Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Year in the Life: 2012

Live live to the fullest. 
Laugh as much as you can. 
Love as long as you live.

Those three sentences sum up my life in 2012. I am very fortunate to have had the adventures I have had, the wonderful family and friends in my world, and for the most part I've been pretty healthy.

I stuck to the trails for all my races but one 5K. I completed six ultras and two trail marathons and climbed five 14ers.

Here are some highlights of my favorite memories of 2012. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of it.

The Duel 50K - 2nd place overall female and a 50K PR

A 29 degree race! I was in heaven. 

Rocky Raccoon 50 - My first 50-mile trail race.

Look a bunch of Asians and that white girl Lesley :)

Grasslands Trail Marathon - My personal worst marathon! But I ran it with my friend Chris. We started this whole ultra crazy stuff together.
Chris and I slugging it out at Grasslands.

Zion 100 - My first attempt at a 100. I got to mile 63 and he gave us credit for 50 miles. Martin and Lesley were there to crew and pace. 
Martin: Wife #1 and Wife #2
At the top of Gooseberry Mesa. 

Western States Training Camp - Martin runs all 3 days and I tag along for one day.
Soaking in the American River after a 20-mile run on the Western States 100 course. 

Leadville Birthday Weekend - I climbed my first 14er -- and I'm hooked. I also got my chance to head up Hope Pass. My dream race is the Leadville 100. I'll be back up that pass one day. 
At the summit of Mt. Massive. 

The top of Hope Pass. I'll be back. 

Western States 100 - Martin's first 100. I got to crew. He did amazing with a sub-24 hour finish!

Martin leaving Robinson Flat in some crazy weather.

It wasn't running related, but my son and I had an amazing time in California!

 My future movie director at Universal Studios. 

Squamish 50 - The hardest race I have ever run. I busted my tail to get in before the cut off of 14 hours, made it by less than a minute. Libby agrees to join me for the trip. Great times!

My favorite race of the year - Squamish 50. 

Another Leadville weekend and more 14ers - Mt. of the Holy Cross, Mt. Democrat, Mt. Bross, Mt. Cameron. Martin bagged Lincoln, but I was a little nervous about the weather.
My favorite 14er so far - Mt. of the Holy Cross. 
At the top of Mt. Democrat. 

Wasatch 100 - Pacing and crewing Reece. I was there for his first 100 last year and I got to be there for the second 100. Martin, Chris and I could not have been more proud of his sub-30 finish!

Team Reece: Chris, me, Reece and Martin. 

Bartlett Park 50K - So Libby and I decided on a Thursday to drive the next day to Memphis (yes that is 7+ hours) to race a trail ultra. Paid off, she runs a smoking PR and I placed 2nd overall female.

Rough Creek Trail Marathon - I really hate the marathon distance. This was a tough race, but I did as best as I could. Martin agreed to pace me. I didn't meet my goal, but I underestimated that Rusty Crown -- like I said in my blog, she a bitch.

Despite the run kicking my butt, I was all smiles. 

Austin City Limits - It's not always about running, but we did run while we were there. ACL has been on my to-do list for years.

After the rain storm at Band of Skulls. 

Palo Duro 50K - I wanted to give up, but I pushed on. Good thing, I snagged a 3rd place overall female win -- but it wasn't without a pretty swollen wrist and now a lovely scar.

I can't tell you how happy I was to be done.

Zebra Phriends 5K - A PR! The only reason I ran this race is for my friend Lesli, the race director. This is an organization that supports patients with pulmonary hypertension, which her father passed away from earlier this year. To my surprise, my Ribsy met me with about a half mile to go an ran me in -- 24:07. Still chasing that damn sub 24.

Isle Du Bois 54K - Twisty, turny, and rocky. Let's just say I survived it.

Christmas in Durango - Ice climbing, snow running, cross country skiing. It was heaven!

It was here, I looked down and got scared. 

My first cross country skiing adventure. 

Martin flying down the dirt road by the cabin. 

Merry Christmas from Durango. 

2013: A New Year, New Goals, New Adventures
A lot of amazing things on the calendar for 2013. It's going to be a big year with big goals and new adventures.

The first is Rocky Raccoon 50 in February, followed by Gorge Waterfalls 50K in March.

Martin and I signed up for "Summer Camp"...Team Multiple Trailgasims will be running the Transrockies 6-day stage race.

Other adventures continued to be discussed and plotted. Never a dull moment over here.

I wish you all the best in 2013, whatever your goals may be, just remember to live, laugh and love. It's about the adventure, not the finish line.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Palo Duro Canyon 50K

Palo Duro Canyon 50K
Canyon, Texas
October 20, 2012
6:25:11, 3rd Overall Female

For years, I have been hearing great things about this race. Not only a gorgeous course, but many of my trail running friends make the trip from DFW for a weekend of trails, fun and friendship.

The weather forecasts kept getting warmer and warmer the closer we got to the race. I knew it was be hotter on the canyon floor the forecast for Canyon, Texas.

Martin and I loaded up the ultra SUV and headed 6 hours west on Friday. As an added bonus mama and papa Guthrie drove down from Kansas to join us for the weekend.

Martin Guthrie Suann Lundsberg
Martin and I hanging out with good friends at the pre-race pasta dinner.
 Chilly Start
My friend Danyah, described the canyon perfectly as "two-faced". It was freezing at race start but I knew the heat was on its way and fast.
Because I knew it was going to heat up, I didn't even think to wear gloves, but sure would have been nice to have had warm fingers for the first hour.

I  took my place in about the upper 1/3 of the pack, while Martin went to the front to race with the fast ones.

Mark, a seriously fast bad ass runner made this his first ultra, and we started together. I took the lead, passing runners with a polite excuse me. Later he told me he was thinking to himself, "shit we are running a 50K at this pace?"

I felt great. I soon found Tony who was running the 50M and Mark and I inched by that group. Mark took off ahead of me right beofre the first aid station.

The first loop went exactly as planned, I arrived in 1:04, right where I wanted to be. I grabbed my new water bottled and headed out.

The Fall
Not long into the second loop, I see my sweetie walking back toward me. I stopped and asked him what happened. His calf seized up on him. He told me to go and that I looked great, gave me a kiss and off I went.

My heart sank when I saw him walking back. His calf hasn't bothered him for quite some time. I knew he was one of the top 3 runners at that point and it broke my heart.

I saw Corina and Julie who were running the 20K, they said I was first female. I said there is no way. They told me they hadn't seen another others. Knowing me, Corina says something to the effect of "how is that for motivation." Of course, it lit a little fire under me.

Not long after I said bye to Martin and saw the girls, I fell. Have not idea on what. But I landed on my wrist. Because I was still frozen, it didn't hurt that bad at the time. I was just shaken up. I told myself "you get one mile to slug it out, then back into race mode."

During that mile, my fingers and wrist swelled pretty good. And the throbbing started. I slowed down considerably.

I finished the second loop and saw Martin waiting at the drop bag area. I told him about my fall and he looked at my wrist. I told him it slowed me down and I don't know what my problem is. He said he expected me about 15 minutes ago. I said, I know. I just need to finish now. My goal time is done. He made me take some Tylenol before I set out on my final loop. I'm so glad I did.

I told him, I'll see you in 2 and a half hours or more. And off I went.

Dragging My Ass Through the Desert
Loop three sucked. It is now hot. Flashbacks of Zion went through my head --slugging through the desert in 95 degree heat.

Coming in for the finish.

I got to the first aid station and stood there for awhile contimplating ripping my bib off. I was not having the race I wanted. I didn't want that time next to my name.

I thought, well it's a two-mile walk back or 9 miles to finish. I thought, it would be nice to sit in the shade and watch my friends finish drinking a beer. Then I thought, hell, I'm not injured, just finish it. Training run. It's only 9 miles. Wait, that's going to be a long ass 9 miles.

I opted for the long ass 9 miles and left the aid station with a handful of chips.

I walked for bit. Then I finally stopped walking and said, you'll be done sooner if you run, dummy.

My last 6 miles ended up being pretty decent despite having an annoying sitch high up in my tummy.

As I made my way to the finish line, I see the RAW crowd cheering me on. It was so sweet. I crossed the line in 6:25:11 happy to be done. The RD tells me to wait he has something for me and hands me a duffle bag telling me I was third.

I tried to hand it back to him telling him there is no way. He went to double check and I was third female.

Martin stood there shaking his head at me and laughing at my antics.

My 3rd place bling.
 No matter how many ultras I run, I always learn more. This time, never quit. Don't get off that course unless you are injured. Tired and not your expected time doesn't allow you a DNF, in my book. There are races where a DNF was the smartest thing I did to avoid further injury. But a sucky time doesn't qualify.

What I liked, What I hated
Palo is great fun and a very well run race.

The good
  • Free pasta dinner the night before
  • Post race meal
  • Aid stations are close together so you don't need a hydration pack
  • Gorgeous trial
  • Rolling hills and pretty tame terrain can make this a fast race

The bad
There are too many people on this course, 500 -- 300 in the 20K and 200 in the 50K and 50M. It's single track and the back of the pack 20K runners are difficult to pass. Many were wearing headphones and could not hear you if you politely asked to pass.

While they made a big deal about the Dos Locos aid station ladies, I have to say they made me mad. I run in and I asked if the container was water, she said Heed. I said, I need water. The jug was positioned toward her on the other side of the table so only she could fill your bottle.

She put her hand up to me and said, "Hold on," as she chatted about nothing to a guy on a bike.

First, I don't expect people to fill my water. Turn the damn thing around so I can do it. Second, you NEVER tell a runner to wait while you are gabbing about what you ate for dinner. I know I'll catch heat for this because these people volunteer their day for this. Um, well, yeah, I have volunteered too and I would never make a runner wait. Have two containers -- one that you can fill and one that is self service.

On top of that there was NOTHING at that aid station but 5 gels and a small container of chips. Needless to say, I was just in a bad mood from this.

Will I be back? Oh heck yes! Great race with great friends. Besides, I have a little revenge I need to get on my time out there!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Impromptu 50K

Bartlett Park Ultras - 50K
Bartlett, Tennessee
September 13, 2012
5:45:40, 2nd overall female, 14th overall

I've been known to do a few last-minute races in the past. But, I did have to question my sanity a bit when I decided on a Wednesday afternoon to drive 7.5 hours to Tennessee to run a 50K the week after I ran a very hard trail marathon.

This is what happens when Libby and I start texting...

Lib:     I want to race again.
Me:     I am boyfriend less and child less this weekend. Find one and I'll go.
Lib:     I don't want to fly anywhere because of the AA issues.
Me:     Me either. Where can we drive to? There's an ultra in Tennessee.
Lib:     Oh, it's only 7.5 hours away!
Me:     Ok. I'll drive.

And off we went. We drove 6.5 hours Friday night after work and arrived in Tennesee at midnight. Slept for about 5 hours, got up and drove to the race site.

The race is in a heavily shaded park. The trails are nice, flat single track. A few rolling hills, but otherwise, pretty flat. A few roots suprised me, um, like 2 times as I kissed some Tennessee dirt.

The race started on a 1.6 mile loop and then took us out on another 7.45 mile loop, which we repeated 4 times.

I was quite impressed by the race organization. For $37, I honestly didn't expect much other than the aid stations are marked. To our suprise, the aid stations were heavily stocked with all the yummy ultra goodies. The volunteers were amazing! Every aid station, I felt like I had one volunteer who was 100% dedicated to me. Asking to fill my water, offering me food, encouraging me. They were amazing! And to our surpise, we got a nice medal for finishing -- something that was not advertised on the race website.

My goal this race was to maintain even splits on the loops and focus on my fueling. I decided to go with just Perpetum. That worked for about 2.5 loops. It made me feel very full and I just didn't like that feeling.

I dumped my bottle out and ended up just eating aid station food and drinking lots of Coke.

I went out the gate at a decednt 10:00 pace. Because of the single track and heavily wooded area, my Garmin was not registering correctly. My pace per mile was registering 11 or 11:30, which I knew was not correct.

I hit the first loop and after a bit, I decided to make my way to the front of the pack. I was feeling pretty good and I was running the hills very well. I maintained the lead up until the last loop.

I started feeling pretty yucky after about 2.5 loops. My stomach once again started bothering me as it was heating up pretty well. The second female was just a few minutes behind me and she was running strong. This was the push I needed to keep running strong for that third loop.

I focused on staying strong and pushing. I saw a few ladies on my tail toward the last aid station. I started slowing down as we approached the end of that third loop. It was getting hot and my stomach was really bothering me at this point. I tripped on a root at the very end of that loop and was passed by a gal.

I ran to my drop bag, tried to figure how I wanted to fuel for the last 7.5 miles, but there was nothing that I thought I could actually stomach. I took my gel flask, then ran back and put it back in my bag. I hit the port-a-potty and ended up walking for quite some time. I have no idea how far, but it was a good 15 minutes. The heat was taking it's toll on my and my tummy was just mad.

I finally decided I needed to run again and convinced myself that running slowly is better than walking and I just gingerly jogged the rest of it in.

I finished 2nd female and 14th out of 63 runners. While it's not a PR or the race I wanted (even splits), I did the best I could under the circumstances. This was a great opportunity for me to practice the things I need to work on for Palo Duro 50K and Rockledge Rumble 50K.

Here are my loops splits.

1.6 mile loop:      0:16
Loop 1:    1:13
Loop 2:    1:14
Loop 3:    1:20
Loop 4:    1:42

A big congratulations to my girlie Libby who ran a mother of a PR -- over an hour. Yes, she PRed her 50K time by over an hour in a hot and humid race!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rough Creek Trail Marathon

Rough Creek Trail Marathon (27.5 miles)
Glen Rose, Texas
September 15, 2012
5:37:06 - 4th female, 15th overall

I've grown to hate the marathon distance. It's turned into this odd distance where I just haven't figured out how fast I can run it. Throw in a difficult trail race and I'm all goofed up!

Martin and I pre-race. 

Martin agreed to pace me at the Rough Creek Trail Marathon. We talked about aiming for an average 11:00 pace. This seemed logical, but we underestimated the hilly section, called the Rusty Crown.

The Rusty Crown. We had 3.5 miles of this (2x so 7 miles).
This was the steepest of the hills. Steep, loose dirt, rocky. Don't underestimate her. 

The marathon is 2 loops. And other than the 3.5 miles of the Rusty Crown (x2), the rest of the race is pancake flat. This proved to be a challenge for me. The long flat sections felt boring, slow and tedious to me.

We came in off the first loop around 2:32. Right on schedule from what we originally planned. But the problem was my hamstrings were barking. It was only half way through the race and my legs were toast.

The top 4 of us girls all came in around the same time. I had a slight lead up until the last 2 miles on the flat section where my friend Chris took the lead.

Heading out for loop two, Martin told me, there's good news and bad news. The good news is the average pace we wanted is right on. The bad news is the course is longer than we both thought.  I told Martin my legs were really tired already. He said his were too.

My nutrition was better that it has been, but still not perfect. I put Hammer gel in a flask and sipped on it for the first loop. I did not finish my planned 500 calories of gel. But I did have some fruit at the aid stations.

Coming into the first aid station on loop two, I was feeling like I was bonking. My second gel flask had Espresso Hammer gel and I just didn't like it. It was too thick and was not coming out of the flask easily. And I was sick of gel.

Other than fruit, there wasn't much of anything I could eat at the aid stations. I'm a big potato chip eater. And I love tortillas and ham or white bread with some ham -- neither option was available. So I ate a few orange slices and took a handful of grapes and got ready to climb.

While I was climbing very strong on my first loop, my energy was zapped and my hamstrings were too.

Somewhere toward the end of second trip to the Crown, I lost my 3rd place spot as I was struggling up the steeper sections. I took a bit of a tumble.

Here's the Crown. Isn't she a beauty?

I caught up to Martin and said, "I'm tired, hungry and my legs hurt." He later told me, "There is no whining in ultra running."

We decided I needed to tank up at the Rusty Crown aid station as soon as we got down the Crown. I dumped my water bottle and filled it with about 8-10 ounces of Coke, ate a bunch of fruit, filled up my bottle and headed out.

Here's the crappy flat part that I hated. I actually liked the Crown because while it was steep, none of the climbs were long and were followed by a good down. This flat stuff just felt slow and boring to me.

I knew I couldn't catch up to the girls as they were really pulling hard on the flats where at this point, I told Martin, if I'm running the rest of the way to the finish, I'll be happy.

We plugged along and hit the final aid station, more Coke and fruit and we were off for the home stretch.

Martin said, there's no one near us, but I don't think we should slack off. I said, no, I came here to run an 11 pace and I want to at least finish at that pace.

Nearing the finish line, he told me less than a mile. I couldn't see any females near me, but I asked him to look. I told him I lost my podium spot, but I'm not losing my spot now and don't want someone barreling on the flats to surprise me.

We crossed the line in 5:37:06. A terrible positive split, but the best I could do.

Dave put on another fantastic race. The course was well marked, a ton of great smiling volunteers and the usual great grub. But as I told Martin about 100 times before the race and several times during the race, "I want Hammond's BBQ!" So we took off and got me my BBQ. Thanks Sweetie!

Thanks to all the volunteers and Dave! Fun day on the trail! The weather could not have been better - mid 70s and overcast. Loved it!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mt. Holy Cross - A Blessing

Mt. Holy Cross, elevation 14,005
September 2, 2012
11.5 miles, 8:39

Mt. of the Holy Cross is one of the lowest 14ers in Colorado. But what it lacks in height, it makes up for in beauty.

This mountain took my breath away (literally at times). At 11.5 miles, it's a long day's journey.

Feeling stressed for starting late the day before and missing a summit because I was nervous about the weather, we got up super early for our 1:30 drive from Leadville and hit the trail just after 6 a.m.

Starting at about 10,000 feet, you get to hike for a few miles and climb a few thousand feet on some really nice trails. Then this beauty takes you for a loop, you go down a few thousand feet back below tree line and get to hike it all again!

Martin presents Mt. of the Holy Cross.

Here I am going up just to go down again!

Mt. of the Holy Cross.

I felt pretty strong this day. But the hardest part for me was the last two miles. The last mile is a lot of scree. It took me 90 minutes to make it up!

This is the start of the hard part.

Oh boy! This was hard to climb. Like doing one-legged squats for 90 minutes with a sock in your mouth.

I have to say it was worth it all -- getting stuck in a rock, scraping my knee and ripping my tights -- that was all soon forgotten when I reached the summit.

Suann Lundsberg

Suann Lundsberg

Four hours and 39 minutes later, I was sitting on top of Mt. of the Holy Cross. It was stunning. The weather was amazing. I wanted to sit up there forever.

Martin and I ran into a couple who did a midnight start. Their plan was to summit before sunrise and watch the sunrise, but they got sidetracked with a nap and missed the sunrise. This is definitely something we are putting on our list.

We saw this little girl on our descent down. She let me watch her for quite some time.
I must have snapped 100 pictures of her.

On our flight out, I was reading The Last Breath: A Memoir of Going to Extremes by Francis Slakey. He discussed a life changing moment for him. He was held at gunpoint in Indonesia on his way to a climb. Like always, he had managed to escape what could have been a deadly situation. Not long after he returned from his climb, he picked up a newspaper in Bali. What he read next forever changed him. A group of American teachers were ambushed and gunned down. He realized it could have been him.

Descending off of Holy Cross, Martin and I have this conversation that a huge majority of our nation will never see this. They will never smell that river we crossed at the base of Holy Cross. They will never pause for 5 minutes to watch a deer eat in the woods. They will never look at the funky red mushrooms growing on the forest floor.

But yet, we live in a country where you CAN climb up a mountain and run in the woods without fear of being ambushed or gunned down.

“If you get to the end of your life and you have regrets that you could have done better, then you blew it,”  Francis Slakey.

Don't take life for granted. Go explore. Be epic.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Squamish 50 Race Report and Where's Honeybee

Squamish 50
Squamish, BC
August 11, 2012
13:59:07* close to DFL

This race report is long overdue!
Please see my article for the Dallas Morning News for more details.

Rather than bore you with all the details, here's the reader's digest version...

Hardest Race I Have Ever Done 

  • 10,000 of climbing, 10,000 of descent. 
  • I was slower on the downhills than the uphills because it was more technical on the downs than I had anticipated.
  • I fought my stomach the entire race. After the 10K, the water tasted funny. And my stomach went to heck. 
  • Because my stomach was so bad, I made rookie mistakes. I didn't eat and I barely drank. This was stupid.  
  • I was chasing the clock the entire race. I had to run the hardest 10K I have ever run at the end of this race to beat the 14-hour cut off. I made it with less than a minute on the clock. 
  • I can't say I was officially last as the RD honored some finishers who were still on the course. I think that was a cool thing for him to do. This was a hell of a hard race. 
  • I was bib number 72 and I came in 72nd place. Next time I ask for bib number 10. 
Sprinting in the final yards with seconds left on the clock. 

Awesome Race Director, Awesome Race
  • For a first-year race, this was flawless. 
  • Gary Robbins, 5th place finisher at WS100 in 2010 (you see him at the end of the movie Unbreakable), did an amazing job! 
  • Aid stations were great! 
  • Lots of volunteers
  • The course was marked to oblivion. You would have to try to get lost. 
  • Gorgeous, Just Gorgeous. 
Best Support Crew EVER!
  • My girlie Libby Jones tagged along with me for my adventure. She was so encouraging and the smile that I needed when I saw her at the aid stations. 
Pictures Say it All


Don't know where I was, but I was happy. 

Getting the new La Sportiva Vertical Ks laced! 

Libby snapped this as I came up to mile 26. 

At the start of the race. 

Dallas Morning News 
I started writing a weekly column on trail and ultra running for the Dallas Morning News. You can read it every Tuesday at this link.

What's Next - Look Out! Mountains Ahead 
Martin and I are heading back to our favorite weekend get away, Leadville! We are going to climb a few 14ers and run some of the Leadville course. While it's a year away, we registered for Transrockies 6-day. This has been a dream race for both of us. Watch out because Team Multiple Trailgasms is going to kick some pass!

I have the honor and pleasure of pacing my dear friend Reece for his 2nd 100 miler, Wasatch. I was there for his first 100 and I can't express how happy I am to be there for this one. We have a team ready to get his ass up that pass -- me for miles 39-53. Martin the mountain goat takes over for 53-75 where the climbing is challenging and Chris gets the final 75-100. Chris was also there for Reece's first 100. It's going to be an EPIC weekend in Utah! 

That's all for now! Be Epic! 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Comfortable being uncomfortable

"To be successful you must be comfortable and being uncomfortable."

A friend posted this today.

I read it right after I spent the past several hours crying and freaking out about Squamish.

It hit home. It's only natural to be uncomfortable because I'm doing things differently. Smarter I hope. But change is hard, scary and uncomfortable.  
Common themes since I started running ultras last November: Getting to race weight, patellofermoral pain syndrome, and struggling with hills

Happy to report I'm at race weight. Things that made it happen...
  • Eating the right foods at the right time of the day. I needed to add protein earlier in the morning and eat more of my calories earlier in the day. 
  • Adding higher intensity workouts back into my program. Since I started training for Zion 100, I was 100% long slow runs. 
  • Incorporated more fish into my diet. I pretty much eat fish daily now. It's high in protein and low in fat. Quick to make. 
For anyone wanting to lose some weight, I recommend Daily Burn Tracker. There is an iPhone ap. It allows you to track what you are eating, has a huge database of foods and is quite simple to use. It helps you figure out how much protein, fat and carbs you need for the day. For me, it helped me realize some of the foods I thought are high in protein, really aren't. 

Patellofermoal pain syndrome
Also known as my stupid knee. This began in November at Ultracentric. It's been off an on since then. I'm going to physical therapy twice a week and working on a few things...

Problem:   My right leg was 2x as strong as my left:
Update:     Strength in both legs are about equal. 

Problem:   Flexibility was horrible. Not bad, horrible. Like worse than a 2x4. 
Update:     Getting much better. Still have more work to do on the hamstring flexibility. 
                 The right hamstring is still tighter than the left 

Problem:   While the right leg was stronger, it was less stable than the left. 
Update:     Seeing improvement, but more work to be done. 

Problem:    I'm very quad dominant. Hamstrings and gluetes are weak.
Update:      I'm working my way to buns of steel. The hamstrings have a long way to go. 

It is going to be a long road, but I'm seeing improvements. 

Living in Texas, we just don't get much hill training, unless we make our own hills. So I've been making my own hills, 15% incline on the treadmill for an hour. Gradually work my way up to 15% to warm up and keep that baby there for an hour. It's the hardest workout I do. I'm drenched in sweat from head to toe. My heart rate soars. 

But my efforts are paying off. Went out to Big Cedar, where we have more hills than Northshore where I typically run. I ran every hill but two yesterday and the effort was so much easier. 

To put this in perspective, I ran Big Cedar for the first time in April. It was a hot, humid day, but not nearly as hot as it was here yesterday. I had to walk every hill and my body felt like I had run 40 miles the next morning. My ankles were sore, my hamstrings, everything. Today, I feel great. Big win here. 
Fun at Big Cedar

What's next
In about 3 weeks, I'm running Squamish 50. Nestled in between Vancouver and Whistler, BC, this race will be the toughest race I have ever done. I'll get to test my hill training. Over the 50 miles, I'll climb 10,000 feet. Gulp. 

I've also been focusing on eliminating the junk miles. I have a tendency to overtrain. Run miles just to have miles. Now, each workout has a purpose. My weekly mileage is less. Some would scoff and say I can't run an ultra on lower miles. Phooey. Martin ran sub 24 at Western States on an average of 30-35 miles a week. he did a peak week at training camp of 70. Other than that, he was in the 30s. He went into the race healthy and strong. 

I have been overtraining for what my body can handle. Just because someone runs 100 miles a week, that doesn't mean my body can handle 100 miles a week. It couldn't handle 70 miles a week. I have more strength training and building to do before I can run those miles. My skeleton needs to be able to catch up to my brain.

But my brain is probably my biggest challenge right now.

Going to try to be comfortable with uncomfortable.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crewing the Western States 100 - My Rules for Crewing

I have a good reputation as being a pretty darn good crew chief and take my job seriously. I was giddy when Martin asked me crew his first 100 miler, which also happens to be the epic Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.

I'm the more emotional, excitable one of the two of us and this was clear the day before the race when I was bouncing around singing, "tomorrow is race day, race day..."while Martin chuckled at my adolescent behavior in nervousness.

Day before the race. I think I'm more excited than he is. 
My dear friends Josh Witte and Andrew Harding were also running States. And through North Texas Trail Runners and my new gig with the Dallas Morning News covering trail and ultra running, I had a few other Texas runners to cheer for at States.

Take a peak at the story I wrote for the Dallas Morning News Running Blog.
Don't mess with Texas: runners and their pacers!

Martin's dear friends Janet and Doug joined us. Martin has paced Doug the last two States and it was Doug's turn to return the favor. Janet was my experienced States crewer and had lots of hints and tricks for me.

Team Martin at 3:30 a.m. race morning. Before coffee, yes, I look tired.

Nick Polito and Martin minutes before start. 
This was anything but a typical Western States. Known for hot temps, the race started with temps in the 40s, hail and wind. Martin started with a short sleeved shirt and jacket. Worried at the start about it getting colder, I tried to convince him to wear a long sleeve shirt, but he said he was fine.

Crew Rule 1: Know When to Push and When Not to
Early in the race, your runner has veto power. Later in the race when they've been up for more than 20 hours, you can argue with them.

Janet warned me that the Robinson Flat aid station (mile 29) is a mess. You have to take a shuttle in and it's crowded. The race guide said to allow an hour for the shuttle.

The rain started coming down hard and then the hail hit. I made the executive decision to get Martin's only long-sleeve shirt, the one he was saving for night time and his only other jacket and bring it to the aid station.

Crew Rule 2: Think One Step Ahead
You are your runner's brain. You need to think strategically and ahead for them. Regardless what their race plans say, you may need to improvise. Think about what you would want in those conditions and tell them when they come into the aid station why you are changing things..."It's cold. You need a long sleeve shirt and a new jacket now. I'll handle the rest later. Don't worry."

Crew Rule 3: Do NOT Overpack
I see tons of crew with basically everything and the damn kitchen sink, 5 plastic tubs of crap, a suitcase of clothes. Don't do this. Seriously. You have to ride a bus with hundreds of people who are also going to the aid station. If it doesn't fit in a backpack, you don't need it. They aren't going to want that short sleeved shirt if it's hailing. Leave it in the car.
Janet and I with no less than 6 layers of clothes on and my best $1 spent ever - the disposable poncho with hood!

With new dry clothes, Martin headed out. I told him I'd see him again at mile 55.7.

Getting Martin in dry shoes.
Crew Rule #4: Flexible and Flowing
The round trip to and from this aid station was three hours! Much longer than I thought. I now have a pacer I need to feed and get ready, wet clothes that were going to be saved for the night time and a ton of other things I needed to do to get ready for his arrival at Michigan Bluff.

I fed Doug and we headed to Auburn Running Company so I could buy Martin a new long sleeve shirt. I got the last Auburn Running Company shirt and headed to the hotel where I knew they had a dryer that I could use.

I quickly threw his clothes in the machine, put money in and set it to go. That's odd, what's that water sound...SHIT, I started the washer, not the dryer! And there is no way to STOP the washer once it started. Worried about time, I tried to figure out what to do next. Well I could unplug the machine, risking breaking the whole thing or just wait. So I waited. Finally they were washed and I threw them in the dryer. Love the fact tech material dries fast.

We rushed out to Michigan Bluff and waited Martin's arrival. He had one drop bag before he saw us and I figured he would shed his jacket and put on his short sleeve shirt. He can running down in the black long sleeve. Luckily the shirt he started in was "washed and dried" and I put it back on him.

The next time I would see Martin would be at Forest Hill, mile 62 where Doug would pace him. He had picked up the pace a bit and I figured he would be at Forest Hill sooner than plan.

Martin heading into Forest Hill, Mile 62. Doug on the right ready to pace. 

Changing out his shoes. 
Martin sailed into Forest Hill, picking up time. Doug met him up the trail and headed into the aid station with him. I ran to the car to wait for them.

Crew Rule #5: Be ready before your runner arrives
Before Martin got into Forest Hill, I had all his items laid out and ready to go. The object is to get them in and out of the aid station as quickly as possible. I had his shoes and new socks laid out. A long sleeve shirt, his jacket and gloves out and ready for him.

Crew Rule #6: Know the aid station cut off times
I never had to do this with Martin, but I have with may need to kick them out of the aid station. Pay attention to the cut off times and if your runner is close, kick them out.

The next time I would see Martin was after the river crossing at mile 79. To get here, I had to take a shuttle and hike down about 1.25 miles. There was an option to hike down another 2 miles to see him at the far side of the river after he crossed.

The shuttle broke down and the race was down to one van. I knew he was speeding up and Doug would be pushing him hard. I finally got a ride to the drop off point and ran with his backpack down hill for over a mile. Just as soon as I got to the trail to head down, I got a text from Doug that they were on the far side of the river.

While I wanted to head down to the river and hike up with him, it was more important for me to get his gear laid out so he could quickly change socks and shoes and get dry clothes on.

Other than sleepy, he was running very strong. I gave him a kiss and sent him off. Not knowing the bus situation, I was concerned about how long it would take me to get back to my car. So I power hiked/ran UP that hill, with all that wet gear.

It was so damn dark and creepy out there. I was alone. After being up for nearly 24 hours, I swear I heard creatures in the woods. Maybe some voices. Some growls.

Thankfully I saw people hiking down. I asked if the busses were working again. They were! Yay! Just as I get to the top, the bus is heading out. I wave. Shine my flashlight. It leaves. Lovely. Now I get to sit in the dark by myself with the growling things in the woods.

Praying nothing eats me, some people finally arrive from Green Gate. No longer alone. Phew!

I rushed to get to the next aid station, mile 93. The announcer calls "Marin Guthrie 204." Wahoo! He's back on 24 hour pace. Holy crap, he's moving fast. He looks great. Doug was pushing him hard. He didn't need anything from me at this aid station, but I wanted to be there for him.

Crew Rule #7: Encouragement 
Regardless if your runner needs anything at a later aid station, go there anyway. Sometimes all they need is a smile, a hug, a friendly familiar face. Your job is to keep them motivated. They may want to scream and complain. Let them. Give them a shoulder to cry on if need be.

The next time I would see Martin is at 98.9. I planned to run with him and Doug from here. Janet and I zipped to the finish line, parked the car and I ran to the aid station from the high school while she waited at the finish line with cameras.

I met up with a gal who was waiting for her friend. We were all praying our runners would come in soon. It was getting close to that 24-hour mark.

It's 4:15 a.m. We both decided as long as they come in before 4:45, all is well. The trip back out is a lot of hills on the road. So anything faster than a 15 minute mile may be really hard to pull off.

4:37 a.m. I see an aid station volunteer call "204".

"MARTIN!" I scream in excited. I see that big smile. He looks fantastic. You would have never have guessed he had run 99 freaking miles.

Doug, Martin and I know a sub 24 is going to happen.

After the hill, I ask him, "You want to run?" He says, "Yes." And the three of us are off. Running a little ahead, he says, "Nice butt." We all laugh.

There's another little hill. I scream back to him, "This is the only time I'll ever be ahead of you on a hill, after 99 miles!"

We enter the high school and I tell him to take his victory lap.

It all ended after 23:53:31.

Home now for 24 hours. I'm having ultra crew withdraw.

I feel compelled to look up my friends' progress on

I feel like I should be updating FB every hour.

I have a desire to drive around in the middle of the night.

I want to organize my day in ziploc bags.

I keep asking everyone how they are feeling and what they need.

I want to lube something.