The new year is an opportunity for a fresh start and often, some awesome running. This year has been different. The problems of 2018 have dragged on and are greatly affecting every aspect of my life including my running. In the new year, I should have felt that extra push to train and make 2019 the best, but with only one week in, it’s been hard and messy.
My husband works for a nonprofit that receives funding from the National Science Foundation. With the current government shutdown, we don’t know when his paycheck is going to dry up. We are heading towards uncharted territory and I have never been one to do well with that. Since his insurance is cheaper and better, we are both on his company’s plan making our healthcare one of the many things up in the air right now. And it seems like there is no end in site.
It’s hard to run and exercise when you are exhausted from the stress of a difficult situation such as this. I find myself moving slower, wanting to stay in, and generally allowing any excuse to be the one that has me skip a run. I am no stranger to anxiety and I need running for this very reason, but it is often the first thing to go when my life gets turned upside down.
This was my training last week:
Monday: 9.1 miles along BST trail in snow (~1800 feet of gain)
Tuesday: 6.5 miles up Grandeur Peak (~2500 feet of gain)
Wednesday: 7 miles up Millcreek Road (~1200 feet of gain) + Climbing
Friday: OFF (Should have run)
Saturday: 12.5 miles on Park City trails (~1300 feet of gain) + Climbing
Sunday: Hiking and sledding for 4-6ish miles
Total Mileage: ~38 Miles and ~7500 feet of gain
Overall, I feel deflated this week and I’m hoping for some good news in the next few days with regards to Frank’s job. Sydney (my cat) has been having some health issues but recently seems to have made a few big steps in the right direction. I’m glad to at least have that partially resolved.
My next two races coming up are Running Up for Air (RUFA) 24 hour and Zion 100. I feel like I’m not in the best of shape at the moment, but I’ll get back there, certainly by Zion. RUFA might be a bit of a slog which I’m prepared for. Since it will be mostly walking, I imagine it will be more of a mental battle than a physical one.
My goals for next week are to drink more water (I’m terrible at that) and do some more fast running. I need to feel my legs move.
It’s the first day of 2019 and I’ve been logging the miles! It was a cold day out in the mountains, but I got my first peak of the year! As I leap into 2019, I wanted to look back at what I liked most about 2018. Here’s a quick look at my year.
Best Race: Squaw Peak 50
Squaw peak is probably my favorite race I’ve ever run. It’s beautiful, wildly challenging, and you still get a full night of sleep (unlike Javelina Jundred). I also really enjoyed the 50 mile distance. The race itself was particularly well put on and the course was perfect. Although it does give over 10,000 feet of gain, it has a very high finishing rate and I attribute that to the awesome aide stations and volunteers. And although I did lose a few toenails in the weeks following, the race gave me the confidence needed to finish my 100-miler in October.
Best Run: Kings Peak in August
At 13,527 feet, Kings Peak sits as Utah’s crown. It’s a fantastic 28 mile trail through woods, alpine tundra, and skree fields. I met up with the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers to run it on a crisp and cool day in early August. I went alone and wasn’t entirely sure that I should go, but once I got out on the trail, I met people at my pace and stuck with them. It was a wonderful day. The route took me about 8 hours, which is a moderate pace and never felt too difficult (except at the end while I was struggling over loose rock). I did have many fantastic runs throughout the year, but this one certainly stood above the rest.
Favorite Trail: Pfeifferhorn Peak via Red Pine Lake
I had seen Pfeifferhorn from afar many times, but this summer was the first time I climbed it. It was a foggy day, unusual for Utah, but the conditions made the trail so much better. At the top, the fog cleared and we were able to see the Wasatch and the Salt Lake Valley. It was a beautiful route and a beautiful day. This is a trail that I’ll definitely do again this summer.
Most Used Gear: Salomon Pack
I went through multiple pairs of shoes, many different socks, and even switched out my spikes and trekking poles. The one piece of gear that remained constant was my Salomon Skin pack. It never chaffed, never bounced too much or hurt my shoulders. Basically it did everything it needed to do.
As anyone who knows me will know, I am a caffeine addict. I love coffee and tea. Unfortunately on a run, it’s not always so easy to get an extra boost when you need it most. While I was training for Javelina, I was looking for ways to take caffeine during the night, but not hurt my stomach. The Wasatch Running Company suggested Run Gum and I loved it! It comes in three different flavors, all of which are great. The little bit of sugar helps too and gives me something to look forward to when the miles get long. At Javelina, I never really felt sleepy and I largely attribute that to Run Gum.
Favorite Cross Training: Climbing
Unless you consider hiking as cross training (my physical therapist does not), I have never really been very good about doing other things besides running. I manage an okay yoga practice, but when the miles get high, my yoga practice tends to suffer. This year I really tried to remain consistent at some sort of cross training and found that climbing really works. It keeps me strong and mildly flexible and helps a lot with the mentality it takes to finish long ultras. I’m still a considerably better runner than I am a climber, but I’ve had a ton of fun going out and sending some routes.
Today is Friday and I figured I’d give the Friday Five 2.0 Linkup a try. I’ll go ahead and tell you my five favorite trails to run in the winter. Thanks to Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for hosting the linkup.
Bonneville Shoreline Trail – As many miles or vert as I want
This is my go-to trail that’s closest to my house and is probably where I get most of my weekly mileage. I can get in about any kind of run here. Mt Wire is along the trail if I want to cover a lot of vertical gain and plenty of miles in case I need a long run. The trail remains low enough throughout most of it to avoid snow and ice, even after the worst of storms. If it’s too snowy for the Bonneville Shoreline, it’s probably too snowy for any trail in the Wasatch.
Grandeur Peak Loop – 10 miles and 3200 feet of gain
The Grandeur loop climbs 3000 feet from a parking lot in the valley and comes back down the Church Fork trail in Mill Creek. If you run down the trail to Wasatch Blvd, you can loop the trail around back to the car. It’s only 10 miles, but it’s long and exhausting. It’s a really great loop if you need a challenging trail and a big climb. It can be done in almost any weather, although I would not want to take it on during a very bad storm.
Little Black Mountain – 8-9 miles and 2000 feet of gain
Little Black rises up above the northern end of Salt Lake City. It’s not the biggest mountain, but when the temperatures drop, it’s a fun one to run. Normally in the spring and fall, I like to run it as a 14 mile loop, but in the winter, I run Little Black as an out and back to the peak. The trail can get a little icy at the top, and if it does, I’ll stop just short of the summit. It’s a great view of the Valley but is a gentle enough trail to allow for a fair amount of running both up and down the mountain.
Heughs Canyon Trail – 4.5 miles and 700 feet of gain
Heughs Canyon is great for a short easy day. The trail starts at the same trailhead as Mt. Olympus, but once Mt. Olympus really starts to climb, the trail splits off and levels a bit as it approaches the canyon and a waterfall. The trail is great in the winter except for the very end where it can get icy. Otherwise, the trail is fun, gives some pretty great views and is almost always fantastic regardless of the weather.
Pipeline Trail – Any Mileage up to 18 and little vert
The Pipeline is the flattest trail in the Wasatch. It starts in Millcreek Canyon and can be used to get to either Mt. Aire or to the Church Fork Trail up Grandeur Peak. The trail gives some great views of the canyon and can be used to get any mileage up to about 18 (unless you climb a mountain, where you could get much more mileage). Since the trail is so flat, there is almost no weather that will make this trail too snowy.
If you are ever in Salt Lake City or live in the area, check out some of these trails! Each offers awesome views and challenges, but are safe and fun for the crazy winter months. Thanks again to Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for hosting the linkup.
Fairytales and Fitness
What are your favorite trails around you? Where do you go when the weather gets bad?
The state of Utah has the highest population per capita of ultrarunners in the country. It’s no surprise why, since many of the best long routes are right in our backyard. We are within driving distance to some of the most well-known ones, including the Trans-Zion trail, Rim-to-Rim of the Grand Canyon, and of course the Wasatch and Bear 100 routes. This weekend I completed an equally awesome one, although much lesser known, The Wedge. It’s a 21-mile loop along a giant canyon called the Little Grand Canyon. But don’t let the name fool you, it’s not very little at all.
It’s not quite the right time of year for the route, and it had about 3 inches of snow throughout making it a little more of an adventure. The Wedge is only about 2 hours and 45 minutes outside of Salt Lake City in an area of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land called the San Rafael Swell. The Swell is more well known for climbing and canyoneering, although it does have a fair amount of awesome running routes.
Total Mileage: 21 Miles
Vertical Gain: 900 Feet
Time: 3-5 Hours depending on pace and picture taking
Permits or Fees: None
I got a late start, heading out around 10:30 am. It was very cold (17 degrees) and I reluctantly got out of my car to head out on the trail. I knew with the snow the route would take a little longer than usual. I started at the Wedge Overlook (between campsites 9 and 10) and took the road about 5 miles out to the other side of the Wedge. From here, I just winded my way back to my car at the overlook.
Normally, the route is pretty easy with only about 1000 feet of elevation gain throughout, but with snow and icy conditions, it was a little tougher than usual. The route is on a well traveled mountain bike trail, so if you’re ever out there be sure to stay on the lookout for them. I took about 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the entire thing, but I did stop to take a lot of pictures.
It was a pretty awesome day on a pretty awesome route. I’m hoping to get back out here when the weather is a little warmer. The best time of year for this run is in the spring or fall when the snow is gone, but the desert hasn’t gotten too hot. If you’re ever in the area, I’d highly suggest making a short trip out to this gem. There are many variations of the route to either lengthen or shorten the run.
I love the mountains, the trails, the desert, but at mile 70 of my first 100-mile race, I loved none of that. All I loved was my bed.
I had been running for about 20 hours at this point. I had taken a conservative approach to my race and weathered the 100 degree heat of the day. At mile 60 I was sure that I was going to finish this race and by mile 70, every doubt imaginable had creeped into my mind. I wondered what business I had thinking that I could finish 100 miles. I had only ever run 50! Javelina Jundred is known for its deceptively low finisher rate and I had taken this race on without enough experience nor the mental strength to get it done.
So, there I sat, at mile 70 in the Jackass Junction aide station. A medic handed me a barf bag but offered little sympathy. I leaned over the bag as they reminded me that I’d only feel better if I ate.
Eating was very possibly the last thing I wanted to do.
People came into the aid station, laid down on the cots and told the medic they were done. Others were asleep, surely no longer able to go on to finish the race. The pull to quit was hard to resist especially when someone with a car ready to head back to the start line was asking me what I wanted to do.
I had Frank, my husband, with me by this point as my pacer. He assured me I was not going to quit. I told him that I needed to lay down for 10 minutes and then I promised that I would eat. The medic watched me as I curled up on the cot, I could tell that he was sure that my race was done. I layed there thinking of the 30 miles I still had to get done and suddenly I understood every person who has ever DNF’ed at the end of an ultra. After doing 70 miles, every mile felt like an eternity. All I wanted was to sleep.
After 5 minutes, Frank nudged me awake. “Come on, let’s go”. I shoved some watermelon down, a few pieces of banana and asked the medic “Am I going to feel this nauseous the rest of the race”?
“Probably.” He responded.
“I guess I can live with that.” I said, finally standing up from the cot.
I put the headlamp back on my head, added a few layers and after over an hour of feeling bad for myself and contemplating giving up, I left Jackass Junction to finish the race.
Frank and I ran through the darkness of the desert, singing Backstreet Boys songs, and looking for other headlamps in the night. Few were left. I could really tell that the race field had thinned out. Many of us hadn’t continued.
Javelina Jundred is a looped course with five 20-mile loops that bring you to the four aid stations in the desert, including one that is near the cars. Each station has a theme, and they are all pretty comfortable, which is a problem for anyone contemplating a DNF (Did Not Finish). As we neared Coyote Camp, I could hear a few howls in the distance. It was surreal to be out there so late in the night.
We breezed through the aid station and made our way back to the start/finish line where my crew captain, Lindsay, was worrying that I was about to come in to DNF. I recently had the realization that at the rate I was going, I would have to deal with the heat again on Sunday morning after a nearly 100 degree day on Saturday. I entered the aid station in tears, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up.
The problem with running 100 miles is that running 80 miles is really far, but you still have 20 left. For the first time, deep into my race, I finally understood why a person would quit a 100 mile race after having already gone over 70 miles. I realized that when running 100 miles, a finish is no more guaranteed at mile 90 as it is at mile 1. Anything can happen and the further you are along in the race, the more likely something will.
In the aid station, we took off my shoes to check on my blisters. My feet looked like I had been badly burned. I had giant, pus filled blisters between every toe, on my heels, and on the pads of my feet. With my shoes off, I could no longer fit my swollen feet back into my normal size and for the last 20 miles, I had to borrow Lindsay’s shoes which were a full size larger than mine.
After tears, and a little food, I left the aid station for my final lap with my pacer Kay Kay. I didn’t know her previously to the race, so it was nice to hear her stories about running and other ultras she had crewed.
The sun came up, and once again I was subjected to the heat of Pheonix, AZ, but unlike before, I knew I didn’t have to weather it for long. I was less hesitant than on Saturday. I realized that I had already been through the worst of it. As we came into Jackass Junction one last time, I saw the same medic that tried to convince me to eat in the night. He was surprised to see me at all. No other runners had laid down on a cot and gotten back up to finish the race.
We took off from the aid station one last time. The miles ticked by and I started getting oddly emotional. I was crying, wanting to sleep but I was also ticking by the fastest miles I had run all race. Suddenly I was seeing sub-9:00 miles (which is not slow in a 100-miler). I passed others walking to the end with tears streaming down my face and I knew that I was going to finish. Every mile was faster than the previous and as I started to see the final aid station I broke out into an all out sprint. I crossed the finish line and was handed my belt buckle. All of the effort and exhaustion was finally done.
Finishing a 100-mile race and a Western States qualifier has been a goal of mine for a long time. It wasn’t until recently that I had the confidence to sign up and attempt such a huge undertaking. I’m glad that I did. I learned a lot about running, myself, and ultramarathons in general, but most importantly, I learned that anyone can run an ultra. Finishing 100 miles takes no more physical strength than a marathon does, but it does take more mental strength. I’m not sure where you find the mental strength, and I have no idea where I found mine, but even in the darkest moments in my own head, I did.
Running 100 miles was wonderful, terrible, exhausting, exhilarating, and quite possibly the greatest thing I’ve ever done.
Sorry about my lateness! I made a vlog talking about the Squaw 50. Check it out and hear about running a 50-miler for the first time. It was a great race and I am so glad that I did it. Honestly, I am not-so-secretly planning my return next year. 🙂
Click “like” and Subscribe for more updates as I trail for the Javelina Jundred.
I learned a lot. Not just about myself, but about running in general. The thing is, there is a certain amount of athleticism to run a marathon, or even a 50K. You train hard, you eat well and you don’t hit the dreaded wall. But when you are running for 12+ hours, you hit many walls and then you work your way back to many high points. You swing violently moment to moment, like an angry child that suddenly smiles. Every step of the way beyond the marathon mark was because I told myself I could do it. And I did. The thing is, anyone can run a 50-miler but the only thing that will stop them is truly knowing that they can do it. There were times I was barely moving at all, walking up hills when all I wanted was to sleep and there were moments of glory, where I was dropping sub-8 minute miles after already having 47 miles on my legs. Looking at your watch and seeing 28 miles and knowing that you have 22-ish to go is horrible and demoralizing and wonderful all at the same time. I’ve never been so tired in my life, but at the same time, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more present.
The real lesson I learned from this race was my tendency to always look to the future. Mile 39 started a massive hill, climbing 3000 feet before making the 12 mile descent to the finish line. I would constantly find myself looking up, seeing little progress and immediately becoming discouraged. My pacer, Dan, would remind me to look down and just keep moving, that it would be over soon. And when I focused on the task at hand, I felt great, but when I looked to the height of the mountain, to the future, the work still to be done was daunting. Everything about running that far is daunting, but it can be done. Running 50 miles is nothing but a lesson in remaining present to the moment you are in and in the consequences of swaying away from the present moment.
There were high points where I passed other racers, feeling strong and ready to take on every mile. Despite the pain in my feet from massive blisters, I managed to finish the final 4 miles in under 32 minutes, averaging just under 8 minutes per mile. I was flying into the finish, passing everyone in my path and sneaking under 13 hours. As the final miles ticked by I knew I could run forever. The finish line could have been in Nevada, and I would have found it. It’s that kind of mental strength that can pull you out of any low in any situation. It’s in that place that I will need to go to finish the Javelina Jundred in October.
Running an ultra has far more to do with what is within you than what your body is capable of. I’d heard many times that the first 26 miles were physical and the rest were mental and that couldn’t have been more true. But the thing is, everything is temporary. Happiness, sadness, pain, elation, excitement and disappointment all happen but becoming attached to those feelings is what will do us in. Running 50 miles forced me to let go and run my race and my mile.
I was made for this.
And so were you.
If you are someone who has ever thought about running 50 miles and haven’t because you think you are too slow or that you can’t go that far, believe me, you can do it. One foot in front of the other is all that is needed to finish. No speed, no secrets, just determination.
In the next day or so, I’ll post a video recapping the race and getting into some of the specifics. Thanks for supporting me in my crazy ideas, there are more to come.