100K… Take Two! Prairie Spirit Trail 100K Race Report

(warning, this is a long one!)

When the emotional and physical fatigue won and I dropped out of Queeny at the end of loop 10, falling 4 loops short of my goal of 100k (62ish miles), I was really bummed out. After sleeping on it (for a couple of nights.. not as many as I probably should have) and chatting with my coach, I decided to give the 100k distance a go one more time before I fully switched over to triathlon training for Kona. There was a 100k at the end of March, The Prairie Spirit 100k in Ottawa, Kansas, just 4 hours away on the same course that I had run the 50 mile race in 2020. With it being three weeks after Queeny, we were going to treat Queeny as a ‘long run’ day, have a recovery week the next week, and then get in one more big weekend before the race. Let’s do it!

After the recovery week my legs were feeling pretty good, I was able to get in my speed work and tempo runs at the regular speedy-for-me paces, so I was pretty happy. However that weekend the weather was extra cold and windy (feels like 7 degrees, 16mph wind) so I decided to (ugh) do my 16 mile run on the treadmill. Halfway through my right pinky toe was starting to hurt, so I hopped off thinking I needed to trim it. I trimmed the nail even though it wasn’t very long, but hoped that would help. I was sad to discover once I hopped on the treadmill that it helped a little, but the discomfort was still there. Between the pinky toe and my mind just not being able to settle into the ‘long-ness’ of the run (I kept wanting to throw on more clothes and just go outside, thinking it would be less terrible), it was not a great run. But I got it done. That night when trying to sleep my pinky toe felt weird so I went to the bathroom to investigate where I discovered a huge blister..ugggggh. Since the fluid looked clear, I decided to drain it knowing running the 10 miles tomorrow would make it worse if I didn’t.

The next morning my toe looked ok, no signs that a blister had even been there, but I taped up the toe just to be safe. The weather was a bit warmer and hardly any wind so I was excited to get back outside. The run went great, legs felt great and toe felt fine. Hooray! Now let’s taper!

Usually during the taper week I’m antsy, excited, a little fearful (of the pain/suffering I’ll hit at some point), but overall excited. This week, I had doubt, doubt and doubt. Was this a rash decision? Well, yes, kind of. How would my toes hold up? My pinky toe got a blister 7 miles into the run on Saturday…ugh. How would my legs do? My quads were sore 4 miles into my 5 mile run that Tuesday of taper week…ugh. So, not feeling confident would be putting how I felt mildly, lol. I think the stars aligned during Queeny last year when I was able to run the 50ish miles on not many training miles. I was hoping the stars would align again at Prairie Spirit, but I knew I was going to have to dig deep and it probably wasn’t going to feel as ‘good’ as the 50 mile race did.

Friday a little before noon I headed to Ottawa, KS. Once I got to the hotel I unpacked, chilled for an hour and then went to packet pickup. I was nervous! Then that night I spent 45 minutes taping my pinky toes according to the information I had read in the book I had been studying – Fixing Your Feet, on blister prevention (it covers way more than just blisters, but that was the focus for this race due to my angry pinky toes). I had only practiced taping my toe once, which was on Sunday, and it did seem to help, but I was nervous. I wasn’t sure if my toes were still angry from Queeny or maybe my feet have changed and I needed to look into shoes with a wider toe-box to give my toes more room. Regardless, I wasn’t going to try new shoes on race day, so I figured I would try to follow the taping process to a T, be prepared with more supplies in my pack in case I need to re-tape during the race, and hope for the best.

Taped and ready to race!

3:55a my alarm went off and I was up. Ugh, I had the ‘pre-race dread’ feeling in my stomach, not as much as I usually do before an Ironman since this race was just less stress in general, but it was still there a little. I ate my pre-race breakfast, did some stretches, packed everything up and headed to the start at 5ish. Once parked I headed inside to use the bathroom – it was SO nice experiencing this race outside of COVID conditions. We were able to use the bathrooms inside the barn/warehouse, and everyone was hanging out inside also. During the race in 2020 there were porta-potties outside and we all waited in our cars right until we were to line up single file-ish at the start.

I knew it was a small group running the 100k, so I wasn’t surprised when there was just a little group of us headed with the volunteer to walk us to where we would start (about 500y from the warehouse/barn). I was very glad I wore my mittens because it was freezing! We chatted for the few minutes before they blew the horn and then we were off! I stayed with a small group of three others for most of the first hour as I wore a small cheap headlamp that clipped on my hat since I didn’t want to lug my big headlamp around for the whole race when I’d wear it for 45 minutes at most. It worked ok, but I figured I might as well stick with the others for better visibility and they were running around my planned pace.

Once the sun came up I picked up the pace a little as I was feeling good and because I also needed to the hit the bathroom. I was determined to not wait in line again like last year (I swear it was close to 15 minutes) and knew at this early stage in the game, the women were all behind me, lol. I reached the first aid station at mile 6.5 and hit the bathroom, and then was quickly back on the trail.

I kept a good pace around 10/10:30 and was feeling good, except for all of the little rocks in my shoes. At the next aid station at mile 13 I refilled my water and also dumped the rocks out of my shoes. This is where I need to say the volunteers were AMAZING. At this point, even with mittens my fingers weren’t working well and the volunteers put my skratch in my bottle and one even tied my shoe for me! I was so grateful for them! Once I was back on the trail I knew it was going to be a little tougher mentally as the next two aid stations were 9 miles apart, there were water jugs available about halfway through, but not having that little mental break of an aid station was going to make it harder. I tried to settle in knowing it was going to be a long day and to just enjoy being out on the trail, and especially in pretty darn nice conditions (Queeny 2023, I’m staring at you). My frozen fingers were even starting to thaw and become functional again.

As I got closer to the next aid station, I recognized the area from the 50 mile race, passing a lake and then coming into the little town/train station at Garnett. For some reason that got me excited, even though I knew I still had another 9 miles after this aid station before I turned around. With the aid station in view, I heard the loud rumble of a train and realized I was going to have to wait as the train crossed before continuing. In a triathlon that would have made me really upset, but not so much in a race where I had zero time goals and just wanted to finish. I appreciated that I was forced to stop, so I would take the time to dump more rocks out of my shoes. Once I tied my shoes the train had passed and I continued to the aid station which was located inside the train station had it ALL. OMG. All kinds of food in mini baggies: peanut m&ms, cookies, rice krispie treats, chips, popcorn… also they were cooking bacon.. just woah. Too bad my stomach wasn’t up for it though, so after refilling my handheld, I was on my way to the turn around.

After a couple of miles the sun was really starting to come out, which I was happy and thrilled about, but was also starting to get extra thirsty. Also my body and legs was starting to get tired. ‘Oh no’, I thought to myself ‘I’m not even halfway, this is going to be rough.. should I just drop at the turnaround?’. The negative thoughts were starting. I tried to keep thinking positive thoughts to keep the negative ones away. However around mile 26 I started to see runners coming back from the 100k turn around and also some 100 mile runners were passing me, so I started to just feel really slow. I felt like I was never going to get to the turn around, let alone finish. At mile 27 I decided that it was time for some music on my trusty iPod to quiet my thoughts. I also decided at the aid station I was going to take a little breather to try and help reset my head, as there was no need to rush since finishing was just the goal (but I didn’t want to finish in 30 hours so walking the rest of the way was also NOT an option for me).

I was so happy to see the aid station, the first matter of business was to hit the bathroom as my stomach was a little angry. I wasn’t sure if it was the picky bars, but I decided maybe I would hold off on those during the second half and see if that kept my stomach happy after this pit stop. After hitting the bathroom I got my drop bag and refilled my pack and my handheld. I also decided to take off my long-sleeve shirt and arm sleeves as it had gotten warm enough to run in just a t-shirt. Then after lingering for a couple of minutes too long, I finally headed back on the trail to begin the second half of the race. It wasn’t until a couple miles later that I realized I hadn’t even asked about dropping, and was glad my brain hadn’t entertained the idea I had thought about earlier.

It was definitely getting warm, I knew it wasn’t supposed to get higher than 60 but it felt like it! I was still extra thirsty so I stopped at the un-manned aid station to refill my water. My legs were feeling tired and I was trying to play math games to occupy my mind, like thinking that once I got to mile 36 it would be less than a marathon left. But then I thought ‘Who the heck thinks that though?! A marathon is FAR’. So that didn’t really help as I was talking myself out of my own mind games. Finally I reached the amazing aid station again at the train station in Garnett, which was mile 39. I asked a volunteer which foods were popular and also helpful for an unhappy stomach, and she said the cheesy quesadillas and mini potatoes. Cheesy quesadillas?! Mini potatoes?! I did not see either of those the first time! I thanked her and happily took both. Sadly though, after taking a bite of the quesadilla I could hardly force myself to swallow the bite, my body said NO to the flavorful quesadilla. So I had to toss it (I’m still sad about this, it was even cooked in bacon grease, I wish I had one now) but I was able to slowly munch on the potatoes as they were a little more bland.

After a mile of shuffling I tried to pick up the pace, and it looked like 11ish pace was the best I could do. I knew this was going to be another long stretch with 9 miles between aid stations, so I was looking forward to refilling my water at the non-manned water station as a mini break. Shuffle, shuffle, doing stupid math, wondering if maybe I should drop at the next aid station at mile 48ish. 48 miles sounded admirable. A good enough distance, worth the hotel and drive, right? I refilled at the un-manned water-station and decided to just walk for a bit as my stomach seemed to be on the verge of angry, and took some tums hoping that would help too. Finally after a mile of walking, I decided to pick it up as my bad-math told me it would take me next year to finish if I walked the rest of the way.

Then around mile 46, my right pinky toe started to really hurt and then it felt like my nail came off… or like something was in my sock no longer attached to me. Oh boy, since it hurt to run, I decided I would stop, take off my shoe/sock, get the nail, use my kit to clean/re-tape and carry on. Easy enough. Except to my surprise when I took the tape off, the nail was still attached, what the heck? Then I saw liquid coming from somewhere around the base of the nail and realized a blister must have burst. I cleaned it with my alcohol wipe, re-taped and carried on. My spirits were low, and despite verifying my toenail was still on my toe and it was just a blister that burst, my pinky toe still really hurt. I took off my vest, pulled out my phone from the back zip compartment and texted JMR that I was at mile 46 and was thinking of dropping at 48.

Not even a couple of minutes after I sent the text, I had the same feeling on my left pinky toe, but was more confused because there was no nail there (I lost it shortly after Queeny), so what was this pain?! And then I felt a pinch and saw liquid coming through my shoe where the toe was. Oh good grief, there was a blister on that toe that just now burst. Ouch! Gross! Gross! Ouch! I frantically texted JMR what just happened, while hobbling because now both toes hurt so much when walking. I saw my coach had recently texted me so I gave him the run down, expecting him to agree with my decision to drop. He replied suggesting seeing if the next aid station can check/help with blisters to continue on, only 13 more miles. ONLY 13 MORE MILES PLUS THE 2 TO GET TO THE AID STATION my brain screamed. That was far when each step hurt. I replied that I had a kit on me and had already taped one, but wasn’t sure what to do about the other, and decided I was going to put the phone away and see if shuffling/running felt any better. I knew I needed to move forward and staring at my phone wasn’t going to help.

As I started to run, my toes felt a little better, and I was able to get back to an 11ish pace. At this point, since the both toe incidents happened while I was walking, I was scared to power-walk again case it would cause blister-drama on other toes. That kept me driven and focused until I made it to the next aid station. Once I made it to mile 48ish aid station, I refilled my water and headed back on the trail, running and feeling good. Once again it was a mile after the aid station that I realized I hadn’t asked about dropping, and once again I was glad. 12 miles to go, I could do this I told myself. I also decided to pull out all of the stops and listen to my spotify playlist on my iPhone, which I was saving for desperate times/the final push. As soon as I put the music on, my spirits were lifted and I felt ready to go, less than 12 miles, I CAN DO THIS. Just don’t walk, no more blisters. That was my mantra. I just kept running, finding new energy in my legs once I realized how painful things could get when comparing to the blister incident pain. This leg fatigue pain was nothing.

I made it to the next aid station at mile 54ish, refilled my handheld and then had several mini cups of coke, which in hindsight was probably a bad idea but I was hoping for an extra boost from the caffeine and sugar. I was back on the trail, 6.5 miles to go! Just a little over an hour, I can do this, I kept repeating. Then my stomach decided it was angry about that large amount of sugar I just drank, and I needed to find a spot now. Unlike during the 50 mile race where I barely had time to get off the trail, I was able to climb through some bushes/branches and get at least six feet back behind even more bushes and was able to take care of things hidden. Phew. I jumped back out on the trail right as a guy was walking by and gave him a good laugh, he said ‘When you gotta go, you gotta go’ and I laughed too and said ‘You got that right!’.

As the miles counted down, 5 miles… 4 miles left, I was still running around an 11ish pace, legs feeling good considering how many miles I had run and toes doing alright too. With 2 miles to go, I texted JMR as I never told him I didn’t drop and was still going. I got a little teary-eyed in disbelief that I was going to finish this race. I had really started to doubt that I could finish this before I even got to the turn around, I had so much fear my legs weren’t prepared to run this far, yet here they were at mile 60, feeling ‘good’.

I could hear the roar of traffic as I ran towards the path along the highway which lead to the finish. I picked up the pace and knew it would all be over soon in a mile or so, which made me happy and a tiny bit sad that my big adventure was coming to a close. I could see the big barn/warehouse and then made the left turn to run up the little sidewalk that led to the finish arches. I heard the announcer shout my name and say congratulations as I crossed the line, I could not believe it! I had done it! A volunteer handed me a railroad spike with the words ‘3rd female’ on it saying I was 3rd female for the 100k, now that was a surprise! I think there weren’t many females racing the 100k anyways, but I thought for sure I was one of the last.

So happy to have finished and also surprised about 3rd place!

After taking a breather I texted JMR, my parents and coach the news that I had finished the race with a time of 12 hours and 11 minutes. Phew! I got my drop bag, changed clothes and debated eating the post-race food, but my stomach shouted NO like it did to the poor quesadilla. So I got in my car for the 4 hour drive home, with plenty of snacks and a diet coke. 🙂 What a day, what a race! I knew it was going to be tough but didn’t expect it to be tough starting at mile 27… but I finished and realized I was mentally and physically tougher than I had realized going into this race. I was also still shocked that my legs carried me the whole way, pretty much running the entire last 15 miles. I reminded myself that they were getting a big break if I wanted to keep running until I was very old 🙂

Now I have a nice long week of recovery and then eventually slowly building up for Des Moines 70.3 in June!

Finisher Buckle and Rail Road Spike Award
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Queeny Backyard Ultra 2023

Well, all I can say is that the race conditions this year were completely different than 2022, and not in a good way! I knew signing up for a race at the beginning of March can be risky, but I took the risk last year and it was a great day (still in my top ‘Best Day Ever’ list! if I had a list), so I felt like it was worth the risk again. Earlier in the week when the weather forecast was showing 40/30 degree temps with rain and strong winds, I thought..uhoh. In preparation for the cold temps since my appendages (hands mostly) struggle with staying warm, I ordered 20 packages of Hot Hands off of Amazon (probably 18 more than I needed but it was the best deal), and went back through my packing list from the previous year and added in a few more long sleeved layers and gloves. I also had a waterproof/windproof Ultimate Direction jacket I had bought for the race last year that I never wore, but apparently this year it was going to get some serious use. The last ‘weapon’ I had against the weather were wind panels I bought for the tent that we were borrowing from my parents to help keep us warm/dry. I thought we were prepared.

Race morning was cold and rainy, as expected, no surprises there. I dropped Penelope off at the kennel and while out and about realized how COLD it felt with the wind/rain. I knew while we were setting the tent up and carrying our gear I needed to stay warm and dry, because starting the race cold and wet will really zap your energy. So when I got home I dug out my rain pants I had bought for a family trip to Canada… in 2012. They never got used on the trip, but was very glad I saved those after 11 years of no use! Finally the car was packed, we were decked out in rain gear and on our way. When we got to the park, but due to the rain we weren’t able to park on the lawn close to the set up area so we had to park farther away which was going to make getting all of our gear unpacked a bit tougher. It took 3 trips and some sore arms but we got everything hauled and the tent set up. The big question was, would it stay up? The winds were crazy and pulling the base of the tent out of the ground despite each leg having at least two stakes in the ground, but it was just too wet and mushy and they kept coming out. JMR tied one leg that was really getting lifted to the nearby fence which seemed to help. The wind panels were a no-go as we feared they would give the wind more leverage for relocating our tent. 😦

With about 30 minutes until the start, I fell into a stunned daze. I was cold, worn out from carrying the gear/wrestling with the tent/worrying if it would stay standing, and did not want to run in rain and strong winds. There just wasn’t any escaping the conditions even under the tent, the wind was so strong and it was cold. My parents live nearby and decided to surprise us at the start, but unfortunately due to my brain being on another planet and also trying to get out of my rain gear and figure out which shoes/socks to wear, I wasn’t able to chat too much. I was literally pinning my bib on my pants while walking to the start before the final whistle blew. I could not believe we were doing this and my head was not in the game.

Then we were off. I was cold, already getting wet and not even sure what to think. I was in survival mode, definitely not even thinking about running or the miles ahead of me! As we ran down the trails, mini streams had formed and trying to run around them was taking a lot of energy. However I thought it was worth the extra energy because at that point I thought my feet might stay a little dry (they didn’t). As I kept running, I was just stunned we were running in these conditions and if we would be running in them for… hours? Would the rain ever stop? Would the wind ever stop? If it didn’t, I wasn’t sure how long I would last.

We came to the base of a big uphill at about mile 2.75 where there usually is a little stream that runs under a cement path/bridge, but instead it had flooded over and the water came up to what looked to be much higher than our feet. There was no way around it, so we all trudged through shin deep water, and it was cold! It made me laugh because whenever I would see a race that mentioned ‘stream crossing’ I would immediately say, ‘nope, not doing that one’, and here I was, running through one, in almost freezing temps. Oh man.

This was my face the entire time it rained. Photo Credit: © Marcus Janzow Photography
At the end of one of the earlier loops. Same face. Photo Credit: © Marcus Janzow Photography

The next few loops I remained in a daze. I didn’t want to be running in these conditions, but it was warmer to run than sit in the cold at the tent. So I kept going. Also around loop 3 my watch screen stopped displaying, I could feel it vibrate when I hit mile markers, but the screen was just a dimly lit blank screen. Ugh. So I grabbed JMR’s backup golf watch after loop 3 so I could at least see time of day to know how much time I had on each loop and ran with two watches.

Finally around the end of loop 4 the rain let up, the wind started to die down, and the sun sort of peeked out. I said to my friend I was running with ‘we needed this!’, and it did seem to boost my morale. After that loop I changed into a dry base layer, dry long sleeved top and a lighter wind jacket, but kept the same shoes/socks on since that stream crossing was still pretty high. The warm, dry clothes seemed to improve my mood and take me out of whatever daze I was still left in. I was back in the game.

See, I’m smiling! Photo Credit: © Marcus Janzow Photography
Glorious Sun! Photo Credit: © Marcus Janzow Photography

Loop 6 the sun started to set and the headlamps came on, which I was looking forward to since it makes the course look a little different in the dark and gives a little bit of a feeling of ‘newish’ course. By loop 7 my legs were feeling a bit stiff/sore, but my quads were in better shape than they were at this time last year (I think), and was happy I stuck to more runs outside this year and really trying to get in hills. Loop 8 was going to be JMR and my friend’s last loop so I ended up running most of it solo to prepare for 7 more loops solo (I’m not sure why I did that, I think I was worried that my first loop solo I’d just quit after, so I wanted a loop solo but not solo, lol). I felt good coming in and ready to go for loop 9.

While lining up, to my surprise, I saw JMR next to me! Go JMR! With his longest run of 16 miles I wasn’t sure how he would be feeling but he was up for another loop. Loop 9 was hard, my legs were sore/stiff but I was just really really tired. I think the pre-race tent set up took more energy than I wanted to use (and worry, so much worry about the wind blowing it away) and just being in the cold, wind and rain really sucked up my energy. I had been good about eating something during each loop, so I didn’t think it was a nutrition issue, but figured I’d sip some coke before the next loop to see if that helped. JMR finally called it quits on loop 9, so loop 10 I would really be solo.

Loop 10 I was still struggling with fatigue as the sips of coke didn’t seem to help much. The first mile, which is more trail like and hilly, I really struggled but figured once I got to the flatter parts I would do better. However once I got to the flatter section I was still struggling to stay in a line and was kind of bouncing from side to side of the trail. I know, I know, I know…this is where your ‘Why’ is SUPER important, because all I had going on in my head was a solid list as to why I should quit after this loop. The biggest being ‘how the hell am I going to break down our tent and carry our gear if I keep going…I will have NOTHING left, we will never get the gear in the car’. My friend had left after loop 8 and I knew JMR was in a pretty wiped out condition too since he really pushed himself to do 9 loops, so breaking down the tent and loading up the car was going to be rough. I was also comparing to how I felt on this loop last year and had felt so much better, still sore but not this type of fatigue. Also my pace was really slowing, and at the rate I was going I was cutting it pretty close to the cutoff time for this loop. Negative thoughts rolled around in my head as I approached the finish, and when I came in sight of the clock and saw 9:56 I knew right then, nope. I was done. Those four minutes wouldn’t give me enough time to get any nutrition, and I didn’t want to run (suffer) another 4ish miles with the chance of not making the hour limit.

I came to the tent and told JMR I was done. And then proceeded to have a private tired-cry while facing away from the tent. I was upset with myself for quitting 20 miles earlier than planned, but also upset that my body was so tired and not cooperating. However I felt like it was the right call, and still do, unlike last year where I STILL regret not going out for another loop. I was sore and stiff, but in much better shape mentally and physically. JMR asked me if I was sure as the last whistle blew and I said ‘yep’. We watched the runners head out for their next loop, and then started to slowly gather and haul our stuff to the car. I was freezing, it was just as miserable as I imagined it would be, and even told JMR I would pay someone $400 to break down our tent and haul our gear. But we did it and finally headed home.

Me deep in thought reflecting on DNFing 20 miles earlier than planned. Lots of frustration. Photo Credit: © Marcus Janzow Photography

After a hot shower and putting on warm, dry clothes (unpacking the car would wait until the next day), I proceeded to eat 3 Uncrustables and Rice Krispy treat and then headed to bed. However I hardly slept that night, tossing and turning in pain and sweating through three different pairs of pajamas. My body was pissed about running in those conditions! Since the race I have been taking it easy, with just a spin, an easy swim and a short run yesterday.

The season has just started, it’s hard to believe that was my first race of 2023, hopefully it just goes up from here! 🙂 In fact my Garmin refurb arrived Tuesday, so things are looking up!

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Ironman Chattanooga 2022 – Run

Ironman Chattanooga 2022- Swim and Bike

Once out on the course I saw JMR and my in-laws and gave them high fives as I ran by. I was still getting all of my gels/skratch pouches stuffed in my kit, as well as trying to get settled, so it wasn’t until the first mile that I really felt ready to roll. The first few miles are at a slight incline, so I tried to not worry too much about hitting my planned 9min pace and just get into a groove. By mile 4 I was feeling pretty crummy, really nauseous, weak and no pep in my step at all. I know I am not going to feel fresh at this point, but I felt off. I kept holding on until mile 5, hoping I’d turn a corner but instead felt worse. Maybe I was behind on hydration from not drinking enough on the bike? I had tried to take water the first few miles but due to the nausea I spit it back up, so I just had small sips from my handheld which was filled with skratch. Then. I started walking. Not even a strong planned power walk that some were doing around me, it was a slow-I-don’t-know-what’s-wrong kind of walk. I felt slight panic also knowing that every step I walked, would push me further down the list of finishers in my age group and I was really trying to fight for top 10. But given how I was feeling, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to finish the race. I could walk the remaining 20.5 miles, but… that sounded awful.

I kept walking and finally moved to a slow jog / walk combination by mile 6ish. I hit the short but steep hill around mile 8 and walked and and walked through the aid station. I jogged the downhill and saw JMR and his dad right before I crossed the bridge and said “I am feeling terrible’. Which I guess they could tell by my paces on the tracker. I vowed to not walk on the bridge because it was sunny and hot and I needed to get back to shade, but once I crossed and started back up the big hill on Barton, I walked. I walked the whole thing. The downhill I slow-jogged but then once we turned left for the little loop, I had to walk again because my entire back was cramping up and it hurt to breath. So, at this point I started to cry. I was frustrated and my body seemed to be pulling the plug on any effort more than a slow walk. I kept walking and decided to take some BASE salt and sipped my handheld and slowly my back improved. At the next aid station I took more water and coke (I started drinking coke at mile 5, I was already that desperate that early in) and on a whim grabbed some potato chips. I have never taken any food from an aid station, but anything goes at this point.

While I was munching on my chips, I started walking alongside another Team Zoot member and we started chatting. He had said he usually finishes around 12 hours but the run is not his strong suit so he was hoping for 4:40. That was a good time in my head (4 hours was out the window) and though maybe I could stick with him. Just chatting in general lifted my mood and when we started to jog again I felt a little more spring in my step that wasn’t there earlier, so I ran with with it (literally) and went ahead at a pace closer to 10ish. I wasn’t even going to try and push my body for 9’s given how horrible I had felt and was scared it would rebound and go back to feeling worse.

On I went and soon I was crossing the bridge to start my second loop. I was in MUCH better shape, I was going to finish this and hopefully run the rest of the way! The incline on the second loop was tough, but I was able to keep running until about mile 16 when my stomach decided it was time to hit the porta potty. Not an angry stomach, but I hadn’t gone that morning and well, now it was time, lol. I hit the porta potty as quickly as I could and was back out and back on track. My stomach was getting a little angry as I had been drinking way more coke that it is used to since I started so early, so I backed off the coke and stuck with water and skratch.

This time at mile 20ish I ran up that darn steep hill and saw JMR! He was like ‘you’re the first person I’ve seen run up this hill!’ and I replied ‘That’s because I ran so much of the first loop, I gotta get moving!’ On I went, knowing I had 5 miles to go. I could do five miles. I ran up Barton and up the next hill, it was starting to get dark, but I knew I was so close. I kept pushing until about 2 miles to go when a guy and girl were running by at a good pace and I decided to try and keep up. I hung on until I hit the bridge… just about a mile to go!! I pushed the pace and moved. I was so focused I didn’t even realize I still had my sunglasses on (I probably should have taken them off several miles ago), and when I made the turn to go left, I thought it was awfully dark in the last .2 miles. But I could see the lights and hear the cheering, so I knew I hadn’t made a wrong turn (I was really concerned for a minute) as usual I got teary eyed and emotional, reflecting on all of the hard work that had gotten me to these final seconds before I crossed the finish. And there it was, the lights the cheering, holy shit, number 7. I did it.

Once I crossed the finish, a volunteer congratulated me and said ‘Hey! You finished 12:00:59!’ Oh man, I had NO idea I was so close to sub 12, I was fearful checking the total time would just frustrate me and bring down my spirits (they were pretty low for a while and didn’t want to go back there again). Who knows if it would have helped or not, I was just happy to have finished and still managed a small 5 minute PR 🙂 and so close to top 10, as I was 14th pace in my AG.

Ironman #7 done!

Quick backstory. Ironman has a program called ‘Women for Tri’ to try to promote more women in the sport. As part of this initiative it added 100 extra Kona spots just for women at 3 races in North America, and Chattanooga was one of them. After the race while at dinner with JMR and his parents, I saw there were 18 spots for my age group out of the additional 100 Women for Tri slots. I about fell out of my seat, I guess the math I had done earlier was wrong and I assumed that it would maybe top 10 in my Age Group would get slots but I didn’t realize how large my age group was so we got a lot of slots (it’s based on # of starters). Which meant…. I WAS GOING TO KONA! OMG! I was still a little skeptical and wouldn’t believe it until it actually happened at the awards ceremony the next day, but I was not sleeping that night for sure!

The next morning we went to the awards ceremony and sure enough, my name was called for the 8th Women for Tri Kona slot in the women’s 40-44 age group and I jumped up and claimed the slot. It was unreal. I didn’t know if I wanted to scream for joy or cry, instead I was shaky like a leaf and could not stop shaking. JMR took a photo of me and then we headed back to the hotel to check out and hit the road. He drove because I will in shock and not in good shape to drive, lol.

I was in shock! Unreal.
Ironman 2022 World Championship Coin

It’s been over a week since the race and I still feel like I’m in a dream! When I signed up for Chattanooga the additional slots hadn’t even been announced and all summer I trained hard to just try for my planned goals of: super A goal of trying to podium, B goal of AG top 10, and the final goal of finishing. I wasn’t sure where/if Kona would even fit it, so I didn’t even try to think much about it as I had really gotten my hopes up at CDA last year when it was announced there were a total of 150 slots (men and women), and I got smoked by my age group on top of just having a bad race.

I still have some races planned before Ironman World Champs in Kona 10/12/2023, but that one is on my calendar circled in RED!

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Ironman Chattanooga 2022 – Swim and Bike

Ironman Chattanooga 2022 – Pre-Race

Once I started swimming I knew I was in for a short, fast swim with how much the current was pulling me along. Because of the time trial start I had plenty of space around me and never felt crowded (also I think I didn’t do super great at staying close to the buoys which might have also been why). Regardless I felt like I was in a good rhythm, never felt any panic and just kept swimming. Swimming down the river and having sights to see made the swim go by much faster as well as swimming under bridges. I was excited when I hit the orange buoys which meant we were halfway done, and kept plugging away. Finally I could see the red buoy and tried to swim hard to make the final turn to the finish. I could hear the announcer and got so excited! The swim towards the exit was getting a little crowded and I felt a guy next to me hitting my hand and the next thing I knew, he had somehow knocked off my silicone wedding ring 😦 Not that it was expensive or fancy, but I’ve had it forever and was sad to lose it to the Tenneessee river. However seeing the finish so close, I pushed that aside and was ready to get out of the water! I either really need to get faster or stick with current assisted swims (lol) because my 53 minute swim felt like the perfect amount of time in the water. My previous 1:20 or so swims felt SO LONG and AWFUL. So I guess I need to get back in the pool and get some lessons since current assisted swims aren’t the norm!

I was SO HAPPY to get out of the water, they had wetsuit strippers which was helpful as I really struggled at Wisconsin. Then I jogged to the transition tent to get my shoes, helmet, glasses and some sprays of sunscreen on, and headed back out towards my bike. I grabbed my bike, turned on my Garmin and once past the mount line, I hopped on and was off! I saw JMR on my way out and gave him a huge wave and smile!

The day before the race I was chatting with a man about good areas to do a pre-race ride and he mentioned that the first 11 miles out of town were pretty crummy roads. I had no memory of this the last time I did this race, so either they got worse, or I forgot, but boy am I glad he mentioned it because they were crummy but at least I was mentally prepared and knew they would get better. Along with the roads there was another element adding a challenge, maybe five miles in, it started to POUR. The skies were gray and it looked like it was going to be like this all day (spoiler: on the bike, it was). Ugh. Once I hit the smoother roads I was able to get into planned pace/watts and just get into a groove and try to ignore the rain. At least it wasn’t storming, now that would be a problem. I was also THRILLED my Garmin computer was working this time, it had power! Given the conditions it was so much safer to look at those numbers mounted on my water bottle vs. having to look to the left on my wrist and on the small screen.

Two hours in, with the rain still steadily going, I just thought…’After this I’m sticking with 70.3’s’. This is just way too long a of a day…. I STILL HAVE FOUR + MORE HOURS ON THE BIKE (I was screaming this thought in my head). Fortunately there was a smoother and flatter section of road during the third hour and I was able to settle into a good pace until I reach special needs which was almost half way. I grabbed my extra bottle of Skratch and pouch of Skratch chews and was back on the course pretty quickly. I had planned to refill water but due to the pouring rain and cooler temps (I did grab a bottle around the 30mi aid station) I just wasn’t thirsty and didn’t need to refill. In my mind I knew I should probably try to drink more water, and made a mental note to do so, but never followed through. I was sticking with my nutrition plan though, so at least I was sticking to that.

At mile 53 of the bike

Once I made the turn for the second loop, the skies cleared up a little and my mood changed to very happy and feeling great! Until about 30 minutes later the skies opened up again while I was on the hillier part of the loop and the headwinds had also showed up. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I knew I just had to keep moving forward, but thinking about running a marathon after this sounded.. awful. Also, I had been sticking with my power and not going crazy but my legs were feeling tired and I also felt more worn out (riding in the rain and wind is stressful and tiring!), so I was worried.

When I passed through where special needs again (we can only stop once), I had a third wind and put the pedal to the metal. The headwinds were now tailwinds and the roads were smooth. I was going to finish this bike strong! The rain came and went but not as bad as it was earlier, and didn’t put a damper on my once-again lifted spirits. Soon we were going over the bumpy railroad tracks and I knew I was close! I looked down and saw I had a 112 mile PR by a lot, wow I think I was going to PR the bike despite the extra four miles, I was thrilled!

I pulled into the the bike finish, with tears in my eyes – a combination of sheer excitement of a bike PR as well as being done with that wet, windy and hillier than I remembered bike – and hopped off the bike and handed it to a wonderful volunteer. I took my shoes off, ran and picked up my bike bag and headed into the the change tent.

I was greeted by a kind volunteer to who helped me get my gear out and I swapped socks, put on my run shoes, threw on my race belt, run hat and was on my way… with a quick stop in a porta potty as I had to pee pretty badly. Then I was off!

Ironman Chattanooga 2022 – Run

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Ironman Chattanooga 2022 – Pre-Race

Just like that, Ironman #7 is done! I guess that’s a spoiler that I finished, but I have more exciting details that I’ll hold off on 🙂

JMR and I headed down to Chattanooga the Thursday before the race around noon, and were supposed to arrive around 7:45p but hit terrible traffic and got in closer to 9:15. We were exhausted. Due to stressful travel (those mountainous roads the last 1.5 hours had me sweating), I didn’t eat or drink much at all while driving, so I grabbed a salad from the hotel restaurant, chugged at least one bottle of water, and was in bed by 11p.

Friday I was up and ready to go… because I was stressing about my front brake. When I put the front wheel back on (I take it off so it fits in the car with our luggage), it was rubbing. I know nothing about disc brakes, so I was planning on heading to the QR tent at Ironman Village when it opened at 10a. However, due to my nerves, I was up much earlier so I got coffee, did some reading, hung out in the room and ate breakfast (I brought SO much food, lol) and then headed to IM Village around 9:30a.

It turns out I hadn’t tightened the thru-axel enough, which is why it was rubbing. Lordy, this fancy bike, I’m afraid I’m going to break it, lesson learned! After that, I did athlete check-in, headed back to the hotel to get helmet/shoes/garmin computer so I could do a quick test ride to make sure everything was working ok, and then attended the athlete briefing at 11a. Phew, it was a busy 2 hours. Afterwards I headed back to the hotel to pick up JMR so we could head to Community Pie for lunch.

The Little Debbie Zebra we got in our Little Debbie Gift Bag!

After lunch (and after our food digested and I did a little resting), we drove 10 miles up the river to a local park so I could check out the water. The temp felt great without a wetsuit, and as much as they help make for a fast swim, I was secretly hoping it wasn’t wetsuit legal so I didn’t have to deal with wrestling into my wetsuit race day morning. I think I’m in between sizes, my old wetsuit feels ‘loose’ but my new one, holy moly, it takes some effort to get on, much longer than it seems to take others! The swimming area was protected from the current, so I didn’t get a feel for how strong it was, but from afar it looked fast! After the swim we headed back to the hotel to shower and then went to Public House for dinner. This was my third time eating there and once again the food was amazing and did not disappoint!

The theme of the pre-race activities were mostly ‘resting’ and ‘eating’, so Saturday wasn’t much different. I ate my big ‘day before the race breakfast’, got my gear bags packed up, headed to check them in around 10:30, followed by a Team Zoot photo at 11a. While I was busy doing pre-race stuff, JMR went to the Aquarium with my in-laws, who had come to spectate. I was bummed to miss out, but I had already spent too much time on my feet, so instead I snacked and rested in the hotel room until we met up for dinner at 5:30. After dinner I prepped my gear/bottles and was in bed by 8p.

Team Zoot Group Photo
Bike Racked…..
…Ready to Roll!

3:30a I was up and had my usual feeling of pre-race anxiety/slight dread of the long-ass day that lay ahead of me. I love racing, but beforehand I struggle with these feelings. So to keep myself distracted, I went through my usual routine of eating my pre-race breakfast, getting my bags ready for transition and getting dressed. When I checked my weather app around 4am I saw it was raining, I thought, well, at least it isn’t freezing out (still scarred by IMLOU ’18)! I put on my rain jacket and headed to transition around 4:20, pumped tires, put nutrition and sunscreen in gear bags (I had only brought one bottle and was fearful I would need one for my run bag and also bike special needs, so I bought 2 more Saturday afternoon), and then since my hotel was just a 5 minute walk, I headed back to the room to hangout/rest/stay warm until 5:50a when I headed back to catch the bus to the start line, 2.4 miles upstream.

Once I got the swim start, I hit the porta potties and then did the long walk to the swim start. When I found my planned swim time group, I plopped down in an empty patch of grass and took a nap. I was so tired. Usually I’m all hyped up and anxious, but today, I was tired. I also felt tired before Chattanooga 70.3, so maybe there’s something in the water here, lol. However after my 10? 15? minute nap, and the sun started to peek out, I also started to wake up. A lady next to me in a Team Zoot kit started chatting with me and my energy did a 180 and I was getting excited!

Before I knew it, it was 7:30 and the gun? Cannon? I can’t remember what the boom was, but something went off and the people started to slowly shuffle to the front. It took about 20 minutes (it felt faster than that) and we were on the dock. I decided to not jump in, in case my goggles would move, so I plopped on my butt and scooted in when in was my turn. Here we go!

Ironman Chattanooga 2022 – Swim and Bike

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Get Your Butt Kicked @ Route 66 – 6 Hour Race Report

After the Muddy River Half Marathon, which I didn’t really race, I decided I wanted to do another running race before IM Chattanooga, and was leaning towards more of an ultra distance. After perusing Ultrasignup, I saw a local ultra club was putting on a 6 hour timed event nearby in early July. Perfect! No travel, it would be right after Steelhead 70.3 and then after this race I would start to build up for Chattanooga.

Training for Steelhead went well, and since this was a ‘fun’ race, my coach didn’t have me do anything extra in training regarding running to prepare for this race (or really to avoid risking injury before Steelhead as that was a more important race to me). So the focus after Steelhead was to recover the week after and then be ready to get some big miles in for this race.

This was my first time racing a timed ultra running event. I thought it would be similar to the Queeny Backyard Ultra, but it was so very different! The format is to run a 2.4 mile loop as many times as you can, until 5.5 hours when you will be switched to running a .3 mile loop. The winner (male and female) are the ones who have ran the most miles in the timed six hours. This was going to be interesting! I went into it with a goal of at least 30 miles but was hoping to get in a few more, but never having done this format (or distance this far in such warm temps) I wasn’t sure how things would go.

Packet pickup started at 4p (the race started at 6p), so I arrived a little after 4 to try to get a good parking spot as the run course goes through the parking lot and you can set up an aid station next to your car. I lucked out and got a decent spot and then just hung out for an hour or so. I was a little nervous, but having a few ultras under my belt helped with my confidence and the fact that this was a ‘fun’ race for me along with the atmosphere being 100% chill helped too. And really, I was competing against myself, and any distance I finish would be a PR since I’ve never run a timed 6 hour race before 🙂

Aid station all set up and ready to go by my car
View from my camping chair, we run through this parking lot which is the start of each big loop.

Soon we lined up to the start area for a few pre-race rules/information and promptly at 6p we were off! I had debated wearing music since I hardly needed it at Queeny, but I saw many people with headphones at the start and decided I would have them in but could turn them off. It was a good plan because once we were off, everyone was very quiet, no chit chat, just off and running. After a couple of miles I could tell that the vibe of this much different than a backyard ultra in that we were racing the clock, and there was no forced rest period between loops, so people were focused, just like a road race (which most of the race was on the road or a gravel path).

My first couple of splits were high 8’s, low 9’s, which I knew was too fast, so finally around mile 5 I slowed it down. I also was just taking sips of water during each mile, and had planned to refill my water after three loops, but since my bottle felt pretty full still after 3 loops, I skipped stopping to ‘save’ time. By the time I rolled in after the 4th loop I still had water in my bottle but decided to refill. I tried to be as fast and efficient as possible and was out of there in 30 seconds or so.

I was keeping a good pace until around mile 14.5 when I stopped to refill for a second time (this time only after two loops, I was SO thirsty) taking a little longer and then was off, but I could feel my pace start to slow. I think the heat and being behind on hydration had caught up to me, as taking small sips of water every mile in the beginning was not a good plan and I should have definitely stopped after three loops to refill. At mile 15 I did my first walk break and started questioning why I was doing this, and also around this time my left hamstring started to speak up (which has given me issues on and off since Queeny). I ran/walked, looking at my watch and realized it hadn’t even been 3 hours yet, oh lord. How was I going to do this for another 3 hours? At this point I was wondering if I could just stop at 3 hours and head out. However since I was parked on the run course I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to get out. I knew this was my last chance to race until Chattanooga and I had mentally been ready to go into the pain cave for this race, I guess I just hadn’t expected to enter it so soon (and being honest, after 2 hours I was already suffering). So after thinking about it a little more while walking/shuffling, I knew in the end, despite how I was feeling already, this would be good experience – another ‘dig deep’ mental toughness building experience, so… despite my brain screaming ‘This is ridiculous, we are running 2.4 mile loops in the heat of July… for fun…solo.. in silence (other than headphones)!!’, I kept going. I decided I would really try to do at least 30 miles.

Around 9p the sun started to set (or maybe it was closer to 8:30ish) and I grabbed my headlamp, and was looking forward to the cooler temps with the sun being down. It was around this time that I also stopped feeling SO thirsty too. What a relief. At one refill stop before the sun had set I picked up my entire jug of water and started chugging. Yeah, lesson learned on my early hydration fail. Since I had run in the dark during Queeny, I felt a little more prepared/less scared and once my headlamp went on, it still seemed a little creepy but also peaceful. There was so much moisture in the air, the grass and trees had a weird shine to them, almost looking 4d which was quite trippy. I saw deer, a possum, a chunky raccoon as well as heard several coyote, which made me run faster! There was some walking during the last three hours, but much less than the first half where I was having my mini-mental-meltdown, however my pace had settled closer to a 10/11 pace.

I started doing math to figure out how many more ‘big’ loops I could do before I would need to start the .3 mile loop. The race director said they start redirecting to the little loop at 5.5 hours, and based on my math I should be able to get in 13 big loops which would get me to 31ish miles, knowing that I would still have 20+ minutes for the little loops, I decided that 33 miles would be my next goal. Once I headed in to finish the last big loop, something happened, I am not sure if it was being around other runners again (most of the race I was running solo) or the excitement of only having 20ish minutes left or what, but my legs found new energy and I felt like I was flying. In reality I was running 10ish minute miles, but it sure felt fast! I managed to get in 6 little loops bringing my total to 33.523 miles. I did it!

We got medals before the start, since you just needed to complete 1 loop to be a finisher, I guess they had confidence we would all finish 2.4 miles 🙂

We all hung out at the finish during the final few minutes as the last of the runners came in at the midnight cutoff, and we all cheered once it hit midnight, which was really cool to experience the comradery since the race itself felt very solo. They did awards quickly after, and I managed to come in 3rd female, however they only gave awards to first female and first female masters, which by the way, I am now in the masters category! I cannot believe 40+ is considered masters! I was only a mile behind her, and then the wheels started going in my head ‘if only I had been better about hydration and pacing in the beginning if only’… so now I’m hooked and definitely want to sign up for another to see if I can improve, and also because it was fun, just a different type of fun that I had initially expected. However, the focus is now on IM Chattanooga, so I will have my head down the rest of what is left of the summer training. However I already have some more ultra races I want to do next year 🙂

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Ironman Steelhead 70.3 Pre-Race

I raced Ironman Steelhead 70.3 back in 2016, and crashed and burned on the run, so I have had this race on my list for a rematch. This time around I definitely had some expectations (beating my time in 2016, if anything at least the run time), but also to just have fun since my last 70.3 was in 2019 and I was a little rusty!

I drove up Friday evening after work and arrived at 11p (darn the hour time change and two stops along the way), and was pretty tired so after unpacking I was asleep by 12:15. I figured I would sleep in due to getting to bed that late, but of course my body woke up at 6a as usual (well 5a my time), so I got up in search of a good local coffee place and then would eat my big pre-race breakfast back in the room. I ended up in downtown St. Joseph at a local coffee and breakfast place and was so surprised at how nice and charming the downtown area was. In 2016 we only ventured to the race venue and a restaurant near our hotel closer to Benton Harbor so I had never been to St. Joseph. If I ever do this race again staying in St. Joseph will be the plan!

After breakfast I took the bike for a short spin around the road near my hotel and then headed to the expo/athlete check-in at St. Joseph High School. This was a change from 2016 where check-in was at the park where the race was. Check in was fast, I only bought a water bottle (ha) and then hung out for the athlete briefing at 11a. After the briefing I headed back to downtown St Joseph to walk around the farmers market (not too much walking though!) and grabbed a Jimmy Johns sandwich to eat for lunch.

The fun welcome packet Maytag, the race sponsor, gave participants!

I hung out in the room for a bit and then at 1:30 I was on the move again to head to transition to drop off my bike. I’ve never racked my new bike before and was shocked when I noticed the front tire didn’t even slightly touch the ground when racked by the seat! I’m not that short!? After much debating I decided I would rack my bike overnight by the handlebars so I wouldn’t risk it falling if it got windy at night (storms were predicted), and then would switch back to the seat in the morning.

When I got back to the hotel I did a little bit of my needlepoint (It’s a fun Halloween scene!), got chicken to go from Applebees to eat with my microwave rice for dinner (my bland, light pre-race meal), and then worked on getting my gear/nutrition set up for the next day. Once I was done with pre-race prep, I headed to bed at 8p with an alarm set for 3a. Sooo early, but I wanted to leave by 4a to get good parking and then get to transition when it opened at 4:30. The less rushed I am, the lower my stress stays!

Was working on the orange sky

I actually slept pretty well and when the alarm went off I was awake and ready. I ate, got dressed, packed everything up and was headed to my car a little after 4. The drive to the parking area was only about ten minutes away, super easy to get to, and I got great parking! Once parked, I grabbed all of my gear and headed to transition. As usual I spent way too long fussing with my tire pressure and triple checking everything, however I didn’t have anything else to do for an hour so I gave into my obsession of checking things way too many times. Finally at about 6a I headed to the beach to get my wetsuit on and line up with my swim pace group.

At the swim start I heard my name and saw a local coach from STL with some of her athletes, and she came up to say hi. It was so nice to see a familiar friendly face after being solo all weekend! We chatted for a bit until it got close to 6:30 and then we got into our swim waves (I wish I was as fast as they are!).

The nerves starting setting in a little as my line inched forward to the start. I made sure my goggles were extra tight, my turn was coming up and my stomach was in knots. I waited for the beep to signal it was my turn to go, then I hopped/ran into the lake until it was deep enough to start swimming. ‘Here we go!’ I said to myself.

Ironman Steelhead 70.3 Race Report

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Ironman Steelhead 70.3 Race Report

Ironman Steelhead 70.3 Pre-Race

As soon as I started swimming I thought ‘oh crap’, the water that appeared to be slightly choppy from the beach was much more than slightly choppy, and I was having trouble timing my breathing without having my head collide with a wave each time. Once I sort of got that figured out, I realized I also had trouble sighting because the waves would crest over my head and I couldn’t see ahead of me. Oh boy. Mentally I immediately switched into survival mode instead of race mode. I was worried I would feel panicky in my wetsuit with already feeling a little claustrophobic with the waves and sighting issue, so I wanted to take the pressure off and just focus on getting to the next buoy. So for the rest of the swim those were my short term goals.

I felt like I was making really slow progress and also kept getting pushed way left of the buoys on the way out, so I also felt like I was swimming horrible tangents too. Despite those frustrations I just kept focusing on moving forward and was SO VERY grateful this was just a half. A 2.4 mile swim sounded pretty awful. Soon I was turning past the final buoy for the last stretch back towards the shore. One of the athletes from STL I talked to before the swim mentioned that we should have a little current helping us back into shore and I definitely thought I could feel it as that stretch seemed to go by much faster than the way out. Finally I was close enough that I could touch the sand so I stood up and hobbled to the arches. I looked at my watch and saw 41 and though ‘Eh, that’s not as bad as I expected at all’.

As I ran through transition I hit my lap button to switch to T1, and it never changed on my watch, so I hit it again. I guess I was impatient and it was just slow to change to the next screen because now it was showing I was on the bike. ARGH. I was really aiming to have a fast bike split and was sad I wouldn’t know my exact time on the bike, so I stopped my watch. However then I realized I wouldn’t know my total time while racing, so I hit start and decided I would make note of time elapsed when I headed out of T1 and just subtract from the bike time. And really, no matter what my watch is doing, the race clock is still going…

I clumsily got my wetsuit off, quickly got my helmet, sunglasses and shoes on, I headed out of T1, clipped in and was off… but my bike computer was not. It wouldn’t sync with my watch. I spent time fussing with the computer while trying to settle into the bike, which wasn’t the safest thing to do, and finally after messing with it enough and realizing I wasn’t paying attention to the course, I took the computer off and stuffed it in my back pocket. I twisted my watch so the face was on my wrist like I usually do for races and just went with using my watch…. BUT, my power wasn’t working. Oh lordy. I sync’d it with my watch that morning, so I had no idea what the deal was, but I was using new pedals on this bike and it was the first time I was racing with them so who knows. They worked ok in training, maybe the battery died? I decided that at least I had heart rate on my watch and would go by feel. I had practiced racing at HIM pace the past few long rides so I knew how it should feel. At least my watch was working 🙂

So off I went, annoyed that I wasted a few miles fussing with my computer and watch and decided it was time to get some work done on the bike. I felt really good on the bike, the course had some smooth roads and some also crappy parts, the smooth I could really drop the hammer and the crappy I just tried to not get frustrated and also prayed to not get a flat. I was surprised when my 5mile splits (I keep the splits on my watch in race mode) were 20+mph. I usually go by power and was also going by heart rate, but seeing those splits was extra encouraging to just push a litttttllle harder. I yo-yo’d back and forth with another guy on the bike, joking that we would see the other person in a bit when when would pass the other and finally exchanged names. We gave each other friendly words of encouragement or humor each time either of us would pass the other, which added a little fun to the bike.

As I made the final few turns to head back to transition, I looked at my watch and after subtracting the 4ish minutes from transition I realized I was going to ride a 2:40ish split! Woah! I knew this was a fast course, but I wasn’t expecting to ride that fast! Hooray! I headed into T2 very very excited about my bike, and feeling like I put in a good effort but not too much that would fry my legs.. at least that’s how I felt, I would really know once I got on the run course.

Before I ran out of T2 I made the executive decision to give up a couple of minutes and hit the porta potty as I realllly had to pee. I struggled to get out of my one piece (the sleeves would not come off) but finally managed and then ran out half naked (well, I had a sport bra on, so not really, but that’s how it felt!) while I tried to wrestle my arms back into my sleeves. Once situated I tried to settle into a comfy running pace, knowing it usually takes me .5-1 mile to get really settled. Everyone was flying by me, but I stuck with my pace and after a mile I was settled into a 8:20ish pace.

I know…I’m ‘borrowing’ this photo, just wanted to show the ‘felt like half naked’ look I rocked a couple times during the race 😆

We were really lucky with the weather, mid 70’s and a slight breeze, I told myself ‘you have to run hard today because you won’t probably ever get conditions like this again! No excuses today!’ And tried to keep sticking with that 8:20ish pace. I was a little scared to push to that little extra gear I thought I had because my stomach had been off since the bike. I wondered if it was from some of the lake water I drank accidentally during the swim, or was just from race nerves. Regardless, I really didn’t want to hit a porta potty for an emergency (apparently the sleeves on this kit are tough to get out of when soaking wet!) so I stuck with a pace that felt like a good effort for the day. However, at mile 9, my stomach was rumbling and I thought ‘uh-oh..maybe it will go away if I pulled the pace back a bit and running in the 9’s’

Yet even trying that my stomach was still angry and I knew I was going to have to make a stop, but I timed it horribly and the next aid station wasn’t until 1.5 miles….oh god. All I kept thinking during that time was ‘please hold on stomach, please hold on’. I finally got to the next aid station but didn’t see any porta potties and frantically asked a volunteer if the porta potties on the other side of the road for an earlier aid station were the only ones, and she said yes. So I ran off the course, down a little hill and up to the other aid station and made a mad dash for an open porta potty. Once again I struggled with the sleeves, made it as fast as a stop as possible, and dashed out half naked again.

On I trudged, annoyed that I had to stop with less than 3 miles to go (and ran a little extra to get there) but as I said before, it had to happen or something terrible would have happened mid run, lol. My pace had slowed and was in the high 8’s but when I made the turn for the 1.5 miles back to the finish, I had some extra pep in my step and ran it in as fast as I could without killing myself (which ended up only being an 8:30 pace). I ran down the finish chute, excited that I had a great bike and that I finished the run in under 2 hours (why I can’t run even remotely close or even 10 minutes slower than my half marathon times, really really annoys me) and was just very happy with how the day went, even with the rough swim.

Once I finished I found out that I had a 1ish minute PR! The course I PR’d on was an easier course (a local one that had much shorter transitions and a very flat swim) so I was super happy. I went back to transition to get my bike and gear, and headed back to the car to check my phone and change clothes. I checked the official results and was 14th in my age group, I knew my time wasn’t competitive enough for top 5, but … you never know. Since I figured 70.3 Worlds slots wouldn’t roll down that far, I packed up the car and started the drive back to STL, as the six hour drive was going to be rough as is, and waiting around until 4p awards (it was 12:30 by the time I got back to my car) was going to make for way too long of a day.

I really enjoyed this race much more the second time, being fitter and having more race experience definitely added to the enjoyment, the cooler temps helped too! I am also thrilled to have knocked 30ish minutes off my time from 2016. I’m not sure what races I will do next year, but this one I will definitely come back to do again! In the meantime, I brought home enough sand that I will probably keep finding it until I race this one again, lol.

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Queeny Backyard Ultra Race Report

The idea of doing this race started last November when I was looking at races to add along with Ironman Chattanooga and Steelhead 70.3. I was wanting to do another ultra, but since ultra training and IM training don’t go very well together, I would need to either build up running mileage early in the season and do a spring ultra, or take a week off after IM and then have a month or so running build and aim for a late fall/early winter ultra. I finally settled on doing a spring ultra since who knows what condition I’ll be in after IM, and committed to the Queeny Backyard Ultra in early March. What really drew me to the race was that it was a non-technical course, it was 10 minutes from my house and I was really familiar with the course having running it many times for cross-country practice in highschool. Ah memories. However the format, last man standing, I was definitely not familiar with but figured it would be something fun and new to try and would just go into it without too many expectations. Since this wasn’t my A race and I didn’t want to burn out too early in the season, the plan was to get in enough run volume to have fun and go far but nothing crazy. Training included some back to back days with 10/16 mile runs and practicing doing 4 or 5 mile loops with a 10 minute break, as I figured I would finish each loop in 45-50 minutes, so practicing the ‘hanging around’ time in between loops would be helpful.

Training wasn’t off to the best start in January as I got COVID, so I was out for the count for a few days and fatigued for several more. I eventually got some of my longer planned runs in as well as some decent elevation/vert (for me) which was important since the course had about 410ft elevation gain per loop. At the end of my training cycle I felt prepared for a 50k, however in races with this format the strategy is to walk the uphills to save the legs since you have plenty of time to complete each loop, so maybe my legs were capable of 50 miles? Or would the 10-15 minute break between loops make my legs more stiff? I really had no idea what to expect, so I was hoping to run at least 30 miles and anything over 50 would be awesome. Although just in case I packed enough nutrition for 100 miles… because you never know?

Race day arrived and boy was I so excited! It felt like a mini adventure since this was all new to me, and I was certainly packed for an adventure: a canopy tent, a camping chair, a tub of gear (forecast was looking to be warm, but you never know how chilly temps can feel running in the dark), a tub of nutrition, a cooler… just to list some of the things, lol. The race started at noon on Friday, so I was able to get up at my normal time, eat a big pre race breakfast, and then head to the race at 10:30a to set up my tent and gear.

Once I arrived and got everything set up, I picked up my packet and just hung out, feeling a little nervous but surprisingly calm. I think knowing the loop was only 4.2 miles and every loop I could hit the bathroom and hang out at my tent was reassuring. Soon it was time to line up and I headed to the start, but made a fast dash for the bathrooms again, and then was off!

My little setup under my tent
Tent setup from afar 🙂
Pre-Race Photo with Bib, I was really excited but my face apparently didn’t show it! Photo credit: Marcus Janzow

I had my headphones in (just in one ear) and planned to get into a zone and just tick off the laps. However the energy of everyone chatting along the way was so contagious that I wasn’t ready to go into a ‘zone’ quite yet. Many of the runners were happily chatting away and making new friends, so I just listened to everyone talking and enjoyed being outside and the sunny nice weather. Before I knew it, I was done with the first loop, a little faster than planned, so I had 15 minutes to hang out at my tent. I texted JMR to let him know one loop was done and since I might be back with some time to spare each loop, I was just going to text him every loop 🙂 Soon the three minute whistle was blown so I headed to the start, and then as the minutes counted down we were off for loop two. I had decided to put my headphones away and just ran this loop the same way as the first, enjoying the weather and just being around other chatty happy runners.

I think this was loop 2 or 3. Photo credit: Marcus Janzow

On the third loop, after the first 1/2 mile I ended up with a group of three guys chatting away and somehow ended up in their conversation. After chatting for a while, I learned that they had a similar goal of at least midnight (50 miles) and we were running a similar pace, so I planned to tag along with the three of them for as long as I could. Joining their group was the best decision of the race, we became fast friends, chatting about all kinds of random things and the loops just flew by. We even made up a team name!

Mid Loop (4 or 5?), and feeling good. Photo credit: Marcus Janzow
Running in line with my new friends!

I grabbed my headlamp at the start of loop 6, and was excited (and scared) to turn it on when the sun started setting and run in the dark. Running the loop in the dark definitely felt different, not super scary, but I was happy to have the company of my little group with several headlamps lighting the way. However on loop 9 I fell back from my little group as the first 1/4th mile is a steep downhill and my quads were starting to kill me, so I took it extra extra slow as the pounding was pretty painful. I tried to catch up without success, and then reminded myself that the end the goal was the finish the loop, not keep up with a group, so I carried on at my own pace. That’s how it went for the next two loops, however fortunately I still kept making new friends along the way so I wasn’t alone in the dark for very long stretches at time, which I was very relieved about!

I think this was the end of loop 7 or 8. Photo credit: Marcus Janzow

I finished loop 11 feeling down and out, hating the downhills (my quads!), feeling like my pace was just really starting to slow, and questioning if I would finish the next loop in time. I told JMR I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to start the next loop (he came to support me starting at loop 10 as I was worried that as the loops went on, I would get loopy, ha). He said ‘Come on, you are almost at 50, you’ve got to do one more’. I debated going out again and then told him that I was going back out but I was going to wear my headphones. So off I went with my headphones, hoping they would carry me through my final planned loop. I have no idea why I cared about the headphones, I guess I felt like I was using my last tool to carry me through, so if the headphones didn’t help, this was it… but this was it, the last planned loop. Like I said, I was getting a little loopy.

Our Team gave first bumps at the start (we had been doing this each time) and if we all finished this loop, we were going to make it to midnight! The whistle was blown and off we went, or well, for me, more of a shuffle. I slowly waddled down the big hill, and then something happened about .75 miles in, my legs felt good, I was feeing the music and…I felt good! I chatted with a few people but was mostly just focusing on finishing my last planned loop. As I was about a half mile away from the end of the loop, I thought, ‘why not just do one more loop’ and the idea sounded ok. The decision was made, I was doing another loop. I finished in about 50 minutes, headed back to my tent and told JMR, ‘I’m doing one more loop!’.

Once the three minute whistle blew I headed to the start, and when the final whistle blew I shuffled along. This time the big downhill had me doing loud, huffing, deep breathing techniques to fight the pain as I tried to hobble/walk down it. Once I got to the flatter parts of the loop I noticed I still couldn’t seem to hold a decent pace. I was in a another low and the thought of this being my final loop was the only thing pushing me to get through it. I think I had a few tears during the last .75 miles just wanting to be done since my quads were so angry, right about the same spot where I had decided on the previous loop that I was doing another. It wasn’t in the cards, my brain wasn’t even considering another loop this time. I came in around 51 minutes and told JMR I was done. I started to disassemble our tent and then heard the three minute whistle and remembered I needed to tell the volunteers at the start that I was done.

I headed to the start to withdraw form the race and the two volunteers said ‘What? You are?! You are doing so good! Just do one more loop!’ I hadn’t expected that response and I was like ‘My toenails feel like they are falling off, my husband won’t know if I leave for another loop since I told him we were leaving’. In my head I was like, do I even have enough time to run back and tell JMR before the last whistle blows?!? Should I go for it?! They tried to get me to go, saying there were only two other females left, which gave me more pause, but then I insisted I was done. I reminded myself that the furthest I had trained was 16ish miles and I was already asking a lot of my body, and had some other big races coming up. I hit my goal of at least 50, so I felt like it was time to walk away. I headed back to the tent and we packed up and headed home. That decision haunted me though as soon as I got in the car, however it had been made and there was no going back.

When I got home I left all the stuff in the car (2a isn’t the time for unpacking), showered, cooked and ate an entire frozen pizza and attempted to sleep for a few hours. Once the sun came up I spent the rest of the day in a post-race-hungover-feeling and eating my way through the day, ha.

I would be lying though if I didn’t second guess my decision to quit at 54.6 miles as the second girl quit after loop 13 and the winner won doing 63 miles (14 loops)… could I have done two more loops? Should I have run back to JMR and told him ‘one more loop?’ I woke up early Monday morning in a panic about it! As the days passed and I was further away from that moment I realized that I had made the right call, my goal was just to do a 50k, 50 miles was awesome and anything more was fabulous, and I did that. My recovery hasn’t been terrible, my legs took a week to come around but I’m back to training for the Go! Half Marathon and if I had kept going for more loops that might not be the case today 🙂

Overall I would highly recommend this race. The backyard/loop style format just makes for a really fun race to hang out/run with other competitors, and the 1 hour loop takes the speed ‘factor’ out of it so it feels less competitive. Also Terrain Trail Runners does an awesome job at putting on races, it was incredibly well run and organized. If I can fit it in next year, I will do it, because it was THAT much fun 🙂

I’ll leave you with a picture of Penelope, which is how I felt that Saturday after the race.

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2022, Let’s Try This Again…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted! I had a nice break after IMWI, followed by easy training with a few ‘fun’ races mixed in October and December, and finally started to ramp up training at the end of December. However I came down with some kind of bug (tested negative several times for COVID) that took me out NYE and that weekend. Just when I was feeling better and was ready to put things in full swing with a big swim block in January, I started feeling sick again, this time with a cough and sore throat, and tested positive for COVID on the 5th. It’s 1/24 and I have STILL not been back to the pool. The fatigue from COVID really knocked me out and I could only manage one workout a day, so I picked running or biking since I could do them both from home (I was that tired). I plan to finally make my debut back into the pool on Wednesday though.

It was slow going coming back to training after being sick, but by mid-week last week (two and a half weeks after first symptoms of being sick), I finally felt more like myself. I have a semi-big running race planned for early March, but it’s been up in the air with how my running has felt (not good). This past weekend of training was kind of my go/no-go for that race as it was my first big build for the race. If I could get it done, then the race was still on, if I struggled, then I was ready to just call it and get back to a more balanced swim/bike/run training for my 70.3 in June. Spoiler alert, I got it done!

The original plan was to race/run the Frostbite Series Half-Marathon on Saturday, and then run an easy 12 miles on Sunday, doing loops similar to the race format. I had really wanted to be in racing shape for the half-marathon and see if I could PR, but obviously after getting sick and taking off time/recovery, my body wasn’t there. I had only run 4 times in the past 2.5 weeks since testing positive, two 5-milers, one painful treadmill 10-miler (and that was more for me to ‘prove’ I was better, but it put me on the couch the rest of the day) and a so-so 3-miler the Thursday before the planned race, and pretty much all of them felt terrible.

As I was getting ready for the race Saturday morning, I was thinking about trying to run a conservative pace in 15 degrees temps, IN A RACE (darn my overly-competitive nature), knowing those last three miles were going to hurt because 10 the week before were terrible, and then running 12 the next day… I decided I just wasn’t up for that kind of type 2 fun. I’ve been injured plenty in the past, and felt like this was walking a thin-line as I knew I would probably run the darn race too fast, running a pace I thought wasn’t fast but one my body wasn’t ready for. So, I decided to stay home and run 10 (with some marathon pace miles) on the treadmill. I think I pled my case fairly strongly for missing the half-marathon, but it still stings a little. I did end up running one extra mile (extra easy) just to be a little closer to the planned 13.

Sunday I was up and ready to go, maybe fueled a little by the guilt of skipping the half-marathon. I was on-call for work so I had to be creative and did loops near my house so I wasn’t any further than 15 minutes away (the time we had to respond after getting a call). The pace for this run was just ‘easy’ and focusing on getting in the miles, so that made it easier despite the mental challenge of doing 3 x 4 mile loops. Even though my legs were sore, it wasn’t to terrible and I got the run done just fine. I did get one call, but I was .8 miles from the house (and the end of my run) so I was able to end my run and get to work. I was pretty happy with how both runs went!

So with the race still on (as of now, as long as running continues to feel better), and swimming getting added back into the mix, things are starting to feel a little more normal to me now. I appreciated the required down-time needed to rest and recover (I read SO many books!), but now that my energy is back to normal, I’m more than ready to get back to my usual training routine.

Happy Monday!

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