Hardrock 100 Ultra-Marathon

Two weeks ago I flew through Phoenix, AZ to Durango, CO on a Thursday afternoon. I’d never been to either airport before and I wasn’t even really sure where in the great state of Colorado I was landing. But when I stepped off the second plane, I was instantly surrounded by the gorgeous San Juan Mountains and I knew it was going to be an amazing weekend. My sister-in-law (Meggan), her father (Richard), and my two adorable nieces (Rachel and Ava) picked me up and drove us back to Silverton, CO. This would be our headquarters for the next four days.

Rachel and Ava waiting for the race to start!

Rachel and Ava waiting for the race to start!

Maybe I should pause to explain why the five of us, my brother (Jason), our cousin (Glen), and family friends (Eric, Randy, and Lori) were all converging on this small town in the mountains of Colorado. My brother ran the The Bear 100 last year as his first attempt to complete 100 miles of running in a single event. He was successful and I was present to help Meggan “crew” for his race. As a result of that finish, he earned one ticket in a lottery for entry into the Hardrock 100 this year. In the ultra-running world, Hardrock is an elite event and one that many experienced runners shy away from due to the extreme course topography. You can read about the exact odds on Jason’s blog, but suffice it to say that his name should not have been pulled last December.

Ava and I on the shuttle to the first aid station.

Ava and I on the shuttle to the first aid station.

But it was. Along with 151 other mildly insane runners who would toe the starting line with him in July 2015. And so, he started to train for the 33,992 feet of climb and 33,992 feet of descent that he would encounter along the course. Couple those drastic elevation changes with the fact that the LOWEST point on the course was at 7,680 ft above sea level while the peak was at 14,048 ft above sea level. Yes, you just read all of those statistics correctly. Yes, it helps that Brother’s family currently lives in Boulder, CO where he has fairly easy access to mountains. Yes, he ran A LOT in the months leading up to this race.

Cunningham Gulch aid station

Cunningham Gulch aid station

So where do I come into this whole equation? Well after crewing last year, I offered my organizational services again. Last year I was the second in command at aid stations, taking commands from Meggan and letting her do most of the communicating. This year, I was told that Meggan was going to primarily be wife/mom while I was going to be in charge of Jason. Oh goodness. I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous! I knew that Jason had much more experience and confidence going into this race than The Bear last year. I knew that I had more of a grasp on what was happening and what my role would be throughout the race. But I also knew that ultra-running, especially in the wild mountains of Colorado, is unpredictable and that I would be responsible for making sure Jason was safe and had everything he needed. Luckily, Jason spent the week leading up to the race in Silverton exploring the course and laying out his drop-bags for each of the aid stations his crew could access.

My crew-mates: Meggan, Ava, Glen, Rachel, and Richard.

My crew-mates: Meggan, Ava, Glen, Rachel, and Richard.

Thursday night, I shared a quiet room with Jason while the rest of the family slept upstairs. We wanted to ensure that J got good sleep and would wake rested for his 40 hours (or so) of running. At 5:30am we walked the few blocks to the high school gymnasium where he checked in and we waited for the start. At 6am the runners were off and the crew headed back to the hotel to eat breakfast and gather our gear. Our first aid station was Cunningham Gulch, which was 8.2 miles into the race. We had fun playing with the girls while waiting to see J come down the mountain and cross the creek. He was here only a short time to refuel and then he was off heading back up the other side of the mountain. We wouldn’t see him again until mile 42.1 at Grouse Gulch, sometime around 7pm that night.

Jason coming down into Grouse Gulch.

Jason coming down into Grouse Gulch.

While Brother was running up and over several mountains (no big deal), I went for a run of my own in town. My four-mile run felt short and difficult as I struggled to breathe at just over 7,000 ft above sea level. It rained off and on during the day and the adults all took turns entertaining the girls between meals and packing. In the early evening, I drove the girls and Richard up to Grouse Gulch to hook up with Eric, Meggan and Glen. They had gone up earlier to cheer on earlier runners and to make sure Eric was there and ready to go. He would be pacing J for miles 42-82, through the night and across the most technical terrain. They run together weekly in Boulder and Eric has completed Hardrock before, as well as a number of other 100-mile races.

Meggan and I chilling with Santa at Ouray aid station.

Meggan and I chilling with Santa at Ouray aid station.

We had specific instructions to make sure Jason ate a lot at Grouse Gulch and were also in charge of replacing SPOT tracker batteries, filling water bottles, restocking his pack with gels, swamping out sunglasses and short-sleeves for rain jackets and long-pants, adding in warm hats and headlamps, etc. I felt a little overwhelmed at some of these aid stations because it was my job to keep J focused on changing his socks, eating his quesadilla, and telling me if he needed more or less layers. All while Glen was videotaping and getting hot foods, Meggan was saying hello and accessing the condition of Jason’s body, Eric was asking about the course, Rachel was trying to show J her good luck drawings, and Ava just wanted to hug her Daddy.

Looking up the mountain for J while waiting at Chapman aid station.

Looking up the mountain for J while waiting at Chapman aid station.

Writing it all out makes it sound more chaotic than it really was, but there was certainly a lot happening at these stops! Once Jason and Eric headed off into the night, we had about 1.5 hours worth of driving to get to Ouray where we had a second hotel room for the night. Glen, Meggan and I dropped off Richard and the girls to sleep while we waiting to see J through the Christmas-themed aid station. He left around 1:30am with Eric after a fairly long stop (20 minutes) to change clothes and eat some real food. We headed back to the hotel to rest for a few hours and awoke to find that J and E had had a great night. They were already over their next mountain and were working their way down to Telluride, our next aid station. The only slight issue with that was that they had five miles to run and we had an hour to drive. Whoops? So Glen and I quickly showered and jumped in our car to “race” the SPOT dots to Telluride while Richard and Meggan got the girls up and joined us when they could.

Goofing off with my older niece, Rachel.

Goofing off with my older niece, Rachel.

This divide-and-conquer strategy paid off because Glen and I walked into the aid station to get set up a mere ten minutes before the boys arrived! At this point, they were 72.8 miles into the race but had made it through the night. Jason looked good, in spite of a slight complaint about his knees on the downhills. They had come through rain, snow, and a fairly chilly night but had not had any major mishaps, which was great news! Off they went while Glen and I drove to meet Meggan’s car for breakfast. The next section of driving was more off-road and exciting, and we had to park 0.25 miles from the aid station and walk in. The girls enjoyed the adventure and were fairly good with lunch at Chapman aid station. I took a turn entertaining Rachel here, so we explored the log bridge over the creek, used binoculars to scan the mountain-side for J, and played “sack-of-potato” countless times. It was fun to interact with my nieces throughout this race and they continue to amaze me with how quickly they grow up!

Jason coming through Chapman aid station... almost done!

Jason coming through Chapman aid station… almost done!

Chapman aid station was mile 82.2, and the last time we would see Jason before the finish that night. Eric finished his pacing duties and Randy picked up for the last sections of the trail. I continued to try to manage Jason’s needs but had to get a little creative here since we did not have all of his extra clothing and food options from the car. Fortunately, we did have Eric’s race bag so he lent Jason the rain pants he needed. Then the crew (and a tired Eric) hiked back out and drove just over two hours back around to Silverton. We opted not to take the 4WD-only option over the mountain pass, but instead retraced our steps through Telluride and Ouray. Back in town we unpacked, had dinner, and then went to the high school to wait Jason. He had been right in the middle of his timing goals up until Chapman, so we expected to see him between 8-10pm.

Rachel and Ava waiting for Daddy at the finish line.

Rachel and Ava waiting for Daddy at the finish line.

Their friend, Kari, who was also at The Bear 100 finished about an hour before Jason so we got to see her kiss the Hardrock. Then we spent the rest of the time playing with Rachel and Ava, who were quite tired at this point but excited to see their Daddy. We got the radio from Glen that Jason had crossed the river along the road and was heading in with only two miles to go! By this point it was dark again but J still had over an hour to accomplish his original goal of finishing in under 40 hours. We were all excited to see him finish, but cheered on several more runners while we waited. Finally, we made out the outline of three runners without headlamps (Eric, Jason, and Randy) and Rachel ran out to greet them. The whole family jogged the last hundred yards or so with Jason and then watched as he kissed the Hardrock at 9:22pm on Saturday night. This was 39 hours and 22 minutes after he started, which is almost exactly what he predicted! After resting for quite some time in the gym, we headed back to the hotel and put the girls to bed. Then J and I actually went back to the medical tent to confirm that his slight wheezing and coughs were “normal”. They assured us he would be fine after he got some sleep, so we did just that! Runner, pacers, and crew were all tired but happy and had no problem sleeping through the night. I even shared a room with the little girls and had no problem falling (or staying) asleep.

The infamous Hardrock that stands on the finish line.

The infamous Hardrock that stands on the finish line.

Sunday morning we went to the race breakfast and award ceremony and heard some of the incredible stories from the race. Like the runner who choked on a piece of watermelon in the first half of the race, but was rescued by an aid station medic who performed the heimlich maneuver. Or the runner from Boulder who had a tough race, but managed to sprint to the finish at kiss the rock with literally one second to spare. His official time was 47:59:59! All of the finishers, 123 officially, earned their respective awards and everyone ate well in that gymnasium.

The dream team: Eric, Randy, and Jason.

The dream team: Eric, Randy, and Jason.

Unfortunately, I had to hit the road back to Durango airport immediately after the award ceremony so I said my good-byes and hopped in the car with some other friends who were going my way. Shortly after checking in, my flight to Phoenix was canceled and after a lot of phone calls and waiting in line, I finally got rebooked to Denver much later Sunday night. Then I spent the night in whatever hotel US Airways put me up in, where I logged a nine mile run on the treadmill at 11pm before crashing into my king-sized bed. Monday morning I went back to the airport for my connection home, which left with no issues. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of Jason’s race weekend and while I don’t think I was as helpful or prepared as I could’ve been, I do hope that I pulled my weight on the team. It was great to see Jason/Meggan and the rest of their family and friends, as well as explore a new part of Colorado!

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Tinkerbell Half Marathon 2015

I should start by saying that this was my eighth half marathon since I started running long distances in 2011. I should also comment that I went to Disney World once, when I was five, and my favorite ride was It’s a Small World. I’ve lived 1.5 hours from Disneyland for almost three years now and have never been. I’m not anti-Disney, but I’m also not a fanatic. The average pace for my previous seven half marathons has been right at two hours, but I ran the La Jolla Half two weeks ago in 2:07. The past six months have been extremely busy for me so training has not been a priority. So knowing all of that, how did I find myself standing on the streets of Anaheim at 5:30am Sunday morning? It’s simple… my friends asked me to do it 😉

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Ready for my eighth half marathon!

I say that jokingly because back in August… July? September? Sometime in 2014. My friend from high school, Claire, mentioned that she was running the Disney Princess Half at Disney World in February. Not only that, but she was considering doing a “Coast-to-Coast Challenge” and her husband would feel better if she had someone to run or at least travel with her to Disneyland in May, 2015. I’m always down for having running/race buddies, so naturally I said yes! We convinced two other high school friends living in California to join us as well and the cast was complete. Fast forward through moving away from San Diego, through traveling to Argentina, through moving into North Carolina, and finally through moving BACK to San Diego and finally race weekend was upon us. Here’s the basics of our weekend… there was a lot going on, so try to keep up!

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Picking up my bib at the expo

Claire – She arrived from Philly on Wednesday night, ran the Neverland 5k Friday, then completed the Pixie Dust Challenge by completing both the Tink 10K on Saturday and the Tinkerbell Half Marathon on Sunday. She’s a mother of two adorable boys and only started running distance races six months ago. Tink was her third of four half marathons in a month. Crazy, right?! As previously mentioned, Claire was the one that got us all involved and her love for everything runDisney was very apparent as she cleaned out the merchandise tent;) But her enthusiasm was contagious all weekend!

Karen – I arrived from North County, San Diego on Thursday night, got up early and supported the others in their running of the Tink 10k on Saturday and then raced the Tinkerbell Half on Sunday. In spite of not being in conditioned shape, I really wanted to RACE and see what happened. I tend to get complacent during events and I knew stopping and starting (even for Disney character pictures) would kill my legs, which were still recovering from my last race. My “I’ll be happy” goal was to beat 2:07 and my “I’ll be ecstatic” goal  was to break two hours. I also agree to wings and tutus… but only if the other girls picked them out for me.

Kelly – She arrived on Friday night from San Diego, sported her fairy wings and tutu like a champ while completing the Pixie Dust Challenge as well. She also ran La Jolla two weeks ago and is in great shape from aerial yoga and TRX training. Sadly, this was our last race together for a while because at the end of the month she’s moving back to the East Coast where we all grew up. Kelly served as our massage therapist for the weekend and (thankfully) offered to compress, stretch, and de-knot our tired muscles.

Jenny – She arrived later Friday night from Santa Monica from a Flash Mob with her Dancing Classrooms students. She has been battling tendonitis and leg pain for almost two months, but completed all 19.3 miles of the Pixie Dust Challenge with a smile. With the possible exception of Claire, Jenny was the most excited about everything Disney and rocked her custom-made Mickey and Minnie TOMS in between races. She took running guru Jeff Galloway’s advice to alternate running and walking to get her through only her second half marathon ever!

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Jenny (in Minnie ears), Claire (in orange), and Kelly (in blue) finishing the Tink 10K!

Now that you know all about the girls, let’s talk about the actual race and how it went for me. I tried a new strategy this race, just to see what happened. I typically start conservatively and then pick up the pace the last few miles as I gain confidence in my ability to finish. I know I should be past that now, especially after finishing the SF Marathon last July, but it’s still hard for me to really think of myself as a runner. I also tend to “trust my training” but I didn’t really train so much for this race. Before La Jolla I only got up to 6.68 miles and then two weeks ago I had that race as a “training run” for Tinkerbell. So I wanted to go out with 9:00 miles to begin and try to hold those through the park, which we excited around mile six. Then I figured even if I slowed to my usual pace around 9:30/mile, I would still beat 2:07. La Jolla runs up and over Torrey Pines, which is a considerable hill, and I knew Anaheim would be a much flatter setting which should help my legs survive.

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I was happy to be a proud spectator on Saturday… congrats girls!

From the time Tinkerbell said “Go!”, I felt only okay. I thoroughly enjoyed running through the different neighborhoods of Disneyland, even if I didn’t stop for character photos. Once I break stride in a race, it’s all over. But I spent most of this first hour checking out the scenery, the rides, and the cast members along the course. I was so distracted by my surroundings that I surprised myself by coming through the 10k marker in 55:13, which was 8:54/mile pace! However, I knew that this was when the real race would begin for me. My muscles weren’t used to long distances, I didn’t have cool stuff to look at on the streets of Anaheim, and the people on the sidelines were going to thin out. I ate the first half of my Shot Blocks and reminded myself that I was almost halfway through and that if I needed to slow down, I could.

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Kelly, Jenny, Claire and I before the half marathon 🙂

Miles seven to nine felt SLOW to me. The sun came out, we went through the “quiet please” neighborhood, and my legs were starting to hurt. But each time I passed a mile marker and heard my MapMyRun update my pace, I was still maintaining fairly well! At the 15k (9.3 mile) point, my time was 1:23 which was 8:59 pace. This was when my mind switched gears. I did the math and felt confident for the first time during the race that I would actually beat my 2:07 goal. But now was the question of whether or not I could pull out a sub-2:00 performance. I was definitely not convinced. But I am also fiercely competitive with myself and knew I had to try. So I ate the second half of Shot Blocks around mile ten and kept on plugging. My right hip flexor and the top bones in my right foot were starting to hurt but I tried to focus on not altering my stride for fear of causing pain elsewhere. Luckily, I was trailing two very nice ladies who were in the same running group but didn’t really know each other, so I could eavesdrop on them while distracting myself. I also told myself that if they could hold this pace while talking normally, I could do it while staying silent.

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Daisy and Minnie cheering on the Tink 10k finishers!

Mile twelve saw the second time through an underpass, which served as the only real hill on the course. I love hills and really took advantage of the chance to alter my stride for a short time. My mile split that mile was 8:20… oops? Mile thirteen I was pretty spent. I did appreciate the bands, color guards, dance teams, and cheerleaders that lined the second half of this course and never as much as that last mile. I knew from the mile marker clocks that I had eleven minutes to run the last 1.1 miles and I knew I would do it… but I also knew that I would not be running a PR. This hadn’t even really crossed my mind until that point, as it’s a 1:57:09, and I was totally fine with that. I tried to really enjoy the last straight-away of the race and even remembered to cross over and hi-five Mickey Mouse just before the finish line. My official time was 1:58:55, my fourth fastest half marathon time to date, and I was super pleased. After the race I did get ice from the medical tent and made several trips to the port-o-john’s while waiting for my fellow fairies. Seems like my stomach needs the long training runs more than my legs do, lol.

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Map of the course, according to MapMyRun

I was able to track the other girls the rest of the way in and watched them finish, which was just as fun as crossing the line myself! Overall, I really enjoyed the weekend with these lovely ladies and I was happy with my performance, especially given my training. The race was very well supported from what I saw, with tons of course marshals, spectators, aid stations, and entertainment. While I’m not sure I would sign up for the whole Disney experience on my own, it was nice to have a race where I could start in the first corral and not even have elite runners in front of me. The medal we got with the spinning Tinkerbell was pretty great too! Of course it goes without saying that my favorite part was spending 3+ days hanging out with old friends while being active and achieving our goals. I’m so proud of them and the rest of the women (and few men) that raced this past weekend. Now it’s time for a few weeks of active rest for me before my summer race season kicks off!

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Claire, Kelly, myself and Jenny at the finish… WE DID IT!!

La Jolla Half Marathon 2015

I will be the first to admit that I was not at all prepared for this race. I decided to run about a month ago since I had been training for my Tinkerbell Half Marathon anyway. This race is the second of the triple crown series of half marathons in San Diego, which I completed in 2013. Carlsbad in the January race, then La Jolla in April, and America’s Finest City in August. So I’ve run the course before and I knew what to expect… lots and lots of hills! The run starts in the Del Mar racetrack and follows the coast up and over the hills of Torrey Pines before ending in La Jolla Cove. It’s brutal. But it’s also beautiful!

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Sunday morning, Sean and I drove down to La Jolla to stash our car by the finish before hopping on the shuttle with Kelly. My goal here was to NOT rip my contact while getting off the bus (click the La Jolla link above to read that story). I was successful and we spent the hour or so before the start stretching, staying warm, and discussing our race strategies. Even though Sean and I had done many of our training runs together, we concluded that to avoid injury it would probably be best if we ran our own races and started in our own corrals. I was wave three and he was wave four. Kelly decided to jump up to wave four with Sean to get started earlier. Our friends Vanessa and Dahlia found us in the parking lot and were both in wave three with me (pre-race photo below).

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Starting off, my plan was to run comfortably and stay at whatever pace felt fairly easy. This ended up being about 9:30 pace, which was right at what I expected. I didn’t want to push too hard for the first five miles because of the big hill into Torrey Pines around mile six. It was perfect weather for the race and the sun came out just as we started, which made it a little warmer but also quite pleasant. The wind coming off the ocean wasn’t too strong, so I felt good turning up the hill (see first photo). Historically, I run hills well and I wasn’t expecting Sunday to be any different. I drove my arms and passed a TON of people of this section of the course. The photo below is a screenshot of an official photo so excuse the watermarks, but look past me at the rest of the runners and you’ll see what I mean. I got up without much problem and my legs were still feeling strong(ish).

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The next three miles are my least favorite because they are rolling hills through the top of Torrey Pines. It’s when I knew my legs would start to tire from lack of training and when I couldn’t see the finish line yet. I was expecting Sean to pass me at some point during this stretch so that gave me something to think about. He did end up passing me just before mile ten and our huge downhill. That gave me a bit of a boost because he said his shin and legs were feeling good as he passed me (he’s on the right in the photo below). I won’t lie, it was a bit humbling for me to be passed but I knew he was the more prepared runner between us. I was also really excited because I knew time-wise he was on pace to run a PR and possibly even break two hours!

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After the big downhill, the top of my right foot started to tighten up and my left knee was a bit wonky. Both of these were things I expected with the lack of hill and distance training I’d put in. I was enjoying the race though and got to take in the scenery around me while I ran. Nothing was too painful to continue so I kept on cruising. The part of the course that winds through La Jolla Village was kind of annoying due to construction and the sun was starting to feel hotter. But I knew there was just one more section of hills before the downhill turn to the finish line. I did a quick assessment and confirmed that I couldn’t go any faster, so I just enjoyed the run as much as I could. I tried to encourage the runners around me who were starting to really struggle and who were less familiar with the course. Ultimately, I made it to the finish line without too much difficulty!

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My official time was 2:07:03, which was about seven minutes slower than when I ran this course in 2013. But I felt VERY happy with those results given my preparation. Sean finished in an impressive 2:00:25, but was a bit frustrated at being so close to that two-hour barrier. He shaved about five minutes off his time from Carlsbad, which is a much easier course, so I was proud of him! Kelly, Vanessa, and Dahlia all finished within fifteen minutes of us, so we were able to meet up at the finish line. It was really fun seeing people I knew all day, either on the course or at the start and finish lines. I love the little group of runners I’ve come to know here and I think most of us are planning to run AFC in August as well. My goal for that race is to properly train and make a push to break the two-hour barrier again, if not PR. I’m quite confident that Sean will and you know I can’t be left behind!

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Living Life in Leucadia

It has been SO long since I last posted about settling into California, oops? I’m excited to get back to posts about crazy adventures on the “Best Coast”. Jury is still out there, but for right now I’m leaning West. Anyway, so I told you that I bought a new car (SUV) and it’s still amazing. I have not picked out a name yet, but I’m sure that will come. For now, I’m just excited that I’ve driven over 1,000 miles so the engine is broken in and I can use cruise control. Work at Halstrom is going well, my hours are continuing to build and for right now it looks like I’ll be teaching a lot of AP World History and Algebra II, both of which are fine by me! I’m getting to know the new staff members and students and everyone seems really nice so far, so that’s great!

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After a lot of searching that really began back in North Carolina, I finally found an apartment and have moved in. I wanted to be in the Encinitas area again, since living this close to the beach is amazing and I like to walk to restaurants and stores when I can. My top priorities were two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dishwasher, and parking of some sort… and obviously proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Several places fell through or changed at the last-minute or I was the second applicant and it was starting to look like April 1st was my new move-in goal. But then I found a posting 23 minutes after it went live that looked great! I called the property manager, went over the next morning at 9am, applied on the spot, and signed the lease the next day. It was a bit crazy but it was the first place I’d seen with everything I wanted. And it was the cheapest place I’d looked at too! It’s a two-story “townhouse-style apartment” with the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs and the living, dining, and kitchen downstairs. There’s a great under-the-stairs closet for all of my athletic and camping equipment and I have an assigned parking space. There are only ten units in the complex and we have an adorable courtyard with a make-shift fire pit, ping-pong table, and outdoor shower. I’m still getting to know my neighbors but they seem really chill without being obnoxious. Yay!

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Enough about the business side of life, now onto the fun side of things. I can’t believe that I haven’t even been back a month because (in true Karen fashion) I’ve hit the ground running! I’ve already taken a weekend trip to La Quinta in the desert with an incredible group of new and old friends (pictured above). Less than 24 hours after landing, kickball started back up for the season and I have a fantastic team this time around! We may not be at the top of the leader board, but I’d argue that we have the most fun. In addition to playing together on Sundays, a bunch of us have fallen into trivia on Tuesday nights. We won the first week, which got us hooked, and were third this week. Our prize for winning was a bar tab and we got an Easter basket of candy this week for third (even better!). Last night nine of us stayed out after midnight to see Furious 7 on opening night. For those of you on the fence, it’s 100% worth going to see. The Paul Walker tribute at the end was a bit drawn out for me, but the movie itself was just what you expect, lots of fast cars and hot girls with some street fighting mixed in.

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I’ve also spent a good bit of time reconnecting with my core group of girls out here. I hit up a Dan + Shay concert downtown one night (pictured below), I hiked Cowles Mountain in Mission Valley one day (picture at top of post), I went on a training run along the coast, and I celebrated the first birthday of a very special little girl another night. It’s so good to be back with my support network and catch up on what’s been going on in their lives the last four months. Don’t get me wrong, I love my guys and I miss my East Coast people… but my girlfriends here are pretty incredible. We are starting our book club back up too, so I look forward to reading some new novels and having crazy discussions once a month going forward.

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I also like to check in on my fitness/nutrition in these type of posts too. I have been struggling with workouts these last few weeks because I dropped a DVD player on my toe, which prohibited me from wearing shoes for a while. I also cracked a big toe while jumping on a trampoline with my favorite fifth graders. And my left upper-calf/knee are giving me some struggles. But I’ve registered for the La Jolla Half Marathon on April 26th in addition to the Tinkerbell Half in LA on May 10th, so we shall see. I am just excited to get back into racing and finish these two events with my friends that are running with me. Time won’t be so much of a factor this time around, but I do plan to have both of my contacts in for LJ 😉 Oh! And I ran the Wellness 5k with Sean a few weekends ago. It was a smaller race, which was nice for a change. Sean ran his personal best 5k time and I won my age group, so we were both pleased with that! Immediately after the race, SK donated platelets and two days later I donated whole blood. It makes my heart happy to think about the lives we helped to save with those donations and I encourage all of you to sign up to donate blood this month, if you can!

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I’ve gotten some new Beachbody DVD’s to mix things up and they seem to be keeping me interested for now, but I’m craving getting back on the bike and in the pool. My road bike is being put back together on Monday and I need to figure out my plan for pool access so I can start triathlon training. Nutrition right now is taking a back burner just with the chaos of life. I’m re-adjusting to packing lunches and getting workouts/smoothies done before work, but it takes time and I’m trying to set realistic goals for myself. Finally, I have gotten actively involved in Girls on the Run again this season. My teaching schedule doesn’t allow me to coach, but I am a shoe fairy and am on the 5k planning committee. As a shoe fairy, I size girls on our scholarship teams for brand new shoes and then get to deliver them the following week. It’s like Christmas in April for these girls! If anyone in SD wants to help me cheer on our amazing girls at the 5k on May 17th, let me know! I’m in charge of coordinating the cheer stations, so any/all help that morning would be amazing… you get to dress up and be as crazy as you want… just saying.

Alright, that’s all for now but I promise not to wait another three weeks to post and happy Easter!!

San Diego Duathlon 2014

Last Sunday, I checked an item not only off my 30 Before 30 list, but also my bucket list… I completed a duathlon! I found this race by searching randomly for events this fall to keep myself active. They had a registration deal going, so I convinced two others to join me. I honestly didn’t train a lot but just stayed active for the last few weeks. Another bonus was that packet pick-up was up in Encinitas on Friday night so I didn’t have to drive south twice! Sunday morning I got up at 5:45 am, jumped in the car, and headed down to Mission Bay for the race. On the road, I met up with Brian and Tom and we all parked together. We then set about getting ready for the race. I snapped the quick selfie below looking out over Mission Bay toward Fiesta Island where we would be biking 45 minutes later. It was so foggy!

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It was weird not having to get into a wet suit and lay out my change of clothes in transition. Guess that’s just the triathlete in me 🙂 But it was also weird to think about how I was going to switch from running shoes to biking shoes back to running shoes. Oh, I guess I should pause and explain the race! We would be running 1.5 miles, then biking 12.4 miles (three laps around the island), and finishing with 2.5 more miles of running. This race was in the same area of the bay where I’ve done the SheRox and Esprit de She (2013 and 2014) triathlons, so I’m quite familiar with the flat terrain.

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Myself, Tom, and Brian hooked our bikes up (from left to right) and just hung out while we stretched and tried to stay warm. Tom had never done a multi-sport race and Brian did his first triathlon this fall. I knew there was no chance I would keep up with them, but my goal was to not be lapped on the bike ride by either one. I also wanted to finish in 1 hour and 30 minutes, while being fairly conservative. My left knee has been quite painful for the last few weeks so my goal was to not push too hard, as long as I was under the 1:30 bar. I love my road bike so I was really just excited to ride it again and have fun with the race!

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Once transition was closed, the 300 athletes wandered over the to the start line and soon, we were off! As expected, there was quite a bit of pain in my left knee bones as I started. Fortunately, I could run in the packed dirt and mulch next to the pavement for most of the 1.5 mile loop. I ended up running this first leg in 13:27 (9:04/mile pace) which was right on where I wanted to be. The boys had already left transition, but with the fairly short run I guessed that they were 3-4 minutes ahead of me. I also knew I was more towards the back of the pack, but that’s where I like to be at the beginning of a race.

On the bike, each loop was four miles of pretty flat pavement around Fiesta Island. I settled into a good pace but didn’t push myself. I was quite happy to feel that my knee didn’t hurt nearly as much on the bike! But I wasn’t thinking quite clearly and didn’t use my gears as well as I should have (something I realized post-race). I wasn’t passed by hardly anyone on the bike and I managed to cruise past a good number of people too. With the triple loop, there were people faster and slower the whole time so I was never alone. I did a mini celebration in my head when I turned toward loop three since I hadn’t been passed by the boys! Results show that my bike time for the 12.4 miles was 45:04. I really should have gone faster on my road bike, but again I know I need to practice using gears more aggressively while racing.

Rolling back into transition, I switched back into my sneakers and mentally prepared myself for the run. One downside to this race was that headphones were discouraged on the runs. Reasonable, but I perform way better when I can’t hear myself breathing as I pound the pavement. They did have a jam band playing that we could hear from most parts of the course. My knee was hurting at this point, but I just told myself that it was “only” 2.5 miles and that I was doing well time-wise so I could just enjoy the scenery and soak in the experience. I didn’t love the park of the course where we had to loop out to the boat ramp and back because it was a downhill (ow!) and then an immediate u-turn back up the hill (woof!). My time for this leg of the race was 21:23 (8:33/mile pace!). I think I ran faster to get it over with because I remember telling myself that it was going to hurt just as much no matter how fast or slow I was going, so I might as well rock it out and finish. I didn’t see the boys at all during this run, which was fine by me because it meant they had finished the race!

 

IMG_4715The above picture was taken before the race, but there we are 🙂 I heard Tom and Brian cheering for me as I finished… not quickly or with a strong surge, but finishing nonetheless. My official finishing time was 1:22:57, way under my goal! My biggest disappointment with this race was that there was only coffee and Powerade right by the finish line. So we didn’t hang around too long, but wandered back to the transition area for water to re-hydrate. We weren’t too concerned about staying for awards since we weren’t really in contention and we had already left the finish area. So we grabbed our bikes and headed back north to rest and recovery. Tom’s reaction to the race was that he would stick with single-event races in the future and Brian was pleased he had finished as close to Tom as he had. Overall, it was a fun event and I would do a duathlon again for sure! Especially since race results posted online and it turns out that I finished third in my age group 🙂 So I’ll get a medal in the mail in a few days and I’ll be sure to add a picture when it comes in so you all can see it!

As a brief afterthought, I went to the doctor on Monday after the race and have been given exercises to strengthen the muscles around my knee to help pull the bones back on track so they stop grinding on each other. I’ll be limiting running and high-impact sports for a few weeks, but I’ll still be biking and swimming and yoga-ing and building my muscles!

 

Esprit de She Triathlon 2014

Yesterday I raced a sprint triathlon around Fiesta Island in Mission Bay. It’s my third time racing there, two years ago when it was called SheRox and last year in the inaugural Esprit de She. This is one of my favorite races because it’s all women and its main benefactor is Girls on the Run. It’s a sunny, flat course with a half mile swim in the bay, a double loop on the bike for 12.4 miles, and a double loop run for a 5K. I don’t typically prefer loop courses, but because this race is so short, it’s kind of nice to get to see all the other competitors. I’m not going to lie, I don’t feel like writing a lot about this race. But I will say that I was happy with my swim section, I wish I’d gone faster on the bike, and I was pleasantly surprised by my run time. I finished in 1:29:16 without really properly training and my swim was 16:47, the bike was 43:58, and my run was 25:04. My transitions were a bit slower than the past races because I had to switch shoes between biking and running for the first time and because I apparently sliced open my big toe after the swim, but again I was overall very happy with my time! Here are some pictures, thanks to Brian who came out to watch me 🙂

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Crewing an Ultramarathon at The Bear 100

What? Okay, let me start by breaking down the title of this blog for those of you who, like me a month ago, have little clue what it means. An ultramarathon is any race whose distance is longer than 26.2 miles. To crew one is to be the support team for an athlete competing in the event. The Bear 100 is a specific event that goes from Logan, UT to Fish Haven, ID. So this post will be all about my experiences this past weekend as I supported my brother, an ultramarathoner, in his first attempt at completing a 100-mile course. Prior to this race, the longest he’d finished was a 100K race (62 miles) but he’d been training for months and was ready to give it a go. So how did I get involved? Well, Brother asked if I would come to Utah and be on his crew team with my sister-in-law, Meggan. I was hesitant since I didn’t really know what to expect, but he sent me a few articles to read and ultimately I was up for the adventure and in! I’ll be writing this blog from my perspective throughout the race and weekend, but I’ll be sure to link to Jason and Meggan’s blog posts as well (Jason’s is up here!).

So this past weekend my mom flew to Boulder, CO to watch my nieces while I flew through Vegas to Salt Lake City and then bused up to Logan, UT to meet J and M. We met up on Thursday afternoon and first went to the pre-race meeting where course details and safety procedures were explained. There were 310 registered runners plus their respective crew (anywhere from one to a dozen people) and pacers at the meeting in the park. Wait, what are pacers? They are the other runners who aren’t entered in the race but who are allowed to run with the competitors for any portion of the last 63 miles of the race (in this case). Typically, the pacers are experienced ultramarathoners with knowledge of the course who accompany the athletes through the night and darkness to ensure safety. Brother’s official pacer was Eric, a friend and fellow ultramarathoner from Boulder who has finished The Bear 100 previously (read Eric’s account of the adventure here!). We also knew three other racers and their pacers, which was an added bonus!

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Dropbags organized by aid station

After the meeting, we turned in Jason’s drop bags before heading back to the hotel room. These bags would be taken to specific aid stations throughout the course where J would have access to them. They contained a variety of gels, extra clothes, medical supplies, and hand warmers that Jason had carefully organized in the weeks leading up to the race. Back at the hotel Jason and Meggan rested while I got in a quick workout (80 laps in a 10 meter pool) and showered. Then I grabbed dinner for us and we called it an early(ish) night.

Runners at the start line, Friday at 6am

Runners at the start line, Friday at 6am

Friday morning we were up before five and off to the start. It was non-assuming (re: on a random neighborhood street) and still dark. We later learned that 277 athletes actually started the race and at 6:00am they were off! We wouldn’t set eyes on the runners again until mile marker 19.6, which Jason predicted would be about 4.5 hours later. So Meggan and I went back to the hotel, packed the car, ate breakfast, grabbed a few groceries for ourselves for the next 30 hours, and headed to the aid station. At nine points along the course, crews would be able to see their runners. Jason had written out an estimated arrival time for each station based on a finishing time of 28 hours. His ultimate goal was to be in under 30 hours and the course cut-off was 36 hours. J wanted to average around 15 minute miles and knew that he would walk/hike most uphills and jog/run the downhills. His big goal for the first half, until mile 52 where Eric would join him, was to stay slow to conserve his energy and muscles.

Typical aid station set-up with necessary and emergency supplies.

Typical aid station set-up with necessary and emergency supplies.

Meggan and I got to the first checkpoint about 9:30am in plenty of time to work out our plan. We established that at each stop, we would pick up Jason’s dropbag, lay out the contents, and set out other “emergency” supplies from the car. When he came in, it was our job to assess his health (mental and physical), nutrition, equipment and clothing. Then, much like pit crews in NASCAR, we were supposed to make the necessary exchanges in a timely manner so J could head out as quickly as possible. Meggan and I had decided that I would manage water, nutrition, and basic equipment while she took the lead on health and clothing. This meant that at each aid station I swapped his water bottles out for full ones, collected trash from his pack, added gels as needed, got whatever food he felt like and either fed it to him or stuffed it in his pack for later, and replaced batteries in lights. While I took care of these tasks, Jason could focus on Meggan and her questions about his body, his clothing, and any other concerns that might have come up. This process was repeated at each of the nine aid stations we were able to get to and once Eric joined the race, he was able to relay information to us as well.

J coming into our first aid station

J coming into our first aid station

The biggest question mark throughout the race was when exactly Jason would arrive. We had his outline but a lot can happen in a few hours out on the course. We were relieved when he cruised into our first meeting point a mere 10 minutes after his estimation. After a quick stop, he was off again and we didn’t see him again until mile 30. This was another quick pitstop and was where we met up with Eric. It was HOT and sunny but Jason appeared relaxed and happy, still just off his goal pace. At the third aid station for crews, and mile 36.9, I was slated to run with Jason for a leg. He had decided that it would be nice to have both Meggan and I complete a leg with him before Eric started. Not only would it break up the monotony but it would cut about 15 miles off of Eric’s load.

Crew station #2 at mile 30

Crew station #2 at mile 30

When J came into Right Hand Fork (each aid station had a name), we did our usual pit stop routine and then I headed out with him. Our section was 8.2 miles total, with the first 4.5 gaining 1,000 feet of elevation and the last 3.7 being downhill. We set off at a strong hike and chatted easily as we went. To be honest, I’d been a bit nervous since I haven’t run that long since my marathon in July. And I live at sea level, while we started at 5,600 feet. But I was fine other than some heavy breathing at first. It was still quite warm (we started about 3:25pm) but we got ice water at the top of the climb and some shade on the way down. Most of my section was on gravel ATV tracks and not very technical, which was intentional as I do a lot more road running. I had a great time and we passed quite a few runners before coming into the next aid station at 45.1 miles. Here, Meggan took over pacing J and they hiked a huge, long uphill together while Eric and I got the cars situated.

Running with Brother for a section of the race!

Running with Brother for a section of the race!

By the time they got to the Tony Grove aid station (mile 51.8) it was dark. Meggan and I were happy to be done with our sections and were able to settle into the crew rhythm. For the rest of the race after J and Eric left a station, we would break down our setup, load the car, follow the directions along back-country roads to the next spot, set up, wait, and repeat. Depending on the time and distance between stations, we would cheer on our other friends, try to nap in the car, or just hang out. It helped that with the exception of one or two sections in the early part of the night, Jason was staying consistent with his times. This meant that we could calculate his projected arrival time and be ready without freezing outside in the dark for too long. Oh, I should also mention that sometime between 11:30pm and 4:45am it started to rain. In fact it downpoured where we were trying to sleep in the car. I felt so bad for J and we prepared for a cold, wet, and tired runner to come into Beaver Lodge at mile 75.8. Luckily for him, J had been at a non-crew aid station during much of the rain so he was okay!

Crew discussion between M and E at mile 75.

Crew discussion between M and E at mile 75.

However, during the next 10 mile stretch in the early morning hours Brother and Eric were caught in a second thunderstorm. At Beaver Creek (mile 85.25) we weren’t sure when the boys would get in because Jason’s shin and foot had been bothering him at the previous stop. Couple that with the rain and we knew it could be a while. Since it was raining, Meggan and I stayed in the car and it was my job to watch the hill above for the guys. In my head, I’d last seen them wearing blue and red jackets so that’s what I was looking for. It was the early part of the window we expected them and all of a sudden an orange-jacketed man slammed into the driver’s window. We both screamed bloody murder. Then laughed as we realized it was Eric! J was in a black trash bag to keep dry and Eric had changed into a more waterproof layer as well. So the orange/black duo I’d written off coming down the hill a few minutes before had been them! It was 7:51 am when the guys left this aid station. They were feeling okay and J was motivated to finish the last 15 miles in under four hours and ten minutes to beat his 30-hour goal.

Waiting for the boys in the morning at Beaver Creek.

Waiting for the boys in the morning at Beaver Creek.

This is the point of the race when Meggan and I felt more at ease but also more stress. On the positive side, they had survived the night with any major injury, malfunctions or falls. I was confident that worst-case J could hobble the last 15 miles in 10 hours and finish (YAY!) It was also raining lighter and was getting brighter by the minute. On the not-so-positive side, they were now racing the clock. The course was muddy and mucky and J had been on his feet for 26 hours and counting. We knew that the next (and final) aid station would give us a good idea of whether or not his time goal was going to happen, so we packed up, bounced down our own mud-covered roads, and got set up. We knew that J would need to leave this point no later than 10am to have a chance to break 30 hours. We also knew that he’d want to be in and out extremely quickly.

Mud collecting on our tires as the race wore on.

Mud collecting on our tires as the race wore on.

At 9:36am, they rounded the corner and were MOVING. Our instructions this time were to take everything out of J’s pack that wasn’t essential. I pulled leftover food, gels, jackets, trash bags, etc. out of the bag and they headed off without even sitting. Again, our spirits rose and Meggan and I congratulated each other on completing our crew duties. Then we hopped in the car for our last drive, this time across the border into Idaho and to the finish.

Kari and Chris grabbing food from the last aid station.

Kari and Chris grabbing food from the last aid station.

Here, we stood in the rain and watched other runners come in. The finish was a 100 meter (or so) straight-away with a banner hanging outside the timing tent. We saw one friend, who left the last aid station with J, finish about 11:15am. This was a good sign as he was moving strongly and gave J 45 minutes to get in. Then we cheered on a second friend about 11:30am who told us that Brother wasn’t too far behind her. Finally, about five minutes later, Jason and Eric rounded the corner and we all started cheering. At 11:36, J crossed the finish line, completing his first 100-mile ultramarathon. Meggan, Eric, and I all jogged across the line with him and were all smiles. His official finish time was 29:36:34!!

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Coming into the finish with Meggan and Eric… Go Jason!!

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Finished and happy 🙂

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Eric (pacer), Jason (racer), Kari (r), Kendrick (r), Chris (p), Erin (p), not pictured: Mark (r), Callie (p)

Everyone was tired, especially Jason, so we enjoyed the moment and then shuttled back to the condo for showers, naps, and well-deserved vegging. The rest of the day was spent playing games, eating pizza, and just recovering. Our fourth friend finished a few hours later so the condo had a 100% finish-rate. J ended up 70th out of the 167 runners who completed the course under the 36-hour cutoff, including one who crossed the line at 5:57:26. Yikes! Understandably, we all crashed early Saturday night but not before we dried out and reorganized our gear to prepare for the return to reality. Sunday morning we were up early and Meggan/I switched off driving duty for the 8-hour drive back to Denver. They dropped me at the airport just in time to find out my flight had been delayed. Sweet. I finally walked in the door about 11:30pm Cali time and face-planted. Happy to have been a part of such a phenomenal achievement in Brother’s life but absolutely exhausted and thankful for my bed. Until next time…

Finisher! Check out the elevation map of the course.

Finisher! Check out the elevation map of the course.

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