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!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Slowing Down to Catch Up

Wow. It's been 4 months since I've posted on my blog! It's definitely been a whirlwind 4 months since that post about my SD 100-miler results. As you can imagine, I needed to take a bit of a break to regroup and figure out what the next steps will be.

A lot can happen in 4 months. When you're in the moment, it doesn't seem like anything is happening but when you look back on it, it's crazy how much actually does happen. Sure, on a personal level, things are always changing with my family and kids. My twins are now ruling the 1st grade and my oldest is now in the 7th grade. I know. I've had a hard time accepting it and if I talk about it for too long, I'll cry. I've had so many ugly cry moments about this, I just can't anymore. All three are doing karate and my oldest is about to finish his second year of cross country. He's improved so much! I'm glad he's enjoying too.

With my running, a lot has changed that I didn't really realize until I looked back on the past 4 months. I've become a lot more relaxed about my training (which is kind of huge). I was so heartbroken after the 100-miler, I wasn't even sure what I was going to do with myself. But my PIC Vanessa and I have come up with some new things to try. I've also tried to be more relaxed about things because I was burned out. I needed to step back and fall in love with running again. I also had to shift my focus almost entirely on my clients and programs. It's been a BUSY 4 months.

So what's been going on?

1. I've been coaching a lot of private clients and group programs, both in person and virtually. I started working as part of the coaching staff with the amazing Train Like a Mother Club back in April. I am coaching their Ragnar Road and Trail programs and our first program began in May. But it's a rolling program and while we focus on a few specific races (Ragnar Great River, Adirondacks and Ragnar Trail Alafia), the participants are all training for any Ragnar Relay. It's been amazing! I am captaining a team for the Trail Alafia race in December, which I'm super excited about. I was also headed to Ragnar Napa Valley in a couple of weeks with some of our participants and some good friends, but sadly it looks like the awful wildfires in the area will change those plans. In addition to the Ragnar programs, I've also been coaching their Stride into the School Year program this past September. It's been so much fun, I can't even describe it. The Stride programs are typically 5-week long programs developed to help you stay on track through an especially chaotic time of year (such as when the kids go back to school and summer fun is over!). The workouts are a combo of running and strength, with live Facebook sessions, super FUN workouts and contests each week. I highly recommend joining the Stride into the Holidays program beginning at the end of this month! I'm also coaching the Fall running program for the YMCA. We're training for the Surfing Madonna 10K and 15K and it's going so well. I can't believe race day is in a couple of weeks. And let's not forget the amazing work with my private clients. From the rock star cross country runners I worked with, to the amazing runners working towards tough Fall goals from 5K to 50K, it's been an amazing goal-crushing, rock star-studded summer.

Running on the Beach with the Surfing Madonna group!

2. I traveled a bit this summer, which did wonders for not only my sanity, but my running. In June, we headed to New York to visit my parents. They are moving to Florida and this was our last hurrah where I grew up. Not only did we spend some great time with my parents, brother and sister-in-law, friends and more, but I also got to run my favorite trails for probably the last time. It was a really great trip with my parents. As they get older and their health continues to decline, every minute with them is just a gift. I am sad that they're moving to Florida as I feel like the link I have to New York is gone. Sure, I still have my brother there but visiting isn't as easy without my parents' house as home base. And I feel like my parents are going to Florida as their final destination, so to speak. I know that sounds horrible. But they've both had some major health issues get worse this summer and the little girl in me is sad her parents are getting older and sicker. If I'm really honest, I wish they weren't moving to Florida and moving closer to me :(

Family time at one of my favorite spots on Long Island,
the Stony Brook duck pond

New York trail running fun! 

3. At the end of July, we went to Big Bear Lake with my PIC, Vanessa, and her family. This is our second family trip together and it was just as good as our trip together last summer. Maybe better. Big Bear is a beautiful place and we got to disconnect and relax. We also got to run some amazing trails.

Running in Big Bear was pretty fun!

4. I got some new ink!! I have been planning my "family" tattoo since my twin girls were born back in 2011! I couldn't really decide what I wanted but things finally came to fruition. The tattoo on my ribs is all about my family. The cherry blossoms represents the DC area, where our story began. My husband and I met there, it's where we had our kids and it will always be special to us. The 5 blossoms represent the 5 of us, of course. And the text: "The best luck I've had is you" is from a Michael Franti song that I would sing to the kids when they were younger. It is the best way I can describe what my family means to me. The tattoo on my forearm is the end of the Robert Frost poem, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." The words really mean a lot to me. On the surface, most people think I chose them because it says I have miles to go before I sleep. And I run a lot, so I must have lots of miles to run. And yes, that's true. But how I interpret it is that I have a lot of stuff I want to do before my time is up. I don't mean a bucket list with things I need to check off. In a broader sense, I just have a lot of life left. So many promises to myself, my family, my friends, clients. I feel like I'm just not done and I while running and goals are a part of that, it's the entire package of life and all the experiences left to experience that will keep me moving.

Ribs didn't hurt as much as I expected!
Don't get me wrong - they did freaking hurt! 

And close up 

Right forearm tattoo 

And close up 

5. I set some new goals. Yes, I'm going to try for another 100-miler in 2018. Which one is yet to be determined. In the meantime, I've made some changes regarding my nutrition while on the run (running exclusive with Tailwind at the moment), I've made some changes with my training (mainly with regard to mileage, strength and cross training) and I'm trying out some new socks and foot sleeves to prevent the blistering I had during the SD 100. And everything seems to be working at the moment. But what works at 20-30 miles may not necessarily work at 50-100 miles. So we're going to try things out at the Pirate's Cove 24-hour race next March. And based on how things go with that, we'll decide which 100 miler to do. I have some 50Ks on the books, as well as that Ragnar in December but nothing else right now. Trying to keep things relaxed and take them as they come. So far so good!

Phew! Here's hoping I don't remain silent for the next 4 months! Fill me in on what you've been up to as well!

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, June 14, 2017

San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run

This past weekend was the 16th running of the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run. It was my first attempt at a 100-miler and something I've been working toward for over a year. Thousands of miles. Hours of strength training. Run. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Well, if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, chances are you've already heard about my result. SPOILER ALERT: I didn't finish. I made it to the 75-mile aid station after the cutoff and I wasn't able to continue. I got 3/4 of the way through the race and it was over. Warning- this is a long post.

A part of me didn't want to recap this race at all. Certainly not how I've recapped races in the past. How can I provide a good recap of a race I didn't finish? But after thinking about it and reading this article about failure today, I felt I had to share my experiences. I'm not the first person to DNF a 100-miler and I certainly won't be the last. It sucks and I'm sad-mad, but it's part of running. And with a race as long as 100 miles, there's a lot of room for something to go wrong.

My partner in crime, Vanessa, and I headed out to Lake Cuyamaca on Thursday afternoon. The race didn't start until Friday but there was a pre-race briefing on Thursday. So we loaded the car and off we went. We got to the Lake just in time to hear the great Scotty Mills, race director, talk about the dos and don'ts of running this race. Rule number one is to not jeopardize your health and safety to finish the race. If that's Rule #1, do I really need to know the other rules? Eek! After about an hour of somewhat uplifting but absolutely terrifying race info, it was time to head to dinner. We went to the Descanso Junction, which may be my new favorite pre-race-in-the-mountains dinner spot (sorry Calvin's).

All the stuff for a 100-miler

Car packed

Ready to go! 

Pre-race check in 

Race morning arrived at 3:30am. We needed to check in by 5:00am to get our race bibs, drop off our drop bags and get started at 6:00am. We were both feeling ok. A little shell-shocked but ok. The temperatures were cool and we were happy about that. Last year the temps were about 30 degrees warmer, so we were glad to have that on our side.

Let's go! 

Go-time arrived and we were on our way. The trail was super tight in the beginning and we were in a conga line getting around the lake. We decided before the race to treat every section between aid stations as "legs" and focus only on that mileage and how much time we had to get there. So it was 7.5 miles until the first aid station and that's what we focused on. There was some decent climbing in this leg and my hamstrings were already talking to me. But we just moved forward and enjoyed the atmosphere. Everyone was excited and in good spirits, which we knew wouldn't last long, so we just enjoyed it while it was there.

Conga line 

We got to the first aid station and saw our friends from Running Skirts, as well as Smitha and Jenn. It was nice to see friendly faces, though we didn't stay long. We decided to spend little time at the aid stations we didn't need to change socks or use the bathroom. So we got some fuel, some hugs and went on.

First aid station with Smitha

After this aid station, we made our way up Stonewall Peak. This was the first of three big climbs of the race. It wasn't too bad, as we've done it before and the race didn't actually take us all the way to the top. So back down we went and made our way to the next aid station. This part of the course took us back by the lake, which is much higher this year from all the rain over the winter. It was so beautiful.

Livin the dream!

We went into the next aid as quickly as possible and made our way back out, over the the lake, and then back on the trail towards the next aid. This section wasn't horrible but it was getting warmer and there was little shade. And we did happen upon a rattle snake during this section. Thankfully the people ahead of us made some noise and got it to move off the trail. But not before it angrily rattled at us. That was LOUD!!

At this point, it was around mile 20. We were trying not to focus on the entire distance left to run but only how much we had to run to get to the next aid station. I think this was a good strategy and I'd recommend it to anyone with a big race ahead of them. Take it in chunks rather than try to deal with it in its entirety. It's too overwhelming. Anyway, we were making our way towards Noble Canyon, which is notoriously hot and dry and we were trying to keep our heads in the moment and not get too far ahead of ourselves. We still had an aid station to get to before running to Noble, so we were trying to focus on that. But it was in my head, for sure. At this point, I was feeling ok. My hamstrings were starting to feel a little better and I was happy with how everything else was feeling. I was eating well and hydrating like a maniac. This was the only section of the race I wasn't 100% familiar with so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. So we just went with it.

Spectacular views 

We made it to the next aid station and changed our socks. I was definitely beginning to feel some hot spots on the bottom of my feet. The trails are extremely rocky here in San Diego and it seemed as though someone came out and dumped more rocks on the trails just for us. In actuality, I think the rains have gutted the trails and rocks that were once embedded were now exposed. It's very hard to run on rocks, but more discouragingly, it hurts a lot. It doesn't matter what trail shoes you wear, those rocks hurt. And after hours and hours, my feet began to fall apart. But more on that later. Here I slathered some RunGoo, put on the new socks and made my way out of the aid station.

Next, we made our way through Champagne Pass, which is a section of the Noble Canyon 50K course. It is also known as the soul-crushing section. Lots and lots of rocks. Hot and dry. Basically a joy to run through. Finally we made it out of that section but onto a paved road. What the? While there weren't rocks to contend with, we didn't love running on the paved road either. But we powered through it and it wasn't too bad, despite the bees that came out of no where and seemed to be following us for a bit. Lots of screaming and running like Phoebe ensued. That was pretty funny.

Finally we got to the next aid station, blew through that and made our way toward Noble Canyon. Climbing out of the canyon was the second of the three big climbs. I've run this trail so many times, I know it like the back of my hand. I knew it would be hot, I knew it would be rocky and I knew it would suck. And it did not disappoint. Here we saw a few people turn back and call it quits. We said to each other that we needed to talk a lot about whatever just to keep our minds off of what we were doing. So this section was the deep conversation section and we talked about a lot of stuff we hadn't already talked about (I know, surprising considering how much time Vanessa and I spend together). That helped keep our minds off of what we were doing and before we knew it, we were at Penny Pines and the 44 mile point. Here we changed socks again, slathered with RunGoo and went on our way. I felt pretty good coming out of that aid station and we geared up to begin our trek during the night.

Heading towards the next aid station and ultimately the night running, we donned our long sleeves, head lamps and began charging our watches. We were about 10 miles from seeing our crew and we were excited about that. Our friends, Smitha, Alexis, Leslie and Jenn all graciously agreed to give up their sleep and time in order to run the last 45 miles with us. We were so happy when they agreed and after almost 50 miles, we were really looking forward to seeing them and getting some much needed care.

After making our way through the next aid station, we set our sights on the Red Tailed Roost aid station because that's where the crew would be. At this point, my feet were not happy. In fact, they were screaming at me. The balls of my feet were upset and my right heel was mad too. I had to put on a blister band aid at Penny Pines and was just hoping it would stay on and prevent mayhem from erupting. And then, finally, we made it to Red Tailed Roost. There were the girls and they each took us to get what we needed. Alexis helped me to a chair to get my feet taken care of and Smitha helped Vanessa. Leslie then took over for me and sprayed my feet with some more anti-blister stuff. I knew my feet were goners. But I tried to keep it positive. I went to the bathroom, had some chicken soup and we left. At this point, not only were my feet giving me worries, but my stomach was as well. I was having trouble taking in food because my stomach was gurgling and telling me not to eat anything. I knew I needed to, but was really having trouble.

Anyway, at this point, we needed to make our way down to the turnaround point at Cibbets Flat. This was the last aid station at the end of the out-and-back section of the PCT portion of the course. We had to run down about 2400 feet only to turn around and go back up. Smitha was our pacer for this section and off we went. Because this was a turn around, there were runners coming back at us, which made it difficult to maneuver on the tight single track. In the dark. On tired legs. And angry feet. But we tried. Smitha was in front helping to light the trail so we could see all the rocks. Yes, ALL the rocks. My feet were so freaking mad from not only having to run downhill but downhill on rocks. My stomach also gave out and I had to make a pitstop about a tenth of a mile from the aid station. Not to be too graphic, but I knew I was in trouble.

Night running...

We went through the aid station at the bottom and then made our way back up. Again, I was having trouble eating without my stomach revolting. Here, Alexis was our pacer and she really pushed us up that hill. I was having a hard time keeping up as my feet were burning with every step. And I couldn't eat. I'd nibble on something and immediately have to make a pitstop. It was miserable. I told them to go on ahead when I had to stop but I kept them in my sights and tried to keep up. I finally got back to them and we really pushed it to the next aid station as we were getting close to the cutoff. You must get to each aid station by a specific time in order to continue with the race. We made it to the next station in time but I was really not sure I could make it to the next one in time. Alexis and the aid station volunteers pushed me out of the aid station and we left for the next one - the 75-mile aid station at Todd's Cabin. Todd's Cabin is literally a cabin owned by a guy named Todd. He donates the use of his cabin to the running group that puts on these races along the PCT. Super nice guy and amazing that he does this. Anyway, that was the next goal: get to Todd's Cabin by 6am. At this point, I really didn't want to hold Vanessa back and told her to go on ahead of me. I needed to make another pit stop and didn't want to have her wait for me. Alexis stayed with me until I convinced her to go help Vanessa. So I had the next 3 miles to myself and they were super weird.

I've run this section of the PCT a million times, and yet I had no idea where I was. I was seeing things at this point. I mistook some tree stumps for people. I swear they were doubled over people...but no, they were tree stumps. I convinced myself that I hadn't seen an orange ribbon course markings and was off track (I wasn't). But I just kept moving. I didn't stop. I knew I wasn't going to make it, but I kept going. I checked my phone and saw I had cell service so I called John to let him know what was going on. And I lost it. I cried and told him how sorry I was for not finishing. That I knew I let everyone down and I was sorry. But he told me I hadn't let anyone down and I ran 75 miles! How could that let anyone down? I was still moving. I hadn't stopped even though I was in pain. I saw Alexis and told John I would call him back. Alexis and Vanessa made it to the next aid station but didn't make it in time to continue. So Vanessa was out too. I cried and told Alexis how sorry I was for letting everyone down. She, too, told me not to think that way. That no one in their right mind would think badly of us for this. We tried our best. We did everything we could and it wasn't enough today. Alexis and I both cried a little and then made our way back to the Cabin. We made arrangements with the rest of the crew to get home and then that was it.

Once I got home, there were a lot of tears. My family was so sweet and really just gave me the love I needed. The girls got an old race medal and gave it to me and said that was my medal. That I was ok and I didn't need to cry. My son was upset for me but he told me I did a good job and to not be sad. Oh man. Getting advice and comfort from your kids is humbling. I really felt like I had let everyone down. But everyone was so nice about it and supportive. Everyone told me I should be proud of the 75 miles. And I am. That is the longest I've ever run before. But it wasn't the result I was hoping for.

How do I feel 4 days out? I am still upset but I can talk about it without crying. Well, at least not right away. I need some time to grieve. I feel like I've lost something. I'm also really really mad. My body was feeling ok. I am not sore and aside from some calf tightness the day after, I've felt good. It's my feet that let me down. And I taped them going into this. I read up on how to take care of your feet before something like this. I got all the stuff, practiced taping and knew what was working for me. But I don't think anything could have helped me with those rocks. Both heels are blistered on both sides and then the bottoms of my feet are blistered and bruised from the toes down about 2 inches. It's about 2 inches by 2 inches of blistering and bruising. Painful! So that I need to figure out before I try this again. And then my stomach. I don't know about that either. I haven't had issues like this in a long time. I will experiment with a few things and go from there. I normally drink CarboPro and Ultima mixed together and then eat a Lara Bar every hour. I think I'm going to get rid of the solid food and see if that helps.

And yes, there will be a next time. I just don't know where or when. I need some time to rest, regroup and get over this. My body already has, it's my mind that needs to recover. It's hard not to feel like a failure. I know I'm not a failure but I did fail in reaching my goal of a 100-mile finish. My friend Jenny commented to me that "it isn't failure, it's unfinished success." That is how I'm going to look at this. I did run my longest distance by 12 miles, so there's that. I did survive running for 24+ hours, so there's that. My body feels good post-race (aside from blisters), so I know my training was good. Which is also frustrating but I'm not going to dwell on that right now. I'm just going to say the 2017 SD 100 was a bittersweet experience and leave it at that.

The Pros of this race:
- excellent communication from race organizers.
- course markings were plentiful.
- volunteers were outstanding. I believe there were over 300.
- the course was breathtaking at times.
- participants received Patagonia tech shirts, stickers, Orange Mud water bottles, Injinji socks, Clif products and Squirrel Nut Butter anti-chafing cream.
- finishers received race hoodie, hat, buckle, medal and coffee mug.

The Cons of this race:
- the course is brutal.
- the weather is typically very hot. We lucked out.

Thanks so much for reading. It was a hard one to write and I appreciate you hanging in there! I'm linking up with Susie from the Suzlyfe, 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!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Leona Divide 50K Race Recap

This past weekend, I completed the Leona Divide 50K. This race was done as a training run on the road to the San Diego 100-miler in June. It's still a little weird to say that a 50K race is a training run, but that's what it is at this point. And, I realized this was my 10th 50K race. So, yay for that! There are so many things I loved about this race! I'll try to keep the recap short and sweet but you know how I love to carry on about things :)

This race is put on by the wonderful Keira Henninger. I've done a few of her races now, so I always know they're going to be well organized, the course well-marked and the aid stations well-stocked. And this race was no exception. We received ample directions in the days leading up the race, with driving and parking directions, maps and details on the course and where the aid stations will be, weather info and so much more. Ultra race directors are pretty thorough and Keira is no exception. She provides so much info, you'll be ready for anything.

My running partners in crime, Vanessa and Alexis and I left Friday afternoon. The race location was just outside of Palmdale, CA, in the Angeles National Forest. It's about a 2.5 hour drive without traffic but it took us about 4 hours. Lots of back roads, slow trucks and other traffic woes thwarted our plans of arriving to the hotel quickly, but it was still a relatively fun time. We drove through some interesting towns and sang along to some good tunes, so all was not hideous.

Saturday morning, we awoke super early (3:45am) and made our way to the Green Valley Charitable Hall, where the start/finish was located. We checked in, used the port-o-potties in the dark and got ready for the race. We met up with lots of Orange Mud Ambassadors and InknBurn Ambassadors before the race, which is always a good time. Super awesome running friend Philip even had a blanket for Vanessa and I to cuddle in (it was actually chilly at the start...but that didn't last long).

At the start, with Sparky photobombing

Vanessa, Tam, Chad, Alexis, myself and Jenny

Pre-race blanket love

After a brief talk from Keira, we were off. The first 3-ish miles are pretty much all uphill. We run on the paved road out from the Hall to a connector trail that leads to the PCT. That is all uphill. The road is uphill, the connector trail is uphill. At the top, where the connector meets the PCT, was the first aid station. It was well-stocked and everyone was happy to get there. We didn't need to really refuel at this point, though. From there, we headed south on the PCT for about 6 miles. This section was really beautiful. We ran through some trees and shade on beautiful single-track. Though, the 50K front-runners were making their way back on to the connector and the trail got tight at times. But, along the way, we passed/saw the Bouquet-Canyon Reservoir, which was quite full and lovely.

Initial climbing, while we're still smiling.

Beautiful PCT single track

Bouquet Canyon Reservoir

We got to the 2nd aid station at about mile 8.5 or so. I had my share of Coke, pickles and potato chips and water. We loved that the road we began on was called Spunky Canyon Road, so we needed to take pictures with the signs. Then we were on our way back to that first aid station/connector. The 50-milers kept going south for another 9 miles or so.

Heading back to Spunky Canyon Rd. Cause we spunky. 

After coming back to the connector and what was now aid station 3, we refilled our packs and loaded up on salt and fuel. Lots of fruit and potatoes at this buffet table aid station. Next we were heading north on the PCT for about 7 miles or so. We were told that this section of the course can be rather grueling. It's exposed and it's getting HOT. No shade + heat = hideous. And it was. We made our way to aid station 4 and were so happy when we got there. Our friend, Philip (of pre-race blanket fame), was there to apply sunblock to our already sunburned necks and shoulders (is he amazing or what?). We also refueled on pickles and potato chips, ice water and soda. After dipping our hats in the ice water and placing ice cubes in various places, we were on our way back.

Aid station heaven 

We ran that. 

I'm not going to lie, this section was soul-crushing. It was so freaking hot at this point and we were just kind of over it. What felt good on the way out to that last aid station felt miserable on the way back. And the sun was unrelenting. Unrelenting. But we made it back to the connector and what was now aid station 5 at mile 29. We did pass a man that was in severe distress. Thankfully the runners ahead of us notified the medics at the aid station and they headed their way out to him. I don't know what ultimately happened to him, but I'm sure he was taken back to the race start and given fluids. I'm hoping he was ok.

Unrelenting sun and heat

When we got back to the last aid station, what was now aid station 6, we filled up our packs, had some Coke, pickles and potato chips, and hunkered down to finish the last 3 miles. Really, this was a grit-fest making our way down the connector trail to the paved road and back to the Hall. The trail was manageable but the paved road was a little banked in places. It was not comfortable. But we made it to the finish line! And that finish line was SWEET. According to my Garmin, total mileage was 31.15 (I think Vanessa and Alexis had higher mileage) and total elevation gain was 4295 feet. And, according to Garmin, highest temp was 102 somewhere along the course. HOT. We earned those medals!

After the race, we hung out for a bit with friends. We saw the 50-miler women's winner, Rachel Ragona, finish. She was met by who we think was her husband and her children (you never know!). She has two young kids, maybe both under 3. I cried a little at how inspiring it was to see her finish. It was pretty amazing. She's a rock star.

After cleaning up, we headed back into Palmdale to Cafe Rio, a delicious Mexican fast-casual place. Vanessa and I enjoyed burrito monstrances (Alexis was good and had a salad) and then we headed back home. Thankfully, the trip home was shorter than the trip there and we made it home in about 2.5 hours.

Don't judge me

Post race glow! And most favorite race shirt ever! 

Would I do this race again? On one condition - the temperature would have to be below 70 degrees. Other than the temperature, it really is an awesome race. I have no complaints.

Next up is the PCT 50 Mile on May 13th. This will be my 3rd year in a row. Here's hoping temperatures stay low! What's next for you?

I'm linking up with Susie from the Suzlyfe, 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!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Run For Charity This Spring

The long cold winter is coming to an end and spring has sprung! And with spring comes a running renewal! Spring is a perfect time to revisit your goals for the year. Perhaps winter wasn't kind to your running for whatever reason and now that the daylight is longer, the temps are warmer and races are popping up all over the place, you can revise those goals and start working towards them with gusto.

Even with the arrival of spring, you may still have trouble motivating yourself to work towards those goals. The most dedicated runners still have trouble with motivation at times. Sometimes working towards a time or distance goal just isn't enough. That's when I think about making my goals about something else like a cause near to my heart. For my 5th marathon, (New York City Marathon many moons ago), I was part of the Livestrong Army, raising funds and awareness for cancer research. For another New York City Marathon, I fundraised for Team for Kids to help kids in low income areas have access to physical activity programs and opportunities to learn about healthy living. I've also fundraised for Girls on the Run, local AIDS charities in Washington DC, as well as my kids' schools. Each time it brought a whole new level of importance to my goals. Getting up to run isn't just about you but about the charity you're running for. The people you're running for become your motivation and the possibility of letting them down is enough to keep going. So, how do you make the move to run for charity? See below for my 5 tips.

Before I continue, 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!

1. Pick your cause. Think about the causes that are important to you. Maybe there's a disease that you want to raise awareness for or a community project that could use more funding. Maybe your child's school is in need of resources for some of their programs. All it has to be is something you care about.

2. Find a race. Many races are associated with various local and national charities. Once you've found the charity you want to support, you can see if there are any races that will benefit that particular charity. Or you search for a race first and narrow your choices down by the charities they support.

3. Start your own campaign. Perhaps the charity you want to support isn't associated with a race or event. You can still run the race of your choice and fundraise on your own. In fact, Eventbrite can help you set up your own campaign to fundraise for the charity of your choice. This way you control the fundraising and the exact cause near and dear to your heart gets the exposure and funds it needs.

4. Enlist friends and family. Trust me, I know that ask is tough. Asking your friends, family, coworkers and others to donate to your cause is hard. But when the cause is something important to you or your community, you'd be surprised how quickly people want to help. And knowing you're also helping yourself achieve a goal will make it easier for others to support you. Email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all great ways to get your message out there.

5. Host an event. If asking friends and family repeatedly is getting old, think about hosting a fundraising event. Speak with local restaurants about holding a night where a portion of the sales go to your fundraising campaign. Other ideas include a spa night where a local massage therapist offers a discounted rate for massages and a portion of the sales go towards your fundraising. Many businesses will gladly help out as it helps get their name out there too :)

Running for charity is a great way to stay motivated and excited about your goals. It makes you feel good knowing your runs, even the bad ones, will brighten someone else's day.

Have you ever run for charity? What tips do you have for others fundraising now?