Monday, December 19, 2011

Lookout Mountain 50 Mile Trail Race

This past Saturday marked my 3rd attempt at the Lookout Mountain 50 Mile Trail Race. Needless to say... I was ready to get this monkey off my back and finally finish no matter what! Previous attempts were a fail due to events leading up to the race such as an Ironman event less than a month before in 2009 and last year a 100 mile trail race and 40 mile trail race both only weeks before.

Race morning I woke early to grab a quick bite and get my gear together before heading up to Lookout Mountain. Admittedly... there was some nervousness and fear of yet another DNF and I tried to keep a positive attitude going into the event. Once I arrived to packet pick-up... I grabbed my stuff and proceeded with race morning rituals. Not long after I was greeted by Michael and Missy Emerling at my car and we talked some race day strategy since Michael and I had agreed to run the race together. Shortly there after... we spotted Wendy Oates and Cathi Cannon who also had decided to brave this beast of a race.

It was quite chilly with temperatures hovering right around 34-35 degrees on the mountain before the race start which always make for a hard decision on what exactly to wear starting out. I decided to bite the bullet and wear only my Patagonia Rock/Creek Race Team Capiliene long sleeve shirt with knickers and it proved to be a smart choice for the entire day.

The first several miles seemed easy as we kept our pace manageable and at the bottom of the mountain we encountered an overflowing Lookout Creek which forced us to slow way down due to wading through very chilly ankle deep and sometimes waist deep waters. Usually this trail runs along side the creek, but the day before we had quite a bit of rainfall and this forced the waters to run over onto the edges. A few choice words came out of our mouths on this segment and Michael and I jokingly decided that the best punishment might be to make the race director (Randy Whorton) sit in a garbage pail full of ice for about 10-15 minutes and then go for a run with the group on the next Wednesday night run so he could feel like our pain!!! After we emerged from the creek it took about 20-30 minutes to get complete feeling back in the legs and feet. Not long after this we were on our way back up the mountain where we would see Missy who was acting as our crew at mile 22.5. We arrived to this point about 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

Lula Lake was our next aid station where we would see many familiar faces such as Dawson Wheeler, Lance Steele and Mark Mason. It was nice to chat with them as we refuelled and regrouped. We also stopped to snap a nice shot of the falls while there. Not long after this Michael started mentioning that he was having some knee pain. We had some low points along the way including a segment of extensive tornado damage, but we kept moving forward until we made it to the next aid station near Nick-a-jack Road. At this point we were greeted by Missy, Trey, Sarah, Carl, Tom Sell, Angie Hughes, Doug Dooley and many others. We would see this aid station twice as there was a 4.5 mile loop that would bring us right back to it before heading back to the finish line.

We pushed off from the aid station and headed out for the 4.5 mile loop, but it was slow going for the first mile or so. Michael's knee was really bothering him on the downhills. I was becoming worried for him, but tried to stay positive and upbeat. Somewhere with about a mile to go on the loop... Michael yelped out in pain and demanded that I go on without him. He had decided that once he got back to the aid station he was out due to the knee situation. I reluctantly ran ahead without him fearing that I would not have the willpower to take on the rest of this cursed race by myself! When I came back through to the aid station.... Trey and Missy were waiting and I told Missy to be prepared for an injured Michael. Trey prodded me along with some encouraging words and I ran back across the road and into the woods for Lula Lake.

Before I knew it... I was back at the Lula Lake aid station and then off once again... this time for the finish line. I had another rough patch about a mile and a half from the power line trail and talked to a nice man from Kentucky until he finally passed me on one of the hills. Once I popped out onto the power line trail it was getting dark so I strapped on my headlamp and pushed forward. The finish line seemed forever away... though it was really close. I would run and walk until FINALLY I could hear people and see lights!!! At last.... I had made it! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

7th Female (64th Overall) in 10:58

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pine Mountain 40 Mile Trail Race

This race is best described straight from the GUTS Pine Mountain 40 race website:

It is a 40 mile ultra marathon on the beautiful Pine Mountain Trail system of FDR State Park in Pine Mountain, Georgia. This GUTS event will test your endurance and your ankles over rocky single-track trails. The trail follows the ridge line, going up and over it for the duration. Depending on water levels, the few water crossings could be dry or ankle deep. You'll experience both pine & hardwood forests, rock outcroppings, waterfalls, and beaver ponds.

Trey and I decided that we would do this race together this year and it would be his longest trail run EVER. We drove down the the night before and stayed in Lagrange, GA which is about 20 minutes away from the park and race start.

Temperatures were much warmer than we had anticipated and we quickly ditched extra layers just before the start. It didn't take long at all to warm up and before we knew it... we were actually hot. We thoroughly enjoyed the terrain minus the miles of tornado damaged areas. The trail was in great shape, but the leaves on the trail did make things interesting a few times.

We held up nicely up until about the half way point. Things fell apart there, but we pressed on and managed to finish up with a time of 8:27 putting us at 30th and 31st overall. Placing me as 7th female. I am super proud of my hubby Trey for finishing his longest trail race EVER!!!

Sometimes it's all about finishing with a smile on your face.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Duncan Ridge 50k

The Duncan Ridge Trail 50K is the toughest 50K I have done to date with more than 11,000 feet of elevation gain. The elevation profile is displayed in the logo, but that is just the “out” of an “out and back” race. This race uses the Coosa Backcountry Trail and the Duncan Ridge Trail, which are considered some of the toughest trails in Georgia. The race starts and finishes at Vogel State Park’s Lake Trahlyta in the gorgeous North Georgia Mountains.

Race morning Trey and I lined up along side many of our friends such as Sarah, Carl, Cathi, Sheridan, Nik, Lynn and many others. Most everyone I knew including Trey had signed up for the 30k option so I knew that I'd be on my own for half of the race. About 3 weeks prior to the race my friend Joey and I had taken a trip down to preview part of the course. We ran out 8 miles and then doubled back totalling 16 miles. After previewing the first bit of the course... I knew that this was going to be a tough 50k.

Trey and I ran out at a decent clip as I told him that there would be a gnarly climb coming up that would last for some time. We figured we should go ahead and make up some time here since there would be little running once we started up that first major climb. The climb went FOREVER. Once we hit the top of the climb... we were relieved thinking that the race must get easier from here. WRONG. After we hit the aid station Trey and I went our separate ways as the 30k option would now loop back around and take runners back to the finish line. Little did I know that my race had really just started.

After leaving out from the aid station I would be greeted with steep climbs and steep descents. I knew I could rip the downhills as the terrain was just my specialty, but those hills... they were nasty steep. NOBOBY could even entertain the thought of running them. Forget switchbacks. The builder of this trail DID NOT believe in switchbacks in any form or fashion! On a few of the climbs I hit some rough patches, but kept moving forward figuring that at least it was progress. On the way back I would see many runners heading to the very aid station I had just come from and I learned that I had about a 20 minute lead over the next female. I hoped that I could make up some time on the downhill and technical areas as these are things I have become increasingly comfortable with. I also knew that I might lose some time on the climbs. "JUST KEEP. MOVING. FORWARD"... I would say to myself.

About 20-25 minutes after the turn around James Rockwell ran along with me for a bit. He informed me that a black bear had been on the trail running between us for about 1/4 of a mile. Had I known a bear was running behind me... I may have stepped it up a bit and moved along a little faster! He said seeing the bear got him all excited and pumped up. It wasn't long after this James was ready to pass me and he effortlessly ran ahead. The next few miles were rough to say the least, but I kept pressing on until the next aid station. Here I was greeted with many familiar faces once again and after some kind words of encouragement from them... I moved on so I wouldn't get too cold. Many of the peaks we had summited were foggy and it was sleeting... so standing around and not moving were not an option.

Not long after leaving that last aid station I would get the downhill that I was looking forward to the entire race. Steep, technical downhill... oh how I love thee!!!! Here I suddenly had a burst of energy... it must have been the excitement of knowing I was actually going to make up some significant time on this segment. I was like a little kid cracked out on candy bombing down the hill and jumping over rocks and roots. Once at the bottom of the descent I grabbed a quick cola at the aid station and crossed over the creek gearing up for the last and final climb of the day. Run, jog, walk, run, jog, walk is basically the way it would go until I was nearly to the top. Then... BAM... hello.... I was totally bonking. Light headed, shaky and nauseous! I slowed to a walk until I could pull myself together enough for a jog. "JUST. KEEP. GOING. DON'T STOP.... you are almost there!" I kept telling myself this over and over. Finally the trail popped back out and crossed over Wolfpen Gap Road and from here was the final downhill to the finish line. Some how I pulled it together and jogged to the finish line.

Man... what a race... I was pooped! All I could do is sit at the picnic table near the food and scarf down a couple of pieces of pizza and cola. I don't even like pizza, but I was sooo weak and knew that nutrition had to go in before I passed out!

Thank-you Robert Lewellen for an epic experience and the chance to run on some of North Georgia's most beautiful trails.

1st Female and 18th overall with a time of 7:56

Also... friend and fellow Rock/Creek Race Team member Sarah Woerner won the 30K!!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mystery Mountain Trail Marathon

On October 9th I lined up for my second Mystery Mountain Marathon Trail Race. This race was 1 week post Stump Jump 50k for me and I wasn't sure how the legs would fare, but eh... what the heck... it's always fun to run on Fort Mountain. The trail and views alone were worth the hour drive there!

Like I said before... I didn't know what to expect out of myself since obviously my body would not be functioning at 100% with a 50k just one week earlier... so I decided to run at a comfortable pace and reaccess somewhere around the half way point. The race starts going around a small lake and allows for runners to jockey for their spot before hitting the true single track trail. I settled in nicely here and found myself running very steady and breathing wasn't too labored. With the exception of a few hills here and there... I was able to keep this same steady pace up until about mile 12. Here you are greeted by a manned aid station and a hideous power line trail that seems like you are going straight to the moon. I would jog and walk until jogging wasn't feasible anymore before finally reaching the top! Once at the top... I was happy to be able to bomb down the technical downhill which would drop us back onto the beautiful single track again.

Somewhere around the halfway point I decided that I would pick up the pace a bit and hold strong until the next big climb. The next climb was far more technical and much longer than that first climb up the power line. It seems like it was 3 miles or so. I remembered the climb from 2008 and knew that it was just best to suck it up and keep moving no matter what. Here I would catch a couple of guys and chat till the top. One of the guys (Jeremy Orr) actually was from Ringgold, GA and lived in Atlanta currently. What a small world. Turns out we knew some of the same people. I would run the rest of the race with him until hitting the lake on the return to the finish line.

Once we passed the last aid station after the descent of the power line I mustered up enough strength to push the pace a bit and bring it on in. I couldn't have been happier to see that finish line! If you are looking for a marathon distance race to test your endurance and push yourself to the next level... sign-up for this one. It will not disappoint!

1st female and 25th overall with a time of 5:19

*course was actually over a mile longer than the 2008 course

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stump Jump 50k

October 1st I lined up for one of my favorite local races... The Stump Jump 50k Trail Race. It is hard to pass up since we run on these trails for training runs all the time. They are also some of the most beautiful trails in the area that provide many scenic overlooks that you can glance over and see as you are running. Spectacular views of the Gorge and Tennessee River will make most anyone running the race appreciate all that Chattanooga has to offer.

Today I would run with my friend Michael Emerling. We had run the trails on the 50k route many times in preparation for the race along with a few of our running companions. Ramping up for the race we encountered heat, humidity, downed trees and bees! All of these seem to play a factor on race day... so we felt as if we were prepared for whatever the day might bring.

The first half of the race went pretty well and we were able to build a nice cushion as we were ahead of our goal time. We really wanted to break 6 hours and up until around mile 20-21 we were on target for around a 5:40. Of course I knew that once we returned to Mushroom Rock that we would have to run the dreaded gravel loop which always seems to suck the life out of me mentally and physically. This is where much time was lost, but we were able to cross the finish line in 5:59. Good enough for us and Michael was stoked as it was his first 50k distance race EVER!

Congrats to Michael on a strong race! It was really nice having someone out there to share the pain with!

6th female and 66th overall out of 374 runners with a time of 5:59

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Scenic City Trail Marathon

May 21st I lined up for my 3rd Scenic City Marathon. This race is always hard to for me to live up to my own expectations since I know what I am capable of on the course and what I've delivered in the past, but it is what it is and simply being healthy enough to come out and be able to run on beautiful single track trails really IS what it's all about in the end.

With that said.... today I ran a 4:11 on the two loop course. 8th female and 45th overall out of a field of 175. Not my best time by 13 minutes or so, but I am on the road to recovery healthwise and am looking forward to ramping things up later in the year.

Congrats to fellow Rock/Creek Race Team member and friend Sarah Woerner for her win today in the women's field!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rev 3 Half Ironman Knoxville

May 11th marked the second year for the Rev 3 Half Ironman in Knoxville, TN.

Race morning was unseasonably cold. It was a dreary overcast day with temperatures hanging around the high 40's. I lined up for this race in my full sleeved wetsuit and swam the chilly waters of the Tennessee River. This swim was going to be ugly since I hate cold water and my swim fitness was lacking. I literally swam 3-4 times in preparation for the race. If you are a triathlete.... you can understand that this is not advisable for a half ironman distance race!

Somehow... I finally made it out of the chilly waters and managed to jog back to transition and get on the bike. The air temperature was cold.... so I took the extra time to put on socks and arm warmers. After all... this was simply a training race to get me geared up for Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June. The bike went about like I figured and I was able to post a decent bike split.

On the run it took me a while to feel the bottoms of my feet. They must have gotten cold from the bike. After about 3-4 miles of running... there wasn't an issue anymore. I enjoyed the run course and was happy to see some hills. Running on flat surface gets incredibly boring for me. Before I knew it... I was back around and passing the transition area and headed for the finish line at the World's Fair Park.

A great day of training on the books... even if it wasn't running in the woods!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

3 State 3 Mountain

May 7th marked the 24th annual 3 State 3 Mountain Challenge. The VeloVixens decided to ride this event as a group this year. We had many participants riding the metric and century distances.

Prior to the event we had several co-ed training rides to prepare. We had alot of fun on the training rides and knew that the actual event was going to be a blast as well! The day did not disappoint even if it was a little hot and humid. We were all able to work together for the most part, but I did fall apart a little toward the end of the century. Overall I was happy with my time and enjoyed the company of fellow teammates and friends!

Looking forward to another great showing at the 2012 event!!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ouachita Trail 50 Mile

Here I sit writing my first race report since Pinhoti 100 in November. You may ask... why wait so long to make another post. Well... there are a myriad of reasons actually. The truth is that I've not been quite myself physically and emotionally for a while now. The good news is that I'm on the mend and on the road to better health and well being. First... I will give a quick recap to what I've been doing since Pinhoti 100, second... I will talk in detail about the Ouachita Trail 50 Mile and how amazing it was in more ways than one and lastly where I hope to be in the next few months.

After Pinhoti 100....recovery took far longer than I had anticipated. Honestly... I hadn't been feeling like myself leading up to the 100 either. Every training run and race felt too much like work and my body wasn't responding in a positive manner no matter what I tried. Now that I look back... the last event I felt decent about was in May 2010. Things seemed to spiral downward pretty quickly from there. I did manage to pull off the Pine Mountain 40 Mile Trail Race in December and my attempt at the Lookout Mountain 50 Mile Trail Race after that was a fail. Not to my surprise now that I am more educated on what my body was/is going through.

Imagine waking up day after day feeling like you need to go back to bed... just not feeling rested in the least. On top of this imagine feelings of depression, fatigue, loss of libido, hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and many other non-flattering feelings physically and emotionally. That pretty much sums up what was going on with me. It was gradual at first, but then after the 100... it was unbearable and I needed some answers. Something was seriously wrong. After 2 different doctors and numerous tests run... including ruling out cancer... we were finally able to find one big contributor to the problem. Low Testosterone. What?! Low Testosterone?! Yep... so low in fact that it could cause all of these terrible things to happen inside and out. This wasn't something that happened overnight either. Many will try to say "ohh... you are just over trained.. you need to rest". Let's face it.... rest wasn't helping. I think the difference between an endurance athlete and a normal person is... an endurance athlete is much more in tune with their body and and average person not so much. An average person may just blame the changes on getting older and think to themselves... "this is just part of what happens when you age". An endurance athlete says the opposite... "hey... something isn't right here... I am doing everything to be healthy and this is NOT how I am supposed to be feeling".

Sooo.. what's the fix? Well... for now it's a monthly injection of testosterone. I have had 2 injections thus far and the improvement has been significant. Every month I will go in for testing to check testosterone levels and white blood cell count (another something found to be low). My spirits are lifting and the physical and emotional aspects of life are getting easier day by day.

Now... onto the Ouachita Trail 50 Mile race report:

Dawson Wheeler of Rock/Creek was nice enough to let us use the Rock/Creek Toyota 4 Runner for our trip to Arkansas. We rolled up in a pimped out ride on race morning and hoped we'd be able to back up all the bling we were flashing!

The goal was to simply finish. I hadn't run much over 20 miles at one time since the Pine Mountain 40 Mile Trail Race in December. I had been resting much more than normal due to my health issues and didn't want to put any expectations on myself. Simply to finish was the goal.

The race began in the dark at 6:00am Arkansas time. The first 3 miles were on the road and I hoped that the skies would shed some light on us before entering the single track ahead.... luckily we had just enough light to see the trail. My pace was easy as I was afraid to try for much else in fear of failure. At about mile 4... we started up Pinnacle Mountain. It was a climber's paradise and looked as if God took a bucket of small boulders and dumped them out into a very tall pile. I went very easily up this rock wall using my hands, legs and willpower to move forward. At one point during the ascent I stopped to take a picture to document the steepness of this ridiculous climb. Once on the top.. I paused for another moment and snapped a couple more pictures before moving forward to the descent. The descent was not as steep and the ascent, but one wrong move and you could break your face. I moved as quickly as I could, but was notably cautious with each and every step.

After coming off of Pinnacle Mountain the trail flattens out until you get closer to water. The hills and rollers were pretty steady from here on out. I managed to pick up the pace around mile 5 and held a solid pace up until mile 40-42. After the 50 mile and 50k split we encountered many many creeks which were flowing nicely from the heavy rains Arkansas received on Thursday night. Needless to say... our feet were wet for most of the race. When I got closer to the turn around I saw Sarah who was in the lead and I was told that I was 2nd overall female. I tried not to let it get in my head as the day had gone pretty well and I needed to listen to my body. At the turn around... I refueled with water and took off my long sleeved shirt down to my short sleeved shirt. The temperatures had risen enough to justify a wardrobe change.

From the turn around to about mile 40-42 I ran strong and steady until my body decided enough was enough. I gradually got slower and watched 2nd overall go bye bye as I was passed with 8 miles to go. From here it was a walk/run process, but I really couldn't complain. It was the best I had felt in months. I had given it everything and this made me happy to know that a 50 mile finish was in my near future. Once we were dumped back onto pavement... it was 3 miles to the finish. It felt like an eternity to the finish line. At the finish... I was greeted by Sarah and Mark.... It was good to be done and even better to be feeling closer to the "old me".

After the race I find out that Sarah did take 1st female and Mark took 1st masters male. Congrats my friends!... and thank-you for being there to share a very special moment with me.

I am looking forward to doing more races this year and completing my 5th Ironman in June and hopefully my second 100 mile trail race in November. Stay tuned for more adventures!

Shoes: La Sportiva Crosslites

Shirt: Patagonia Capilene

Socks: Injinji

Pack: Ultimate Direction Wink

Hat: Headsweat