Dalmacija Ultra Trail 53km: DNF

Dalmacija Ultra Trail: 53km Sea Dut

Omis, Croatia

I think everyone is a little broken.

Long distance running is a confrontation with yourself.

It can pull you out of the dark recesses of your mind.

You against you.

You can learn who you are when you are in a relentless forward pain.

Find your strength.

Find strength in the mountains, on the trails, in the dirt.

I earned my first DNF. I have been trying to figure out exactly why since it happened. I made it 45km before I had to have my family pick me up. I started to experience nausea around 15km. I quickly realized it was going to be much harder race than I had planned with this added challenge. I tried to change the course, knowing that it would most likely be a fruitless effort, by taking extra electrolytes, slowing my pace, taking in a little extra fluids. It didn’t relent, but only worsened as I continued to complete 45km, 8 km shy of finishing.

Each time I drank water or consumed food, it wouldn’t stay down, meaning I had no fuel in my body. It was awful. I have heard of this happening to runners, but I have mostly avoided this in my running life. It did happen once before but the race was only 25km and I was able to push through. This, well, this was a different beast. I pushed much farther than I should have, I know that. But, I am rather okay with myself that I was able to make it the distance I did instead of when I originally thought I would have to drop out at 20 something kilometer. I kept going, found strength, lost strength, and could not regain it again. When accepting that I wouldn’t finish, I broke down and cried, thinking I was failing in the face of adversity when in reality, there are some things that one can’t fight based on mental fortitude alone. I know many well-intentioned people expected me to feel like a failure, and I did at first, but looking back on it, I ran 45km on nearly no calories or water in the hot, hot sun. How the ef did I do that? I have no idea.

This is how I looked, which is to say pale and sick:

Like I mentioned earlier, I been spending the last few days trying to figure out exactly what went wrong, because I NEVER want to go through that again.

So, here are my thoughts:

  1. I failed to fuel properly. I have been working so much and not getting home until late, I did not have time to prepare the logistics of this properly. I didn’t walk through the steps, like I usually do, before a race. I ate in the morning, got on the bus for an hour and a half, and did not eat again until I had run my usual first 8 or so kilometers. Normally, I bring a banana and eat 20 minutes before the start. I didn’t have time to buy bananas and because I wasn’t in the right head space I didn’t have a back up plan, or maybe enough of a plan at all. At any rate, that ended up being a while between eating and may have thrown of my fueling from the get go. However, I am pretty resilient to things like this, so for my body that seems a little unlikely to have been the culprit. 
  2. I had a stomach bug. I had been horrendously sick the week prior and did not rest properly by any means. I did have moments of feeling sick prior to the race, but thought it was related to stress. After the race, the same level of nausea continued the next day and slowly improved until it was gone four days later. I don’t know if this runners’ stomach issue lasts that long, so it leads me to believe that either a virus or a bacterial issue is most likely the cause, meaning I don’t need to worry too much about it happening again. It would mean it was something I could not have controlled.

It was a beautiful course that went along the Dalmatian Coast—rocky with lots of elevation gain. At 45km I had completed 2,250 meters of elevation. I feel like I have the lay of the land now. So, while I am disappointed to not have gotten a medal that symbolizes finishing, I will try again next year, with my health in tact.

Happy running, stay rad, and be strong in whichever way you define strength.

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Training for a 53k

What have I done to train for my upcoming 53k race?

-I ran 70-80km a week.

-I did a 34.5km trail race with quite a bit of elevation gain recently.

-I tapered.

-I will carb load today. There are ample Bosnian bakeries around to accomplish this.

That’s about it. I am relying on years and years of running long distances to get me through.

Thoughts pre-race?

I truly never know how I will do until I am in a race. I have these vague ideas of how it might turn out, but really I don’t know what my pace or finish time will be. I am yet to take a DNF (knock on wood). Luckily for my family, the race is providing a live tracker so they know when to be at the finish line.

So, this is how I will kick off my fall break–spending time in one one of the prettiest places in the world. I will run the Dinaric Alps along the Dalmatian Coast, for hours, finding strength in mountains.

Then, I will spend the rest of my break lounging around on the pebbled beaches with my family.

And doing some recovery runs, of course.

Happy running and stay rad, my friends!

Skakavac Trail Run

Life is louder than its pulse. -Anthony Marra

Skakavac 34.5km Trail Run

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Race Report

2017 vs. 2018

What went wrong last year:

My previous experience running Skakavac Trail  is in contrast to this year. Last year, there was a blizzard on the morning of race day in what was an unfamiliar country and terrain, along with my first experience with winter in seven years. I had just arrived from Thailand. To the mountains. In the snow. In Europe. No beaches or 100 degree weather, which is a different kind of combat. It was rough. The markings were either blown away or covered in snow, and again, I did not know these mountains well enough to navigate. My phone had 3% left when I called my husband to tell him I was lost. Search and rescue was getting ready to look for me when I found the next aid station myself. When the trail lost elevation, the snow had melted, leaving behind runoff that resulted in a muddy, slippery, steep mountain to get down.

It did make me feel a little better to hear that local Bosnians also got terribly lost–that it wasn’t just a confused foreigner in a strange land, but in fact the extreme, unexpected conditions.

I finished in 7.5 hours.

I don’t have any pictures of the actual snow storm portion, nor did I bother to take pictures while sliding down the muddy hillside, for obvious reasons. There were a few clear moments where I could stop to catch my breath and capture some of the beauty.

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How it went better this year:

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In the months since we first arrived, we have hiked many of the popular trails around Sarajevo. Geographically, I was able to figure out where I was nearly the entire race. They provided a GPX file this year, which made me feel better prepared. I carried a backup charger in case my phone battery died due to the cold. Luckily, the weather was not nearly as severe. They moved the race up two weeks to mitigate surprise snow storms. However, there had been snow in the mountains just a few days prior to the race, so really, the mountains are simply unpredictable here. The organizers made huge improvements with the markings by using wooden signs that were hammered into the ground, making the trail much easier to follow.

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Logistically, it was a bit more difficult this year. My husband left on an overnight trip with the secondary students, so I organized our babysitter to take care of the kids. Then, a friend drove me up the mountain to the start. While I ran the race, my husband returned from his trip, so he was able to meet me at the finish. I texted him selfies (see below) as the run progressed.

All’s well that ends well.

Progression of selfies

Trail life

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People have asked me how I felt after I finished or what was the best part. My son bombarding me with a hug and “MOOOOooom!!!” You did it!!!” was without a doubt, the best part. This is me seeing his face and incoming hug.

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I legit have an awesome family. Lady H used my broken body as a jungle gym while we waited around for the award ceremony, ate food, and drank much earned beers.

I was shattered and rebuilt in the 5 hours, 17 minutes it took me to finish.

Which is the reason why I run.

The only races that disappoint me are ones where I didn’t cross the finish line a little better than when I started.

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2nd place female finish!

Pretty nice prizes! A bottle of wine, a second place medal, a nice travel bag, and 100 km ($60 usd) to U.S. Polo Assn.

It is an unforgiving, brutal, and beautiful course. See you in 2019 Skakavac Trail.

Happy trails and stay rad, my friends!

Weekly Running Log Rundown

Sunday: I absolutely love running out here at Vrelo Bosna. It is beautiful no matter the season. Today it was foggy and damp, making it look like the fall in August. There are always lots of runners making their way on the paths. It is a bit of a drive so we make a morning out of it. The kids run and bike while I get my run in, then we have coffee, pizza, and pasta post run for a family brunch.

Monday: I am back to making Monday my day off. I know most people say if you miss Monday, your running week is shot, but it works for me. With it being the first day of the school work week, I always like to sleep in a little after getting that luxury over the weekend.

Tuesday: Two runs today. My normal morning run and the first practice for the cross country team. They did awesome! 4.5km. We even did hills and they rocked it.

Wednesday: Early at it this morning. I am still getting used to this. It always wakes me up to get my morning run done though.

Thursday: I am sort of failing on the photo front, but it was a beautiful, foggy morning. Fall is starting. Effort wise–I think I need to start doing some speed work to get ready for a few races coming up.

Friday: I was getting a little bored of my usual running spots, so I went around some new streets today. Hopefully this weekend I can get work on my pace. I have five races coming up soon!

Saturday: Croatia consistently impressed me. It is one of the most beautiful countries I have seen. Old ruins, mountains that bump up against the Mediterranean Sea, and trails for days. That last 1.5 km up to our place offered plenty of challenge for my hill work I have been needing.

Happy running and stay rad, my friends!

Weekly Running Log Rundown

From small injuries, to running with my kids, to hiking the mountains of Idaho, it has been a varied and interesting week in my running life.

Sunday: I wanted to run hills today but my knee had other plans. Flat path it is. It is much better after foam rolling though.

Monday: When the husband is away, we will still find a way to run. Proud of my son for doing 10k on his bike and saying it was easy.

Tuesday: Running with my loves. Can’t believe my little man can do 10k on his bike two days in a row.

Wednesday: I hit the trails today because I was sans children. Slow and easy on the dirt.

Thursday: Enjoying my last runs around Boise. So safe. So clean. Paths meant for running and biking. I will miss this.

Friday: Grateful that the smoke has started to clear a bit. Headed out camping tonight and needed to still get my run in before leaving.

Saturday: Two hikes in one day. We hiked into Deep Lake, not realizing it was a shorter trek, so went hunting for another lake, Lake Rock Lake. Not a bad way to spend your day off of running.

Happy running and stay rad!

Weekly Running Log Rundown

I was feeling pretty dead this week. So, I listened to my body and went slower.

Sunday: My legs were hella tired today. Two half marathons in one week, both sub 1:45 half’s, had my legs asking for a recovery run–slow n’ easy.

Monday: Shortie run. Had to get out of town and needed to hit the road early. Running can be time consuming. Good fun nonetheless.

Tuesday: Went for a beautiful trail run. I stopped and talked to quite a few day hikers and backpackers. After talking with them decided to take the family to Alpine Lake later that day. Ended up doing over 24 kilometers (I started my Garmin late on the hike). Wonderful day but certainly earned some beers by the end.

Wednesday: After 24 kilometers yesterday, I decided to take a day off this week.

Thursday: Feeling a bit sluggish but got out there and feel better for it.

Finally got around to listening to Ear Hustle. A very well done podcast that will be making the routine circulation in my audio experiences.

Friday: Felt pretty wiped out this week. Not running at peak performance but also feel okay with that. Sometimes your body just needs to take it easier.

Saturday: I decided to go to the trails today. The Oregon Trail. It was hot and dusty. Still feel like taking it slow, so am listening to my body.

Happy running and stay rad, my friends!

Rachael Anderson: Ultrarunner Taking on Vol State 500km

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I have gotten to meet some really great runners from around the world, all of whom inspire me in different ways. This is Rachael Anderson. She will be taking on Vol State 500km…for a second time.

I met Rachael when we both showed up to run with Bangkok Runners in Khao Mai Keow, Thailand. This awesome group would organize meet ups to run in the jungle occasionally, because we liked to torture ourselves with heat and humidity, in good company of course.

Neither one of us is in Thailand anymore, but I have been following her running and it is most impressive. Check out what she has to say:

1. What is your everyday occupation?

I’m a high school calculus teacher at an international school in Pakistan.

2. How many ultras have you done? What was your favorite or most memorable?

I’ve actually only done three races that qualify as ultras – two 50km races and the 2017 Last Annual Vol State (LAVS) 500km race. I’ve also done the Camino de Santiago – a 500 mile hike across Spain – twice.

My favorite race has to be LAVS just because of the sheer difficultly of the undertaking and the camaraderie I experienced during and after the race. When you’re put in a situation like that with other people, you quickly become a family.

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3. What is your next big race you have been training for?

I’ve spent the past 10 months training for the 2018 LAVS, which will be held from July 12-22. The course starts in Dorena Landing, Missouri and ends in Castle Rock, Georgia, crossing the state of Tennessee.

4. Where do you live and does it impact training?

I live in Pakistan, so I’m limited to my compound when it comes to training. Luckily, I have access to a nice weight room, a 25m pool, a 400m track, and a 1km loop around the school. My training is largely solitary and I have to work hard to keep up my motivation.  I rely on podcasts and audiobooks to keep my mind occupied on long runs.

Another issue with training in Pakistan is the heat. The temperature in Karachi, where I live, is above 80 degrees for the majority of the year and can get up to 120 degrees in the summer. This isn’t a dry heat either. Due to our proximity to the Indian Ocean, it is quite humid throughout the year. This makes training brutal, but I know that it will be worth it when I’m running through Tennessee in the middle of the summer.

5. How do you prepare for a 500 kilometer (314 mile) unaided race?

This is really a difficult question, and I think the answer heavily depends on the person. A lot of my fellow runners do back to back runs on the weekend. So, perhaps 30 miles on Saturday and another 20 miles on Sunday. This is a fairly typical staple of ultra training but, under the direction of my coach, I did something a bit different this year.

My training generally consists of 9-10 workouts spread over six days, with one rest day per week. These include swimming, cycling (I use an indoor trainer and Zwift), weightlifting, and running (15-20 miles a week). My entire training plan has been built around heart rate zones, in order to improve my endurance and aerobic capacity. I also do journey runs/walks when I’m outside of Pakistan. For these, I take a small pack with a bit of food and water, and then just head out on 20 or 30 mile walk to the next town. It gets me comfortable with navigation, walking next to traffic, and dealing with unforeseen issues like a lack of water (because I dropped a bottle without realizing it).

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6. What are your expectations of Vol State?

Last year I finished in 7 days, 18 hours by mainly walking and getting 6-8 hours of sleep each night in a hotel. This year, I hope to finish in under 6 days by sleeping less and running more.

 7. How long do you expect recovery to take?

After last year’s race, I was able to run again within a few days, although it took about 3 weeks for me to feel 100% again. I expect this year to be about the same in terms of recovery.

8. Do you have any pre-race routines or advice to offer runners considering doing an ultra?

The biggest piece of advice I have is to understand that there is no one way to do an ultra and that a linear progression through race distances is largely unnecessary. I get asked often about how many half marathons and marathons I did before I started running ultras. The answer is none. In fact, the first marathon I did was this year, which is a solid 5 years after I ran my first ultramarathon. This goes for training as well. What works for other people may not work for you – it’s a learning process. So, have fun, talk to other ultrarunners, and figure out what does work for you.

9. The big runner question–why do you do ultras of this magnitude?

Running 500km was the first time in my life where I felt like I had been stripped down to my core both emotionally and physically and actually got a glimpse of who I really was. It was both terrifying and exhilarating and, now that I’ve seen it, I have an unquenchable desire to figure out just how far I can push myself.

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Rachael also has a UMDF page that she has been updating. This page is for collecting donations that go directly to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation and help to fund much needed research into these illnesses.

Consider donating to United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation