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Final Prep for Western States 100: Going off the grid!

Posted on Jun 17, 2013

The miles have been run.  The training is more or less done.  With only 12 days to go to Western States 100, I find myself getting nervous, excited and aching to experience the unique journey of this race.  But given my experience last year, of getting sick in the final days before Western, I have one very different preparation step in mind this time.

Last year, I let the Western States media hype devour me whole.  I read all the blogs, posts, twitter, and other social media predictions, contests and commentary.  Mostly, because I am as much a fan of the sport as I am a competitor in the sport.  But it did nothing for me other than make me more nervous or worry or upset, leading to less sleep and ultimately a breakdown in my immune system.  If I ever got another chance to run Western, that was the one thing I would change.  Well, by some awesome luck and a chance at a do over, I will make the choice to go off the radar. My goal is getting to the start line healthy, rested and peaceful.  The three most important ingredients I need for a good 100 mile run.

And so, from here until after Western States, I won’t be on Facebook, blogs, websites or the like to see what other’s think about the race.  I love those sites, but will have fun looking at that AFTER the race has been run.  I am going off the grid and just going to enjoy my family, my garden, short shake out runs with my dog, and eating really clean and resting really deep.

I think I am fit and ready to go.  After a long training session on the course itself, I made peace with the historic trail and asked it to take care of me during the race, to let me run quickly, safely and with all my heart.   And so, that is my only real race plan- run hard, run smart, respect what the course and day gives me and to smile of course.

 
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Lessons from Transvulcania

Posted on Jun 17, 2013

Buffed out single track on La Palma

I had a fairly good idea my hamstrings were still a bit shot well before Transvulcania even began.  Somewhere in the 14 days after my run at the Zion 100, I worked to bring my legs back around with rest, short runs and some P.T. For some reason, the Zion course caused my hamstrings to get ropey and pull on my low back.  So, I knew running one of the toughest 50 milers on the planet, 3 weeks after that was not smart, but I held out hope. I am sucker for a comeback story, what can I say.  Not to mention, a whole family vacation had been planned around this opportunity, so let’s just say I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself.  My daughter, husband, sister and myself flew to Madrid and began our vacation. As a side note, Spain is truly amazing.  I have been a few times before, but visiting the island of La Palma was something to remember and hopefully a place to return to soon.  We ate gorgeous food, walked on black sandy beaches and cobblestone streets, dropped our jaws in the presence of some of the most beautiful architecture in Barcelona (La Sagrada Familia), shopped for good Spanish shoes and basically laughed and cried in between all of that.

Travelling light

Transvulcania itself is something quite different from anything I have ever seen in a race setting.  This was not my first international race (Beijing 100K, 2009, 3rd female) and Peru Inca Trail Marathon 2007 (1st female), but it was my first international Sky Race.  The Skyrace organization is major.  Thousands of people, both runners and spectators cast a presence felt through the entire island of La Palma.  Turns out the Europeans believe so much in these events, the local government sinks a big amount of cash into promoting and supporting it.  It is visible the second you step off the airplane and see Dakota Jones plastered everywhere you look.  Dakota, you look super cute of course.

So upon arriving at the start line in La Palma, I was blown away by the spectacle of it all:  You get to the start line early, very early.  You hear a DJ playing a great dance mix. You dance. You sing. You chat up the other American runners also dancing and singing and then you line up amongst thousands for the fastest start ever in an ultra.

The gun went off and a sprint ensued.  Crap, I thought this was an ultra.  The climbing began quick and never ended.  I actually loved what I saw of the course- steep, hard climbs, beautiful vistas, cheering crowds,volcanic rocky trails,  music at the aid stations, fans lining the course and yelling “Vamos nina” (Come on girl).

But as soon as it began, I was in pain.  I tried adjusting my pace, tried to walk, sidestep, sing out loud,  talk to the other runners.  Nothing could get my mind off the fact that every step felt like a hot fire was burning in my legs.  I could no doubt, gut this race out and finish even in pain.  But to suffer the hamstring pain and  subsequent recovery would certainly prevent any chance at a good race at Western. A race I have been waiting to do my whole life.  So then it occurred that  I could do the other gut wrenching thing: drop.  I saw JB at mile 14, filming on the course.  I explained to him my issues and he told me I was in 10th place and moving up.  I wasn’t even trying, I was hurting so bad.  I took 10 minutes at the aid station and had a most unusual feeling: my head and my heart were not in agreement at all.  My heart told me to go on, to suffer through and finish.  My head told me quite simply, it’s this race or Western States, but your body cannot do both in any respectful manner.  I have been wanting to run Western States since 2004.  It has taken almost 9 years to get to this point and so listened to my head, despite my heart’s dissapointment.  So at mile 15 I took the drop, the punch in the gut and walked to the car.  I felt regret as anyone who has dropped does.  But, 3 weeks later, I can tell you it was the right decision, without a doubt.

La Palma sand and fun

The last 3 weeks have been a super succesful 100 mile sharpening period.  I had to take about 10 days right after Transvulcania working on my hamstrings to get them to come back and with enough respect and love, they did.

Awe at La Sagrada

Lessons learned:

1. a Skyrace must be thought of as a main goal race, not a B race.  They are wonderfully difficult races. I hope to give Transvulcania or another SkyRace a go in the future.

2. Patience and Forgiveness. Every full time working, ultra running mom’s motto.  I am repeating this to myself in meditation everyday.

3. 6 weeks is my magic number for full 100 mile recovery, give or take a little.  Everyone is different, but everyone has to respect the recovery process in order to move forward without damage. Training hard or racing in that crucial period can set you back more than you realize. Longevity in this sport only occurs with care and love for our hard working bodies.

4. Flexibility during a race is the key difference between a happy runner and a frustrated runner.  Go with the flow.  I watched runners at Transvulcania make adjustments as they went along in the day and those who didn’t.  The outcomes speak for themselves.

5.  Life gives you lessons and if you  learn from them and not dwell on outcomes that are less than desirable, it is all worth it.  I learned so much about my body, my head and my  heart and I am grateful for that.

Barcelona

I hope everyone’s summer is in full fun mode.  The weather is gorgeous!

Be well friends.

 

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