Friday, February 8, 2019

I am still here ....

:-)
I have not been a good blogger since I moved to Colorado but I'm not sad about it.  It's not that our lives have been busier in Colorado than our life in PA, it's just different and more fulfilling.  We spend a ton more time outside all year round, yes even in winter.  Winter weekends in PA often consisted of us hanging out indoors all day and a lot of treadmill runs for me.  Of course we have our cold and snowy days here however it doesn't last long and 9 times out of 10 it's beautifully sunny out.  This past weekend was sunny and in the 60s, amazing weather for a 5.5 hour long run and perfect for the kids to be outside all day with their friends.  We have also taken to the ski life most weekends which started in November and will likely go until April.  


 
 

Normally, when I have some downtime, I would camp out on the sofa in front of the TV and that's when I would blog.  Now I find I don't have as much winter weekend downtime due to skiing, running etc but if I do, I often opt to go sit out on the deck and look at the mountains, the sky and watch all the people out for walks, runs and rides, yes even in winter.



I did actually start to write a blog about Javelina Jundred but I never finished it and now it seems like a lost cause.  It wasn't a great race for me, but I finished, which was the main point.  It was ungodly hot and I got attacked by a cactus but I finished.  So basically that was it.
The infamous cactus attack...Tim Tollefson is my hero!
Emir paced me through the night

finished with my babies at my side <3
Initially after that race, I felt kind of lost in that I felt like I had no clue what I wanted from running anymore.  Normally even though there are tons of crappy feeling moments in ultras, afterwards I feel awesome that I did it and accomplished something.  I just didn't feel very good during the race or after.  I also did not feel great on most of my runs in 2018 so that did not help my motivations or desires to keep at it.  Coach Caleb encouraged me to take some time to just think about things and not rush into any decisions about what my next goals would be (he knew I wouldn't choose not to run anymore, hahaha)  So I did.  And of course like all of us runners, I used my extra time recovering to scroll Instagram and then got jealous of all the amazing running pictures and all the awesome racing accomplishments.  Next thing I knew, I was emailing coach all of the lotteries I wanted to enter and asking him for input into what I can do better for 2019.  (side note: caleb has been coaching me for 5 years now and here's my original post on that topic 5 years ago :-o)
I've been slowly letting rocky run more and more with me.  Now he comes on almost every run including weekend long runs



Earlier in the year before Jahorina and Javelina, we had both acknowledged and agreed that 2018 was a transition year and while a very happy, awesome transition for me and the family, it doesn't matter any transition will bring extra stress, more time to get life things in order in a new place and have a big affect on training and the body in general.  Then add to that adjusting to running at altitude and having a completely unpredictable work schedule that included tons of weekend days.  It was not a good recipe for a successful running year.  And add to THAT, when things started to come together with feeling more comfortable running here and taking a full time job with a set schedule and no weekend work, my dad was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer....when I look back, it's a wonder I was able to make it through those two races.  Between his diagnosis in April, his passing in late August and then running Javelina in October in his memory, all I did was worry, stress, cry and eat like shit. 
I don't know what I would have done without this guy, my friends and family...2018 was tough




So when coach and I were in our convos about 2019, nutrition was at the forefront.  I knew I was so far off the eating healthy wagon, I couldn't even see it anymore.  Sometimes when I go down these rabbit holes, I think "does what I eat really matter? I still can get out and do all my runs even when I'm eating crap and drinking beers"  Coach gave me some guidelines for making better choices, some ideas for recipes etc that he uses (he has kids the same age, which helps a lot!) and some other resources that he uses to guide his own nutritional choices.  At first I was kind of blah and not too thrilled about it.  I'm an eater and just want to eat what I want.  But I also wanted to run better again and get back into shape.  No I hadn't stopped running and working out but I felt out of shape which I attributed to bad eating.  So it was enough to encourage me to embark on a new way of eating. 




I've been able to get myself on the consistent routine of early morning runs and actually loving it

After a little over 3 months of my nutrition overhaul, I have to admit, it's actually really amazing.  I feel awesome, seriously.  I haven't lost any weight which at first was bringing me down.  I mean I haven't been snacking at all on crap, I went back to no weekday boose, I've significantly increased my fruit and veggie intake and pretty much cut out all processed foods and yet nada.  But I've gotten over that now since I'm seeing other results.  As I said, I feel great.  I have much more energy despite getting up at 4AM to run 3-4 days a week (I actually look forward to it, can you believe that?!) and my mood is just in general much better.  I can feel a huge difference and see an improved performance in my runs especially the tough workouts and long runs.  I'm also seeing a difference in my body shape.  I may not have lost any pounds, but my clothes are fitting better and I can see a changes in the mirror.  And if I think about it rationally, it makes sense as I know since moving here I'm doing tons more hills (and mountains) even on my short neighborhood runs which have led to even bigger quads and stronger other muscles, which we all know about muscle weight. 
climbing mountains for views like this has built bigger, stronger muscles
Now I've got my nutrition dialed in, physically feeling good and mentally 100% back into it but I still wasn't sure what I wanted to do with all that.  As most ultra runners do, I spent hours browsing ultra signup but just didn't get that, YES!!!! feeling.  In the meantime, I signed up for the Western States lottery because that race gave me that in the clouds feeling and I finally had a qualifier but I knew there was basically 0% chance with one ticket.   My Colorado BRF Meaghan was in the lottery as well and when we both didn't get in, we somehow in our mimosa drinking state of mind came to the conclusion we should run Rio Del Lago 100 in California together since it's a qualifier.  This actually made me super excited as it's a race that's been on my radar for a couple years and doing this with a friend makes me REALLY excited.  But I was not satisfied yet.  Did you really think I was only going to do one race in 2019?  Especially since its not until NOVEMBER!  Wow, you really don't know me at all. 
Meaghan and I.  she's a big part of my re-love for running.  Most weeks we get at least one run together.  love this girl! <3



Next, I signed up for both the Leadville and CCC lotteries.  Doing any race at UTMB has been a dream for years but I had no actual realistic plans for getting the points.  Without even realizing it, things fell into place in 2018.  I really really wanted to get that 100K finish at Jahorina since Emir and I DNF'd a couple years ago and I felt training in Colorado would have me better prepared.  I also really wanted a 100 mile finish in 2018 but I felt I needed something more flat after Jahorina hence Javelina.  Turns out finishing those gave me 9 points, 1 more point than what was needed for CCC the 101K at UTMB!  Points are good for two years so I was hoping that entering the lottery this year and next year would give me a pretty good shot since next year they would give me twice the weight on my entry.  Then there's Leadville.  I have this burning desire to get a Leadville finish however I'm not totally convinced I'm 100% ready but I was in the lottery last year so I feel I need to keep entering until I get in, whether that is true or not, I have no idea.  Bottom line was I wanted another big event on my schedule so I put my name in and hoped for the best. 
ultra dirt divas!!!  one of several running groups I've hung out with since moving
I thought for sure if I got into either of those races, it would be Leadville so I was already coming up with plans for that scenario.  Alas, yet again I did not get into Leadville however....I freaking got into CCC!!  They announce on a Thursday morning at 10am local time so I woke up that morning at 4 for my run to find an email saying I had been accepted.  I was so pumped but couldn't tell anyone but Rocky because it was so early.  So it seems I didn't really have to do much decision making, the lottery gods decided for me and I'm super happy with their choice.  I used to feel I needed a bunch of races on the schedule however things have changed the last year or two.   There's no doubt in my mind that living in Colorado is a big reason.  Many times I choose races to see other places and run different trails especially since I literally ran the same 3 places all the time in PA mostly due to time constraints and convenience.  Certainly I could have ran many other places but it would have required a significant amount of travel time.  My options right out my doorstep here in Boulder are endless really and that's just if I stay in Boulder.  I can go a thousand other places within 20-30 minute drive.  I just get so much more fulfillment from my weekend long runs here that I don't have that serious urge I used to get to go other places.  I will do a spring 50K and a July 50 miler but as training runs for my two main events for the year.  And with that I feel 2019 is set. 












Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Jahorina 104K


Last time that Emir and I did the ultra at Jahorina, we spent Friday laying around, trying to rest and sleep since the start was at midnight.  I didn't really feel like that helped, if anything I just stressed out all day about not sleeping that much.  So this time, my plan was to enjoy the day and not stay cooped up in the hotel room.   After breakfast, Emir wanted to do his run and go up to the peak so I decided to stay and take a nap and start to get my gear in order.  When he got back we decided to go into Sarajevo to meet Bjanka and Dario.  It was SUCH a fun afternoon.  I really enjoyed it and it helped me to relax about the race.  I was so excited to tackle this race after the DNF two years ago but soooo nervous at the same time.  I've done ultras completely solo before but nothing near as difficult as I knew this one would be.  I knew there would be insane terrain in sections which normally I rely on Emir to help me through as it's not my cup of tea.  I also was very worried about getting lost.  I knew they had worked really hard since the last time we did the ultra to make sure the course was better and well marked but doing it solo made me worried about it.  Anyway, back to our lovely afternoon.  I had been dying for Sarajevo cevapi so we did that in old town.  Then we headed up to café up on the mountain with of course amazing views to have palacinke and a beer.  And finally checked out the Avaz twist tower in Sarajevo.  It literally was the perfect afternoon before the race.  And when we got back I still had time to lay down for a couple hours before the start. 
OMG SARAJEVO CEVAPI!!!!
Palacinke, delicious

nothing is complete without pivo

twisted tower with Bjanka and Dario <3
awesome views from the tower

The start of the race went well.  I felt good, I was moving well.  I was excited to see Emir at the first aid station.  We had a significant climb up the ski slope which I felt I handled better than I expected.  I was thinking how maybe this will go better than expected.  Why would I go ahead and even have those thoughts?!





Because as soon as I left Emir, the MUD!  omg I have never experienced mud like this even two years ago in what I thought was the worst mud in the world, this completely surpassed that.  It was dark so it made deciphering the 1 inch mud that is ok to step in from the 6 foot deep mud almost impossible.  I would cruise along as this was a nice runnable section and suddenly find myself completely stuck.  I literally many times had to use my poles to break the seal between my shoes and the mud.  A few times, I was so deep in mud that my shoes actually came off, yes completely off!  I tried to go around the really bad sections but there were parts where there was just no where to go, or at least I couldn't find safe spots to step in the dark.  It was for sure a rough time.  Eventually when I got to the next aid station they asked me how I enjoyed the swamp, ugh. 
pretty forrest 
muddy forrest 
The next section was weird for me.  It was pretty runnable yet I couldn't really move much more than a 14 minute pace which for being only 3-4 hours in the race didn't seem very good to me.  It just felt like a dream at times and the couple of tunnels were super creepy.  Then it started getting light and instead of feeling more awake, I felt like I was sleep running.  I remembered Emir told me to take the run gum with me which I have never tried before.  It was kind of weird consistency and I wasn't a fan of the taste but I'll be darned, it worked.  All of the sudden I was wide awake and moving better.  At the next aid station, I also found some meat, cheese and bread to make a couple little sandwiches that I think helped.  The people volunteering for this race were all so nice.  I couldn't help but stand around for a few minutes and chat with them.  Normally I might be antsy especially earlier in the race to keep moving and not linger but my main objective was to finish this thing.  I knew that I was not going to be setting any kind of records on this kind of terrain, it's just not my jam but I know I'm capable of completing it so that's what I planned on doing and I planned on enjoying it.

After leaving that aid station I was feeling happy and pretty confident I could do this thing.  And then probably what was the worst part of the race happened.  I got lost.  But as I found out about 30 minutes into being lost, it wasn't that I messed up, it was that someone had torn down the race markers in this section.  It was an awful, awful feeling.  I kept backtracking to the last marker I saw and tried going several different possible ways and I could never find any other markers.  After I did this several times I finally turned on my cellular to call Emir.  I'm not going to lie, I was panicking.  What if I never find my way?  There's no way I'll be able to finish this race, Ive wasted so much time!!  And unfortunately I had not seen another runner this whole time.  There was only 65 or so runners and there was a whole bunch way ahead of me and then a few behind but apparently none close.  Emir talked me off a ledge and said he would make a call to help figure out where I was.  When he called back, he told me that everyone was getting lost in this part due to the missing markers, luckily as we were trying to sort out where I should go, a group of guys were approaching.  They had loaded the course onto their watches so they had a general idea of where we should be going.  They let me join in to help me find my way.  Even with the watches it was still a while before we figured it out and found race markers to follow, phew.  Despite how upsetting, frustrating, etc this was, maybe it happened for a reason.  I ran with these guys a few more miles at which point we reached the mountain climbing part and yes I mean literally mountain climbing with a cable and everything.  I run mountain trails and sometimes that means climbing over rocks but I don't rock climb.  This part was SCARY as hell for me so having the guys there with me helped me to get over it and just do it.  It was also helpful because they were climbing behind me so when I dropped one of my poles (of course) they grabbed it for me.  I felt a huge relief when this part was over!







hot mess after that climbing nonsense

After that, there was some more runny parts and eventually I made it rather uneventfully to the nice, big aid station that I had been thinking of all morning.  They had my drop bag and warm food.  I had some clothes etc to switch out and I was in desperate need of the bathroom to lube up some parts that were scraping off my body with every step.  It was very moist out from the get go, humidity and just very damp so I was soaked the entire time which did not help my chafing problem.  I was so engrossed in those tasks and wolfing down some food, which I have no clue what it was, that I totally forgot to put more fuel (gels, chomps) into my pack.  CRAP!!!  I realized a mile or two away and there's no way I was going back.  At this point it was raining too :-(.  I was just going to have to rely on what I had left and stocking up at aid stations.  It wasn't ideal but not impossible.

The rain stopped about 15 minutes later and everything became steamy, yuck and I happened to be going through this almost rain foresty type of place by the water.  At this point after being through all that mud and just being wet for hours upon hours the impossible water crossings didn't really bother me.  I just walked right through, I mean why put all the effort into trying to avoid getting wet when you are already soaked not to mention the tenuous footings I for sure would have fell anyway.  I just couldn't believe some of the spots they expected us to get across, I was like "for real?!"  there was also the super slick, super muddy like 50% grade downhill parts in this section, umm yup, you better believe I slid down on my ass.  Every time I encountered some kind of ridiculous thing like this, I would think "how do those fast people do this stuff so fast?!"  I would love to see how they could get through these parts so fast, me if I tried to move any faster than a crawl, I would likely plummet to serious injury!  anyway eventually I made it to a rocky type path which was pretty flat.  Unfortunately then the tunnels started.  SO MANY TUNNELS!  And some were very long and very rocky and SO DARK!  I would put on my phone light each time but it was still so scary.  I was waving my poles around to defend any creepy person that might be lurking in there.  It was also really hard for me to move too quickly with all the rocks so these tunnels would drag on much longer than I liked.
this was a short tunnel 


There was some more running parts after that until I recognized the part where we start the LONG climb up to the Trebevic summit.  It starts in a neighborhood with some insanely steep roads, that I don't understand how people drive on them and then you get on the trail to keep going up, up and away including the infamous olympic bobsled track, which is always fun.
bobsled track!
I felt really strong on this part.  I hadn't seen any other runners all day and then all the sudden I saw several not far ahead of me and I passed them on the climbing, which is usually the part I get passed on.  Colorado living perhaps??  The negative however was that my feet were really starting to hurt.  They were wet from the word go so its no wonder I could feel blisters on the balls of my feet.  Blisters were a big reason for our DNF two years ago.  I didn't want to stop to let the medic tend to my feet and ultimately it was my demise.  Emir's words from right before this years race were echoing in my head "if you feel anything on your feet, stop and get it taken care of".   As they became more painful, I made my decision to take time for my feet at the next aid station.  It was a requirement to have some first aid stuff with you so I had bandages in my pack along with dry socks to change into.  Lucky for me the next aid station was the mountain house in the middle of Trebevic.  It ended up being my favorite aid station of the race.  The two guys in charge were AMAZING.  They  put the medic to work to tend to my feet.  They had a HUGE vat of Tailwind which ended up being a lifesaver for me.  I filled both my little bottles with it.  And they had an amazing spread of food.  I ended up being there a solid 30 minutes but it was so worth it.  The first aid to my feet, the food, a bit of rest and fun conversations with the volunteers really rejuvenated me.



medic on the left saved my feet!  He also didn't want to let me continue the race 



 I was ready to push it to the peak.  Until I reached the ridge and I remembered how technical and long it is to get there.  It felt like FOREVER but I got there.  And I have to admit as much as I hate that section because of how technical and rocky it is, I also LOVE it so much.  It's definitely hands down the most beautiful spot of the course.  If I didn't have a race to finish, I could spend some real time up there enjoying the views.










I hate the technical ridge but I LOVE being up on Trebevic :-)

At this point, I was kind of thinking, ahhh the hard part is over, about ten more miles and I'm done.  And for a while it was good.  I was running, passing a few people even some rocky parts I kept moving.  I kept eating a ton of bananas at the aid stations because I was getting so hungry but only had a couple things left in my pack.  The tailwind had really helped me get through for a while but I drank most of it at this point.  The second to last station, they told me that Emir had been asking for me and they took my picture for him.  I was feeling pretty decent and I told them to relay that to him.

letting Emir know that I was still alive and kicking! 
What I did not know was that the next section was a repeat of the mud from hell.  It was not the same trail as early in the race but may as well have been since it was dark and I encountered ALL the same problems.  UGH it took forever and was so frustrating with tired legs and this late in the race to be dealing with this awful mud.  blah.  Emir was waiting for me at the last aid station, thankfully.  I really needed some motivation after that demoralizing section.  I knew the exact part that was left and I knew the first half would be on the road, uphill but nice paved road but then I knew we go back into the forest for close to two miles to the finish.  And I knew what that meant MUD.  He gave me bananas and encouragement.  He said I had tons of time left so just take my time.  Even though my main goal was just to finish, he knew that if I could make it under 24 hours, I would feel like it was a big accomplishment for me on this type of terrain.  And at this point, even if I walked most of it, I could still make that.  So even though I was not looking forward to the forrest, I set off looking forward to my solid finish.

As expected, I cruised pretty well on the road.  Even being uphill, I ran most of it.  Emir drove along side of me for a bit, pushing me along until it was time to go into the forrest.  They were the longest two miles of my life.  The millions of creek crossings, the super steep mud inclines, it was all just more than I could take at 63-64 miles.  Also after climbing straight up for about 10 minutes or so, I very suddenly felt woozy.  I knew I needed more calories but the problem was I only had half a banana.  I knew it wasn't really enough but I was going to make it.  And I did, that last part was slow as hell because I crawled because I literally had nothing left in me but I didn't care, I crossed that finish line in 23 hours and 22 minutes.


I feel damn good about this race.  I didn't do anything spectacular but I fought my way through a race that is SO far out of my comfort zone and I did it alone.  I'll be the first to admit that technical, climby races are not my thing and I'm really not that great at it.  I have never been comfortable doing a race like this except when I have done it with Emir so this was huge for me to take it on solo.  I am so proud of myself for just keeping going no matter what challenge was thrown at me and no matter how scary it was.  It was also a big finish for me as running has just been a struggle for the past year.  I pretended for the better part of the year that moving across the country, starting new jobs, getting adjusted to altitude didn't affect me.  Finally after struggling big time at the 24 hour race at Palmer Lake in the spring, I admitted that I was not myself.  As exciting as moving was and how happy it has made us, there was so many life adjustments and it just takes it's toll.  It wasn't until about 4-6 weeks before this race, that training runs finally started feeling good to me.  Everybody is different and I just think I'm one of those people who needed close to a year to adjust to running here in Colorado.  This race was a big milestone as I finally feel back to myself and I was able to keep pushing for almost 24 hours which back in April, I definitely could not.

As for the race itself, as much as I was cursing the course at times, I loved it.  The race directors made huge changes to the course since we did it two years ago and it is light years better.   I complain about the obstacles like the tunnels, the rock climbing and the technical ridges on trebevic but really they are awesome.  It makes the race unique and scenic.  Even the muddy Forrests and water crossings as annoying as they are, are still beautiful scenery.  Two years ago, the aid stations were hard to find and at times under staffed and under stocked.  This year was the opposite.  They were all full of enthusiastic volunteers and plenty of food and drinks.  I'm really very impressed by all the changes they have made.  As I have said before, it's so refreshing to see a race care so deeply about the runners feedback.  They have spent a lot of time and energy trying to make this event the best it
can be.   The Jahorina events truly showcase the beauty of the Bosnian Mountains surrounding Sarajevo.  It's definitely worth the trip there.  I highly recommend it!

Thank you to Dinko Bažulić, Adnan Bubalo and Jadran Čilić for the AMAZING photos!


















So what's next??  Well now that I feel like I've finally got my running mojo back, I actually want to do some more races again.  It also really helps a lot that I don't have to work weekends anymore.  I was working pretty much 3 out of 4 weekends until I took this new full time job.  It was definitely affecting my training and also left no time for races.  I've had my eye on Javelina Jundred for a few years but going from the east coast would have been a huge undertaking.  I wasn't completely sure I wanted to go for it this year but now that I feel like I can actually do it where a few months ago, I really don't think I could have and Emir has shifted focus to some shorter races for a bit, so I feel it's a good time to do it.  Unlike Jahorina, Javelina is totally up my alley.  It's runnable, it's loops, it's a big party.  So after coming back from Europe and an unexpected trip to Philly to see my dad and family, I've already jumped back into training.  9 weeks til race day!!!