I’m getting lots of questions regarding my wife’s UCan gel. So, I asked her to show us exactly how she mixes and stores these packs.
What you’ll need:
- Electrolyte of your choice
- Coconut water
- Ziplock bags
- Small Bowl
She has never measured exactly how much coconut water to use, but says you want to get it to the consistency of frosting. If you prefer it a little less thick, she recommends using more coconut water. They end up being a little bit larger than your standard gel pack, but still small enough for her to carry 8 at a time in her hydration pack, (12 hours worth of fuel!)
It’s been a while since I posted on this blog. Between training for my own races, race directing, coaching, family time and my normal 9-5, I just didn’t have enough hours in the day to dedicate to this page.
But last weekend, I watched my toughest coaching client, my wife, finish her first 100 mile race. I am so proud of all the hard work she put in during training and so happy that hard work paid off with a sub 24 hour finish! Her race was the perfect example of how trusting your training, running smart, and following through with your nutrition plan can not only get you to the finish line, but get you there smiling and with enough left in the tank to push yourself in the final miles. So, I asked her to write a race report for me to share with everyone.
I hope those of you who are considering your first ultra read this and get inspired to challenge yourself. And, perhaps her success with nutrition will encourage those of you who struggle with this to try other means of fueling. For the past few years she has been trying to convince me to try Generation Ucan. After this race, I’m certainly going to give it a whirl. Going 100 miles without any stomach issues is quite a feat in and of itself!
Crewing and pacing at Vermont 100 was incredible. I absolutely recommend this event for first timers and ultra veterans alike. It was nice to be on the other side of the fence this time and support Mrs. Whip after all the support she, and my girls have given to me!
And now… Here’s her race report:
I honestly had no intention of writing a “race report” after Vermont. Since giving up facebook back in February, I have found a greater appreciation for just living in the moment. But, a few people did ask me if I was going to write one. So, after giving it some thought, I decided to put one together. If my experience can help even one person decide to try an ultra, or help another runner with nutrition, it would be worth it. I’ll keep it short (just like the race), promise!
Training for My First 100:
Training, for me, started in January. It was nothing crazy. Most people think, in order to run 100 miles, you need to put in crazy miles every week. Not so! I did a build up similar to marathon training. Only difference was skipping traditional speed work for progressive runs and adding a second long run on the weekend. I averaged 50 mile training weeks. During my training I did Boston 2 Big Sur (to prep my legs for running on beat up quads), Ragnar Relay (as a 3 person team for the miles and middle of the night running) and Pineland Farms 50. I doubted my training the entire time. When I saw others on Strava logging 75-100 miles weeks in preparation of their 100, I thought I was certainly going to crash and burn half way through my race. James constantly talked me back from the ledge assuring me that quality miles would pay off and adding a bunch of extra junk miles would only add unneeded stress to my body & mind and would potentially injure me. Once again, my coach was right. Always listen to your coach. They know better!
10 Days Prior to Race:
The weather forecast called for highs in the 90s. Though I had run many of my runs at peak heat of the day, and even ran my last (hilly) 20-miler midday at 86 degrees, I had never run when it was 90 degrees after having already been running for 10 hours. So, I began heat acclimation training. I did some short runs bundled up in winter gear. They all sucked and I ended up having to shorten them even more than they already were because I became overheated and light headed. And then there were the sauna sessions… those sucked, too. I am not a fan of gyms to begin with. So, having to go and sit in a 120 degree sauna was just pure torture. My resting heart rate was crazy high. So, after one final easy run the Tuesday before the race, we stopped all training. No more running. No more sauna. Focus was to relax and get my heart rate back to normal. I began packing and everything for the remainder of the week went according to plan.
What I Packed:
This will probably be boring to read for most, but may be beneficial for ultra runner friends. Non-runners, feel free to skip to RACE DAY!
The dilemma, for girls like me with strong thighs (yes, STRONG, not “thick” or “big”) is, the chaffing when I try to run in shorts. But, it was going to be hot. I HAD to run in shorts. So, I decided to start in capris and change into shorts when I saw my crew. I would see my crew 8 times and I packed 10 bags. Here’s what was in them:
Bag 1 – Race Gear (This is what I would start the race in)
- Head Lamp
- Head Sweats Visor
- Tee Shirt (no tank, hydration pack chafes my back in tanks,
- plus I wanted to avoid the sun on my shoulders)
- Super DUPER Tight Nike Sports Bra
- Asics Running Underwear
- Nike Pro Compression Running Capris
- Injinji Lightweight Black Socks
- Trail Toes
- Saucony Kinvara Trail Shoes (Discontinued)
- Neutrogena SPF 60 Sunscreen
- OFF Bug Spray
- Garmin Fenix 3
- Ultimate Direction WINK hydration Pack
- Collapsible Cup (VT is a cup free race)
- TP Kit
Bag 2 – Pretty House Drop Bag (crew stop 1)
(I wrote notes in each drop bag. Some notes had instruction on what I might need, somewhere my attempt at some comedy and some where just quick thanks yous to my crew. So glad I did this! James said the kids really got a kick out of reading them.)
Bag 3 – Stage Road (crew stop 2)
- Small Towel
- S Caps
Bag 4 – Camp 10 Bear #1 (Crew stop 3)
- Small Towel
- Socks (or so I thought….)
- UCAN Chocolate Bar
- S Caps
Bag 5 – Margaretville (crew Stop 4)
- Small Towel
- Tank Top (just incase the tee shirts weren’t keeping me cool)
- UCAN Chocolate Bar
- S Caps
- TP Kit
Bag 6 – Camp 10 Bear #2 (Crew stop 5)
- Small Towel
- Tank Top
- UCAN Chocolate Bar
- S Caps
Bag 7 – Spirit of 76 (Crew stop 6)
- Small Towel
- Arm Warmers
- Capri Tights
- UCAN Chocolate Bar
- S Caps
- Caffeine Pill
- 5 Hour Energy
Bag 8 – Bill’s (Crew stop 7)
- Small Towel
- UCAN Chocolate Bar
- S Caps
- Caffeine Pill
Bag 9 – Polly’s (Crew stop 8)
- Small Towel
- UCAN Chocolate Bar
- S Caps
- 5 Hour Energy
Bag 10- FINISH (Left at hotel for me after a shower)
- Asics Underwear
- Nike Sports Bra
- 2XU Compression Tights
- Bryce Canyon T-shirt
- Injinji Socks
- North Face Hat
- J Crew Flippy Floppies
Med Kit – In addition, I packed a tackle box with things I may need along throughout the day. Such as:
- oral IV
- ginger candy
- moleskin / scissors
- band aids
- advil / Tylenol
- antiseptic wipes
- topricin cream
- bug spray
Day Before the Race:
The great thing about racing close to home is not having to get on a plane. Since the start was only 3 ½ hours away, I got to sleep in a bit Friday before we headed up. (Thank goodness for that, because sleep would not happen again for a while.) I ate a bagel with butter and a full 32 oz bottle of Gatorade for breakfast, then we were on our way!
The crew stopped for some Mc Donald’s for lunch. I ate an entire bag of Goldfish crackers and another 32 oz bottle of Gatorade. It’s a race tradition for me and one I am not willing to break just yet. We made it to Vermont in great time. After stopping for ice cream, we headed to the race start to get checked in.
Though it was hot and humid, it didn’t feel nearly as bad as I anticipated. There weren’t long lines, so I got my bib, shirt, got weighed in, passed medical check and even bought some stuff, in less than an hour.
I was shocked by how calm I felt. I’m usually a nervous wreck before I run a distance or big event I never have done before. Not the case here. I was actually REALLY excited!
Since the pre-race briefing wasn’t until later in the afternoon, we headed to the hotel to check-in and lay out my gear. So glad we did this. I even had time to sneak in the bathroom to write out my thank you cards (to my crew/pacers). This was something that was REALLY important to me. And I didn’t want to write them in advance. I wanted to write them, from the heart, when I was in the moment. So to have the extra time to sit and do this made me SO happy and really set the tone for my race.
We headed back, to the race start for the pre-race briefing. I was still feeling super excited! Ultras are amazing! The vibe is more relaxed than marathons or triathlons. People are so friendly, laid back and appreciative, and you feel that! Amy, the race director spoke for a while, the medical director spoke for a while, and then a parent from Vermont Adaptive, the beneficiary of the race, spoke. She read a letter she had written a couple years back expressing her appreciation for all of us running. She spoke about her daughter, who stood by her side as she read. I, of course, welled up. Then, full on had an ugly cry. After hearing her story, and sobbing like a baby, it would be near impossible for me to find any reason to complain during my measly 100 mile journey. After the briefing, runners are entitled to a free dinner at the adjacent tent, but it was super hot and the line is long, so I opted to eat elsewhere.
We headed to an Italian restaurant near our hotel where I ate my weight in pasta, had a whole loaf of bread and 2 glasses of wine. It was SO good and I ate SO much, but shoooot, I’m running 4 times a marathon, I can eat 4 times the food, right? LOL
As soon as we got back to the hotel, I popped some sleeping pills. 4 am race start meant a 2 am wake up call. So, I was hoping to be asleep by 9:30.
While waiting for them to kick in, I mixed all my UCAN (8 total) and enjoyed 30 minutes of Nat’s NormaTec. Though I did initially fall asleep, it would not last long. The hotel AC unit was a joke. It would alternate between frigid cold to sweltering heat! It was impossible to sleep. I probably got about an hour & ½ total sleep. Yet, getting out of bed at 1:45 am was easier for me than getting up at 6am on school days. Gotta love race day adrenaline!
At 1:45 am, I got up and immediately ate a bagel & butter with some coconut water and pedialyte. I got dressed and then woke up my crew. Shockingly, there was minimal complaining from my youngest crewmember. What can I say, she’s like me – DOES NOT enjoy getting up early. Since check-in for runners was between 3:00 – 3:45 and our hotel was 20 min away, we were on the road, headed to the start by 2:45 am. Check in took all of 2 seconds and then I had over 30 minutes to just sit and wait. They had bagels, bananas and coffee, free for runners, but using UCAN, you can’t really eat that so close to the start. Sitting there in the tent with anticipation growing, still, I was not nervous. Well, except for the fact that I had yet to “use the bathroom.” So, I went over to the portapotties for one last try. The line was SO LONG that there was NO WAY I would make it to a bathroom in the time left before the start. Rather than stand for 30 minutes without a guarantee that I would even go, I chose to go back to my chair and enjoy the last few minutes of sitting I would get for (potentially) 30 hours.
At 3:45am the race director announced that we needed to make our way to the start. So, I took my first serving of UCAN and I seeded myself all the way in the back. I knew I needed to run smart and I did not trust myself that I would not get caught up in the excitement and shoot out with the fast runners if I were closer. My crew hopped in to give me last minute high 5’s, hugs, kisses and pep talk. It was only then, that I felt butterflies. I blurted out to Nat as he left the start, “OK, now I’m nervous.”
Count down from 10… and we’re off!
Start to Pretty House (Miles 21.3)
The first chunk of the race was pretty uneventful. It was dark and congested on the first chunk of trail (since I started so far in the back). I kept reminding myself that this would pay off at the end. I was surprised by how much downhill there was in the first 5 miles, and how it was a lot of trail. In my head we had only 10 miles of trail – total. Apparently not. Even though it began getting light out shortly after 5, the tree cover made it seem darker than it was, so I left my head light on until almost 6 am. Then, I took it off and put it in my pack.
In addition to being a cup free race, VT is also a music free race. I was initially not thrilled with this. Music helps me block out discomfort and I worried I would struggle not having it when the going got tough. But, it was actually such a blessing in disguise. I talked to so many wonderful people throughout the day, I can’t imagine running with music! Each conversation seems to clip off 4-5 miles. I would take servings of UCAN every 90 minutes and before I knew it, I was at Pretty House 21 miles in feeling like I was just finishing the first mile!
I was stoked! I felt great, and I got to see my crew for the first time. Things were looking good! Until I noticed my drop bag was still in the pile with others. I stopped short and did a quick assessment of the street and field. My crew was nowhere in sight. So, I grabbed my bag, took out what I needed and ripped up the letter I wrote to them. Not because I was upset, I wanted them to quickly realize I had already been there.
I made my way over to the aid station where I refilled my hydration pack (70 oz) and took an Scap for the first time. I didn’t feel as though I was sweating enough to take one prior. Plus, I mix electrolyte powder in my UCAN. I had to pee for the first time, so I went over and waited in line. I was trying to kill time and hopefully see my crew. After about 5 minutes of waiting around (after potty stop), I decided to head out, praying they would figure out I left and quickly go to the next stop. I knew I’d need more sunscreen soon and they had my UCAN replenishment. I’d be in major trouble if they missed me at the next stop.
Stage Rd (mile 30.1)
Next 10 miles FLEW by! Lots of great running company and conversation. When I was alone, all my head would be filled with was thoughts of amazement, awe, gratitude for each and every step and appreciation for my crew.
It was starting to get hot now and I was sweating, so I took a vile of Oral IV and made sure to drink plenty of water.
When I got into Stage Rd, I saw my crew and it was like a jolt of energy. I gave Nat my pack to refill (though it was still pretty full). James asked if I wanted to change into shorts as he sprayed me with sunscreen. I had intended to change here, but I was feeling SO GOOD and if I could prolong the thigh chafe a little bit longer, it would probably help more in the long run than feeling a few degrees cooler right now. James cooled me off with an ice-cold handkerchief. He tied it around my next and it felt amazing! Since it was getting hot though, and I knew keeping on the capris would make me sweat more, so I drank some pedialyte and sprayed some “areas” with trislide, before heading back out.
Camp 10 Bear (1st stop Mile 47)
The handkerchief that felt amazing when first tied on, got rather annoying a couple miles in. Even more annoying was the small computer I was wearing on my wrist. It was cutting me up from moving so much. My wrist are quite small… smaller than my 10 year old’s, actually). So, I took off the handkerchief and garmin, tied the handkerchief to my wrist and then put the watch on over that. PHEW! It felt SO much better, but still annoyingly heavy.
I stuck to my 90 minute UCAN fueling plan and added an oral IV every 2 hours now that the heat was building. I decided I was done with Scaps because they leave me covered in salt. I don’t have that issue with Oral IV.
More great conversation with more awesome runners and lots and lots of horses passing by. In addition to the 100 mile running race, there is a 100 mile horse race that takes place at the same time. It’s so cool in the first 2/3rd of the race. You get to meet the riders and run along side the horses. Many of which, want to stay and run your pace with you. They have to be encouraged by their riders to move along. But honestly, by the end, you are SO OVER all of the horse shit on the ground.
Peak heat of the day was building and I was drinking A LOT of water. So, I needed to stop for my first “non bathroom, bathroom break.” As a girl, those are always fun! Guys have it so easy! I debated on stopping to fill up my water at an unmanned aid station, but decided I would try to skip them at all cost so I may have more time with my crew. So, I had to be smart with my “drink based on thirst” hydration plan. I DID NOT want to be stuck without any water longer than 2 miles. Before I knew it, I was running into Camp 10, which was so full of energy! I was recharged running in there!
Nat ran off to fill my water while James and I discussed what I needed. I knew I HAD to change EVERYTHING at this point. I was soaked in sweat, my feet were starting to swell and we were entering the hottest point of the day. Garmin and Strava show 86- 90 degree during these miles. I wasn’t feeling “humidity” anymore, but when I was in direct sun, I was burning up. I drank more pediatlye and then did a full change of clothes. Rather than head into a portapotty, I just stripped down there; James helped me change while Nat held a towel up in front of me. I sat down and took off my socks and shoes intending to change both, but I apparently did not have socks in that drop bag. So, I lubed up my feet and just put my old sock back on. Not ideal, but it would buy me some time until I could change my socks. My feet looked great. 47 miles in – no blisters! But, I was starting to chafe! I liberally sprayed trislide on the areas hoping it would prevent any further chaffing!
I was getting pretty hungry at this point after 10 hours of just UCAN, so I began to add a few salted boiled potatoes to my nutrition plan. They hit the spot and kept hunger at bay from aid station to aid station. They tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten at that point!
I grabbed a UCAN bar and a couple more Oral IVs , stuck them in my pack and walked away up a hill onto what would be the toughest section of the race for me.
Margaritaville (Mile 58.5)
Leaving Camp 10 you are in full sun up a loooooong, steady, ordinarily runnable, climb. But since this is not an ordinary long run and just the midpoint of the race, you walk the whole damn thing! It felt never ending. But, I had people to chat with. So it wasn’t THAT bad – for now! I was warned before the race that this (Bear to Bear loop) was the toughest part. I now see why. Anytime you do a loop, it’s mentally tough. You know, you’re just going to end up in the same spot you started and it was the hottest part of the day. One thing I did, VERY WELL, in this section was power walking! While most runners near me where slowing their “walks,” I was still able to move pretty quickly. I also did a damn good job keeping negative thoughts out of my head. Keeping my mind busy with thoughts of gratitude and positivity really made those early mid miles tick by.
Now, I honestly can’t remember exactly what mile it was, but somewhere in the mid miles I slipped on a downhill trail section and hyperextended my knee. I immediately felt the pull and then the pain. There were a handful of miles that were both mentally, and physically tough! Physically, because my knee hurt – BAD! Mentally, because I had to try and block this out so I didn’t start thinking I would not be able to finish. I made no mention of this to runners I was chatting with at the time. I continued to smile and be grateful I was moving forward. My focus was fueling, hydration, cooling myself and engaging in conversation. If I did that, I wouldn’t have time to dwell on the pain in my knee. I knew it wouldn’t be long until I saw my crew again where I could get some pain meds and a margarita, perhaps! 😉
When I got to them, I immediately asked for advil. I took 4! Thank GOD for those 4 advil! I grabbed more UCAN Bars and another couple Oral IVs. I asked for more pedialyte and Nat mixed me some in his water bottle. And I ate more salted boiled potatoes. I also changed my socks and lubed my feet with more trail toes. By this point my chaffing was getting pretty bad. So I grabbed a tub of aquafor from my kit incase I could not make it to the next stop without some relief. Definitely a good call! I would need to apply it several times in the next few miles! But, I was still positive because it was still early in the day and I was going to pick up a pacer in daylight! That was the first time I had thoughts of a time goal. Pacer in daylight = sub 24 hour pace. If I could make it back to Camp 10 during daylight, I know James and Nat would push me to sub 24. All this excitement made me have to pee. This time, it didn’t go so well and I peed all over myself. I had to open my hydration pack and pour water out to clean myself off. Disgusting! And I vowed to hold in my pee for the remainder of the race. PS. There are no damn margaritas at Margaritaville!
Camp 10 Stop #2 (Mile 69.4)
Woo hoo! I get a pacer! AAAANNNNNDDDDDD it’s still early! Fuck yeah! I was psyched! But, I’d be lying if I said I felt good (physically). I was not! I was hot. I no longer had skin on areas it’s pretty important to have skin on. And my knee was starting to hurt pretty bad again from the constant up and down. I popped more advil and told James I was gonna need to walk a lot until it kicked in. The salted potatoes were amazing! I wasn’t felling hungry at all and there was no need to take any additional Oral IVs. I even began spacing out the UCAN bars longer than 90 minutes. Running with James put some wind in my sails that definitely would not have been there had I been running alone. He decided when we would run and when we would walk. We got to see the most breathtaking sunset together and it was great to have him by my side as night set in. He kept telling me how great I was doing and how strong my running still was. I chalked that up to just blowing smoke up my @ss since we were walking quite a bit. But, we did pass a noncrew aid station along they way and when we didn’t stop, a volunteer gave us a shout of kudos that we were only the second person all day not to stop. What can I say; my coach & crew prepped me well and stressed the importance of only stopping when absolutely necessary.
Spirit of 76 (Mile 76.2)
My kids were sleeping at this point. Nat had my drop bag ready near the car for us to grab and take into the aid station. I did my last refill of my hydration bladder. I was getting tired. James encouraged me several times to start drinking coke for the caffeine, but I was afraid to add anything that would mess with my tummy. I was now ¾ of the way done and had ZERO issues with my stomach all day.
He assured me it would be OK. Who am I to question him after the success I’ve had all day under his guidance. So, I busted out my collapsible cup and started drinking coke at the remaining aid stations.
Shortly after, I had to pee. Though I swore I was not going to go again during the race, I knew I could not hold it for (potentially) 4-5 hours. So, we pulled off course and I went… all over myself again. This time, it burned beyond belief because of the extent of my chaffing. I tried my best to clean myself up. But, that too, burned like hell! OK, THIS TIME I meant it. I was NOT peeing for the rest of the race!
When we walked, we walked fast. When we ran, I ran as fast as I could. James kept telling me I was running so much stronger than he thought I would at the end and he started commenting about how many people we passed. I can’t lie; this was giving me some extra motivation to push harder when I saw a person (especially a women) in front of us.
Bill’s (Mile 88.3)
James passed the baton to Nat. And by baton, I mean me! LOL. I was REALLY tired at the hand off. I think I chugged several cups of coke before we headed out. I can’t remember too much of the end. It was midnight. I just wanted to take these nasty clothes off and go to sleep. Running with Nat is like running with your own personal motivational speaker. You can’t be negative with Nat! He gave me some pep talks about having to make some risky investments here at the end of the race and we’d need to walk faster and run more uphills. He promised the investments would pay off in the last few miles. Right off the bat, I saw flashes of light in the distance. I asked him if it was lightening and he said yes, but that it was very far away and we wouldn’t have to worry about it. Minutes later, the heavens opened up – torrential rain! Rain so hard you could not see directly in front of you because of the reflection off of the headlamps. It was BRUTAL! But, thinking positively, I looked at it as a means of cleaning myself off before getting into my car. Then the flashes of light that where “so far away” and we didn’t need to worry about, where quite vivid and accompanied by loud simultaneous thunder. Yup, we were running in a pretty severe thunderstorm. FUN! And by “fun” I mean it fucking sucked!
Polly’s (Mile 94.9)
We were in and out of this aid station faster than anyone else. And THIS was where I secured a top 10 finish. Nat claims he was mean to me in a few sections here. I don’t believe it. I certainly don’t remember it. He asked me what emotion I had not felt yet today. I replied, “Anger. I haven’t been angry at all today.” He told me to get angry! And use that anger to get up the next few climbs to bank some time for the very last climbs that we’ll most like be around a 20 minute mile. So, I ran uphill. As hard as I could, for as long as I could. The trail was slick and muddy and just so hard to run on so late in the game. But I pushed. Then pushed some more. Nat did a quick time check and said, “Shan, if you can run a 10 minute mile here, you could sub 23.” So, I said what any good Catholic girl would say as a response to that. I said, “Fuck it. Time to go balls to the wall!” And we took off! My heart was racing. In fact, for the first time all day, I WAS RACING! It felt good and hurt like hell all at the same time. But I looked down at my watch and decided it wasn’t worth the risk. I didn’t want to really mess up my knee. I was stoked to be sub 24 on my first 100. Pushing THAT hard would not be sustainable for much longer and I pulled back… and walked. Once I caught my breath, we ran the last few hundred meters to the finish. Nat ran ahead screaming, “32! (my bib number) The plan had been for the girls to run in with me. But it was pouring and the lightening was relentless, so James kept the kids in the car until the very last second. When he got to the finish line he saw the clock 23:03. Then he saw me standing near the race director. I finished in 23:02! I was wet. I was tired. I was chaffed. But, I had just successfuly completed 100 miles in less than 24 hours and I was friggen proud!
In lieu of medals, finishers got a sweet pair of Patagonia shorts that prominamtly displays “VT100 Finisher” on the thigh. Bonus points for them being blue! I was directed to the finishers’ tent, where you could sit down, grab some free food and begin recovery. I was too tired and wet to eat anything. But I grabbed a hamburger roll and some coke for the road. They had a decent spread for 3 am. Pretty much a middle of the night BBQ. But the only thing that sounded good to me was BED!
When we got back to the room, James helped me shower and popped my blisters. It was so frustrating that I ended up with blisters after making it 88 miles without a single one. I’ll have to figure out what to do in the event I get another soaker of a race. I honestly think if I didn’t get the rain and mud, I would have finished blister free. But the worst was the chaffing! I tried to shower as best as I could but with all the missing skin all over my torso, it was incredibly painful – more pain than I could bare at that point. My apologies to anyone on my floor that heard me scream at 4am! I pretty much pulled the plug on showering and made my way to bed where I sobbed myself to sleep. I don’t know what it feels like to be burning in a fire, but I imagine it feels something like what I felt in that shower!
After 3 hours of agonizing tossing and turning, I got out of bed and hung out in the bathroom until everyone else got up. Shockingly, my legs were not sore AT ALL! My knee, however, was no longer functioning as a knee and it was VERY painful! I had to continue to pop advil to manage the pain and walk around.
I tried to clean myself up a bit better because I certainly was not attempting to shower again until I was home and able to scream and cry in private. I could not wear underwear and had to fight back tears to get into my compression tights. In my head, though, I was screaming obscenities!
Once everyone was up and I was waiting for them to get ready, I attempted a NormaTec sesh. Holy sweet mother of God… HURT is not even the word! My knee felt like it was being crushed and my feet and upper thighs were on fire! So, that ended that!
After a quick, free, breakfast at the hotel, we headed over to the awards ceremony where I’d get my buckle. Results were posted and we were shocked to see I was top 10 – 9th, in fact! I was on cloud 9, no pun intended. They began the awards and called up the top 10 overall men, first. They got their buckles and a nice “Top Finisher” jacket. I was giving myself imaginary high 5s because, being 9th woman, that will be me, too! Right? Nope! Whomp whomp. When they called up top women, they only called up top 5. Mother F! How cool would that have been to be up there top 10 for my girlies? Meh, what can you do? I get it. Far less women in the field than men. But still, it was the only time I felt let down over the course of the event. That jacket would have been awesome!
They call up everyone by name to receive their buckle starting with the person who “enjoyed the course the longest” (a.k.a final finisher). This is really cool! Everyone who finished received a buckle. But if you finished in under 24 hours, you got THE BIG BUCKLE! They also gave awards to volunteers, which was even more awesome than starting with final finishers.
This race far exceeded my expectations. Not only expectations of myself and what kind of race I’d have, but the overall event and atmosphere… it was TOP NOTCH! The volunteers, staff, race committee, local merchants and residents pour their whole heart into this event and it shows! From start to finish you feel enthusiasm and support from everyone you come in contact with. Even in the middle of the night, during a severe thunderstorm, you have residents and volunteers out there doing any and everything to make sure you have the best race you could possibly have.
I would absolutely recommend this race to anyone looking to run their first 100. The course is perfectly marked; it’s pretty impossible to get lost. You are very well taken care of, even if you don’t have a crew. Speaking of crew… my race was executed perfectly, thanks to my crew! They kept me focused and positive all day. They had me in and out like a Nascar pit stop! My pacers knew just the right times to push me and when to ease up and let me take a breather. And my kids… they were SO INTO IT! More so than they have been at any other race. Their hugs and kisses made me so happy all day! If I could go back and change anything about the day, I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. You have a lot of time to reflect in 100 miles. LOTS of time! And I truly think my success here is reflective of what you need for “success” in life. There will be times when things are going great and there will be times when you are hurting. Blue skies can quickly turn to storms. But, if you surround yourself with people who truly care about you, who want to see you succeed and would do anything to help you when you need it, you have all you need! It’s hard to let the darkness creep in when your completely filled with such positivity and love! Vermont, for me, was not a success because I sub 24’ed. Vermont was a success because I was able to see the beauty that surrounded me, feel the love that was lifting me and appreciated the support that that was given to me. I wish I could bottle this feeling – it’s pure joy!
My wife and I were brainstorming about what types of posts we could feature here, and one thing we both thought would be interesting would be a weekly list of some sorts. So, Friday Five was born. Each Friday we’ll post a top 5 list. It could be anything from top 5 songs I’m running to that week, to top 5 life time running goals. My kick off list, of course, is:
Top 5 Ultramarathons on my Bucket List!
5. Spartathlon – Greece
Who wouldn’t want to re-trace the footsteps of Pheidippides. This is a must do race for me. It may not be anytime soon, but I will, one day, run this one.
SPARTATHLON is a historic ultra-distance foot race that takes place in September of every year in Greece. It is one of the most difficult and satisfying ultra-distance races in the world because of its unique history and background.
The Spartathlon revives the footsteps of Pheidippides, an ancient Athenian long distance runner, who in 490 BC, before the battle of Marathon, was sent to Sparta to seek help in the war between the Greeks and the Persians. According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, Pheidippides arrived in Sparta the day after his departure from Athens. Inspired by the report of the Greek historian, in 1982 five officers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF), who were also long-distance runners, traveled to Greece, led by Colonel John Foden. Their purpose was to ascertain whether it was possible to cover the 250 kilometers ( 153miles ) separating the two towns in one and a half days. The enthusiastic British team showed that the report by Herodotus was entirely plausible.
4. Ultra Maraton Caballo Blanco – Mexico
Like most runners, I have read Chris McDougalls “Born to Run”. This is one of my favorite books so I definitely want to do this race one day. Running in a race started by Micah True, aka Caballo Blanco, with the Tarahumara runners, would be an amazing experience and one that I am sure I would never forget.
Started by Micah True (The legendary Caballo Blanco), the Ultra Caballo Blanco. In honoring all former traditions of this 50-mile foot race, Raramuri (Tarahumara) Runners completing each loop, receive vouchers which provides maize, beans, rice, flour and non-GMO seed corn for their families. This reward ensures nutritional sustenance to both the physical and cultural survival of the Raramuri people. Blankets and food are also given to all Raramuri runners and their families who come down for the race.
3. Badwater – Death Valley, CA
The number #3 race for me would have to be the Badwater Ultramarathon. This race has peaked my interest ever since I first started running. It is a 135 mile, mainly pavement, run where temps are known to be in the 100’s. Reading the crazy stories about legendary runners like Scott Jurek, while during the 2005 Badwater after 70 miles in Death Valley, started shaking, vomiting, then collapsed onto the roadside would scare most runners away. Not me! For 10 minutes, he didn’t move. Then he got up and shattered the course record. There are many more stories about how this race has, and can, destroy a runner. The race has recently been moved from Death Valley, CA to Lone Pine, CA due to a ban on races through Death Valley. Though not the same course, I still think it is a must do! Hopefully they are able to get the ban lifted and get back to the original course someday. Another reason this is a must for me, my kids think this is the hardest race someone can do. 🙂
AdventureCORPS, Inc. hosts BADWATER® 135 annually in July of each year. Recognized globally as “the world’s toughest foot race,” this legendary event pits up to 100 of the world’s toughest athletes—runners, triathletes, adventure racers, and mountaineers—against one another and the elements. Covering 135 miles (217km) non-stop over the most epic terrain imaginable and finishing at the end of the road on Mt. Whitney, it is the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet. The 37th anniversary edition will be held July 21-23 (Monday-Wednesday), 2014.
2. Hardrock 100 – Colorado
This race to me is as bad*ss as it get’s. 100.5 miles of some of the most challenging mountains that you can tackle. The beauty along the way is 2nd to none, but the degree of difficulty is what makes me really want to run this race.
Forty-eight hours may seem like a pretty generous amount of time to finish this 100-mile race. But add in altitude sickness, headaches, and knee-crushing terrain, and the Hardrock, which has been held in the San Juans near Silverton, Colorado, each July since 1992, gets pretty grueling. The loop includes 33,992 feet of ascent and descent, the most of almost any ultramarathon in the world. Since the average runner takes 41 hours to finish, most have to run through the night at elevations where temps can drop below freezing, navigating scree-covered slopes by headlamp. Being above treeline for most of the course, racers are also vulnerable to lightning and freak storms.
1. Western States 100 – Squaw Valley, CA
Been there! Done That! ; )
The grand daddy of them all, Western States 100. This race, to me, is the pinnacle of ultrarunning. I was fortunate enough to be able to run this race this year and hope to be back again soon. The experience was 2nd to none.
The Western States ® 100-Mile Endurance Run is the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race.
Starting in Squaw Valley, California near the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics and ending 100.2 miles later in Auburn, California, Western States, in the decades since its inception in 1974, has come to represent one of the ultimate endurance tests in the world.
Following the historic Western States Trail, runners climb more than 18,000 feet and descend nearly 23,000 feet before they reach the finish line at Placer High School in Auburn. In the miles between Squaw Valley and Auburn, runners experience the majestic high country beauty of Emigrant Pass and the Granite Chief Wilderness, the crucible of the canyons of the California gold country, a memorable crossing of the ice-cold waters of the main stem of the Middle Fork of the American River, and, during the latter stages, the historic reddish-brown-colored trails that led gold-seeking prospectors and homesteading pilgrims alike to the welcoming arms of Auburn.
For more than four decades, Western States has been home to some of the sport’s most stirring and legendary competitions, and has spurred the capacity of spirit of all runners, of all abilities and from all walks of life, from all over the globe.
With more than 1,500 dedicated volunteers, offering the sport’s oldest and most prized possession – a sub-30-hour finisher’s bronze belt buckle or a sub-24-hour finisher’s silver belt buckle – and owning 100-mile racing’s richest and most compelling history, Western States remains one of the undisputed crown jewels of human endurance.
What are some races on your bucket list?
I grew up an athlete. From Little League baseball, to high school football and wrestling, I excelled. Running, however, was not something I did or enjoyed. In fact, running, was a form of punishment for the sports I played growing up. My 20s certainly weren’t reflective of my childhood athletic achievements, either. Landing my first “real” job, getting married, welcoming our first child… Life took on a new set of priorities and sports or personal fitness weren’t even on my radar. After the birth of my first daughter, I was the heaviest I had ever been, I had numerous back problems and was content in my new sedentary lifestyle.
Two years later, a few months after the birth of our second child, our first born was off to preschool. Her teacher, Tracy Darmofal, was training to run the NYC Marathon. Each day at pick up and drop off, my wife would get updates on how her training was going and became intrigued. Apparently, “running a marathon” was on my wife’s bucket list and when Tracy came back to school the day after the marathon and described her experience, she decided now was the time she’d cross this item off the list.
That night during dinner, she blurted out words I never imagined I’d hear my wife say:
“I’m going to run the NYC Marathon next year!”
Let me start by saying, my wife, from an athletic standpoint, was polar opposite of me. She played ZERO sports growing up. She didn’t even enjoy casually working out. Not to mention, she had just given birth to our second child a few months prior. So, my response to this announcement, may not have been the most supportive. My response, and I cringe now thinking about it, was “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You don’t even run.” I know, I know. RUDE! But even she will tell you, she couldn’t run a mile to save her life at that point. So the idea of her running a marathon… I just couldn’t comprehend.
But, she’s a woman of her word. And if she says she’s running a marathon, come hell or high water, she’ll run a marathon. A few weeks later, she began training. She went from not being able to jog a quarter mile, to running a 5K in 2 weeks. I was pretty impressed. Particularly so, because she did it all on her own. Unlike me, or other friends who now run, she had no example. No one to ask questions to. And certainly no one to help her with a training program.
It wasn’t easy for her. And yet, she did it anyhow. I think that is what first sparked some interest in me. Here she was, working from home, with a 2 year old and new baby, battling post pardum depression, and yet, still staying focused on that goal.
I have to admit, going to her first 10K and half marathon was very inspiring. This whole running as a sport thing was new to me. But, I started to think I may have been missing out. And these races were by no means easy for her. After both races, she questioned whether she’d actually be able to finish the marathon. Yet, she pressed on. It definitely sparked a fire in me.
I guess you can say that spark became a full on inferno the day of her marathon. Being at the NYC Marathon, even as a spectator, is life changing. You witness the very best of the human spirit. You are beyond inspired. You really do leave there thinking anything is possible. Seeing her run past us, with a smile on her face, was incredible. And for a first timer, without any help with training, she did pretty damn good! She finished her first marathon (on a sprained foot) in 4 hours 25 minutes! I was so proud of her! And needless to say, left there knowing we’d be back next year. Yep, THAT was my starting line.
I’ll never live it down. Whenever someone asks why I started running, I’m reminded of the fact that I thought running a marathon was the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. But I’m forever grateful our paths crossed with Tracy and that my wife decided to cross this item off her bucket list. It changed our lives! And we haven’t stopped running since!