Friday, June 30, 2017

West Highland Way 2017

The 33rd running of the West Highland Way . June 24-25th 2017
Start Time 1am
This year the race attracted 24 runners for other countries. 18 of whom finished. I was one of
159 finishers,  from 210 starters.
The lure of the Highlands was on my mind for many years. 5 years ago I had learnt about this
race. During the last 3 years I knew it would happen soon. I travel home every 2 or 3 years. I
was feeling this was the year to run since it had been 3 years since my last family trip.
I am originally from Manchester, UK and so my family where more than willing to help me and a
couple of running friends one I knew from high school.
Vicky and Dominic
Tracey, my sister and my nephew Scott

Training felt tough this spring and I knew I would have a battle at West Highland Way. I
prepared with a lot of hill climbing, with the course having over 14,000ft of elevation gain. I
would do my training different if I was to train for it again. Even though I found a lot of the
terrain hard to run out there, there was more than enough runnable sections too. So much so
that I burnt out of all the running we were doing early on and something happened to my calf's. I am used to a much more slower start :)

They got worse as the race went on and got tighter and tighter that I would be hobbling
out of the checkpoints till they got warmed up again. Over half way I was in trouble not even
being able to run some of the flats. I could do alright on descents though. So next time I would
add more running flats than climbing.

This will be a race to remember, I even enjoyed most of the rain. Just over half the course we
had perfect weather. The breeze kept the midges away (biting flies) that are common in
Scotland this time of year. You are humbled by the mountains and lochs, there beauty and size really opened your eyes to how lucky you are to have this day and be here in the shadows on
the great highlands. There bareness showing you all the shapes of the ridges and hollows adds
such a dramatic landscape.

Adding to the green landscape a scattering of rocks on the hills and many,
many waterfalls everywhere you look.

Clouds filled the sky and added an ambience to Scotland
that the weather can quickly change. They added to beautiful scenery and made it more
magical. It couldn’t have been any better. The landscape filled my heart and I knew I was here
for a purpose. I would run all the way through from Milgavie, Glasgow to Fort William for 95
miles and provide hope and inspiration to those around me that more is possible than you think.
There are always moments of some struggling but in the end there are bigger outcomes on the
other side..

Leaving Glencoe the weather begins

My family knew I would do it but for them to see me doing it was a greater
experience and a realization of things that are possible. It provided my runners with inspiration
and a hope to one day be stepping foot at the start of The West Highland Way. It excites me to
think I have provided them some insight and add to their running enjoyment and experiences.
I think if I did it again a change of shoes like Hoka's would help on some sections. These
sections caused my feet to become very sensitive.
Rannoch Moor the most remote part of the course and tough underfoot

Plenty of rocks around the trails especially
from Rowardennan to Beinglas Farm, but the 2nd half of the race is more dirt road where the
rocks are more packed into the trail, where softer cushioned shoes would be a huge benefit.
Coming into Glencoe is where the cold wind and rain really started to bite. Coming down into
the valley the wind was blowing you over to the side of the trail. It took only seconds to start
feeling the chill as we stopped at the Glencoe checkpoint (Mile 71) when the medical support
asked me if I was cold and I said ‘no’ after just descending, it was only seconds later than I was
shivering and my support runner Dominic was putting a thick fleece type wind breaker over my
head. Which I ended up refusing to take off.

It wasn’t till an hour later when I realized I might
have taken his only coat. My sister had warm oatmeal waiting for me and I devoured it.
I left Glencoe with Vicky and I felt rather disappointed I couldn’t run too much since I know how
much she loves to run! Dominic would join us again later on. Great thing is you can have as
many runners as you want at one time with you at West Highland Way! The wind out of
Glencoe was hitting us straight on causing us to get blown around. Nice thing was when we
turned to climb Devils Staircase it was behind us but I was still very slow. Every know and then
Vicky asked if I was okay as I stopped to catch my breathe.

The climb was over quickly and we were pretty amazing at the tuck shop at the top of the mountain!

We had a long, long descent into Kinlochleven where Dominic had backtracked from to meet us. I
feel I would have gotten lost there if he hadn’t have met us.
Soup was waiting at Kinlochleven and I devoured that as well..

Another slow cranky climb out of
Kinlochleven, and I had to make clothing adjustments as I was warming up. This was a long to
the final checkpoint and some of the worst of the weather. It was dark, driving rain and 40 mph
winds, tiredness hit me and blurred my vision sending me stumbling around. It was hard to look
ahead because of the rain and wind sending me in a straight path through whatever came at
me. The dirt road here had plenty of loose rocks, many stream crossing and felt like hiking up a
creek for most of the time. There were lights way in the distance, I felt lost after becoming so
used to confidence markers, and was almost in tears but then realized my support runner
Dominic had his GPS route and felt better.
We stopped by the medical wilderness team who were out in the middle of trail in the middle of
the moors and they asked if we were doing okay. There were a couple of runners he would
later make an emergency foil vest for them as they went on to finish..
Soon we were waking up my sister Tracey and Scott who I later found out had a very tough
drive to find this final checkpoint. I couldn’t be more glad that they met me there. I had 2 cups of
hot chocolate and some custard for breakfast. The final leg of the journey began with an easy
climb but mostly a descent into Fort William, the rain was on and off now and once we got to the
dirt road downhill section for the last 2 or so miles I surprised myself into a run and passed
several other runners.
Descending into Fort William

I do wish I had pushed for the 29 hr finish but I am super happy with the
whole experience and maybe one year I can come back for it?

If you are thinking about doing WHW you should make it happen. The highlands await you and
will humble you and the West Highland Way Family will welcome you and take care of you.

I'll just leave this right here....
114th place out of 159 finishers.
29hr 5 min

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Devil Dog Ultras 100 miler

Devil Dog Ultras.

41 finishers out of 109 starters. 

We had freezing rain just before the start and into the beginning of the race which covered the dirt roads, single tracks, bridges with a sheet of ice.  The start quickly goes into a single track trail which crosses over a bridge so that took 20 mins to get that far. I thought the single track would be in better shape but that was the same, I could get some traction on the leaves at the very side. I saw a number of people fall that first lap, some people where bush whacking at the side of the trail on some really bad stretches. I don’t think anyone thought we would need yaktrax because no one had them. .  The volunteers were amazing, great to Allison Holko, at the farm to forest loop. She does a ton of volunteering for the club and I was worried she would be stuck for a few hours there as the runners crossed the road on a sheet of ice.
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The first 20 miles (or 6hrs) were all icy, you would find yourself skating yourself over the bridges. Then the sun popped out then and it very quickly melted. After a start in the low 20’s the day would end up getting very warm to almost 60 degrees.

There was no cut off times till mile 81 but I knew I was on 32hr pace for the first 2 laps, so I knew I had no time to waste and keep the pace steady.  The food was amazing, pizza bites, soup, bacon, breakfast sandwiches, what a spread! 

It was a great time coming into each aid station, the cheers, support and encouragement is the best of any race.

I picked up Doug Campbell on Loop 3 (mile 40) Temps where rising quickly into the 50’s and it got warmer overnight! We had 15 degree temperature drops though as we would get closer to the creeks. Keith Knipling passed us on his 4th loop, I was able to keep up until we hit a hill.  The dirt roads were making my quads feel quite sore and after oak ridge there is maybe 2.5 miles of dirt road. I was at 50 miles now and still a long way to go, I still kept it conservative, but still managing to pass a number of runners. Doug told me I was moving well even though I still felt some time constraints. I was picking up a little time but not a lot.  A friend from work met me at Camp Toofy and brought me some starbucks sandwich and hot chocolate. I knew when he started to quiz me at work on what food I like during an ultra was for a reason J

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Doug and I made our way back to Remi just a little after 11pm, in better time than I thought. I picked up my 2nd pacer Amanda, her first time pacing. I wasn’t willing to follow thru on chasing other runners and running stretches I wasn’t willing too as she wanted me too. I felt I was disappointing her because I know how bad she wants to run. But south valley right out of Remi has a lot of roots and is more technical than other stretches of the loop, so I walk most of it. We were soon moving along Oak Ridge trail, told Amanda my quads were feeling pretty sore. Amanda offered to massage my legs at Gunny and it felt great, even if I was stubborn to get moving, it was well worth it! North Valley trail (our regular weekday trail run section) we passed a number of people and Amanda was taken back by how sluggish some of the runners were moving. Welcome to Mile 70.

We were moving really well. After leaving Toofy, Amanda started to drift behind, catch up and drift behind again.  She was behind me a good while until her light started to drift back more I thought she would catch up once again but next thing I know I turn around and didn’t see any light. Knowing she knew the way and hopping she would have yelled out if there was trouble I carried on and I was flying down the trail and into Remi now feeling like the race is underway. Ready for Harry to pace me, I made it in a little before 5am. I had picked up more time! I got to see Amanda come in before I left and gave her a big hug!  Harry told me about all the bad accidents that morning and I was thankful he made it to the race and back home safely that morning.  He had seen someone come into camp Remi with what he thought was a Christmas hat on which turned out to be a pretty bloody head.

 2 hrs later we had daylight then the sleepiness hit. Still moving well, a bit slower but still thankful I could still run.  After getting into Toofy again I knew I would make it back before noon now.  Grabbed a breakfast sandwhich and dropped my pack and took a handheld bottle. Always feels good to take that off. Amanda was at Toofy now volunteering and was so helpful and got me out of there quickly.  After leaving Toofy I was still running but after the bridge my pace dropped off considerably, I told Harry it was looking like a walk in.  I could shuffle run but it was no faster than walking. 

Harry then told me I could sub 29 and I said ‘no way, I’m just happy to finish’… But as we kept getting closer and I was clock watching. I saw it was going to happen. After High meadows turn off onto south valley the trails have less roots and I found myself running again and feeling great! I knew I would make sub 29 now. Last switchback and a few last unwelcome climbs, thru the rhododendrons, I knew those last turns well! Then there was the Camp Remi arrow - I let out some cheers for myself..!!

Hoping we were headed up the right way to the finish (I remember a finishing loop sign from earlier but that was for 100kers).  Amanda was there and I was able to run a good stretch to the finish, putting me at 28:40:31

And a 3rd place female finisher! Quite a surprise.
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Thank you to Toni Aurilio, Team Gaylord, all the volunteers and my pacers for a great run.

I maybe back next year.

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!