Sunday, May 8, 2016

Smith Rock Ascent 50k: Reflections and Photos.




Thirty one miles is a long way to run.  Thirty one miles on mountain trails with steep ascents and descents on a hot day in the high desert feels even longer.  I'm not entirely sure what made me want to sign up for another 50k after my first one last May where I said I'd never do another.  We runners are kind of weird like that.  I think I was in one of those moods where I wanted a challenge.  I wanted something to work towards or look forward to but I wasn't ready to train for another road marathon.  I'd heard good things about this 50k.  I'd even written about it for Go Beyond Racing in this post: Visit Central Oregon for Mother's Day Weekend.  After running a couple of the races that Go Beyond puts on (my first 50k, the Trail Factor 50k and the Smith Rock Half Marathon), I knew this trail race would not disappoint.  So, one random mid week evening, I asked my husband  if he wanted to do a 50k in May.  He said "Sure! Why not? Sign us up!"  So I did.  That's how it went.

From there, we both started off with kind of following a plan from a trail running book but by week two, we were simply running when we felt like it and making time for longer runs on most weekends. Very loose training! More than ever before.  Our long runs weren't really according to a "proper" training plan but we still fit in a few 17, 19, and 20 milers.  I ran two 21 milers but my second was a week before this race yesterday so I'm pretty sure it did more harm than good. It was good for my mental game though! Then, since there wasn't a logical training plan, there wasn't a true taper. Really, this race was more like another long run. Exactly as I wanted.  From the start, I knew this would be a race that I wasn't going into with the intentions of competing (with my self or others).  It was a race I wanted to run for the experience.  Finishing and taking it all in with gratitude was my number one goal!  Goal accomplished!  With that being said, I much prefer being in the kind of fitness that allows me to perform a bit better.  I think next time, I want to be more prepared for this kind of thing.  I'm not sure I like the feeling of being out there and feeling depleted with a good half of the race left to go!

My body and brain are TIRED right now.  Every time I try to write something about this race that flows, I get stuck.  So, for the purpose of getting something written, I'm going to do some random bullet points:

  • It was HOT.  At least for a trail race with very little shade.  I think the high was 79 degrees.  
  • This course was beautiful.  I've often said I don't find this area so pretty since I much prefer lush forests with lots of trees to the high desert canyon type terrain found at Smith Rock.  However, I ran on all new trails with climbs that led to gorgeous views!  
  • Such a well supported race!  There were 4 fully stocked aid stations throughout the course and all the volunteers were beyond helpful.  
  • I love this sport of ultra trail racing (although I think 50k is the longest I will ever go).  So much love, support and compassion among the runners out there.  If it weren't for a few of them, I'm not sure what I would have done.  The race is all very blurry to me at this point even though it's only been since yesterday but somewhere between the second aid station at mile 12 and the third at mile 19.4, I started hurting pretty badly.  By mile 20, my back was cramping and I was doing good to walk/hike/barely run for the next 6 miles to the last aid station.  Along the way, I met a man who helped me out so much.  He was having a hard day too and having someone to walk with me and talk to me helped a TON! At mile 25 I threw everything up.  This was scary and relieving all at once.  Scary because I was already light headed, thirsty and cramping.  Before we even got to the next aid station, someone from medic was running down to find me after hearing from another person that I might need help.  Also, when my back was cramping up around mile 19ish, a man who passed made sure to tell his wife and kids to look for me when I came by.  I was brought to tears at all the support.  As soon as the woman told me her husband was in the race and asked her to check on me, there was no holding back the tears.  She gave me a couple fruit strips and I was on my way.  
  • I learned more than ever what it means to be ok with one foot in front of the other!  When I was walking, I was still moving and this was getting me closer to the finish.  I did what I could with what I had.  I gave my all!  No doubts about that!  I walked when I had to (some parts of the course there was no choice) and ran when I could.  
  • This race was HUMBLING!  I don't like the feeling of running a race like this without having trained my best.  I don't like the feeling of having women 10 years older than me (but much much fitter) fly passed me and up the hill in the last half of the race.  I did my best yesterday, yes. But I didn't like how it felt to be unprepared. At the same time, since I had no real expectations, I was ok with it.  I never felt like I was fighting myself.  Always like I was right there with myself...running within.  Grateful to be out there.  Grateful to GET to push myself in this way!  
  • I learned a lot from this experience!  I think my next post or journal for myself will be reflecting on the lessons I learned... about myself, this sport, and life.  
  • Yesterday, I found myself start to say "This was the hardest race I've ever run." or something to that tune.  However, when I really think about it, that's not true.  This was the longest and most challenging course I've ever run for sure!  But not the hardest I've pushed myself on a physical level.  I can think of a handful of marathons where I trained hard and went in with a goal and pushed myself so hard to the very end.  The kind of hard where I had to dig deep in a way I never got to yesterday.  This 50k was hard in a different way.  But I knew at any time during the race that I was ok with taking my time at aid stations, walking, standing, stretching...taking my TIME!  It wasn't about pushing forward for the sake of a time on the clock.  A different kind of hard for sure.
  • Where was my head during this race?  You know, I think I was truly in my moment for almost all of this race!  Very little thought about anything else...future or past.  When I really think about this, this is what makes this kind of thing so INCREDIBLE!  6 plus hours of mindful moving meditation of sorts!  In my moment!  There were a few spots where I'd start thinking about life or some issue and I'd instantly come back to where I was... my breath, footing, the gorgeous earth surrounding me!  
  • Side stitches.  Oh boy, I hate these.  I got one that wouldn't go away for several miles.  So frustrating because there really isn't much you can do other than slow down and breath them out.   
  • I did really good at fueling!  I choked down Honey Stinger gels, made sure to eat and drink plenty at aid stations and drank a lot!  My favorite thing at the aid stations?  Pickles!!!  Oh my, pickles have never tasted so good!!  
  • At the third aid station, mile 19.4, I knew I was in trouble for burning up my leg energy somewhat between aid station one and two.  I was flying down the hills and having fun... and being STUPID.  I have one 7:4x mile in there on a flatter portion.  Stupid, I know.  At mile 19 I was chugging coke and ginger ale ...another thing I've never tried during a race but OH, MY, this was GOOOOOOD and hit the spot!!! As I was stuffing my face, I laughed at the song playing by Nine Inch Nails with the lyrics:  
You're going to get what you deserve
Bow down before the one you serve
You're going to get what you deserve.
  • Yup, I got what I deserved.  I should know better than to not be super conservative in a race like this.  I paid for it.  And maybe the gummy bears mixed with the coke might have had something to do with throwing up at mile 25?  ha!  
If you look closely down below, you can see the switchbacks we ran for our first ascent.  This was taken from the mile 29 spot.  


So hard (impossible) to do this image justice.  After I started that last 5 mile stretch toward the finish, I felt so grateful for the support and nutrients that replenished my body and mind.  After walking for a good 6/7 miles from 19 to 26, and then fueling up at the last aid station, I felt energized to run again but had to stop and take this picture to capture my moment in the last stretch.  Lovely day!  Hard work!  Humbling!  Glad to GET to do this!  




  • At the mile 26 aid station, after walking for lots of miles, I made sure to fuel up adequately.  I spent a good five minutes getting down what I could.  A man helped pour water on my had and showed me  how to bite the salt tablets to get the salt in my body quicker.  At that point, I knew I had 5 miles left and most of it down.  I had it! 
  • The first few miles out from the last aid station were the prettiest parts of the entire course!!  I was actually running again and feeling good!  My mile pace creeped down to the single digits again and I knew I was going to do this!  This was the only place I stopped to take a picture.  Time wasn't an issue so why not?!
  • Miles 29-the finish were BRUTAL!  Ugh!  Steep steep down hill for a good mile.  So much that my quads felt like they were going to burn right off.  Then a flatter stretch with no relief due to being so tired and the final .25ish was up up up up to the top of the canyon.  OUCH!  

Love this man!  My partner in all things LIFE.  

Well earned Fresh Squeezed IPA at the finish.  Took awhile to be able to keep anything down  but once I could, this plus sunshine, good tunes, great company, and gorgeous views made for a happy afternoon.  
  • I was a mix of feelings to be done.  On one hand, I was deeply relieved.  At the same time, I was so depleted, and my body hurt!  It was a very uncomfortable feeling until I took care of myself.  
  • The finish line is in such a cool spot of grass off the trail... overlooking the scenic canyon of Smith Rock State Park!  As soon as I crossed, I came onto the lawn with a group of runners and their families who were already finished.  Renee, one of the race organizers, gave me a big hug and congrats... along with handing me my awesome finisher pint glass (so much better than a medal IMO). Then a fellow runner came to get my glass and filled it with ice water.  Again, such support!  Before I even had food, I grabbed ice to rub all over my legs.  Otherwise, I knew I would hurt so much more over the next few days.  Then, when I could, I ate a huge burrito and relaxed on the grass with everyone else.  
  • I guess I should say my finish time even though time wasn't an issue.  I know that's really all people read these things for anyway, right?  Ha!  6:22!  I'll take it! And I'll remind my ego what my intentions were with this run... I did exactly what I said I would and for that, I am happy.  It's a good hour slower than my last 50k but I am in a much different place with fitness.  What's funny to think is:  I essentially ran an entire school day for my kids!  This was how I put it in perspective for them:  Mommy ran for as long as you are at school... including lunch break!  
  • I'm so glad to have a husband that loves these adventures as much as I do.  A perfect partner for me.  We didn't run this race together (I ran ahead and finished only 20 min or so before him) but we did celebrate together.  And experience together.  Here's to many more trail running adventures for both of us!  
  • Even though our daughter was performing in a big musical in town, we were in no rush to move out of there too quickly.  We still made it back home in time to eat, shower, and make it to the theater performance! Before leaving, we enjoyed a couple of Fresh Squeezed IPAs from Deschutes Brewery, along with music, open blue skies and glorious sunshine!  All but the blue skies and sunshine put on by Go Beyond Racing!  I WILL for sure do another one of their races!!  And if you are looking for a first or next trail race, you can't go wrong with their races.  

Will I do this race again?  I think so.  Next time, however, I will go more prepared!  

Happy Mother's Day to all the beautiful Mothers out there!  I love this day for so many reasons!  

-Amanda


Friday, May 6, 2016

Completely



"If am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?"
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." 
-Maya Angelou

Last night I ran in the rain.  I dropped the kids off at practice and I did something I used to do daily: I ran in the spring rain.  Rain storms are actually rare for this dry high desert climate.  When I lived  in Portland, I was sick of rain because it would sometimes not stop raining for what felt like months on end.  The rain last night was refreshing and comforting.  I breathed in the cool air and felt the rain fall down... with each step, I felt GLAD to be ALIVE.  To be ME.  To feel strong and free.  And to know I have a voice... in telling my story and sharing my heart.  

I took the above picture last night.  Looking into the camera, happy and hopeful for my 50k this weekend.  My eyes say a lot here.  Content.  Grateful.  Hopeful.  Secure. Relieved.  When I cropped the picture like this on accident at first, I decided to keep it... it reminds me of how we see people in life.  
We really only ever see parts of the people in our lives.  
Pieces.  
If we're lucky, we get close to loving and knowing another as completely as we possibly can as separate human beings.  And if we are really lucky, we get to love and know ourselves completely. 
When I was out there running in the rain, it was pretty clear to me how lucky I am.  
To love and be loved.  ... as completely as I can imagine.   

___________________________________


No more Project Begin Again.  Wednesday was day 38.  But you know, I think I just might keep writing!  This time, with a new voice.  

Gratitude:
  • My husband and I will run the hardest race we've ever run on Saturday!  Tomorrow??! Holy Crap, it's tomorrow!  The Smith Rock 50k.  I've never run the full course.  I have only run at Smith Rock once.  I have no idea what I'm in for other than HARD. And undertrained.  But you know, I am confident I can cover 31 plus miles... even if I hike and walk and shuffle.  Really, the goal is to ENJOY!  Stop, smell the roses.  Oh wait, this is really dry high desert terrain.  There will be no roses or trees or green.  Open rocky canyons with nothing but blue sky and sunshine above.  Please let it stay somewhat cool for morning hours.  Please!  
  • My voice.  My voice and vulnerability to tell my stories even when fear tells me to stuff them. 
  • Running!  Thank you running... for all you add to my life.  
  • I'm excited, truly excited, to train properly for the Twin Cities Marathon!  I haven't been excited about following a plan and training with structure for a long time.  At least not an excited that lasts and helps me stick to a plan.  I've definitely needed this last stretch to be really loose and free with my running... the What Do I Feel Like Running Today?  Plan.  Seasons, right?  
  • My family.  Through and Through.  Last night we all cuddled on the couch to watch past episodes of our favorite show Survivor.  This is my favorite time with all of them where we are wrapped up in each other, sharing in something we all enjoy. Grateful for them.... more than I could ever say.  


Intentions:
  • Run Happy tomorrow!  I GET to run a 50k on trails with my husband.  Run/Walk/Hike SMART and happy.  Take in the beauty around me and be mindful and present with each of my miles.  Stay within.  
  • Continue to write my heart as it comes.  
-Amanda

Sunday, May 1, 2016

21 Mile Trail Run Without a BRA!



I ran 21 trail miles yesterday.  Without a bra.  Not just a sports bra.  NO bra.  And the only thing that bothered me at all on my run?  chaffed armpits.  Nothing to do with my boobs or lack of bra.  Let's back up a bit.  First off, why no bra?  Well, my bra was annoying me after mile one.  I was in a rush getting ready so I grabbed an old Brooks bra that I actually hate.  I'm not sure why I thought I'd enjoy running a long run in this bra but after a mile I stopped to adjust it and then told my running partner I didn't think even needed a bra with how small chested I am (I like to think of it as JUST PERFECT... seriously, love my body...small boobs and all).  So, I thought I'd try it out.  Off with the bra, back on with my running singlet...actually a pretty comfy one.  I don't wear much Oiselle stuff but I do like the tank I have from them.  Super soft and loose.  Loose was fine.  I stuffed the bra in my Ultimate Direction water pack and didn't notice my boobs the rest of the run...except to notice how freaking comfortable I was!  This story is funny to me on several levels but one of the biggest reasons is because of a post I wrote a few years back that has become my most read post of all time on this blog (probably because of creepy people searching for braless runners or women with no bra or runner boobs...whatever).  I wrote the post after accidentally forgetting to put a bra on for a weekend run.  When I returned from this accidental bra forgotten run,  I typed out a quick post in jest:  The New Face to Minimalist Running: The BRAless Running Society.  Some readers actually thought I was serious and that this Minimalist Running Society was a real thing!  I'm pretty sure people might have even tried dialing 1-800-Bra-Less.

Back to the run...




My 50k trail race: Smith Rock 50k, is next Saturday.  Not so sure running so long and for that many hours was really the best idea with a 50k a week away. I was only intending to run 15 of the 20 miles my friend had to run but then I felt so good and was enjoying myself so immensely, I kept going! When I returned home after this run, I was hurting.  I was actually kind of worried about my left hip because it hurt to even put pressure on my left leg.  But then, after a beer, hot shower, a few texts from wise running friends telling me to REST and ICE immediately, I was already feeling better.  Within a couple of hours I was able to get up and do last minute birthday cleaning and planning for my daughter's 11th birthday brunch/party that was early this morning.  It was a lot to fit in one day and I was wishing I hadn't been so last minute with my planning but in the end, I NAILED it!  And I'm feeling so happy and productive today!   Party was a huge hit... a house full of 10 beautiful young ladies, meaningful and fun activities, and a gorgeous day to top it all off.  As far as my body the day after 21 trail miles (that's a long time on my feet!)?  I woke up feeling as good as new.  I don't even feel like I ran yesterday.  Weird considering how I felt last night!  No matter how good I feel, I do know for a fact that I will take this next week EASY!!  No running for at least 2 days and then the days leading up to Saturday's 50k, I will only run light and easy.

A few things I want to remember for Saturday's 50k:

  • Pace myself.  Run or hike my own race!  
  • Finishing is the goal!  
  • Truly take in my surroundings.  
  • ENJOY being out there and GETTING to run!  For 31 miles no less!  
  • Run with my husband if it feels right.  Otherwise, leave him to run his own race and wait for him at the finish line.  Ha ha. That's assuming I'll beat him again like last year.  Not so sure this year.  Last year's 50k trail race was an entirely different race.  Different course, I was in much better endurance shape, we ran in shade or cool weather the entire time (Smith Rock is exposed high desert and it will likely be warm)... lots different.  
  • Don't be too proud to stop and rest if need be.  
  • Eat plenty at aid stations!  
  • DRINK plenty at aid stations.  
  • Allow myself to be where I am with running on race day.  Embrace it.  
These Pure Flow Grits no longer look like this after 21 miles on the trails.  They felt good after I worked them in a bit though!  

Overall, do I think running 21 miles out from a 50k race is typically wise?  Nah.  But since I didn't follow a training plan this time and NOTHING has been by the book, I think I'm fine.  I also think it's different since I'm not racing the 50k.  I'm running to finish.  And you know, I think yesterday's 21 miles with a good friend and our dogs was the best thing I could have done for this mind and spirit of mine!  It was surely a confidence boost because I felt really good and strong (until I was home...,ha!) and know I had more in me if I needed to pull it out.  And next week, I will need to pull out a heck of a lot more!  

Here's to a restful week!!  Very little running.  Lots of quality time with my family, teaching, loving life, and finding/making the good in each day.  

-Amanda