Thursday, May 31, 2012

Needy Knee and Food

The Needy Knee
Back to Dr. Bob again for the systemic knee issue. It's the same story on repeat. I get to 50ish miles my knee craps out.

Well I guess it's getting a little better...
  • Ultracentric: Made it to 40 miles before the knee acted up.
  • Rock Raccoon ran the whole 50 and no knee issues. It was not giving myself a proper recovery and then running hills the next week that made it hurt.
  • Zion: Made it to mile 55 before the knee acted up. Then didn't give myself a proper recovery and ran a ton of downhills at WS training camp.
What's going on? I have patellofemoral pain syndrome. Fancy words for, my knee hurts under the knee cap.

What's causing this? I have no gait issues. My knee is tracking correctly. I don't over pronate. My right leg is slightly stronger than my right. When I get fatigued, I'll favor the right leg, which has to work harder and then that pain comes back. My risk factors are running lots of miles and then running on some hard trails.

What do I kneed to do? Strength training. Dr. Bob referred me to a PT. He thinks with 6 visits I'll have the tools I need to keep up my own strength training at home.

I work with a personal trainer 2 days a week, but I think he and I both came to the conculsion that while she is doing the right things, she is fatiguing me and not taking into consideration that I'll run 30+ miles that weekend. And I enter those runs fatigued and then there's higher chances of things going wrong.

My plan is to rest the knee up a few more days and continue cross training, start the PT and then build my mileage back up.

As if the knee issues weren't enough to worry about, I've packed on 5 pounds over the last month. And it's not muscle.

I started logging all my food again to figure out where the discrepancies are. I eat very healthy. I do not drink anything but water all day (well two cups of coffee in the am).

On day one, I learned that I need to eat more calories in the morning and add more protein in my diet. I pretty much guessed this would be the case.

What's preplexing me is that I am eating about 1800 calories a day and I can't seem to move that needle.

Day One
Breakfast: Greek yogurt, small slice whole grain bread, powdered PB
Snack: Rainier cheeries
Lunch: grilled halibut, quinoa
Afternoon snack: Kind bar, 20 pistacios (yes, I counted them out), 1 med peach
Before swim snack: String cheese
Dinner: grilled halibut, quinoa, mango salsa
Dessert: Protein shake, low fat cottage cheese, pineapple

Day Two
Breakfast: Greek yogurt, small slice whole grain bread, 1 piece bacon
Snack: Kind bar, strawberries
Lunch: salad with albacore tuna, gorgonzola cheese, pita chips
Afternoon snack: Peach
Before cycle snack: low fat tortilla with slice of turkey
Dinner: grilled salmon, brown rice and quinoa, green beans
Dessert: low fat cottage cheese, pineapple and kiwi

If anyone has any fabulous ideas on how to fix me, I'm all ears!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Western States Training Camp

Dear Mom and Dad,

Hello from the Western States Training Camp. Even though I was still recovering from my 63 miles at Zion and surgery, I am so happy to be here!

Martin picked me up at the Sacramento Airport Friday night. I didn't run the first day of camp because it was sold out, but mainly because it's the most difficult section of the course and I'm not ready for that so soon after Zion.

Saturday morning, I drove Martin to the start of the training. As we were walking up to the start, he said, "I bet you run into a ton of people you know." He's always kidding me because I have lots of friends. Not more than 2 minutes later, I see a familiar face with a grin from ear to ear...It's Jorge Maravilla! The nicest, most amazing ultra runner.

All the campers waiting for the first day of camp to start!

I met Jorge back in February and had the chance to run a few miles with him on his home turf in Vallejo. He took me up his hill repeats. And for this Texas girl, I called it mountain repeats.

Jorge got a spot at WS100 because of his fantastic performance last month at Leona Divide 50. He came in 18 seconds behind Tim Olson, but since Tim already had a spot, one went to Jorge. He'll do so well at WS next month. I can't wait to follow his progress.

Martin did great on those 32 miles. Fresh snow was on the trail. He said he was pretty cold for the first hour, but warmed up. The canyons are what everyone talks about--how they can get hot and the difficulty of the climbs in and out. This weekend was nice and cool, so they didn't have that heat to worry about.

I spent a little bit of time running the Forest Hill Loop Divide. I ran about 8.5 miles. I felt pretty good, but toward the end, the downhills made my knee wonky. It wasn't anything too steep, but a 2-mile downhill is just not what I'm used to.
I got to play here while the other kids were at camp. 

The views were so great!
I went back to get Martin in the afternoon. He ran the 32 miles so strong. He finished in 6:42. So proud of him!

We headed over to the Auburn Ale House for some good beer and dinner. We went to bed really early so we were well rested for the next day of camp.

Sunday's run was 19.4 miles and much easier than the previous day's run. We started at Forest Hill School and ran the WS trail down to Rucky Chucky. Instead of crossing the river, the camp counselors had us climb about 3 miles up to get out of the canyon. My knee was already bothering me and I just didn't know how long I could run on it.

The weather again was gorgeous 50 degrees at the start. We asked the camp counselors if we could start early. I was a little concerned about being dead last knowing my knee was barking. They said to go ahead.

Martin on the WS Trail!
The first few miles are a lot of downhill running. The trail is so nice, nothing like Zion. Very smooth and not technical at all! I really enjoyed it.

At mile 8.7 we hit the first aid station, which was amazing. The first thing I thought was, I paid $35 for a training run that had better support and organization than the 100 mile race at Zion a few weeks ago. No more first year races for me!

The downhills really started to bother my knee here. And I still had more downhill to run! I tried to turn over my feet more and tried a few different techniques to learn how to run that stuff better. I also felt the outside of my heel rubbing on my shoe. And noticed that despite lacing my shoes right and pretty tight, my heels were moving around a lot, especially on the downhills. I figured some blisters were starting.

Making the way down to Rucky Chucky 
We got to the 16 mile aid station, which was at the river. The WS100 makes you cross the river. But the camp counselors said we didn't have to today.

But before we did our hike out, we decided to take a little ice bath in the American River. BUUURRRRRRRR! This snow melt stuff is cold.
Martin taking an ice bath in the freezing American River. 

He made me put my knee in the ice bath. I was not happy. 

I took my shoes off an noticed the same blisters that I had at Zion are back! Blisters on both heels, inside and outside and also the big toe. Argh! Now, I'm convinced these Peal Izumi's need to go by way of the do do bird. After a good soak in the river, we made the start back up to the busses. 

I did really well on the uphills. It's those downs that aggravated my knee. 

Martin decided to run the last mile-ish in. As I neared the top, I see my honey walking back to me with a cup of Coke and some chips! He's so awesome! 

Sunday night they had a special session with veteran WS100 runners who shared their advice and experiences. I was in awe being in the same room these amazing athletes. 10, 12, 21, 25 WS finishes! I can't imagine! Truly awesomeness. 

I learned some great tips of blister taping and pre-taping--some things I'm going to try when I get home. 

My weekend at camp ends today as I fly home. Martin is going to run another 22 miles on the last section of the course. 

This week I need to do some cross training and rest the knee up. It's really hard because Martin got me a new pair of trail shoes, which we hope will solve the blister issue! I think maybe he's tired of popping blisters. 

It was nice seeing Andee and meeting Derek at camp. Andee and I met at Zion. They both were running strong and looking good.

Martin and I are heading to Leadville for my birthday next month! I'm looking forward to hiking Mt. Massive and going up Hope Pass. Gotta rest this knee up first! 



Thursday, May 24, 2012

Never stop

It's been a good two weeks since Zion. I had a forced rest week due to a minor surgery. I purposely scheduled this after Zion so I was forced to rest.

Well, you all know how that works. Day after surgery, I rode the trainer for 10 miles. That wasn't so smart. Monday, I ran 3 miles in stupid Texas heat. Again, not so smart. Yesterday marked a week post surgery and I ran a good 5.5 miles. Today, I was able to get in another 5. Feeling good. And got the official clearance from the doctor to run again. Shh, we won't tell him I'm going to California to run one of the Western States training runs this weekend.

I've had some time to reflect on Zion. My DNF. My training moving forward. My goals. What's next. Blah. Blah. Blah.

I'm quite aware that I'm very new at this sport...that my training didn't go as intended due to fighting a knee injury...that maybe this was too much too soon. But that's irrelevant.

I had some big supporters in my camp.

And there were those who wanted me to fail.
And there were those who wanted other people to fail. 

Your only failure is not trying.

This is NOT what this sport, this community is about.

Fact: The higher you climb, the bigger you fall.

Fact: I fall down, I get up again. And I don't need a band-aid for my boo boos.

Fact: I don't do this for anyone but me.

Fact: This is not my job. It's my fun. It's my community. It's the commraderie and the giving and positive attititudes of all the people I have met that is contagious and makes me want to try harder to do better.

Throughout my journey I had more supporters than a girl could ever imagine -- both pysically at the race and people from all over. This means more to me than anything. THIS love and support is why I love ultra running. THIS is what gets you to run one more mile. THIS is what pushes you to go further than you ever have before.

I want to say thank you to EVERYONE who followed me, tracked me, read my ramblings. You have my love and support in all you do. I want to be there for you as you have been there for me. I want to hear about your adventures. I want to cheer you on. I want you to try harder to do better. I want you to do something epic for you, however you define epic.
And if I can offer one piece of advice to anyone listening: Never stop.
Never stop pushing your limits.
Never stop supporting those who try harder to do better.
Never stop believing in yourself.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Journey is the Reward

Zion 100 Mile
May 11 – 12, 2012
DNF at Mile 63 at 21 hours

Anyone following my blog and who knows me was probably bracing themselves for the complete breakdown of Suann having heard of my DNF at the Zion 100. I sensed "proceed with caution, she’s gonna cry, scream and flog herself for the next few weeks".

Honestly, I'm ok. Better than ok. I'm proud of what I did. It was a tough course, the hardest I have ever been on and I made it 63 miles. The longest I have ever run on the hardest terrain I have ever been on. That's an accomplishment. 

Lesley and Martin graciously agreed to pace and crew me on my adventure. I would not have been able to get to mile 63 without the two of them. With very few runners, I was out there by myself for long stretches. It was hot, the aid stations were very far apart and what kept me going was the fact that I knew I would see them both after my first climb and then again at mile 35 where Martin would start pacing me. The plan was for Lesley to take over at mile 82 and run me in.

Race Start
I toed the line with 103 runners. It was a nice 55 degrees and felt fantastic. As we went off on our journey, I settled at the back of the pack. I was forcing myself to run slow. I had a long day ahead with some tough climbs ahead and I wanted to purposely run slow the first half of this race. 

Many folks zoomed ahead and I couldn't help but think, "Do I even deserve to be toeing this line? I'm not last but I'm pretty far back."

Climb Up Smith Mesa
Right off the bat, we had to climb Smith Mesa, about 1,000 feet in a mile. I was handling this pretty well. It was early in the race and cool out. Then I saw the rope they put out for us to get up the side of this mountain. And I thought, "What have I gotten myself into?" The climb went pretty quickly and I was super excited to see Lesley and Martin waiting at the top for me. 

I'm half way up Smith Mesa!

The next section continued to go up, but on a nice jeep road. Nothing technical, but it was more up.

A gorilla told me I was doing a good job. 

Mile 18-27: Some technical stuff!
I knew from the Facebook pictures that there was some technical stuff coming up in this section. I don't even need to say it because these pictures pretty much tell all. I arrived at the mile 27 aid station about 20 minutes later than what I had planned.

I had to go down this. 

Some boulder hopping. 
Mile 27-35: The Death March
By now it is in the 90s. There is zero shade on the course. I'm extremely hot. I ran out of water on the last stretch. Every aid station I got to was out of ice, soda and there never was a single potato chip to be found. The course is remote and the aid stations are not accessible but by 4-wheel drive, so no crew until mile 35.

It got very hot and lonely here. We started off with about 4 miles on a concrete highway, which really ticked me off. Then we got back on the trail. I went through 110 ounces of water. They had a water only stop exactly where I needed it because I drained my 60 ounces completely.

What kept me going was that I knew Lesley and Martin would be waiting for me with ice, my cold Dr. Pepper and a ham sandwich.

I spotted Lesley about a half mile away, waving. I almost cried I was so happy. I had been running alone for pretty much the entire time, I'd pass a few people, but I had no one to talk to. I usually don't mind being solo. In fact, some times I prefer it. But I really needed a mental boost and a friendly smile. And Lesley waving to me looked like an angel! She ran up to me and shoved a ham sandwich in my mouth and told me to eat before I weigh. Like me, she was worried my weight was down. And it was, I was down about 4 pounds. But they let me go on and told me to drink more.

Martin joined me here to pace me. We set off for the journey up to Gooseberry Mesa.

Mile 41: Breakdown!
After several hours in the heat we made it to the mile 41 aid station. I had been fighting nausea ever since it started getting hot. I didn't eat much between 35 and 41 and felt like I was really down in calories. We arrived at the aid station and they are out of soda, ice and pretty much anything I could eat. I didn't know what to do, so I did the only think I could think of...cry.

In my head, I'm thinking I have nothing to eat. I have to climb 1,500 feet at mile 46 and I have zero energy. Then I started worrying about being down and weight and having them pull me from the race. Martin, being the hero he is, told me to have a seat and tried to find something that my stomach would tolerate. I choked down a saltine cracker, but was still crying because it has zero calories. And honestly all I wanted was a damn soda with ice. A volunteer handed me some broth and I spit it out. There was a can of peaches and Martin offered me a peach. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the nutrition label and got excited when I saw it was 70 calories. Through my tears, I nodded and he handed me a peach. It stayed down and he gave me another. I ate half of it. I felt a bit better and off we went toward the Mesa.

Gooseberry Mesa: Climb to the Stars
We saw a lot of carnage at the mile 41 aid station. People were hot and struggling. It was 95 degrees and the heat was taking its toll on everyone. People who were hours ahead of me were now behind me. I got a little pumped because I started passing people.

We started up the mountain and it was steep, and the terrain was so loose. It was hard to keep my footing. Martin told me to take baby steps and traverse up the mountain. This seemed to work really well. I told him a few times that my heart was jumping out of my chest. He kept me calm and told me to take a few seconds to get my heart rate down. Just about to the top, we had to cross over a ledge was no wider than two of my feet put together and very loose rock. I whimpered a few times as Martin encouraged me from behind. This was the first time in the race I got scared. Here I am 1,500 feet up, nothing to grab on to if I slip. I thought, this is dangerous.

I see the top and I could not have been happier! A few volunteers were there with electrolyte slushies and ice, ice cold water. I told the gal I was going to kiss her.

And the views were amazing. Stunning. I was on top of the world.

Top of the Mesa: Shuffling to Mile 52
The top of the Mesa is slick rock. I was still able to run this section pretty ok. It was a little slower going, but I was able to run it. I felt some hot spots on my feet and told Martin I wanted to check out my feet at the mile 51-52 aid station. We had to do a 1/2 mile out and back up here. Martin was going to get into our drop bag and get our lighting out and get me some food while I went out and back.

I quickly grabbed my headlamp and a Dr. Pepper that I had in my drop bag and went out. The trail here was marked with some LED lights and reflective tape on the rock. I started heading toward an LED light in a tree and it flew away. Ha! It was a bat or a bird of some sort. Good thing I stopped because that would have been a long drop down.

I got back to the aid station. My feet are hurting pretty bad. My left big toe is in a lot of pain. I took off my socks and had a blister on the inside and outside of my heels on both feet and still had no idea what was bothering my big toe. We tried to pop the blisters, but they were under so much calloused skin, they wouldn't pop. I was wailing and creating a scene. Some girls who were dropping asked Martin if I was ok. He said, "Oh she's just worried her toenail polish chipped." It was just the laugh I needed.

I duct taped the blisters and shoved my big, fat swollen foot back in my shoe. Knowing I needed to eat, Martin made me eat a cup of broth and some rice. I told him I finished and he made me fill it up and eat it again. I really didn't want to eat it and he told me I needed to. So again, I did the only mature thing I could think of, I looked at him, took a mouthful of soupy rice and spit it back out in the cup making a very attractive noise like, "Bleh..." We both started laughing and headed onward.

The Journey Ends
Things started going downhill fast. I left the aid station and was moving pretty well. I ran when I could and power walked pretty quickly where I could. My nausea went away by the time I left the aid station. I was convinced it was heat related, but after a few miles, it's back. My blisters caused me to change my gait and about mile 55 my knee started hurting very badly. I started doing the chicken walk down hills and was looking bad. I cried. I knew it was over. It took me 30 minutes to move a mile. I calculated how long it would take me to the next aid station and then realized how bad off I was.

I told Martin, I'm moving so slow. He said, let's get to the next aid station and evaluate. But it just kept getting worse. My knee was hurting more and more. I made the decision to pull from the race. I told Martin, at best I have 12 hours more of running. That's if my knee gets better. I was thinking that don't want to be out here for 12 more hours feeling like this. We stopped and he gave me a hug and said he was proud of me. I cried few more minutes.

We made our way to open section of slick rock. We turned our headlamps off and looked at the stars. I saw Casiopea. We tried to find the Big Dipper and Little Dipper and Polaris. It was amazingly quiet and peaceful. I was ok with a DNF. I was sitting on top of the world, gazing at the stars. I just did something amazing. Ran farther than most people ever dream of running. I climbed up 2 Mesas. I've come a long way. Fu$k a DNF and anyone who says I'm a wussie for not pushing forward. I'm at peace.

The End
I hobbled into the aid station. It took me 4 hours and 30 minutes to go 11 miles. They asked me my number. I told the volunteers I was pulling out of the race. I sat in a chair and started to cry again. While I was at peace with my decision. Telling anyone other than Martin that I was pulling from the race made me feel vulnerable.

The volunteers waited a few minutes for another few more runners to drive us down. Apparently lots of people had folded at this aid station and they would wait for a full carload to take us off the mountain.

Lesley came to the next aid station to get me. She gave me a huge hug. It was so good to see her. She told me she was a little shocked to see how well I was handling things. I had my pitty party and I was done.

I did amazingly well considering the course and the heat. I was proud of what I did. It's hard to call 63 miles a DNF.

Reading lots of race reports today, I keep hearing things like, "I made this mistake, I made that mistake." I'm going to say there is no mistakes in ultrarunning. The mistake is not learning from your experiences. Take them for what they are, a journey, and experience. No matter what the outcome was, I enjoyed the journey. I learned a lot and I'm not stopping now. Live to run another day.

I made a rather long video of my journey! Take a peak!

And here's the Garmin data before it died.

Thank you to Martin and Lesley for joining me on my journey. I couldn't have gotten as far as I did without you. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!

Top Ten One-Liners from My Ultra Weekend

A full race report is to come, but here is my top ten list of one-liners from this weekend....
10. It’s hot – Honeybee
9. SHE NEEDS LUBE! – Racingitoff
8. Did you say you want someone to suck your toe? – Racingitoff
7. Oh yeah, that’s steep. - Lightning Bolt
6. I think I just sh!t out my intestines. – Racingitoff
5. Look, her dress is UP her butt crack. – Honeybee
4. I’ll just run up there and get your drop bag (1,000 feet climb in a half mile) – Racingitoff
3. What color is your pee? – Lightning Bolt
2. Did you just use that tissue to clean your blisters? It has my snot in it. – Racingitoff
And the best one liner at mile 52 as I was trying to pop blisters, duct tape my feet, and was screaming like a girl, two women asked Martin if I was ok and he said….
1.       She’s just worried she chipped her toe nail polish.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Zhit Just Got Real

In seven days, I'll be somewhere in Zion National Park running 100 miles at the Zion 100 mile race. You can track me on UltraLive.

I finally decided to tell my parents what I'm doing. My text from my dad went something like this...
Dad: I'm starting my new job on May 21.
Me: I know you told me. I'm running 100 miles May 11-12 in Utah.
Dad: How long with that take you?
Me: I don't know. 25 hours or less, I hope.
Dad: Without stopping to rest?
Me: The object is to keep moving.
Dad: Why?
Me: Because it's a race.

He didn't respond to that, but my guess he was doing that shaking his head thing he does when he doesn't comprehend why I do the things I do.

Ok, this was gonna be a suprise for my pacers and crew, but I had coolio shirts made and I am super excited about them. So Lesley and Martin, here's a sneak peak. I guess the surpise will be what I put on the back and the type of garmet!

Thanks in advance to Lesley and Martin for accompanying me on my journey. You both have been a shoulder to cry on, my life line and my source of strength when I was feeling weak. I know I can make it because you both will be there for me.

Big hugs and kisses to all my friends and running pals who have spent time with me on the trails and have given me tons of great advice and support through this journey.

Let's do this zhit...