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Skipping Over Rocks

Running Past 40

Knowing When to Quit – The Cave Creek Thriller 24k Race

Over the years of Trail Running, I’ve DNS’d (Did Not Start) and DNF’d (Did Not Finish) my fair share of races. Generally, illness or injury makes a DNS a pretty clear- cut choice. But knowing when to quit during a race you have already started can be a more difficult decision.

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Excited and Ready for the Start of the Race

I hadn’t been this excited for a race in a while. After 6 months of running shorter distances due to recovering from a hamstring injury, I was signed up to race the longest event I had done since Mesquite Canyon. And despite a crazy busy week at work and construction in my house as new floors were installed and everything in our bedrooms and closets had to be removed and then replaced, I still felt terrific at the start of this race. I felt relatively rested, well-hydrated, and properly fueled. I believe that I had done everything I should and could have before the start.

But, within the first two miles of this 14+ mile race, I just wasn’t feeling right. I’d made the decision to wear a hydration pack because it was going to be a hot day, and the aid stations were 6 miles apart. But as the race began to climb up hills that I should have easily been able to handle, I found my breathing to become more and more labored. My hydration vest felt like it was suffocating me. I started to loosen the straps, undo the straps, anything to make me more comfortable. Maybe I need more fuel- so I took another gel, and then another. Maybe I needed more water- so I drank more and more water. How about some pickle juice? Okay. Maybe I need another few puffs on my inhaler- nothing was working.

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3 miles in- Still smiling though PC: Thomas O’Reilly

So I started walking the inclines, to see if I could get a handle on my lungs. But even the walking breaks weren’t helping a situation that was getting worse. My legs were dead and my head was fuzzy. For a point-to-point course, the last thing I wanted was to be in serious trouble miles from an aid station or my car. A quick glance at my heart rate monitor showed that even while walking, my heart rate was too high. My body was just working too hard.

And that’s when I made the decision to call the race. I knew that the 6-mile aid station was less than a mile ahead. Though I would have to figure out how to get back to my car, it was the smart thing to do. It was the healthy thing to do.

As much as I love trail running and I love racing, there is no race, no matter how big or how much preparation has gone into it, that is worth risking our health or jeopardizing our life. And I’ve seen it, I’m sure most of us have seen it. People out on the trail in races that kept pushing and pushing until their life was in danger…Let me tell you this- It’s just not worth it.

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3 miles into the race, still trying to smile – PC:Thomas O’Reilly

Have I been to the ER after a race? Yep. Have I raced while injured? Repeatedly. But, I’m trying to get better about knowing my body’s limitations and listening to it when it tells me to stop. And it is so hard to do when you have planned for, trained for, built up to that special race. But, there will always be another race. There will always be another special event. There won’t always be another YOU.

I don’t know that I will ever figure out what went wrong during the race. My suspicion is that a week of inhaling dust due to the construction, and a high allergy count on an already tired and stressed body that had been battling the fibromyalgia all week, was just too much. But sometimes you don’t figure out what went wrong- and that’s okay. You just show up at the next race ready to tackle the challenges as they come.

So my friends, I will see you on the trails again soon. I’ve got more races to look forward to and more single-track to explore. Have fun and stay safe!

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PC: Thomas O’Reilly

***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on a great race; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in the brutal sun while I train. And thank you always to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Vertigo 10k- Enjoying the Ride

There are no trails I’ve run more, no course I know better. And yet, no race has plagued me more. A missing finish line three years ago due to a monsoon rolling in, a DNF of the 52k with only 3 loops completed two years ago, and a DNF last year in the 10k- yes, 10k, because of dizziness and a spiking heart rate coming off of a virus bout. So, needless to say, I had a score to settle with the Vertigo course last night.

After a good race at Adrenaline, I’d bumped myself up to the 31k at Vertigo. But after a month of bronchitis and other issues, I was back down to the 10k due to a huge lack of training. My goal for last night: finish and have some fun. No time goals-just have a solid race without getting sick.

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Morning Sunrise over the course during a Vertigo training run

With the start of the race being almost 10 degrees lower than historical temps, I knew the upper 90 degree temperatures and humidity would be a challenge, but not as brutal as Hypnosis had been (which I missed this year due to sickness). I was feeling great and I was mentally prepared for the areas of suckage along the course that get me every time.

And so, we set off- slowly grinding up the inclines that would be our friends for the first few miles. I kept telling myself to run my own race, ignore the racers that were passing me and just focus on staying in the moment and enjoying the ride.

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Shot of the finish line before the start of the race

And that I did, as I continued to grind on through the course; Singing songs in my head, chatting with fellow runners periodically. Before I knew it, we were at the big hill- which I always allow myself to fast hike. This would save my legs for the technical back section of the course and give me a small breather before tackling the second half.

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After I rounded the back of the mountain, I found myself leading a small train of runners that didn’t want to pass, just wanted to hang out behind me. But, as we were in the same section where I had to drop last year, I was feeling pressure to keep up a pace I wasn’t comfortable with. I wasn’t running my own race. So, I pulled to the side for a short walk to force them to pass and allow me to establish my own rhythm again.

Pulling into the main aid station, I forced myself to refill my bottles- more for the cold water to dump on my body than for extra water to drink. And during those last few relentless miles, it would be my saving grace as I used the water to cool my neck every few minutes.

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Exhausted but relieved to be done

And finally the finish line was in sight.  While lack of training didn’t make this my best race ever, forcing myself to run my own race and have more fun during the process made for a really great night. Sometimes, we get so focused on the end goal that we miss the journey. Here’s to living in the moment and truly enjoying the ride!

Final result: 1:13:05 for a 6 minute PR, 12th Female out of 83

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Post-race Gluten-Free and vegan quesadilla with mango coconut water- delish!

***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on a great race; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in the brutal sun while I train. And thank you always to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

Double-Down in Flagstaff: The Blackout and Big Pine 6k Races

Back to back racing is really hard. This weekend, I discovered just how hard it was as I tackled the Blackout 6k and the Big Pine 6k races, both in Flagstaff, Arizona with Aravaipa Running.

Wanting to avoid the usual traffic rush heading north on a Friday, the munchkin and I headed up to Flagstaff on Friday afternoon while my husband worked. The first thing we did when arriving into town was head straight for the Natural Grocery store to stock up on snacks and other essentials for our short trip. With my first race on Friday night at 8pm, we then quickly checked into our hotel and I attempted to take a short nap before the race.

Unsuccessful at sleeping, we decided to head over to the race start early to hang out with friends. While I had been drinking water most of the day, I noticed that I wasn’t flushing it out since reaching Flagstaff’s elevation of about 7,000 feet. So, just before the race started, I chugged another 30 ounces of water and decided to also bring a handheld with me- which I hadn’t done last year. (It was a good thing I did as I needed fluids every few minutes during the race).

Just prior to the race, Jamil- the owner of Aravaipa, did a brief interview with me on camera about doing the double races. I was definitely in it for the challenge, but really, I just wanted the sweet medal for doing two events that weekend. The next morning, I would regret both that interview and that darn medal.

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Blackout 6k begins- PC:Amy Burnett

And so, after a brief warm up where I was already feeling the effects of the higher elevation on my lungs, we lined up for the start of the race. I knew that Friday’s race looked to be a bit more stacked than the Saturday morning race, so my plan was to use it as more of a warm up for the following morning. As the horn went off and the race started, I really pulled on the reins and took a few extra seconds on that first stretch that was slightly downhill and un-technical before the climbing began.

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Early in the race – the pain hasn’t started yet. PC: SweetM Images

At this point, I realized with a quick glance around that I was in 4th place for the women. So, I continued to settle into a more relaxed pace and planned to hang out there for a bit. But, after the climb began, my spinning workouts and all of the climbing work I have been doing kicked in, and I began passing a few people. About half way through the climb, I realized that I was in 2nd place with the 1st place female completely out of sight. It was then that I knew this race was going to hurt: really, really hurt.

The trail conditions were super dusty that night, making visibility with a headlamp difficult. Not wanting a repeat of my fall from a month ago (where my knee is still bruised and sore), I vacillated between not wanting to take a header, but wanting to hold onto that second place spot. In the end, I just decided to go for it and proceeded to race full-out until I had nothing left to spare. After what seemed like an eternity, I crossed the finish line, still in that 2nd place.

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2nd Place Female with a super-cute trophy

Normally, I hang out at the finish line for a while after my races. But, knowing that I had another 6k race at 7:45 the next morning, I needed to get both myself and the munchkin fed and to bed. So after some fun on the podium, we headed out to grab a quick bite at Chipotle.

Despite getting to bed around 10, I was still too amped from the race. I tossed and turned most of the night, getting just a few hours of precious sleep before it was time to head out for the next race.

The second I rolled out of bed, I knew that I was in trouble. Despite being up half the night in the bathroom because of the water I had been drinking, I was horribly nauseous- probably due to some dehydration and low electrolytes. And it was then that I started to really regret that interview, and that darn medal. I didn’t want to race, I didn’t feel like racing, but how could I not race after being filmed saying I was doing the double?

Not able to stomach any food, I was finally able to force a few Honey Stinger chews into my mouth just prior to the race start and gulp some water down. This time, in addition to bringing my handheld, I also tucked some more chews into the pocket knowing that I might bonk, even on that short 4 mile race

And before I knew it, there I was again toeing the line for the second time in under 12 hours. This time, I promised myself that I would take it easy, and hoped that I wouldn’t be forced into racing harder than I wanted to. Fortunately, a couple of fast ladies took off at the start and I was happy to just let them go. I allowed myself to hike most of the uphills and tried to enjoy myself just a bit despite the nausea and constant cramping in my abs.

It was a bit of a suckfest, but it was over pretty quickly, and it only took me a few minutes longer than the night before. And I got my double-down medal too.

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Posing with my Finisher Mug and Double-Down Medal

But I did learn a valuable thing about my racing- I just can’t race two events full out and back to back like that. I need more recovery time. So despite the super-cool medal, for me, next time, I’ll stop at one… And this will go into effect right after my back to back to back races next month in Vegas.

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Hanging with some friends at the finish line

Final results: Blackout 6k- 2nd Female, 39:57

Big Pine 6k- 9th Female, 42:49

 

***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on two great races; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free,; Honey Stinger, for keeping me fueled; Acel Compression, for keeping my legs, feet and calves healthy; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in the brutal sun while I train. And to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support.

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A little fuzzy Flagstaff wildlife just for fun

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Trail Therapy – The Adrenaline 10k Race Recap

Not a day goes by where I’m not physically in pain. And while it is not something that I talk about much, my Fibromyalgia is a daily struggle and greatly limits how I can train and what I can do. But I know from experience that most of us have something that we struggle with- be it physical, mental or emotional pain. And running can be a lifeline. Truly, the mental health benefits of a great trail run are immeasurable.

Last year before Aravaipa Running’s Adrenaline night race, I’d recently received word that my mother had Breast Cancer. On top of my father having Rheumatoid Arthritis, Leukemia, and Lymphoma, this was just too much. And so, I wore black for the race. Not Breast Cancer pink. Black. And while both of my parents are doing really well right now, and have recently moved to Arizona to live nearer to us, I still chose to wear black last night to remember their constant fights, and to remind myself that we are all fighting something.

During last year’s Adrenaline 10k race, I ran my heart out. But, during an early uphill section of single track, I got stuck in the single-track train, and was unable to finish under an hour, which was my goal time. 1:00:03 would haunt me for a year. This year, I was going for a 4 second PR and nothing was going to stop me.

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Hanging with the AZTraiLeggers at the start of the race

A recent face plant on the trails had left me with a stiff and sore knee, and I was still battling that dang hamstring. So, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

Determined to avoid the single-track train, I went out fast, probably too fast. But, I was able to run the uphill section at my own pace. And, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that for the first time in 2 months, I was running completely pain free. Honestly, I think the fall jostled my hamstring into submission.

On I pushed up the relentless climbs: and the more I suffered, the more I thought about Cancer, and how much I hate that word. And how amazing it is to be able to run, and run pain free at that.

Because of my recent fall, I knew that I was being overly cautious on the downhill. But, I really did not want a repeat of last week. So, I took my time coming down the mountain while trying to maintain a good pace, hoping that I could make up the time on the flats.

Once I hit the bottom of the mountain, I had 3 miles of relatively flat, un-technical trail. And, I would need to stay in a sprint for the rest of the race in order to hit my time goal and PR. And so I went, jumping over baby snakes and kangaroo rats that were startled by my headlamp, and forcing myself to go as fast as possible without puking.

Finally, the finish line was in sight. And with one glance down at my watch, I realized that I would need all all-out final burst to make it. With a loud yell, I pushed up the hill, came around the corner and glanced at the clock. Seconds to spare, I lunged across the finish like a track star trying to edge out the competition. Had I made it? The timer said I was two seconds over, but I would need to wait for the timing system to refresh to see what my chip said. And finally it was in- 59:58. I had made it with 1 second to spare. I had gone out for a 4 second PR and achieved a 5 second PR. Amazing that a 10k trail race can come down to one or two seconds. But for me, it certainly did.

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Celebrating at the finish line- all in black

I have no idea how I will improve on last night’s race. But I’ll be back next year to try. And I’ll be wearing all black.

Running on the trails has given me a wonderful release from my pain. And the friendships that I have developed along the way have been incredible. Trail Therapy sessions with my buddies are some of the highlights of my week. And I can’t wait to get back out there again. I hope that each of you is able to find some relief from whatever you face on a daily basis. Finding great friends to share miles of trails with can make all the difference.

*   *   *

In the Adrenaline 10k Trail Race, 203 people started, 130 women ran, I finished 9th Place Female.

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Enjoying my custom acai bowl from Foxy Fruit Bowls and Smoothies- Good Eats

***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on a great race; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free, or healing me when I stupidly forget to lube my legs; Honey Stinger, for keeping me fueled; Acel Compression, for keeping my legs, feet and calves healthy; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in the brutal sun while I train. And to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support and sounding board for all of my crazy running adventures.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

The Sinister 9km Race Recap

What you do in the hours prior to even starting you race, can make or break it. And I’m not talking about training here, but nutrition. I was reminded of this during a pre-race discussion with two amazing ultrarunners- both of whom had visited the ER after races (as I have). They said that it was not what they did during the race, but what they failed to do the day before that lead to that ending. Hydration and nutrition are so very important in race preparations, and fortunately, this weekend, I got it right.

The week leading up to the Aravaipa Running Sinister 9k race for me was filled with two PT appointments where I was dry needled, massaged, and electrocuted. Well, mild electricity. And, I knew that despite being cleared to race, I was far from 100%. I also knew that if I didn’t pull on the reins during my race, I might be done for the entire summer.

All of this started a week before the Mesquite Canyon 30k. I’m usually pretty good about listening to my body, but a last minute pre-race push after that little gluten incident (we won’t mention that again), lead to a dumb decision to run 4 days back to back. A hamstring and adductor strain would be my punishment for not being smart about my training. A month later, I was still hurting. And so, I decided to see a Physical Therapist in the week before Sinister.

In the days leading up to this race, I really just wanted to be able to run it and have fun. Sinister was my first ever night race and it has been a favorite ever since. Held in the San Tan Mountains, this was also my farthest “local” race, but it is well worth the drive.

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Pre-race chia seed pudding

I did a good job of hydrating well in the days before the race was to start. My pre-race hydration and nutrition begins on Thursday for a Saturday night race and I tried to eat healthy and keep a water bottle with me at all times. But, I think the true secret to Saturday night’s showing for me was the chia seed pudding lunch I had hours earlier. A simple recipe, one part chia seeds to two parts coconut milk. Place this in a mason jar, shake it up, and let it sit overnight in the fridge. When you are ready, you can add honey, protein powder, cacao nibs, anything really.

This pre-race meal gave me a ton of energy last night and will be my new go-to fueling on race day now that the summer night series has begun. I will run most of my races at 8pm in the dark, until November. But, as a night out, I love it- and these are my favorite events of the year.

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At the start of the Sinister 9k- 2017

So finally, I’ll get to the race. After a brief jog out on the course to warm up (I did promise my PT I would do this), I lined up with the 200+ other runners on a nice, mild evening in the mid 70s with a slight breeze. With a group this large, I knew I would want to try to go out a bit fast to avoid any traffic jams. But, I also knew that I would need to watch my leg and not make things worse.

And for the first time ever in a race, I didn’t look at my watch once during the entire event. I raced based on how I was feeling; Keep it in 5th gear, don’t go into overdrive. Pull on those reins, don’t blow the whole summer race series tonight. And whatever you do, do not walk, especially on that big final hill. Walking it would have been more efficient at this point, but I knew that my hamstring would not approve. And despite the ever-nagging pain, and that it was pretty angry at me by the end, I was running again, and most importantly, I was having fun.

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Having fun and happy to be racing again. PC: Aravaipa Running

And so finally, 9km later, as I approached the finish line, I could finally see my time on the big screen. And I realized that I had just finished a race without damaging my leg more, while having a great time, and still while finishing within 5 seconds of last year’s time.

The Sinister 9k was over. 205 people raced, I went up against 129 women, and I finished in 12th place, just 5 seconds slower than last year in 57:18.

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My post-race pitaya bowl from Foxy Fruit- So excited that they will be at all of the races this summer!

***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on a great race; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; Honey Stinger, for keeping me fueled; Acel Compression, for keeping my legs, feet and calves healthy; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in the brutal sun while I train. And to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support and sounding board for all of my crazy running adventures.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Cool new finishers swag bottles

 

Mesquite Canyon 30k – Take Two

This morning was the Mesquite Canyon 30k race at the White Tank Mountains in Waddell, AZ. Folks that have run this race, know that the warning given on the race website that says, “This is a very tough, rocky, mountainous trail run!”, is no exaggeration. And with a sudden shift in temperatures in the last week to soaring heat, and a forecast for 94 on race day, this was going to be another doozy.

Though I live and train in the Arizona desert, it usually takes at least 2 weeks to heat acclimate to the increasing temperatures and build up extra hemoglobin reserves to help combat the heat. But there was no time for that this year. Fortunately, the good people at Aravaipa Running, decided to up the start times. Mine shifted from 8am to 6:45am. Even with this wonderful change, I knew that today would really challenge me.

I’ve been fortunate to have some time over the past month to spend training on the course. And even got a chance to run the full 30k loop a few weeks prior to the race. It was much cooler that day, but re-familiarizing myself with the course was extremely helpful. And so, bright and early, we headed off onto the course.

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During my training run- right before the first aid station. PC: Jon Christley

The first 5 miles are relatively flat and untechnical, nice rolling hills. I did my best to reign myself in knowing what was to come. Still, I arrived at the first aid station manned by Squirrel’s Nut Butter, almost exactly on last year’s pace. As I headed out of that aid station and started the slow climb up Goat Camp, my hamstring reminded me that I had strained it last week, and it was still mad. Not wanting to completely wreck my summer racing plans, I shifted between wanting to push the pace, and not wanting to destroy my leg in the process.

With the soaring heat, this climb up Goat camp was by far my worst ever. Despite all of my training, I was working much harder just to keep a steady rhythm and my lungs weren’t happy. Fortunately, I’d packed my inhaler and was able to continue on after a few puffs.

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One of the smoother sections of the course

I’ll be honest, like childbirth, I think I blocked a lot of the Goat Camp climb out today because it is all a bit of a haze. And fortunately, it was over relatively soon and I could focus on not falling  on the rocky descent down the back side of Goat and Mesquite. I was completely alone most of this time, except for the occasional passing in the opposite direction by 50k and 50 mile runners. Also fortunately, my hamstring stopped yelling at me and I was able to settle into a nice rhythm, soon tucking in behind another runner and hanging at a comfortable pace for a few miles. I’d run out of water during the 9.3 mile gap between aid stations, and my stomach was starting to complain.

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Beautiful views await those that climb Goat Camp

But, we made it into the aid station, filled up on the wonderful water that had been carted up to this remote spot, and headed back out. Before I knew it, we were nearing the bottom of the mountain and I knew it was time for me to pick up the pace if I wanted to finish in under 4 hours again.

Those last two miles in the full sun exposure were the worst! At this point, I was just hoping to avoid losing the Honey Stinger gels I had managed to consume and finish under my goal time. And I did.  I was super consistent, finishing with exactly the same finish time as last year, to the minute. 18 miles of brutal trail running in soaring heat completed in 3:56. And one super tough race that I was glad to be done with.

As this race was the final event in the Desert Trail Series, I’ll find out soon where I land in the Masters podium mix and will post an update below. Thank you to everyone for your continued support and encouragement! I am so thankful for the great family and friends that make this sport so enjoyable!

***Update: I did achieve my series goal of becoming the first place Masters female for the Trail Series and will receive my podium award in a few weeks.

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So happy to finally be done!

***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on a great race and moving up the start times to keep us save; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; Honey Stinger, for keeping me fueled; Acel Compression, for keeping my legs, feet and calves healthy; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in the brutal sun today. And to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support and sounding board for all of my crazy running adventures.

 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

The San Tan Scramble 26k

With my last two races not going quite as planned, I was hoping for a breakout race where everything lined up perfectly and my recent shift in running longer distances and adding extra strength training, would be reflected. But, with nausea kicking in at just 3 miles, this was a race that almost wasn’t…

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A beautiful start to the day

The San Tan Scramble 26k started at a brisk 42 degrees. Fortunately, there was no wind to speak of. With gorgeous views and ideal conditions, I was hoping for a great race. But a rough week of work and life meant I was more tired going in than I had hoped for. Still, with several extra long training runs on the Black Canyon Trail with fellow friends training for Aravaipa Running’s BCT 100, I had more training under my belt than ever before.

Training during the winter is particularly difficult for me with my fibromyalgia as the cold makes things worse. But a recent shift in my diet to more plant-based, and extra post-run care of my body meant that I was ready for this race.

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Ready to begin the race

Feeling good at the start and wanting a PR from the previous year’s 3:18, I was pushing the pace up the slow steady incline during the first few miles. But a long week and overall fatigue meant this was too much at this point. Nausea kicked in at just 3 miles and I seriously considered just turning around for a DNF. But a few walk breaks and an extra Honey Stinger gel helped settle things and I pulled back my pace for a few miles until I hit my sweet spot. For some reason- around mile 6 of every race, I start to get my legs under me and feel like my race has finally begun. And this is why short races are so difficult for me…

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I continued to try to bank extra time knowing that the dreaded Goldmine was ahead at mile 8; a brutal climb that decimated my legs last year. This year, Goldmine was all mental for me as I started talking out loud to psych myself up to push through the pain and just get it done. My fellow runners probably heard things like “suck it up”, “not today”, and “this is my house!”.

And though my legs were toast at the top, I was still able to resume running and finish the last 2 miles of that first loop. Coming into the start/finish line to refill my bottles and head back out, I was 10 minutes ahead of last year’s loop 1 time. But, losing 3 minutes at the porta potty would end up being a big mistake here.

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Gorgeous views of the San Tan mountains

Knowing that loop 2 last year was when the wheels came off the bus, I tried to keep a conservative pace the first 3 miles. But constant glances at my watch, and knowing that I really wanted to get a sub 3-hour time, meant that I was going to need to make a move.  With 3 miles to go, I pounded some Honey Stinger chews and picked up the pace.

After 2 miles of 90% effort, I came upon my friend, Raul. I told him I was trying to sub-3 hours the race, and with a quick glance at his watch, he said it would be tight. As he started to sprint for the last mile, I struggled to keep up with him. Huffing and puffing, it was all I could do to hang onto his 7-8 minute pace.

But finally, we saw the finish line ahead. I could see that I was just seconds off from that sub-3 hour goal time. 21 seconds to be exact. But, I had set an 18-minute PR, and I just couldn’t be disappointed in that. Next year though, that sub 3-hour will be mine!

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Pickle juice in hand after the race

And as a final addendum, 3 miles of full-out effort at the end of the race lead to immediate calf cramping once I finished. My Acel compression socks had kept any discomfort at bay while I raced, but there was only so much they could do when my body desperately needed salt. Patty came to my rescue with a cup of Pickle Juice and after downing that, and a few pickles, I was all good again.

So, after feeling like I have turned a corner in my training and racing, I’m looking forward to what the future holds and to sharing my adventures with you. Thank you to everyone for your amazing support and encouragement. I could not do any of this without you!

 

 

***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on yet another amazing race; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; Honey Stinger, for keeping me fueled; Acel Compression, for keeping my legs, feet and calves healthy; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in this brutal sun. And to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support and sounding board for all of my crazy running talk.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

McDowell Mountain Frenzy 25k

I knew this race was gonna hurt. And it most definitely did. But it was also gorgeous and exhilarating and amazing.

When my alarm went off at 5am and I could hear the wind rattling the window of our house, I knew that my asthma might become an issue. What with the recent change in temperature over the last week moving us from blazing heat to freezing cold. At least freezing cold for us in Arizona.

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Freezing before the start

And so, I, along with the 150 or so other 25km racers at the McDowell Mountain Frenzy by Aravaipa Running, huddled around the portable heaters and fire pits while waiting for the race to begin. After the start, which is filled with rolling hills and a little bit of climbing, my lungs began to burn immediately. Lack of proper oxygen lead to my abs cramping, forcing me to slow down from the start. It took almost 6 miles before I got my legs under me.

Around mile 6, I started to feel better and began to cruise. Trying to enjoy the beauty around me without taking a header on a wayward rock. Twisting and turning, climbing and descending, I continued on the first loop of the course, the 10 mile loop. But, my asthma would continue to rear its ugly head from time to time and I found that speeding up was a challenge, and stopping would be worse. So I plugged along, hydrating as much as possible because dehydration is an even bigger trigger for asthma.

 

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Waiting for the start of the race

As I neared the start/finish line, knowing that I still had a tough 5 mile loop to go, I started to wish I’d signed up for the 10 mile race. But there was no way I was quitting. So after a quick refill of my handhelds with water, I headed back out for the final 5 miles.

I knew that my A goal time was out of the picture at this point, but my B goal was still very doable. But, it meant pushing harder than my body wanted to at that point. And, as my ultrarunner friends definitely know, as long as you aren’t ignoring signs of injury or other issues, sometimes you just need to tell your body to be quiet, and get it done. That’s what the final loop was for me today, sucking it up, pushing through, and realizing that I can do a lot more than I think I can.

After a few final cruel climbs, the end was in sight and I was ready to call it a day and go eat my post-race quesadilla. With a final push and a loud yell, I crossed the finish line of arguably, one of my toughest mental races yet – Exhausted and happy, finishing under my B goal time. 25km done, 2 hours and 56 minutes.

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Absolutely exhausted, but still smiling

***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on yet another amazing race; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; Honey Stinger, for keeping me fueled; Acel Compression, for keeping my legs, feet and calves healthy; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in this brutal sun. And to my husband and son- thank you for always supporting me in everything I do and my parents, for listening to me talk for hours on end about this crazy sport that I love so much.

 

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Pass Mountain 25km Race Recap

After weeks of colds, the flu and other craziness, I was anxious to race the Pass Mountain 25km race on Saturday. This is the second race in the Desert Trail Runner series with Aravaipa Running, but my first this year due to illness. And after tweaking my neck earlier in the week, trying muscle relaxers for the first time, spending the night throwing up said muscle relaxers, and only one day of proper fueling, I knew that it might be a rough day.

And a challenge it was. But after months of racing in the dark to escape the summer heat, this was my first daytime race in a while, and the weather was perfect for a gorgeous race with highs in the low 80s.

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Watching the sunrise at the start of the Pass Mountain 25k

With this race, the real work doesn’t begin until about 9 miles in when you begin your climb. This meant that keeping a reserve over the first half of the race would be key. And so, thanks to some advice from a friend who has run Pass Mountain several times, I kept my speed in check during the first 6 miles or so, feeling great at this point.

But after the first hour mark, my energy really started to lag as I was reminded about my poor fueling during the days before the race. So I accelerated my mid-race fueling and increased the pace of my Honey Stinger gels, hoping that my stomach wouldn’t rebel on me. Fortunately, it didn’t, and though it took about 10 miles and 3 gels, I finally got my legs under me- right as I was making the huge climb. Rocky and technical, this mountain was nowhere near runnable for me at this point. So I spent several miles hiking as fast as possible and conserving my fluid for later in the race. There may have been some muttering at this point as well.

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Gorgeous views at Usery Park

This was the first long daytime race where I decided to run without a hydration pack and only use handhelds. But no aid during the final 8 miles of the course would make this a challenge. Still, I discovered that I really need a lot less water than I ever thought. And, for the first time in a long race, I had absolutely no stomach issues. Avoiding sugar, fruit, alcohol, caffeine and dairy in the days prior to the race seemed to be working.

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Once I hit the top of the mountain, I had hoped to begin cruising on the descent to make up some lost time. But rocky single track with sharp drops that would be really, really bad if I caught a toe, slowed me down. It wasn’t until the final 2 miles that I was able to open things up again and cruised into the finish line with a final time of 3:11 and 15.55 miles run. Not what I had hoped to do, but given the week leading up to this, I was thrilled to be done and have a solid start to my racing series with Aravaipa Running.

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Finish of the Pass Mountain 25k trail race. Photo Credit- Aravaipa Running

Key learnings from this week: My race begins 3,4, even 5 days before the actual start. How I fuel in the days prior and how I hydrate makes all of the difference. I don’t tolerate fruit before long runs. But everyone is different. The key is to figure out what works best for your body.

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Post-Race with soda and quesadilla in hand.

 

***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on an amazing race, as usual; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; Honey Stinger, for keeping me fueled; Acel Compression, for keeping my legs, feet and calves healthy; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in this brutal sun. And to my husband and son- thank you for always supporting me in everything I do and for my hubby, spending his Saturday cleaning the house for his own birthday party. Happy Birthday my love!

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Always the best races from start to finish

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

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