Thursday, 21 May 2015

Miwok 100 Pictures 2015

Better late than never!  Here are some pictures of the race course and my experience during the Miwok 100 on May 2, 2015.

4:50 am - excited to start!
I wrote the cut off times on arm just in case.  Ended up not needing them but I was prepared!
I believe this was leaving Muir Beach.

My support crew! Uncle Ken at Tennessee Valley Aid

Auntie Gloria cheering me on with style!

Tennessee Valley Aids 4 and 6

Knees started getting sore here...just pretend!

Amazing views - it was hard to keep my eyes on the trail and off the coastline!

Leaving Muir Beach the second time - ready to tackle Cardiac again!

Bolinas Ridge - peaceful beauty.  I remember being totally zen here.

California Poppies everywhere!

This is the forest where all started to go wrong for me.  Somewhere between Bolinas Ridge Aid and Randall Trailhead.
Sarah Seads - finished in 12:38 and qualified for Western States!  You are the best running buddy ever.

We survived!

The carnage.  Brand new socks with holes in them and patched shoes that barely made it,  but left me no blisters at all.  They were lovingly left in the trash at the finish line.

Auntie Gloria, myself and Sarah

The day after the race we hit Ben & Jerry's...with a good reminder of what running is all about!

Post race refuelling at Boudin Sourdough Bakery - who cares about the calories!
The Pierson Crew!

My aunt is so awesome - and thanks to my mom for the shirt!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Miwok 100 Race Report 2015

Well here is my Miwok 100 2015 Race Report.  I am still having technical difficulties and cannot load pictures, which is regretful as I have some great shots.  I'll load them as soon as I'm able.  If oyu want a very technical breakdown of the legs of the race, elevation, etc, check out Sarah's race report here.  Since she broke it down so well, I've chosen to write a more narrative, experiential version.

The short version:  I had a super run until the 72K mark and made the very difficult decision to pulled out at 80K.
The long version: Keep reading!

May 1, 2015

The alarm woke me at 4:15 am and by 5:15 we were off to San Francisco via Vancouver. We carried all our race gear on the plane and I was so relieved when my body glide and nutrition made it through security! Once in SF, we picked up our rental car and headed out to Stinson Beach to check out the race start/finish. The drive out there on windy roads along cliffs with no shoulders made us so sick that we had to take Ginger Gravol. But we did get a preview of the terrain we would be running and it looked punishing.  Once we knew where to park the next morning, we drove to our hotel (on more windy roads with no shoulders or guard rails).  After a pre-race dinner of Pad Thai we packed our drop bags, set our alarms for 2:40 and 2:50 (just in case) and went to bed at 8:30!

May 2, 2015. RACE DAY

Race Start: 5:00 am

By 2:45 we were up and out the door by 3:30. Driving a crazy winding road in the dark in the middle of the night was enough to get my adrenaline pumping early.  We checked in, donned headlamps and without any preamble we all headed off into the night up the mountain. Immediately out of the parking lot, the trail narrowed to a single file line of people climbing stairs up and up and up the mountainside. This slowed us down, but forced us to start at a super easy pace. Sarah and I started together, but within 15 minutes we got separated in the dark.  I was solidly mid-pack. It was quite surreal to look up the mountain and see a zig-zag of lights ahead of me and then to look back and see the same behind me. It was stone quiet.  No one spoke. No heavy breathing. My mantra at this point and really all along was, "no heavy breathing, no burning legs." It was so amazing to be among 450 people that all seemed to have that same goal, but were also fit enough to climb a fairly steep mountain with no panting - in total silence.

Within an hour the sky started to lighten. I reached the top and passed the first aid station (Cardiac) without stopping at 0:51. I started fueling on schedule at 0:45 with the Berry Blast Pro Bar. It was my best snack of the day. Yummy! I carried my headlamp all the way down into Aid 2 (Muir Beach) in 1:42, passing Sarah on her way back out to start climbing our second major climb of the day. My strategy at this point was to go super easy and to watch the more experienced runners around me. A few locals who had done the race before were trekking all the hills at this point, so I figured I was right on track.  I crested the second peak at 2:20 and felt super good.  It was hard to hold back on the way down into Tennessee Valley, and I may have run a little fast there than I should have, but it felt easy.

I came into Aid 3 (Tennessee Valley) at 2:39 and stopped to grab a few bars from my drop bag and some water before heading out again.  My Aunt Gloria and Uncle Ken were planning on coming to cheer me on, so I texted them to let them know where I was, realizing that it was only 7:39 am and I had been up 5 hours!  The route out towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bridgeview Aid Station (Aid 4) was never flat - lots of ups and downs of mostly hard packed smooth single track and roads.  I had hoped for better views of this leg of the race, but it was overcast and cloudy/foggy.  This was a blessing as it was cool, but the wind was drying and I realized again that at 3:30 I would have to take more salt than the 2/hr planned. I should just accept that I need 3 Succeed caps/hour minimum if the temperature is over 12 deg Celsius or windy.

About 1 mile after I left Bridgeview (3:40), we came upon a woman who had fallen and either broken or dislocated her finger. She was all scraped up and going into shock. A handful of runners around me and I stayed with her for a few minutes and left her with a mountain biker to go back to the aid station. I felt so badly for her. Only about 1/3 of the way into the race and she was done. I was so thankful for my training on technical trails that gave me an edge on the rocky terrain that we encountered occasionally even though most of the run was very hard packed single track and logging roads.

I arrived at Aid 5 (Tennessee Valley again) in 5:18 after coming down some cliffs that offered an incredible view of the rocky California coastline.  I was feeling strong, continuing to run with "no heavy breathing and no burning legs."  My aunt and uncle were at Tennessee Valley to cheer me on.  It was great to see them!  I quickly grabbed a few pics with them, water, more fuel and ONE salt tab.  I was burning through my salt faster than expected due to the wind and I assume others were too because they were rationing the salt tabs.  One per person allowed, less than half the way through the race, and I was running solidly mid-pack at that point.  Not good.  Luckily I still had a reserve for about 3 hours but I had much longer than 3 hours to go! I should have known better and brought more with me but I had expected to get salt at the aid stations. I headed out for Muir Beach, feeling buoyed up by my cheering section!

Another up and down and I was running back into Aid 7 (Muir Beach) arriving at 6:18, still feeling strong but badly needing a bathroom.  The toilets at this aid were the public beach toilets with a long line of beach going families waiting for them.  I was not going to stand in line for 20 minutes waiting, so I filled up with 1L water, took the TWO salt tabs I was allowed, turned around and hoped I would make it to the next aid!

The next leg of the race took us through some lush flatter trails that I was surprised to see in drought ridden California and I feared they were full of poison oak as we had been warned.  Running with elbows high I gingerly picked my way through the trail before entering the most wonderful smelling eucalyptus forest.  It was like running through a spa.  Amazing.  Then the climb back up to Cardiac started and the sun came out.  I was suddenly going through water much faster than I had to this point  (about the same time Sarah was running out of water ahead of me on Bolinas Ridge).  I ran for about 40 minutes sucking on a gurgling dry hose, hoping each time that some water would miraculously appear. I was so glad to get to Aid 8 (Cardiac) at 7:39 elapsed time.  I filled up with 2L of water, refilled my salt bag (no more rationing here!), grabbed some aid station snacks and trotted out along Bolinas Ridge.

This was the highlight of the race for me.  The forest opened up to hills with a long ribbon of single track that wound back and forth and around for miles.  The grassland was covered in California poppies and we got frequent glimpses of the coastline.  It was a little like an visual illusion with the hills in the foreground and background, as I ran on a steeply slanted hillside.  The sun shone brightly, but my legs felt awesome as I ran, passing a few people along the way with my tunes playing.   I stopped to take a few pictures and then led a congo line of runners for several km, no one wanting to pass, each of us contentedly trotting along the countryside.   Nearing the next aid station I was ready for a water refill again.  For the first time EVER I was running without my GPS going.  I had wanted to run solely on feel and not be distracted by mileage.  However, it would have been nice to know how far I was out from the aid stations for water rationing.

I was starting to get tired as I got to Aid 9 (Bolinas Ridge - 68K).  I arrived at 9:31 elapsed time.  The aid station volunteers were amazing and I left that station feeling tired but optimistic.  I was having no pain in my Achilles or R buttock (areas that had plagued me in the past). I was running a solid pace - on track to finish under 14 hours.  Then something went wrong.  I had noticed that when I did my pack back up before leaving that my belly was really bloated. It barely registered at that time, as  I lengthened the strap to do it back up.  Within about 30 min I started to have major lower GI issues.  Without going into graphic detail, I had to violate the "no poop in the woods" rule and lost my phone where I had tossed it behind a huge redwood tree in my panic. Sarah passed me coming back up the long hill I was descending and saw me hysterically searching the woods for my phone.  She asked me how I was doing, and I yelled,  "NOT WELL."  Her response:  "Just pretend!"  Classic Sarah :) How had I gone from feeling great to everything falling apart?  I did find my phone and started walking. I kept thinking that if I could just walk it off, I would be fine.  Everything passes, nothing lasts forever.  Every time I started to run again, my body told me NO.  My legs were tired, but fine.  My feet felt like hamburger, but nothing I couldn't run through.  I didn't have even one blister!  But my physiology was falling apart.

I started to think about dropping out at the Randall Trailhead.  I didn't want to.  Oh, I didn't want to.  But I started examining my "WHYs".  I had completed the training.  A huge part of the journey for me was just getting to the start line.  I had seen the whole course - the rest was back the way I had just come, with a  major climb and descent still to come.  I had run 30K more than I ever had before and proven that I could go longer.  In every other run and every other crummy situation (like 6 hours freezing in the Cumberland rain), I have still been having fun.  Fundamentally having a good time.  But at that point in the race as I struggled to maintain my dignity and control of my bodily functions, I was NOT having fun.  I was miserable.  I feared letting myself get dangerously dehydrated and pushing myself past the point of reason.  So, I decided to drop.

I walked the last 5K into the Aid 10 (Randall Trailhead) at 11:20.  As soon as I saw my aunt and uncle I burst into tears.  I have ever only cried after a race once, my first marathon.  It was so traumatic that I didn't run beyond 21.1k for 10 years after that.  So when I starting crying, I knew that I was really done.  The volunteers tried to convince me to keep going.  I had a woman come to me and offer to pace me back out.  I wavered, thinking that maybe I could.  But when it became apparent that my GI issues weren't over and I explained that to her, she understood - telling me that I had very valid reasons for dropping.  I didn't need her validation, but it was nice that she was so gracious.  So I hopped a ride with my relatives to the finish line, laid down on the nice warm asphalt (it actually felt good) and wait for Sarah to come in just over an hour later.  She finished strong, and we shared a sweaty hug at the finish.

I have absolutely no regrets about this run.  Running 80K was still a huge accomplishment for me. It was a spectacular course, with a challenging elevation profile.  The weather was perfect, the aid stations well stocked, and I had a super run, up until the end.  Will I do another ultra?  Yes.  But I'm thinking 50K is a more realistic distance for me, and the training more sustainable for my lifestyle than 100K.  I'm even intrigued about multi-day staged races.  Even though we were pretty beat up afterwards and always swear we are NEVER doing this again, one can never say never.  As long it's healthy for my body to do so, I'll keep running.

Quotes of the Day:
I'm not going to run for a LONG maybe a week.
"Just pretend."
"No heavy breathing, no burning legs."