Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Cutthroat Classic

The Cutthroat Classic is called a classic for a reason. The race is point-to-point 11 miles that goes 5 miles up and over Cutthroat Pass via the Pacific Crest Trail and then 6 miles of switchbacks down to Cutthroat Lakes Trailhead. The views are incredible, the community even better and the post-race burritos are 10/10. These are just a few of the reasons this race sells out every year, and why I wanted to be a part of the fun.

I first raced Cutthroat in 2014. I had a solid performance, but started the race a bit frazzled as I peed over a hornet’s nest 5 minutes before the start and got stung directly in the buttocks (I always say that with a Forrest Gump accent). You can read more about my experience here.

Since returning from Europe I have not been focused on racing because I was preparing to start a new job working as the dietitian of a bariatric weight management clinic. Now going into my third week, I am getting used to a tighter schedule and working on keeping my anxiety under control. Even though I have felt more tired, I did not back off on mileage going into Cutthroat because I am preparing for the Oregon Coast 50k in October.  

My goals for the race were to beat my previous 2014 time of 1:26:12 and to not get stung. (In addition to getting stung in 2014, I got stung by hornets the past two weekends on my mountain runs!) I knew winning was going to be difficult after hearing that the always impressive Ladia Albertson-Junkans would be on the starting line, but I would try to be as close to her as possible.

Lily Trotters Reppin'.
We stayed at the Winthrop KOA which meant a 40-minute drive to the start Saturday morning. I figured it was worth the extra driving time in the morning given the Four Season’s-like amenities at the campground. What I failed to factor in was how crowded the campground would be as people are trying to squeeze out every bit of summer before returning to school, darkness and rain. Obnoxiously large RV’s were pulling in deep into the wee hours of the night and their equally obnoxious owners cackled and yelled, inconsiderate of those trying to sleep. Anyways, I digress.

I got up at 5:00 to a chilly 43-degree morning. Tad brought the heater for the tent and made coffee while I ate my usual pre-race TrailButter and bagel. We left at 6:30 and made it to Rainy Pass Trailhead and first dibs on the bathroom before the bus of racers pulled in from Mazama. We met up with Ladia and jog-chatted until the first wave set off at 8:00. The trail quickly funnels from the parking lot onto the single-track PCT. The lead men took off and I led the train of the chase pack for about a mile and a quarter until Ladia let loose, went by me and off she went. It was kind of mesmerizing to watch her just float away. Then I realized that I had two ladies still right behind me, not missing a step. At about 3 miles, Winthrop’s Novie Mccabe passed me and then Spokane’s Kelly Quinn went by. I felt stuck in first gear and couldn’t respond quickly to their moves so I was now the caboose of the train. After about ¾ a mile I felt like I was having to slow down too much so I carefully took the lead again until a half mile from the top when everyone in the string passed me again. I kept calm, hoping that my improved downhill skills would serve me well. But as we crested up and over Cutthroat Pass, I was left in plumes of dust from my competitors. I worked the downhill as hard as I could, but was never able to catch back up to be within striking distance. I ended up as 4th female with a time of 1:26:02, 10 seconds faster than 2014.

Full results here

One mile to the finish.

Upon reflection, I was in really good shape in 2014 and ran Cutthroat just 2 months before I won the Trail ½ Marathon National Championship. So even though I didn’t have an ideal race then, I am not in that kind of shape right now to run significantly faster. I think I also underestimated how tired I was going into the race. But overall, it was a hard effort that will serve me well for the future and I got to run on a trail that is close to my heart (Tad proposed on top of Cutthroat Pass in 2015) with good friends on a beautiful day.

I don’t know if it’s me getting older –and hopefully wiser—but I don’t get as upset as I used to when I don’t run as well as I had hoped. There is so much more to racing than the pursuit of times and places, and while I will always work 110% to be the best I can, I also have a better appreciation for the ability to just be able to run in such magical places. As Ladia so poignantly quoted the inspiring Gabe Grunewald after the race, we just need to show up. Show up without expectations and pressure and with an open heart.

One of the many cool parts about this sport is that even if you don’t have a good race you can hit the trails the next day and let the beauty feed your soul. The following day, Tad and I ran the Maple Pass Loop which is easily my new favorite course in the North Cascades. Just wow. If you haven’t made that run/hike yet, please do yourself a favor and check it out.

Maple Pass, elevation ~6,900 feet.

Also, I didn’t get stung once all weekend.

Thanks to Adrienne Schaefer, the new event coordinator, the Methow Trails Event Team and to Winthrop Mountain Sports for such a challenging and fun race experience. Next year is going to be extra special as it will be the 20th anniversary of the race. I hope I can be there to help celebrate.

Thank you to Lily Trotters for sponsoring me in this race. These socks, are not only cute and comfortable, but they also are perfect for keeping clean on these dry dusty trails. You can check out more of their signature compression socks here

Here’s to squeezing out the last bit of summer.

Overlooking Lake Ann.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Pull-Up Assist Bands: Review from BarBend

Getting my pull-ups on at Terrain Gym
Lets be honest. Runners are not known for their arm strength. After all, it is our legs that propel us forward, up and over mountains. But this doesn't give us a free pass to skip the gym or monkey bars.

Many distance runners tend to overdevelop their chest and front shoulder muscles due to the way they carry their arms. Over time,
 this imbalance can result in a posture that causes stress and pain in the lower back, and is inefficient and uneconomical over long distances. Upper body strength is especially important for runners who frequent hilly and technical terrain.

The good news is that a combination of mid- and upper-back exercises such as pull-ups and chin-ups will help to prevent imbalances from developing. To help you do a pull-up correctly without sacrificing form or increasing chance for injury, use a pull-up assist band. I use these bands often in the gym, especially when I am getting tired and am straining in a way that feels injurious to me. 

For a reliable resource on the best pull-up assist bands and why this piece of equipment is a game changer, check out a comprehensive review from BarBenda news, analysis, entertainment, and opinion platform that posts multiple times a day on what is relevant in strength-based competition and training. 

Are pull-ups part of your routine? Do you use an assist band? How many can you do with and without an assist? Do you feel it makes you a stronger runner? Let me know!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Europe Trip 2017: Marathon du Mont Blanc and the Stanserhorn Mountain Run

Two years ago, we stayed in Chamonix for a couple of days while en route to Zermatt for the World Long Distance Championships at the Zermatt Marathon. Coincidentally, we were there the same weekend of the Mont BlancMarathon. The excitement buzzing through the valley and the inspiration of watching the racers finish the 80km race in town was so special that I wanted to be a part of it. This year we made that happen.

Aiguille du Midi - Chamonix, Mont Blanc
This was our third time traveling to Chamonix, so even though I was going to a foreign country, I felt comfort going to a familiar place. The weather when we arrived was super warm for us Pacific Northwesterners – mid-8o’s. That sun is just so hot if you’re not used to it.

Hanging with the locals.

Two days after we arrived and two weeks before the race, we ran 16 miles of the Mont Blanc Marathon course as part of a 20-mile long run. One week before the race we ran the 10-mile loop that included the daunting climb up to Col des Possette. Our first impressions were that the course was much more technical than we had first thought, but still nothing too crazy (especially for Europe). 

Col des Posettes on a clear day.
The climb (3,000 feet in 3.5 miles) was not as bad as I had anticipated and, after studying splits from racers past, set a goal of placing in the top 10. To be honest I really wanted to be one of the ten women standing on the awards stage. With 9,000 feet of climbing and 5,000 feet of descending in 26 miles it was not going to be easy, but I felt confident that this was a realistic goal.

Course Profile

Supporting ITRA with Andy Wacker.
The day before the race I got called to the laboratory next to the hospital to get my blood taken for doping control. I was so honored to take part! I stood in line behind Kilian Jornet. No big deal. As an aside, I just got an email today from the lab saying that my cortisol levels were especially high and that maybe this was race anxiety, but I should still share this information with my doctor. This stressed me out.

Climbing through the fog.
The night before the race a front came through changing the weather dramatically. Now I was anticipating rain for much of the race and hoped it wouldn’t be too bad at 6,000 feet. I started out the first four miles clicking off splits that were similar to my tempo run 10 days before. I was feeling good, running calm and relaxed, completely under control sitting in 5th position. Right before the climb to Possette, there was a downpour. The men around me were all stopping to put their jackets on, but I figured it would pass through quickly and knew that we wouldn’t be up on the ridge for long. And, come on, I live in the Pacific Northwest−this is nothing! The rain did let up, but left me soaked and in a cloud with zero visibility making a chilly traverse across Possette. The descent off the mountain is super technical with rocks and stairs made of slick wood logs. These technical parts are usually my weakness but after practicing on Chuckanut Ridge this Spring I was pleased that I only got passed by two men and I even passed one myself.

Sitting comfortably in 5th.
I always take GU when I’m racing and have never had a problem. When I took my first GU of the race, I noticed it didn’t appeal to me as it usually does and had a harder time getting it to go down. I didn’t think anything of it, and attributed it to breathing hard at elevation. But each sequential GU kept getting harder and harder.
Packet pick-up with Andy and Karly.

When we finally bottomed out, I felt off. I didn’t have the same composure. There is a road crossing at 19 miles where they put a temporary overpass made of scaffolding two-stories high. This is where the wheels fell off my bus. Looking back on the pictures, Tad told me that in this spot I look sick and pale with a caved in face. I started the long climb up to Flégère, but could only run a few steps, then I’d have to bend over. I suddenly felt so nauseas and had such an incredible thirst. Unfortunately, there was no aid until the top of Flégère. I have never felt such sickness in a race. I was really struggling and still had so far to climb to get to water. I don’t even like to drink from the same bottle as Tad, but here I was asking random people on the side of the trail and other racers for water. I started getting passed by other women until I was clinging to the 10th spot.

Right before the wheels fell off.
The best aid station crew.
Cheering for the Vertical Km with Megan and Sage.
When I finally got to the Flégère aid station, the top of a 6,000 foot peak, it was completely socked in and I became so cold I started shaking violently. The med staff saw me and pulled me into the medical tent and made me lie down on a cot. They brought me some Isostar sports drink and wrapped me up in an emergency blanket. One of the men even took his jacket off and covered me. They rubbed my hands together and made me tea to try to warm me up. They checked my temperature which had dropped significantly. Smartly, this race has a mandatory gear list for all racers which includes a cell phone. They were able to get me wi-fi (“wee-fee” as they called it) so I could call Tad. With his usual spectating plan of driving and running side trails he had followed my progress and was aware I had lost some spots when he last saw me at 21 miles. He was down in the valley in line to take the gondola up to meet me at the finish hoping I was holding on to that top ten podium spot. I explained I was sick in the medical tent so he drove to Les Praz and took the gondola up to Flégère. He got to the top, looked in the medical tent and saw two cots, one empty and one holding jackets and a space blanket. I was so bundled he didn’t even notice the lump under the pile was me. Tad said to call it a day and come back down the mountain in the gondola, but after the World Long Distance Mountain RunningChampionships in Slovenia last year, there was no way I was not going to finish. I asked how long I could lay there and still finish. I had three hours to get it together, so I laid there for about an hour and started feeling better. I thanked everybody for helping me and walk-jogged the final 5k which took a little over an hour. Tad jogged the first half mile with me to make sure I was okay to finish and then turned around and went back down the gondola at Flégère. This meant that I was alone at the finish. I am usually so hard on myself, but in this moment, I felt so proud. I took a selfie and got my yearly cup of coke. By this time the clouds lifted and the sun came out so I sat down for a bit and enjoyed the view before taking the gondola back down.

Finish line selfie.
So, what happened? Well, I don’t know for sure. Was I severely dehydrated? With this much climbing did I underestimate how slowly I should start? Did I have a bug? What could I have done differently? These are all questions going through my head to make note of and learn from for next time.
I honestly got to experience it all. From being treated as an elite, to racing in the top five, to being taken care of by the kindness of strangers, to racing to the finish with back of the packers (which is no different than running up front!). My friend Nikki summed it up best for me: “What an incredible day! To learn how fast you are (first 18 miles), how tough you are (last 3 miles), and how loved you are (Tad and aid station workers) all in one race!” The whole experience leaves me feeling so full of gratitude. The best part about not racing the way I had hoped is I get to return to Chamonix and try again. I’ll be back for you Flégère!

La mia famiglia
Two days after the race, we rented a car in Chamonix and drove to Varese, Italy to see my family. It is always so special to see them and they treat Tad and me like royalty. I’m still dreaming about the lasagna, risotto, cream puffs…  

Happy place.

From Varese, we drove into Switzerland and up and over Gotthard pass where we stopped for an awesome 7 mile run on a trail we found on the side of the road. The rest of the drive up the pass was so nerve-wracking because we were completely in a cloud and couldn’t see two feet in front of the car. With the narrow roads and cliffs, I’m terrified of the cars coming the opposite direction. I had to sit down low in the seat, close my eyes and pray.

The backdrop of Interlaken is the stunning Jungfrau mountain range. The problem with Interlaken is that to get anywhere with a cool view you have to climb. A lot. Or you have to pay to take the gondola. A lot. So, Tad studied the map and found the most obscure and scary road to drive up so that we wouldn’t have to do so much climbing. (I think by the time we returned the rental car imprints of my hands were molded into the dashboard and ceiling.) The trail was absolutely polluted with cow shit. There was just no avoiding it and we had to tip-toe through it to make sure we didn’t slip and fall face-first. Once we waded through that mess, we were treated with unobstructed views of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau Mountains. Truly spectacular, shit and all.

Gotthard Pass, Switzerland.
Out of curiosity I looked up what other races were going on in Europe during our visit. One of the many cool things about Europe is that there always seems to be some trail or mountain race going on in every town. About one hour away from Interlaken was the 31st Stanserhorn Berglauf in Stans, Switzerland. This is an 11-kilometer mountain race with 5,000 feet of gain. A true mountain run with zero descent.

Jungfrau Mountain Range.

On Saturday, the day before the race, I still couldn’t decide if I wanted to run. The weather did not look good and it was going to make for a long day of travel because the town of Stans was the opposite direction of where we needed to end the day. We had to return the car to Chamonix Sunday night, get a shuttle to the Geneva airport, and then a shuttle to the hotel in France, to fly out the next morning. I hardly slept at all, tossing and turning about logistics. I woke up at 5am and still didn’t know if I wanted to race, as it was pouring rain outside. We decided to head to Stans and make the call when we got there. So we drove to Stans, pulled into the cobblestone town square where they were just starting to set up the start banner. We were a little early and luckily found a parking spot meters from the start. I still didn’t know if I wanted to race as I was walking to the registration table. Finally, I thought what the hell, just do it. This is not my normal mode of operation by any stretch so this was a big step for me. We paid 50 francs, and they handed me a number. Nobody spoke English so after a fun game of charades we finally found the bathrooms.

1 Km in before the road turned to trail.
I felt surprisingly good on the warm up given that I had just run the marathon a week before. (I guess it helps marathon recovery when you take an hour nap in the middle!) From the start through the first 1 km (each km was marked) I was about 30 meters behind the lead woman. I didn’t know at the time, but this woman was the course record holder. Half-way up the climb, I was still feeling really good, closed the gap and covered any move that she tried to make. As the race wore on, she started to lose her footing in the closing mile so I figured she was getting tired and as soon as the trail opened up, I would be able to pass her in the last mile and pull off the win.

Pushing to see the finish.
The problem with not knowing the course and running in a cloud is that I didn’t know exactly where the finish was and couldn’t see anything ahead of me. The final mile continued to be narrow trail that was so steep it was mostly stepped switch-backs. I’m not as efficient on steps and my opportunity to “let ‘er rip” never came. I ended up getting beat by 24 seconds. I’m kicking myself for not making a move earlier, but I’ll know for next time.

What a trip. I think this has been my favorite adventure yet because I grew so much. I feel like every day I was pulled out of my comfort zone and had to embrace being comfortable feeling uncomfortable. My hope is that as I settle back into my every day routine I can hold on to this new growth.

More pictures from my trip can be found on Instagram @mariadalzot.

Thank you to all of my sponsors who help support my dream and to you for reading and following along on the adventure.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sun Mountain 25k

Friday afternoon we headed over to the east side of the Cascades for Rainshadow Running’s Sun Mountain 25k. The stoke was high that the highway 20 pass opened just days before, cutting our road trip in half. We stopped at Washington Pass for the obligatory “look how much snow there is!” picture.

I made reservations for us to stay the weekend at the Winthrop KOA, the crème de la crème of campgrounds. Our tent sat right next to the river which was rushing so hard it sounded like the ocean. The owners were just delightful; super welcoming and hospitable. The bathrooms were insane. Held inside a landscaped cedar cabin, inside each door is your own private toilet, sink and vinyl shower. I will forever be spoiled.

Tad and I ran 9 miles of the course on Saturday while cheering on the 50k runners we saw on the course (Kaytlyn Gerbin, Michael Plummer and Tara Berry crushed it!). I feel a lot more confident going into a race when I know the course so I try to see as much as is reasonable the day before. This also allows me to really stop and enjoy the amazing scenery, which is just breathtaking.

James moved the start of the race up two hours from 10:00am to 8:00am. I was so grateful for this change as it was going to be a high of 82 in the Methow on Sunday, a temperature to which I am not acclimated.

After studying the course and splits from folks who ran it last year, my goal was to run under two hours. But after previewing the course and finding out that an extra 1.4 or so miles was added, I let the time goal go and just focused on running aggressive. And, let’s be real, a win is always nice, too.

The first couple of miles are net downhill and a woman took it out hard at about 6:15 pace. I worked to catch up to her and passed her at 3.5 miles. I continued to move up the field catching the 7th and 8th place men on the first sustained climb. I shared a few miles with Brett Winegar who was clearly running much more relaxed than me based on his ability to speak in full sentences versus my grunting.  They kept me company until the aid station where I did not stop and kept the pressure on to try to gap the woman who was hot on my heels.

When I saw Tad at 10 miles, she was 90 seconds behind and then at mile 11.4 she was 4 minutes behind. Experience has taught me to not rest on my laurels despite the increasing gap so I continued to run scared. With a couple of miles to go, I checked my watch and realized I still might have a chance at breaking two hours! But the clock was ticking and the finish line was just out of reach. I finished the approximate 15.7-mile course in 2:01:08.

Full results here

Congratulations to everyone who ran not only the 25k, but also the 100k and 50k in such warm conditions. An extra special congratulation to Doug McKeever, who returned to racing after a 10-year hiatus. Doug is a pioneer of the sport and it is because of people like him that not only make trail racing possible with volunteering, etc., but are also a tremendous source of inspiration and a tribute to the longevity of the sport.

I didn't embarrass myself this time and knock James out at the finish.
Thank you to James, the Rainshadow Running crew, and all the volunteers who make these events so special. I realize that this is biased, but the trail running community is the best and I just feel so blessed to be a part of it and have so many good people in my life.

I have had consistent training for 8 weeks now thanks to the help of Kerry Gustafson, Chris Lockwood and Tonia Boze. A month out from Mont Blanc I feel good both physically and mentally. Another two weeks of training and we head to Europe.

Thank you for reading and for all the messages of support and encouragement. They carry me far. 

Sunglasses: Native Eyewear
Pre-race fuel: TrailButter Dark Chocolate & Coffee
Body care: Rocket Pure Friction Therapy Anti-Chafe Balm & Sunscreen

Monday, April 24, 2017

Return to the Rim

It was a cold and rainy Saturday morning about a month ago in the throes of the PNW late winter, and I was dragging my feet trying to get out the door for my run. I started watching Rainshadow Running race videos and dreaming about the sun. I made a split-second decision to sign up for both the Yakima Skyline Rim 25k and the Sun Mountain 25k. Not only are these races an escape to a sunnier, dryer land, the timing aligns perfectly with my build-up to the Mont Blanc Marathon on June 25th, all about a month apart.

One of my self-improvement goals this year is to work on being more comfortable being uncomfortable. With this in mind, Tad and I camped out the night before the race. If you told 10 years ago Maria that she was going to camp outside in the cold the night before a hard race she would have laughed in your face while booking it to the nearest Holiday Inn. The low was a cold 39 so we slept in the back of our Explorer on a platform Tad built, but also pitched the tent for changing and stretching in the morning. Tad fit the windows with Reflectix Insulation which helped keep it warm and prevented light from coming in. We blew up the air mattress which made it comfortable, but only left 6 inches above us when lying down. I wish I had a video of us crawling out of the car at 1:00am to go to the bathroom. Other than feeling a bit claustrophobic, it was cozy and comfortable until about 3:30am when the temperature really dropped and I still struggled to keep warm.  

Leading up the first climb.
I ran the Yakima 25k last year so this time I knew what my legs and feet were getting into. This race is noted in my brain as one of the hardest trail races I have ever run with almost 5,000ft of gain in 15 miles. The weather this year was much cooler and the trails less dusty which made racing condition more pleasant, though James still required each runner to carry 40 ounces of water.

Side note: We went to the course two weeks ago to get some sun and instead got rain, 60mph winds and the type of mud that sticks to your shoes in 50 pound clumps. 

Epic sun (and video) fail.

There is no crew access due to the remote nature of the course. Tad started up the climb about 20 minutes before the start so I only saw him in the first mile and then at the finish. But I knew I wasn’t going to be alone out on the course. I knew Doug McKeever was going to be stationed at 5.5 miles providing runners with water and encouragement. I knew Glenn Tachiyama was going to be taking pictures up on the ridge. I ran into Paige Patillo at the Ellensburg Starbucks race morning so I knew smiling faces and high-fives waited at the Roza Creek halfway aid station (and Tad screaming from across the river, watching through his binoculars).

It seems like I was surrounded by friends for the whole race. The out-and-back course allowed runners coming down to cheer on runners coming up. The cheers and encouragement from my fellow racers were so appreciated. I tried to return the good juju, but I got to the point where I was breathing to hard a wave or thumbs up would have to suffice.

Last year I started out very aggressively and paid for it on the return trip. I kept that in mind this time and used the first 2,100ft climb essentially as a warm up. I felt so much better on the return and was able to run all but the extremely steep sections. I passed the 4th place man heading back up and spotted the 3rd place man up ahead. I worked on reeling him in the whole way back. Not until the finish did I realize it was Sam Naney, husband of my friend and former La Sportiva teammate Alison Naney.

I was so deep into “race mode” I totally forgot to let up at the finish line for my high-five from James! This series of pictures embarrassingly highlights the intensity of my finish. Sorry for almost dragging you straight to the pizza, James!

I can always tell how good a race was by how terrible I feel after. I felt pretty terrible after this one with the headache kicking in on the way home. This morning, I can’t make any sudden movements without something cramping. It was a good day.

Full results here

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ultra Debut: Chuckanut 50k

Just another rainy Saturday morning
with my training buddies Corrine and Nikki.
Since Krissy Moehl moved back to Bellingham she has become a dear friend of mine. Over the course of the past year, I have heard of the excitement building for the 25th anniversary of the Chuckanut 50k. Visions of sky writers, balloons, fireworks and lots and lots of sparkles danced in the planning committee’s heads. This was going to be an unforgettable event and I wanted to be a part of it. But this time with a bib number pinned to my shirt.

We started training for the race in December. Tad studied splits from racers past to get a feel of what we needed to do. We had intentions of running each section of the course exactly as how I would in the race. Per usual, we were going to be as dialed in as possible. But like most things with running, rarely does training go as planned. This year’s unprecedented snow really limited our ability to train on the course safely and made workouts near impossible. I mentioned in my Fragrance Lake Half Marathon report that I have been unable to get on a role with my training for a year now. This frustrating pattern continues. Though Fragrance Lake went really well, I had to take a couple days off prior to the race due to hip pain and then I had to take a week off afterwards due to a high hamstring pain.

Coming down from the Ridge.
So, as Chuckanut crept closer, my ambitious goals became softer to the point we were like, okay, let’s just get to the starting line healthy and have a good experience.

Because I missed or had to cut short several long runs, my confidence leading up the race was really lacking. To be honest, I was terrified. I have only raced two trail marathons in my life and the 50k distance really intimidated me. I was worried about how my legs would feel - would I be able to finish without pain, what was the right way to fuel, what was I going to wear? So much to think about; it was exhausting. I started packing for the race two weeks out…and I live here! #OCD #anxiety

Start Line Smiles with Chuckanut Champ Ladia.
It was only the week before the race that the snow melted from the course. Tad and I went up on Monday to run the Ridge because I haven’t been able to get on it for a couple of months. It was surprisingly dry and in great condition. However, these conditions were quick to change as the night before the race brought downpours that absolutely trashed the Chuckanut trails into a muddy slip and slide obstacle course.

Racers were greeted race morning in true PNW fashion: 43 degrees and steady rain.

Since I am in no shape to race the lead women, who are some of the nation’s finest talent, my race execution was to just run my own race. I really wanted my first ultra to be a positive experience, without any major catastrophes and maybe even have a little fun along the way. I let everyone take off and stayed a controlled 7:00-7:10 pace on the way out on the Interurban trail, knowing that the key was having legs for the return 10k. As someone who usually races half marathons to 25k, I felt my biggest challenge was to just stay calm and patient and not let my anxiety have a voice.

Crawling up Cleator with Corrine

At aid #1, I took off my Hail Jacket and traded my handheld for a vest. My adventure through the middle 18 miles was pretty uneventful. I ran mostly alone, completely comfortably, and never experienced any lows. You know that song from The Band, “Up On Cripple Creek”? Well, I had the lyric, “When I get off of this mountain, you know where I wanna go…” playing in my head. I just kept moving, never once having to walk until the steep sections of Chinscraper, which is where I felt my strongest. I passed a lot of men and one woman who informed me I was now in 5th position.

"When I get off of this mountain..."

My one kryptonite was my Reynaud’s Syndrome. My hands became so numb even though I had handwarmers. Once handwarmers get wet they are useless and then my hands are useless. I couldn’t open any GU’s or drink any water from Lost Lake down to the last aid station. I wasn’t able to put my gloves back on after trying to unzip my pack pocket and needed assistance from aid station volunteers to help me put my gloves back on. (Thank you, Michael!)

I flowed back down Fragrance Lake Road to the final aid station where I was to meet Tad to trade back my vest for the handheld for the final 10k. I yelled that my hands were too numb to take the handheld and that I was so thirsty, but my mouth was too numb to drink water. Tad had to hold a bottle and feed me like a baby bird. He opened two GU’s for me which I held in each hand and kept my vest on for the final stretch.

First ultra - DONE!

I felt pretty strong coming in, only frustrated with losing time stopping at the road crossing for cars. I struggled to keep pace the final mile, but made it to the finish line as 5th woman, with all my limbs intact and a smile on my face. Goals met. The whole race I kept telling myself that I only had to run 30 miles because the final 1+ miles are just excitement and adrenaline. Turns out, that didn’t happen. There was no magical energy source that usually comes at the end of the race. It was just, “get me to the damn finish chute already!”

Photo Booth shot 2 minutes after the finish.
Full results here

Overall, I am very pleased with my first Chuckanut 50k, my ultra debut. I am so incredibly thankful that I was able to run the whole race pain-free (hip and hamstring were fine and I’m feeling pretty good two days later!), considering that I couldn’t run 60 seconds 2.5 weeks ago without pain. It was a positive experience surrounded by my amazing Bellingham community and friends. 

As they say, you never forget your first time.

Congratulations to EVERYBODY who crossed the finish line from 1st place to last; this was no easy feat in many regards and took perseverance, strength and a good sense of humor. Well done!


Krissy and her team of co-race directors: Alina Prendiville, Kevin Douglas, Tyler Pouley.

All of the wonderful aid station volunteers, especially Michael Plummer and CamE Tasker, and to all those from the community who came out to cheer. It means so much!

Tad, the world’s best spectator…and coach, and photographer, and pack mule, and husband, and crew, etc. I love you!

Kerry Gustafson of PRiME Massage and Sports Medicine and Dr. Chris Lockwood of Align Chiropractic.  I am infinitely grateful for all the time these two have put into me. Seriously two of my favorite people!

My training partners (Nikki Vander Wiele, Scarlett Graham, Corrine Malcolm, Andrew Taylor, Christian Blankenship) who met me every Saturday morning since December at 8:00am at the bottom of Cleator Road to go up and down Fragrance lake over and over because the rest of the course was covered in snow.

Hanging out with my gorgeous BDP teammates at the after party.
PC: Courtney Olsen

What’s next? I want to get the hell off Chuckanut Mountain and go find some sun! I will be racing Rainshadow Running’s Yakima Skyline Rim 25k and Sun Mountain 25k in preparation for the Mont Blanc Marathon in Chamonix, France on June 25th.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fried Eggs & Fragrance Lake

I woke up this morning unsure of how my first race of the year would unfold. Of course, I would like to say that my training has gone seamlessly and without setbacks, but that is far from the truth. I am still struggling to get rolling and have consistently good workouts. I am still struggling with inconvenient aches and pains and tightness that interfere with any semblance of speedwork.

Add to that snowpocalypse 2017 and this winter’s training has been nothing to write home about. This week was especially frustrating because the Pacific Northwest got hit with another freak snowstorm. Six inches of snow at sea level made it impossible to run without slipping or pulling an adductor. I tried on Monday and aggravated my hip flexor. Between that pain and the ridiculous amount of snow and slush that accumulated, there seemed no way that I would race this weekend. The last thing I wanted to do was really injure myself and be out of the Chuckanut 50k, my debut at the distance, now only five weeks away.

But on Thursday a weather miracle happened: a warm wind blew in and the temperature rose 20 degrees in a half hour. Then it started raining. The snow was melting at such a fast pace, sidewalks turned into streams and we could finally see the Prius. It looked like racing was going to be a possibility. Tad and I checked out the Fragrance Lake Half Marathon course on Friday for any remaining snow and ice. The trails were - amazingly - all clear. I was almost hoping they would still be covered so I wouldn't be able to race. Now, I had to make a decision when I wasn't confident in how I'd be able to perform. I planned to warm up for the race, see how my hip felt and then decide.

Today’s pre-race breakfast was fried eggs and potatoes. There is nothing that makes me giddier than a fried egg cooked just enough to have a beautiful runny yolk. As I cracked my first egg in the pan, I busted the yolk. Damnit! I was careful to not damage the second, but when I went to flip, I saw a steam of bright yellow ooze across the bottom of the pan. Nooo! My plate of eggs ended up being a complete mess. My immediate reaction was to assign a foretelling of the race to my eggs and think "this race isn't going to go well". I added salt and pepper and a roasted purple potato. It was delicious. It doesn’t matter that your eggs are not cooked to perfection or Instagram-worthy; they can still taste good. I left the table with this comforting thought and took it with me to the start line.

All systems were go after warming up and feeling oddly good for a change. After some course briefing from race director and 200-mile mastermind Candice Burt of Destination Trails, we were off. David Laney led the way, stringing the pack out quickly before starting the ascent up Chuckanut mountain. I started out per usual and let the crazies go screaming out to try to keep up with David. Once the climb started, I made my way into the men’s chase pack and worked with them up to Fragrance Lake. The recent storm left many trees down across the trail which required a quick decision to go over or under. My short legs struggled to get over the big ones and I had to use my upper body strength to pull myself over. But then there were some where I could stoop low enough to scramble under. Either way, it slowed things down but kept things interesting.

Awesome handcrafted wooden awards from Elevation Culture.
I felt strong from start to finish. I could switch gears efficiently and keep pushing without feeling any fatigue. Two weeks out from the race was a planned down week and the week before I scrapped my double days and workouts because of the snow so I was feeling the advantages of rest. It’s amazing; you should try it.  I actually passed and pulled away from two men on the Ridge. Those of you training for the Chuckanut 50k know how challenging the Chuckanut Ridge trail is so I was thrilled that maybe I’m finally getting the hang of it.

When I crossed the finish line I was stoked that my time was the same as last year despite the extra challenging trail conditions and being in worse shape. I am thankful that the weather cooperated and my body responded so well to treatments from Chris and Kerry that I could race. This was a big confidence boost, one I desperately needed going into the final weeks of training for the 50k.

Full results here

I am also thankful that my yolks cracked because it is a good reminder that just because life isn’t perfect and running isn’t constant progression, doesn’t mean that the results can’t be good. The best thing I can do is believe and stick to my 2017 motto: let failure be an option. 

I want to give a shout out to my 2017 team of sponsors who continue to encourage me and support me on and off the trails, regardless of my performance. They believe in me as much as I believe in them.

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