Sky Runs

Taking the long way round

Month: December 2014

2014 in Review

This is a review of my year in running only. I didn’t start the year with too many concrete goals, so it’s interesting to see how things developed.

Towards the end of 2013 I put some broad ego-boosting goals in the “someday” file that include winning a race overall (it would have to be a very small one), running a sub-3-hour or seeing how close I can get, being the women’s winner at a marathon (again think small), and winning some prize money (think really small– even $25 or $50 would count!). I didn’t meet any of those this year but that’s fine because I can’t say I tried for any of them either. The closest I came was with the prize money. I won some expensive gear in the Hong Kong mountain races I ran, I helped my road running team win $400 as the second place women’s team at the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K, and I got my entry fee for NJ One Day refunded for hitting the 120-mile USA team qualifying standard, plus 75% off my next NJ trail series race for coming in second– but still, no “prize check” in my name!

Winter training in the Palisades. Photo: Tommy Pyon

Winter training was a frigid blur. Photo: Tommy Pyon

Coming into 2014, I only had a few races on the calendar (or should I say, that I’d already paid for): Boston, Berlin and NYC marathons, the Rock n Roll New Orleans, NYC and Lehigh halfs, Caumsett 50K and the North Face San Francisco 50-miler, plus I had committed to pacing 4:00 at the New Jersey marathon (Okay, maybe more than a few but still very little compared to the 34 races I ended up with!) Come January I started adding some big races that filled up quickly (TGNY 100, Vermont 100K) as well as last-minute sign-ups to run some low-key shorter races like the Boston Buildup races (a terrific series, btw). I started the year with some hip pain that still hasn’t totally gone away and spent a bit on chiro with Wayne Winnick and other treatment to keep me going at least to Boston. My original plan was to train well for my first Boston, run some half-marathon PRs along the way, and race the Caumsett 50K for a sub-4 hour time.

Cold-weather pacing at the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half. Photo: Atsede Aemro- Selassie

Dressed for cold-weather success pacing the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half. Photo: Atsede Aemro- Selassie

My real focus for the first several months was the Boston training. After a rough PR day at the New Orleans Half in early February, I dove in to week 9 of the Hanson’s Marathon Method and stuck to it pretty consistently for the rest of the cycle, with the addition of a few longer runs (20-22 miles) instead of the prescribed 16-mile maximum. This was my first winter of running and it was a baptism by fire. I got colds and the flu fairly regularly, especially after fast races, and my hip was a concern, so I scrapped the Caumsett 50K and ran the 25K instead. I did most of my speedwork on the treadmill, and even some of my easy runs when there was too much snow on the roads. Thanks to the New York Sports Club’s $30 for 30 days trial (which can be re-tried annually), I was able to use a treadmill two blocks from my apartment during the rough month from late January through most of February.

Framingham, Boston Marathon 10K mark. Photo: Joan Kim

Framingham, Boston Marathon 10K mark. First warm day of the year and I got a fantastic race outfit sunburn on the right side. Photo: Joan Kim

The training worked and I PR’d at the NYC Half and then ran an emotional 3:14:15 PR at my first Boston. It had taken me so long to get to there (8 years!), and after all that the city and running community had been through, I broke down in the Wellesley scream tunnel. Even now, the memory of their haunting cries brings tears to my eyes. The infamous hills did do me in but that will give me additional motivation for next time.

Four hours or bust! Photo: Otto Lam

Leading the charge to 4 hours at New Jersey. Photo: Otto Lam

Pacing the New Jersey Marathon six days after Boston was really tough in the state my quads were in, but Otto Lam did such a superb job of organizing the pace teams for the full and half that I really wanted to be a part of it, and we had a great time in the marathon party house that Kino arranged. I took it pretty easy for most of May, racing my first ever 5K (which I won, haha!) and starting a new training plan under my new coach Michele Yates. I told her my near-term goals were to get a sub-4:30 trail 50K, a win and under 20 hours at TGNY, and under 14 hours and podium at the Vermont 100K.

5K bling is much bigger than ultra bling. Photo: Tommy Pyon

Buckles shmuckles– 5K’s where all the bling is at. Photo: Tommy Pyon

My first ultra of the year was the PinelandsTrail Festival 50-Miler over Memorial Day weekend. I was signed up for the 50K and really wanted to run 4:30 or under to qualify for the elite corral at The North Face San Francisco 50-Miler. However, I wasn’t sure if I could run that time on trails and I didn’t know the Pinelands course at all, so I thought it might actually be “easier” to run the 50-mile race in under 8:30, the TNF elite qualifying time for that distance. I slept on it, woke up feeling pretty good, and changed my registration just minutes before the start. I started out a little too aggressively and had to slow in the last part of the race, but finished my first 50-miler with what felt like my best trail result to date, 8:11:30 and 2nd female! Oh, and I didn’t trip and fall!

This must be, oh, about 10 hours into the 12-hour. Photo: Larry Sillen

This must be, oh, about 10 hours into the 12-hour. Photo: Larry Sillen

After 50 miles, it was time to gear up my training for the TGNY 100 4 weeks later. I made a very late decision to run my first 12-Hour race at the BUS Joe Kleinerman run in early June, and won with just over 75 miles. The .97-mile loop was the shortest I’d ever run, it was hot that day and the course had a pretty significant hill, but I had a pretty good experience, while swearing to myself that this was enough and that I was NOT going to run a 24-hour race later this year.

Photo: Atsede Aemro-Selassie

Times Squaaaaaare here I come. Photo: Atsede Aemro-Selassie

TGNY was my first big goal race of the summer- the one that I really wanted to win and improve on my time from last year, which was a little under 23 hours. It was my first 100 miler last year and would now be my second. I didn’t spend as much time training on the course this year since I remembered most of it, just one group preview run organized by the RD Phil and another review of a tricky stretch in the Bronx. The 12-hour race was my real heavy training run and I felt good going in to TGNY. I only hit a few low points late in the run, and had great support from my pacers Emi, Simon and Francesca, as well as all the volunteers on the course. My goal was sub-20 and I ran 19:06. I also learned a few things about what I’ll have to do to run an even better race in 2015, which is what I plan to do.

In Vermont. Photo: Lucimar

A month later in Vermont. Yeah so I basically wear the same three things for all my races, especially when it’s warm. Photo: Lucimar Araujo

In July I ran the Vermont 100K. The big 100-mile race is very popular with NYC ultrarunners, but despite all their assurances that the trail was “easy,” I needed to see for myself before I’d commit to 100 miles on a course that might chew me up through the night and spit me out the next morning. Of course they were right, it was easy (defined as: I never fell down, and if I don’t fall on a trail it must be easy). I ran with the ladies’ winner from the previous year for the first part, until we ran off course and added three miles, and then she got in a hurry to make up her position, so I spent the rest of the day solo relaxing on the peaceful country roads and trails, power-hiking the hills and running the rest. I beat my 14-hour goal by a lot, finishing in 11:54 for 2nd.

Mountain time

Mountain time on the infamous Incline.

August was a very difficult month for me for non-running reasons, and you could say I made it more difficult by challenging myself on the unfamiliar terrain of big mountains. I had won the UTMB lottery in my second year of trying, but was very indecisive about whether or not to go for what felt like a long time. A great group of runners I know were going and had booked a house in Chamonix for a week before the race, so that was a huge plus, and I couldn’t shake the dream of running through the Alps in 3 countries in one go. However, I couldn’t realistically run this race and go back to Europe for the Berlin marathon a month later. Reasoning that I might not have such a cool opportunity to do UTMB again in the near future (since you need both qualifying races and lottery luck to get in) I chose UTMB.

Two weeks out I ran the Pikes Peak marathon to prepare for UTMB, since the uphill portion of Pikes Peak would be much bigger than the biggest hills at UTMB, and the altitude greater. I absolutely fell in love with Colorado and got in some amazing mountain training on the days before the marathon. After all, I was training for UTMB, so no taper needed for Pikes Peak. I really enjoyed the Pikes Peak challenge but took a bad fall and banged my right knee on some rocks about a mile and a half before the finish.

Taking a break in the Swiss Alps. Photo: Harald Zundel

Taking a break in the Swiss Alps. Photo: Harald Zundel

It was really too bad as the sore knee followed me to Europe, where I did some easy hiking in the Swiss and French Alps during the ten days leading up UTMB. As much as I tried to avoid downhills that would aggravate my knee it simply wasn’t possible. And again, there was not much time for proper training or tapering, but I’ll take what I can get, especially when it involves unbelievable terrain.

Such a relief. Photo: Aleks Zuber

That’s 45 hours worth of relief on my face. Photo: Aleks Zuber

UTMB was an epically long race with some struggle. I had a great start despite the rain the first night and felt strong until around halfway, when my knee became an issue and I had to make the call on whether to quit or keep going with an occasionally hobbling pace on the downhills. Around 90K I was about ready to call it a day when I met an American guy named Nick who said, “oh please don’t quit” and reminded me that we had plenty of time to finish the race within the 46 hour cutoff. Thanks to him, who I occasionally met up with on some of the remaining parts of the course, I determined to stick it out.  Anyways, I always want to see the rest of the course and have a knack for persuading myself that, no matter how gnarly or soul-destroying the previous section was, the next one won’t be so bad (of course it can be worse!). I got my money’s worth at the aid stations, ate lots of cheese and salami and noodle soup and crackers, took a few catnaps, got massaged, sometimes hallucinated (but knew I was hallucinating), got sleepy and bored during the second night, sometimes lonely (no pacers allowed) and only cried in despair once at a never ending downhill and what felt like a long- delayed second surnrise. At the last major aid station, 20km from the finish, I got pale and dizzy, vomited, and made a big poop, and was held at the medical tent for an hour and half while my vitals were monitored. Once I was given the all-clear, I continued through one final brutal mountain, back to the village where I had started nearly 45 hours earlier, with my housemates there to run me in and cheer me to the finish. That made me feel like I can do anything.

To the finish of the Tahoe 200. Photo: Rebecca Lippman

To the finish of the Tahoe 200. Photo: Rebecca Lippman

2014 was also the year that I learned how to be an ultra pacer and crew person. I crewed and paced Teaspoon for 30-ish miles at Umstead in April, and within days of finishing UTMB I was on a plane to Reno to help Mama Michelle at the Tahoe 200, a 200+ MILE race around Lake Tahoe. I was so glad to be able to crew and pace Michelle since she was one of my pacers the first time I ran TGNY. 200+ miles has to be one of the hardest things I have ever seen anyone do- not just Michelle but for everyone out there. I was really glad that she persevered and despite all the struggle and pain she finished strong, running all the way down the last mountain. Remember, if she can run at the end of 200+  mountain miles and four and half days of sleep deprivation, you can always keep running too!

Hong Kongs Victoria to Peak Challenge. Photo: Club Balance

And chicking my way to the top of Hong Kong island. Photo: Club Balance

From Tahoe I traveled to Hong Kong for personal business, and made the best of the heat and humidity. I ran a couple of short steep uphill races and greatly enjoyed them, plus I won some fancy prizes like Salomon shoes and wireless headphones. It suits my lazy nature to walk hard up a lot of the big hills, plus pushing up a mountain in a race is something that makes me feel very alive.

Photo: Donna Sajulga-Tabios

Bloody but unbowed. Photo: Donna Sajulga-Tabios

Returning to New York in early October, I was in no way ready to race for good marathon times, but I still ran the Steamtown marathon the day before my birthday and decided to pace NYC instead of racing.  By this point I was pretty sure that if I wasn’t going to run good fall marathons (meaning PRs), I would go for my first 24-hour race at New Jersey One Day. I was familiar with the race venue and it wouldn’t require much travel or stress, and if the weather was bad I would stay home. I ran a 6-hour race two weeks out as my long run (got the win and a course record as a bonus), paced 3:45 at NYC on November 2nd, and toed the line at One Day the following week, running my marathon split in exactly 3:45 again. The 24-hour experience was a real handful and I’m still recovering. I was very happy with my 136 miles on my first crack at the 24-hour puzzle.

Two thumbs up for 24 hours. Photo: Otto Lam

Two thumbs up for 24 hours. Photo: Otto Lam

After a couple of weeks of recovery, I headed to California for my two final big races of the year, the Quad Dipsea and The North Face San Francisco 50 Mile. Very tired by this point, I still couldn’t pass up the chance to finally run in one of my favorite places in the world. Then I went and did a few more social races before I was really really really done for the year. Five days off and then back to some easy running, trying to stay around 30-60 relaxing minutes each day before the next training cycle begins in January.

Fun to the end of the year. Photo: Donna Sajulga-Tabios

Fun to the end of the year. Photo: Donna Sajulga-Tabios

A few other highlights from 2014 on the non-racing front:

Taking a quick break from pacing to give Mama a big hug. Photo: Young Cho

Gotta give our Mama a big hug during the marathon. Photo: Young Cho

After putting together a pace team for the 2013 NYC Marathon, New York Road Runners decided to start a pace team for its half marathons as well. I made the team and paced most of the NYRR halfs this year, as well at the marathon again. I love wearing the pacer singlet, carrying the sign (it’s not at all heavy!), and helping others achieve their goals with a steady pace.

I found a coach who’s my kind of crazy and a community of like-minded, hardworking runners at Rugged Running. Michele Yates is an incredible athlete and so inspiring, she really makes me want to train harder and smarter. As a bonus her services are pretty affordable and it feels like she is always there for us, even with a newborn baby and her own ambitious goals!

Whats inside is top-secret :-)

Whats inside is top-secret :-)

Purely through the luck of wearing a sample shoe size, I became a wear tester for Hoka One One and have logged a lot of miles and provided feedback on some of their shoes that will hit the market next year or later. This was really a dream come true!

Chilling at the TCS NYC Marathon Opening Ceremony and Parade of Nations

With my pro hospitality teammates at the TCS NYC Marathon Opening Ceremony and Parade of Nations

Through a chance volunteer assignment at the Milrose Games in February, I met the team that handles professional athlete hospitality for the big events with New York Road Runners and I had the opportunity to work with them on the preparations for the NYC Half, Mini 10K and the really big one, the TCS NYC Marathon. It’s a cliche but true that the world’s best runners are the nicest people too.


I won some accolades too: My team gave me the Ultrarunner of the Year award for the second year in a row, I was awarded the New York Ultrarunning Grand Prix Championship title in March for racking up the most points in their races last year, and New York Road Runners recognized me as (ultra)runner-up for Ultrarunner of the Year. I can’t say I run for any of this kind of recognition but it is sweet and I am grateful for it.

And finally– 2014 in statistics!

Races run: 34

Marathons: 5

Ultras: 9

Race miles: 1013

Road race miles: 643

Trail race miles: 370

Total mileage: 2706

It sounds hokey but I’m very grateful that I was able to run this much, in so many beautiful places and surrounded by wonderful people all along the way. I get a little emotional when I think about it, how far I’ve come and how long the road ahead still is. Happy new year!


I felt a little tired, achey and cranky last week. Maybe I did a little too much too soon during the early recovery days. I’m really not superhuman. I needed a real rest, so I took some days off and spent some time learning a little more about what I’ll need to do in the year ahead. I started with “The Maffetone Method,” which is written for a general audience, but includes all of the key principles from the much longer and more detailed “Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing.”  I got a new armband heart rate monitor and a training journal for the next year and I’m ready to put them to use.

12/22 Week in Review:

Monday: 1-hour yoga class

Tuesday: 25 minute swim, 45 minute spinning class, 2 mile walk

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Rest with extra sleep

Friday: Rest and half hour or so of walking

Saturday: 7-mile easy run

Sunday: 4 mile easy run, 1 hour yoga

Ultra Recovery Running: Bryan Court 100 (60K) and BUS Fat Ass Trail Mix-Up 30K

This weekend I ran about 40 miles over the two days. That may not the smartest thing to do during recovery time but YOLO. How did that happen?

You know you might be planning to run too much when even Teaspoon is telling me that I might be overdoing it. But it feels like all my friends are going (maybe because all my friends are also crazy running friends now…). I know, I could hang out to volunteer and cheer, but I miss running a lot- it’s been weeks but feels like months. I’ll take it easy, I bargain. Back-to-back long runs are a normal part of my training, right, so this is no big deal. It’s purely for training, not racing, I promise. Last long run of the year, okay? And so on…

And hey, it’s not like I was scouring Ultrasignup to find two events to run this weekend, but it just turned out that there were two things I really wanted to do on consecutive days. This year the Broadway Ultra Society organized one of their occasional casual year-end races, the BUS Fat Ass Trail Mix-Up, with 30K and 50K options for Sunday, December 21. Meanwhile, my friends Otto Lam and his twin brother-from-another-mother Juergen, who is visiting from Germany, had decided to give their previously cancelled Bryan Court 100 (60K) another go, and set the date for Saturday, December 20. What to do? Bryan Court promised to be a great running party, while BUS events are always a good time, and they were going to give out the signature BUS ski hats as swag. The truth is that I’ve been eyeing those hats on people’s heads at various ultra events over the past year or so and knew they were hard to come by, so here was my chance!

I signed up for both. I wasn’t sure if it would be a good idea to run the 100 laps of Bryan Court required for the full 60K, but Otto assured me that there would be no DNFs at their race, only DDs (drop downs). And realistically, I planned to run the BUS 30K and not the 50K. So again, rationalizing that this would be not at all different from all those weekends when I’ve doubled up with a 15-20 miler plus a 25-35 miler, I would go for it.

This casual long-running weekend would also help develop my cold-weather tolerance and allow me to play with my winter gear. It was chilly all weekend but not like drastically below freezing, and despite the complete lack of sunshine both days we had no rain and only a few snowflakes spotted by the eagle-eyed Maggie on Saturday. As a bonus, I also got some unfortunate lessons on how bad my stomach can get if I don’t start taking better care of things like my nutrition.

Bryan Court 100 (60K)

Photo: Juergen Englerth

Photo: Juergen Englerth

Saturday morning on the way to Bryan Court I was already tired. In fact, I’d been very tired since the early evening on Friday. Nothing a little more coffee couldn’t fix though, right?

Otto lives in the middle of Bryan Court, a sort of barbell-shaped cul-de-sac in northern New Jersey. The idea for the Bryan Court 100 (60K) came to Otto as he wondered what it would be like to run an ultra on his block. He and Juergen measured the loop and found it was exactly 600 meters, ideal for a 100-lap 60K run. They had originally planned to host the event in May, and though that was canceled, clearly the idea lived on in the minds of these two men. They invited a few people who just might be mad enough to run a tiny loop for hours on end, and were somewhat shocked and overwhelmed when a bunch of them actually showed up. All day, Otto kept saying, “I can’t believe you people are here. I thought no one will come.”

Apart from the somewhat challenging course, the set-up was top-notch, and the amount of care put into all the small details was really touching. A classic ultra aid station table was set up on the lawn outside the Lam home, with a wide variety of food and drink, some provided by the runners, who were asked to bring something to share. We also had access to the kitchen, living room and two ultra comfortable bathrooms, which I came to appreciate greatly later in the day. Lots of spouses and partners and kids were on hand to volunteer, cheer, take photos and keep a steady supply of hot and tasty food and drink coming to the runners. It was amazingly luxurious and would have ruined anyone who ran their first ultra here- the next one will surely not be as accommodating!

#ottolamming. Photo: Donna Saljuga-Tabios

#ottolamming. Photo: Donna Sajulga-Tabios

After setting up my drop bag in the living room and my soft cooler bag on the lawn, we hung out outside and took a lot of pictures, including the obligatory group #ottolamming pose. I dressed up for the occasion in some holiday-colored running clothes, along with a random dog-ear headband that I wound up with on my head after the Whippets holiday party the previous weekend, so I looked like an elf with giant floppy ears. There was a bit of a spontaneous theme with runners wearing funny and mostly animal-related headgear.

A few of the funny hats. Photo: Hideki Kinoshita

A few of the funny hats. Photo: Hideki Kinoshita

The kids sang the national anthem and they were a little shy, so all the runners joined in as well. Then we were off! I’d say about 20 of us were running that day and we all started out together like a loony parade, with at least half the runners wearing funny headgear and others taking turns holding a 3-hour pace sign that had survived from the New Jersey Marathon. What did the neighbors make of this? We were laughing a lot as we ran the early loops, and as we spread out a bit we could always see the others and wave and cheer each other on.

Maggie and I ran together and chatted, but there was no denying that this loop felt really long and that there was something subtly difficult about it. Was it the up-and-down the block, the tight turn at one end, the concrete, the gray skies and cold, or a combination of all of the above? I’ve run a bunch of short loop races but nothing shorter than about a mile with no issues, but when I think about running a track ultra some day the thought of it makes me feel a bit eeewww. Is this what it’s going to be like?

The view

The view

After about 8 mile and change Maggie and I were hungry and we attacked the aid station table. Coke, PB&J, potato chips and pretzels, a cookie, plus a hot chocolate and coffee mix to go as we walked a lap. When we started running again, we picked up the pace a bit and I just zoned out a bit and followed Maggie. A few miles later we took another break and went inside for what was probably a long time, came out again and were still not quite at 20K. By this time we had lost our “lead” to Jun, who was about a mile ahead. We resolved not to stop again until the halfway point and picked it up again.

Fooood!!! Photo: Donna Saljuga-Tabios

Fooood!!! Overindulging at the fantastic aid station with the best volunteers. Photo: Donna Sajulga-Tabios

At some point the volunteers started calling out our lap numbers to us, which was not what we wanted to hear! It made getting to halfway feel like it was taking much longer than it should. Each lap felt like a mile to me even though it was only about a third of that. Maggie kept shouting at them to stop telling us, but I don’t think they ever did.

My friends the bathroom passes. Photo: Elaine Acosta

My dear friends the bathroom passes. Photo: Elaine Acosta

It was also around this point that my stomach started getting funny and my “race” took a nosedive. First there was gas and then cramping pains as I tried to make it to lap 50 before stopping. Not gonna happen. I stopped around lap 45 for a short pit stop and then again at 47 for a much longer pit stop and told Maggie to go ahead. When I came out she was enjoying her halfway-done break. I continued to run and could hear the contents of my stomach sloshing, even though I’d just emptied my guts and hadn’t been drinking too much. The sounds were freaking me out. I made it to the 30K mark before I had to stop again for another extended bathroom break. By now I felt pretty depleted so I had some soup and crackers and mainly walked a few laps, but then again, another gut-wrenching toilet stop, and another, and another…. I have to say if there was ever a race to have the worst case of runner’s trots in, this was it— Clean toilets and a very short loop! But I knew I was pretty much done. This was not the day to dig deep and gut it out and suffer until I collapsed. I’d rather cheer my friends and enjoy the party later.

I went and sat in Teaspoon’s warm car and passed out almost immediately, waking just in time to catch Maggie a few laps before she finished. I walked around a few times as she wrapped up her ladies win and then we headed inside and ate some pizza and everything else. Then I went outside one more time as the sun went down to see the Christmas lights on the houses of Bryan Court and to complete an even 60 laps. Yes, I’m the kind of runner who will go up and down my block a few times at the end of a run to hit exactly 6 miles or 1-hour or whatever. We celebrated into the evening with cakes to for Chris’s birthday and Lisa’s lifetime 50th marathon/ultra—and she’s only 27!

Buckles and prizes. Photo: Juergen Englerth

Buckles and prizes. Photo: Juergen Englerth

Finishers got finishers buckles and the rest of us got “participant” (or commemorative) buckles designed by the ultra-talented Grammi, which featured the Chinese zodiac animals of our RDs: Ox for Otto and Tiger for Juergen. Sweet!

BUS Fat Ass Trail Mix-Up 30K

Back on the trails. Photo: Donna Sajulga-Tabios

Back on the trails. Photo: Donna Sajulga-Tabios

This was one mixed-up event indeed. Originally scheduled to take place in Forest Park, apparently a park bureaucrat didn’t like the idea of a laid-back little ultra race and nixed the original plan, which was to run 30K of loops on Forest Park trails followed by 20K of loops on Forest Park roads. Luckily, BUS RD Richie was able to secure another venue on short notice; however, instead of running on an all-trail loop for the first 30K, we would be running half-trail, half-road. We had several emails about the course and directions, but it was still pretty confusing since I wasn’t familiar with Alley Pond Park (or really any park besides Central Park). I hoped that I would be able to follow people at least the first time around.

The mixed-up Mix Up map

The mixed-up Mix Up map

And even though the event was called a Fat Ass, it was even less of one than Bryan Court! There was a modest entry fee of $25, and we were spoiled with two aid stations, scorers, swag, post-race food and drink, and awards. I think the RD just liked using the “Fat Ass” name to differentiate it from most of the other BUS events that are part of the New York Ultrarunning Grand Prix series, and also so he could call this one a “Half Ass.”

My stomach problems felt like they had cleared up and my legs didn’t feel too bad when I woke up on Sunday. I had a typical cobbled-together pre-race meal of milky coffee, half a Clif bar, a piece of chocolate, a handful of dry cereal and a couple of homemade cookies nabbed from the Bryan Court aid station, while Maggie had a serious runner’s breakfast of black coffee and plain oatmeal with peanut butter and A GEL mixed in. I really need to rethink my nutritional strategies.

We caught a ride with another friend who was running, picked up the swag and set up our drop bags and stuff in a big tent, and said hi to so many people I knew. I ran my first BUS event in July last year and by now I really feel like a regular in this crew of ultrarunners of all ages. My jaw dropped a little when I saw I’d been granted the damn bib number “1” for this race, probably because I won the last BUS-affiliated event in October. I knew I wasn’t going to live up to my bib number today but figured at least I’d make a nice target since we had to wear back and front bibs for this one.

I was a bit all over the place in terms of sorting out my gear and missed most of the pre-race briefing because I was fiddling with last-minute things in the warm bathroom, including munching on a couple of precautionary Pepto Bismol tablets. Just stay with runners for the first loop and you’ll be fine. I wasn’t sure where the trail started or how narrow it would be so I lined up towards the front, but behind the really fast guys, just in case it got tight early on. I knew Maggie’s friend Taryn was well-trained and going for the 50K win today so I wasn’t going to follow her, but there were some other guys and a girl I recognized as good to stick with. I looked around for Maggie but she was hanging back with Otto and others and I knew she could catch up soon enough.

We took off and I followed the lead pack, which soon became the second pack as Taryn and another guy pulled way ahead. The first 1.8 miles were all on road and I started to recognize it from the BUS 3-Hour Race in March. Despite my totally groundless reassurances to myself to the contrary, it was not flat. There were some short and ugly steep hills that I remembered running on the last time. But also a nice long flattish section, maybe ½ to ¾ of a mile where I could get my speed on. I did but it felt way too fast and I wondered why I was so out of shape. At the March race, I had started out with a friend and we had agreed to stick to an 8-ish pace, or not faster than 7:50s, and wound up comfortably running around a 7:30 average. Right now on the flats, 7:30 was not too comfortable, but I kept dropping the pace because I knew the trail might force me to slow down a lot. Partly out of laziness I had decided to wear my “cold-weather” road shoes, the Adidas Energy Boost, since the Boost foam doesn’t harden as much as other materials in frigid temperatures, but if the trail was very rocky or rooty, I was going to have to take it real easy. My first priority in any trail race is to avoid getting hurt.

We got to the trail part which started as springy wood chips. I slowed a little to watch my footing while the small pack of guys ahead of me kept their pace, but I still had two others right behind me. I started “racing” a little to stay ahead and promptly fell down the side of the wood chip trail. Doh! Okay, time to back off. The two others passed by as I was hauling myself up and I held back as we hit a rockier portion of the trail for about half a mile. Remember goal number 1: Don’t fall down again.

The trail wasn’t too bad and I felt I’d made the right decision on the shoes, but the rest of my gear was bothering me. I felt way too hot and stuffy and was trying to figure out what to take off at the end of this first loop. Cap or fleece headband or buff? Down vest? Fleece mittens? I’d decided to carry a 10 oz. handheld because I didn’t want to stop at the aid stations too often, but holding it with two pairs of gloves on was awkward. I have the dual problem of getting cold really easily and sweating a lot, so depending on my pace, if I wear too much and run fast I’ll be drenched but if I don’t wear enough and slow down I will freeze my butt off. So far I was getting soaked.

At the end of the loop the course returned to the asphalt and we circled around a playing field to the scoring tent, then made an out and back to the aid station and drop bag tents. Or I thought it was an out and back. As I approached the tent. Richie the RD yelled at me to go back and make a right. What?! I had missed a turn: Instead of taking the U-shaped path back to the tents we were supposed to take a hilly path on the other side to get back to the aid station. The distance seemed the same but it didn’t matter because I had gone off course and had to correct it. I went back and saw an arrow on the ground that was only visible to me once I was going the right way. Oh well, so that’s what I missed at the pre-race briefing! I was in a bit of a daze as I tried to decide what to leave of my gear and wound up only dropping the handheld, but then I couldn’t even figure out which way to go to start the second loop and had to ask around for directions.

To round out the fun, as I took off running again, a couple of friendly unleashed dogs wandered towards me. One of them came right up to me with a silly expectant look on its face before I had a chance to slow down, so I wound up slightly knocking into the pup as I tried to swerve around. Nobody hurt? Okay, keep moving but take it easy. That was enough disaster for one loop.

Feeling unlucky, but now knowing what was in store, I decided to adopt a new strategy for the rest of the day. Instead of trying to race the whole time, which I knew I really really was not supposed to do anyways, I would use this as an opportunity for a moderate interval workout. Run faster on the road portion, especially the flattish section, to below marathon pace, and recover on the trail. Road: music on, zone out. Trail: music off, pay attention to the footing and directional signs. Drink and refuel at each aid station as needed. Repeat.

I felt good. This was fun, even if I got passed by another lady when I stopped after the second loop for a gel and another couple of Peptos, though I’ll admit it was hard to take my time and not try to regain my spot. As I approached the end of the third loop, my Garmin had me at over 11 miles, and I was under the impression that we had to run six loops– you just never know with ultras: GPS can be unreliable (especially on trails) and RDs have a lot of leeway to creatively interpret their distances, plus with all the course changes I wasn’t even sure how long the loop was supposed to be. I asked at the scoring tent the next time I passed by and was told the 30K portion was only five loops, not six. Score! Around and around two more times to finish just under 2:40, well under my 3-hour goal, and 3rd female to cross the 30K mark (the other two went on to finish the 50K). The award was a trophy of half of an ass (the rear half, of course!)

With my hat and half-ass

With my hat and half-ass.

After the race, I felt not so good. I got into some dry clothes, drank a bit of hot chocolate, took a bite of a bagel with cream cheese and then… Yup, it was like a flashback to where I’d been 24 hours earlier, sitting on the toilet in a lot of pain, and so on for hours after I got back home, with some red tint that could be nothing other than blood, since I haven’t wasn’t eating beets yesterday. I did some Google research and learned that, although it sounds like the end of the world, bloody diarrhea after a long or hard run does not warrant a full-on freak-out if it resolves within a day or so. I hydrated with a lot of watered-down Pedialyte, rested and eventually– once the cramping pains died down and I stopped pooping my guts out– was able to have a light meal for dinner. Now it’s time for some “real” rest– and I don’t mean any more of this, “I’m recovering but going to run most of an ultra anyways”—until early January. No speed, no long runs, just two easy weeks of whatever. Happy holidays!

Another Work Out Recovery Week

It’s hard for high-strung ultrarunners to let go and rest (See, I’m not the only one). I’ve been anxious about running and not running, and waiting to rest and recover and find out about the Team USA selection. There’s too much time for negative self-talk to creep in, about what I could have done better and how I should have trained smarter. I’m tired of my own excuses and want to get started on something fierce. But not yet. First, I have a few more new things to try.

JCC Ride

The cycling class taught by Sue Hitzmann at the JCC was definitely more my style than the SoulCycle class I took last week. For one thing, the bikes had computers! And for another, I was able to get my feet in and out of the clips easily.

But seriously, the computer display was a big thing for me, and the class was structured around RPMs and power output, which made it easier to figure out what I was doing. There were no weird oblique crunches or weights to lift until my forearms wanted to fall off, just straight up riding with intervals of hills and speed. It was 45-minutes, just right, and afterwards I went for Sue’s MELT Strength class to cool down.

Revolution in Motion

My personal training session at RevInMo got me to do some of the weirdest and most uncomfortable moves ever. But I mean that in a good way.

Now, I am not the private gym/personal trainer type at all, because it’s expensive, yo. But once again, my running team got me into this. After reading about my teammate Kelsey’s experience at RevInMo, which she credited with getting her out of orthotics and into speedier and stronger running, I thought I should find out more.  Over the past year, I’ve gotten away with an awful lot of running on a bad hip, but the nagging aches are a real downer in my training, and I feel it’s only a matter of time before it leads to potentially more serious injury. Chiro, massage and acupuncture have kept me going so far, but I really need to stop being lazy and get this sorted out from the inside.

I chatted with Kelsey, who also works at RevInMo, and she suggested that I meet with a trainer before enrolling in any classes, and offered a discount for the first session. Okay, I’m in! I showed up at their sparkling clean new studio in running shoes and with a pair of shorts in my bag in case there would be any running involved, but there wasn’t. Instead, my friendly trainer Alex assessed my walking and left-right coordination with a series of fast finger exercises. Then it was on to the fun stuff.

I have zero coordination. I’ve never played any kind of sport and suck at anything that involves more than repeating a single movement over and over again (like running, walking, swimming or riding a stationary bike). If I have to vary that movement a bit, like in trail running or riding an actual bike outside, then I will suck some more.

RevInMo is laid bare all of my weaknesses in this area while making them feel surmountable. It could have been like the junior high gym classes where we played volleyball and I’d get conked in the head, except instead of wanting to cry, I could feel myself getting just a tiny bit stronger with each exercise.

RevInMo uses some very specific exercises to strengthen the mind-body connection and the neurological pathways that keep us moving efficiently. While hard for me to describe in words, the exercises all incorporated aspects of balance, stability, coordination and stretching, using equipment such as the stability ball, Bosu ball, twisty plate boards, slanted board, small medicine balls and kettlebells—sometimes two pieces were used in one exercise. There were times when it felt like torture (hello, kettlebell strapped to my foot as I lean way back in a bridge over the stability ball), there were times when I wondered, “who comes up with this crazy sh*t?!,” and there were times when I went from falling on my face to finally grasping a move and thinking there may be some hope for me after all. Despite my lack of coordination, I managed to catch most of the medicine balls that Alex tossed my way while I was doing other things like twisting on plates or balancing on the Bosu. RevInMo felt really really hard yet empowering, and I’m looking forward to taking some of the classes to further strengthen my weak spots.

Mile High Run Club

Mile High has been the talk of the NYC running community over the past month or two, fueled by a New York Times article on the treadmill gym trend, not to mention the catchy name.

After pacing the NYC Marathon last month, I stopped by the Lululemon recovery party in Bryant Park, where I got stretched by  Debora Warner, the founder of Mile High, who gave me a card with a code for a free class trial. In addition, Mile High offered a free first class to the members of my running team, so quite a few people I know have been already and gave good reviews. They also hosted a charity day last month featuring classes with Scott Jurek last month, which was popular with the NYC ultra crowd.

Now I have to admit that I have a soft spot for the treadmill, because –like track practice or cross-country for some– it’s really where I got my start as a runner. Maybe the pollution in New York City was much worse when I was in my late teens, but I distinctly remember trying to run outside and barely making a mile before my lungs burned up and face turned red. So I took it inside, where I still couldn’t really run and mostly walked at a fast pace on treadmills. A dozen or so years later, when I decided to start running for real and signed up for my first race, the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Half Marathon, I began my training on a treadmill, and running outside was what was novel and full of surprises, like the lack of a steady water supply and a towel to wipe the sweat with! Since then, the treadmill has kept me going whenever I couldn’t run outside: during the incredibly hot and humid summers of Hong Kong, during the Polar Vortex of 2014, and all the time when I lived in ultra-polluted Beijing.

So naturally I was keen to check out Mile High, but I had a dilemma: I wanted to get the most out of the class and haven’t been up for any type of hard training over the last 6+ weeks. The combined efforts of pacing NYCM, running my first 24-hour race a week later, and running the Quad Dipsea and North Face 50-Miler on consecutive weekends at the end of a long year of racing, plus a few sniffles along the way, have left time for a handful of easy recovery runs in between.

Finally this week, after running only 5 easy miles on Monday, I felt ready to push a little for an hour: to remember what training feels like, to see where I’m at, and to get some motivation for the coming year. Post-California, I’ve designated the month up until January 5 as my “off-season,” with no real races or even any running unless I absolutely feel like it Still, there are times when I really miss being on a plan, and not running has left me with too much energy to fret over whether or not I will make the US team for the World 24-Hour Championships.

So on Thursday I finally made my way downtown to try a class, wound up delayed by the subways and getting a bit of an unplanned warm-up to as I ran to make it to the class on time. I got in and there was no fuss to the set up—peel off my layers, stash my stuff in a locker, and hop on my reserved treadmill, push start.

The studio houses 30 Woodway 4Front treadmills, which are like normal treadmills but with an improved running surface of rubberized slats instead of a flat belt. I had actually been somewhat stressed about the treadmills because I’d heard they were Woodways and that company was best known to me as the maker of those curved-belt, non-motorized, eco-friendly and entirely self-propelled machines that make running really hard. I don’t think I’ve every lasted more than 10 minutes on one of those. Phew.

Mile High currently offers two types of classes: Dash 28, an all-levels class that combines 28 minutes of running with some strength training, and The Distance, an hour-long running-only class for more advanced runners. I’m an ultrarunner, so guess which one I picked?

We started with a five minute warm-up, and then moved on to some meaty interval work: two to three minutes of effort with two to three minute recovery in between. We did a few hills early in the class but mostly focused on speed as we worked our way up the various levels through an ever changing light show on the walls. Each treadmill had a handy laminated card on it, outlining the recommended speeds for each level (i.e. “Level 1: 5.5-7.5” and so on). I started at the lower end of each level, feeling a bit like a blob after not really running for a while, and ended up topping out at “10”-speed for our final one-minute all-out interval, feeling like a lean mean running machine again! With mirrors on the studio walls, I could literally see my body perception changing over the course of the hour, from flabby to fit, it’s all in the mind.

During class, the instructor, Luke, said a lot of the kinds of things I tell myself when I’m on a treadmill, including plenty of countdowns, which was reassuring to hear out loud, and the music was the kind of sporty Top 40 hits that make up some of my running playlists, so even when I was pushing hard, dripping sweat, it felt oddly comfortable and made me nostalgic for the old training habits. Exactly what I needed!

Now, I want to go and spend all weekend running and playing with friends, but I have to stick to my guns and my promise to take it easy. I will go out, for fun, but I need to keep it comfortable and not wear myself out for no good reason.

Week in Review (M-F)

Monday: Easy 5-mile run

Tuesday: 5-mile walk, acupuncture

Wednesday: 45-minute spin class, 1-hour MELT Strength class, 1-hour Revolution in Motion training session, 3-mile walk

Thursday: 1-hour Distance class at Mile High Run Club, 2-mile walk

Friday: Rest and stretch

Work Out Recovery

Capped off a week of recovery with a team party. Photo: Tom Flanagan

Capped off a week of active recovery with a team party. Photo: Tom Flanagan

Post-TNF, with the cold coming back and my mind blasted from running, I took three days off. All rest, no running, no anything, just my butt on the sofa.

By midweek, I was trying to balance the need for continued deep rest and a reset with the ants in my pants feeling that comes quickly whenever I take a break. What can I do? How about try something new? So, in the spirit of active recovery, I’m running around town to explore some new-to-me fitness trends. I’ve recently realized that apart from going running or swimming, it’s very difficult for me to motivate myself to do anything else on my own. I mean, I know I should be using the little free weights in my bedroom and doing core work and stretching on the mat in my living room, but I really struggle to do so. I’m lazy. It’s best if I go to a class and do as I’m told. So this week I set a new PR and went to three!

MELT Method

With winter approaching, I decided to put my regular Asphalt Green membership on hold while I take advantage of a three-month trial offer at the JCC fitness center that’s only three blocks from my apartment While the Olymoic pool and spacious gym with East River views and no music at AG can’t be beat, when it’s freezing and/or snowing, I’m much less likely to want to run the 2.5 miles to get there, or deal with the slow-ass crosstown busses.

On Wednesday, I went to check out my new gym. I was still too close to my cold to want to swim, so I spent some time on the recumbent bike (boring but gets the blood flowing, right?) and then I decided to try a class. I had read on Yelp that many JCC instructors also teach at fancy private gyms in the neighborhood like Equinox and Reebok, which sounded very cool. I had heard about something called the MELT method because it was also offered at AG, but I’d never been to a MELT class.

The concept intrigued me: A self-treatment technique to deal with chronic pain and help improve balance, stability and range of motion. The class I attended was called MELT Strength and it was packed- about 40 people and I may have been the second-youngest after the instructor. We started with an arm- and shoulder-busting set of standing exercises using a ban, then some one-legged balancing strength work before moving to the mat to treat the back, hips and core with the aid of a soft foam roller. The instructor provided some adjustments for me on the hip work (where I need the most help) and was quite soothing with her talk of opening up the pathways and developing neurological connections with various parts of the body and their movements.

It was only later, when I went to do some more online research on what this was all about, that I discovered that our instructor was none other than Sue Hitzmann, creator of the MELT method! Oh, and she may not be younger than me after all, since her bio says that she became a fitness instructor in 1988, which seems like some evidence of MELT’s claims to reverse signs of aging. The JCC offers about a dozen MELT classes a week, some with different focuses (for Beginners, with Pilates, Active Isolated Stretching, Weights, etc.) and I think it’s exactly the kind of work I need to get stronger and reduce the likelihood of injury.

Exceed Physical Culture

I was still in San Francisco when I received an invite from Mizzfit Bianca Jade to join her at her upcoming fitness event at Exceeed Physical Culture in Tribeca. I should have taken more heed of the language in her email: “The workout is SO HARD! I can’t do it alone.” Instead, I somehow convinced myself that we would be doing a light workout with some stretching and stuff, ignoring the image of a woman using TRX bands that was right on the invite (I suck at TRX!) and anyways, it was on Thursday, surely I’d be fully recovered by then…

Self-delusion may account for a large part of my success as an ultrarunner. That rooty, rocky, technical downhill at a 40% grade that nearly broke me? Well, surely there’s not gonna be anything else like that anywhere else on this course, right? I wouldn’t say my ignorance is bliss since it keeps me suffering, but it does keep me from quitting. With this class, I figured, 45 minutes, how hard can it be? I’ll just hang out in the corner, using light weights and minimal effort to get by. And wear my TNF 50-Mile shirt to display my excuse.

I did such a good job of convincing myself that it wouldn’t be too hard that I decided to run down to Tribeca. Normally, I would take the longer and stoplight-free West Side Highway to go downtown, but since it was already dark and cold and windy and I’d been out of town for a while, I decided to take the scenic and more direct route via Ninth Ave and Greenwich St., which would also allow for some mini-breaks at stoplights. Apart from little aches in the hip at the start and serious wind and cold at the end it was an easy pleasant first run back.

The studio was on the ground floor and basement of a classic loft-style building and felt very new—when we lay face down at the end, those rubberized floors still had a new-car smell. As the no-nonsense instructor Gabriel led 15 or so very fit ladies through warmup drills of high knees, butt kicks and jumping jacks, it dawned on me that this was not quite the same scene as my community center fitness classes full of senior citizens and gentle and understanding teachers. Um, this was high intensity interval training and everyone was here to work really hard. Weakly sidestepping my way through jumping jacks just wasn’t going to cut it.

So I did my best and gutted it out, and still got my ass whooped. Most of the class consisted of working our way through various exercises in 45-second intervals at 4 “stations”: kettlebells, rowing machine, jump rope, and TRX. We broke up into groups of 4, worked at one of the stations for 45 seconds, took a few seconds to transition to the next station, and then another 45 seconds until the 4-part circuit was complete. Then we’d get a minute or so break to gasp for air and gulp water while Gabriel explained the exercises for the next circuit- the rowing and jump rope intervals were always the same, but we did a few different things with the kettlebells and TRX. We did some other stuff outside of the circuits as well: box jumps and burpees, more high knees and jumping jacks, plus a tiny bit of core work. And it was an hour class, not 45 minutes. It was super-tough but I felt great at the end, and I was ultra-inspired by the super-strong ladies with killer arms and butts all around me. Damn these girls can work it!


I’m not sure if I would normally go to SoulCycle since spinning is really not my thing, and I got scared off by my teammate Liz’s (unintentionally hilarious) bad experience and turned off by the club’s notorious anti-competitor policies.

However, I have taken a winter indoor cycling class (back when I thought I might have a future in triathlon) and a few months ago I thoroughly enjoyed a team-style spinning class at Swerve Fitness, also hosted by Mizzfit. But what really got me to go to SoulCycle was that they extended an invitation to my running team to attend certain classes for free throughout the month of December. I’m a total sucker for freebies.

I went to a lunchtime class on Friday, not fully accepting that I might be tired from the killer workout at Exceed on Thursday evening, or that it might affect my plans to run the Ted Corbitt 15K the following morning. It’s only spinning, how hard can it be?

Well, it really wasn’t easy for me. I ran over to the studio, just a mile, but I didn’t have enough time to get settled in before class, and I was a nervous mess trying to adjust my bike. I’m so bad on the bikes that it took me forever just to get clipped in. By the time I’d managed one foot in the instructor had to come over to help me get the other one secured, and I was already sweating up a storm.

There’s something about spinning that makes me sweat like a mofo. I took off my t-shirt as soon as I could and still managed to pour sweat all over within minutes, and it never stopped no matter how much I eased off. Unlike the other cycling classes I’ve taken, the bikes in our studio at SoulCycle didn’t have the little displays that show relevant info such as cadence/RPMs, MPH or power output, so I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that it all felt hard, and only got harder as we were told to add a quarter turn of resistance here, a full turn there. Turn the resistance down too much, and I felt like I’d be about to spin out of control and tear my knees out of their sockets, turn it up too much and I’d practically stop moving. I tried to persuade myself that the movement of riding was a little like running on an elliptical or something, which made it feel a little less awful.

At least the music wasn’t as loud (or as bad) as I expected, and the studio even had jars full of earplugs at reception for the more sensitive riders. Our instructor chided us a couple of times for our lack of energy, so clearly it wasn’t just me. The upper body workout didn’t feel as intense as the one at Swerve, even though I had done a bit of work just about everywhere the previous evening, and the core stuff didn’t leave my abs feeling sore at all. I might have been doing it all wrong but I prefer to hurt a bit after the core work.

Of course, the next morning I was too messed up to race at Ted Corbitt. My legs felt dead on the short warmup run to the start, and I had zero desire or ability to race. Luckily enough of my fast lady teammates had come prepared to race so that my time wouldn’t be needed to score, and we also had enough masters women for the team to be counted in that category. So I ended my recovery week with a “short” long run, followed by the most partying I will do all year at the team’s year-end party, and a full day of real recovery on Sunday: lots of ramen and a bit of walking to help digest it all.

No racing but I got to run with this lady! Photo: NYRR

Hanging with this “local hero” at the Ted Corbitt 15K. Photo: NYRR

Week in review: 

Monday-Tuesday: Completely off

Wednesday: 40 minutes easy on the recumbent stationary bike and 1-hour MELT Strength class

Thursday: Very easy 5.3 mile run, 1-hour Exceed HIIT/circuit class

Friday: Very easy 3.2 mile run, 45-minute SoulCycle class

Saturday: Easy 1.7 mile warmup, moderate 9.3 mile run at 8:30  pace

Sunday: Rest and leisurely 3-mile walk, some massage

The North Face Endurance Challenge San Francisco 50 Mile

Every race experience is unique in its highs and lows, its pre-race anxiety and the post-race review, recollection, emotions and stock-taking. No matter how rough my race goes, there is always a point towards the final miles when the awareness of that day’s uniqueness takes hold. It’s like a sense of pre-nostalgia over what can never be repeated. Even if I were to go back and participate in that event again, it would always be a different race in innumerable ways- the people, the conditions, the thoughts and feelings of the mind and body. Those last miles typically fill me with joy and allow me to finish strong and happy most of the time, maybe all of the time.

So it was that TNF SF went from becoming a near-first DNF to another treasured memory of a full day out on the trails. It’s not easy to reconcile my non-competitive and competitive sides and this race was a test. Yes, I love winning and doing well, on the other hand, I run for fun and don’t want to suffer for it. Honestly, I want the easy wins! And even if I had prepared for it, TNF SF would never be an easy race to come out on top of- it’s full of hungry runners who eat mountains for breakfast and have a lot on the line in terms of sponsorships and more.

Still, I wanted to close out the year in style, and this was one the rare races that had been on my 2014 calendar before it was even 2014! I had registered for the 2013 race but decided to defer my entry to this year so I could the sub-freezing CIM that weekend instead. Back then, I wasn’t even thinking of being competitive, I just wanted to run this spectacular course, and I guess I didn’t know too much about all the other races in the area- I’d heard of North Face and Miwok and the various Dipsea races but that was about it.

So I made my plans to spend a week out west and, when I found out that the Quad Dipsea was a week before TNF SF, so I signed up for that too because YOLO. Of course, the Quad wrecked my quads and compromised my immune system, but nothing a little massage and lot of sleep couldn’t fix, right? I was back from the dead by Thursday and looking forward to Saturday as long as it didn’t rain. Because I’m a weather wimp.

On Friday evening I headed up to Mill Valley to stay with friends who work on the event production team. With an event of this scale (races from 5K to 50 miles over two days) and huge amount of rain (including another little downpour on Friday night into Saturday morning), there will always last minute emergencies, so dinner and bedtime got pushed back a little later than originally planned. Still, I was glad to get a peek “behind the scenes” and appreciate the huge efforts the organizer went through to keep a full 50-mile race and ensure that the course was safe, clear of hazards, and well marked.

I took my usual pre-race Benadryl on Friday night and for once, it didn’t work! My mind stayed awake for some time as 11pm approached, and then I drifted in and out of consciousness until I heard the others getting ready to leave around 2am. I dozed on and off for another 20 minutes or so before getting up and putting together an ad hoc breakfast: Starbucks instant vanilla latte (the only critical breakfast item I remembered to bring) mixed with some of the coffee from the hotel room, 2 fun-size Snickers bars (the hotel’s version of pillow chocolates), and a couple of slices of focaccia from last night’s bread basket. Then I got dressed, opting to wear a shirt because Suzie had looked at me funny when I mentioned maybe not wearing one, plus arm sleeves. I went down to catch the last shuttle to the start, which I thought would leave at 3:45 but was not actually going until 4:10. There were three of us with a big old school bus to ourselves- one chill guy who’d done the race a few times (including the year of the rain, 2012) and a woman who looked poised to run fast (she did).

On the ride out

Quiet bus on the ride out

At the start area, the ground was very wet but the rain had stopped and it wasn’t cold at all. I dropped of my finish gear and drop bag on some tables inside a big tent—a nice touch so that our things wouldn’t get wet. I didn’t see anyone I knew so I after a couple of trips to the portapotties I went and stood near the start with the real elites. I was standing next to Kami Semick and Anna Frost, who was not running, was there hanging out and looking adorable. Shortly after 5, wave 1 got the call to go into the corrals and I tried to find a spot in the middle to back, but surrounded by enough people to keep me warm while we waited. Here is a start line video from I don’t see myself.

The start was fast, downhill and on an asphalt road, which never feels too comfortable with my shoes designed for mud. I wanted to run by feel so I had turned off the sound and vibration alerts on my watch and set the display to show the time of day, and planned to occasionally check my pace but not focus on it too much. I checked in that first mile or so and saw low 7:00s. Too fast! Next we headed uphill on a wide dirt road and I hung with some ladies for a while until I had to let them go. It was going to be a long day.

Annotated revised TNF SF course map from

Annotated revised TNF SF course map from

Due to a bridge being washed out by the rain, a later chunk of the course was cut and replaced by a second loop around the first section. This was a roughly 5-mile loop with about 800 feet of uphill over 2.5 miles, followed by about the same downhill. I started taking walking breaks early on the uphills, as folks from waves 2 and 3 and so on started passing. There was plenty of space on the gravel roads and wide trails in the early miles of the course, so all of the passing didn’t stress me out too much as I wasn’t in anyone’s way. Early in the second loop, I was happy to see a running friend from NYC looking really strong in her first 50-mile race. She went ahead and I hoped not to see her again.

I dont enjoy night running as much as I look like I do

I don’t enjoy night running anywhere nearly as much as it looks like I do

The full moon was out and the sky was clear, so we had some good nighttime views. However, I don’t like running in the dark, and my headlamp is not very powerful, but because I don’t like running at night I don’t want to invest in a better headlamp, so it’s a vicious cycle. My eyes were tired and so was the rest of me as I looked at my watch waiting for sunrise. 6:26? Nothing. 6:38? C’mon light! Close to 7, by the end of the second loop, the sky had brightened, and I was hoping we would be able to leave our headlamps at the new aid station at the end of the loop, instead of the original headlamp drop spot that was now later in the course. No such luck, I had to keep what was now just a heavy sweatband on my head for another three miles to the Tennessee Valley aid station.

The hours before sunrise had been very humid with some fog on the second loop, and I was uncomfortably soaked in my chilly sweat. And still tired in the foggy daylight as we headed up another long hill on the Miwok Trail and then down into Tennessee Valley. I’ve been telling myself too often that I must be mentally tired by now from all the races this year, so that’s how I am. Physically, I’m under-recovered, under-trained for this course, and full of aches and niggles and occasional shooting pains in the hips and back and knees. And again this week, my stomach was off, forcing up little pukes here and there along the way. Mine is not ever the race-ending kind of vomit, the type of Gl upheaval that makes it impossible to keep anything down and weakens a runner to the core. Rather, it’s an annoyingly gross and bleh kind of feeling that allows me to keep some gels and liquids coming in (though probably not enough) with an occasional mouthful coming back up. I keep Pepto and Tums or Rolaids on hand but I’m not sure that they help much. Well, at least I didn’t have to poop.

This is around when I was really struggling. Photo: Nate Dunn

This is around when I was really struggling. Photo: Nate Dunn

So for some time in this early-middle stretch, around miles 14-20, I went back and forth questioning whether I really wanted to finish if it meant 10 or 12 or 14 hours and boring kind of slog. My heart wasn’t in it at this point. I could stop and go back and enjoy something hot. Twenty miles was still a good training run that deserved a proper square meal at the end, right? I see myself later, justifying my reasons for quitting, knowing there doesn’t have to be a reason, knowing it doesn’t really matter to anyone but me.

But it’s not my style, I remind myself. I’ll DNF someday when some or all of my body quits on me and there’s no choice involved. Or maybe I’ll DNF because I just don’t feel like it, say today. Back and forth, this self-talk: Stop signing up for all the things, 50 miles is not a hundred or 24 but it’s still a commitment that you have to respect, you take these things too lightly…

Still, I can’t quell my curiosity about the course. I want to see it. All of it. And this is it, my last race of the year. I don’t really want to go out whimpy, do I? And it could be a nice day out, my last in the Bay Area for a while, so I want to experience it to the max. And I remember how fortunate and grateful I am to have the ability to be here in a beautiful place doing what I usually love when I’m not so damn tired. Where else would I really rather be and what would I rather be doing? Every race has its emotional lows. They pass. I know this.

Looking way too happy on the outside

Why do I look so freaking happy? Swear I’m dying inside

So I take it aid station to aid station, as my friend the great master Otto Lam has taught. After Muir Beach (mile 18) came what I had noted on my pace band as a “giant climb” of about 1500 feet in 5 miles to Cardiac aid station. I took it easy since I had no idea what this would look like. What it looked like, to start, was a long series of narrow switchbacks, which had turned into little streams with all the rain. I walked and walked with one foot on either side of the streams, still able to keep my feet dry. After the switchbacks the trail opened up on top of the hill as we took the more gradual and occasionally runnable Coast View Trail, and we saw a few leaders of the 50K race heading back already.

From Cardiac at mile 23 it was already practically the the halfway point, I told myself, and I decided to continue to the next aid station at McKennan Gulch, where my friend Harald might be working. I figured it would be nice to see a familiar face and I could delay my decision to quit until some further discussion.

Winner Sage Canaday right before I saw him on the way back to Cardiac aid station. Photo: Powell

Winner Sage Canaday right before I saw him on the way back to Cardiac. Photo: Powell

From Cardiac we went into the woods, and here came the front runners on their way to their second pass through Cardiac! Sage Canaday in first, about 13 miles ahead of me at this point, followed by Dakota Jones less than a minute behind. It’s always invigorating to see the people out front looking strong, so this section passed quickly. Then we had a long and gradual uphill out-and-back on the Coastal Trail on the way to McKennan Gulch that was all out in the open and looked like it would be even better downhill on the way back. The rule in trail running is that out-going runners are required to yield to the runners coming back, and here the trail was very narrow, so there was a lot of stop and go on the way up. Now I was actually looking forward to coming back, running downhill, and having everyone get out of my way!

Off the trail and onto a stretch of road to McKennan, I knew I had turned it around. The sun was now shining, we were running on top of the ocean and well past the halfway mark with a big downhill coming up. At the aid station (mile 28) I saw Harald up on a hilltop using his radio, we waved to each other from a distance, and I felt good to go on my way. I’d marked the next 5-mile stretch down to Stinson Beach as the “giant downhill” and indeed it was. The first portion of the out and back was as much fun as I expected, as most every runner coming up yielded, and I made sure to thank each one, the gratitude just oozing out of me. Here I saw the guy from the bus in the morning and my NYC running buddy on her first 50-miler, who I must have passed during an aid station break. Then we headed into the woods, still going down, with some of the steps that I love, though the rain had clearly taken a toll over the last week. Okay, as much as I love downhill, after 3 miles straight a break would be nice. But there was none, and that was still cool.

At the Stinson Beach aid station, I braced myself for what was up ahead. 2.7 miles on the Dipsea trail back to the Cardiac aid station, the same section that had been my hell twice over a week ago. First, some steps and gradual hills with the spectacular lookback views of the beach that magically erase the pain, and then a short section of runnable trail, followed by the killer stairs of the Steep Ravine. But wait! On the trail, the first bridge on the right that led to those stairs was roped off with a “wrong way” sign. What?! We stayed on the left side of the creek for a bit and took a different bridge further on, with different stairs that were a bit gentler and broken up with some flats and more moderate inclines (plus a ladder to climb!). Unfortunately, this meant we also skipped the redwoods section of the Dipsea and the ocean-facing ridgeline en route to Cardiac, and instead we stayed on a still-pretty wooded trail, heading back to Cardiac the way we’d seen Canaday and Jones hours ago. Well.. okay, phew, that wasn’t so bad. Only two more climbs to go, according to my notes, and neither would be as big.

But first, the “giant climb” in reverse, back to Muir Beach, part of the re-routing of the course. Now, with only 15 miles and a few hours to go, let’s do this! But first I needed to re-up my supplies at Cardiac, where I’d sent my drop bag. I must have had a brain fart when I only brought a sandwich-sized Ziploc for my drop-bag, but luckily Suzie had a spare shopper she loaned me. However, it was small and black and undistinctive, so it took some time for the volunteers to locate it. I did my best to suppress my impatience while they searched the field of mostly small black drop bags to find it, knowing they were doing their best and it was my fault anyways. I’m usually much better at this. Once found, I was offered a folding chair. “Here, have a seat,” the volunteer said sweetly. I looked at it with secret disdain. “I don’t need a seat for a 50 miler!” I thought to myself. So I put the bag on it instead. Seriously, unless I’m using a toilet or changing shoes, I have to be on my feet at least 12 hours before thinking about a sit break.

The way back to Muir Beach was now pretty muddy from all the 50K and 50-mile runners that had gone through, yet my mud shoes continued to work their magic, allowing me to run through everything with confidence. By now, with only a few hours to go, I could handle wet feet, so I ran straight through the streams and mud in the middle of the switchback section.

The first of the final two climbs was hard hard hard, with 1000 feet up over two miles, I was so hungry now, but still estimated about two hours til the finish with nearly 10 miles to go. I ate some crystallized ginger and played music for distraction. The next downhill was wonderful, with some nice shallow steps along the way. I came into the aid station strong and starving, gobbling on saltines and taking some to go.

I can say Im somewhat genuinely happy now

With less than 10 miles to go, I can say I’m somewhat genuinely enjoying myself here

The aid stations were closer together towards the end. Just three miles and one more climb to the last aid at Alta, and then it was less than three miles downhill to the finish. Well, except for that last stretch of road we started out on. Now it was time for the pre-nostalgia as we revisited those final miles of the first loop that we’d covered twice in the morning.  I let myself race a little, and being kind of obnoxious, every time I passed someone I glanced sideways at their bib to check the color– Only the orange-red 50-milers count!


The home stretch. Dude in blue is gonna pass me back soon

The home stretch. Dude in blue is gonna pass me back soon

I was planning to walk some of that last uphill stretch, but then a 50-mile guy who I’d just passed zipped by me, one volunteer said “half a mile to go” and another said, “just 5 minutes” and I was like, okay, let’s try to do this in 5. Still, that uphill hurt. I paused to walk for a second and looked back over my shoulder to see another 50-mile woman and her pacer catching up. Oh nooooo! Yup, so I killed myself sprinting uphill to the finish of a 50-mile like it was a 5K, knowing full well that this woman had already “won” based on chip time since she had started in a later wave–  she wouldn’t  have had a pacer if she had been in wave 1. And she still passed me like 5 feet before the finish line! Still, I’m glad it went down like that- it was the most fun and crazy way to end this very long run.


Grrrr, an eye of the tiger finish

Ah, to be done! My watch had died on the final climb, and I saw the finish clock said it was 3:13pm. Later I went to the results tent and saw that my time was actually 10:09, since we had started a little after 5am. I was 4th in my AG but only the 34th woman, with winner Magdalena Boulet about three hours ahead. I was happy to make the top 5 of my AG as that was one of my little goals. Later still, I saw that my time was very much in line with the realistic calculations I’d done in my notebook that put me at the finish between 10:00 and 10:15. As opposed to the fantasy projections of 8:00-8:30 that could only become a reality with some actual training for this.

I moaned and groaned a lot after the race, probably more because I was sleepy-tired. I moaned for the half hour or so it took me to wipe all the mud off and get discreetly changed in corner of the gear drop tent, and while I wandered around vaguely looking for the people I knew, and as I scarfed down the way-too-healthy post-race meal of chicken breast, spaghetti with veggies, and salad greens. I finally found my friends, and two of us headed back to the city on school bus full of November Project people who had run the marathon relay and hence still had tons of energy to jump and sing and be jolly. One of them shared his beer and another gave me a neat elevation tattoo designed for the original 50-mile course. For next time. Then it was bus and MUNI back to my place, shower, packing, and a properly indulgent Mexican meal before passing out.

Party bus on the ride back

Party bus on the ride back

Two days later, I don’t know how it’s possible that I don’t hurt anywhere nearly as much as after the Quad Dipsea. TNF had a similar amount of elevation gain and loss, but was about 80% longer in miles and took about 60% longer in time, with downhill stretches that went on for up to five miles. The cold came back, which is to be expected after spending 10 hours running in my chilled sweat. Weirdly, I’ve been most sore in the crooks of my elbows, both sides, even though my handheld was in my right hand 99% of the time. I felt tightness in there during the race and would try to stretch my arms out every now and then, but it’s not something I’ve ever experienced before. Maybe wearing cold and wet arm sleeves all day had something to do with it? Once again, I miraculously managed not to fall on the trails during the whole race! I did lose my balance in the mud once, when a puddle I stepped into was much deeper than I expected, but I still avoided a full face- or butt-plant. Despite all the mud and sogginess, I am also blister-free thanks to the same footcare combo that I used at Quad Dipsea: Salomon Fellraisers, Smartwool toe socks, and Trailtoes anti-friction lubricant.

As always, I’m happy to have finished, to have spent a beautiful week in one of my favorite places and to have a chance to catch up with lots of friends along the way. Though I still feel just a little teeny-tiny bit fraudulent about starting among the elite trail runners. Many, though not all, of the top runners would make the call to save their efforts and drop on a bad day, and some did, which probably put me at the DFL end of the wave 1 runners. But really, I have little to save myself for and I wanted to get my money’s worth and experience the full course.

I’m now looking forward to a period of winding down and reflection as the year comes to an end, and one key question I have to ask myself is whether to continue signing up for these trail and mountain races or whether to stick to racing on roads. As much as I loved the TNF course and would like to run the original, unmodified course and race well on it, I also know that going much faster than I did last weekend could result in some spills and tumble and risks of serious injuries. Living in NYC, I simply don’t train on trails and mountains enough to become very good at racing them, and I don’t like going into races feeling that underprepared.  (And I’m lazy about using the treadmill or stair machine to simulate hills). 2015 Is still wide open, with only one single race committed to my calendar. Like moving into an empty new home, it’s a fresh feeling that won’t last more than a few weeks max. Before I can fly again, it’s time to dream!

New Routes

So it’s been raining quite a bit in California this week. Where I’m staying in this land of microclimates that is the Bay Area, the rain has been heavy at times, but intermittent enough that I’ve been able to spend some time out and about most days without having to open my umbrella too often. But apparently there was more rain at the SF airport in a few days this week than in ALL of 2013, and there have been reports of mudslides, rockslides, sinkholes and huge puddles around the state.

So it’s not really possible for the TNF course to come away unscathed. We had an email early this morning regarding a minor course change and another this afternoon of a larger change—due to a bridge being washed out, the loop from Cardiac aid station through the Muir Woods to the Old Inn has been cut, and the mileage will be made up by running the first loop of the course twice. It seems like the organizers are working hard to keep it a 50-mile race this year, unlike in 2012, when severe rains forced a last-minute shortening to 46 miles. After studying and planning for the original course, my sense of direction can’t fully comprehend the changes. I know it’s simple, but it’s not. I’ll try to embrace the surprises and have fun with it even if I don’t always know where I’m going. Just like the old days, really not so long ago, when I didn’t have a clue about things like course maps, elevation charts and pace bands. (Yeah right, I’m revising my security bracelet anyways).

The revised TNF SF course

The revised TNF SF course

After coming down with a little cold, I administered some aggressive self-treatment and think I nipped it in the bud. On Wednesday I woke up feeling stuffy in the head, so I rested more, and canceled my plans for the day apart from getting a massage. I tried Zicam for the first time, taking it every three hours as directed, took two Nyquil at bedtime and slept at least ten hours that night. Thursday I woke up feeling much better and thought about swimming, but decided against being wet and felt like going for a run instead.

I had to go for packet pickup at The North Face store in Union Square anyways, so I figured why not run there. Google Maps told me it would be 4.5 miles- perfect. I packed up my UD vest with a change of shirt and other necessities and headed east and north through Golden Gate Park, past Kezar stadium and through the Panhandle, past my old nemesis DMV on Fell Street, and so on, til I crossed Fillmore Street and saw the Marina beckoning.

That hill, that view

This way!


I’d been wanting to stop by that area at some point this week to check out the course for the New Year’s One Day race —the one I am NOT going to run! I checked Google again for the distance to Chrissy Field- about 3 miles, no prob- and headed over for some foggy views.

The gravel side of the SF One Day course (the other side is asphalt)

The gravel side of the SF One Day course (smooth asphalt on the other side of the lagoon)

Afterwards I stopped at Sports Basement for some hot coffee and a snack and wound up buying too much stuff- mostly bars and assorted energy fuel. I only found out at the register that TNF runners get 20% all purchases this weekend, otherwise I would have justified buying more unnecessary items.

Like a kid in a ...

Like a kid in a …

Having run about 7 easy miles already, which was enough, I hopped on a bus to Union Square to grab my bib and swag- Smartwool running socks, a tech-fabric buff, and T-shirt which will be printed and waiting for me at the finish- all in the race series’ signature fluorescent yellow.

TNF swag

TNF swag

Time to pack up now before I head out to spend the night in Mill Valley with some friends at the host hotel. With the relative warmth and humidity, I’m planning on similar gear as what worked for the Vermont 100K:  bumhuggers and a sports bra, and maybe a light top. An 18 oz. handheld for hydration, and I’ll fit my gels and other necessities in the handheld pouch, a SPIbelt and the little pockets in my shorts. As much as I’d prefer a more cushioned shoe, I’ll stick with the Salomon Fellraisers for the wet ground traction.

I leave you with a couple of videos of the race that I enjoyed while on my sickbed earlier this week:

UltraSportsLive.TV Preview

From Salomon, starring Anna Frost (in 2010?)

Endurables’ coverage of the 2013 Men’s Race

A midpacker’s view of the 2012 race with the rain

The Ginger Runner’s 2013 race

Sky High and Low in San Francisco

Three days  of recovering from the Quad Dipsea. I got one good day and two progressively worse.

First the good one. It was Sunday, so someone was getting a little ahead of herself there. It rained all morning , so I stayed in bed and rested up until the sun came out at midday. By then I was raring to get out and have a look around, and knowing that there was a lot more of the much-needed rain in the forecast for the week ahead, I felt obliged to take advantage of the dry weather. I wound up walking close to 5 miles throughout the day, with breaks for lunch, coffee, and the trail running film festival‘s SF stop at the Roxie Theater . I figured my route would be pretty flat but I forgot about the big hill on the way to coffee.

Uphill, no prob

Uphill, no prob…


Oh my quads. Going down the steep grade, I had to turn around and take a few backwards walking breaks.

But going down? #@!*!!!

But going down? #@!*!!!

Despite not being much of a trail runner and being “on hold” as far as my race plans for next year, the film festival made me want to sign up for all sorts of things like the Gorge Waterfall 100K, the Yakima Skyline 50K and others put on by the show’s organizers, Rainshadow Running. Unfortunately I did not win one of the free race entry raffles, which would have forced me to pick one. And despite a couple of trailers (like this one) and short films (like this) on the FKT craze, I’m not all tempted to look for one yet. I enjoy too much of the “running party” and camaraderie aspect of races, plus my lazy side prefers to leave the course scouting and provision of supplies to someone else. I would be too chickenshit to go unsupported and feel too guilty about drafting a small army to take care of me. But maybe it’s just a failure of my own imagination, not having found a trail I love and know well enough to undertake that kind of challenge on. I could change my mind too. I mean, look at how my June vow to myself not to run a 24-hour race this year turned out.

This pretty much sums it up

This pretty much sums up why I love races

The film fest also got me more excited about TNF this weekend–It was a full house, there was beer, and the usual small-world friendly trail running vibe.  Two of the of the three people sitting around me who I chatted with are also doing doing TNF events this weekend- one for the 50K and one for the marathon, and I was recognized by of the Cardiac aid station volunteers at Dipsea.

That excitement was somewhat short-lived when I woke up with still super-achey quads on Monday. I don’t know whether it was really the course, or my shoes, or some other factor like nutrition that has left me in such bad shape. My quads haven’t suffered very much this year, even after the heavy downhills at Steamtown, Pikes Peak, Vermont, UTMB and other runs. Boston is the only other race that trashed my quads as badly as Quad Dipsea this year, and the only common point they share (besides the downhill) is that afterwards, my stomach was messed up, I had to *go* a lot, and kind of lost my appetite as a result. I’ve still been getting hungry and am eating, but probably not as much as usual post-race and maybe not enough to repair the muscle damage fast enough.

I made sure not to walk much on Monday, which was easy because there was more rain, but staying inside and being online gave me lots of time to dwell on what I sometimes feel may be a shaky chance for making the U.S. 24-hour team based on my 136 miles at One Day. I know that there are still some “last chance” races, which it seems every woman who wants to get on or stay on the team is planning to run, and I could too, but I really don’t want to. And I know that I shouldn’t be thinking about 24 hour races when I’m still deep in the throes of recovery pain, because so many parts of my body are screaming, “NO RUN!” at me. I am going on 40 races for 2014 (including a couple of 5ks but mostly longer stuff), and even my mind wants a breather.

I don’t want to make myself miserable over any of this. So I put things in perspective. My first effort at 24-hours was very much an exploratory effort, and I certainly didn’t have the Team USA dream building up for a long time going into the race. Representing the USA at the world 24-hour championships in Italy next year is something I thought would be cool but only started feeling really super-stressful important to me after I finished One Day, and I don’t like that feeling. This is for fun. So if I don’t make the cut, I can run all the other races in the spring, including Boston, and focus on building speed at the 50-mile to 100K distances next year. Still I hope I get it, and who knows- by the end of this month I may feel well-rested and relaxed enough to tell Maggie, “let’s go make that road trip to Pensacola!”

Today brought more rain and still more pain, but I decided to get some kind of light activity off my feet and got a day pass for the UCSF gym and pool nearby. I foam rolled, went to a yoga-style fitness class that nearly killed my hips, recumbent biked, swam and sauna’d. The pool was much warmer than I’m used to, which was relaxing, though my quads still hurt even with my lazy freestyle kick (aka dragging my legs behind me with an occasional flutter to keep them from sinking). I tried the kickboard for two laps and had zero power, and I’m used to motoring fast with the kickboard. So as I was leaving I decided to splurge on a 75-minute massage for tomorrow. Otherwise TNF is gonna look like DNF…

tnf course map

Coming back from the gym, I started noticing a runny nose, which has progressed into regular sniffles and a stuffy feeling in my head as the evening progressed. Uh oh., and I was just today or yesterday thinking to myself it’s been a while since I’ve had a cold! I don’t think I would enjoy 50 miles of being under the weather, so I’m already scoping out which aid stations would be the best places to drop: Tennessee Valley at Mile 8.7, if it meant I could walk back to the start/finish, otherwise Muir Beach at 12.7 and Stinson at 27.8 have road access connecting to Highway 1, beyond that I would be finishing.  But I’m also ultrahydrating with tea, planning a lot of sleep, and spending some time calculating paces after I saw this post.  Not that it matters too much, because even though I’m on the “elite” start list*, I’m also among the handful of ladies on the list that iRunFar deemed unimpressive enough *not* to feature in it’s women’s preview of the race.  (sob, sob, sob, boohoohoo- JK, I would freak out if my name was there).  Phew, so no pressure, right?

* While there are obviously plenty of truly elite badass and ultra-talented runners on the list, TNF is pretty generous with it’s open-to-all  qualifying criteria for the elite start. I made the “A” standard with an 8:11 on an easy trail 50-miler, a good time for a non-trail-running roadie like me but nowhere near the level that some of these mountain ladies can run at.  Besides the bragging rights of getting to line up with the elites and harass them for selfies at the start, we get to go out first at 5:00 am, with all the successive waves starting later in one minute intervals. That’s not much of an advantage for me at all as I’m bound to get extremely stressed with all the later runners coming up behind me and passing me in the dark for hours (sunrise is not until around 7am). And elite starters can’t have pacers– I wouldn’t seek one out for 50 miles, but neither would I turn down an offer for company for the last 20 or so. So I’m basically doing it for the bragging rights, okay? And a little bummed that Liza Howard, Rory Bosio and Anna Frost– who were all sure to become my new BFFs–  have withdrawn from the race.

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