Monday, August 22, 2011

Peak Ultra Training

The last two weeks have been the peak of my training for the 50k. While my overall mileage wasn’t all that high, my back-to-back long runs were huge and I’m feeling very ready to take on the ultra!

First of all, I finally did officially get into the McKenzie River 50k. We entered the lottery this spring, and while Zach got in, I didn’t. I had been on the waiting list all summer, but I finally received my official entry a couple weeks ago. They only took the first 10 or so people out of about 90 on the waiting list, so I lucked out!

This training cycle has been very different than any major race I’ve done. I am at this weird junction where I’m interested in long trail races, but I’m NOT interested in really intense, high-mileage training. I’ve been running 4 days a week, with most of that being in the long runs. I’ve alternated back-to-back runs (like 10 and 14 miles for example) and a single long run (16+ miles). My mileage was in the upper 30’s until these last two weeks when I ran in the low 40’s.

It’s a different approach to training for me, for sure. In training for a marathon I usually used the 55 miles per week plan and ran 5 days a week. And this is 5 miles longer than a marathon! So yes, I feel a bit nervous about this. But, it’s perfect for me. I don’t want to make running my WHOLE life, I need some balance. I want to enjoy other activities, other hobbies, my house, my friends! It’s been great. And really, it’s not like I am doing the bare minimum. I have put a lot of effort into my training. And any worry I have is definitely eased by the long runs I’ve done. Here are the details of the last couple of weeks.

Coming off the Cascade Lakes Relay a couple weeks ago, I was feeling good. I ran twice during the week on the roads in town and kept a really good pace. My 5 miler was around 8:45 and felt nice. Then I ran a hilly 8 miler at 8:40 pace with a crazy negative split- 9:30 pace on the way out, and 7:50 pace on the way back (mostly downhill). Wee!

That Saturday, I ran 10 miles on the Leif Erickson trail. I haven’t been running there lately but it was perfect. It’s a wide trail, basically a road, but it is unpaved and through the forest, so it is similar to trail running. I definitely used to consider it a hard run, but it is cake compared to the singletrack trails. I ran about 9:15 pace for the 10 miler.

The next day, we headed up to the Wildwood Trail for 20 miles. We did a double out-and-back in different directions so we could stop at the car halfway and refill our waters. I felt SO great on this run! I walked up a few of the hills in the early miles, but otherwise kept a comfortable pace the whole time. Unfortunately, I did trip and fall about mile 14. I got some mild scrapes and bruises but I shook it off and kept running no problem. I sped up a bit at the very end and finished feeling great! The 20 miles took me 3 hours and 49 minutes, almost as long as my last marathon! That’s just under 11:30 pace, which I’m definitely happy with. Slow and steady!

This week I only ran one time during the week. That was definitely not planned! After the 20 miler, I got sick. I think I caught a little cold or something and I was laid up for a couple of days with a sore throat and sniffles. Thankfully I felt better and on Wednesday got in an easy 8 miler on the hilly road route. I could have crammed more miles in, but with a big back-to-back run coming up I didn’t want to take any chances.

Friday I only had a half-day of work, and I once again headed up to the Leif Erickson trail. I ran 12 miles at about 9:30 pace and felt great. It was hot and sunny but it’s always really shady and comfortable in Forest Park.

Saturday was the BIG run. 22 miles on the Wildwood. I was really nervous, I got myself all worked up the night before. This would be the farthest I’d ever run in training, and because of my slow trail pace, I knew it would take me HOURS. And I was worried about falling again. But, Zach encouraged me and we got out the door ready to hit the trails Saturday morning. It kind of freaked me out when we were about to start and Zach said “Ok, it’s 9:30, so you’ll be done about 2:00?” YIKES. I could tell from the beginning I was running pretty slow but I was being careful of all the rocks and roots to avoid a fall, and I was also pacing myself for the loooooong run ahead. Back at the car about halfway through I filled my water and was feeling great. I ran the second part (not exactly halfway – the second part was about a mile longer than the first) in the same amount of time as the first part- so a negative split! The whole run ended up taking 4 hours and 30 minutes, about a 12:15 pace. WOW- that is the second longest I have EVER ran! The only longer run was my 4:43 Ironman marathon. And there I actually walked every aid station, so plenty of walking. This 22 miler? I ran the whole thing. I didn’t even walk up any hills! That’s crazy! I definitely felt very tired toward the end but I did it. And I didn’t trip or stumble at all! Success!

These last couple weekends have definitely built my confidence for the 50k. I know I can complete the distance and I am excited for the experience! Training for this ultramarathon has been really great – I love the trails, I love not worrying obsessively about my splits or pace, I love just running and running for hours in the forest. 

Quick shout out here to my super trail runner husband, Zach… this guy just continues to amaze me. He has been running all these same long runs (and usually trail runs during the week by himself too) and is just a natural out there. He is so speedy. Out on the trails, he is just unstoppable. It’s great! Unfortunately this means he has to wait a long time for me – he finished the 22 miler an hour and 10 minutes before me. Wow! I’m so proud of him and it is so fun to have a trail buddy.

The 50k is in less than 3 weeks, which means I am tapering! We will be spending a big chunk of this taper in eastern Oregon on vacation. It’s going to be incredible – plenty of trail running, of course, but also rock climbing at Smith Rock, climbing mountains, swimming in lakes, and more. Plus plenty of relaxing time too. Our families are coming up for a few days also which is going to be great. I will have a full report with plenty of photos when we get back.

This week, however, no photos. I’ve been doing all these long runs pretty “naked” – no Garmin, just a watch (the trails are marked), and not carrying my phone or anything. It is very freeing, but I do miss taking all the pics! Here is one Zach took of me a few weeks ago at the end of a short run on Wildwood.  

Thanks so much for reading! :)


Run July

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cascade Lakes Relay Race Report

Cascade Lakes was my first relay race. It was very different from any other race I've ever done, in so many ways.

One big difference is that you are on a team, and it is ALL about the team. No one person's time is very important and the focus is only ever briefly on any one person. It ends up being MORE about supporting other runners than running yourself!

The other thing that is unlike any other event I've done is the duration. The legs themselves aren't necessarily all that challenging. Yes there are hills, and yes the conditions can be tough, but the biggest challenge is running for the third time in a day in a half on maybe 1-2 hours of sleep. It's an endurance event in a very different way. You are outside, exposed to the elements, for about 30 hours straight. You're either running or waiting/crewing in the heat of the day and in the surprisingly cold nights, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and eating the most random assortment of food, with very little rest and if you are lucky a brief shower. Everything about  your typical "race preparation" goes out the window.

This relay was by far the most fun I've ever had in a race. Maybe of the most fun things I’ve ever done. It was indescribably awesome. My teammates were so funny and cool, we were talking and laughing and just going non-stop the whole time. I got to share this experience with my husband and a couple of my closest friends, but I also got to know two people I hardly knew before. By the end, we had nicknames and inside jokes to the moon and back. Dogalope. Throat waffle. Etc.

Surprisingly, I felt really great the whole time. A couple of the runs were tough, but not too long and I got through them ok. I didn't run very fast, just about average training pace, which I think helped me feel good throughout. I did OK on no sleep, and my stomach tolerated the grab bag of snacks just fine. I was happy I didn't have any issues with that stuff. And I even held up emotionally - I got a little snappy at Zach and I was definitely a bit loopy toward the end, but no major breakdowns. Win win win.

Here are some details of the event and summaries of my legs, but then I'll let the pictures tell the play-by-play. The scenery was a significant part of the event so the pictures are key.

Cascade Lakes Relay
216.6 Miles
12 runners
36 legs
Start: Diamond Lake Resort (5,200 ft elevation)
End: Bend, OR (3,700 ft elevation)
Total Elevation Gain: 8,195 feet
Total Elevation Loss: 9,740 feet

Team Left, Right, Repeat finished in 31 hours 04 minutes
Placed 25/107 in the Open Co-Ed Division

My legs:
7.5 miles,  moderate
approx 10:30 am Friday, very warm
elevation loss 429 feet (slight decline most of the way)
paved shoulder of highway
8:48 average pace
Lowlights: big semi trucks buzzing right by me, being super hot and thirsty
Highlights: seeing my team drive by! Finishing.

6.4 miles, moderate
approx 10:30 pm, pitch black and chilly
elevation gain 37 feet (flat)
dirt road in the middle of nowhere, dusty
8:52 average pace
Lowlights: inhaling so much dust
Highlights: SO many stars! Running alone in the middle of the night, seeing a jackrabbit and an owl

7.5 miles, hard
approx 8:30 am, sunny but cool
elevation gain 253 (slight, persistent uphill for last 3 miles)
paved road in middle of nowhere (no traffic except vans)
pace?? 9:15 ish? (lost garmin)
Lowlights: long hill, didn't know when it was going to end, exhausted overall
Highlights: last leg! Gorgeous scenery along a river, legs felt really good


A few random final thoughts and then pictures I promise-

Zach has done Hood to Coast, and so had a lot of other people we met out there. The consensus was clear that CLR is by far the better event. Of course there is a bias I'm sure, but I can see their point. There are 10x as many teams at HTC. (175 vs. 1200!!) Zach said it is very crowded and very stressful. That sometimes you can't physically drive to each exchange point in time and people have to jump out of the van and run TO the exchange points. Stuff like that. It sounds like a total cluster. Plus it's impossible to get in. I haven't personally done HTC, so I can't judge. I know it's a neat race with a lot of history, and I'm sure it has it's perks. I'm sure any relay is awesome. But this race was absolutely perfect and I highly recommend it.

I lost my Garmin. The van became a black hole and everything kept going missing. So frustrating! I'm a super organized person but I just couldn't stay ahead of it. I also lost my camera but found it when I was unpacking. But the Garmin is gone. Not even sure I"I'll replace it anytime soon- might be a good move to let that go? Of course it’s also a great excuse to get a fancy new one! We'll see.

The elevation didn't really affect me too much. Then again, I wasn't running fast. I wasn’t really trying to push it, because of my utter  lack of speed training. Also, If I had bigger hills I may have noticed it.

I just cruised along at a comfortable pace and didn't push it. I was 100% ok with this strategy. Everyone in our van was very casual about their pace and we hardly discussed it. Zach was obviously fast, but I'm not even sure what his paces were (high 7's?). The other two guys in our van hadn't trained at all but mostly ran sub-9 paces. Deana and Petra cruised along in the 9:00's and I ran about 9:00 give or take. It was a really even group and our times were pretty predictable which was nice. I was glad that no one was particularly competitive or braggy. It just wasn't a concern!

The other van definitely had some speedy people - a bit faster than we were (excluding Zach) and they had one really fast guy who is running the Leadville 100 in a couple weeks. The definitely helped our team's average! I think each van was matched up just right.

Most of the race is spent with just the people in your van. The other van is doing their own thing and you only see them briefly. I definitely wished we could have spent more time with them, but it's just the nature of the event. We all rented a house in Bend so we had dinner the night we finished, but we were all so tired it was a short party. But it was really cool to hear their experiences since they had such different times/legs/etc.

There were quite a few mosquitoes in some places, and I did get a lot of bites. Like 15-20. But thankfully, the bites didn’t swell up like the ones I had earlier this summer. I was really afraid of that. I think they were a different kind of mosquito or something.

After my final leg was done, I ran a short ways with both Petra and Kevin to support them and keep them company on their last legs. I was on such a high from finishing this great event, I still had plenty of energy, and I just didn’t want it to be over. I think I was the only person who ran extra in this thing. :D (actually, Petra ran with me for a bit when we accompanied Kevin)

Finally, I have to give some shout-outs to my friends. Of course they were fun and amazing to spend time with, but I have to give them all major props for their stellar running performances. Zach was the fastest person in our van and really just blew through his legs. It was so fun to watch him! Deana did amazing – she ran three legs (2 about 5.5 miles and the shortest leg of 2.1 miles) and was SO strong and hard core. The girl runs quite a bit, but shorter runs and she has only ever done one 10k- so this was HUGE for her! She rocked it to say the least. Petra ran 3 long legs of around 6-7 miles each and kept a really strong pace. After coming back from a long illness this spring she did amazing. The heat, the altitude, and the hills were a challenge (for all of us) but she owned it. Everyone did great, and I’m really proud of myself too. I just can’t say enough about this event. So great. So great!!


Ok ok, enough gushing. Pictures! With an unprecedented amount of captioning, to tell the story of the race. Enjoy!

Driving to the start early Friday morning (from left: Petra, Sean, Kevin, Deana):


Zach, our Driver:

DSCN3050 DSCN3051

Decorating our van at the start:

DSCN3062 DSCN3065

Our team! Van 1 of “Left, Right, Repeat!” Zach, me, Deana, Petra, Sean, Kevin and our slap bracelet (we were “the team that slaps” none of this BS handing-off!)


The start line- Sean ran the first leg at 8:20 am:


The girls of Van 1!


Kevin handing off to me for my first leg:


Done with leg 1. Hot!

Leg 1


Zach waiting for his first leg to start:


Here comes Petra! Done with her first leg:


Zach’s dusty and hot first leg:


Van 1 buddies- waiting for Deana’s first leg. This area was really beautiful:




Zach’s done!


Deana running her first leg (I’m behind her there, just refilled her water):


Van 1 done with our first leg! Being goofy.    


Petra getting some well-deserved rest (Zach’s mom commented on FB “it looks like she is timing herself” haha)


Rested at a park in Silver Lake for a couple of hours. Most people slept for a short bit but I didn’t get any sleep here:


The girls- Deana stretching, Petra eating, and all of us being really sunburned and exhausted. Ready to start running over night?!


Waiting for our Van 2 buddies to finish up so we can begin our 2nd leg- all through the night!


Me handing off to Kevin after leg 2. SO MANY STARS. It was amazing running at night all alone out there:


Leg 2 done!

Leg 2

After everyone finished their second leg, we made our way to La Pine High School about 3:00 am, where we showered in the locker room and slept for an hour or two on the gym floor. Not comfortable, but we were so tired:


6:00 am Saturday- McDonalds. Best. Breakfast. Ever.


Deana, Me, and Petra. Showered, kinda rested, and with coffee! Ready to start our final leg shortly:


My 3rd leg.. absolutely gorgeous. Nice and cool early morning run:

Leg 3

Had to stop for some bug spray. Zach was quick!


Last leg of our van – Petra ran 4+ HILLY miles. I joined her for one hill! She did so awesome:

Jen and Petra

After our van was all done, we stayed at Elk Lake for a couple of hours while Van 2 reached the finish. We drank beer, swam in the lake (swam out to that dock!) and just giggled and acted like the sleep-deprived, crazy runners we are. It was my favorite part of the whole event:

Elk Lake

Elk Lake beer

Well, that is all! Will be back for more updates soon of my ultra training and other summer activities. Hope you are all having a great summer too.

Thanks for reading. :)