Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships

I dropped out at mile 16 of the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Podbrdo, Slovenia. Mile 16 crossed over and through the small mountain village of Hudajuzna, the lowest elevation point in the race. Ironically, my lowest point was at the lowest point.

At the start of the race, there was a 500 meter prologue. We were instructed that after they counted down, instead of taking off, everyone would jog together in a glomerulus cluster so that spectators could cheer us on before heading up the mountain. It was hard to see the road due to all of the bodies pressing together and I caught my left foot in a cattle grid. My ankle twisted, but it was no big deal. But, once we hit the trail, I did it again and again. Since late March I have been dealing with a tight hamstring/glute/hip flexor that has affected my gait and movement in my lower leg. My guess is that residual tightness made my ankle not able to recover and so it just kept getting weaker and weaker during the race. This was extremely unfortunate because the next 42 kilometers was on an aggressive, technical and relentless course with over 11,000 feet of gain.

Team 'Merica
The first climb started on a wide mountain jeep road. I worked on staying controlled and was sandwiched between my teammates, Cam and Anita. We gradually made our way up and then at about 5k there were short, steep dips. Every time I descended I felt sharp pain in my ankle and it made me rely heavily on my right leg. I felt lop-sided and unstable and was unable to navigate the technical terrain efficiently. I was working extra hard to get my body to move forward. I have never felt injury pain in a race before that made me question my ability to finish.

I made it up and over the highest peak and then started the long technical descent. On my first step down, my ankle just bent over and I would fall sideways catching myself with my hands. It was really ridiculous. My body felt so beaten up I felt like I was finishing up a race, not 9 miles into a marathon. Three miles into the descent I took an extra second at the aid station to try to regroup. Cam powered ahead and Anita was long gone. She mastered the descent like a boss. I started walk jogging to try to loosen up my legs and GU'd desperately.

Opening Ceremony Festivities.

At mile 12 I started to have Tad sightings. There was a man walking towards me with sunglasses and a backwards hat. "Tad! Tad!" I yelled ahead. He ignored me. "Tad, it's me!" It was like a bad dream. As I got closer I realized it was just a mirage. After what seemed like forever, I made it to Hudajuzna. There was a check point and somebody yelling out names on a loud speaker. I heard my name and wanted to just crawl in a hole. I knew my day was done. There was no questioning it. I walked around looking lost and confused until Tad finally found me. A sweet Slovenian grandma gave me a hug, kissed my cheek and gave me a chair to sit in. Kristina, my La Sportiva teammate, ran by and powered through to score for our team.

Breathtaking views and not even to the top.

My U.S. teammates are some of the most awesome people and amazing athletes. Our men placed 5th and the women 4th. Full results here.

The day of the race, I accepted what happened. It is what it is. It happens to everybody. In the scheme of life, this is no big deal. But as each day passes, I get more and more overwhelmed with grief. I feel terribly embarrassed and feel the need to apologize to everybody for not representing our country well. I wake up in the middle of the night and obsess over what I could have done differently in the race, in my training.  

I feel like I have been forcing races, workouts and runs for a couple months now. It is time to hit the reset button. Tad and I are getting married this weekend and then going to West Virginia to spend time with my family. It really sucks, but we decided to skip the U.S. Mountain Running Championships in Lincoln, New Hampshire. My body needs time to heal and I do not want to line up for another sub-par performance. I don't think I can handle it mentally.

A good aspect that has come out of struggling the past couple months is it really has made me reflect on last year. I had an awesome spring and summer last year. When you're in it, it is so easy to bounce from race to race and not appreciate successes. You always want more and therefore are always looking to the next event. But I am savoring it now.

I can't express my gratitude enough for all of your wishes of support, encouragement and understanding. Many thanks to Nancy Hobbs and Jason Bryant for the opportunity to compete among the world's best in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Nano Hobbs, one of my favorite people.

Thank you to La Sportiva, NativeEyewear, Trail Butter, Bio Skin, Rocket Pure and Enduro Packs for supporting me, fueling me, hydrating me, protecting me and healing me.

Thank you to my Bellingham dream team Terrain Gym, Prime Massage and Align Chiropractic and my Bellingham Distance Project teammates.


For more pictures of my European adventure, check out my Instagram account @mariadalzot.


Planking with Peter at 9:30 pm.



Thursday, May 12, 2016

Spring Setbacks: Training Update



In just over a month I will be running the 13th World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Podbrdo, Slovenia. The Gorski Marathon has 9,000 feet of elevation gain and loss over 42 kilometers (26 miles). Our U.S. team leader (and my fellow La Sportiva teammate), Jason Bryant, ran the course in 2011. You can read about his experience here.

The last four mile climb of the course is called “the hour of truth.” It has five aid stations and a doctor. 
The Gorski Marathon Elevation Profile with Aid Stations.
To prepare for the two brutal climbs I have been increasing the elevation gain and loss of my long runs. Our local trail, Pine & Cedar, is infamous in Bellingham as a relentless climb of 1.5 miles with 1350 ft elevation gain. I started doing repeats of P&C at the end of my long runs. I was feeling really good physically and began feeling confident in my potential to perform well at Worlds. After several weeks of consistent training, lots of vert and high mileage, my left hamstring, glute, psoas and hip flexor revolted. Tightness overtook my leg and prevented a normal gait. I took some time off and a down week to allow all of my muscles to rest and calm down.

Marching up Pine & Cedar.
The Don't Fence Me In 30k in Helena, Montana was on my racing schedule as soon as it was announced as part of the 2016 La Sportiva Mountain Cup. It is my favorite race in the series and we were excited to return to the beautiful trails of Helena for the third year in a row. We made our flights, hotel and car reservations at the end of February, but it wasn't until mid-March that I noticed that they had changed the date of the race to the weekend prior to what was on the original schedule. Unfortunately, even after incessant begging to the airlines, we were not able to change the flights or get any money back. I was extremely disappointed in the whole situation. Between the scheduling snafu and my leg holding me back, Don't Fence Me In was not meant to be this year for whatever reason. I can tell I am getting older and more mature when my response to setbacks is calm and rational rather than emotional and reactive. 
Recovering in the beauty of British Columbia
After some down time and several weeks of working consistently with my awesome chiropractor and massage therapist, my leg has loosened significantly and I feel re-energized for the last training push before we leave for Europe. Other tools that I am using that have been instrumental in my rehab are the Bio Skin compression shorts and hamstring sleeve. As soon as I am done with my run, I slip into Bio Skin regardless of my outfit. Consistent recovery from training is just as important as working out. 
Always training in the Bio Skin Thigh Skin.

Re-hydrating with Enduro Packs Electrolyte Spray.
I have had the opportunity to test out Enduro Packs' Liquid Multi-Vitamin, L-Glutamine Recovery Complex and Electrolyte Spray. As a Registered Dietitian, I aim to fulfill all of my nutrient needs through a whole foods diet and recommend my clients do the same. However, as an elite athlete I understand that specific nutrient needs are higher during intense training periods and supplemental help may be needed to maintain optimum health and efficient recovery. 

I am so appreciative of my awesome team of support and sponsors. Anyone who has seen me train or race knows that I love my sunglasses so you can imagine my thrill when I was accepted as an ambassador for Native Eyewear. Not only do they make lenses that will protect your eyes for any adventure, the folks at Native are stewards of Mother Earth, making environmentally responsible products. The protective cases are made with recycled water bottles and all of the packaging is made with recycled cardboard and printed with soy-based inks. Protecting our playground is extremely important to me and I am proud to represent a company that prioritizes preservation. 

Looking onward through the Native THROTTLE.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Yakima Skyline Rim 25k


This weekend was Rainshadow Running's 6th annual Yakima Skyline Rim 50k/25k. I have not run a Rainshadow Running event since the Deception Pass 25k in November of 2012, just shortly after we moved to the PNW. I chose to run the Yakima 25k because it has two 2 mile sections, each with 2,000 ft elevation gain (1,000 feet per mile) and has a total 4500 feet ascent and descent. This mimics my big race of the summer which is marathon distance in Europe with two 4 mile sections each with 4,000 feet elevation gain (1,000 feet per mile).

Yakima 25k Elevation Profile
The race started at the Umtanum Creek Recreation Area. The course was somewhat different than past years as it started and finished with a flat half mile section. Due to the heat and sun exposure, James requires all runners to carry 40 ounces of water. This seemed like an excessive amount to me and felt extremely heavy as I put my vest on to go to the starting line. James yelled 'Go!' and led us for 200 meters to the dirt road that would take us to the bridge across the Yakima River. James likes to challenge me with his bridges. (If you don't know about my bridge anxiety, read here.)

Starting the first climb in the only bit of shade.
As soon as we crossed the bridge, the trail turned into tight single-track and started climbing. I looked ahead to see where I was: there were 2 guys out front and then there was a pack of 3 men just ahead of me. I started out pretty aggressive, hoping to be able to stay with at least one of them so I was not running on my own the entire race. Because of this, I felt like I was running harder than I would otherwise this early in the race. Around 2 miles I passed one of the men. Now there were 3 of us within 20 meters of each other. We ran this way for the duration of the undulating jeep road which follows the ridge line and has stunning views of the surrounding snow-capped Cascade Mountains. Just before the descent down to Roza Creek, I pulled up on Chris Paterson and we introduced ourselves. (He ran the 50k the day before!) It was a short conversation because we soon hit the crazy steep downhill with loose, dry rocks and sharp scrub brush. I'm glad I took a GU because this section was hard to follow and took a lot of concentration. 


There is only one aid station for the 25k at the turn around at Roza Creek. There is no road access to this point so the Rainshadow Running crew and volunteers had to cross the river by raft to get supplies to the runners. Since there was no way of getting to me on the course, Tad drove out to the turn-around and yelled encouragement from across the river.

Happy to see Tad.

Now the fun began! Remember when I thought 40 ounces of water was excessive? Well, it wasn't and I thanked James the whole way back. At sub-ultra distances, I rarely encounter climbs that are so steep I have to walk, but this was one of them. Luckily, I had the cheers and support of all the runners cautiously navigating their way down and Glenn perched at the top with his camera. I found myself lulled into the power hiking, but a voice in my head surprised me and told me to get going and start running again. At this point, the guys ahead of me were long gone. The miles up on the ridge were pretty lonely and I was hurting. I knew I was paying for my aggressive first 5 miles.

On the final descent, I could feel the bottom of my feet burning as I slid forward with every step. Before the race I applied my Rocket Pure Friction Therapy Natural Anti-Chafe Balm to my feet knowing that with the aggressive footing and heat, which I am not used to, I needed to postpone blisters as long as possible. I wore the La Sportiva HeliosSR which is made for rocky, technical terrain because it has a forefoot rock guard. 

So excited for the high-five!


Because I was nervous about the bridge crossing, I instructed Tad to meet me there on the way back. At this point, I was so tired and hot and ready to be done, I didn't care enough to have anxiety and would have just as soon jumped into the cold, sparkling water below. I crossed the finish line with the iconic high-five with James. I ended up 5th overall and 1st woman. I know I am fit and ready for a good race, but I never take a win for granted, especially because there was a solid field of women competing including Jennifer Evans and Marlene Farrell.

Top 5 Women: (Full results HERE)
Maria Dalzot (2:28:10)
Jennifer Evans (2:56:12)
Marlene Farrell (3:00:59)
Kim Carmel (3:02:45)
Stephanie Gundel (3:05:37)

After rinsing off in the creek, we enjoyed brick oven pizza and a huge plate of fresh fruits and vegetables as we listened to music from the Pine Hearts and cheered on the finishers. If you have never run a Rainshadow Running event yet, I suggest you do. They are some of the best organized, most scenic and overall fun races in the Pacific Northwest.

Stay tuned; the next couple months are going to be adventure-packed!

Other Stuff of Interest:

Have you checked out TrailSisters.net? A female-driven site, this platform will share stories of training, adventure, motivation and much more! As a contributor I am writing a series about what it is like living and running with anxiety.

Mark your calendar for the Northwest Women's Trail Running Retreat September 15-19 in Bellingham, WA. Click HERE for more info!

If you are interested in purchasing some La Sportiva gear or other accessories like watches, sunglasses and nutrition, visit my Athlete Biz store. By purchasing your gear from my store, not only do you get a discount, but I get a portion of the profit to help fund my race expenses.
 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Trail Sisters

When Gina Lucrezi asked me to be a contributor for her new site, TrailSisters.net, I was thrilled. TrailSisters.net is a platform that will be used to inspire, motivate, educate and rejuvenate readers by doing what we are most passionate about: loving the trails, the outdoors and the community we share them with. I will be joining Gina, Hillary Allen, Ashley Hunter Arnold, Elinor Fish, Heidi Kumm, Bree Lambert and Krissy Moehl. This is a group of women that inspire me on and off the trails and it is an honor to be collaborating with them.

With fellow Trail Sister, Krissy, sailing down Mt. Si.
I decided to write candidly about a topic that is extremely personal. I have been living with chronic anxiety for about14 years and have experienced panic attacks since 8th grade. 'Running Out of My Mind: Facing Fear & Anxiety One Run at a Time', will be a series of posts addressing how anxiety has effected my running and life in general. Click HERE to read PART 1. My hope is that by being transparent with my struggles you will gain some insight into what it is like to live with anxiety, or if you have anxiety yourself, to know that you are not alone.

Thanks for reading!





Sunday, March 13, 2016

Marin Ultra Challenge 25k


The first race in the 2016 LaSportiva Mountain Cup was the Marin Ultra Challenge 25k, hosted by Inside Trail Racing in Sausalito, California. The course tours the beautiful Marin Headlands with impressive views of Mt. Tamalpais and the Golden Gate Bridge. That's what they say anyways. It was hard to see under my cap and hood with the rain blowing sideways and the wind knocking me around. However, race director, Tim Stahler, and his team of hard-core volunteers didn't let the weather deter them from a top-notch event, simultaneously orchestrating a 50 miler, 50k and a 25k!
Course Elevation Profile

Tad and I got to Sausalito on Wednesday night so that we could run the course on Thursday and Friday. Because of the current blast of bad weather, Tim et al. had to revise the course into one small loop and one big loop, which allowed us to run the entire course. We started at Tennessee Valley on Thursday morning and the rain and wind was just ridiculous. We sat in the car as if in a carwash for a good 30 minutes just staring out the window hoping for a break. After taking the plunge, we ran the upper loop that had the climb up to Marincello. On Friday we parked at Rodeo Beach, the new start of the revised course, and ran the lower loop. The weather was equally bad if not worse, but we still were able to get the preview in without a problem. The trails are drastically different than what we have here in the Pacific Northwest. Very smooth service roads and paved asphalt made up 90% of the course. This was going to make for a very fast race! 

Soaked in a second. The La Sportiva Hail Jacket is awesome!

On race morning the weather was calmer than it had been the previous two days, but just as unpredictable. It would rain and then stop, rain and then stop. I changed my outfit around three times, still unsure when I lined up that what I chose would be appropriate. My bib number was put through the wringer and I hadn't even started the race yet.



Start of the first climb.
Switching to the downhill gear.
With $1,000 up for grabs and Marin County being an elite trail running hub, we knew there was going to be plenty of competition. I started the first two miles sitting behind a group of 4 women and then gradually pulled ahead at the top of the first climb, Hill 88. As the course wound around and started to descend quickly back to the start, I got passed by eventual winner Daniella Moreno, a former college cross country and track stud (16:33 5k and 34:27 10k) from UC Santa Barbara with a serious pair of wheels. I clicked off a 5:17 mile coming down the mountain and still couldn't keep up with her! It wasn't until the second climb that I came within a couple seconds, but I ran out of mountain and it was time to go flying back down. I had one more climb to make a move. I missed the second aid station check point after starting the climb and had to turn around and go back. By this time Daniella had extended the gap to 30 seconds and I knew that her speed would be unbeatable the final fast 4 miles.

My face when Tad is telling me to run faster.
Once I crested the top of the final climb I turned my legs over as fast as they could, but when the trail bottomed out with 2 miles to go, I had a hard time keeping the momentum going. My hip tightened up significantly to the point that I stopped to stretch twice to see if my stride would loosen up. By this point Daniella was long gone and I knew that I had second. Even when your race position is set, it is so important to push hard all the way to the finish because you never know what is happening out in front of you. This is very hard to do especially when you are not winning and do not have the adrenaline to mask the fatigue. This is something that I have taken note of and need to work on for the future. 


On the final turn into the finish shoot I embarrassingly ran into the 'Turn Right' sign and smacked my shoulder and head. I was glad to be done. I finished 2nd woman, 11th overall with a finish time of 1:48:35. Full results here.

Who doesn't love a big check?
The trail running community in Mill Valley is very special. Large organized group runs, extremely supportive cheers along the course and volunteers that made the race go off without a hitch despite the inclement weather. I really want to thank Tim and his crew for all of the work they do and continue to do to host the best races in California. For more Inside Trail races check out their Facebook page and website.  

Thanks to La Sportiva for providing opportunities for trail runners to make some cash while doing what we love to do in some of the most spectacular areas around the country.

A huge hug and thank you to La Sportiva Team and Mountain Cup Manager, Quinn Carrasco, for bringing my gear all the way to California with him, for giving me his jacket at the finish line as I shivered in wait for Tad to come off the mountain and for his support and enthusiasm.

Next weekend is the famous Chuckanut 50k here in Bellingham, Washington. I am really excited to see my Trail Butter Family and to cheer on my friends as they take on the Ridge, Chinscraper and the dreaded Interurban. Maybe next year I'll be on that starting line, too…