Friday, June 8, 2018

Bryce Canyon Half Marathon Recap

Last week I had the pleasure to be a part of the Bryce Canyon Ultras within Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. I had never been to Bryce Canyon and had barely spent any time in Utah other than driving through the state on my way in and out of Arizona during college. I was so excited to be a part of this race! But first, a little background...

I was lucky enough to win an entry to ANY of the races put on by Vacation Races. Vacation Races puts on races in some of the most beautiful places throughout the United States, many of which are through national parks. I won the entry through a giveaway hosted by Lily Trotters. At the time of the giveaway, I didn't have any Lily Trotters compression socks but I won 2 pair as part of the same giveaway. I also won some other goodies. But the reason why I bring this up is that the experience I had with Lily Trotters was so amazing, I knew I wanted to support this company. After wearing the socks and loving them, I made sure to let Casey, the superwoman in charge of Operations and Engagement, know that I would love to be an ambassador when they open up the program. And thankfully, I was able to become an ambassador and proudly represent Lily Trotters now.

I had a hard time deciding which Vacation Race to do. When talking about it with my husband, we decided we'd take a road trip out to Utah with the kids and experience Bryce Canyon! So, I registered for the Bryce Canyon 50K and we made our plans.

Fast forward a few months and it's about 3 weeks before the race. It's Mother's Day weekend and I caught a cold from one of my daughters (that was not the Mother's Day present I was expecting). I was scheduled to run the PCT 50 Miler the following week and was a little concerned with how it would go. But as the week went on, I was feeling ok and decided to run the 50-miler. That race went really well despite my sniffling, snot-rocketing and coughing throughout. I even got a course PR and 4th in my age group. Well, then my body revolted. A few days later, my cold went out of control. I lost my voice, I had a bad cough and just felt like crap. I had already been to the doctor to rule out strep but at that point, my cold wasn't too bad. But by the day before we were leaving for Utah, I was miserable and needed to go back to the doctor. And I was diagnosed with bronchitis. Shit. I got some antibiotics and basically resigned to the fact that I wasn't going to run. I decided to email the race director and drop down to the half marathon if by some miracle, I'd feel ok to run. My husband felt that, as long as I was up for it, we should still go and just make the decision about the race once we got there. So we hopped in the car and went.

We spent a few days in Arizona first and then got to Utah on Friday, the day before the race. We went to the expo and I got my race bib and other stuff. I was on antibiotics for 4 days at that point and was feeling pretty good. My cough was mostly under control so that was a good sign too. I decided to run it and just hike it if I felt bad (there was a 5-hour cutoff). And if things got really bad, I'd just bail. I'm not going to kill myself.

Race morning arrived and I got to the race start about 45 minutes before the start. Plenty of time to use the bathroom and try to stay warm. Yes, it was 39 degrees at the start. In June! Needless to say, I am not used to those temps and I was not happy!! I had bought a buff at the expo the day before (I forgot mine) thinking I'd use it because it was going to get warm. But no, I used that thing as a scarf to stay warm! I was so happy I had it!! Sheesh!

It was cold!!

Back to the bathrooms for a minute. This was the first race I had been to that used compostable port-o-potties. Yes, you read that right. Our waste was being recycled and composted. There was a toilet seat sitting on top of a big bucket. Next to the seat/bucket contraption, there was a smaller bucket filled with dirt. You did your business and then covered your business with dirt (one scoop for #1, two scoops for #2). And the whole contraption was inside a little tent. I have to say, these were the cleanest port-o-potties I've ever used and there was little smell as well. I hope this catches on and other races use them as well.




Finally, it was time to start. We lined up, got our instructions and off we went. It took me a little while to warm up and I was afraid my lungs were going to revolt and I'd cough due to the cold and the altitude (Bryce is at about 8000+ feet). But I kept my pace slow and did a run/walk in the first mile and that seemed to help. After mile 2, we hit our first real hill and it was a conga line getting up the single-track. The slow pace helped keep my lungs happy.

Conga line

Then we went into some beautiful forest with some rolling hills. It was so green and lush. I loved it. I was really surprised at the terrain. From the pictures of Bryce Canyon, it's all various colors of brown and yellow and red hoodoos (those are what the rock formations are called), all sandstone and desert-looking. But all of the canyons of hoodoos are surrounded by lush green forest. It was really beautiful.




We hit the first aid station after mile 5. There was some climbing through the forest to get there and once there, I had warmed up enough to de-layer. From the first aid station, we ran down hill for a couple of miles and after a turn, you come upon your first view of Bryce and some hoodoos. It was nice to see others stopping for pics, so I had to as well.




Shortly after that viewpoint, it was time to climb up to the second aid station. Now, it's going to be hard to explain this and my pictures do not do it justice. Over the course of a mile, we climbed up some tight single track that was a mixture of sand and rocks. In addition to that, the half marathon course was out and back from the aid station. So not only did we have to climb up this tight single track, but we had to share the trail with people coming down from the aid station. It was tight and it was dicey at times. It was a long-ass mile, that's for sure. My lungs definitely unleashed two coughing fits which made it even more difficult to get up the trail. But finally, I made it to the top and enjoyed the fruits (and bacon) of my labor.

Zoom in - those little dots are people climbing

Zoom in to see the climb!

Once we left the aid station, it was back down the nutty mile of single track and then pretty much a straight down-hill shot to the finish. I was feeling really good at this point and my lungs were happy. I flew to the finish line and was able to finish in under 3 hours. I was shocked to see that I actually finished 6th in my age group. I was really happy with how my body held up and taking it extra slow in the beginning to warm up and let my lungs adjust helped for sure.

Overall, while I was disappointed to not do the 50K, I really enjoyed the half marathon. And it gave us more time to explore Bryce Canyon after the race!

I loved this whole experience so much and I would definitely do this race, or any race by Vacation Races, again. Here are my top 5 reasons to run with Vacation Races, and Bryce Canyon Ultras, specifically:

1. The views. It really goes without saying that this was a beautiful race. Unexpectedly and expectedly beautiful. I loved every view.


The best views are always after the toughest climbs!

2. It was incredibly well-organized. From the registration process to when I needed to transfer my registration to the half marathon, to all the pre-race info and the expo/race bib pickup process, I never felt like I didn't know what to do or how to go about doing it. There was a gigantic race guide that even had travel and sightseeing information. And all of the race organizers I spoke to throughout the week were amazing.

3. The aid stations. There were 4 aid stations (one you hit twice) for the half marathon. Two were low-key with water and a small amount of snacks. The main aid station (the one at the top of the hideous climb) had hot food, the usual ultra fare, bacon, water, electrolytes, etc. The race was a zero-cup race so it provided camp mugs to be used instead. And there were volunteers washing the cups in between uses. It was awesome.

I demolished that bacon

Washing cups

4. The volunteers. Everyone that helped out at the expo, the aid stations and at the finish area were amazing, especially those washing cups! Normally, most volunteers I encounter are pretty darn amazing. Especially volunteers at ultra races. But these volunteers were just on another level. Always smiling, giving encouragement, helping me when I was coughing at the aid station post hideous climb and again at the finish. My faith in humanity is always restored at races but after this one, I felt like I had just received a big giant collective hug from everyone in Bryce Canyon.

5. The swag. There was a nice race shirt for all runners with our names on the back. And all finishers received a finisher's mug instead of a medal (though the 100-mile finishers received buckles). Each race distance received a race-specific mug. They were really cool.






And that's a wrap! I had an amazing time in Utah with my family and can't wait to go back again.



Have you ever been to Bryce Canyon? Have you run with Vacation Races?


I'm linking up with the Friday Five 2.0 link up, hosted by Rachel at Running on Happy and Lacey and Meranda from Fairytales and Fitness. When you're done here, be sure to check these ladies out!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

BLU 50K Race Recap

A little over a week ago, I had the pure pleasure of running the Beyond Limits Ultra 50K up in Mountain Center, which is near Hemet Lake and Idyllwild in the Mount San Jacinto State Park. This is a multi-day event with a 72-hour, 48-hour, 24-hour, 100 miler, 50 miler and then the 50K. It is run on a 2-mile looped course within the Pathfinder Ranch. The loop is relatively flat with some fairly sandy sections along with some single track and a paved road section.

I first heard about this race from a friend of mine during the Pirate's Cove 24-hour race last month. It sounded fun and interesting and I made a note to myself to look it up after the race. My family had planned a trip up to Idyllwild for my kids' spring break so I wanted to see how feasible it would be to do it while we were there.

After the 24-hour race (during which I told myself I'd be taking a nice break and not doing any other races until the PCT 50 in May), I checked out the BLU races. Well, what do you know, it was going to be while we were in Idyllwild. And since I needed to get one more big training run in before the 50-miler, I asked my husband if he would mind if I did the race while we we there. He said he didn't mind, so I quickly signed up! So much for taking a break ;)

Pic source
We made it up to Idyllwild on the Wednesday before the race. We just kind of took our time getting there and once we got to the house we rented, we just made ourselves at home before heading out to dinner and hitting the grocery store for some staples.

Thursday we went into Palm Springs, which is just on the other side of Mount San Jacinto State Park. You have to drive down the mountain and into the desert, so it's a windy drive for about an hour. We soon learned that our kids get car sick on those types of drives (ugh). We didn't stay in Palm Springs too long but we did take the tram up to Mount San Jacinto and spent some time up there. I love the views from the top!

After spending the day in Palm Springs on Thursday, we decided to stay in Idyllwild on Friday. We went hiking through the nature center and really loved the views of Tahquitz Peak and the surrounding areas. It's just so beautiful up in the mountains and we don't get to see such greenery in SoCal :) After hiking around, we spent some time in the town center, hitting up some shops and meeting some of the locals and through-hikers. Idyllwild is right off the PCT, so a lot of people hiking the trail will stop in Idyllwild for food and supplies. It was cool talking to some of them in one of the gear shops.

Saturday was the race, which began at 8:30am. The ranch where the race was taking place was about 20 minutes or so away so we all piled in the car and headed there around 7:00am. I'm glad my kids are early risers or I would have really felt bad for having them get up so early. When we got to the ranch, we saw how awesome it was!! This is an educational camp that host school groups. There were farm animals, horse-back riding, canoeing, an archery range and much more. The kids would have a blast while I was running.

Upon arriving at the ranch, we watched some of the runners already running (72-hour and 48-hour had already started) and were just in awe. The 72-hour began on Thursday. Yep. They had already been running for 48 hours. Crazy!! And inspiring. After checking in and getting warmed up (it was a little chilly at the start - about the high 50s), I headed over to the start. I ran into some friends and fellow Orange Mud ambassadors Robert and Steve, and some other friends I've seen at ultras around the area. That's what I love about the ultra community - you are bound to run into someone you know, even at a race when you're out of town. It's awesome. Anyway, the 24-hour, 100-miler, 50-miler and 50K all began at the same time. Everyone doing the longer races just began and headed out onto the 2-mile loop. But we 50K runners needed to run around the lake 4 times to make up our mile and then we headed out to the loop for 15 loops.

Me and Robert before the start
Me and Steve before the start

Big group photo of all the Saturday starters

After the start, it warmed up really quickly. In fact, it got much warmer than I was expecting. I was feeling pretty good until I hit mile 10 and then the heat started getting to me. Thankfully Steve (the OM ambassador and medic for the race), cooled me down with some ice and wet paper towels when I hit the aid station. After cooling off, I was able to get into a groove for a while. Just listened to some tunes, chatted with runners every now and then, drank my Tailwind, ate fruit, potatoes and pickle juice every now and then at the aid station, and just focused on knocking off the loops. I worked really hard at keeping my thoughts positive and enjoying myself. I still had a long way to go!!

Gorgeous views 

I was pretty grateful for the sno-cones that showed up during the race. I didn't eat the entire thing, but it was so refreshing!!



Around mile 20 or so, my right IT Band started talking to me. The back part of the loop was pretty sandy and I was having a hard time with it. If it's one thing I do not like running through it's sand. It's always been my least favorite surface. When I had 4 laps left, I saw my family (they had left the ranch for a bit to get lunch and stuff) and saw they were going canoeing. I was bummed I couldn't join them! They looked so cute getting their little life vests on!

With 2 laps left, Steve joined me for a lap. It was so nice to have someone to chat with. He told me some of his crazy race medic stories. You never really know how much your race medics unless you're one of the folks needing their services. There were some doozies he shared, and thankfully helped pass those 2 miles quickly. At this point, my ITB was really angry and I was struggling to get through. I also saw that my kids were over at the archery range and the thought of them shooting arrows at each other occupied my thoughts for a bit too ;)

With 1 lap left, my friend Missy (another OM ambassador and Run Far athlete there to support her teammates) joined me for the last loop. The first half of the loop has the sandiest part and I was struggling through it. As we came out of the sand hell, Steve was there waiting for us. He told me that I was in the lead for the 50K. With the looped course, it was pretty difficult to know where you were in the pack. It was also not readily apparent who was running what event. So I really didn't know where I was and I certainly wasn't thinking I'd be in the lead. I was just doing my thing out there. Anyway, when Steve said I was in the lead with one mile to go, I had two thoughts: "oh crap, now I have to run fast," and "oh crap, I think I can do this." So Missy and I took off for the last mile.

Having Missy with me really helped keep me focused. I put it into high gear and took off and thankfully Missy was there to help keep me from fading. She chatted and kept my mind off what I was doing (my ITB was MAD) and was great for that last loop. I was so thankful to have her there.

As we were coming around the final curve towards the finish, I couldn't believe I was about to win a race. It was one of the most exciting things I've ever experienced as a runner and I'm still kind of in disbelief. Not only did I win, but I PR'd as well. I was just kind of stunned! Thankfully, Missy's husband, Jake, took a video and now I have that finish forever!




My sweet Peace Frog prize and medal

My family was not at the finish as they were still shooting arrows over at the archery range. It was pretty comical that they missed it. My husband felt really bad but we didn't really expect to have this kind of finish!! He and my kids just being there to support me was enough to fill my heart. I was really thankful that they didn't mind I did this race during our vacation and that they could watch some of the race as well, which they rarely get to do. It was great.



This race will always be one of my favorites and not even because of my result. It was well organized and the race directors and volunteers were amazing. The course (sand aside) was great and manageable as sometimes looped courses are just mentally horrific but this one was good. The swag was good - there was a great tech shirt, some stickers, magnets and other goodies in a great zippered cinch sak. The race photos were also free, which is just amazing. It was a great way to top off a great vacation. If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend it. If nothing else, check out Pathfinder Ranch!   

The awesome tech tee and zippered cinch sak

Thanks so much for reading! I know it was a long one! I'm linking up with Lora Marie from Crazy Running Girl, Debbie from Coach Debbie Runs and Rachel from Running on Happy for the Coaches' Corner blog link up. Check these awesome ladies when you're done here!



I'm also linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday Link Up with Annmarie from The Fit Foodie Mama, Jen from Pretty Little Grub and Nicole at Fitful Focus. Check these badass women out!


Monday, March 26, 2018

Easy Gluten-Free Granola

I love me some granola. In fact, I really love cereal and it's been something I've missed since going gluten-free. I don't care for a lot of the gluten-free products out there because I don't care for the ingredients and the usual texture. And store-bought gluten-free granola can be either a) expensive for the amount you get or b) gross. And sometimes both! I started making my own not too long ago just to save a little money since I eat it so frequently. It's really easy to make and so customizable you can have anything you'd like in it to have a healthy, gluten-free snack or meal. Here's my basic recipe:

Easy Gluten-Free Granola

2 cups gluten-free old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped almonds (I typically use raw almonds and you can use any nut of choice here)
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup raw hemp hearts
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup chia + fruit puree or apple sauce (I just use half of my kids' Mamma Chia Squeeze - any flavor! And this is totally optional too)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried fruit of choice (I used dried cherries in the batch pictured here)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick foil.

Add the oats, nuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut, hemp hearts, cinnamon and salt to a bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside. In a small pot, melt the coconut oil. Then add the apple sauce, maple syrup and vanilla. If it's a little thick, you can add a tablespoon of water. Just heat until everything is combined. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until the oats are completely coated. Spread the oats on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally throughout (I usually stir twice throughout the baking). After baking, let the granola sit for a minute or two to cool and then add your dried fruit. Stir and place in an air-tight container. Granola is good at room temperature for a week or so. You can also freeze it to keep longer.

Sprinkle over yogurt or salads or anything where you're craving a little crunch. I use about 1/3 to 3/4 cup at a time.

What's your favorite granola recipe?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pirate's Cove 24-hour Race Recap

Last week, I took on my first 24-hour race: Pirate's Cove 24-hour Race. This was a race that began at 8:00am Friday morning and ended at 8:00am Saturday morning. Runners trekked along a 2-mile loop around Lake Cuyamaca, which is located in the mountains in East San Diego County. There is also a 12-hour and 6-hour option, also beginning at 8:00am Friday, as well as a 12-hour option beginning at 8pm Friday night. It is put on by the ultra running group I belong to - San Diego Ultra Running Friends (SURF) and was a great event!

You may remember my less-than-amazing experience at the San Diego 100 Mile run last June. I had some major nutrition issues as well as the worst blisters known to man. I wasn't able to make the cutoff after 75 miles and was pulled from the course. My partner in crime, Vanessa, also suffered the same fate and the two of us were heartbroken after that race. We decided to focus on making some nutrition changes, as well as other things to help with the blisters and then try our luck at a timed race rather than a distance event with strict cutoffs. This way we could focus just on running for the specified amount of time we wanted to and see how our body responded to the changes we made.

For me, nutritionally, I have switched over to using primarily liquid calories rather than liquid plus food. I found that, the more I ate during my runs, the more my stomach got upset. Now I run with Tailwind exclusively and when I feel hungry, I'll have some fruit or potato chips (though that's mainly during races with aid stations). It's definitely helped with my stomach issues, though they're not completely resolved. I think I'm always going to be a runner with stomach issues and it really just boils down to how well I can manage them over the course of these long events.

As for the blisters, I started wearing Injinji socks (the toe socks). I tried them long ago and didn't care for them but with all my blister issues during San Diego 100, I thought I'd try them again. And they've been great. I had one weird case of blisters on my heels on a long run over the winter but other than that, I've had no blisters at all! I think that was a fluke as I was breaking in some new shoes as well.

Ok, fast forward to Pirate's Cove. The logistics are simple. As I already mentioned, runners run a 2-mile loop as many times as possible within 24 hours. They can set up their own aid station at the campground where the race begins, in addition to using the main aid station provided by the race organizers. So we had our own spot with all our stuff so we didn't need to worry about carrying anything longer than 2 miles at a time. I really liked that concept. I also liked the 2-mile loop as it was pretty varying in terrain. There was one main hill within the first half mile and then the rest was fairly flat.

Vanessa and I arrived at the race site at about 6:30am or so to check in, get our race stuff and set up our little aid station. We had a pop up canopy as we knew it was going to rain during the 24 hours we'd be out there. We also had all our rain gear, extra water, food and Tailwind and everything else we'd need in case of rain, sleet or snow.

We have arrived! 
Our little personal aid station

Speaking of snow, there was a bit of snow on the ground around the lake when we arrived. It was pretty cold so it wouldn't all melt, but we knew that snow on the trail would lead to mud with all those feet sloshing through it.

At 8:00am, our race began. We ran through the campground and out to the first bridge crossing Lake Cuyamaca. That bridge would prove to be the most difficult part of this loop! It was cold and windy right from the get-go. We had to cross it going out to start the loop and then again to finish the loop. It was miserable as the day wore on and it got colder and rainy/snowy. As I'm writing this, I realized that I didn't take a picture of this bridge even though it was such a huge part of the race. It was maybe a tenth of a mile but as the weather got worse, it got longer and longer each time we crossed it! I hated that bridge.

And off we go! 

Anyway, after your cross the bridge, you start heading up towards the hill of the course. This section was pretty muddy. It became a swamp as the day wore on and ultimately was the muddiest part of the whole course. After you climbed up the hill, the section heading down also became a mud fest. That was a tricky section and I'm surprised I never fell, even in the dark.

Down the hill! 

After the ascent and descent of the hill, we headed over the lake again on a wide wooden bridge (dubbed the Judge's Bridge but I never found out why). You hit this bridge almost halfway through the loop. After you cross that bridge, you had to make it through another fairly muddy section of trail. Then you make your way down some nice, flat section to the turnaround. Some poor soul we dubbed Stanley (I think, his name changed throughout the night - I think we also called him Samuel) marked the turnaround and surprisingly, he remained upright the entire time. We high fived him a lot and then made our way back over the wooden bridge, through the swamp and then back over the hideous windy bridge, back to the aid station.

Snow! 
A view of the lake

The wooden Judge's Bridge over the lake

Stanley! 

The sky looked pretty cool as the sun was setting. 

For the most part, I felt pretty good throughout the race. We just kept moving along, walking when we needed to, stopping to refuel and add layers throughout the day. I didn't really have many low points until the weather got bad. At around 5pm or so, our friend Alexis showed up. Alexis was doing the night 12-hour run beginning at 8pm. She was adding to our aid station and hanging out until her race began.

And so it went. Around and around the loop through the day, through the night. Alexis began at 8:00pm but strangely, we didn't run together. We just had different rhythms. She was fresh and ready to go at her start and we had already been running for 12 hours and were not fresh at all. But we chatted a bit each time we saw her and she was seriously rocking her race.

At about 1:00am, the rain began. Well, it was snowing lightly a bit before that but then the rain began. It quickly turned into freezing rain and with the wind, felt like it was pelting us pretty hard. Now, you would think that growing up in New York and living in DC for years before moving to California would have prepared me for this moment. And it did, to a degree. I knew what to wear and all that. But I haven't run in cold weather and certainly not freezing rain, in about 8 years. That was back in 2010 and it was the last winter I ran in DC. Our actual last winter in DC was 2011 and I was pregnant with my twins, so I wasn't running at all! So, needless to say, I'm no longer used to running in cold weather. And frankly, I don't do well in cold any more. I have a really hard time.

As the night went along and the mud, rain, wind and temps got worse, Vanessa and I were struggling. At one point, we sat in the car for a bit just to heat up. Though it felt good at the time, when we got out to start running again, I had a hard time. My hip flexors were already so tight from the time on my feet and the weather conditions, when we added sitting to the mix, they protested greatly. But I forged on as best as I could. Though when we got to the aid station after 60 miles, we were ready to call it a night. We decided we would do one more loop to get a 100K distance and then be done. I was shivering with teeth chattering at this point. My feet had gotten wet and I felt like I was running on blocks of ice. It just wasn't worth trying to get the full 24 hours. In fact, the wind had gotten so strong, it blew over and broke my pop up canopy. The legs snapped off from the top! Stupid wind!

We left the aid station for the last time and made our way to the stupid bridge. Just as we were leaving, Vanessa's headlamp died. But since we were just going for one more loop, we didn't stop to get her another one. So we went on. Then, after we finally get to the end of the seemingly-100-mile-long bridge and we hear the most terrifying sound ever. It was kind of like a cross between a growl and a scream. I can't explain it. But at 3:00 in the morning, it scared the crap out of us. We stopped when we heard it and then our headlamps picked up some beady eyes heading away from where we were. I seriously thought I was going to pass out. On our last loop? Really?? We believe it was a bobcat we heard, telling us that he was there. I don't ever want to hear this sound again. I can't find the exact sound I heard, but this one sounds a lot like what we heard. I hope I never hear it again!

We did see a night bandit (raccoon)!
But that bobcat was rude!

After making our way up and over the hill, through the mud slide down the back of the hill, we ran over the wooden bridge for one final high five to Stanley. And that's when my headlamp died. We were without a headlamp and standing in the dark. Thankfully we could see another runner coming and decided to wait and run back with them. Thankfully, not only did she let us run with her, she wasn't running so fast we couldn't keep up with her. I'm horrible and I can't remember her name but she was so nice and she kept us moving through that final loop. Her stories definitely helped pass the time so we didn't freeze to death in the dark! We made it back over the bridge, through the swamp and over the hideous bridge one final time, back to the aid station, finishing our race. My Garmin says I did 63.09 miles in 19 hours and 23 minutes. If I'm being honest, I was a little disappointed that I stopped before the 24 hours. But as I said already, I was freezing and only getting more uncomfortable. I am glad I stopped and didn't risk hurting myself or getting hypothermia! And, I was doing this race to test out the changes I've made. I did not have a single blister, even with wet feet. In fact, I didn't have a single spot of chafing either. I also only had slight stomach distress but it was resolved fairly early and I didn't have any more issues. I have felt good since the race and only had slight soreness. I call this a super success!!

After we finished, we went back to the car to get changed out of our soaked clothes and grab some sleep. I think we slept for an hour? I'm not really sure. But we had some time before Alexis would finish, so we went back over to the aid station to hang out, grab some breakfast and wait for Alexis.

Finally warm and dry with full bellies!

How did Alexis do, you may ask? Well Alexis, who also happens to be a private client of mine, seriously rocked her race and ended up as the top female for the 12-hour run. That's right - she won the 12-hour run with 42 miles in 11 hours and 23 minutes. I am so proud of her for her tenacity in continuing on through very tough conditions and working so very hard towards this goal. She's such an awesome runner and I'm really happy for her. This is the longest she's ever run in both time and distance. I couldn't be happier for her! Congrats to Alexis!

Woot! 

Despite the weather and the bobcat, I had an absolute blast at this race. The race organizer, Jenny Henderson, puts on a fantastic event. The aid station was amazing with all the usual aid station goodies like water, electrolytes, candy, potato chips and the like, as well as hot food like burgers, hot dogs, grilled cheeses and quesadillas throughout the day. There was also soup and chili throughout the night. And the breakfast in the morning on Saturday was everything I needed when I finished the race. There was eggs and hashbrowns as well as bacon and pancakes. I mean, seriously! All the volunteers were so amazing and took such great care of us. If I knew the weather wouldn't be a winter storm, I'd sign up for next year's race in a heartbeat. In fact, I think I'll plan on doing it but won't register until it's closer to the event and it looks like the weather will hold out.

So, what's next? I have the PCT 50-miler in May, the Bryce Canyon 50K in June and then we'll see what happens next. I'm still hoping to tackle another 100-miler, I just don't know when. I think if PCT 50 goes well, I may look into doing Javelina Jundred in October. That time of year is pretty busy so I'll have to make the decision soon.

What races have you done so far this year? What's on tap for you next?



Now that you're done here, check out the Tuesday on the Run blog link up, hosted by Patty with My No-Guilt Life, Erika at MCM Mama Runs and Marcia at Marcia's Healthy Slice.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Lake Hodges 50K Recap

Last week I had the pleasure of running the Lake Hodges 50K. The 50K is one of 4 races that are part of the Lake Hodges Trail Fest. There is also a 15K, a 5K and a kids race. I have been training runners for this race for the last 3 years and this year I had the opportunity to run it myself! It's put on by my friend Paul and I knew I was in for a great racing experience.

My partner in crime, Vanessa, and I decided back in August that this would be a good race to have on the training schedule. As we build up for the Pirate's Cove 24-hour race, we need lots of miles. And there's no better way to get long training runs done than at a race. You can practice all the things you've been working on regarding nutrition and hydration, shoes, etc., under race conditions. You can also practice pre-race rituals and the recovery process as well. I highly recommend using a race as a training run whenever it suits your training schedule. This go-around, I was trying out exclusively fueling with Tailwind and supplementing with fruit at the aid stations. It worked like a charm!

Race day arrived and I was excited. I knew I'd be running with Vanessa, but also my friend and private client Erika. I've known Erika for almost as long as we've lived here as we were both members of the same moms of multiples group. She also has an older boy and then younger twin girls. Anyway, I've been working with her professionally on and off for a few years and she's a rockstar runner. She qualified for the Boston Marathon at her first marathon, and she wasn't even trying. Yeah, she's a rockstar. She's been wanting to get more trail runs and get into ultras. She's joined us on a few of our jaunts through the woods and decided she was going to give Lake Hodges a try. I also knew my other private client, Dan, would be running as well. This would be his second 50K as he crushed the Marlette 50K this past August. So I was looking forward to seeing him.


At the start with Dan

I also knew Smitha would be running the 15K and I was pleasantly surprised that another friend, Jenn, who I've also coached before, would be running. I knew she was going to do the Ray Miller 50K in December, but she had the opportunity to run this and jumped on it. We all met up right before to start to chat and then it was go-time.


Everyone at the start 

We are pretty lucky in that we run at Lake Hodges and the connecting trails through Escondido a lot. I live really close and like the ease of getting to the trails there. And with the groups I've been coaching for this race each year, I've run the course about a million times. So I knew the course and knew it would be deceptively difficult.

There are two reasons that make this race difficult - the flat sections of the course and the heat. The race is very runnable, meaning there are few steep climbs and you feel obligated to not only run as much as you can, but push the pace on those runnable sections. So that can bite it you in butt. And then the heat. With the course inland from the coast, there is very little air movement and virtually no shade to speak of. It's hot. And dry. And it's unrelenting. If you can stay on top of your hydration, you'll be ok.

The first eight miles of the race are run entirely on the Lake Hodges trail. It was really foggy at the start, so the lake was pretty spooky looking. The first mile is on tight single track, but then you cross over the lake and run on wider trails. There is a combination of soft sand and rocky trail, but it's all really manageable. You make your way towards the lake marina and have your first turn around at the first aid station. Then we head back on the same trail but instead of crossing back over the lake, we head toward the Mule Hill trail and Escondido. You cross under Interstate 15 and then get back on the trail. This is where it's very flat for about 5 miles until you head into the largest climb of the race - the Raptor Ridge. This is about a 400ft climb up for about a mile and then back down onto the trail as it parallels what was once the San Dieguito River. Erika went ahead of us as we started climbing Raptor Ridge. That girl loves hills. Jenn hung back a bit at the aid station so Vanessa and I were left to our own devices. We ran another 4.5 miles to the second turn around out near Bandy Canyon Ranch in Escondido. Once we turned around, our spirits lifted knowing we had a half marathon left. We had to get through the heat but we knew the course was manageable.

You can't tell but the lake was super spooky when we crossed it


My fave pic of all of us!
Back through Raptor Ridge we went and then the unrelenting flat section. We basically just stopped talking, put on the some music and just put one foot in front of the other. It was really hot and really dry. But we knew the final aid station was right before we went back under the 15. And from there, there was less than a 5K. So we pushed through and high-tailed it through to the finish. Both of our families would be at the finish and we were excited to get to them!

I am so happy I was able to run this race this year. I had a great time and even managed a 15+ minute PR. Since most of my races are training runs, I never even try to PR. I don't push the pace. But I had a feeling there was a chance for a PR when we were about 10 miles from the finish. So after the last aid station, we said we were going for it. Vanessa got a PR too! Erika rocked her race and ended up coming in 3rd in her age group. My awesome client Dan also crushed it, coming in 5th in his age group. And Jenn did amazingly well, working through cramps and earning her first ultra finish. It couldn't have been a better day!


Finished with a PR! 


With Erika at the finish!


Me, Erika and Vanessa with all our children!
The reason why we run!

Would I run Lake Hodges 50K again? Absolutely. Here are my five reasons why you should too:

1. The race organizer is amazing!! He leaves no detail unchecked. The aid stations are no more then 5 miles apart (and have everything at them), the course is well marked and the check-in and packet pick up procedure is easy. Pre-race communications were great as well. We knew where to get our race numbers, where to park and what to expect of the course. Paul even made sure we were aware of the weather forecast to be sure we were prepared. With 4 different races to manage, the fact that everything goes smoothly and seamlessly is amazing.

2. The volunteers are awesome. Every aid station was well organized and the volunteers greeted you with smiles and attended to our every need. They filled bottles, they gave us ice and sponged us off. They had sunblock, salt tabs, electrolyte drink, water, food, fruit and more. There was nothing I didn't need at these aid stations!

3. The swag. Race participants received an awesomely soft race shirt. The 50K finishers received a pint glass, which is always welcome. And all race finishers got an awesome wood medal from Elevation Culture. These are probably the best looking "medals" of any race I've done. So unique and beautiful.




4. The course. I love running Lake Hodges and Mule Hill trails. Even though I know it will be hot, unrelentlessly flat and unshaded, I still love it. They're fun trails and I love the combination of tough single track, soft fire road and rocky climbs. There is something for everyone!

5. The atmosphere. There is no better place than the finish of a trail race. It's laid back and fun. Everyone is genuinely happy to see you finish and hopes you hang out for a while. People are nice and friendly and you always leave knowing more friends than when you arrived.

If it works in my training, I'll definitely be back next year!

Have you run a trail race recently? What did you love/not love?


I'm linking up with the Friday Five 2.0 link up, hosted by Rachel at Running on Happy and Lacey and Meranda from Fairytales and Fitness. When you're done here, be sure to check these ladies out!