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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

#98- The Full mOOn 50k (aka Puke Fest 2015)!

I would like to start this post with my absolute admiration to any and all runners out there that train/race in the South over the summer. I just do not see how you do it! I came to the Full mOOn 50k in hopes of getting a taste for what will be in store when I attempt the Arkansas Traveler 100 in October. 

The AT100 starts and finishes at the same place and part of the Full mOOn runs on the AT100 course. I thought this would be a good chance to get an idea of the trails, test my gear and have some fun, but in the name of fun, I made some rookie mistakes and I underestimated everything. If there was something that could go wrong for me, it did and most things were my own fault. 

I flew into Memphis then drove to Little Rock. Living and training in Utah (where the heat is warm and dry), I was not ready for the heat and humidity that awaited me. Friday night I decided to take get a little shake out run in. I thought if I waited until 9:30pm I would beat the heat. Well, when it comes to summer in the South, there is no such thing!

10:00pm, 85 degrees, high humidity and a closed Baskin Robbins is NOT cool Memphis!

About 10 miles from Little Rock, I hit the worst traffic that added over an hour to my drive so I finally got to my super speedy friend Marc Gill's apartment (who was nice enough to offer me a place to stay) about 1:00pm. We went to get some lunch and went back to his apartment so I could prepare for the race. 

Me holding Marc's 1st place Rooster!

I got all my gear together, including a duffel bag that included a change of clothes, some Tailwind (that Marc gave me), my spare Garmin and some spare batteries for my headlamp and flashlight (which I was going to put in my pack when I got to the race).

Packet pick-up and the race start and finish was held at the Camp Ouachita Girl Scout Camp in the Ouachita National Forest. The race started at 7:00pm so I made sure to be there by a little after 6:00pm so I could pick up my number and relax a little before the start. I got a 20 minute cat-nap before driving to the race, but that was it.

The Start/Finish! (Photo courtesy of the Full mOOn 50k)

The first thing I noticed when I got there was how hot and humid it was. I was actually a little worried about how I would hold up. Heat is my downfall when it comes to racing and I was already soaked with sweat and I had not yet run a step.

A friend told me to make sure that I take in extra electrolytes to compensate for all the salt I would be losing in sweat, so while in Memphis I stopped at Breakaway Running and picked up a new  (to me) electrolyte powder called Scratch, which I added to my water just to make sure I had enough.

After I picked up my bib, I was going to drop my t-shirt back off to my car when I saw my friends Annette and Arland Blanton. Annette graciously let me put my shirt in her bag which saved me a long walk back to the car to drop it off before the race started. 

It is always great to see the Blantons!! (Photo by Annette Blanton)

Getting ready to run! (Photo courtesy of the Full mOOn 50k)

Being the only person from Utah on the course, People started calling me Utah! "How's it going Utah?" "Great job Utah!" was fun to hear! (Photo courtesy of the Full mOOn 50k)

At 6:45pm, Race Director, Susy Chandler gave us the trail briefing. I turned on my Garmin just before the start and saw what every runner hates to see: Battery Low! MISTAKE #1- DOUBLE CHECK THAT YOUR GARMIN IS FULLY CHARGED! (It can get turned on in your luggage and drain the battery.) 

No worries! I had a back up Garmin for such an emergency, but I forgot it was in the duffel bag in the trunk of my car (which I didn't return to when I got my shirt). MISTAKE #2- MAKE SURE THE EMERGENCY GARMIN IS WITH YOU! (It does no good in the trunk of the car.)

Race Director Susy Chandler giving us the trail brief before the race. (Photo courtesy of the Full mOOn 50k) 

We got started on time and I felt pretty good. Despite the heat and the fact that my hydration vest was not only super heavy, but since dropping some weight it is a little too big and it was bouncing all over, annoying the heck out of me, I  settled into a comfortable pace and felt pretty good for the first five miles. I was drinking my electrolyte drink when all of a sudden I felt really nauseated. I was super hot and thought I was just overheating. I stopped to walk for a minute and made sure to keep drinking, but the more I drank, the more nauseated I felt.

I was feeling good the first five miles. (Photo courtesy of the Full mOOn 50k) 

I started walking the hills and running the flat and downhill sections until running downhill made my stomach worse and I threw up for the first time. I have NEVER had stomach issues in a race and really didn't know what to do. I was only about 8 miles in (with no Garmin, that's a guess) and every step I ran made me want to throw up. Eating anything was the last thing I wanted to do and the heat was making me want to pass out.

I drank some more electrolyte drink and about 2 miles later, I thew up again. By this time it was dark. Marc had told me what a great running community Little Rock had and he was right. Every time I had to stop, someone stopped to check and see if I was all right. A few folks even offered to stay with me until they knew I was OK. 

This race also had a 25k. Those 50k people who couldn't continue were given the option of dropping at the 25k. Once I got to the 25k, I sat in a chair and had one of the fabulous volunteers fill my water bottles. One volunteer handed me some salted watermelon and I broke out the salt tablets that Marc had given me. The watermelon tasted so good and it seemed like it was going to stay down. One runner saw me sitting in the chair and said "Be careful, that's a black hole your sitting in", but without that chair, I may have not continued, I felt that bad! 

After about 5 minutes, I put some ice in my buff and put it on the back of my neck and I felt much better. I started the second half feeling pretty strong. I was passing people that stopped to help me and they seemed happy that I recovered. Then I took a swig from the bottle that had a small amount of electrolyte drink left in it and I immediately felt sick and threw up again. It was at that moment that I knew it was the new electrolyte drink that was making me sick! MISTAKE #3- NEVER TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY!!

I got to the next aid station, sat in the chair ate some watermelon and drank some plain water, and again, I felt much better.

By this time I was not only feeling tired physically, I was feeling really sleepy! I almost felt like I wanted to lay down on the ground and take a nap. My headlamp was going dim, so I broke out my new flashlight, which was really bright, but in the last few miles, it too was losing the brightness I needed for running downhill. I would turn it off when hiking up hills (the dim light was OK for hiking), then turn it on when running. I decided to put my spare batteries in my headlamp, but realized all my spare batteries were also still in the duffel bag in the trunk of the car! MISTAKE #4- WHEN THERE IS NO DROP BAGS, MAKE SURE YOU CARRY YOUR SPARE BATTERIES WITH YOU!

I hit the last aid station about 4 miles from the aid station. I again sat in the chair while the volunteer filled my bottles with plain water. I still didn't want to risk eating anything too sweet so I just stuck with oranges and while tired, I was actually able to run at a pretty good pace to finish feeling strong.

Christmas in July? Where the heck was the snow?!

After I finished I went to see if I could eat some real food. They had a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon and sausage, so I grabbed some eggs and a pancake, sat down, took my phone out of my pack and turned it on to get my Google maps directions back to Marc's house. Unfortunately, my phone started some kind of wacky update and it cleared everything in my phone! Pictures, contacts, texts, apps, all gone! I no longer had the Google map history or the text Marc sent me with his address and it being 1:00am, I didn't want to call him and wake him up. After two hours of trying to get my phone back to normal (which was hard in the woods where there was no cell service), I headed back down the mountain to where I could get service. On the way back down, I remembered the cross street near Marc's house and I was able to make my way back, walking in the door at close to 5:00am. MISTAKE #5- ALWAYS WRITE DOWN IMPORTANT ADDRESSES AND PHONE NUMBERS IN CASE SOMETHING HAPPENS TO YOUR PHONE!

I got into the shower and promptly found out how bad my vest had chafed me with all the bouncing. MISTAKE #6- NEVER WEAR A VEST THAT WEIGHS OVER 5 LBS AND NO LONGER FITS CORRECTLY! 

Oh the chafing!! OUCH!!

Sleep felt so good, but I was up by 10:00am. Marc and I chatted then went and got some Mexican food. Salted tortilla chips and cheese hit the spot! We then walked over to "The Old Mill" which was less than a mile from his apartment. It was used in the opening credits of one of my favorite movies "Gone With The Wind"!

Old Mill Selfie!

There were cute turtles in the lake!

By the time we walked back to Marc's apartment, I was sweating my butt off! We watched the Western States 100 movie "Unbreakable", but I was so sleepy, I dozed off in the middle of it. When it was over, I went into take a nap while Marc went for a run.

About 12:00am, I packed up and headed back to Memphis (stopping for a 30 minute nap in a gas station parking lot), making it in plenty of time to drop off my rental car at 4:00am.

This is what I LOVE about the Marathon Maniacs! I get to meet the greatest people! I can't thank Marc enough for opening his home to me and being such a good host. He is also doing AT100 for the first time! See you in October my friend! 

I made it to the Memphis airport in plenty of time to get a selfie with mosaic Elvis! 

My review of the Full mOOn 50k? Great race at a great price with great people! The heat (and not feeling well) was the only part of this race that was not enjoyable. The race website says this is a good race for a PR, but in my personal opinion, unless you are a mountain goat or someone that runs A LOT of hilly trails all the time, it did not seem like a PR course to me. It would be tough on a good day!

I am good about beating myself up when I have a less than stellar performance these days, but this time I will give myself a break. My only objective in this race was to investigate and get in a long run. I may have felt terrible and ran slower than I wanted, but what I learned in mistakes will be what helps me at AT100.

I gained a whole new fear and respect for what I will attempt in October. Lord help me!!

Monday, July 13, 2015

#97- The Capitol Reef 50 Miler That Turned Into a 50K!

In preparation for the Arkansas Traveller 100, one of the races I was going to run was the El Scorcho 50k in Fort Worth, Texas. Unfortunately, my credit card could not handle two airline tickets a week apart and I REALLY wanted to get some overnight time on the AT100 course before the big show in October. The Full Moon 50k would give me that opportunity, so given the choice between the two, I had to go with Full Moon.

This left a race that needed to be replaced. AT100 is scheduled to be my 100th marathon/ultra and dropping El Scorcho without putting another race in it's place would leave me at 99 and that would not do!

My pal Galen graciously invited me to come and run the Capitol Reef 50 miler with him. He was driving down and told me that I was welcome to ride with him and take the spare bed in his room. The entry fee was not cheap, but it was less expensive than the airline ticket, so I took him up on his offer. This would also be great training as I wanted to get at least another 50 in before AT100.

I knew that this would be a tough run. Even living in Salt Lake City cannot prepare you for running over 20 miles at 11,000 feet and nowhere in the course description did it mention how technical the course was. Wait! Did I say technical? That would be an understatement! This was the hardest course my feet have ever touched!

Galen and I got to the packet pick up in the tiny town of Torrey, UT at 6:30pm on Friday, just in time for the course brief. I am soooo glad we didn't skip it as we would have been lost not knowing that there were 3 different markings on the trail!

The finish area was in a beautiful place!

The finish line.

I just picked up my number and my swag.

The awards. I was really hoping to walk out of there with that 50 mile finisher's bracelet! 

People gathering for the trail brief.

The RD, Matt Gunn gives us the low down!

The swag!

During the trial brief, Matt Gunn, the Race Director tells us that the report from the 100 milers is that the course is extremely technical. Because of that the aid station cutoffs would be lenient and that they added a sweeper. 

All aid stations were given instructions to stay put until the sweeper passed through. If you stayed in front of the sweeper, you were OK. The aid station cut offs did not seem unreasonable at all, so having some extra time was a plus!

This was a "no waste" event using compost toilets. Not only are they good for the environment, they didn't stink like port-a-potties!

After the trail brief, Galen and I left our drop bags for delivery to the aid stations and headed back to the Capitol Reef Inn and Cafe where we were staying and got ready for the race. We had a 4:00am wake up call and wanted to get as much sleep as possible.

At 5:00am the bus to the start left The Lodge at Red River Ranch where the finish was and headed to the turn around point of the 100 miler. It took us about 45 minutes to get there. 

Once we got off the bus a line formed at the only bathroom there was, but in literally 5 minutes, they started the race! People started scrambling to any bush they could find and took off. My thought was I go now or I go later, I would rather sit than squat! Galen, another guy and myself were the last people to leave the start. 

Me at the start feeling very optimistic! 

Judging from the elevation chart (as shown earlier in this post), we had most of our elevation gain in the first 10 miles (approximately 2,000 feet of elevation gain). Galen told me he was bringing his trekking poles and asked me if I was taking any. I have never run with trekking poles, so it had never crossed my mind, but thought with all that climbing the first 10 miles, it would not be a bad idea. They fit perfectly on the back of my vest and I thought I could just leave them in my drop bag at the first aid station. I was so glad I took them! They saved me many times.   

According to the elevation chart, I thought the first few miles were the toughest and that we would just have a few rolling hills until about mile 37, where we would just cruise downhill. As difficult as those first miles were, they were actually the easiest to run. 

Beautiful single track trails at the beginning of the race.

Going uphill, but fairly runnable trail.

Galen coming up the trail!

The scenery was beautiful!

Many times I would be surrounded by trees and all of the sudden I would find myself in the middle of a beautiful meadow.

The trail started getting a little more rocky.

Long Lake! Home of the first aid station around mile 8.5.

A few miles in, I found myself running all alone. We were seriously in the deep woods and as you all know I am afraid of being eaten by some trail critter, but I sucked it up and made it to the first aid station feeling good.

Being so high up can bring on some unpredictable weather. It would be hot and sunny one minute and a minute later it would be cloudy and raining. It was raining when I got to the first aid station, at Long Lake. I was layered up pretty good so I left my arm warmers in my drop bag and continued on.Thank goodness I decided to hang on to my trekking poles for what was to come. 

As I left the aid station I headed towards what looked like a pretty rocky climb. I had run into the aid station with a guy named John. He left the aid station while I was dropping my stuff. When I saw him heading up the rocks, I thought 2 things: 1) I am glad I have these trekking poles; and 2) This sucks, but at least it's not that long (or so I thought).

John heading up the first of what would be my interpretation of Hell on Earth! 

This section of the trail was not only steep, it was nothing but rocks. I on my best day could not figure out how to actually run this kind of trail. It hurt just to hike this never-ending hill! It felt like miles of switchbacks. Every time I thought I was getting closer to the top, I would turn the corner and see another rocky hill to climb!   

I think this was the remains of another runner who just couldn't make it!

Half way up I stopped to enjoy the view for a second.

I was so happy to get off that stock trail! Once I hit the Great Western Trail. The course was marked 3 ways: Flags/ribbons, cairns, and tree blazes. While I was finally getting some nice running in on this part of the trail, the course was so twisty, I had to stop at every marker to make sure I saw the next marker. Very few people have been where we were running and I can get lost in a box. The last thing I wanted to do was get lost up there! I did pretty well and kind of made a game of find the marker to pass the time.

The Great Western Trail! 

The views were breathtaking! OK, maybe it was the lack of oxygen! 

I was in the clouds!

Had to get a selfie at the top!

One of the flags marking the trail.

Do you see the flag marking the trail? For that matter, do you see a trail?

It was not long before the trail either got really rocky or you were climbing a mountain. I felt like I was only running about 100 feet at a time, then hiking over rocks or up hills.

I think this course could use a few more rocks! Ha Ha!

Here is just a little taste of the what was going on. This was the runnable part of the course!

The second aid station was Pleasant Lake around mile 16.5. I got there, grabbed my drop bag, changed my socks and taped my feet. The rocks were already creating hot spots and I did not want any issues. There was another man at the aid station and when I asked how he was, he said he was not going to continue and he dropped. I grabbed some food and booked out of the aid station with another girl I had passed earlier named Jodi. As we headed up the hill we saw Galen coming into the aid station. 

Jodi and I started running together, but somehow we lost the markings, got turned around and started following the flags that led us back to the aid station. Another runner named Beiyi ran into us and told us we were going the wrong way and we finally found our way back on the right path.

At this point Galen (who went the right way) was ahead of us. We caught him and we all stuck together. It helped to have 3 sets of eyes to look for the markers (Beiyi had fallen back behind us).

Beautiful wild flowers all over the course!

Again, I think this course is a little tough! 

Galen, Jodi and I made it to the Chokecherry aid station at around mile 21.5. We just grabbed some food and water and was out of there quick.

Jodi, Galen and I stop for a quick selfie!

There was a little waterfall here.

The original spreadsheet that I had had the Fish Creek aid station at mile 27. When we got to mile 30, I started getting a little worried that we had taken a wrong turn and missed it. We had been following all the markers and with 3 sets of eyes, we knew that was impossible.

When we got to mile 31, we saw a truck pulling slowly down the road loaded up. I asked the driver where the aid station was and he said "in the truck"! We were all flabbergasted! "What do you mean in the truck?" I asked the man. "You are not supposed to leave until the sweeper gets to you! How are we supposed to get food and water and how is anyone supposed to know where we are if you pick up and leave before we get to the aid station?" 

The volunteers were very sweet and apologetic, but they had no idea they were supposed to wait for the sweeper. It was their first time running an aid station and I guess they just didn't understand the huge safety issue involved with leaving runners unaccounted for out on the course. We told them we were fine to continue (we had until 11:00pm to finish, which was plenty of time), if they could just give us some water. They said they dumped all the water and they didn't have radios or cell service to let the next aid station know we were there.

At that point Galen said he was done as he had no water left. I had very little, but thought if we could make it to the next aid station we would be OK, so Jodi and I carried on for another mile.

It wasn't long before we saw Beiyi and then the sweeper behind us due to the fact that we spent a good 20 minutes talking to the guy in the truck. The fear was that the last manned aid station at Donkey Reservoir would not have understood the instructions and closed up shop too. That aid station was so remote it would be harder for them to help us if we were in trouble (it would take 3 hours by ATV to get to us).

By this time, the head of the aid stations drove up on his ATV and we explained the situation. He was furious that the aid station people left, but they determined that without water he had no choice but to pull us for safety reasons. Jodi, Beiyi and I were in shock. Jodi and I have never had a DNF and could not fathom getting one now! We were strong runners! We had plenty of time to finish! How could this happen?

All I could think of was now I was going to have to find another marathon to replace this with so AT100 will still be my 100th. We did the hardest part of the course, had plenty of time and energy to finish, but were forced to drop. We were devastated. 

I was desperate. Since the race had a 50k and we had already run over 50k, I asked if they could at least find it in their hearts to give us a 50k result? 

After we took the drive of shame back to the finish, they took our bibs and we felt defeated and pissed off! The head of the aid stations went over and talked to Matt, the RD and because of the mix up, they agreed to drop us to the 50k and give us a result, which I am grateful for.

After we got a BBQ pizza at the finish, we hung out a bit licking our wounded egos and headed back to the hotel with no bracelet, no 50k mug and no bib to show for our efforts. 

With that said, this is a great race. It is the most challenging race I have ever done. If you are not a very seasoned back country trail runner, the 50k or the half might be the race for you.

I would love to comeback next year to try and tackle it again, but only if they fix and extend the aid station cutoffs and try to get more experienced volunteers. I greatly appreciate every volunteer that gave their time for us, but leaving the aid station before every runner is accounted for is extremely dangerous.

The vibe is great at this race, the people are friendly and the scenery is awesome. I will give this race another shot even if it is just the 50k. Who am I kidding? I gotta tackle that 50 miler again!  

 Running this plateau was incredible!

Since we didn't get a 50k mug, we bought our own!