored it. Once safe at the table a running buddy of mine calls for ice. I verbally poke at him saying it’s not THAT hot yet and make mental note to call him Ice Princess next time I see him. We only give crap to those we love. [Trex: Holy Hannah, if I’m ever on a trail with Rabbit I’m in for a seriously hard time.  By mile 12 I’m wearing a bladder filled with ice and pouring ice water on my head _every single chance I get_…]

Mile 14 – “And they died because of the weather. And then my teacher told me about this other book by this guy named Backer, and HE says” – oh fantastic, Tim was back. Good for me (and him) he found others to attach to. I let them go.

Mile 16 – F@#k….. It’s uphill which is usually my forte but lack of fuel had turned my legs to lead. I imagined my central control room with all hands at their stations, the supervisor standing menacingly over the drive control engineer who had their feet up on the console reading a magazine.

Official Race Photo

Heather Cutoff Switchbacks

Not even bothering to look up they drawl,
“I realize what you think we should be doing but the nutrition shipment we were suppose to receive never showed up so you’ll need to get in touch with procurement and work it out with them then we’ll need to process that…”
Smart ass. Who hired that clown? Downgraded to cranky hiking. [Trex: Yay!  We have a same pace, The Cranky Hike!  I wonder if she also has Hongry Shuffle?  (Hot+Angry)]

Mile 20 – Everything in me screeches “No! NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Why are you not dropping to the 37K?!?! You’re going the wrong way! The finish is this way! That way is death you imbecile!”
My body somehow walks out of the aid towards the 60K out and back while my soul scrabbles at every rock, tree and trail sign in a futile attempt to stop my forward motion, save my life and get me to run to the finish instead of the required bonus miles.

Mile 21 – The heat and lack of calories finally start breaking me down on a spiritual level. Another movie quote synapse fires randomly as I’m trudging. I hear Ed Harris from Apollo 13, “What have we got on the spacecraft that’s good?” Silence in the control room as everyone looks to anyone else to call out something functioning well. I felt as bodily able as that ship.

Official Race Photo

Using whatever is “good” on the Coastal Trail

Mile 23 – Out in the beating sun. So this is hell. And there are amber waves of grain and a gorgeous sweeping view of the sea 5,000’ below. Damn Marie you’re in a state. Just keep moving.

Mile 25 – See Ken “All Day” getting a heat training run before he sweeps and he gives me the best news all day (pun intended). His wife Karen along with Victor and Lorna are at the turn around and with this news comes internal dedication to get there to see them. I also take note that many times, we know each other by our handles rather than birth names. Kind of like fighter pilots. Yeah, let’s go with that since it sounds cooler than I don’t remember your real full name.

Mile 26 – PSA: Gentlemen of the non-warrior class. If you should choose to court or settle down with a warrior woman, let it be known that she will teach you through eloquent and frequent use, how versatile and comprehensive the word “fuck” is. I meet one of my fellow female warriors and we weave together full sentences, with zero linguistic error, clearly stating the condition we are in, our goals for the near future, our views on global warming as well as whether we feel the left or right Twix are the one true Twix. We are the few, the proud, the sometimes frightening.  [Trex: You know things are going south for me and Bunny when F#ck with varying numbers of !’s trailing it are the first word we use after switching back out of Hongry Shuffle to Lurching Jog modes.]

Official Race Photo

Wheels put back on at turn around.

Mile 27 – Finally to the aid. I’m reminded yet again how much power a smiling face has and here I have 3. Karen, Victor and Lorna are there and putting all of us back on track. Since I’m not crying, bleeding, throwing up, pushing a bone back under skin or holding a limb at an unnatural angle, I’m small potatoes. In under 5 minutes they have me iced, reloaded and aimed back to the former aid station that would now be my gate to the finish. Heat and food or not, they put me back in a good headspace.

Mile 27.5 – “Is it suppose to be this way?!” My new running buddy of 1 mile, Scott, yelps as his eyes bulge out. I look at him in puzzlement as he explains he just had his first ever salt tab but rather than swallowing it, he pushed it between his gums and cheek and let it burst there.

“Uh…. I don’t think so.” I stammer and then explain that I’ve always swallowed them with a little food and liquid. This is quickly followed by a mental scramble as I realize that I’ve never read the directions on how to eat a salt tab “correctly”.* My confidence in my trail running expertise shaken, I make note to not say anything else to hang myself and study up next time I’m around the bottle. [TRex: Folks this is why I switched to the chewable ones, they can go down any way, suck, chew, swallow whole, you pays your money you takes your choice.]

Mile 29 – Encouraging side makes another appearance, “If you can do 28 miles on Priest Rock, with 8,000’+ of vert in over 100 degrees, you can do this!”
Alright! Let’s get this show rolling!

Mile 32 – I come to pass a younger woman who is a fellow 60K runner but clearly lost, walking very slowly and doing her best to win the hide and seek game with course ribbons. I apparently either talk a good game to instill confidence that I know where I’m going, or just look like I do. She follows close to the next turn then I lose her as she slows.

https://rootsrated.com/san-francisco-ca/trail-running/dipsea-trailhead-at-muir-woods-trail-running2

Photo Credit – Becca Fanning

Mile 34 – At the last aid station, as I rally for the last 3M to the finish, a different woman jams right through sans stopping, calling out her number w/ the statement she’s fine and going for broke. My aggressive side’s head snaps around, hissing and bearing syringe teeth fuming over the fact that someone dare pass it. Security flies across my control room, pinning it to the ground while simultaneously whipping out every restraint it has to control the beast. “Oh no, you’re not invited today! Coach said TRAINING RUN! Really, you’re going to show up now?!?! We’re not through at this aid station yet and not chasing anyone down today!
Wait just a damn minute and let me get his ginger ale down.
Heel!
HEEEEEEEEEEL!!!!!!” [TRex:  I have no personal experience with Rabbit’s coach but if her #badassedness is any indication she’s either supremely naturally gifted at running on dirt or her coach knows a thing or two about getting a runner up to their peaks.]

Mile 36 – With the aggressive side successfully mummified in figurative duct tape, I am back to cruising. I pass a family group hiking up through the redwood grove and as soon as the kids on foot spot me, they fall in right behind, running down the trail and yelling gleefully.

Official Race Photo

Almost there…

The one child too small to make it far under their own power, riding in a hiking backpack, starts squealing with delight, smacking their Sherpa’s ears, hair and almost eyes. I’m sure the adults were glad to see me go.

Mile 37 – Dropping off the Dipsea trail I head down the ave to the finish in the Stinson Beach parking lot. Small finish line and welcoming committee complete with cowbells ended the tough grind of a race. The RD came over to congratulate me and it was then I learned that the 60K course only had about 6,000’ of vert rather than the 9,000’ – AKA the reason I registered for this race. I just started laughing hysterically. Of course it wasn’t 9,000’! Because that was the reason I signed up!

Confused the hell out of him…

So what did we learn kids? It’s only a waste of time if nothing is learned.[TRex: and/or you didn’t have fun.]

Finis

1. “Bad” races/runs show you just how strong you are. They make you think on the fly, create and implement new solutions fast, force you to really work for it physically and therefore forge stronger armor. These are the experiences you look back on when something else in life gets rough and say, “I did THAT. I can do THIS.”

2. Heat is still my arch nemesis and today it had lack of fuel to back it up. Pain I can take. Sketchy directions and markings I can figure out. Elevation is my “thing”. Put me in more than 100 degrees and take away food? The machine starts to lose its bolts. Something I need to continue to work on. Or get an air ratchet. 

2. Seeing people I know and who do not judge me by my speed, weight, language, smell (at the time), whatever, can put me back together faster than anything else. They are fuel for the heart and you can’t get that from anywhere.

3. How f*&king fortunate are we to have the OPPORTUNITY to do this stuff? While the large portion of the planet’s population are worried about where or IF they are going to have clean water, a roof over their heads, not have themselves or their families under attack, we’re out PLAYING on the trails. We have nothing to complain about. N_O_T_H_I_N_G.

4. Hang on. I didn’t fall. Not ONCE! So maybe this song isn’t really applicable. Again, my apologies to Aerosmith. 

5. Morning bus rides can kiss my ass. Yes sir.

Photo Credit - Victor Ballesteros

Victor, Lorna, Karen & Ken. Best surprise of the day bar none.

*HA! You had to look down here because you didn’t know either! Go look at the label. I’ll wait…. 😉