All About Angela

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sun Mountain 50 Recap

My morning started just like every other race day....

I consumed my insanely healthy + delicious breakfast of two chocolate toaster pastries sandwiched together with almond butter while still laying under the blankets....After ensuring the bed was adequately covered in crumbs, I jumped straight for the caffeine (Amino Energy).

When I began racing last year, I was a frantic mess up until the point that I started running. Something has changed....I have enough races under my belt to realize that come race day, the outcome will be what it will be....stressing doesn't help matters much. My stomach is grateful that I am now flooded with a bizarre calmness before the running storm.

Hanging with Yoshimi moments before the start
Prior to the start, I lined up in the middle of the pack. I didn't want adrenalin pushing me to hold the pace of the frontrunners. On mental repeat was the saying, "If you feel like you are going slow, go slower..." This is a really common piece of advice for beginning ultra runners. A sustainable pace is absolutely critical for a strong finish....or perhaps finishing at all.

Aid Station #1 (6 miles)

The first handful of miles went by in a blur. Other than a slight incline here or there...the running was easy....perfect for warming up and finding a groove. I topped off the handheld with water then zoomed out of the station.

Aid Station #2 (14 miles)

The temperatures began to rise and the climbs became more frequent. Pace began to slow but I was still in terrific spirits (as demonstrated in the goofy photo below....and no, I have NO idea what the hell is up with my thigh).

At this aid station, I refilled my handheld and sucked down a few small cups of soda.

Aid Station #3 (20 miles)

Our first steep climb greeted us upon leaving the second aid station. Just when you'd think that you were almost at the would switchback...Boom! More incline! This became the theme of the day. I should be thankful that brutal ascents were matched with glorious descents. However, the climbing meant that fatigued legs could only push so fast on the flats.I began integrating short intervals of walking.

I was almost bummed to have arrived at the third aid station thirty minutes ahead of the earliest expected time....This meant that Jeff had not arrived.

I refilled my handheld with water, adding in 200 calories of Tailwind. I inhaled like five slices of Watermelon + another few cups of soda.

Aid Station #4 (27 miles)

The heat REALLY began taking it's toll on me. We were running on farming / ranching land; there was significant exposure to the sun, which you could feel pounding down upon you. I was sucking down fluids FAST. I fixated upon rationing what I had. I slowed down to what felt like a crawl. I walked A LOT....I hated that I was walking so much....Beginning at mile 14, I began battling with nausea that continued to haunt me....Climbs made me want to vomit....and there was no shortage of climbs! Mentally, I was losing a battle.....

I was so relieved to see Jeff when I reached the station. The exchange was rather limited....At this point, I was talking in one word sentences. Simply seeing him and hearing his words of encouragement brightened my mood. It was time to throw on the hydration pack for extra fluids. He helped me pour another 200 calorie bag of Tailwind into my handheld. Now, I also had two 10oz bottles of pure water. From the aid station, I ate a handful of grapes (oh my god so delicious) and drank like five cups of soda.....On a quick side note, why are the cups so freaking small?!? We are talking shot glass size (maybe smaller than that even). 

Aid Station #5 (36 Miles)

Under normal circumstances, this was an easy section....mostly downhill, not technical....There comes a point in an ultra event where downhills begin to hurt. My problematic knee throbbed and I could feel the blisters forming on my feet. Now in uncharted mileage territory....muscles were rebelling, tightening up and cramping. I was moving slow enough to have conversations with those around me.

This aid station would be my last opportunity to pull from the race....I wouldn't see Jeff again and I wasn't carrying my phone. It would be a lie to say that I didn't seriously consider it. I reverted back to a race strategy that I use during marathons. Don't count miles, count aid stations. I just had to make it through ONE more and then I was home free. Even walking, I could make the finishing cut-off. 

Poor Jeff had to help me change my shoes.....I wasn't going to risk sitting down so I had to lean on him while he guided my swollen, rotten feet into the new kicks.

When I left the aid station, I put together my first coherent sentence in hours...."I'll see you at the finish." And with a renewed sense of confidence, I meant it....

Homeward Bound

Just when you think that it couldn't possibly get worse.....
The two steepest climbs were in the final 15 miles.
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
I couldn't listen to music anymore. I was functioning on a basic level.
Move forward. Move forward. Just keep moving.

After the final aid station (mile 44), there was a three mile ascent. Yes...THREE MILES! It was a complete sufferfest. I am SO glad that hiking was an integral part in my training. Dudes that looked in WAY better shape (physically) than me were having to step off the trail in order to regain composure....and I never saw them again. If a steep ascent at the end of a 50 mile race isn't enough torture....there was a barbed wire fence that runners had to climb over via ladder. Navigating a ladder when you have 45 miles on your's hilarious in a cruel joke way.

I would have been thrilled to reach the top of the final ascent IF I didn't know that I would have to turn around and run back down in order to reach the finish.

Something ignited within me as I began descending. At first, I was barely hobbling down...but then I was suddenly running again....and quickly!

The Final Descent 
My husband's first words to me were...."You did it!"
I think he was just as shocked as I was.
Hell...I'm still shocked.
Did it really happen?!?


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sun Mountain 50 (Countdown)

This post is a disaster....please stick with me....I started writing this BEFORE the Sun Mountain 50.
This is part one of a rather long recap....


I'm a ball of nervous, frantic energy.....In 48 hours, I will be almost six hours into the Sun Mountain 50 miler. I'm hoping that I'll be hitting the 50k mark and still in relatively decent spirits.

I'm learning that A LOT of preparation goes into a race this long.

This is the first race that I've ever been remotely concerned about making the aid station cut-off times. I've poured over the elevation map in order to estimate timeframes in which I'll roll into the stations. Pacing is going to be REALLY hard....I have to be really conscious of sticking to a sustainable pace while simultaneously ensuring that I'm not having to sprint in order to make the cut-off. Sprinting (for me) is the discomfort equivalent of being repeatedly kicked in your girl parts. The bearded partner expects to touch bases along the course in order to provide moral support (SMOOCHIES). Yes, I have a goal for the finishing time of this race but I NEVER share until after the race.

Sun Mountain 50 Elevation Map (Provided by Rainshadow Running)

I've never prepared a drop bag before. I'll admit that I consulted my friend Google for advice. I'll have drop bags at the final three aid stations. I'm not 100% sure that I will need them. The aid stations WILL have Coke (favorite ultra fuel). Up until this point, I have been able to rely upon Tailwind with occasional sips of Coke. However, I know that I've had a problem taking in enough calories. I want to make sure that I have treats that I love....Maybe this will encourage adequate fueling.

Drop Bags will include:

Swedish Fish
Strawberry Yogurt-Covered Pretzels
Peach Rings
Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Cookies
Red Bull (8oz can)
Pepto Bismol Tablets

I plan on having a change of shoes placed in the drop bag at mile 36. Again, I'm not sure that I'll want to take the time and change shoes.....I'm afraid that once I sit down, I won't want to keep going.... But it might feel REALLY nice to put on a fresh pair of kicks.

In order to relieve nerves AND indulge in some needed carbs after a long day of stressing at the office, Jeff and I took a leisurely stroll downtown with our pups.....

My favorite running AND drinking partner 

Per usual, I did a shakeout run the morning prior to beginning our road adventure (3.5 miles)...I was super stoked that I felt fresher than I had in a LONG time - two weeks of light running does wonder to repair the aches and pains that have been plaguing you. 

We arrived in Winthrop around 3 PM.....Winthrop is a Western-themed town tucked away in rural Washington. After checking into the hotel, we drove to the trail head where the race would start. Yet again, I am SO glad that we scoped the situation out ahead of time. The race e-mail warned that mosquitoes were out....but nothing could prepare us for what exactly that meant. They were out in thick swarms. In general, I avoid spraying myself down with chemicals. I'd rather take the risks that come from a few mosquito bites BUT....10+ hours in a mosquito-laden environment? That requires some sort of protection. 

I was quite surprised that Winthrop didn't seem exactly dog-friendly. While walking Yoshimi downtown, an abundant amount of glares / grimaces were aimed in our direction....How can one not love that dog pictured above? We ended up ordering some takeout from a Mexican restaurant and calling it an early night.

Before I knew it, the alarm was screaming at me.......... 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Farragut Trail 1/2 Marathon

This past weekend, I ran my first half of 2015! It was odd running this distance again.... I knew that I wanted to participate in this race because it's one of our favorite places to have family hikes - Farragut State Park in Athol. The course would loop around the entire park...I would get to see different trail sections that I've always wanted to explore.
Farragut State Park 2014 (BABY YOSHIMI!)
This race served as my final "long" training run for Sun Mountain. I had no expectations of racing....Honestly, I'm a bit out of shape to compete or even PR in any distance right now. After the Spokane River Run 50k, I've been focused on just maintaining fitness while allowing my body to recover.....oh and eating A LOT of tacos....

I was SUPER grateful for a 9 AM start because it's a 30 minute drive from our home to the park.  Not having to wake up any earlier than a normal workday was nice. I understand early start times for LONG distances and / or during the brutal months of summer BUT otherwise I just think it's cruel. Not all runners are morning people (that message is intended for sadistic RDs).

I really enjoyed this had a little bit of every kind of trail and a good portion was ran alongside the water. The elevation gain was moderate and only a small section (less than 1 mile) could be considered "technical".

I made a couple mistakes in this race....The first mistake was that I didn't eat close enough to the starting time. I had my normal breakfast about two hours prior and I bonked embarrassingly early (about 8 miles in).  I need to ensure that I'm putting something in my system within 30 - 45 minutes prior. I'm not someone that can run (or function) without something in my stomach. I was too confident in my decision to run without a water bottle. The aid stations were placed at miles 2, 7 and 11.....I've ran without water for 10 miles - why would there be any problem? Well....heat is my kryptonite....Even though some might consider 70 degrees comfortable, I'm used to running in 40-50 degree weather. The sudden spike in temperature is always difficult for me to acclimate to. Once I become thirsty, my whole mental attitude shifts into the negative and this affects my pace dramatically. Nine miles in, I could not think about anything other than the next aid station and how badly I wanted something to drink. Unfortunately, the final aid station was over one mile later than advertised.....That didn't help matters....

I finished in 2:16....this is a pretty slow time for me. I should have been able to comfortably finish this race in 2 hours (it ended up being closer to 14 miles). I'm not too defeated though....I didn't expect to push hard (that would be stupid during taper) AND I learned some valuable lessons that will help me in future races.