Pick Your Poison 25km 2014

Dan

Every busy schedule needs some respite. In years past that rest has been in the form of breaks from running, however the past 6 months we have been more than a little preoccupied preparing for next big adventure (read www.jfdioverland.com) so running has actually become the break, the pro of this is that any long run feels like a treat, the con is that I have turned into a rolly Polly tub of lard trundling down the trails.

So with the stress of condo rental, insurance, truck mods, route planning, and what bloody social media outlet is the most engaging and interesting for people, oh and not to mention how to pack my personal gear into a 62L tote, put to one side for the weekend (well a Saturday morning) it is time for my first race of the season, Pick Your Poison.

This is how I found myself driving a motley crew of Cam, Mitch, Ben and myself to Horseshoe ——- with Geoff meeting us there. We arrived to find the hill shrouded in fog and still covered in snow, conditions obviously weren’t going to be quite as conducive to a fast run as they were last year, that combined with getting fat over a cold ass winter and all reasons/excuses for not getting a PB were in place. Now don’t be thinking that this is one of those under dog stories where at the end I triumphantly dip at the line to shave a second off last years time, I didn’t, in fact I added several hundred seconds to last year. Ok there, that is out of the way, so I can continue and any of you reading won’t have false expectations.

It was great seeing all our trail buddies coming out of hibernation, it was unfortunate that Heather had to work, however Mitch and Geoff were keeping me suitably entertained. Mitch had decided to throw down the gauntlet and declare that he would be pipping Geoff to the finish on this day, Mitch is an aspiring ultra runner, where Geoff is much more of an ultra veteran, still I thought this may be an entertaining dual as Mitch has been training hard in preparation for Sulpher 50k his first ultra. Geoff was a little taken a back by the challenge but more than happy to take up this whipper snappers challenge.

The race started at pretty gentle pace, the trails certainly were going to be challenging. I got to catch up with a few more friends on that first loop. Just after the first aid station I decided to look back and see how the Mitch-Geoff battle was shaping up, I saw Geoff was a minute or so behind me so I waited for him to catch up, we chatted for a while and established that Mitch was just behind. Mitch caught up and we cruised together for a while with me chastising Geoff for his decision to sign up for a Tough Mudder. Near the end of the first lap I pulled away from the boys on some long up hills.

At the start of the second loop I was going to wait for the guys and run some more with them and watch their battle unfold, but at the first aid station I got talking to a girl I had been running just behind during loop 1, and we ran together for half of that second loop having a good old natter so time just flew by. The only slight hiccup of our time running together came when we were taking about work life balance, as the word balance left her lips she tripped and hit the deck hard, fortunately the irony did not escape her and we had a good laugh about it after she had dusted herself down. I had put some distance between myself and the boys but had been able to catch glimpses of them as the trails switched back and forth. I saw that Geoff had built a lead over Mitch but couldn’t really tell by how much.

The trails were enormous fun, I actually really enjoyed all the slipping and sliding, then to cap off a great race I got lapped by a 50k runner a couple of minutes from the finish, not normally a bonus, but it was Simon Donato from the TV show Boundless, we had a brief chat and I was a little star struck.

I happily collected my socks and settled in to wait for the boys battle to pan out. To my surprise Geoff game blasting in just a few mins later, he must have turned on the afterburners in the later half of that last lap. Mitch came in not too long after, but I made sure to be fully changed for when he did just to psych him out, young grasshopper needs the odd slap down. Mitch was delighted however this was only his second time running this distance on the trails and he had taken the better part of an hour off his previous time.

The rest of the morning was spent chowing down on the awesome post race food, and waiting for our 50k friends to finish up.  Shout out to Melanie who took third female in the 50k.

The only low point of the day was the near 3 hours it took to drive home.

Only two more races before we head out on our big trip.

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Batawa Fat Ass Trail Race 2013

This has been our last race of the season for the last 3 years.  And once again it did not disappoint.

Just to re-cap Dan and I spend a lot of time from May – October running on this course (and the trails around it) when we visit the family cottage.  Dan decided to run the 10km race again (watch less, since he forgot it at home) and I opted for the 17.5km distance.  Our friend Mitch was also running the 17.5km and was astounded by the fact that we knew no one at this race-it’s not an ultra so most of the familiar faces and friends we’ve made the last couple of years are absent at this event.

The plan; I didn’t have one.  After my DNF at Mogollon, I hadn’t been doing all that much training.  I wasn’t as bummed about it this time as I was the first, but I kind of felt like running and I needed a break, so yoga and I started hanging out, and then this race snuck up on me.  I’m in the middle of an inspiring fell running book (Feet in the Clouds), so I decided to race like a fell runner, which seems to be – run like hell and hope you can hang on.  Maybe not the best plan, but I had nothing else going for me.

The race started at 10am under very ominous skies that thankfully never developed into any real weather, it was cool but our motley crew still rocked our shorts.

Last race of the season, because a race any later in the year would require long pants.

Last race of the season, because a race any later in the year would require long pants.

The first 500 meters or so there is a little spur around the drive-way/parking lot, I like to boot this bit and get out in front of as many of the hill walkers as possible, it’s too easy to start walking when everyone around you is.  As I started to head up the ski hill, it hit me how little hill running I’ve been doing of late, my legs were burning as were the lungs, but you know what, it was exhilarating.  A little voice in the back of my mind reminded me that I would “pay for this later”, I told that voice to “shut up and let me enjoy this please!?!”.  Finally making it to the top I was sucking wind, but I refused to slow down, I love the single track at the top of the hill, and the decent I’m usually scared of on the backside I just bombed down like I had nothing to lose.

Dan waiting for the start of the 10km

Dan waiting for the start of the 10km

Next section is single track along the bottom of the hill, I settled into a slower pace, mainly because I was getting tired (oops only 3km in!) but I love me a challenge.  I blew through aid the aid station wondering why people wearing CamelBaks were stopping for water, the next section just kind of rolls, it’s part single track and part ATV track, we hit the first “water challenge” about 5km in, I giggled watching people trying to go around.  When this course is wet, there is no going around, so I plowed straight through, receiving a few complaints for “splashing” but hey “I’m on the other side now, come get me!”, yeah never saw them again.  What people need to realise is that even if you make it around the “water challenges” the track following is usually wet and very slippery, your feet will get wet and dirty (I actually heard someone complain about the dirt on their shoes), the track is sort of clay so the kicker is that all the mud sticks to your shoes and your feet feel about 10lbs heavier when you hit the rail trail.   The rail trail is a nice section to open things up so I took the opportunity to scoot by a few people, then back onto ATV track to the bottom of the hill, its single track back up to the top with a few log obstacles thrown in to make sure you’re paying attention.  On my climb back to the top of the hill I had to switch to a hike, I was feeling like I was going to barf, but thought it was still a little too early in the race for that.  I bombed back down the front side of the hill and ran straight up to the water station and stopped for a glass of water, was it me or was it getting warm?  Nausea has a way of messing with your core temperature.  Anyway first 7.5km done in 43:34, now it was time for the 10km section.

Look at that form! Yes, I'm a heel striker and no I'm not trying to change it.

Look at that form! Yes, I’m a heel striker and no I’m not trying to change it.

I love the first 5km, they are pretty flat and I needed that, what I had forgotten about was the water.  Water, water everywhere.  I watched as some people nimbly danced along the edge of the water and the brush, but took my usual route of right through the middle.  To people reading this and thinking about doing this race I should warn you that my way is not necessarily the best way, some of the water sections are deep (past my knee at one) and some are long (so long that there was a real threat of losing my shoe and I seemed to pick up a lot of silt) but I’m not a graceful enough runner to not end up falling in.  First 5km down in 29:39, now to the last 5km, which would see some more hill action.

Mitch has a lovely gait, but I still kicked his butt (I have to while I still have the chance)!

Mitch has a lovely gait, but I still kicked his butt (I have to while I still have the chance)!

There is a small out and back on this section so, there were (10km) runners coming at me as I started out, it’s always interesting to see who will yield to whom on this section, since I was still utilising my run through the water technique I didn’t encounter any of that awkwardness.  As I was running up the hill that “never looks that bad” but somehow always kicks my ass, my old friend from last year caught up to me, Jim, he is probably approaching 60 and so so much faster than me.  He humored me for a bit letting me lead through the fun downhill single track (side note: if it takes two runners screaming at you to let them by, your music is probably too loud, and I don’t mean just for this race, I mean in general), once we hopped the drainage ditch and hit the ATV track he waved good-bye and went back to kicking my butt.  I spent the rest of this section picking off runners who had gone out too hard (apparently I wasn’t the only one doing this) and misleading people through deep puddles of water.  I chatted a bit to a young guy who was running his furthest distance yet, he was happy for some company, it’s weird for me to see people down in such short races, but it’s all perspective, and it was his longest run ever, I told him he should be celebrating, he was going to set a PB, the smile that came across his face when he realised this is why I like running.  We finally popped out onto the last bit of road back to the finish, he of course sprinted away from me (after saying thanks) and I pretended to sprint after him (I still have zero kick) to finish in 1:47:57, good enough for 8th female (and yes there were more than 8 females), not too shabby for an under trained and out of shape ultra runner.

Post race was delicious as usual with chili and cookies, also all you could drink McDonald’s coffee from a coffee truck, which brings me to my next point, man has this race grown!  Nearly 700 participants this year, there is definitely some growing pains happening (mostly that people are being pains and complaining).  The spirit of this race is no frills fun, which is what it delivers, the website makes it very clear that you will be covered in mud (duh, it’s a trail race) and there is an award for “most lost” so no, the course markings are not every 5 feet.  I have no fear that the awesome RD Sandy will keep this race true to its roots and if people are look for a 5 Peaks Race, then that is what they should run.  I for one can’t wait to see what next year will bring.

Mec 10km Race Report 2013

Short and sweet.

This race was back in July, Dan and I had planned to run it as a bit of speed work.  MEC offers low cost races 5 times a year, and at $15 for a chip timed event we thought it was worth a try.
Of course Dan would continue his dismal summer of racing by falling and gashing his leg open 2 days before the race, so it was just me and now the race cost $30, hmm the value was disappearing.
Race morning I overslept and just didn’t get going until I realised I had to run to the race start, what was supposed to be a gentle warm-up turned into a 5km mad dash.  I made it to the start line with 6 minutes to spare, just enough time to pick up my chip, figure out how it went on and line-up.
Low key race kit pick up/start and finish

Low key race kit pick up/start and finish

My goal was just to beat my previous 10km PB which was pretty soft at 59:38, that was set in 2011 (link), I haven’t run a 10km race since then.  So as I stood on the start line I was trying to do some math to figure out what pace I needed to run but my math stinks so I decided to aim for 5min/km, that would get me a new PB.  I should probably mention that I hadn’t been doing any specific training for this race, I spend more time doing hill workouts than speed workouts, this course was flat as a pancake so I wasn’t overly confident my training was going to get me a PB.
The race started and my first plan of action was to not start too fast and to safely get around all the people who insist on starting right up front and then walk 10 minutes into the race.  This included passing a 7 year old girl who was already crying at the 1km marker because her and her dad were “losing”, way to set your kid up for success!  First km was a 4:49, I just tried to focus on staying consistent.  The course is a lollipop out and back that you run twice (there was also a 5km option) which was nice as you got see lots of people, there were only about 130 people in the 10km and 160 in the 5km.  I was surprised there was an aid station at such a low key affair and although I didn’t use it many people were.  It was a pleasant day for a run, a little humid but cloudy so we didn’t have the direct sunlight to deal with.
I came into the 5km turn around in 25:32 minutes and decided that there was no way I was going to sub-50 minutes since I never negative split (and there was a surprising head wind on the return portion), but then I thought “why not”, new goal, let’s get uncomfortable and negative split and go for the sub-50 mins.  The course was busier now with all the 5km runners returning, it was fun to cheer people on, although I felt like the only one doing this.  I do like holding something back for the second half, it is fun to fly (at least that’s what it feels like to me) by all the blown up people who went out too fast.  It’s also strange that after 40 minutes the race was almost done, that’s short races for yah (oh yeah and the race was already over for the winners).
With 2km left I really started to push, smiling as I came around the final corner I couldn’t see the finish clock and had no idea how I was doing for time (I had pushed something on my garmin and it was only displaying my average pace and I suck at math…) so imagine my surprise when I crossed the line in 49:50.  I had done it, I actually ran a negative split, I actually ran a sub 50 minute 10km (mediocre yes, but MY mediocre time).
The finish line was, well nothing really, there was some cookies, and bananas and you had to line up and fill your own Dixie cup with water (which I kind of liked).  I did run the 5km home at a much more pedestrian pace since I didn’t have anywhere to be.
I would do one of these events again.  It was well supported for the cost and it was a fun way to get my morning run in with a bit of speed work.
That'd be a PR, with zero training, my favourite kind!

That’d be a PR, with zero training, my favourite kind!

And now a little rant….
I have never seen so many water belts in my life.  Ok it was 5 km or 10 km and yes its the summer, but I would hope that most people had been training for this.  I was alarmed at the number of people I saw with hydration packs.  I’d like to believe that some of those people had done what I did and had run there and were going to run home, but I know that was not the case for some.  I didn’t bring anything with me and only had one Dixie cup of water after the race.  That was plenty.  These companies have certainly done an excellent job of marketing and selling the need for hydration, but I have to say after dealing with Dan’s hypernatremia and making changes myself, I believe we are becoming a waterlogged nation and these short races are proof of it.  People too afraid to run a supported race without their own water.  Plus who wants to run with water if you don’t need to, I’m sure (at least I hope) most of those runners returned to the finish line carrying most of that weight.
Rant over.

Pick Your Poison 50km Race Report

This was the view on the way to our first trail race of the year.

Rain

Needless to say I wasn’t too happy about it. This winter has dragged on, just 5 days ago I went for a morning run in my fleece pants, so I was worried, I just didn’t feel up to being cold and wet for 6 hours.

Thankfully the downpour ended, however running a course that took place on a ski hill meant that we had one last bout of snow running ahead of us.

snow on course

PYP takes place at the Snow Valley Heights Ski resort, we had never run this race before so we didn’t know exactly what to expect other than we would most likely be running up and down ski hills.  The course is a 12.5km loop that you can run once, twice or four times (at one point I really wished that there had been a three loop option).  Dan was running the 25km and I would be taking on the 50km.

The course was fantastic, all on trail, some smooth double track mixed with some sweet hilly single track.  Very well marked, not a single worry about getting lost.  There was 3 aid stations which allowed us to run without a pack or bottles (especially since it was pretty cool out when we started).  My goal for the race was to run consistent, unlike my training, and try to run the same time for each lap and as always, not stop and linger at aid stations.

Lap 1 I ran with Dan and we tried to start out slow, actually I feel like we did a pretty good job of this, we started near the back and stayed calm when we hit the first single track in a big conga line. We opted to run all the slight inclines and walked the steep ones, which there were plenty.  We finished lap 1 around 1:27 (official results are not yet up so this is a guess from our watches) so now I knew what I had to do for the 2nd.

Dan and I started out lap 2 together, I knew Dan would probably take off when we reached some fantastic single track after the 2nd aid station but I was happy to have his company for most of the lap.  Again we ran the small inclines and walked the steep ones, I found walking across the snow covered portions of the trail easier than running, the snow was slippery.  Dan took off when I expected him to and I started talking to a girl who’d been running close to us for while, Carolyn, she was aiming for a sub 6 hour finish so I decided to try and stay with her.  That lap was around 1:27.

Lap 3 I started out on my own but had seen Hutch go by while I was fueling and decided to try and chase him down.  I met Hutch at Limberlost last year, he is a young guy with such an impressive endurance drive, it was great to catch up to him and hear about all of his adventures, he carried on while I stopped to grab some water at the first aid station, the rain had completely moved on and the sun was now making an appearance, it was warming up quick.  I caught back up to Carolyn as we slipped across the now melting snow, we ran the rest of the lap together, she was good for me to run with as I pushed us up the hills and she pushed us down (why don’t I like going down?).  Finished this lap around 1:32.  This was the last I would run with Carolyn as I needed to use the bathroom.  The nice thing about this race is that we got to use the ski chalet, making for a very civilized bathroom experience, the bad thing about this race is that if you needed to go you had to walk a little off course, down some stairs and then back again to get back on course.

The bathroom break killed my momentum.  I started out lap 4 happy with the knowledge it was my last lap, but then I just got tired and had a side stitch.  I forced myself to run the first few kilometers that are nice and flat, as soon as I hit the first incline though I treated myself to a walk, but then I started to get annoyed with myself because I know I could run this section and I knew if I kept walking this lap was going to take forever.  I suddenly felt super out of shape finding every little incline tough and I don’t really know why.  I’m still working on my nutrition so that may have been it, but I was also getting really hot and regretting not having a water bottle with me.  I used the snow on course to my advantage and started putting little snowballs down my shirt and on the back of my neck.  Eventually I caught up to Chris, who I also met at Limberlost and we had a good chat.  He had run 100 miles at Across the Years in Arizona this year and we realised that we knew a few of the same people and shared a love for AZ.  That really seemed to revive me and I eventually pulled away, at this point I hadn’t been passed the whole lap but I noticed a guy slowly reeling me in.  That was all the motivation I needed to keep moving, I resolved to not let him get past me.  He got close and if the loop was any longer he probably would have had me, but I threw myself down the final hill, half running but mostly skiing across the snow and splashing through the water at the finish from all the melting snow.  Final lap took about 1:43.

No medals for this race instead finisher socks.

socks

We also got some honey, which is awesome since I go through honey at an alarming rate.

Honey

Dan even won a door prize, more socks.

more socks

Post race we had burgers and salad which were tasty (most things are after running for more than 6 hours though).  I beat myself up on the car ride home for falling apart on the last lap, but after sleeping on it I feel pretty good about my effort.  I did run pretty consistently, I was unprepared for the heat and my nutrition still needs some tweaking so I’m actually quite pleased with my result.

I’m disappointed about my new shoes though, I really like them but this was the longest distance I’ve done in them and I learnt that they don’t drain water too well, my feet were wrinkly when I removed my socks and I got this;

blister

And I do declare that spring has sprung because I also got this;

sunburn

My first sunburn of the season, a nice base for my farmers tan.

Fat Ass 25km Race Report

It was a beautiful day for our final race of the season…wish I could have said the same for my performance.
We ran the 7.5km distance at the Fat Ass last year, but this year we upped our game and Dan ran the 10km and I decided to tackle the 25km.  After last weekends PB I wasn’t really sure what I had in me.  I only ran once during the week (a short 6km) and that was sluggish, but I hoped that that would lead to light happy legs race morning.  It didn’t.

Pre-race parking lot picture.

Couldn’t have asked for a nicer day for a race though, and I seem to be getting this seeding myself correctly down.  So as we started out on the small road spur (so that we can sort ourselves out) I was a little concerned at the effort I was putting out.  This should have felt easy.  Before I knew it I was at the base of the ski hill, I had to switch to a power hike half way up, I bit of a blow since I ran up and down this hill all summer long.  Once at the top we head into some of my favourite single track and I seemed to settle down and enjoy the view, I couldn’t enjoy for too long though, this beautiful track was now littered with leaves hiding all the rocks and roots.
I felt pretty good as I went through the aid station but then we hit some mud, and it was slippery and somehow sticky at the same time, once past the mud I had to keep stamping my feet and trying to wipe the mud off, it made my shoes feel so heavy.
I came through the first 7.5km loop in about 42 minutes, not too bad but my stomach felt off.  I was totally stupid and decided to try something “new” on race day.  I had actually tried this product before a boxing class and had a similar response but chalked that up to the intensity of boxing that I’m not used to, sadly today I was having the same problem.  The product is called Tailwind and it’s meant to be an endurance fuel that you mix with water and is “easily digested”, unless you are me and then it just sloshes around in your stomach making you feel ill.  As I headed out on the 10km loop of the course there was a group maybe 500 metres ahead of me, I tried to catch up, but between my sloshing tummy and my dead feeling legs, I made the decision to just sit back and enjoy the day.  It was beautiful out, I was on some awesome trails, and it was not going to be my day.

Me still taking things far too seriously after 7.5km.

Once I had made this decision the running felt easier, I laughed at the unexpected water crossing, and started running straight through the mud pits because that was the straightest line.  Yes, I was passed, but everyone was so pleasant that I didn’t really mind.
As I finished up the 10km loop and was heading back out on the 7.5km loop the first 25km finisher came though the finish in 1:49, impressive.   I cheered and headed back up the ski hill, running until I needed to walk, but enjoying myself instead of beating myself up.  My stomach was still sloshing even though I had dumped the Tailwind, but I just embraced my silly mistake for what it was, a silly mistake.
This time the loop didn’t seem so bad, the mud was less slippy but still sticky, and once clear of it I just stopped and cleaned off my shoes, instead of worrying about being passed.  On my last pass through the aid station they told me I was the 3rd place female, I was surprised by this and didn’t really believe it, maybe it should have motivated me to get moving but I was enjoying myself now and couldn’t be bothered.  The nice thing about this race is that you run down a ski hill and through the finish, everyone looks great.

Dan finishing strong.

Turns out I was the 5th female, in 2:32, but I won my age group, which is a first.  It’s weird in a race that I kind of gave up that I placed first in my age group, although there was a 50% chance I could have been 2nd!
I do like this race and it really grew this year, I’m exited to see where Sandy will take this race next year, because whether I have racing legs or not I plan on being there.

There is no medal at this race so you will have to settle for a picture of my bib.

Thanks to Big Sister for coming out to cheer us on and for providing our action shots.