Sunday, January 12, 2014

FRIENDSHIPS!

Gemma, Sarah, Shauna and I at the end of our run
As the years pass by and I grow a little but older, I can`t help but notice the subtle ways I am evolving. Perhaps, it`s my observation of others that allows me to notice and reflect on these changes.

I have been a runner now for almost 10 years. My attitude towards training and racing has evolved so much in this time. My motivations to compete have ebbed and flowed but the one thing that is constant, is my absolute need to run.

Shauna and I were in the car one day recently and we were reflecting on what we did on weekends before we ran. I really don't remember...



One of my observations is that I have been running the same trails for so long now that sometimes the experience of going out just lacks a bit of excitement. I know what's around every turn.

I really can't stress enough how enjoyable it is to run with people who are a bit newer to the sport. They bring back the excitement of trail running. It is really cool to see someone so stoked to be on a new trail. It reminds me of what it was like when I first started trail running and motivates me to explore new places.

I am really enjoying the company of my training partners right now. I don't think I have ever trained with people that are so excited, silly, and giddy. This energy keeps me playful and it is in this way that I enjoy trail running most. It's by far the greatest part of the week.

Shauna and I on our weekly BCMC Friday night hike

Gemma, Shauna, and I on our BCMC Friday night hike
It's amazing the quality of people you meet in this sport and how fast great relationships are developed. Looking forward to many more runs with great friends!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bellingham Trail 1/2 Marathon Race Report



I saw a Facebook post Candice Burt had written about the Bellingham Marathon. She was introducing a new ½ marathon option and said it was going to be AWESOME and that the course was stellar! As someone who likes races that are described so enthusiastically, I jumped on board.

I decided to head down the morning of the race because it didn’t start until 10:30am, however we had to be at Padden Lake at 9:30am to catch a shuttle bus. I left my house in North Vancouver around 7:15am and was hoping to get there around 8:30am and 9am at the latest. Of course, due to the long weekend the borders were super slow going. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it to the race when I was still at the border at 9:00am. I hauled ass as fast as I could to Lake Padden. I literally drove in at 9:28am, leaving myself exactly 2 minutes to park and grab my bib. Luckily, there was no line-up and everything worked out smashingly. BUT Man was that stressful!

I got on the bus and we went for a nice 30 minutes drive to our drop off point. I immediately remembered the area from Chuckanut 50km. In fact, a lot of the trails we were going to be running are part of the Chuckanut 50km course and because I have done that race 3 times already, I am quite familiar with the area. I love these trails.

I went for a nice 10 minute warm-up because it was quite cold and I had been sitting for the 3 previous hours. Once the gun went off a girl darted out in front of me. She looked like a really strong runner and I knew instantly this was a race for 2nd! She went on to win the entire race.

This race has just over 2600ft of elevation gain and I swear it’s all in the first 4 miles. At first the trail switchbacks upwards and then once you hit chin scraper its pretty much straight up, with a few zig zags. I ran these 4 miles just in front of 2 other ladies. Having them behind me kept me on my toes and pushed me harder than I might have if they weren’t breathing down my neck. I figured if I could hold them off uphill I had a good chance of keeping 2nd place. Up next was the ridge trail which is a 5km section of technical trail. This is one of my favorite parts of the Chuckanut 50km course and it is where my true colors really come out.

I hammered this section and the downhill that followed it, passing quite a few men along the way. Up to this point I had been feeling pretty good and continued to feel great on anything that was flat or downhill. However, anything that was even slightly uphill I felt like I was slogging. It felt so good to run fast in the trails again. I am really enjoying racing some shorter distance races at the moment.

The last 2 miles back to Lake Padden felt pretty long. I was passed by a guy doing the marathon. I tried for the life of me to keep up but it wasn’t happening. Luckily he came in 2nd so I don’t feel to bad about myself ha!

I finished up the race in 2:16, 2nd female and 4th overall. This race is super awesome and the course was fantastic. The post race food (handmade pizza, soup, and everything else you would expect) is top notch!

Something worth noting: I decided not to carry any water with me which is out of the ordinary for me. However, because it was so cold I knew I would drink less and there were 3 aid stations I could get water from. I found that this worked out great and never really felt like I needed a drink.

Footwear: I decided to wear my La Sportiva Vertical K’s instead of my Crosslites (which I love). I had never raced in the Vertical K’s and was a bit nervous about it. In the end, I made such a good call because they felt great. They are incredibly light and really comfortable. I highly recommend this shoe for training and racing.

Thanks again to Candice Burt and Rainshadow Running. She has a lot of really awesome races throughout the year and I would put this one on your calendar for 2014. It’s a great late season event.

Friday, August 23, 2013

FAT DOG 120 RACE REPORT

The MEC Relay team and I before the 10am start!
I'll start off by saying that I never wanted to run FAT DOG! I told myself I would never run this race back in 2009 after GPS'ing the last 60km because I couldn't believe what people had to run after having already run 130km. Two years later I was marking the first 13km of the race and the entire thing was straight uphill. I stated again that I would never run this race. I just thought this course was "too hard" and that you'd have to be crazy to attempt such a thing. Fortunately, I have this issue that when I tell myself I can't do something I then have to do it.

I had DNF'd Western States 100 earlier in the year. I only made it 55 miles, which was a hard pill to swallow. Could I redeem myself at Fat Dog? Do I have it in me to finish 120 miles?

I went into the Fat Dog 120 with an entirely different attitude. Being such a low key event, I could take a very relaxed approach to it. The only thing that really stressed me out were the logistics, once I finally sat down and got organized. I had 2 incredible people who were crewing for me (Josh Barringer and Shauna Connaugton) and both of them I had spent many hours out on the trails with this year. My employer, MEC North Vancouver, had put together a relay team and I was super stoked to have them down for the race. My partner Peter Watson, manager of North Shore Athletics,  is also one of the race directors and it excited me to know I would see him along the course.

The day before the race Nicki Rehn and I drove down to Manning Park. We picked up our bibs and went to the lodge to have some food. There we met a few other 120 mile runners, which got me even more excited to run.

Nicki and I drove to Keromeos and prepped our drop bags, caught up with friends, made new one's, and sat through a fun pre-race meeting. Before long we were eating dinner and drinking beer at the best Thai food place in town. I don't normally have beer before a big event but I figured it would only serve to relax me, which it did. As we walked back to the Elk's Motel we spotted a cute diner that opened at 6:30am and decided that's where we would have breakfast in the morning.

I woke up at 7am and ran the 3 blocks to the diner. The diner was awesome and the 80 year old owner was flirty and charming. I don't normally have coffee, eggs and toast pre-race but with such a late start time (10am) I decided to have something more exciting than the usual oatmeal. We boarded the bus at 9am that would take us to the Lakeview trail head about 30 minutes up a very scenic logging road.

LEG ONE: LAKEVIEW - CATHEDRAL - ASHNOLA

I took my place in the back of the pack with Kendell Blenkarn, a co-worker of mine from MEC. Before we knew it the bear banger went off and away we went! After a quick 10 second run over the bridge, I was into a power hike which went on for a good while. I chatted a bit with Diane Van Deren who is a North Face athlete from Colorado. It was her first time running in BC and she was such a delight to talk to. A lot of people were hiking with poles and I was wondering if I was missing out by not having any. I was hiking strong without them and quickly made my way up the pack without feeling like I was moving "too fast".

Early on in this leg I could feel a hot spot forming in my right heel. I couldn't believe I was feeling something this early on. When I got to Randy and Lori at the Cathedral aid station I asked if they had any kinesio tape I could cover it with but they didn't. I knew Peter would be at the next aid station and hoped he would have some supplies to help me out.

As I ran along the trails in Cathedral park I couldn't help but wonder if I was in Heaven. I had heard these trails were stunning and stunning they were. I kept telling myself that there was no other place I would rather be than right here running.

I was stoked to finally be on the long downhill to Ashnola where I found myself in a pack with 3 others. Towards the bottom I could hear Peter cheering. He had come a little ways up the trail to cheer on the runners. I told him I had some blisters forming but first needed to hit the little girls room. He ran to the aid station to gather some supplies while I did my thing in the woods. When I got to the aid station I was treated like a Nascar racer at a pit stop. Peter cleaned up my feet, then sprayed sticky stuff on them and then once that was dry he covered my heels in tape. While all that was going on, my co-workers from MEC (Dennis and Allison) were helping out at the Aid station. They were quick to fill up my bladder and handed me any food I needed. I found out that I was 6th overall at this point.

LEG TWO: TRAPPER LAKE - CALCITE - PASAYTON RIVER - BONNEVIER

Beautiful burnt trees in Trapper Lake



I ran a couple of km's up a logging road before starting uphill on a single track trail. At this point I had caught up to the guy in 5th who had been walking the logging road section. Not long after I passed the guy in 4th and then I passed the guy in 3rd. All that passing was done power hiking. After a few km's I ended up running in one of the prettiest sections all day. The trail was surrounded by burned trees and millions of pink flowers. I felt like I was in a video game because the scenery was too unreal. The flagging tape was also pink so you really had to look ahead at where you were going. I got to the next aid station where I saw my good friends from MEC, Dennis and Kendell. It was so great to see folks I knew along the course. I also ran into my good running friend Sara Elias and we chatted a little bit before she flew away as she was part of a relay team.

The next section from what I remember was a little boggy and I remember dancing around some wet areas trying to stay dry. Up until this point the flagging was flawless but I came across Sara and another girl who were having trouble seeing where to go. After a couple minutes I found the next flag ahead but later found out a sign and a couple of flags had been messed with. This was the only spot for the entire day where it was unclear exactly where to go.


Peter had told me I would love the Trapper Lake section and he was right. My favorite part was the 8km downhill section into Calcite aid station. I had found heaven once again! I also passed Hans, a 7 foot tall guy with long bleach blond hair. I was now in second place overall, behind Sammi. The Calcite aid station was pumping some pretty loud beats and they cheered me in. My friend Dennis from team MEC was just leaving the aid station as I came in. We had joked weeks earlier that I could beat our work relay team but I told them something would have to go horribly wrong for that to happen. I had beat the first 2 runners and the 3rd runner was in sight. For a brief moment, I wondered if it were possible.


It wasn't long before I was descending down to the Pasayton River which is where I had to cross over to get to Bonnevier. There I found Dennis wading in the river. We crossed over together and thanked Don, the owner of the cabin who's backyard we had to pass through to get to the next aid station. Dennis and I ran all the way along the highway to Bonnevier together. He was quite hung over and feeling like crap and I kept saying "Good job Dennis", "Almost there Dennis". I thought it was amusing that the 120 mile runner was pushing in the 30km relay leg. Dennis and I could see someone running out to us, which to my surprise turned out to be my pacer Josh. I had been so excited to know that when I reached Bonnevier I would see both him and Shauna, and hopefully Peter.



My soon to be pacer Josh and on our way to Bonnevier. I swear I am feeling much better than I look here!
 LEG THREE: BONNEVIER - HEATHER- CAYUSE FLATS

At the mandatory meeting in Keromeos on Thursday night we found out we could have a pacer 19km earlier than we originally thought. As this was news to me I had not planned on having one there but I sure was keen on the idea. For some reason hiking 3-4 hours in the dark was unsettling to me. Interestingly, I got a random text on Thursday night from my friend Raj that said, "Are you doing the Fat Dog 120?"

"Yes," I replied.

"We are camping in Manning for the weekend with friends," says Raj.

"Does Patty (his wife) want to pace me for 19km?" I say.

"Let me ask her," he says.

I didn't hear back until the next day. He told me she was stoked to pace me and I told them to meet me at Bonnevier somewhere between 6pm-8pm.

I get to the aid station and immediately sit in a chair. Peter is there and I get him to work on my feet again. The heel tape is still good therefore I have him re-tape one toe and a nail that I grated the other day that seems to be catching on my clothes. I change my socks and shoes and pack my bag to get ready for the night. Sadly, there is no sign of Patty. I then yell out "Who's coming with me!!!?" but there was no reply. I say goodbye, put on my headlamp and mentally prepare for some long hours in the dark.

I plugged my ear phones in for the first time all day but took them out a minute later as it was distracting me from listening to my body. I could no longer hear myself breathing which was a sound I came to enjoy. I also couldn't hear the sounds of the night and I wanted to be able to hear those. It would be 45 minutes before I had to turn on my headlamp. I spent the majority of the climb bear calling, "Eh ohhhhhh." I can remember thinking to myself that I was moving really strong. The grade of the hill was not too steep thus you could climb at a good clip. The stars were magnificent and I was excited to finally be out of the trees and into the alpine. I kept bear calling "Eh ohhhhh," but this time I got a reply, "Eh ohhhhh." I got really excited because I knew that was Peter. He paced me in the last km to the aid station.

I was elated to be at the Heather aid station because Peter's oldest sister and her family were running the show for the second year in a row. They are best known for their world famous quasadilla's with avocado and salsa. They literally hike in enough supplies to make 70 of them and I sat down and patiently awaited my own. It was the best thing I had eaten all day and it truly hit the spot. Here I changed into tights in anticipation of a colder night.

I was now ready to run the next 20 miles with my pacer Josh. I had run this trail to Cayuse flats a few weeks prior so I knew what I was in for, however it seemed to have more climbing than I remember. The temperature was a little bit colder and all I had to put on was a water proof jacket because I had forgotten my wind breaker. It wasn't long before I was way to hot and felt like I was wearing a garbage bag. I took off the jacket and back into the bag it went. Then we would have a stretch of downhill and I'd put the jacket back on, only to feel too hot again once I climbed a small hill. I feel like my jacket came on and off a million times and I cursed myself for not having my windbreaker. I was happy when we finally reached the Nikomen aid station. I had been waiting all night for some warm broth and maybe some coke. My stomach had been a little off and I was looking for some easily digestible things to consume. The two boys were camped there with a small fire to stay warm. I sat down right in front of it and asked for some broth. They said they didn't have any, nor did they have any coke. My heart sank a little in my chest. I settled for a pringle but could hardly stomach it. I filled my bladder and we were out of there pretty fast.

The next section is 16km pretty much all downhill. I was struggling as we started down. Descending is something that comes really easy to me so I knew something was wrong when I was laboring. I felt like there was something jammed in my throat. I pulled out the good old gag technique, which I administered for the first time at Western States in 2010. I told Josh to hold on a second and that he would probably want to plug his ears. The first gag made this horrible sound but nothing came out. The second caused a flood of liquid to dart out of my mouth. "That's the one!" I said. I instantaneously felt better. In fact, I wasn`t just better, I was ALIVE again!". I instantly became super chatty and was so happy to be able to eat properly again.

We run down the hill, only stopping for pee breaks which seem almost too frequent. I figured peeing too much is better than not peeing at all though. The downhill section seemed to go on forever and eventually we get to the lower section where it widens out. I know from here it's about 5km to Cayuse Flats aid station but it's undulating and I was walking a large chunk of it. I want to run but its hard after gravity had been pulling us downhill for so long.  Finally we reach the turn off to the aid station. I was stoked to cross the river on a giant log that was lit up with glowsticks.

LEG FOUR: SILVER SKAGIT - CASCADES - SUMALLO - SHAWATUM - SKYLINE

I said goodbye to Josh and picked up Shauna, one of my best friends and running partner from back home. She had never paced anyone before and the advice Josh gave her was to make sure I was eating.The 8km trail over to Cascades aid station wasn't easy. The hills were steep and although they were short they just seemed to keep coming. As we were going up a steep hill she suggested that I eat something. I think the crankiness was starting to creep out of me because I responded with "You Fu#$ing eat something!" Josh and I had been running relatively quietly all night, chatting now and again. Shauna on the other hand, seemed to be pretty damn excited to be running and was really chatty from the get go. For some reason it was really irritating me. Here I was working through this nasty section of trail and being asked a million questions. At one point I just stopped answering them in hopes that the noise would stop only for there to be another question or story. I kept thinking to myself "she just won't shut up!" "How is she still talking!" Eventually I think I just told her to stop asking me questions as I was struggling a little bit and could not respond. We've since joked about all of this and I know she won't feel offended when she reads it. Love you!

I was elated when we got to the Cascade aid station. It was no longer dark and I felt invigorated from the light of day. The very first thing I did was brush my teeth! The bottom of my left foot was feeling pretty sore/tired and I thought about changing into brand new (never worn) shoes but I feared the stiffness would prove to rigid for my heal blister and it was. I grabbed some potatoes and drank a bunch of broth and coke. Shauna and I had 3 km's to run to the next aid station where I planned on taking a longer stop.

Summalo was an aid station I knew well because I had volunteered at it the first year. From what I remember the next 30km or so were pretty flat. I changed out of my tights and back into my shorts, put on a new sports bra, changed my t-shirt, and put on a new old pair of shoes. Changing shoes (and socks) felt really good and the soreness in my foot was non-existent afterwards.

We had 15km to go to get to the next aid, which we found out later was just to a water drop not a major aid station. The major aid station, Shawatum, was a few more km's along the trail. I foolishly had stopped eating prematurely in anticipation of real food (coke and broth) at the station and started to get really deflated when the aid station just never came. I kept wondering if we had missed it because you have to detour off the trail out to the road. Had we missed the turn-off? We were on this flat section and you could see for a ways ahead and the aid station was no where in sight. I was getting pretty deflated to the point that I tilted my hat downwards to hide the flow of tears that were streaming down my face. Once I realized I was being an idiot by not eating I shoved some honey stingers down my throat and that perked me up and carried me along, tearless, to the aid station. The bugs were terrible and although they didn't bother me, poor Shauna was being eaten alive.

I was ecstatic to reach the Shawatum aid station. To my surprise, my good friend and co-worker Allison was there waiting for me. Allison is a nurse and she took great care of me. Apparently, I had turned into a zombie that just spoke two words: Coke and Broth.

We had to run back out to the trail and it was another 15km to the Skyline aid station. I knew if I could just get there and make it out that I would get to the finish line. Once you leave that aid station there is nowhere to drop out except at the finish! The 15km was hard and it seemed to just go on forever. The trail had way more short inclines that I remember and the Centennial trail is really uneven and it took a lot of energy out of me when I attempted to run. I was definitely experiencing a low point and I walked a lot more than I should have. Every once and a while I would take a deep breathe and find the energy or mental fortitude to run but it wasn't coming easy.

My good friend Tom Skinner was working at the Skyline aid station and I was stoked to finally get there and see him. Tom is a big red bull drinker and I was really hoping he would have a stash in his truck. My eyes were feeling really tired and I needed something to pick me up and give me wings! I parked myself on a cot in their mosquito tent and asked Tom if he had a Red Bull, which of course he did. I drank the half a can he gave me and asked for another. I saw an orange on the food table and for the first time all day that seemed really appealing. I downed the next Red Bull while Tom filled up our bladders and I packed my bag with fuel for the next 20 miles. I anticipated the next leg to take about 8 hours considering we had 2000m to climb over that distance.

I packed poles for this section but as we climbed up it was hard to tell whether they were helping or hindering. The bushes are narrow on the trail and I found the poles getting caught often by brush. I eventually put them away. The climbing felt slow going. I tried to stay as positive as possible and just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I did a lot of deep breathing on the way up. I have done this climb many times and I knew exactly what was before me. I was doing this. I was going to cross that finish line. I was going to be a FAT DOG. I was even second place overall!

It wasn't long before we were at Camp Mowich, the 2nd to last aid station. Peter's good friend Grant was hosting the aid station once again and he greeted us with cow bells and cheers. It was the perfect spot and they had the perfect fire to warm us up. "Grant, do you have any Broth?" I asked eagerly. "Yes, it's warm, let me get you some." To my surprise, Jeff Humble came in and was out of there before us. I had not seen another 120 mile runner since Bonnevier, which was like 110 km's earlier. Grant and his friend Darren hooted and hollered as we walked away from the aid station, leaving me all smiles. Without saying a word to Shauna, I was now was on a mission to catch Jeff. 

We caught up to Jeff pretty fast as we seemed to be running the downhills a little bit faster than him. I squatted down to pee at some point before the last aid station and felt this horrible tightness just below my knees. As I got up I noticed that area was swelling a little bit. I was a little freaked out and just hoped it would not cause the last 10 miles to be painful. The trail here is quite narrow and one slip meant you could tumble far down the slope. I didn't see it as an issue as I feel very comfortable on this type of terrain. I wonder what runners thought about that section in the dark where you could not see the consequences of a fall...hmmm

We finally reached the Sky aid station where Randy and Lori were volunteering. Dave Melanson, one of the filmers, ran out and greeted Shauna and I and informed me that they had Red Bull (something I was longing for) and all sorts of other goodies. Jeff came into the aid station right after us and I split the Red Bull with him. Lori offered me a banana, something I had not had the entire time but all of a sudden sounded like heaven on earth! I responded with an enthusiastic and drawn out "Yeeesssssssssssssss". There was 8 miles to go and I loved knowing we were so close to the end. The next 4 miles were hard as we had to climb and descend 5 mini mountains. Since I had done it before I knew exactly how hard it was going to be and was ready for it.

Jeff was hot on our heels but once we started down the final descent into lightening lake he was not in sight. I was confident we were going to finish in 2nd, which was something I was becoming more and more proud of as we ran. The 2 mile descent was punishing and although we were moving at a descent clip, I was wanting it to be over. I knew there were only 3 or so km's to go but I was letting negative thoughts creep into my head. My mind was telling my body "You are tired", "Your knees hurt", "How are you going to run 1.5km flat to the finish?" I decided to try and shut it out with some music but when it didn't work I put the iPod away. We ran our way around the lake and only stopped to walk when there was an incline. I had stopped eating miles before and I think I was mentally suffering because of it.

The greatest moment was when I could see the Mountain Madness arch on the other side of the lake. I was so close now! I could hear my name being cheered from across the lake. The first thing I heard was a cheer from Peter's nephew Tyler, "Go Nika"(Nika is a name Lucus, Peter's youngest nephew gave me because he could not say my proper name when he was young). What proceeded was one of the greatest greetings I have ever had coming into a finish line...E.V.E.R!!!!! Peter had ridden out to meet me and gave me a kiss before I finished on the last 100 meters. People had chalk written 'Go Nicola Go'  on the ground in multiple locations. Friends and family were standing before the arch to give me high fives. The volume of the cheering was just bananas! The sun was setting and the sky was a bursting with color. I have never felt so much love and I won't lie, after being out there for 33 hours and 47 minutes, it felt really nice.

Doing exactly what I had dreamed about all run- sitting on the grass!
Team MEC + me at the finish!
I even made it out to the MEC keg party after the race (no beer was consumed- too tired)
A mile or so before we finished Shauna was telling me how anticlimactic she thought this finish would be compared to when I finished Western States. I had to disagree with her because although there are more people at the finish line of Western States, I hardly knew any of them. At Fat Dog, I knew MOST of them and that made the finish all the more special. These folks were friends, co-workers, family, and wonderful people I have met over the years that belong to our running community. Thank you to everyone for making that moment for me.

Fat Dog is an AMAZING race. The people who volunteer for this event are amazing. There are too many volunteers to thank so I'll just thank Mountain Madness! The course is challenging. This race will make you dig deep and go to places mentally you don't normally go. The course is absolutely stunning. DO THIS RACE!!!!!! The accomplishment is worth it!

I was so lucky to have 2 of the best pacers in the world. At one point I told Shauna I wanted to go home and she said "Nicola, you have run 100 miles, you can't quit now". She was so right. I never thought about dropping out again. This race really was a team effort for me and I couldn't have done it without you guys. Thank you!

Thanks to my sponsor La Sportiva for all your support and for giving me amazing shoes to run in! I finished with only one minor blister. I still have all my toenails and none are black! The Crosslites really are the best shoe for my feet! Also, thanks to Petzl for making wonderful headlamps. The MYO XP is a great headlamp for night running.

After the race I said I would never do it again. A couple days later I am already re-thinking that!

Next up, HURT 100!!!!

See you in the trails,

Nicola



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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

PAM SMITH PRE-WESTERN STATES INTERVIEW

As I sat in the sauna (heat training) reading all of the pre-Western States interviews on irun far, I couldn't help but wonder why Pam Smith was left out. I have ran in races with her and she has always kicked ass. We are both on team La Sportiva and I decided to do my own pre-ws100 interview. Since Pam ended up winning Western I thought people would be interested in what she had to say...


Pam Smith, in my opinion, is the biggest under-dog coming into Western States this year. I think she has the talent to place in the top 10 and if she is on her game, she could take it all. In 2010, in her 100 mile debut, Pam placed 10th in the women’s field. I recently contacted Pam to pick her brain about how she feels going into Western States 100 this year.
 
Pam, you have had quite the year so far, most notably your win at the prestigious American River 50 miler. How has your training been going since then?

My training went really well this year. Last year I was really focusing on road running through April for the 100km World Championships, but this year I felt like I could concentrate a lot more on trail and hill running for Western States. Also, my mileage was a bit higher this spring.
 
You were the 10th  female in 2010 and 2011, but your time improved by almost an hour. What time do you think it’s going take to squeeze into the top 10 this year? 
 
Last year, with cool temps and a bit deeper field, the F10 time was 19:45. I think with the heat this year, any woman going under 20 hours should be in the top 10. In 2011, my 10th place time was 20:40, and it could go that high again, but I think any lady gunning for top 10 needs to target sub-20.

You had a pretty horrific experience in 2012 and just barely got in under the 30 hour cut off. Can you tell us a little bit about what happened there? What are you going to do differently this year to ensure that doesn’t happen again?

Things just snowballed out of control from the very beginning last year. I was not prepared for the cold and listened to a few guys at the start who said once you got over the ridge, you'd be out of the rain. Well, 40 miles later the rain, snow and sleet finally let up! By that point, I was hypothermic and not eating, so very behind in calories. It also triggered my asthma really early on and I was having so much trouble breathing uphill. I think the whole thing just overstressed my system so my body wasn't functioning normally. By the time I rolled into ALT, I was 7 pounds over weight and I got held for over two and a half hours there because they were afraid I was hyponatremic (testing at the finish showed I was actually high normal) and they wanted me to pee off weight. That just didn't happen. By that time 24 hours was way past possible but I still wanted to finish; however, the medical captain was advising me to drop. Fortunately, the Aid Station Captain, George Miller, came to my rescue and he convinced the medical team to let me go, but only after I signed a waiver!

At that point I was stiff and tired and the medical team had me pretty scared, plus, I still wasn't breathing very well, so I basically just walked it to the finish. I will say that I am glad that I decided to finish. Despite the slow time, it ended up being a really positive experience. It was a true test and I felt like I had such support from not only my crew but the whole ultra community.

This year I've got a running jacket packed even though it is supposed to be in the 100's and I am taking some stronger asthma meds. My asthma is hard for me to deal with because it is very "all or nothing". I really don't have any problems with anything under 8 hours so I can run all 50k's and 50 milers without meds. Also, it doesn't seem to be a problem on roads. So I can go months without even thinking about it. I think then I maybe get a little complacent and think everything is fine. But when it does hit me, it is very incapacitating and makes it near impossible to run fast or uphill at all.
 
The heat is going to be an interesting factor this year compared to last year. How does the heat affect you and what strategies do you have to handle such hot temperatures?

I live in Oregon, so I don't have much chance to run in really hot temps and I am not sure how it will affect me. I'll pretty much be doing the same things as everyone else: staying wet, hydrating well, taking salt regularly, and using lots of ice. 
 
Pam, every time I see you, you have a smile on your face. How important is having fun to you while you are in a race?

That's nice to hear you say that because I feel like in so many of my running pictures I look completely dazed and confused! I know a few people are trying to make it as professional ultra-runners these days, but I have a full time job and kids, so for me this really is just a hobby. Hobbies are supposed to fun, the pursuit of something you enjoy and are passionate about. So the real reason I am running is to have fun and to enjoy the beauty of my surroundings. I do get competitive in races and sometimes that can be painful (and maybe not fun at that very moment), but there is also a joy and satisfaction that comes from finishing a race well and knowing you gave it your all.
 
 
I just want to say that it is such a joy having you on team La Sportiva. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate and I look forward to towing the line with you on Saturday. 

Ditto! Thanks for the interview.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2013 BMO Vanocuver Marathon Race Report

Me at The District post run for some breakfast and Mimosas!
It has been nearly 6 years since I ran my last marathon. In 2008 I participated in the IMG New York City Marathon. However, I did not race as I was racing Haney 2 Harrison the following weekend. Instead, I ran with a good friend and simply took in the experience.

I had applied for an elite entry into the Van marathon quite a ways back but it took a long time before I heard I got in. However, after running my fifth 50km race, I was feeling a little burnt out and all of a sudden was not so excited about the marathon. However that feeling only lasted a few days.

Yakima 50km was 2 weeks prior to the marathon. I did well there and took a couple days to recover before getting back to some light training for the remainder of the week. I decided not to to taper for the marathon, mainly because the weather forecast was just to nice and I couldn't imagine not getting out! Also, my eye is still on Western States 100 and I know I need to be training.

This was my week leading up to the marathon:

Monday: Off
Tuesday: Awesome 90 minute run!
Wednesday: Great 1hr50 min run in the morning and then 1 hour easy with the MEC Meet-up group in the pm. My legs felt REALLY tired by the pm run.
Thursday: Legs feeling really sluggish today at work but managed a 50 min run with Shauna in the pm.
Friday: Climbing with Peter in Squamish! One multi-pitch route and 2 single pitch routes.
Saturday: 2 hour trail run up Mountain Highway to the 7th switch back and down via Oil Can/Baden Powell. Legs felt like they were going to explode going up Mountain Highway.
Sunday: Marathon! 3:02!

On top of that I was literally working on my feet for 8 hours a day mon/tues/wed/thurs/half of sat and I think that tires them out after some of those morning runs. I also drank a few more adult beverages than I normally would do because of the hockey game & Peter's Birthday, which led to some pretty poor eating. All in all, I wasn't feeling very confident going into this marathon! After Saturdays run of death I just decided what will be will be and I am going to go enjoy myself!

I hooked up with the NSA Marathoner's at the Lonsdale Quay as they rented a bus to take them to the start line. The fee was $10 but the money was being donated to Team FINN! Thank you Tana for letting me jump in last minute! The sun was shining and the temperature was nice, which was perfect because I had 30 minutes to hang out in my tank top and skort before we started running. I decided not to carry any water on me as there were aid stations every mile along the course. I simply brought along 4 gels - 2 in my skort pocket and 2 in my sports bra. The start line was pretty fun as it had been a long time since I had lined up with so many other people. It's not very often we sing the national anthem at any of the ultra events I do. Needless to say, I was loving the atmosphere.

With a 10 second countdown, we were off! I didn't think too much about my pace. I just started running and found a comfortable pace that was going to work for me. I was enjoying all the people cheering on the sidelines and found myself laughing out loud at all the hilarious handmade signs. One of my favorite one's was "Don't worry, I think tired legs are sexy". However, I felt that mile 2 was a bit early to be seeing that poster. I enjoyed seeing other women in skirts and other people's interesting outfits. The miles were just ticking away and I was amazed at how much fun I was having. Really quickly into the race my friend Marieve was running right next to me. I didn't even know she was doing the race and we took a brief moment to catch up. Not to long after I saw Alicia, the 3rd place female at Yakima, running with Volker Schneider, a friend of mine from Squamish. I ran with them for a bit before we all split up again.

One thing I really noticed after doing all these mountain races is that road running is WAY EASIER. or at least it felt like it. I really do feel like I am a better road runner than mountain runner as I am not a strong hill climber. I was really enjoying the mellow grade of the hills and LOVING the flats and downs.  I went through halfway in a time of 1:30:11. It was one of the only times I looked at my watch. I knew that 3 hour barrier was a possibility but I did not focus on it. If it were to happen it would happen.

I just ran happy and enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces in the crowd. I never hesitated to veer off into the crowd for a high five. I even hammed it up on a few occasions and pulled out the airplane arms on tight corners. That always got a lot of cheers :) I loved seeing Peter out there on the bike. For some reason my legs were just moving and I had the energy to keep going at the same pace (without ever checking). I was passing tons of people which was reassuring. The heat was warm when you were in it but there was tons of shade and a nice cool breeze by the water.

I was coming down into English Bay and I was feeling like I needed a gel. I must have been distracted because I tripped right over a speedbump and went down hard. Luckily, I rolled out of it like a ninja and kept going. I took a gel right after that and felt much better! There were only 6 miles to go now and all I had to do was run around the beautiful Stanley Park. After a mile or so I saw my friend Alex who I have run in the trails with. I was so excited to see her as we have been chatting about the marathon quite a bit. It took me a while to actually catch up to her and we exchanged a few words. I encouraged her on and just kept moving forward. I passed a couple more ladies along the way and was so excited to see the 24 mile sign! I saw Peter and he told me that my friend Hozumi (who always starts slow and passes me later on in races, except for Yakima where he just killed me) was right behind me. I had seen him behind me on this short out and back section way earlier in the race and wondered when I was going to see him again! It wasn't until I was rounding into the last 800 meters or so that Hozumi caught me and ran with me, encouraging me to finish strong. He was pacing someone else so he stopped and let me run into the finish shoot solo but without him I know I would have been moving much slower (Thank you!).

The finish shoot was intense as there were hundreds (felt like thousands) of people cheering me in. I was running as hard as I could and for the first time since the half way mark decided to glance at my watch to see if I would come in under 3 hours. The watch said 3:02 so I knew I wouldn't but I was still STOKED BEYOND BELIEF that I pulled that time off. I spotted my mom in the crowd and that made me smile as I crossed the line, more than happy to be done.

I have run 3:02 (my PB) before back in 2006 at the NAIA Track and Field Championships in Fresno California. It was my 3rd marathon and I was competing for UBC. I had a coach and was training hard and I even tapered for the event :) I was stoked then and I am still stoked now because I know with more specific training and a proper taper I could do better.

I really enjoyed the day. Sometimes I think its all in the mind and when you rid yourself of expectations and just run, good things happen. You can do everything right and still have a bad day but you can also do everything wrong and have a great day.

Alright, no more races until Western States. I want to be hungry when I get there! Up next is a fun 50 mile training run in Zion National Park with some good friends. Can't wait! Bring on the heat baby!

See you in the trails!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Yakima 50km Race Report

I met Leslie Gerein 4 years back at Transrockies. Her and her wonderful hubby Keith were doing it together. The following year I went and stayed with her in beautiful Banff, Alberta and ran my butt off in the 4 days I was there. I was training for Western States and a weekend away with amazing women who loved to run was just what I needed to keep the stoke alive during what seemed like a very long training season.

The start. Photo By: Seth Wolpin
 Leslie messaged me a few months ago and told me she had signed up for the Yakima 50km (which she did the year before) and had a van full of ladies coming down. Having already signed up for four 50km races already, I was a little hesitant. However, not long after James (race director) invited me down and I just couldn't refuse. My co-worker John had already signed up and it wasn't long before there were 5 of us making the trip down to Ellensburg, WA.

Tons of wild flowers. Photo by: Seth Wolpin
A long and winding road! Photo by: Seth Wolpin
 We set out at 6am Saturday morning and made a mandatory pit stop at Avenue Bread in Fairhaven. Oh my, they make up the most amazing English muffin breakfast sandwich. My favorite is the Italian but I am sure they are all wonderful. We rolled into Ellensburg around noon and checked into the prestigious Motel 6. We got some groceries and then went to the start line to check out what lay ahead of us tomorrow. The wind was blowing but the sun was shining. We ran into Shauna who had driven down with Salt Spring Dave (who filmed the event) and we enjoyed a beer at a picnic table.



The concierge at our motel recommended we check out the university campus, so we took some time to walk around there. We then sat down for a nice pasta dinner and before long were passed out in bed!

The temperature was pretty nice in the morning but I still started with my wind breaker on. I took it off within a mile or so but I would use it later on in the race and am glad I wore it! After a 10 second count down we were off to do a little 400m out and back to spread the group apart as the trail narrowed quickly after we crossed the bridge. Immediately we started up the first climb. I was happy to see that there were some running breaks amongst the power hiking. After feeling so beat up (energy wise) during the Diez Vista 50km, I began to hit the Iron Supplements (Floridix) hard. I could totally tell the difference this day as running felt a bit more effortless like it used to. There were 2 women ahead of me and I couldn't help but want to catch up! Shauna was also right behind me and we ran pretty much 30 seconds apart until the 25km turn around. Part of me just wanted to run with her so I had someone to talk to but I just settled for doing my own thing. However, we did run together for a bit after the 2nd aid station. I got to chatting with the girl who was leading (Alicia) and turns out she is from Vancouver and we knew a lot of the same people, which was pretty cool.

Johnny O, our fearless leader!
The amazing Mark Grist!
The scenery was spectacular! Beautiful wild flowers and views of the winding Yakima River down below. With so many hills around I really had no idea where I was going as I looked off into the distance. The terrain was very rocky which made it quite technical in parts. The hills are steep and it was hard to just let the legs go on the downhill. I guess that is why I am feeling it today! Having rolled my ankle really bad a couple of years ago, I didn't push it at all on the descents. Rolling an ankle would have been pretty easy on parts of the trail and it just wasn't worth it to me to risk that.


Shauna on one of the many descents!
 There was a lot of sage brush and it almost felt as though I was dancing in between it as the trail tightly twisted and turned. We were told to watch for ticks and rattle snakes and luckily I saw neither. There were 5 aid stations, 1 every 5 miles and the volunteers were amazing. All were super cheerful and willing to get you whatever you needed. What else can I say? The climbs were tough and often when you thought you were at the top, it twisted and winded even higher. I seemed to always be around a few people so I was never alone for that long. Racers were all super respectful as they stepped aside for those in the lead and everyone was cheering each other on. Whenever someone told me I was the first lady I couldn't help but think about the white house.




The wind got a little crazy and at one point it was so strong my hat flew off my head. Shauna a few meters back didn't feel a thing! I was in my own gust of wind bubble. I kept a pretty steady pace the whole race and overall felt pretty good. I ran where I could and power hiked everything else. Out of all the Rainshadow races I have done, this is at the top of the list. I like that the hills are steep so your forced to power hike (I'm so lazy right!?) but there was enough running to mix things up. Time just seemed to tick by and I loved that we got to finish downhill. I finished in a time of 6:21 and James awarded me with a hug and a wicked framed print of the race logo. Very stoked! Then it was on to beer and handmade pizza from the hippies! Both went down very well.

Thanks to La Sportiva for providing me with the best shoes! Again, the crosslite worked like magic and I had no foot issues! 



The aid station personnel were amazing!
Where we had the post race festivities!
I finally got to catch up with Leslie and Nicki from Banff and cheer on my friends who came in shortly after me. Everyone in our crew did super awesome.We left when the kegs ran dry!

That night we all went out to a steak house and then crashed pretty hard as I was beat! Sunday was super mellow and pretty uneventful as we made the trip back home. On the way home we stopped back off at Avenue Bread for my favorite breakfast sandwich (for lunch), Trader Joe's, and Edelaine dairy for a soft serve cone. So good. For the most part I feel pretty good but my quads are definitely sore!

Mark with not one but two eggenues (breakfast sandwiches)!!!!
 Next up, Vancouver Marathon which takes place a week and a half from now. I haven't done it since 05' and I will not be tapering so it should be buckets of fun (insert sarcastic smiley!). No honestly though it should be fun to get out for a fun day with a lot of people and see what these legs can do.

Run Happy,

Nic

Thursday, April 18, 2013

TURNING 29...

This passed Sunday I turned 29! Yup, only one year left in the 20-29 age category and then winning my age group will become much much harder! I must say that 28 was a good year. It had it's ups and downs but I learned a lot. For the most part I listened to my heart and can't be happier with where I am right now.

The weekends festivities were fun. On my actual birthday I went for a great 23km run from Grouse to Deep Cove with one of my best friends, Shauna, and my boyfriend Peter. Right before I was about to leave home she suggested I pull out the pink spandex. I did that and raised her a Victoria Secret Lingerie outfit over top. It was silly and I had fun with it. The day was beautiful and we saw familiar faces all run long. We did a car drop in Deep Cove earlier on in the morning as I wanted to jump in the ocean and then grab me a Honey's Donut. Yum! The dip in the ocean was cold, very cold but there is something about dunking myself in water on my birthday that makes me feel reborn and ready for the next year ahead. I love it.

Shauna and in the headwaters, Photo by: Peter Watson

Peter and I at Quarry rock. Photo by: Shauna C
The short and sweet of the rest of the day is I went shopping, which I never do, at a shop called Anthropologie. I first discovered this store in Palm Desert a few years ago and was stoked to find out there was one in Vancouver. However, it would be a couple years until I actually made it out. Boy, was it worth it! I just feel like the clothes there were made for me :) I never seem to have trouble finding anything to buy. We were going to drive but because it was such a beautiful day we took public transit and it was really nice to rely on the good ol' seabus, skytrain, and bus all day. After our one stop shop, Peter and I took the bus over to Main street to have dinner and drinks at The Foundation which is this brilliant vegetarian restaurant that serves up world class nachos. The nachos are perfectly layered with tons of cheese, black beans, and corn. I highly recommend trying this place out.

The next day we took it pretty easy as we were heading up to Squamish in the afternoon to do the first 1/3 of the Garibaldi Neve Traverse with our good friend Mark Grist. Of course, I made sure to stop off at the Zephyr for a coffee and muffin before we began this mission. We dropped Mark's car off at Garibaldi Park and drove ours to the Diamond Head trailhead. It was a gorgeous evening and we took our time getting to the Elfin Lakes hut. Once there we made dinner and played crib. Last time I was there we slept on some benches because it was full. This time there were only 2 other people, which was really nice. It wasn't long before we were in bed as we had a 4:30am wake up coming the next morning. I slept pretty good however my watch got messed up when I was setting my alarm the night before and my watch said it was 3:30am when it was really 4:30am! It's a good thing I am a morning person and I was able to roll out and up pretty easily. I forgot to bring breakfast so I shared a few granola bars with Peter.


Mark and I as we start the day. My his pack is much larger than mine! All Photos by: Peter Watson

Park Rangers are all tree hugger's at heart!



We began in the dark with our headlamps lighting the way. I could tell it was going to be a beautiful day with blue bird sky's, and it was. Mark was leading the way as our tour guide as he had done the Traverse twice before. Peter and I were both Neve virgins. The snow was perfect for skinning, we barely sunk down at all.





The 5km flat lake section. It felt like it was never going to end!
We had a 3km hike out in ski boots!


Finally back at the car!


The adventure for me was epic. The scenery was beautiful. I can't really put into words how beautiful it truly was. We really could not have asked for a better day weather wise. What made the adventure epic was the last 8km where we switch backed our way down to the parking lot. The trail was narrow and very icy. To me, it was survival skiing at it's finest and it was the section I hated the most. However, it did make the trip that much more memorable. My feet have a few sores on them from all the friction back and forth in my boots but overall they held up pretty good. My muscles are a bit sore but hopefully that eases off as I am running the Yakima 50km this weekend.

I am really looking forward to all the new adventures that are coming my way. So far, 29 is looking pretty good.

See you in the trails!

Nic