Posts Tagged ‘ultra running’

Epic. That’s my word for race day.

Cathie is an amazing coach. She is my running rock!

I keep telling people I had an epic day at the McKenzie River Trail Run 50K and they squint at me cautiously and ask,


“YES!” I say. I knew it would be though. I could feel it. Like my last race, the Ridgeline Ramble 20K, I knew it would be an “on” day. A day that I felt strong. A day that I came to the starting line with nothing naggling, nothing injured, no questions, no uncertainty, no doubts. I credit my coach for that feeling.

This race was for Cathie.

Getting to the starting line healthy, strong and well-trained is all her fault. I don’t lack motivation. I’m weird that way. I await her training spreadsheets each week like I’m waiting for Santa. When she pushes me, I’m stoked! When she makes me take it easy, well, I’m a bit less stoked, but I know she’s always right.

That “epic” feeling also includes being surrounded by glorious pre-race gifts from my runner besties!

The latest in early-morning-run-fasion – the AmyPottery Coffee Mug. Fits in coffee cup spot in your car, easy to carry, keeps it hot and it’s a piece of art. Thank you T-buns!

My beloved Michelle set me up with my favorite FOOD – Rice Crispy Treats – Trader Joe RMR style! Cathie & I celebrated with more of same post-race.

With great support from my buddies, how could I NOT have a great day? Plus, I was about to hook up with an amazing person and swap food, share life stories, pee in the woods together and encourage each other over lava, roots and rocks for 31 miles. That’s her in yellow, below.

(From left to right) Ilisa, my “security blanket” as we called each other during the race, Shelley, a random guy, Todd and Julia – hanging out before the race. I love how Julia is holding the Glide (or is it deodorant?) like it’s a can of beer.

Glide applied, snacks packed, shirts piled on the drop bag tarps and last minute pees taken BEHIND the porta potty (because the line was too long in FRONT of the porta potty), and we were headed to the start.

But wait, I forgot to tell you the Garmin story.

Ah, tin foil. Kinda like gray tape for technology.

Once upon a time, I had a Garmin 205. It lasted a blissful 4 years before its face fell off one day mid-run. So, for my long training run along the McKenzie river trail several weeks beforehand, I borrowed one. I clicked start, or so I thought, but the timer never started. I didn’t fuel on time and kind went coo coo. So coo coo that I accidentally left the borrowed watch at the water’s edge of Carmen Reservoir when I took a post-run ice bath. Ugh! I drove up the next day to look for it. Gone. I didn’t have enough time to buy a new one for various reasons, so I borrowed another watch from the same gal I borrowed the first one from [insert amazing story of trust and friendship here]. This time, on race day, it never turned on at all!


Did I really need one of those woo-woo life lessons about time being imaginary or relative to nothing or that it’s all in my head? Two minutes before the start, that Obie Wan Kenobi voice came on in my head….”Trust the force….” Wait, no, no, that was Ilisa’s voice saying, “It’s ok, you’ve got this. You don’t need the Garmin. Just trust. You know what to do. We’ll stick together.”

I let panic grip me for only a few seconds, then a few seconds more when she added, “I don’t have a watch either. In fact, I don’t want to know what time it is.”


Fortunately, the best thing about starting lines is….you just gotta start running! There’s no turning back. All the excruciating details of training fall away into the simplicity of one foot in front of the other. There is nothing you can do about anything. Hmmm, maybe I did need a lesson.

The gun went off. I ran. I smelled the forest. I tried to “feel” it.   I made it to race day. I made it back to running long distances from being injured for so long last year. Making it to the start felt like I had won. I was instantly transported to heaven and stayed there for 31 freaking awesome miles.


We started out slowly. Ilisa and I fell in toward the rearish of mid-pack. The single track line of runners seemed long and too slow as we climbed up toward Sahalie falls. But, I kept telling myself this was a good thing. No sense in screwing up a perfectly good race day with starting out too fast. Been there, run that.

After the climb, which was really the only climb on the course, it was all fun as we approached the first aid station at 5.7 miles, Santiam Wagon Road. High fives, a slice of watermelon, an imaginary “check” in the air, a  jog around the orange cone and we were headed to our next restaurant in the dirt, Carmen Reservoir at mile 11.2. It was delicious, of course. The volunteer support at this race is fantastic as was the spread; chips, cookies, quesadillas, boiled potatoes with salt, Bugles and loads of watermelon and cantaloupe – my favorites –  were plentiful! I learned from my first 50K, Siskiyou Outback, that fruit is a perfect blend of easy-to-digest water and sugar to supplement my Gu. Potatoes are also a hit. Gotta love a mid-race salt lick!

Kick your heals up, lift your knees up, heck, just stay up!

Treats in tow, the next 6 miles were challenging, technical and can be summed up in two words: Lava Rocks. How do you handle a trail full of sharp objects? A trail section where mountain bikers CARRY their bikes? Use the RiverDance technique. Still, it’s hard not to fall. Ilisa took a few epic tumbles. After the first one, which sent her careening into a giant log, she got up, looked herself over and said, “Well, nothing’s impaled. Let’s go.” She had me at impaled! I love this woman! [insert another story of  friendship, grown over 31 miles of single track]

After that section, it was all downhill from there.


The course has a net downhill and for the most part, you can really feel that groove on the last section of the course. But first, we had to fuel up at Trailbridge Aid Station at mile 16.7 and run up and over what I would call a “saddle” on the side of a pretty steep bank (the only section of the course I hadn’t run) until we hit Deer Creek Aid Station. More salt, more fruit, more random jokes, more friendly faces to help us fill our packs and get us down the road. From there to the next aid at Buck Bridge was a short 3.1 miles. Perfect! As the miles stretched longer, it was so encouraging to see more smiles and FOOD in that short time span. I was so high and excited at mile 25, I couldn’t help but scream, “Let’s go run a 10K!!!!”

Seriously? (I know, right? I’m a total nerd.)

The last section was woodsy, windy, pretty and with my security-blanket-perfect-pacer, Ilisa in front of me, I felt the best kind of tired and soreness creep in on the next 5 miles. You know the kind that says, “Hey, you’re working pretty hard, but nothing is going to kill you and because you’re on a caffeine/sugar/distance/race high right now, you’re quite the rockstar!” Love that voice.

But the last mile was reaaaallllly long. Remember the Garmin story? Sure, I had asked several runners as we cruised along that morning what mile we were on, and the last aid was only 5 miles behind us, but time does a brain fuck with, especially when you’re at the maximum distance your body has trained for and the trail offers you nothing but curvy, bumpy single track next to a rushing river you can’t drink from or cool off in. Back. Forth. Left. Right. Are we there YET?! Random cheering guy says, “A mile to go!” Back. Forth. Left. Right. Are we there YET?! Another random cheering guy says, “A mile to go!”


Leah and I – hot mess mommas!

Yes, SERIOUSLY! Ilisa and I finally spy the shoot up a short, steep embankment and give it all we got. We crossed the finish joined at the hip. Sweaty hugs, laughter, glassy eyes looking for familiar faces, stumbles toward the porta-poty, lots of OMGs follow.

Ilisa headed home with her son. I stood for a while cheering finishers and was so excited to spy Leah coming through looking strong! We decided lunch was in order and, after retrieving her van from the starting line up the road, had our fill of burrito-rice-chip yumminess and counted our remaining toenails.

I drove home alone, filled with the euphoric feelings of a day spent thrashing my body doing something I absolutely love. At home, my awesome husband was grilling up a steak for dinner (an upgrade from my usual post-race hamburger splurge) and chillin’ the beer.

After my mega-chaffing experience on my last big training run, I decided to run in a bra and my fantastic Mizuno skirt. Less to wear, less to rub. Worked like a charm.

It was such an epic day, it took me a while to get in the shower. I just didn’t want to wash off anything that represented my accomplishment, my journey. Plus there was the cold beer and that comes first.

Good as a 1st 50K?

People have asked me if this would be a good first 50K. Some folks have told me it was perfect for a first, some not. Having only done one other before that was classified as mountain running, starting at 6,500 feet elevation with thousands of feet in elevation change, the McKenzie River Trail required less hill training and seemed easier in that respect. However, it’s extremely technical. You really can’t take your eyes off the trail for even a second unless you’ve got endo-thrill-issues. If you’re lucky enough to live close to the trail and lucky enough to get into the lottery, I recommend doing some training runs there where you can take your time and see the gorgeous waterfalls and soak up what feels like a magical fairy forest.


They did it up right. Being a big fan of race medals (probably because I sell those snazzy marathon medal display racks), I was admittedly a little bummed that we wouldn’t be getting one. BUT, what we did get was saweet and totally useful.

Bottle of red wine with cool MRTR 50K design, sweet fleece hat that I wear all the time and a groovy travel blanket. Awesome for the family – waterproof on one side, snuggly on the other.

Thanks for letting me share my loooong race report with you. Congratulations to you if you made it this far. It truly was the Best. Race. Day. Ever.



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I have to admit, I love this photo of me. It’s got all my favorite parts of my personality in it: adventurer, trail runner, nature lover, smart ass.

If you try and make me laugh while getting into an “icier than a witches tit” lake after 24 miles of serious trail running and rock hopping complete with non-functioning Garmin, mis-fire-fueling, took-a-wrong-turn-or-two moments and epic underarm chaffe, I will make this all-too-familiar universal sign for, well, you know. BUT, I will also be smiling because, after all, it’s TRAIL RUNNING! Wahooo!

I’m not sure what I’m doing with my right knee or what she’s doing with her right hand, but we look ready to rock nonetheless.

I haven’t written about my running in a while. I’ve been kinda staying under the radar with it except for the in-person blabling I do about it with friends when we run. Running is a solo sport when you boil it down to step after step. It’s just you and you, especially on long trail runs. Even if you share it with friends, the decisions you make while negotiating the trail, fueling, making water stops, picking routes and talking with that voice in your head that says you’re tired,  hurting or higher than a kite are all yours. I’ve been trying to get more centered with my running, trying to listen to my body. Sit still and ponder all the pieces of who I am when I run. Still, some of you have wondered what I’m up to, so here’s the scoop… I’m running the McKenzie River Trail Run 50K on September 8 and the Silver Falls Trail Marathon November 3rd. Last Saturday was my final long run for the 50K.

My awesome running bud Leah who blogs over at Trail Smitten Mom and I headed out at 5:00am to explore 20 plus miles of the McKenzie River Trail Race Course. Our plan was to park at Carmen Reservoir and run the first 11 miles of the course around Clear Lake, grab water and nosh back at the car, then continue down to mile 16.7 of the course, then back up to the car. We planned to take it easy and get in at least 5 hours on our feet while enjoying the gorgeous waterfalls and the naturific glory that is this magical fairy world forest along the raging McKenzie.  We did all that, had a great time catching up, laughed a lot and ran our butts off. Some notables a la photos follow…

We didn’t realize how cute we looked in our Dirty Girl Gaiters! Cool Hawaii means hot racer.

Hey, we know you! We were thrilled to run into 4 sets of running chicas along the way. No dudes, just us gals out there doing it up.

Waterfalls are cool, fast, pretty and offer a wonderful mist when you’re hot and bothered in the humid forest. When I see a waterfall I always think, wow, this is going on 24/7!

Lava rock is wild stuff. This portion of the course is actually a paved path next to Clear Lake. Later we were treated to lots of lava rock on the trail. Can you say River Dance Trail Running? Hop Hop Hop

Yep, blue pool is really blue!

It wasn’t all groovy photos and pit stops, however. The run was a bit harder than I wanted it to be. For starters, we missed the trail that would have taken us back to our car at mile 11. Dammit, I had chips waiting for us! (From trail 3507, it said “waterfalls” not Carmen Reservoir, so we plugged along 2 miles passed our “exit.”)  Not wanting to back track, we kept going, figuring we had enough water to make it to Trail Bridge, our official turnaround spot. With both of our bladders sucked dry, we trotted into the outskirts of Trail Bridge Campground and filled up with water at the first spout, next to a couple making breakfast under their pop-up canopy. Feeling a bit shaken from missing our self-made aid station and slightly giddy, it was then that I realized I had really blown it with fueling. Last week my Garmin fell apart mid-run, so I was running Saturday with a borrowed, slightly fancier model. I had not clicked it on correctly at the start, so my usual plan of fueling at 4-5 miles, then 45 minutes there after didn’t happen. I had run about 17 miles on 2 Gu and that ain’t enough for this ol’ lady trail runner. It was also at the water spigot that I realized the chaffing under my left arm was getting pretty painful. I’m a sweater – big time! As I filled my Nathan pack with water I commented on how drenched and smelly I was. “Geesh, I’m sweating out the morning’s coffee even! Can you smell that?” Leah laughed and pointed to the couple cooking breakfast. “No, THEY’RE making coffee!”

Food. Must have more food. Brain cells are dying.

Epic chaffe!

After the laugh and the pit stop, we continued on with our relentless forward progress, back up the lava rock area, over bridges and through the woods to our beloved car with CHIPS and our icy-witch-tit-cold-lake bath. On the way back I hallucinated seeing 4 or 5 orange water bottles on the side of the trail and tried cussing out loud to keep myself moving.  Leah took a fall and banged up her leg, head and shoulder, but she’s a tough cookie and rocked on.   We made it. 24 miles and we’re ready to kick some ass on September 8th!

Obviously early in the run when I had energy and sass to pull this stunt and enough brain cells left to be thinking, “Gee, I need a cool Facebook profile photo.”

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Yep – happy spirit, running spirit!

When I first thought about doing running podcasts for RMR so we could connect and support an even broader audience of running women, the ideas for shows seemed endless. However, the choice about what and who to feature as the first show was easy. My dear friend and ultra runner, Carolyn. The topic; her journey to Western States 100 Endurance Race. In case you’re not familiar with the famous 100 mile run, here is their website’s intro:

The Run is conducted along the Western States Trail starting at Squaw Valley, California, and ending in Auburn, California, a total of 100 miles. The trail ascends from the Squaw Valley floor (elevation 6,200 feet) to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet), a climb of 2,550 vertical feet in the first 4½ miles. From the pass, following the original trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850’s, runners travel west, climbing another 15,540 feet and descending 22,970 feet before reaching Auburn. Most of the trail passes through remote and rugged territory, accessible only to hikers, horses and helicopters.

Yeah. THAT race!

The journey and the post-race podcasts are amazing to listen to. Sure, there’s a lot of information about what to eat, how to train for hills, how to handle crazy weather,  about selecting a pacer and crew, but it also includes thoughts on how to get your brain around even wanting to run that far. The mental shift from running a 50 miler to doubling the distance is no small decision.  Carolyn, who blogs over at Happy Spirit Running Spirit was gracious enough to play along and let us pick her brain about training for a 100 mile race, physically and mentally. I would have to add spiritually too because I think it takes a special kind of spirit to commune that closely with yourself and nature at that level of pain, challenge and endurance.

Carolyn & Deb make an awesome team!

In our awesome final program,  Carolyn and her crew chief and pacer, Deb talk about the unique and  trusting relationship between runner and crew chief and how that strengthens their lives and friendship. Many thanks to both of you for the honor of sharing such a personal journey with us.

Each podcast is 15-30 minutes and can be found on the running podcast page on our website. You can also find them and subscribe to our women’s running podcasts through iTunes.

Carolyn , in red, with her amazing crew on the final stretch at Auburn High School track!

Podcast #1 How did you know you wanted to run 100 miles?

Carolyn Hennessey is an ultra runner. We’ll chat with her over the next 6 months as she trains for the famous Western States 100 Endurance Race. We’ll learn how she trains both mentally and physically for running 100 miles while also working full time, creating another business and being step mom to three boys.

Podcast #2 100 Miler Play-by-Play at Pine to Palm 100

In our second ultrarunning podcast with Carolyn Hennessey, we’ll talk about her current training progress as well as review one of her 100 milers. How does she conguer challenges with pain, fueling, night running, adapting to condition changes along with the highs that come from such an ultrarunning accomplishment.

Podcast #3 Training Update & Western States Race Prep

In our third ultrarunning podcast with Carolyn Hennessey, we’ll talk about how her training is going and some specific things she is doing to prepare for the 100 mile distance, the heat, water crossings and other environmental factors of the Western States 100 race.

Podcast #4 Post-race report!

Our rockstar at the finish line!

In our last podcast of this series, we’ll talk with both Carolyn Hennessey and her crew chief, Deb Landau, as they give us their versions of the Western States 100 Endurance Run race report that Carolyn has been training for. We’ve been following Carolyn on her journey to one of the most famouse 100 mile races and we’re excited to hear the play-by-play. Did her fueling system stand the test, how did her heat training prepare her, how did she deal with rough patches and how did Deb and the crew help support her and keep her going.

We’d love to hear your feedback on our series, ideas for another one or your thoughts on ultra running!

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For all the running I do with friends, I love my solo days. For me, they come in two varieties:

1. The days I plan to run myself: These are mid-week runs in which I plan to hit the road or trails alone. I mostly look forward to these, but sometimes they are about getting mileage in and feel a bit rote.

2. The days I plan to run with others, but no one can come: These usually turn out to be really sweet, after my attitude adjustment. Here’s how it goes… I email several people to go for a run. Lots of email chatter ensues. Nobody can come. Dialogue to self turns 8 years old, “Fine! I didn’t want to run with anybody anyway. I’ll go by myself. I don’t need you guys.” Then I get it in gear and slide into acceptance. Acceptance leads to giddy excitement when I realize I can do any route, any speed, any distance and look forward to being alone with just my breath and the trail.

Here’s a quick video slideshow of a run of the number #2 variety, at my favorite place, Mt. Pisgah in Eugene, Oregon Oh, and I met some very cool people at about mile 7 of 10. Dustin, Lisa and their little buddy, Pepsi. They are ultra runners who moved here from Montana. Lisa was excited about running the SOB next year. Coming from Montana, she said, she loves hills. Wow.

Do you look forward to solo runs?

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