Monday, November 9, 2015

Javelina Jundred: round 2!

4 months ago, I didn't believe I would be at this year's Javelina Hundred.  I have to start this race report by rewinding to right after the Keys 100:  I was so disappointed in my race there I couldn’t let it go.  I just couldn’t make peace with it.  I tried and tried.  I knew the very day after the race that I wanted redemption and was already thinking about how and when I could make things right.  It was that time in the first few days after the Keys that I contacted Dave Krupski.  Dave is a successful ultrarunning coach with quite an impressive resume of his own including multiple Keys 100 finishes, a Javelina Jundred finish, and two Badwater finishes under his belt.  Dave was actually recommended to me during my Keys 100 training by Chris Roman, who I had emailed to ask advice about the course…..but at the time, I was reluctant to hire a coach as I had done alright on my own so far and cost was an issue.  I regret not seeking "professional help" at that time, my Keys 100 ended up being a disaster.  

Anyway, in those days after the disappointment at the Keys 100, I decided that I needed some coaching if I really wanted to start getting better results.  I was tired of winging 100’s.  So just about a week out from the Keys 100, I contacted Dave and we decided to start my training as soon as my knee would allow (if you haven’t read my Keys 100 report, I suffered a weird, out of the blue knee injury around mile 65 which forced me to walk the entire last 35 miles of the race).  The knee healing process took forever; I remember trying to do little test runs throughout May and June, and every time it hurt.  Dave had suggested we aim for the Keys 100 as a goal as I had done it before, and living in Albuquerque I’d have perfect conditions to train for it throughout the summer.  He thought I had plenty of time to get the knee healed and train well for it.  I was doubtful at first- when I was just starting to run again (after over a month off) in July, it seemed impossible to think I'd be healed and ready to run 100 miles by late October.   It just didn’t seem possible...but what did I know?  I figured it would at least be fun to train for and I'd just relax and see what happened.  

I really enjoyed my training for Javelina.  I love running through the summer and in the heat, and the more long runs my training includes, the happier I am.  Dave managed to get me running more consistently than I ever had for a 100.  I think I had about 5 weeks over 70 miles, and usually I’d only hit that twice before a race.  Also, he kept me doing tempo runs throughout my training, which felt awesome.  I had never believed I could handle any speed along with lots of long distance, but it turns out I can to some extent (I still need work on my speed).

By the time my taper rolled around, I was starting to feel pretty damn good about Javelina…..and then I got sick…..just 10 days out from the race.  Haven’t been sick in almost 3 years, so of course it would happen right then...and of course it would be a chest cold.  I was so bummed, but I thought I may be able to kick it quickly if I acted fast.  I have never been so proactive with vitamin C, Zinc, Echinacea, tons and tons of sleep, fluids, and NO running.  I knew I'd have to at least get the cold mostly zapped before Javelina in order to even be able to attempt it safely.  I didn't have much time.  I tried so hard to make it go away before the race.  Not running was driving me crazy- I knew all the big work had been done, but still- not running at all during a taper makes it 10 times worse than normal (and my tapers are usually AWFUL to begin with).  As it turned out, I was still sick heading into JJ100, but I hoped I was well enough to manage during the race.  

My super impressive crew a.k.a. the "dream team"
I could not have had a more impressive crew lined up for the the race- I was super lucky to have Ayesha Sundram, Terry Casey, and Kathleen Stabler all on board to crew/pace me.  They are each accomplished runners and athletes: Ayesha crushed a 50-miler last summer, Terry is a pro triathlete who has competed in Kona, and Kathleen is a personal trainer and ultra runner who owns her own gym- no shortage of talent there!

We drove out to Fountain Hills Friday.  We left early and got there just after noon, set up our tent, and went to packet pickup, then got Chipotle for dinner, got a few things for everyone to eat during the long race day and night, then headed back to Javelina Jeadquarters.  We were in bed by 8:30.  I never sleep great the night before a big race like that, but I did get maybe 4-5 hours in.  I like camping at the race site because you don’t have to worry about shuttles, etc….just wake up practically at the start.    
All set up at Javelina Jeadquarters!

So there I was…..race morning.  Feeling like this was going to be an impossible feat.  Why do I still get that feeling?  I’ve done 3 hundreds before and I’ve always finished- shouldn’t that give me the confidence to know that I can do this?  Maybe it should, but it never does.  Each one of these badboys feels equally impossible going in, and I'm beginning to wonder if that doubt will ever leave me.  We started at 6am sharp.  I was somewhere in the middle of the pack and it took a few minutes to actually cross the start line.  It felt like a marathon start instead of a 100.  It’s crazy how much bigger the race has gotten even since I did it for the first time just 2 years ago.  My first mile was a 14-something minute mile- yikes!  I wanted to start slow, but maybe not THAT slow.  I tried to stay patient knowing everyone would thin out, and eventually, we all did. I was able to start running more normally.
The beginning of a long journey

I knew pretty early on this one wasn’t going to come easily.  Not to say a 100 is ever easy, but I could just tell by the way I felt and the thoughts I was having so early on (example: what mile am I on?  Shit- only 5?) that this was going to be a huge battle just to finish and an even bigger battle to maintain my goal of getting closer to 20 hours.  I tried to tell myself I might feel better after the first loop.  Maybe I just needed more time than normal to warm up since I had run so little due to being sick.  I thought eventually everything would “wake up” and my body would remember that I really am a runner.  I kept waiting for that to happen…….and waiting………and waiting. 

I’m not going to lie, I had dark thoughts near the very beginning of the race.  Was today going to be my first DNF?  What if it was?  Would that be so horrible?  Who (besides me) would give a crap?  I tried to push those bad thoughts out of my head and just keep moving forward.  I still hoped I would eventually snap out of it.  My cold was turning out to be a problem.  I would have coughing attacks, but I couldn’t cough anything up.  It was impossible to take a nice full breath in- I had to take small, shallow breaths to avoid triggering the tickle in my chest and going into a fit of uncontrollable coughing.  Definitely not an ideal way to breathe while running.  My abs already felt tired from coughing so much…….and the icing on the cake was that this race fell on the worst days of the month it could have for me (without going into too much detail there).  

I got through the first loop, and as I had discussed with my crew before the race, I flew through Javelina Jeadquarters- they just refilled my bottles and I was off again.  I wanted to minimize as much as possible the time I spent at aid stations.  I saw this as free time- it doesn’t cost any extra work- just mindfulness that you don’t want to waste time when you come through the aid stations.  Get what you need and move on out!  I did  need help figuring out which way to exit Javelina Jeadquarters , so someone from my crew showed me the way out each time.  I know that sounds silly, but I always get flipped around coming through Jeadquarters. I had to be pointed in the right direction the first time I did the race, too.  
On loop 1...couldn't even manage a real smile.  Photo credit: Ron Ceton

Loop 2 didn’t go much better.  When I did Javelina 2 years ago, I remember feeling awesome on loop 2.  Not today.  It was more of the same: coughing, trying to stop thinking about DNF’ing, and keeping up the relentless forward motion.  As I was finishing up the second loop, I felt more beat up than I should have.  I felt like I had run 50 miles instead of 30.  That is a deeply scary way to feel when you’ve got 70 miles to go.  I had managed to stay on pace for my 20 hour time goal so far, but I just didn't like the fact that it was taking so much effort to do it.
Getting help from my crew

When I came in to Jeadquarters, I told my crew I wanted to switch to my hydration pack from the handheld bottles I had carried for the first 30 miles, so they quickly swapped it out, sunscreened me up, and back out I went.  It felt like it was starting to warm up.  I remembered checking the weather before the race and seeing predicted highs of 80 degrees, but based on what I was feeling, I was guessing it was going to get warmer than that.  I started putting ice in my hat and down my sports bra at the aid stations.  It was getting hot, but that’s what I like.  I started to notice myself passing lots of folks, and although it wasn’t as severe as it got in 2013, there were plenty of people struggling.  I finally started to feel better (still not awesome, but the best I had felt all day).  I had a good song going on my iPod that was helping me pull out of the funk.  Usually when I come across a song that pulls me out of a nasty funk or keeps me in a really good place, I’ll listen to it over and over until it stops working for me.  I try to keep my self in the exact state of mind as I replay it and let the miles melt away.  I know, weird stuff…..but it works for me.  Loops 3 and 4 were made possible by Alabama Shakes Hold On (yes, LOOPS 3 and 4……as in, I listened to that song hundreds of times, for around 6 hours straight).  Not only did it have a good groove, but the lyrics seemed just perfect for the struggle I was going through.

Loops 3 and 4 were the best I felt all day.  They were also the warmest.  I passed a bunch of people, enjoyed the feeling of running in warmth with the sun shining bright, had kept cough drops in my mouth almost the whole time which seriously helped reduce the cough attacks, and I FINALLY felt a sense of making a real dent in the 100 miles.  40-60 miles is getting through the middle- halfway there!
Ayesha helping me after loop 4

I knew the night would be a struggle though- I’m not a good night runner.  I always slow down, and any warm, fuzzy feelings I may have experienced in the warm sun come to a screeching halt when night rolls in.  I decided to just approach it with the best attitude possible, and I had warned my pacers that this was one of my areas of weakness.  I traded my hat and iPod for a headlamp, gloves, and arm warmers, and Terry and I set off for loop 5.   Terry saved my skin with her assortment of doTERRA essential oils and couch drops- I was putting oil below my nose to try to open up my airway and sucking on these amazing cough drops she gave me- the only problem was that she only had a few left.  I wish I had more- they were amazing.   When we started off for loop 5, I had jut one left, and I lost the “breathe” oil she had let me keep in my pack while running which had helped me all day.  She still had ginger oil though, which proved immensely useful when some nausea started to creep in.  I rubbed some ginger oil below my nose and the nausea never came back. 
Terry and I heading out for loop 5- just before sunset

I was still on track for 20ish hours, so although I was starting to slow down, we kept the pace as brisk as possible.  I was starting to walk more, and Terry did her best to keep me true to my plan going into the race.  My coach Dave had suggested thinking in small, manageable chunks at times when I was feeling rough: maybe trying to run for a mile, or to the next aid station, etc.  Terry tried to motivate me to run small sections when I’d start to want to walk.  This worked pretty well and we finished our loop a little behind my goal pace, but still not far off.  I knew it would be really hard to make up time at this point, but hoped I could just hold on and at least give my best effort. 

So Kathleen and I started off for loop 6.  I felt like shit, but my attitude was on point.  I knew I was doing a lot better than I had been at that stage two years ago, so unless something really bad happened, I figured I’d be on track for a PR at least.  I was still aiming for as close to 20 hours as possible, but I think I knew at that point it wasn’t possible short of a miracle.   Like Terry, Kathleen tried her best to keep me running whenever possible, and when we did walk, we walked as fast as possible.  When we reached Jackass Junction (for the last time since I was on loop 6), it was surreal!  The party going on there was……let’s just say quite a party…..we moved through as fast as possible, just as I had tried to do at every aid station stop during the day.  It definitely feels wrong to practically ignore such an impressive aid station party, but I had to move on.  Stopping is dangerous.  Sitting is even more dangerous.  I’ve heard people say that the chairs grow Velcro when you sit in them, so I don’t generally sit during 100’s unless I really have to (to mess with shoes, etc). 

Anyway, what 100 miler wouldn’t be complete without some random pain flaring up near the end?  Just after Jackass Junction, my knee (not the knee I hurt at the Keys 100) started hurting on the inside- that same exact location as the other knee had.  While this upset me, I honestly felt relieved it happened around mile 82 instead of 65.  I was almost done- I figured I could manage the pain for the last miles.  The good thing about this pain was that (unlike the time in the Keys) it hurt the same whether I ran or walked.  It was a good motivator to keep running: get it over with faster.  I remember feeling like absolute crap during this stage.  All the little dips and washed out areas on the course were so jarring to the body at this stage, while in the beginning of the race the entire course feels smooth and completely runnable.  I can tell you from experience: each loop it gets progressively harder- every time.  The rocks get bigger and the hills get steeper- it’ll beat you up pretty good. 

As we made out way to Jeadquarters at mile 92 I felt awful.  All I wanted was for it to end- but luckily I knew I could do it- there’s no way I’d consider DNF’ing at mile 92…..unless I was literally dying.  So back out Kathleen and I went, up that horrible rocky hill one more time.  It was pretty much all power hiking on the uphill stuff.  We kept it as fast as possible.  My knee was screaming for me to stop.  I was hoping to run the last 4 miles (the cutoff which takes you off the Pemberton and on to Tonto Trail).  When we finally reached that trail (which we were both convinced had been moved further out somehow), I rejoiced.  It really felt like the homestretch.  I mustered every ounce of strength I had to try to run those final miles (or at least what I call the old guy shuffle).  My garmin died just as it hit 100 miles and the time was 20:58.  Not only did 20 hours fly out the window, but now the chance of a sub 21 hour finish also waved bye bye as I remembered this course being about 101.7 miles long.  I knew it was at least 101 miles.    

I don’t know why I wasn’t more upset about not achieving my time goal.  Sure, I was disappointed- I still don’t know why I can’t hang on better during the late miles, especially despite very adequate training this time around.  I guess I did manage to hang on for longer than I did the first time.

One thing I’m damn proud of is the fight I put up during this race.  It wasn’t my day.  I had some crappy obstacles to deal with.  I had thought of quitting several times from the very beginning.  But I kept moving forward, kept my goal in mind, and can honestly say I gave it my all- everything I had that day.  I wish I had more to give, but I didn’t.  Often I’m left with feelings of disappointment because I don’t lay it all out on the line, I hold back and I’m left to wonder what could have been.  That didn’t happen here: I know I gave it everything.  I still hope to run a sub 20-hour 100 someday, and I hope next time I won’t be sick or injured, or get injured during the race…..and maybe I’ll break through to where I want to be.....but maybe I won’t.  All I know is I get to walk away from this one with a 1.5 hour PR, which isn’t too shabby.  Sometimes it's not about a certain goal or number you have in your head that you think you'll be happy with.  Sometimes it's about showing up with some obstacles in your way and figuring out how to give it your best, dig even deeper than you normally would, and overcome those obstacles- I can tell you there's quite a lot of satisfaction in that, too.  I ended up 7th female (out of 135 who started and 85 who finished), and 40th overall (out of 459 starters and 281 finishers).  My time was 21:26:39, and I got another sub-24 hour buckle. 

I’m extremely grateful to Ayesha, Terry, and Kathleen: I could not have done this without such an awesome crew.  Their support and encouragement was invaluable and essential to my success.  I know I would not have finished without them, and they made the race fun- we had a blast and made some fun memories that I will cherish forever.

I owe a huge thank you to my coach, Dave.  Although I didn’t get to run my dream race, I definitely noticed improvements all summer long in my running, and I think the 1.5 hours I was able to shave off my previous JJ100 is in large part due to the solid training I received from him.  Plus, a second attempt at Javelina was his brilliant idea…..I would not have had the guts to try it after a summer plagued with injury.

Finally, I’d like to give some love to a few companies that were essential parts of my success: Tailwind Nutrition- thanks for fueling my 100- I’m still a believer!  Since my first JJ100 was before I discovered Tailwind, I can accurately say I noticed a night and day difference in the way I felt from a nutritional standpoint between 2013 and this race.  I was able to keep drinking Tailwind all the way through the end, and my stomach didn’t turn even once.  INKnBURN- thank you for making such comfortable, fun looking clothes.  I was completely comfortable from start to finish in my outfit and I got tons of compliments, which helped lift me up when I was feeling down.  Thanks to injinji socks and Trailtoes lube, I managed to do the entire Javelina Jundred without even having to stop and change my socks……and I finished without ONE SINGLE blister.
A bit blurry, but a finishing photo!

I’m sure I’ll be back to Javelina someday.  Hopefully soon.  It’s an ultra that holds a special place in my heart…not only because it was my first 100, but there truly is something extra special about it that I just can’t explain.  As always, Jamil Coury and the Aravaipa Running crew did a top-notch job.  I could not have asked for a more fun, well-run event.  I’ll be back, JJ100.......I'm kind of tempted to try to get the 5-time finisher jacket!   
I liked the irony in the gravestone inscription (sick....get it?)


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Keys 100

Keys 100 Race Report

It has now been a week since the Keys 100, and my emotions are still mixed.  I thought things would come into perspective in the days following the race, but I continue to look back with quite a few regrets and "what ifs".  I guess that's the way it goes sometimes.  Regardless, it is time to write things down before the memories start to fade away..........

My training leading up to this 100 had gone well.  Once again, I was not able to hit any real high mileage weeks; during my peak volume weeks, I had a nagging pain in my hamstring and started to feel a bit flat so I made the decision to cut back and go into an early taper rather than log more miles and risk injury or over training.  I really think I would do better if I could get my mileage up into the 80's at least and maintain that for 3-4 weeks before a 100-miler.  Maybe someday.  I went into both Javelina and Pine to Palm on the low end of weekly mileage and survived, so I figured I'd be okay here too. 

 It was a challenge training for the Keys 100 while living in New Mexico.  When I did the Keys 50 in 2009, I lived in Miami and could run in hot, humid weather all the time.  In New Mexico, it doesn't really get hot until June and humidity is really never an issue, so I had to find other ways to acclimatize to the heat.  Early on after signing up for the Keys 100, I e-mailed the race director Bob Becker.  He's a super nice guy and he gave me some suggestions, as well as the contacts of two people (Chris Roman and Bryce Carlson) who had done it in the past and done well.  I e-mailed them and got great ideas about spending time in the sauna, doing hot yoga, and overdressing on runs as ways to help acclimatize to the heat.  I did a fair amount of this, but was fairly inconsistent.  The past few months were just so busy: I was finishing up my BSN, working, helping co-direct the Cedro Peak Ultramarathon, and trying to train for the 100.  The things I slacked on were strength training and the heat training sessions.  That being said, I generally don't mind hot conditions as much as most people- in fact, I like racing in the heat.  I figured my game plan for the race would be aggressive heat management techniques (ice, etc) to keep cool.   

I managed to get an awesome crew for this race: Sherrie Bieniek and Tom Koch, both good running friends from Miami.  Unfortunately, Adam couldn't get off work for this one.  We figured a crew of 2 would be okay due to the nature of the course; it follows US-1 south from Key Largo to Key West- you can't really get lost.  There are frequent stops along the way, so from a crewing standpoint it's fairly straightforward.  
Sherrie, Tom, and I the night before the race in Key Largo

On race morning, we arrived around 5:45.  The 100 mile individual race started at 6:15, with waves going off every 5 minutes.  This event also features a six person 100 mile relay, 50 mile run (from Marathon to Key West) and new this year a 50k (from Big Pine Key to Key West).  All of the events are point-to point.  I felt good at the start- nervous as hell, but good.

The early miles were uneventful.  I started slow (probably not slow enough) and did my 1 minute walk breaks every mile right from the beginning.  This was a tip I got from Bryce Carlson.  I had always been reluctant to take walk breaks on flat surfaces, but I learned that they give you just enough rest to maintain a more consistent pace for longer than if you don't take walk breaks.  

My plan for exchange points with my crew went like this:  I wanted to spend minimal time not moving forward, so I had a double supply of everything so we could just swap and I could get moving.  I had 4 bottles; Id give them my 2 empties and they'd give me the 2 full ones (a bottle of plain water and a bottle of water with 2-2.5 scoops of Tailwind).  In addition to this, every time I'd see them, they'd have a ziplock bag with ice ready that I would pop in my hat, as well as stockings filled with ice that Id tie around my neck.   
The Lawrence of Arabia hat and stocking around my neck loaded with ice
I was kind of proud my of my cooling system; it was doing it's job to keep me cool enough, and my crew and I had a nice routine going at the exchange points.  I was getting my hydration and nutrition, my ice, and moving along.  Things were running smoothly........except for one very big thing- a ticking time bomb was about to go off.
Sherrie and I at an exchange point

The ice was melting very fast through my stocking around my neck, it would be completely melted within 3 miles of having it filled.  I was meeting my crew every 3-5 miles to get refills.  It wasn't long before my shoes were soaked.  I knew this could be a problem.  I know about the things that lead to blisters- the heat, friction, and moisture that can be game-enders if they get bad enough.  I had done my homework, though.  I have used the injinji socks successfully in both previous 100's and they have always served to stop blisters in-between my toes, so I had those on and I had 4 extra pairs to change into during the race.  I had lubed up my feet with tons of Trailtoes anti-friction creme, and for this race I took the extra steps of spraying my feet before the race with Newskin (a protective, supposedly waterproof barrier) before applying the lube, AND I put Tom's BlisterShield powder in my shoes just as an extra measure.  I was worried about my feet going into the race.  I knew heat and humidity can lead to problems.  I had an entire bag in the crew car dedicated to feet.  I had everything in it: KT tape, scissors, tons of lube, needles, alcohol, skin adhesive, neosporin, the extra socks, powder......TONS of things to address blisters.  It's amazing how well-prepared and unprepared you can be at the same time.

damage control on macerated, blistered feet
Around mile 40, I felt like I had a major blister in-between my big and second toe on the right foot.  My shoes were sloshing as I ran from all the water in them.  I told my crew I needed to take a look at my feet.  So around mile 45 (somewhere in Hell's Tunnel- a nasty, super hot stretch in marathon where there just isn't much breeze), we stopped.  I sat on the cooler and took out my "feet" bag.  I pulled off my shoes and socks.  My feet were macerated and sure enough, there were already multiple large blisters.  The one I was feeling in-between my toes was filled with blood.  The Newskin I had applied was rolling off in little chunks all over my feet.  It hadn't worked at all.  I used some wet towels to try to rub all of it off, and I tried to clean my feet as good as I could.  I planned on popping and taping the blisters.  The problem was, NOTHING was drying!!!  I couldn't get my feet dry enough to get any tape to stick.  I tried a few times, and used alcohol then the skin adhesive too.  The tape was barely sticking- I knew it would just roll off in my shoes and that would be even worse than having none at all. Great.  That was my plan- that's what I've read you're supposed to do to fix your feet, and it was not working.  Time was ticking away, I probably spent 10 minutes stopped here messing with my feet.  All I could do was pop the blisters, re-lube and put clean socks on.  Not ideal, but that's really all I could do.  Another fail in my plan was that I only had one type of socks.  I had 4 extra pairs of injinji's, but no traditional socks.  I've gotten to where I don't like normal socks- I always use the injinji's but I felt like they were causing the mess in-between my toes instead of preventing it.  Fortunately, Sherrie had a few pairs of normal socks and she offered those.  So I lubed the crap out of my feet and put her socks on.  Because I didn't have any extra pairs of shoes, I put the wet, sloshy ones right back on.  Yet another fail.  I'd heard people recommend extra pairs of shoes for 100 milers, but I didn't think it was necessary: I have ran in wet shoes before and been fine (especially back in my triathlon days) as long as my feet were lubed, and I've never needed a shoe change in my previous two 100's.  However, at this moment, I was realizing why extra shoes would have been smart.  It would have been well worth the extra money spent to have maybe 3-4 pair of shoes for this race.  Lesson learned.  

I knew the water from the stocking I was putting around my neck was the biggest contributor to the wet feet and shoes.  I tried to do a 4 or 5 mile stretch without it, but it was just too hot for me and at the next stop I told them I needed ice.  We decided to put it in a ziplock bag instead and I'd shove it down my sports bra.  It didn't cool as well as the stocking, but I just couldn't afford to keep letting my feet get that wet.  It worked well enough.   

The issues with my feet had me pretty upset because apart from that I was feeling great.  I felt like my nutrition was on point, and I was running well.  I think I was second or third female, then fell back to 5th after the blister stop.  In the miles after that, though, my feet felt better and I was able to gradually move back up to 2nd, and briefly into 1st (or so I was told).  I wasn't trying to pass anyone- I know from previous experience with 100 miles that things can change rapidly and multiple times in such a long distance.  I was just running my own race and trying to pace myself.  This was probably the highpoint of the run for me (around mile 50-55).  I felt a bit of relief that my feet were okay for the time being, and I was feeling good and doing well enough to be passing some folks.  

Tom and I getting ready to hit Seven Mile Bridge (with a photo bomber)!
I wish that feeling could have lasted, at least for awhile longer.  Tom wanted to run the Seven Mile Bridge section with me because he had never done it, so we ran together while Sherrie drove ahead to meet us after the bridge.  At the start, I felt so much better with the breeze at my back and just being out of Marathon.  I feel like Marathon is always really hot and steamy.  I did go through some waves of feeling a little bad during Seven Mile Bridge, but nothing unusual for being 60 miles into a run.  60 is rough because you're more than halfway but you've still got 40 miles to go, and you already feel pretty tired so it sounds daunting.  This a point when I usually find it best not to think about  the numbers and just run.  

On the bridge, I could feel new blisters popping up, and I told Tom I'd have to stop and take a peek at my feet again when we got off the bridge.  This time, when I looked, there were even more blisters.  I popped them again and added more lube to my feet.  This time I didn't change socks because I didn't want to go back to the injinji's and Sherrie only had one more pair of normal socks I could use.  I thought I had built up tons of lube in these socks and it would be best to keep them on longer.  I thought I should save the possible other pair for later- I still had a long way to go.  
Reduced to a walk near Bahia Honda

After I finished with this foot stop, I started running again.  Yes, I was frustrated by my feet but I remember thinking I could deal with it.  If I had to stop every 10 or so miles and do some damage control on my feet, that would be okay.  I'd live.  And then, fairly suddenly, around mile 65, the medial side of my right knee began hurting.  It wasn't super sudden (nothing popped or anything), but it came on pretty fast.  It was VERY uncomfortable to run at this point, but I felt like it was a level of pain I could tolerate..........and then, it got worse.  I was forced to walk.  I was so upset.  I had felt so good (apart from the feet), it made little sense that something I've NEVER had a problem with before could come on this fast and reduce me to a walk.  And even walking hurt.  Ugh.  I wondered if the mess going on with my feet had caused to to subconsciously alter my stride, because I just could not figure out where this knee pain was coming from.  If my hamstring or glue had flared up, I would not have been the least bit surprised, but this was just such an odd thing to be hurting on me.  

At first, I just hoped it was a transient thing that would go away- some pains do come and go- so I walked, waiting for the pain to leave, but it did not go away.  The next time I saw Sherrie and Tom, I told them I was worried about this.  I decided to take some aspirin, which I had packed instead of ibuprofen because I had decided I wasn't going to take any ibuprofen during this race.  In the past, you could say I was somewhat of an ibuprofen abuser, and I've learned a lot since then about the danger it poses to kidneys, as well as the fact that it can mask pain, allowing you to push and do real damage.  I'm not sure if aspirin is much better, but I felt like it was a better thing to take than ibuprofen, and I didn't want my race to be ruined at mile 65.  So I took 4- 81 mg aspirin with a PocketFuel nut butter (so the aspirin wouldn't gnaw a hole in my stomach) since I had been running solely on Tailwind all day.  I asked Sherrie and Tom if they could run to a CVS or store and get a generic knee brace.  I thought it couldn't hurt to try, maybe it was something that could be relieved by a little stabilization.  So on I walked as they drove ahead to try to find a brace for me.  The sun was getting low in the sky, and I was on Bahia Honda- one of my favorite places in the Keys.  I was just so sad that I wasn't able to enjoy it more.  It was also finally starting to cool down.  Earlier in the day, I had thought about how nice it would feel when the sun went down and I got to run through the cooler night.  Funny how that works sometimes.   

It was sometime neat 7:30 when they got back to me.  They stopped and showed me what they bought: 2 different kinds of knee braces, some ace wrap, and a tube of bio freeze.  I tried the braces, but unfortunately they did nothing to help the pain.  So we smeared bio freeze on my knee, and put a bag of ice on it secured by the ace wrap.  At this point, they must have talked and decided they were going to have one of them with me at all times from this point on, maybe in light of the fact that I was upset.  Before the race, I had told them I wasn't picky about how much pacing I had.  I felt safe running alone in the Keys, and they could just come and go as they pleased as far as pacing.  Sherrie and I put on our lights and reflectors and started walking.  I was beginning to believe this pain was going to be with me for the duration of the race.  My dreams of a 20-21 hour race were slipping away.  I was trying to stay positive, though.  I remember thinking that I could still realistically be in the 22-23 hour range (and even PR if I could beat my 22:56 at Javelina) if I could just power walk the rest of it.  Every step hurt walking, but the pain was tolerable.  Every once in awhile I'd try to run on it and quickly realize it wasn't possible.  For awhile, the walking was going pretty well.  I was able to do 15ish minute miles.  By now, people were starting to pass me.  I knew this would happen, but it was just so demoralizing.  I couldn't help but want to run again.  I had been doing so well and it was heartbreaking seeing it all slip away.  The ice/wrap on my knee was not helping, so eventually I pulled it off. 

Tom and Sherrie took turns walking with me through the night.  A lot of this is a blur.  The pain continued to intensify in my knee, and my power walking was being reduced to 20-21 minute miles.  Just plain walking.  The sad thing is, the effort was 100%.  I can honestly say this was ALL I could do.  I've had so many races where I've taken it easy or held back, and I'm left wondering if I could have pushed harder.  This wasn't one of those times.  I was using every bit of strength (both physically AND mentally) to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again.  The pain wasn't wavering, it didn't come and go- EVERY step hurt.  It was constant.  In addition to my knee, my feet were now immensely painful, and I had some blisters on the bottoms of my feet.  I popped them at some point, but new ones would form and the pain would start back up again.  I kept feeling like I was getting lots of rocks in my shoes, and when I'd stop to empty them out, a tiny grain of sand would fall out.  I was like the Princess and the Pea.  Each time it was like an act of God getting my shoe back on, too.  In addition, the slant of the road (which was not huge) was bothering me.  Since we were on the shoulder facing traffic, we had to be on the slanted part- it was more level on the road, but there was still pretty significant traffic, so it almost wasn't worth trying to walk on the road for just a few minutes before a car would come, forcing us back onto the slanted part.  The night went on and on, it seemed to last forever.  I was grateful for Sherrie and Tom's company.  I wasn't delirious or anything, but it just made it a lot less lonely having good conversation and lots of positive encouragement from them.    

Near the end.  Couldn't even force a smile at this point.
I'm not sure whether being stubborn is a good or bad thing.  If I wasn't so stubborn, I would have DNF'd around mile 65-70, realizing that my knee wasn't getting any better, my feet were trashed, and I was not going to end up wit a time I'd be happy with.  But I AM stubborn, so I crept along, walking (and eventually trudging) for 35 miles straight, even when I realized finishing in 24 hours may not happen.  I've still never had a DNF.  If I show up to a race, I'll lay everything on the line to finish it, whether that's a good thing or not.  Eventually, I did finish at 6:18 am, 24 hours and 3 minutes after I began my journey.  I had fallen to 6th female, 26th overall, which I know is still very's just hard not to think about what could have been, especially because apart from my feet/knee, I felt really good.  I never had any stomach issues thanks to Tailwind Nutrition, and I didn't feel tired or like I was wiped out from the heat.  

showing off my puffy hands.  They didn't even look like they were mine.  Also some nasty heat rash on my thighs-yikes

I am so grateful for Sherrie and Tom: they not only did an excellent job crewing for me, but they watched over me during the night hours when things had derailed.  They tried to help me fix my feet and knee, and Tom took tons of cool pictures throughout the race.  Most importantly, they lifted me up with encouragement during the night when I wasn't sure I could even finish.  I simply could not have done this without them.  I hope they won't mind being my crew next time- that's right, I'm a liar!!  They both got to hear me complain about how awful road 100's are and how from now I'll be sticking to the trails........but I need to come back someday and do this one again and try to have the race I had hoped for this time.  I need to do better with foot care, and I've been thinking it might be time to get a coach so I can actually train right for these instead of my usual improvisational and directionless "training". 

Though I can't say I'm really proud of how I did at this race, I can't say I'm not proud of the fact that I finished despite the many factors persuading me not to.  Looking back, I do have mixed emotions about it, but at least I don't have the regret of quitting.  I have a feeling that's worse to deal with than the regret of wishing my performance could have been a bit better.  Someday, I'll be back- wiser and that much stronger.  As much as I suffered, the Keys 100 is a top-notch event.  Bob Becker does an excellent job of making this a fun, well-organized, and truly unique event.  The Keys are one of my favorite places, and this race is one of may favorites too.
Finished and holding my buckle

There were 144 people who started the Keys 100, 46 females.
There were 47 DNF's
I finished 6th female, 26th overall.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015


As some of you know, I was recently selected to be a brand ambassador for the clothing company INKnBURN.  I'm so honored and excited to represent a company that I have so much love for, so I wanted to write a little blog post about it.  This is a different type of blog for me.  So far, my posts have just been race reports.  The reason I started writing those was to help me remember as the memories fade away with time, but from now on I'll be including other things such as product reviews too.

Anyway, I have never been very excited about running clothes.  Such a shame considering I spend so much time running!  I'd usually wear old race shirts and whatever shorts I could find that were reasonably comfortable to train and race in......lets just say I have a history of not looking super fashionable when I run (not to say there's anything wrong with that) but then I discovered INKnBURN!!!

For those of you who aren't already familiar with INKnBURN, its an awesome brand of running/fitness clothes unlike anything else out there.  You may have seen it at  races and wondered what it was and where people were getting it......I know I did.  I remember seeing it out on various race courses and admiring the beautiful artwork and unique designs.  I was always reluctant to spend too much on running clothes, so I didn't buy anything at for a long time.  Eventually, I cracked and bought a few items on sale this past Fall and I was INSTANTLY hooked.  Each piece looked even more vibrant than in the photos on the website, and I could tell they were well-made and high-quality.  My husband and I went out to dinner that night and I wore my new INKnBURN denim pants and 100 tech tee- couldn't even wait for my next run to put them on.  It was clear from the beginning that I was going to be an INKnBURN addict.......yikes!
My first of many purchases

I love INKnBURN for so many reasons: first, the artwork is out of this world.  They create beautiful pieces which are all works of art; they truly stand out from the rest of the running apparel out there.  They choose subject matter that has meaning too, it's not just random stuff.  Take the 100 mile shirt in my picture above, for example.  100 has a lot of significance to an ultra runner who has done a 100-mile race.  The new Run or Die collection (see tank pictured below) has the words "Run of Die" hidden in the face of the skull and is described as being all about intensity, endurance, and power.  I just ordered mine but haven't gotten it in the mail yet.....I think this is going to be perfect for the Phoenix Marathon in a few weeks!
New Women's Run or Die tank

I also love that INKnBURN makes their clothing in their California warehouse- it's 100% USA made!  Sadly, not very many running clothes are made in America anymore.  I feel good supporting a company that still makes things here.  They make everything with long distance runners in mind.  Their stitching is superb, resulting in flat seams that prevent chafing or rubbing.  They also don't put itchy tags in the back of the neck. I can speak from experience doing long runs in their clothing that they do NOT chafe.  

running in the Albuquerque foothills

Every time I wear INKnBURN I get compliments.  I always have people touching my denim pants in disbelief that they're not jeans, asking what brand I'm wearing, and saying how cool my clothes look. It's nice.  I end up wearing INKnBURN every chance I get too, because it looks good for more than just running and yoga.  I wore my wonderland holiday sweater and denim pants at Christmas and no one believed I was in the same clothes I run in. 

I look forward to many days of long, epic training runs and 100 mile races in INKnBURN as well as many meals out and family gatherings!  I'm glad I discovered INKnBURN and I am grateful to serve as an ambassador 
for this wonderful brand.  

Wearing INKnBURN flutter tee at the Tucson 13.1- a PR!!!!