Friday, November 13, 2015

Ozark 100 Mile Endurance Run

Ozark 100 Mile Endurance Run takes place the largest section of Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri.
It is a point to point course with supposedly around 12,000 - 15,000ft of elevation gain.

November 7th & 8th 2015, was the 7th annual running of Ozark 100.

Ozark 100 had been on my to do list for a few years and finally the day was here.  I was very excited and a little anxious too.  Mostly due to what I had heard about the single track in the forest being rocky and also just finding my way through the forest during the long 13hr night.
Ozark 100 starts on dirt road for 3 miles to spread out the runners, race starts at 6am meaning it was only around 15 minutes till it got light.  I warmed up quickly and gave my father-in-law - who came to crew for my husband and I - my light, and a few of my layers.  After that its all single-track till the last 3/4 mile of the race.

Within the first 5 miles of the race I had already found some of the rocks and sink holes from horse tracks. I was taking it really steady and easy, walking any little rise in the trail and I was one of the last few runners at the back of the pack.
It was a warmer start than predicted at around 45 degrees. Very comfortable and sunny skies for the day.
The first 50k I would say has most of the bigger climbs.  Much of the course after that has lots of shorter up and downs, and swooping in and out of the side of hills.  Reminds me of Stephens trail in the Massanutten's.  The rocks never really let up.  They are small and about baseball sized, only in a few spots like creek beds and steeper mountain sides are they loose but mostly they are small and stuck in the ground rocks.
  I noticed the forest looked very young so the leaf coverage isn't all that thick, just a single layer of leaves is enough to hide the rocks underneath. I had a lot of trouble with rolling my ankles, tripping and taking at least 5 falls during the race.  The majority of other people I talked to after had also suffered numerous falls.  Harry tripped a lot as well but never fell.
I ran with Katie Zopf from Michigan, a mutual running friend had got us in touch only about a week before the race.  We ran an easy pace together for the first 26 miles until it warmed up, which gave Katie some problems.  I knew she would do well and said she had to slow it down for a while.  We both enjoy the cooler weather and it was why we had picked this race. The day was getting warmer, reaching to around 57 degrees, that was warm enough for us, we were already looking forward to the night and cooler temps.

First crew point is at Sutton Bluff at mile 13, we descended into Sutton Bluff from a pretty good cliff side in the hill with fantastic views of the forest and the Black River. Arriving at Sutton Bluff I only missed Harry by about 5 minutes.  I was hungry after 3 hrs on the trail and had quite a bit to eat, the pumpkin pie tasted especially good!

After Sutton Bluff you still have some good climbing and still plenty of rocks, next crew stop isn't till Mile 40 which would be at least 7 hrs, but you do have some drop bags in between.  I was making good time and feeling good, I knew early on that my tendons in my knee was getting aggravated so I took it easy on the sharp switchbacks, turns and ran gentle and tried to closely watch my footing.
 I was approaching Brooks Creek and I knew I was going to arrive earlier than I predicted, but I felt good and wasn't pushing to hard, just keeping things comfortable.  I took a bad spill about 5 miles out from Brooks Creek Aid and must have hit a rock. It caused a flapper on my knee.  I got up and started running again, it stung a bit and I could see the flap of skin opening as my knee was bending. So I decided I would patch it up at Brooks Creek Aid.

I arrived at 3:45pm, to my surprise I saw Harry and I was so happy to see him and he was doing really well and looking good.  Lots to do at Brooks Creek, night is quickly approaching so I picked up lights and warm clothes.
My feet were doing well, even though they had gotten wet in some creek crossings, I didn't feel any hot spots so decided to not change my socks here. It is a good spot to change them as it stays dry for a good stretch till you get closer to Hazel Creek.
Hazel Creek is the next crew point again in another 26 miles, but you have drop bags along the way.  Its a  tough one to crew with long waits in between, but Dad was having a great time talking to people, watching runners and enjoying his time in the forest.
I made it to Mile 47 aid station, just a few minutes after it got dark.  I knew things were getting worse, my knees feeling a little more tweaked and my ankles having some pain when I flexed them.  I would keep moving well and taking some sections a little more careful to try and not aggravate things further.

 On this next section to the next aid I caught up with Harry.  He told me he was doing okay but things were tightening up in his legs.  We could still run flats and downs at a good pace.  From Martins Rd aid Mile 55ish you have your longest stretch between aid. It was also some very rough trail, the last few miles into the Hazel Creek they had leaf blown but it was still pretty slow going.  It took a long time to get there, the stretch took us 3hrs. I kept hearing things and thought I could hear the aid station or see the tent lights for it but It was still a ways.  Finding myself hungry again, we finally arrived at Hazel Creek ahead of my schedule and I grabbed more warm clothes and warmer gloves and my tights.  After just a few seconds of standing still you start to shiver.  Aid station volunteers looked cold but they took care of us and offered us hand warmers, which I regret not taking.
After finding our way out of the aid station I finally felt like we were getting somewhere but still the trail remained rocky. We didn't have many big climbs so we could walk at a fast pace and run a little when I felt the footing underneath get a little easier.  The next aid was about 8 miles and it took 2 hrs 40 mins to get there. Meaning we were slowing down a lot and we were both starting to hurt more. Harry was getting slower on climbing but could move well downhill meaning we would keep coming together. Usually 8 miles would take me around 2 hrs.  We knew we could hike it in at the pace we were doing, I had no doubts of finishing it was just a question of how much it was going to hurt. I am prepared for that and I have experienced it before.
We were both disappointed to start our hike in and thought we would have both been running for longer than we had.  Harry was dead set on quitting Ultras and kept telling me this would be his last. I told him he couldn't decide that on a low point during a Ultra.  Things would always feel different later on.
One of the gentleman at the next aid station had been helping also that morning at the start of the race.  I thought that was really sweet.  I couldn't thank him enough. It was really cold now and Harry and I had already stopped to put on our tights and jackets.

From Pigeon Roost to Berryman the trail levels off more but still has rough footing. I could still hike a fair good pace but knew it was slowing down. There is a deep crossing before you reach Route 8, just a few miles out from Berryman Campground Aid.  There was frost on my tights and gaiters after crossing the river, and my feet were cold. I was hoping for a fire and change of shoes at Berryman when I arrived. From Pigeon Roost Mile 73 to Berryman Mile 78 it took us 2 hrs to go almost 6 miles! Wow, I knew this was going to be a slow finish but I was hoping to at least maintain 3mph pace for the rest.
No fire at Berryman and so I didn't change, I just hopelessly shivered from the cold and hit my lowest point of the race here.  Feelings of quitting came over me, I was getting stiff and my ankles hurt but I knew I would not stop. I needed to get out of there and get moving now.  Harry grabbed his down jacket out of Dads car, so I grabbed mine too.  I thought I would be sweating in no time with that on, I now had 5 layers on (t-shirt, 2 base layers, brooks jacket and now a down jacket) but we both remained cold for the rest of the night. We found out later on that the temperature had dropped to 26 degrees.

The pace stayed the same on the next section about 3mph but the final hour of darkness was really hard on me. My eyes kept blurring and it looked as thought the leaves were in sand or that I was crossing little wooden bridges, every 20 seconds I would close my eyes to clear the vision.  It got really frustrating that last hour of dark. I thought Harry would be way ahead but from when I caught him on the trail the first time he said he would stay with me, so he would keep stopping to check if I was okay.  He could move faster on downs, but it was the downs that gave me the biggest problem.  My knee would be painful making any steeper descents, while Harry was having more trouble with the climbing.

Finally daylight and then I started to see things that weren't there.  Reasonable things mostly, like I thought I could see people on the crest of a hill or cars, in hope of getting to the aid station soon. The pace was staying consistent but the pain getting worse.
We were on our way to Henpeck - the last aid station. I tried to run again because I was started to get excited and found myself falling shortly after so I called it in on the running and decided I would hike as good as I could.
It would be a long morning.  I couldn't wait to see Dad, drop my pack and go light to the finish. We finally started to take off a layer here and there.
The last stretch is only 6.5 miles but it took us 2hrs 30 mins. I had great pain on moving down any steeper descents and we had 3 good climbs (by Ozark standards) before the finish left.

There was really nice views of the river getting closer to Bass Resort and the finish. We were passed by many runners who moved slowly but steadily.
Harry and I would finish together, our first Ultra together in 29hrs 49 mins. Placing 39 and 40th place out of 53 finishers.

I had a good time on the trails but there is some disappointment in not being able to run for more of the race, but I am happy to finish and receive the biggest buckle I have yet! Ozark 100, 7th annual running had its highest finishing rate of over 70%

Quick Overview of Ozark 100

*Nice cool weather
*Great if you love single track running, expect more hilly climbs first 40 miles, lots of switchbacks and trails winding in and out the side of the hills
*Minimal chaffing with cooler temps
*Climbs are not too long
*Aid stations are further apart than most Ultras, but they are extremely well stocked with a variety of drop bags. Eat plenty at the aid stations.
*Sponsored by Hammer so lots of GU and Heed.
*For Crewing it is a long wait, but you can have drop bags between
*Runnable trails but you need to toughen up your ankles and maybe expect to fall.
*Lots of creek crossings, long dry stretch between Brooks Creek Aid until you get closer to Hazel Creek Aid, then after Berryman to finish.
*Dress and take more layers than you think you will need. In the chance that you start to move slower you will be colder.
*Expect temperatures to be up to 10 degrees less than what they say for Steelville, MO
*Long night - 13 hrs of darkness, take back up lights and batteries.
*Trail is well marked with OT signs and heavily marked on a couple of the important turns. A flashlight is helpful to scan and locate the OT reflective signs on the trees ahead.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Kettle Moraine - short version

June 6-7th 2015
6am start.
Weather - 54 Friday morning and cloudy made for a great start to the race. It warmed up to 74 later in the afternoon. Didn't notice any bugs which is great for this race as they are known to be bad in the woods.
Trail is a lot of consistent up and downs with only a few flatter sections.
Felt great much of the race and perhaps took around 40 Hammer Gu's (my most yet - kept me powering strong and they are easy on the stomach) and some other fruits and real food.  KM100 is also great at providing Hammer gel packets, s-caps etc too.
Paced myself well for much of the run which kept me moving strong and consistent - still running strong some 90 miles into the race! Harry said he couldn't keep up with my quick walking pace!  I jumped up a lot of spots from nearly the very back of the pack to start. At the 1st aid station - mile 7.5 - I was 231st place.. by mile 50 I had moved to 186th place. By 70 miles I was 137th, finally finishing 117th place, out of what would eventually be 165 finishers. Proud of my accomplishment at this race.  We saw much carnage later in the race as the race and the hills took there toll on some of the faster starters.  I pay attention to my breathing and make sure I am comfortable and also walking the ups quickly and being careful with footing on steeper descents, would help me a great deal later on. The Nordic trail - times 4 - will take its victims.  Going back to the start/ finish  can be tough for many runners and that's where I made me biggest jump in placement with most of the drops happening at that point. Great to pick up Harry and show him the sights of the Nordic trail again.
A great benefit was having done Ice Age 50 miler (3 years Prior) gave me confidence and knew what to expect. I knew how many consistent up and down climbs there were.
I had a fantastic race and fully enjoyed the scenery, frog serenade at night, seeing the moon and stars from out the meadows with Harry was romantic, the view of the sunrise over Rice Lake breathtaking, listening to howling Coyote's in the distance and a bit of rain in the morning felt awesome.
Only a few low points, I met my first rude ultra runner.  One runner who told revolting jokes to his friends (one eventually took personal offence and left him behind after running 50k together) and seemed to have a problem with my quiet nature.  I am just a person who loves to be outdoors and enjoy myself, and yes during a 100 miler I am quiet more so, because I know talking leads me to breathing heavier and later can give me a really sore chest and breathing problems.  The other time was when I got sleepy and bumped into a couple of runners coming back the other way during the 1am time frame. Then I got real hungry, being hungry and tired not good. Much better after I reached highway 12, mile 77 and got my goodies.

Overall.  Much of the run was great and I was happy and having a fun time!
Finished in 28hr 30 mins and some change, I feel for me this is a great time and stayed in good health, besides some pretty tight hammie's.

Having Harry and his Dad out there to support me gave me power and happiness to see them at each crew station and the options of getting whatever I feel I need for the next station.  KM 100 is a great run.  Not to be underestimated.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Grindstone 100


Friday Oct 3rd
Grindstone doesn't start till Friday 6pm. Meaning that we slower runners get to spend 2 nights out on the course. I knew that was going to be my struggle, but I have never done anything like it so I was unsure how I would feel. I got in good rest Thursday night with a sleep in and then an extra nap in the car. I knew sleeping before the race would be impossible at camp.
I felt strangely calm going into the race not quite knowing what to expect and just to take one section at a time, step by step. 
My plan was to really key into my heart rate and go out slow. In fact at 6pm when we were 'go' I ended up at the back of the pack straight away and rolled through the first aid station 15 mins late (but they had a soft cutoff) so that made me nervous but I knew I could make up time.
The weather was warm (high 60s?), humid and lightly raining at the start which quickly turned into heavier rain and creating a fog that was very hard to see ahead of you. There were a couple of really heavy downpours and I worried about getting hypodermic, but I remained warm enough as Grindstone sends you 3500ft up in 5 miles to the summit of Elliott Knob. I was having a slow climb but feeling good about making steady progress and picking up time later. 
 Climb up Elliotts by day
Made my way to the Dry Branch aid station down the technical, rocky North Mountain trail, which had me stumbling a bit, making it in just 10 mins before there cut off at 10:30pm.
Next up is Crawford Mountain and its a slow climb, up almost 2000ft in less than 2 miles which comes at you in extreme steep stretches. Still feeling good and glad to be moving along at my own comfortable pace. I enjoy the descent into Dowells which is 3 miles of downhill and mostly runnable. The rain is still light and visibility is not so good, that helped with a nice smooth slow run down to the highway. I saw Dani briefly at Dowells draft aid station - Mile 22 - but she was quickly gone. After some trouble finding my drop bag I ditched my poles and restocked on a few supplies. Thanks to Bob Gaylord who helped me put some things away. The oranges tasted really good and I ate a bunch of them, apologizing to the volunteers for my greediness! Now I am 20 minutes ahead of the cutoff.

A long but mostly low angled climb is next up to the top of Hankey mountain. Soon after the summit I catch up on Dani and we make our way to Lookout mountain aid station, another amazing crew of volunteers. They had grilled cheese that tasted good. Dani and I quickly got out of the aid station to make our way 6.5 miles to North River over mostly rolling, technical trail. We saw some cool salamanders and having a great time rolling into North River aid station. North River is very well set up and organized with a variety of hot foods to choose from. Tater tots, porgies, rice, soup ... you name it! I made a quick change of socks, shirt and was soon on my way up the slow long climb to Little bald knob.

picture taken from a training run
A very challenging climb up almost 4,500 over 7 miles. The front runners were starting to pass us on the out and back about half way up.
Dani Loving the climb up Little bald Knob (from MMB 50K)
  Sunrise was coming soon and it was a lovely thought to soon have the sunlight to light the way and be able to see the beautiful views around us.  The sun was up as I arrived at the summit at around 7:10am ( and I was still able maintain my usual little bald knob climb-pace of 2 hrs 40 mins.)  Dani caught up to me running through the open meadows along our way to the aid station, and WOW the foliage was amazing!! This stretch is mostly low angled downhill that keeps popping out in open meadows, very enjoyable running and we now had the sunshine starting to warm our bones.

picture from training run but this is just how I felt!
  They were all out of soup at Little bald which was upsetting, but I tried there scrambled egg burritos that I wasn't sure was going to go down well  but they were amazing!!  We were quickly out of Little bald aid station getting excited to be drawing closer to the turn around. More enjoyable running and up to the summit of Reddish knob was some easier climbing.   The views up on Reddish were the best I had seen. Mostly cloudy but with some sun reaching through the clouds onto the mountains around us. The fall color was spectacular and It felt great to be alive.

picture by Dani Seiss from the race
We were soon joined by the always smiling Gary Knipling, who is 70 years old with 30 years of Ultra running under his belt. We enjoyed his company and enthusiasm as we chatted and passed out encouragement to runners headed back.  This is a 2.5 mile paved road section I wasn't looking forward to, but it actually felt great... we made the turn around at 9:30am, now gaining us 2 1/2 hrs on the cut offs and that felt really good. We were still running strong and felt we were going to make a great time If we could keep the pace going.

It was exciting to be headed back, we were relaxed, making awesome time and enjoying all our surroundings. Dani said there was "no place I would rather be." You just had to stop for a second to take it in.  I felt good and strong running the downhill back into Little Knob aid and was excited for my change of shoes.  My feet were starting to feel more sensitive and I knew my brand new Montrail Masochists with all there fresh cushioning were waiting for me! They felt wonderful. I took an ensure that tasted so good and a thick cheese quesadilla that I had trouble getting down. Again we quickly made our way out of the aid station. I was hoping to find the flashlight on my way back that I had lost on Little bald that morning, but it was gone.  The sections of going down Little Bald that we didn't get to see in the darkness earlier that morning where just mind blowing. Really I had to stop and just say "wow Dani - how amazing is this!" Its a steep and tough descent going back down to North River and Dani's feet were blistering - but she ran strongly into the aid station and we couldn't believe the great time we made, arriving about 2:30pm.

I got my lights, changed fresh batteries into my headlamp, grabbed a buff and change of shirt.  Ate some of that amazing food again, tater tots, ham/cheese sandwiches and soda.

Headed back up Lookout mountain (training run)

We are now 64 miles in and on our way back up Lookout mountain. We were joined my Jack Anderson and we enjoyed many trail miles together back to Dowells.  Spirits were high along Lookout mountain, we were still feeling and moving along at our steady pace. Dani got a crazy energy high and was even doing short sprints! I was floored by her energy and it was motivating so that we all starting to jog down the dirt road into the Lookout Mt aid station at Mile 72.  They had pancakes and just a couple of M & M pancakes which were actually more tasty than I though they would be. Jack was jealous of the extra 3 M&Ms that I had in my pancake. I took another plain pancake, some soda and we were good to go.  We thanked the volunteers and were on our way.  We had about a 50k left and now were coming up on Hankey mountain.  The dirt road up to Hankey seem to go by quickly with the great company.

Mmmm runnable dirt road (training run)
The sun was getting lower and we all felt the chill coming, we put layers on and jackets, knowing we would soon hit the 3 mile downhill run into Dowells Draft aid station. I was shocked that I didn't fall on this section as I have every other time I have been on it. I heard some cussing behind as a couple of stumps were found.  I couldn't believe the fact that we would get back into Dowells before it was dark. 

atop the Hankey Mountain (training run)

Mile 80! Dani and Jack both got foot work done at Dowells, I grabbed all the layers I had packed to keep my upper body warm but decided to not wear the tights, knowing that my legs can take 'a little' cold and I had a lot of climbing coming up.  I ate lots of oranges again since I hadn't been able to find many anywhere else and they tasted so good. Jack and Dani were still getting work done, Jack draining the fluid from his blisters, he was surprised to find one that was in between the toes. I started to chill fast I told Jack that I had to go and I would be walking slowly hopping they catch up.  My feet were doing great - no blistering issues that I could feel.  The outside of my heels are usually the most common spot I get them and maybe there was something there but I really didn't notice. 

The climb up Crawford was immensely long.  Starts off with an easy flat section but is a little too technical to run. I typically walk this section on my training runs anyway and enjoyed this stroll as a long climb was coming.  I was still alone and started the climb up.  Its a consistent low grade climb up to the top of Crawford. It felt relentless and much longer than it should. Dani joined me about half way up after I had to make a pit stop.  Happy to be back together to struggle through the climb. I tried not to complain, I didn't want to share my negative energy, but some things did slip out a couple of times.  The wind was picking up from the west and finally... finally saw a couple of headlights moving in the opposite direction meaning the switchback was not far ahead - which means not too much further to the top of Crawford.  A few rocks later we were up to the top of Crawford and we celebrated and enjoyed a recovery walk along the grassy flat top of Crawford.  Running was not as consistent now, but I could still manage a run-walk. A shorter stretch of running followed by a longer stretch of walking.  The wind was getting relentless, very strong and the temperatures felt like around freezing. It felt as though it blew through all my layers. Even with 3 layers and a layer tied around my legs to try keep them warm, I was miserably cold (how I regret not bringing those tights with me from Dowells!!!) The steep descents were soon coming and I wondered how they were going to feel on the legs - Now nicknamed 'the 5 bithces'.  Turned out I couldn't run those steep downhills, no real surprise there... my quads starting to feel well trashed and we slipped and slided down the descents. When I thought we were on the last one I was wrong... but I was still very happy thinking about getting into Dry Branch - the 2nd to last aid station! Mile 88. It was great to see Gary Peterson again, as he had been all over the mountains, shuttling and helping at aid stations. Gary asked how I was feeling and for the first time during the race I gave a negative reply that the last section felt the longest, the descent was hell and that the cold wind was bad news.  He knows the course from the training runs last year, unfortunately he got injured and was unable to run it this year but came out to help anyway.  He lifted my spirits in his consoling and understanding of the hell I had just been through.

We made our way a little too quickly out of the aid station. Dani wanted to get moving and I wanted to eat more but I didn't want to lose her. I got in some soup, took a whole banana with me and more soda. 

I knew a fairly easier climb was coming but its loaded with rocks. It starts off nice and pleasant for a good mile and your like 'where's all the rocks'. Then you find them and you really don't want to trip, so each foot placement is careful placed. Still managed to trip and stumble at least 20 times or more. Dani was behind me and she was  'owwing' for me each time I took a bad one. Profanity found it way to my mouth and I just wanted off this section badly. The cold night plus continuous wind, the lack of climbing and the slow technical trail meant not generating much heat.  Balancing became tougher, sleep deprivation now really hitting hard and the trail just becomes a blur. Dani headed in front and I was just waiting for her to turn around and tell me the road was there.  We passed a group of people that were also not moving any faster and stumbling greatly over the trail. 


It was just past midnight and finally the dirt road, Dani turned to give me a smile. A couple of people were just sitting on the road taking in the stars to celebrate being there and headed to the finish. 
Running down Elliotts dirt road was out of the question... I tried to see how my shuffle was, but it was no faster than my walk and it caused less slipping on this steep descent.  I heard and saw Enrique (who is a very fast runner) and was sad to see him limping down the steep grade, his pacer holding on to him for support and a stick in his other hand.  Running downhill too fast caused him a serious injury to his IT band meaning he was not be able to bend his knee at all.  I was sad for him but I was happy he was going to make it. I though maybe this had just happened to him but later learned that he struggled for 40 miles with it. He told me he would finish and he did.

Dani had a upset stomach and I stopped with her, I was expecting a nice big vomit but nothing came out. She was still moving along and it would come back again. She could move quickly down Elliotts with her shuffle - still feeling some gusts of wind and now our body temperatures were really dropping. We felt ill with cold. It didn't feel as long as I thought to the Falls Hollow trail and we found some runners not sure of the way through the creek crossings. One guy was standing in the middle of the stream bed not sure where the trail was. I told them the way and soon we were on a nice level wide dirt trail on our way into the last aid station.  Dani looked really cold now and was folding her arms in front to try and get some warmth.  She picked up a vest from someone at the last aid station and she asked me if I could run - I told her "no - you should just go - you need to keep moving to stay warm.".  I was sad I would lose not being able to finish together after coming so far but I knew I was moving slowly and I know what its like to be in her situation.
I was upset they didn't have anything warm to offer at the last aid station, so I got moving quickly out of there.  This section of trail I know well as I have done trail work on it the last 2 years for the race.  I even noticed some of the work we had done not too long ago.
Grindstone trail work day
  The moon was eye catching and the chill wasn't as bad now. I had put on my extra layer from around my legs - So I now had 4 layers on top! I reached the dirt road and spotted somebody ahead of me. I thought it might have been Dani but it wasn't. I could imagine her running along this dirt road and probably somewhere close to the Camp Shenandoah. The course turns off the dirt road for some technical trail and then there were plenty of rocks to navigate. I got stuck behind a couple of groups and was eager to pass them. The first group moved right out of the way and the second group were having much trouble stumbling along through the rocks and I finally asked to get around them and then to my surprise there was Dani popping out of the bushes!

I was so happy! We would be able to make it together but I still wouldn't mind if she ran ahead - she was still so full of energy - at least from my perspective! I knew I had her for at least for a few minutes because of all the rocks.

trail getting closer to camp (trail work day 2013) not too many rocks in this picture, but here was plenty!
When we got onto the camp grounds I was able to do a slow shuffle run for short stretches. We pass the showers and the last section takes you around Hope Lake, more runners losing there way, they can't see any markers.  I tell them the way and off they go.  Dani and I are so happy and we plan to run it in when we get to the grass. I managed to shuffle run a bit before then too.  A few tricky steps down to the lake and up the dam. I shuffle run, Dani was running with her same steady pace and pulled ahead.  She was slightly ahead of me and she walked for just a couple of seconds so I did the same. Maybe she was trying to let me catch up but I just couldn't before she started running again. I am happy she came this far with me and is feeling that pull and surge you get from approaching the finish line. I hear them call her out and she finishes in 33:49:04 and I come in 33:49:40. 

To be a finisher you must also hug the Totem pole. After a congratulations from the Race Director Clark Zealand we gave the big totem pole a hug and I look up to the top of it at the bird and the stars are amazing - I just stand there looking up holding onto the pole. 

Thank you to all the volunteers, Clark Zealand, Dani and all the great ultra runners who toed that line and gave it everything.

245 Starters
52 DNFs
Dani and I were 149 and 150th finisher.
Not bad since I was 196th place at 22 miles in.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pure Hellgate 100k ++

Hellgate 100k++ December 14th 2013 12:01am

The last race in the dubbed Mini-beast series due to the cancellation of Grindstone 100 this fall because of the government shutdown.
I was very excited and ready for a good long run.
The weather forecast promised some wintry mix and rain. After a couple of years of good weather, we believe Dr Horton the race director got what he wanted. You could almost see the horns at the side of his head...

 I like running in the rain but with the temperature forecast being around low 30's was cause for concern.
Hellgate 100k is point to point starting near the Natural Bridge area at the base of a big mountain it first starts with an easy 3ish miles of nice runnable trail and gentle hills. Everyone took off and I was left climbing those first few little bumps on my own, right at the back of the pack. Some runners stopped to make an adjustment to clothing as they heated up quickly but they were right back way in front of me.  I was scared at the base of that big climb and I had already rolled my ankle pretty good. I had some worries that I wasn't prepared for this race watching the runners headlights far in front of me, zig zagging slowly up the first big climb of the morning.

The nice man at the first aid station told me I was second to last but I told him I would catch up with the others. I played leap frog back and forth with 2 girls and finally pushed up and away past them. 
They had warm food and a nice fire at aid station 2, I could feel the heat from it as I walked past it... promising myself I wouldn't go anywhere near them. They are bad trouble and can easily change a runners mind about going onwards!
Now done with uphill climb, the course goes across the BRP and its time to hit some single track that winds its way down thru the woods with a few rocks to keep you alert. This is my strength… a little technical but not too steep. I moved well but held back a little knowing I had still a long way to go. After a fun descent of about a mile the trail widens then takes a turn on some single track which has some fun short steep ascents and gentle hills for about another mile. Soon the fun single track hit ended and we climbed up another dirt road.  It starts snowing, big, fat snowflakes. It’s a nice gradual climb to the top of this road, the snow making it hard to look up ahead for markers. The snow was beautiful and made me happy. I moved my light to the side of the trail to see all the snow that had accumulated and was stuck on the trees. A winter wonderland! There must be a couple of inches on the ground.
After Camping Gap aid station - which I don’t remember too well there was some nice climbing up gentle hills that reminds me a lot of the grassy wide section of Promise Land 50k, maybe I was on part of it. It was a fun section. It had stopped snowing and turned into a light wintry mix. The gentle short climbs gave a welcome break from running. The wide trail in great shape here, and it was easy to select a path from the runners before me. This section went on a while till you come to a turn down some fun single track. I stopped here to get a sandwich I had packed. I was getting pretty hungry and also shed my heavy layer. I felt much more comfortable after doing that… I didn’t do it earlier because I was scared of making the cut offs in time!  There was a short climb and I knew I had been here before. Some tape across intersecting trails directed us in the correct direction. I recognized this part of Promise Land. The Rhododendrons where  spectacular under the headlamp, thickly covered from the earlier snow. After the short climb up, the trail turns very rocky and its downhill AND the footing is slick due to trampled down snow. I took my time here not wanting to fall or slip.  A few switchbacks later I knew I was getting close to the road that I knew from the Promise Land course.  It was a welcome sight to see the aid station and the end of this slow single track section. This was Headforemost Mt about 21 miles in.
Some hot broth hit the spot and I took another one, a little coke and off I went.  This was the first aid station that I asked what the cut off was so I could get an idea how I was doing.  They informed me the cut off was 6:10am and I had arrived around 5:40am. I felt that I was doing quite well. I was comfortable with my pace and feeling good that I could maintain that and I got my first confidence booster of being able to finish this race.

Leaving the aid station we began some easy climbing and into the fog.. the road turned into a grassy road and I saw a kilt in front of me for a short while. Doug Campbell was a short ways ahead but I needed to make a pit stop and didn't see him again till a long time later on.

I don’t remember crossing the BRP again, but the next section is a long downhill run on single track and wider grassy trail. There were some nice views of the closer mountains that were covered in morning fog. I caught up with Helen MacDermontt and she was flying on the down-hill.  I enjoyed her pace and didn’t want to get in front of her as I would probably blow my quads out if I did. She tried to let me go ahead a couple of times but I refused.  The trail got wider and she expressed she was hungry. I was too, but I knew the aid station must be coming up soon. 

We arrived at Jennings Creek 27 miles in and our first drop bag stop.  They offered bacon and eggs. I couldn’t even think of eating eggs at this point, it didn’t sound appealing. I took more soup, but I knew I wasn’t eating enough. I was doing well eating some honey stinger chews and good ol’ hammer gel.  I dug into my bag for my asthma med and restocked up on chews and gel and I was outta’ there. 

I had caught up to Larry Huffman at the aid station but I didn’t see him so I left… more road - more climbing.  The snow had made the road really slick and traction was bad… a lot of switching sides of the road to avoid camber. The middle or very edge of the road had the best traction.  The slick spots not helping the ache that was building at the inside of my knee.  Plenty of climbing here and a couple of people passed me along this stretch…  Little Cove Mt aid station at the top of the big climb. It was lightly raining up here, so I needed to keep moving. I took some warm soup and A piece of potato.  I had recognized a couple of volunteers that were at an earlier aid station and really thanked them for being out there all day. The next stretch had some nice downhill trail and then some downhill dirt road.  I remember the rocks on the next single track section. Mostly an easy grade, would have been nice and runnable, but the rocks where hidden under the leaves and you had to take some time here. I passed a runner who was having trouble with the rocky section, I loved how the trail swooped in and out of the mountainside. After hitting some switchbacks and a crossing a creek getting my feet soaked again, a gentleman walking along the trail informed us to go across the road and up the short hill to the aid station. It was short, and Larry Huffman caught up with me at the aid station.  It seemed very cold here at this big aid station. I got chilled fast. The pancakes were awesome and I asked for more.. I would have kept asking but I felt guilty for already taking two. I also took more broth. I stocked up on Gel from my drop bag and got outta there. The rain becoming more steady now began to chill your bones.

The next section had some runnable sections and a few rocks thrown in. The trail winds up, down, in and out of the mountain side.

 Bobletts gap was under a bridge that I didn’t even know at the time was the parkway again. I was focused on what Mile I was at… and it was depressing when they said it was mile 49.5… knowing then I still had around 16 miles to go.  I had … guess what… soup.. The hash brown tots looked good but I had trouble chewing them down. I got out of that aid station quick. I knew Larry Huffman wouldn’t be too far behind and it was really cold up there.  As I was moving down the next trail I couldn’t figure that I really had that far to go when it dawned on me that the mileage they posted wasn’t in Horton miles. So really I had come about 52 miles. ‘Horton miles’ - so named because a stretch that is said to be 6 miles, will actually be 8 miles.

After some time on this destroyed downhill dirt road that had you jumping from one side to the other… the trail came out on a residential dirt road… you could get moving here and I though this might soon be coming up to the last aid station and the 3 mile climb up the to the parkway before the last descent down .. but I was wrong.

The road section ended after a mile and directed us onto a single track trail and some nice climbing.  I felt really alone on this section.. I was a little disoriented and thought I was just about the only one out there and that maybe I was following some hunters trail ribbon. Each ribbon I saw gave me some confidence. I just couldn’t hear anyone around me and just hoped it was the right way. This was nice runnable trail, a little windy and gentle hills.  I could hear a road not far off and wondered if I was going to hit it soon, but it took a long time. The trail dipped up and down thru tributaries. It went on and on. This was surely another so called ‘ 6 miles’ that was really 8.. it must have taken a couple of hours. I was so thrilled when I got to the last aid station just before 4pm. They assured me this section was a true 6 miles. 3 up - cross the parkway - and 3 down.

I didn’t take much to eat.  I don’t think I took anything besides some coke. I wanted to get moving and be done.

I spotted a girl I had been close to much of the day but was never able to catch her. I felt good and strong on the climb up. I finally caught up and passed her. I knew it would be over soon.  I caught up to Doug who was struggling with this last section. But I was excited to be here. The final stretch!

The wide dirt road winded around and you wondered how much further it would go, you thought you were getting to the top when around the bend there was a little more climbing and a little more. 

Finally the gate, I crossed the parkway and it really is all downhill from there.

I was surprisingly able to run again even though my feet and knee ached. My fingers where numb and toes felt frozen. Once I was moving I didn’t feel too bad.  The rain became heavy and I tripped a couple of times and decided to pull out my handheld light. The section turned into a wide dirt road and I knew I was getting close.  Horton had the '1 mile to go' marker on the ground and I was soo happy I cried with joy. Joyful to have accomplished Hellgate 100k and the series of races that began a long time ago with Holiday Lake.

The final turn into Camp Bethel and I was already pumping my fist at my side.. I ran walked the last section thru the camp but made sure no one was catching me.

 Horton asked my number and I shone a light on it, 130.. he said ‘Diane Behm!” like maybe he was surprised?!

I had finished Hellgate! 17hrs 20 min 52 secs

Larry came in a couple of minutes after and Doug Campbell finished strong too.

Helen MacDermont uncomfortable with the close cut offs, kept going and also made it.

I told Horton how I hated him and his Horton miles. I was cursing out there on the course a little as a couple of the last sections dragged on and where longer than they should be.

But we love it really. Deep down, the extra miles, the challenges, the mental, physical fatigue, the lows, the highs, the people you meet, the encouragement and support of others, the amazing mountains and the desire to be on your feet for incredible distances.  And when its over the bask of the glory in a great accomplishment is all yours to enjoy forever.

Thank you to all the volunteers out there for there countless time and clearing trail in preparation for this race. It didn’t go unnoticed. The trail was in fantastic shape.

Thank you, Dr David Horton for a superb race.

Till next year!





Friday, June 7, 2013

Bryce 100

I had selected Bryce 100 for the following reasons:
- The time of year
- The reasonable running temperatures (average of mid 60s for high, to 30's at night)
- A place I had travelled to before 12 years ago on part of our honeymoon trip.

I tried to trust in my training that I was ready for Bryce 100.  I was starting to feel like I should have done more.  My friends reached out and assured me I was ready and well trained.  I was so busy at work with our biggest sale of the year that I got plenty of good sleep that week.
I got up at 3am after a restless night feeling way to nervous.  I got in some calories, a bagel, banana and I was lucky enough to get some things 'cleared out'

 The temperature gauge in the car read 34 degrees but it was a calm, still morning.  Harry claims he saw 28 degrees as the temperatures continued to drop that morning.  I took some warm layers I could drop off at the start to be taken back to the finish. I assured Caroline Williams that I wasn't going to run in my fleece pants as we huddled around the fire can.  The director Matt Gunn called us over for a quick talk, he mentioned there was some obvious trail vandalism to our markers but they fixed those up.  It was time to strip down to my shorts and t-shirt and we were soon on our way.  All tensions and worries eased as we began to move.
We begin on the Coyote Hollow Trail which seems more tailored to bikes, we wound in and out and up and down gentle rolling hills.  We begin at 8000ft, mostly walking as we waited for the runners to spread out.  I was patient and enjoyed the nice easy start.  Soon people where taking out there cameras snapping pictures of the views.
I ran gently downhills so as not to 'blowout' my quads early in the race.  These ended up being some of the easiest miles of the course.  I spotted a horny lizard as the temperatures began to warm and the sun started to hit us.

We popped out on a ridge and ran along the orange sandstone hills past huge vertical rock formations known as 'hoodoos' shaped by natural elements. Sometimes you stand in wonder at how they haven't just toppled over already.
We dropped 500ft down from the ridge to the lowest point of the course and ran through some lovely meadows before arriving at Thunder Mt Aid where Harry was waiting.  I was hungry and stocked up on some fig newtons to take with me and put on some sunscreen before getting on my way.
The section to Proctor Canyon Aid was mostly down at lower elevation.  I was feeling good and pacing myself well.  We ran more windy, rolling single track.  The trails here are well packed but sandy and you can taste the dirt easily kicked up by other runners.  After a few miles of easy terrain we faced a small climb up to Proctor Canyon Aid.  I can usually maintain a strong  power walk on my uphills, my legs felt great but suddenly I would find myself breathing hard and my heart beat pounding in my chest.  I would have to stop every 6-8 steps on the steep climbs just to let my heart rate recover.  The short climb was over quickly and I arrived at Proctor Canyon Aid.  Harry was having his own grand adventures driving  the dirt roads to come and meet me at the aid stations.  I am glad he had made it to another one, I know there was no guarantee that he could find or even get to these aid stations.
The next section is shorter but wow was it hard.  After a short descent from the aid station we soon began climbing. At first a nice easy gradual climb through more meadows
which turned into a steep ravine with huge boulders where I found myself stopping again to catch my breath.  We were gaining altitude and I knew it wasn't going to get any easier so I just went with it.  We approached the top of that climb we came into some Aspens.  Just as breathtaking as any other part of the course.  The colors astound you with the white bark and fluorescent green leaves.
We peaked out on a hill and it felt good to be running again after a slow ascent, we went down through some shrubs and into the pine trees descending 500ft  before we began our big climb of 1000ft up to the next aid in just a couple of miles.  The climb got steeper and I had to stop a little more frequently.  The girl in front of me wasn't stopping on her climb but she moved very slowly up the climb. Even with my breaks I was able to catch back up.  When we arrived at Blubber Creek Aid we were rewarded with amazing views.  I was pretty hungry when I arrived and the nice volunteer made me just a jelly sandwich. It had been hard to eat on the move with all the nausea I was dealing with, but I was eating well at the aid stations.
This section reminded at an altitude of around 9000ft we ran along some beautiful ridges and along cliffs
The air was thin up here and even running these easy looking rolling hills could be difficult.
We went into the pine trees on a wider section of trail, even with the trees the afternoon soon was blazing down on us
There was alot of runnable sections here but with the altitude alot of us were walking, even running downhill winded you! I caught up to some friends on the trail who said they had no intentions of running at this altitude, he told me we had just approached 9300ft a little earlier.  It had now taken 9 1.2 hrs to make it to the 100k turnaround meaning I had come 50k.  My longest 50k time yet!   Still I accepted the time easily due to the difficulty of this course and that I was still making good time. Plus I wanted to begin this way, I still had a ways to go.
I met Harry at Kanab Creek Aid at 3:30pm right on his estimated time of my arrival.  Burrito and pudding while I sat on a log, a cool wash cloth felt great on my head. I changed my shirt and was soon again on my feet.

Climbing with Jeff to Kanab Creek - an experienced hardrocker! I knew I must be in good hands.
We ran along some beautiful sections here towards Straight Canyon Aid along cliff edges with amazing sandstone features
We ran some wider trail here littered with small rocks. The grade was easy and with some nice downhill stretches.  We were making a turn to the east we got this great view of a forest of pines and cliffs in the distance. I think it was clear where we were headed.
I was feeling very strong through this section and could run most of it. Making my way into Straight Canyon Aid.  It was time for a fresh pair of Hokas, my toes felt like they were bumping in the older ones.  I grabbed some fruit and a toastie sandwich to snack on as I headed down the dirt road.  I feel I am fueling well. Replacing my GU bottle about every 20 miles.
We took the dirt road down from Straight Canyon Aid for a mile and then crossed an open meadow surrounded by pines.  So we began another long climb up to the highest point of the course at 9500ft. After climbing gently up through the meadow we climbed a long dirt road, other runners headed on there way back flying down the road offered me encouragement.  I was taking breaks again on this long climb.  The last 0.15 up to the top of pink cliffs was the shortest but probably the hardest climb of the day!  After taking in the view I began the climb.
Doug Campbell catching up on me at Pink Cliffs
 Finding I now had to stop every 4 steps, Doug Campbell from VA joined me and couldn't move any faster either.  Glad to know I wasn't the only one having trouble out there.
I would see Harry again at Crawford pass as he skipped pink cliffs with it being so hard to get to. I was happy he was able to get some rest.  The 5.3 to the halfway point went by fast as I was mostly running and feeling great.  I ran down the long dirt road for a few miles dropping 1000ft and then some single track I looked up to the towering cliffs above me and hoped to heck I didn't have to climb up that!
I got reassured after I asked a runner if we had to go 'up there'! Phew. I was happy I would make it to the aid during sunset to see Harry.  I arrived to Crawford pass aid station -the half way point- to an amazing bunch of cheering volunteers. It felt great to be there!  I took some time here to brush my teeth, grab some layers for the night.  I saw Doug Campbell again who was looking a bit rough, Doug would make it 2 more aid stations to mile 61 before dropping out due to a huge blister.  I met Linda Dewees here too from CA, we ran very close to each other during the trip back passing each other back and forth.  She gave me great encouragement that I looked great though somehow that was hard to believe.  My chest felt tight, the climbs back where getting slower.
 Back up the long dirt rd to Pink Cliffs. I caught up with Doug Cammen from NJ.  We had been back and forth, mostly with him being forth.  I felt really good and strong on the low grade climb back up.  The night was here and the cooling temperatures felt great. I powered up to pink cliffs and it was supa windy up there.  I got in some hot ramen soup while Doug was patching up his feet.  It was taking him a while due to the cold.  We would find out the next day that It was around 28 degrees again for the low that night.  Even though the tent was staked the kid was holding onto the tent, others volunteers where curled up on the floor trying to stay warm.  It wasn't long before I was shivering so I knew I had to get moving. I was pretty scared about the short steep descent from pink cliffs with the trail so close to the edge.  I hoped I wouldn't get blown off.  I made it down (phew) and was running alot of the dirt road back down to Straight Canyon Aid.  Shadows played tricks on me as I ran back through the meadows and sometimes I thought the lights on the course markers were eyes.
I walked up the dirt road back to Straight Canyon Aid.  Harry was awake and saw me coming from the car.  The volunteer at the aid station helped me put in some new headlight batteries.  I had more warm soup but it didn't take long before I was trembling.  Harry had my tights but I refused to put them on because I didn't want the hassle of 'changing'.  I went into panic mode as I left the aid station, I couldn't remember the next section well, my chest ached and I was cold.  My first real low point of the course. He assured me I would be ok once I got moving.
The next section was slow, I climbed up the wide trail section that I had loved flying down earlier.  It was only 5 miles back to Kanab but it took me over 2 hours to get there. There was no one else around and I thought I might have missed the aid station and be disqualified. Harry was surprised by my late arrival.  I was getting sleepy and just wanted to curl up on the trail for 10 minutes.
Finally I arrived at Kanab Creek.  They had a nice fire going, chairs and blankets!  It was nice to sit around the fire with the other runners.  I grabbed a blanket and got hot soup in me - I was doomed to ever get out of this aid station!!  This would be one of my longest stops at 30 minutes.  I slouched in the chair and closed my eyes for a minute.  I soon told myself I had better get moving but as I tryed to step away from the fire my my body convulsed in the cold and I couldn't stop shaking.  I felt ill and Harry 'told' me to put the tights on.  So I went back to the fire and pulled them over my shorts (why didn't I think of that earlier), instantly that felt better and I began moving again.  Harry helped me so much, he told me I was looking and moving good.  It wouldn't be light till I saw him again.  Once again before dawn I began getting very sleepy.  I stopped to sit on a log and close my eyes knowing I could very easily sleep right there. I pushed onwards, I wasn't running to much on this section of rocky trail I just found it easier to power walk it.
I arrived at Blubber Creek it was still very cold even with the sun coming up.  The aid station volunteers were shivering and wrapped up in blankets.  I got in some pancake for breakfast and a fruit cup.  I had now reached a new distance of 74 miles.  It didn't feel as long now.  I didn't realise the next aid station was Proctor Canyon again.  Linda came into the aid station saying I looked really good.  Harry helped get her some food.  As I left Kanab Creek Aid, Harry would walk with me a short ways.  He was very concerned by how much I had to  stop and that my chest was sore, he asked me if it was a heart attack, but the ache was mostly on my right side.  It was good to be leaving 9000ft and we had (what I thought) was a mostly downhill section to Proctor.
I became very confused on my way to the next aid.  Harry said it was 5 or 6 miles but it felt much longer.  I couldn't remember so much downhill - I was worried I was following old markers from the previous morning - no one would know where I am, I would run out of water, I can't climb back up all the way I just came down. All panic where flashing.  So I decided to wait around, 10 minutes and no one was coming.  I called out ' HELLO?' .  I just wanted to cry I came this far and now I would fail.  I was angry, frustrated and sad. Finally Linda was coming down the hill after I about 20 minutes of waiting, she assured me it was the right way that she remembered all the long hill. Big relief, I was having fun again, but a little more pushed for time now.
We started to climb, I kept looking for the trail we came off the morning before which would tell me the aid  station is near.  I kept thinking I saw it and then some of the trees in the distance would look like a car, playing tricks on me.  Finally after a long slow journey uphill I arrived at Proctor Canyon Aid at 10am.  Harry didn't meet me here as we would be running down the road and they tried to keep as many off the road as they could.  I knew I couldn't stay long at Proctor with the speed I was moving.  I took off my layers from the night which I had now been sweating in with the morning sun.  I quickly ate a fruit cup and took some grilled cheese to go.  Another long dirt road ahead of us.  First we climbed a couple of miles then all downhill to the keyhole arch trail and Kings Creek Aid.  I tried to run some of the downhill but my form just failed.  I could make a quick walk down the road just as fast.  It felt like forever to reach the unmanned aid station.  Then I faced another good climb ( I was hoping the RD might have skipped this part in the course changes)  there were tons of switchbacks up keyhole arch and I was surprised how many people where behind me climbing slowly too.  Where did they all come from?   I felt a little re-energized getting to the top of that climb and ran most of the way into the final aid station.
Thank goodness Harry got some sunscreen on me.  I was so stubborn that he just pumped it on me.  We were informed the finish was 11 miles from there and mostly on ATV trail, a gradual climb and then a flat road to the finish.  We had 5 hours from here to finish.  If only I could run it, it would take me half that time. The tought of running for that long pained me.  It was getting very warm and the heat slowed us all down.  There was very little shade on the road, I swung my arms and power walked as much as I could.  I ran a short stretch of downhill but the road was mostly flat, so I ended up walking again.  Linda was walking very strong and passed me.  Every time we got to a little raise on the road we expected to get a view of Rubys Inn in the distance, but we never did so it was hard to know when it was coming up which felt like forever.  After a long walk I spotted Harry taking pictures.  I ran a few seconds, but it was too much of an effort. I walked up to Harry and he asked what I tought of Bryce 100 and I TOLD HIM.  I didn't mean what I said ('it sucks')  I had actually had alot of great moments on this trail.
I didn't feel a high or surge of energy when I approached the finish. I didn't feel satisfied with my accomplishment. But it took some time to set in.  I plopped to the ground after finishing just wanted to sit.  Beer tasted good and it took some time to realize I had made a great accomplishment and I have many happy memories.   I had finished a truly tough, brutal 100 miler for my first one!  Bryce is going to be a very popular destination for Ultra runners, the course is just amazing.
I placed 15 out of 16 women
103rd place out of 114 finishers.
Total time for 100 miler: 34 hours 47 minutes 40 seconds