Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Staying in the Bounds of My Training: Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run 2010

photo from Auburn Journal . We are on our way!

 As I write I am on the plane heading home from this adventure. Though this was not a focus race for me, it was fun and hard and joyful and now that “race weekend” is almost over, I am feeling tired and relieved and just a little lost....

Many amazing things happened out there for many people. The men's race was a true dual of fitness and tenacity and passion. A record number of runners finished. Some dropped. What I am writing is just a glimpse of this past Saturday from my own little world.

 This year I enjoyed a few re-race activities. I have learned to steer clear of the much of the drama and hoopla that makes me stressed out. I got to reunion with many Montrail runners during Friday’s photo shoot and generally catch up with great folks! On Friday, the day before the race it drizzled and stayed in the low 60’s. A chilly day…I could hardly imagine dying of the heat in the canyons the next day.

Part of Friday at this race is getting a Medical Check. The volunteer staff weighs everyone, takes BP and pulse and records it on a plastic bracelet worn by runners until after the race. Runners are weighed at various points on the course to monitor for too much weight loss (dehydration) or gain (hypernatremia). I weighed in a 119 including shoes and running clothes, after breakfast. This weight seemed a few pounds light to me-yet I wasn’t about to be whiney and argue my scale at home might not be the accurate one.

The pre-race briefing was long and a bit daunting when the Top 10 finishers from each gender and automatic entrants from the Montrail Ultra Cup were called up front. I was on stage with no less than 20 other strong, accomplished female ultra runners. Add the other girls that are not as well “known”, and there was quite a lot of competition for the Top 10 spots of WS 100 2010! I had my work cut out for me, and I knew it!

I spent Friday evening alone in my little cabin at Tamarack Lodge in Tahoe City, dining on a veggie omelet and English muffin prepared in the kitchenette. I was in bed reading by 9:30pm and slept until the alarms (3) went off at 3am. After taping feet and gathering my things, jumped into my rental Toyota for the 8 mile drive to the start. I drank coffee, ate ½ banana and English muffin with almond butter and apple butter.

 I parked the car, stashed the keys where teammate Matt Hart had agreed to pick it up in order to deliver it to Auburn. After taking care of “personal business”, picked up my race number and chip, got weighed in for the medical study having to do with hydration and salt I’d agreed to participate in, and found Tony and Elinor who unexpectedly would be crewing for me. Tony is George’s uncle and Elinor is his daughter, to me they are great people whom I am proud to call family. Both crewed for me in 2005 and were able to come back and offer their assistance and enthusiasm this year. It was a joy to share this part of my life with family, especially an event as dramatic and high profile as the Western States 100. Thank you Elinor and Tony!

The Race

We started at precisely 5am Pacific Standard Time Whooo-hooooo! I was approximately 100 runners from the front and the front folks jetted, the cluster I was with bounded and those behind me in the pack shuffled their way out of the start area for our 100.2 mile adventure across the snow and roads and canyons of the Western States Trail. I alternated scampering and hiking for the first 4 miles up to the Escarpment. (The final ascent to the ridge was a trudge on snow steps). I re-introduced myself to Amy Palmiero-Winters who would soon become the 1st amputee to finish this course. Amy and I had met a couple of years ago on Long Island when we were both running the LI Greenbelt 50k I also chatted away with Scott Mills and met Suzanna Bon on the way up. It was fun to finally meet Suzanna after cheering so hard for her via blog at this past May’s World 24-Hour Championship!
photo from Auburn Journal
Up, up and slowly up we traveled. Those ahead of us ran. I plodded with those around me. Closing in on the top, a brief look behind me revealed Lake Tahoe at sunrise, the lighting of a glorious day! I just hoped that after 12 hours I would be taking it all in as richly as I was then doing. Dropping over the ridge west was one of my favorite parts of the day-quickly I traded out orange sunlight on my back to long shadows coming over the ridge as we headed down and west. I struggled to pass lots of people for the about a ¼ mile-not that I was trying to beat them, yet I remembered this part of the course as being super fun downhill in snowy mountain glory. These early hours were beyond exquisite in beauty!

It didn’t take long before I found my slippery rhythm on this snowy course. Like in 2005 when there was snow, I spent much time laughing out loud from the pure joy of playing in the snowy mountains! Several around me seemed to be delighted in a similar way and as we chatted we seemed to brag about how many (uneventful) falls on our butts we’d taken! (I only had 2! So far!) The early miles of this day brought forth the experience of joy and freedom and flight that first attracted me to this sport. I was reminded of my privilege to be alive and to experience my senses as richly as I do. If you grew up where it snowed and can remember the first snowfall of the year when you didn’t have to go to school, but instead could go outside and play in the snow and build forts and later come inside to drink hot chocolate and each cheese sandwiches…then you can identify with my first hours of this event!

The Past and the Plan

 I have run WS 100 2x previously. In 2005 it was a focus race for the year, my training and racing were all geared to that event and showed in my results. In 2006 I was gifted with a comp entry, but couldn’t use it as a result of a healing hamstring tear. In 2007, still dealing with hamstring issues I went anyway, and although I wasn’t still injured, I’d yet learned how to run, hike or healthfully compensate for the scarring and change of hamstring mobility. I had a wonderful run, yet went out too hard and “paid for it” during the last 40 miles. In 2008, the race was cancelled and in 2009, wanting something less hilly to complement my road training for World 24, instead ran Vermont 100.

As I have written in previous posts, the daunting expenses of the WS 100 trip and race kept me from seeking entry earlier this year. So actively seek, I did not. Yet, I allowed, if I gained access via automatic entry via an Ultra Cup Race, I’d seriously consider. On May 8, 2010, I earned an entry by my 2nd place finish at Ice Age 50 Mile. At this point, giving myself a week to recover from Ice Age and a week to “taper” for WS 100, my coach, Howard Nippert and I designed a training plan. I would have 5 weeks to gear my training to this course. Since a person can not cram for racing an ultra, I entered with what I hoped was 4 realistic goals. I would to go for:
  • A top 10 finish
  • To place in the Montrail Ultra Cup (top 3 get cash prizes!)
  • To better my time from last time
  • To be smart so I still had legs to run well at least until the River (mile 78)
I am strong and determined, yet I hadn’t put in the mountain miles or time on feet that I’d need for a real race. This would be about running within my training and practicing sensible risk taking. I had an enthusiastic crew and talented and fun pacer –Amy Sproston. Amy also assisted with crewing until she met me in Foresthill. If I could practice patience and humility, my goals would be doable. If I got ego-driven and greedy, I feared I would blow up way too early in the day. This day was about saying “yes” to keeping the dorsal fin dormant.

The Snow

 There was lots of snow for the first 13 miles. Due to the hefty volume of snow on the course this year, miles 9 to mile 23 had to be rerouted. This course change meant almost 10 miles of pure downhill on wide single track and dirt road. This snow route meets the traditional route at Duncan Canyon and is very close to the exact 100.2 advertised miles. I figured that this downhill terrain would make it a faster course than the others, yet if a person went out too fast, they would surely pay for it later. I did not wish to be in this group!
 Back to the Race

 Running with Jill Perry for a few downhill miles was fun! Meeting other runners and chatting was too. I tried to follow my plan of taking in approx 300 calories and 2 water bottles every 1.5 hours. After 2 hours I started taking electrolytes. The first place to met crew was about 30 miles in at Robinson Flat. I was weighed and the scale reported that I gained 5#! I think this was impossible as I had only taken in only a 4.5 20z bottles of fluid from the start, and I had stopped to pee 3x! Anyway, I was instructed to stop drinking and take in more salt. My split to Robinson was 5:23, 78th place overall and somewhere around 10th woman.

 The climb out of Robinson Flat was again quite snowy in sections, until cresting Little Bald Mountain, where I almost stumbled at my first exposure to the magnificent Sierra Nevada range in all its glory just south of where I was standing. I could have sat and stared at that view for hours. Yet not on this day, many miles to go and canyons to explore!

 At this point, I started to get into a rhythm- bobbing along the trail, staying steady, slowing on the ups and loosening up more on the descents. I didn’t even try to run some of the very steep parts which I have run in the past. Both Devil’s Thumb and Michigan Bluff were 95% power hikes for me. Both are steep and feel like endless climbs and I did my best to stay in the moment and not think about just wanting to get to the top. When finally topping out at Michigan Bluff, someone asked, “How was the climb?” I replied, “I loved the climb, yet I really, really love being at the top of it now!”

 I really have nothing remarkable to report about my experience pre-Foresthill. I felt mostly good and was taking no chances. My weight was staying around 121.5. I did pass Tamsin Anstey who was moving slowly, nursing a sore knee and reported she started out too hard. Pam Smith and I passed each other several times on the big climbs-she stronger on the steeps and I on the descents.

 I felt very sad as I came through the aid station (mile 53ish) just before the ascent to Michigan Bluff: There stood Devon Crosby-Helms looking pale and speaking to the aid station medical folks. I could tell things were not good for her and probably hadn’t been for some time. Later I would learn she was dealing with stomach issues and had to drop at Michigan Bluff. I was sad for Devon as I knew from reading her blog and occasional personal interactions with her, that she was very prepared and super excited about this race.

 At Foresthill, Amy joined me; I grabbed a headlamp and wrapped it around my right upper arm. In 2007 it got dark just before the river crossing. It was 4:56pm and I fully expected to make it the 16 miles to the River well before dark-yet one never knows. In 2005, when I was in great mountain shape, I arrived at this spot at 4:18 and arrived at The River crossing at 6:58pm. In 2007, I arrived at Foresthill over an hour later and this segment took 3:20. This year, my legs played fair and the segment took just about 3 hours.

Rucky Chucky River Crossing 2010

 Amy was a joy to spend time with. We talked and sang and told stories of mutual acquaintances. She did a great job reminding me to keep the calories coming in. If I was in stronger form, I think I’d have really been able to benefit from her being able to push me more in those last 20 miles. We crossed the River in a boat, due to the high water levels. It was about 8pm. Later we would learn the winner; Geoff Roes crossed the finish line at 8:07 pm! Wow, that is fast!

 We turned on our headlamps shortly after leaving Green Gate, mile79.8. At this point spirits were high and legs pretty tired. I was an hour behind my 2005 split here, and an hour ahead of my 2007 split here. It was roughly 8:40pm. I started plodding. Amy was fabulously patient. Though I was not crawling, I did quite a lot of transitioning from running to walking and she hung in there too.

 Amy and I spent a good part of miles 62-90 alone. After this we joined forces with Ian Torrence and Todd Walker and Lee Mckinley for bits at a time. Amy and I crossed Hwy 49 at 12:01 am. Later we learned this would be the time female champion, Tracey Garneau crossed the finish line! We still had 6.3 miles left to go!

 Todd, Amy, Ian and others created a nice 6-7 person “train” for a little while with the descent to No Hands Bridge. From here it was a dark amble up to Robie Point which Todd, Amy and I did together. At the top, Todd’s wife met him and they sped off down the hill. I admired how speedy he looked. I was not very fast, yet Amy helped me get going when we caught sound of other runners leaving the trail. I would NOT be passed at this point. Now I had a specific focus and damned the under-trained legs, I would run!

 I was quite quiet as Amy and I ran the last few hundred feet to the finish line with me crossing at 20:43:04, 8th woman and 42 finisher overall. Tony and Elinor were there cheering me on as I was ushered to the medical area for some “study testing”. I felt very tired, yet was pleased with my efforts and ability to stay within my training.

 The 2 hours I spend in the medical tent post race was not fun. I protested as the study staff pushed me into a chair to take blood and do other checking. I really needed to walk for 5-10 minutes before sitting down-this is one thing that helps me cool down and keeps me from being sick after a long effort. I was not permitted to do so. So I passed out! And threw up. Ick. And withdrew from the study. I did take a bag of IV fluid which helped with my pressure. My 1st ever IV at a race end. I didn’t like having to break the streak and will NOT sit down without walking around after a long run like this again!

I don't blame the study staff for what happened, rather it is my own fault for not obtaining enough information. I sincerely thank the medical folks at the finish line for helping me come back to life!

 Amy and I shared an overpriced room at the Super 8 and by the time I arrived there at 4:15 am I had just enough energy to get in the shower and no energy to sit in an ice bath. I did sleep for 3.5 hours before waking up and getting that bath! Though I could have slept much longer, I really like getting back to the track and watching other runners come in and finish up. So tough they all are for having been out for 2 sunrises!
Less than 30 minutes to finish!

Tony, Elinor and I around 11am Sunday morning
 The Awards Ceremony was fun! Neat to see all those fast guys together and meet Tracey Garneau for the first time. The Montrail Ultra Cup was announced with Meghan Arbogast and Glen Redpath taking 1st place. I got 2nd and was very pleased. Complete results here for Western States 100 2010 and here for Montrail UltraCup 2009/2010.

 Top 10 women pause with belt buckles

During the afternoon on Sunday, several people asked if I’d be back next year, or what race is next for me? I don’t know! I can’t even think of it right now! I need a few days to feel normal again. Once the less swelling and many facial pimples go away, I’ll be able to more easily consider doing this again and I know I will, yet mentally for another day or two, I just won’t “go there” unless I must!

There are sooo many things to reflect on: training, racing, expenses, time-away, body stress and self confidence....Recovery is a multi-faceted approach...and does take work, especially the reflection aspect. I expect I'll be feeling less lost after I sleep more than 6 hours in a row and get to see George and Mama Grey!


john.goodie said...

Wow, awesome run! Great write-up too!
Congratulations! Way to represent NC too!

Devon said...

annette-congrats on a great run and without that much time to train after Ice Age. I really appreciate the good vibes you gave me at the bottom of the canyon. I had been done for a long time, but didn't stop at Devil's Thumb because they wouldn't take me back. I am so happy you had a good day! Look forward to seeing you at a race again soon.

jenn said...

Woo hoo!! The imtr's were are following and cheering you on annette, all day and evening!! You ran so consistant and steady. Very smart race.
So extremely happy for you!

See you soon! (hug)


Sophie Speidel said...

So proud of you, Annette! Smart, patient, grateful, positive, determined,inspired...so many words to describe your WS run #3. Thanks for sharing all the details of training, preparation, and racing a race that I would LOVE to go back to one day :-)


amy said...

You were a pleasure to pace--so positive and strong! I was just along for the ride. I can only hope to be half as happy and strong in the last 40 of my next 100.

shel said...

fantastic job annette!

Layna (aka Willow) said...

great run, and a great report, too! (nice to see you on the course around mile 4...you're so much faster on the snow -- and everywhere else -- than I was).

Rick Gray said...

Way to go Ms. Patience! Certainly sounds like patience was your key to success. Tammy and I followed you along and am truly amazed at how you do it. We are so proud with your focussed drive and how you ran. Rest up. See you soon, Rick

annette bednosky said...

Thanks to everyone for your enthusiasm!
Rick-you are right-this run was unique for me-I was patient! (Yet given the timing and situation, it was the only way that I would finish without crawling in!)

olga said...

You ran very smart and steady, and the result came for you! I have a couple of pictures of you on Emigrant pass, if you're interested. olgav100@gmail.com

meredith said...

Congrats on a wonderful run! I paid the price for being part of the study, too...no fluids or food post-race for 2+ hours. I think we will all read more closely next time!

Recover well!

Paige said...

Congratulations, Annette! Fabulous race report, as always!

TonyP said...

Congrats on a great race!

Coach Spencer said...

Great job! Good report too. I was up in your neck of the woods running today... Doughton Park. I'm sad to say I didn't know the place existed, much less the many miles of trails. Take care.

Monica Ochs said...

Great job Annette! You continue to amaze me with your incredible running ability and positive attitude. You are an inspiration to many! Big hug sent your way.

Bedrock said...

Great job Annette. See you soon.