Beaverhead 55k-Round Two

 

 

above the lakes

When you approach a challenge or something difficult, you either succeed or fail. What if you succeed, call it one of the hardest things you ever done, and then go back again for more punishment? Does that make you crazy, a bad ass, or masochistic? Maybe a little of everything. Maybe you just want to see change, so you try again. Introducing Beaverhead Endurance Run 55k-round two.

2016 was my first full year of running ultra marathons. I had a lot to learn, but I also had a lot of drive to take on the challenge of running long distances over terrain that could be difficult at times. I still stand by my opinion that Beaverhead is one of the toughest races I have ever done. Even though I approached it knowing what I was getting myself into, it does not change the fact that it is a huge challenge.

The race runs mostly along the Continental Divide Trail between Idaho and Montana. It starts at an elevation around 7,500 feet, has consistent climbing for an overall gain of around 6,500 feet, reaches a high point above 10,000 feet, and has a sharp descent at the very end-all of this packed into roughly 34 miles. There are some runnable sections of the course, but the high elevation makes it difficult to breathe efficiently at times. However, a good majority of the trail is technical and rocky, including the daunting 3 miles of scree starting at mile 24.

This year was fun because so many people from my Dirty Soles running group were registered. In preparation, many of them had questions about how to be prepared, so I shared what I remembered and the experiences I had. It was so wonderful to know so many people out there, watch and hear about accomplishments, and also make new friends on the trail.

DCIM103GOPRO
DCIM103GOPRO

The race begins at Lemhi Pass and immediately goes uphill for about 3 miles. Last year, this section seemed long, but this year it wasn’t that bad. I’m not sure if that was experience talking or the fact that I was with Josie and Sheri for the beginning. Once you get through the first aid station, you get some beautiful single track that is easily runnable. Josie and I ran together for a while, but ended up separating somewhere after the second aid station. I knew some big climbs were coming, so I got out my trekking poles, remembering how much they helped me last year.

The biggest difference from last year ended up being the weather. While high mountain weather is generally unpredictable, this years forecast was set to be a hot one which was a concern for many people. What a difference it made! Luckily, there were plenty of leftover snow patches along the course that were a lifesaver in cooling off. I think Jessica and I stopped at nearly all of them to sit down, load up our hats, and put the snow down our shirts. A few times the snow was such a relief of the sore muscles. And yes, we even got to make snow angels in July.

Over the course of the last couple months, Jessica has been fighting with some IT band issues. She already had to drop from the River of No Return 50k back in June, but she was determined to do Beaverhead, as it was one of the races she really had her heart set on. I tried my best to encourage her, and tell her it was mostly uphill until the end. Around the mile 17 there is a short, but steep, downhill. As I started down, knowing she was behind me, I felt bad about forgetting this section.

We had already began some of the really rocky and technical sections. There was a small group of us badass chicks who happened to be sticking pretty close together for a good section of the course. So much of the course last year I was alone, so it was nice to have other people to chat with. I’m pretty sure most of them were first timers, so they kept asking me if this was the scree field yet. Nope! It may have been rocky, but it was just a teaser.

As the race continue on, I was feeling pretty confident that I was doing better than last year. I felt like I was on track to meet the goal of finishing in 12 hours. But, I also knew that the scree field and the intense downhill right after could throw all of that out the window. Jessica and I separated shortly before beginning the scree field. The scree field is the longest, and most mentally challenging 3 miles of your life! It consists of sheer edges, varying sizes of unstable rocks, and not really a defined trail. There is always the question of if a sudden summer storm will hit while you are trying to traverse at (hopefully) a 35 minute/mile pace. This year, I saw the rain coming in. I heard thunder and saw lighting, but luckily I was able to move fast enough to get across before any storm amounted. There were some good gusts of wind, but it was a relief from the heat and exposure. Even though this section is something of nightmares, you can’t beat the views!

Then after you feet hurt and your ankles are sore from rock scrambling, the route turns to an extremely steep downhill. We’re talking a narrow game trail that drops you roughly 1,500 feet in less than a mile! Loose dirt, rocks, and roots are not easy to navigate quickly when your legs are already fatigued. When I reached the last aid station, they had fresh smoothies. With the intense and exposed heat for the last couple hours, that smoothie was one of the best things I’ve ever had!

Only 5.5 miles to the finish. I was at the point where I was exhausted, my legs were heavy, everything hurt, and I just wanted to be done. 12 hours came and went, but I was still better off than last year and I tried to find the energy to push it. The trail had some water run off right away and we got to cross through some streams. One of them I dipped down past my knees because the cool water felt so good. Jessica was able to catch up to me with about a mile or so left. I was so glad to see her and I was also glad her knee was holding up and we would finish together. I found my finish line adrenaline, and ran across the line with a time of 12:51- just over a one hour PR from last year!

Okay, so it wasn’t the first goal, but I can still be happy with that big of an improvement on a really tough course, under difficult weather conditions. I was so proud of all my friends who finished the race despite all of that. I learned there was an overall 47% DNF rate for this year. I stuck around the watch quite a few other people I knew finish, eat food, and relax. I left the race with a mix of pride and exhaustion, as well as some gnarly blisters on my feet.

Throughout the race, myself and a few other runners, were filming with our GoPros. We did pre and post race interviews, and took video along the course. We were part of a group for the Beaverhead Film Project. It is my understanding the race directors intend to compile the video and pictures into a documentary. I’m not sure what the timeline is for completion, but be on the look out at some point, hopefully in the near future.

scree lake

In talking to some of my other runner friends, they often talk about increasing their goals or doing new races, rather than just repeating the same ones again. Part of me understands that, but this year, most of my races have been a repeat of what I did last year. It is nice to have course knowledge, but it is even better to see how I have improved within the last year. So far I am on the trend of some pretty significant PR’s from each race. Let’s hope I can either keep it up or continue to be successful in improving my ability. Up next, Elkhorn Crest 50 in August- my first official 50 miler (53 to be exact).

Happy Trails!

3 for 1

 

 

redfishme

I suppose it’s about time I add another story of the last few months of my running adventures. Last year I tried to be really good about updating the blog after every race, or at least once a month. But since October 2016, I’ve been working on my masters degree. Here’s the thing about grad school…..you read and write A LOT! Between reading, researching, and writing multiple lengthy papers every week, on top of working, doing the single mom thing, and still training for ultras, blog posts just weren’t going to happen. I feel like I barely slept and writing anything more beyond research papers was the last thing I wanted to do.

Which brings me to today….it’s summer and I’m on a short break from school, so I actually have time now! Time to update what’s been on my running calendar for the last few months. We’re going to call this the three for one deal. Get a cup of coffee and get comfortable if you plan to read the whole thing.

We’ll start with the weekend of March 24-25. I was getting ready to embark into unknown territory by doing the Pulse Endurance Run 24 hour race. I did the 12 hour version last year, when it was called Pickled Feet. I managed 44 miles then so I gave myself a goal of 80 miles for 24 hours. Most people look at this race and are not only shocked by the times, but think running 2.5 mile loops for that amount time sounds awful. It’s really not. This race is an opportunity to test your limits with plenty of support and no required distance goals other than what you put on yourself.

PERsunset

We started Friday night at 6pm. I had a plan: run easily until I hit the 50k mark, take a short nap when it was already dark, wake up to be moving before the 12 hour people started at 6am. The people running the 48 hour and the 100 mile were already out there, so I had plenty of people to talk to. I talked with Stephanie, Lindsey, Ryan, Drew, Jose, and Jeff. I hit 50k around 2am. I was feeling good and almost felt a little guilty for stopping for a break so early, but I could feel myself losing focus and knew a short nap would be good. With a high river, the course had to be changed from the original due to flooding, but for the most part the puddles elsewhere were easy to avoid. It had also rained so I changed into dry clothes and slept for a couple of hours in my car. I woke up and was back on the route around 4:30am. Even if my nap was short, it made a world of difference!

Back on the course, I got around a few more times before the 12 hour people started. Josie and Lexie showed up all smiles! The puddles were getting wider and it was becoming more difficult to stay dry. It eventually became easier to just go right through the water. The nice thing about this race is that once you hit the halfway mark, you can have a pacer. Shortly after 6am, Karl showed up. I think the loops were boring for him, but he tromped through the water multiple times with me and listened to me complain. It was nice to have him there to celebrate reaching the uncharted territory beyond 45 miles. The water eventually got to be too much, so Holly did a mid-race course change, which I was so thankful for. I ran one more loop to get most of the water out, and then changed into dry socks and shoes.

Karl left sometime early afternoon. I ran a couple more loops alone, and Jessica showed up to pace me for the afternoon. That girl is seriously the best pacer! She ran the speed I could manage, but learned my run/walk interval sections on the course, and forced me to run when it was time. I lost count of how many times I told her I hated her, but she knew I wasn’t serious. She ignored my whining, and kept me talking and laughing. I think she was with me for something around 17 miles total. At noon, the 6 hour racers showed up so we had new people to talk to.

Once I hit the 100k mark, I started doing the math and realized my goal of 80 miles likely wasn’t going to happen with how I was feeling. I adjusted it down to 70 miles. In the last hour of the race, they open up a loop that is 1/4 mile so you can rack up as many miles at the end. Only completed loops count, and I came around my last big loop with just over 71 miles so I decided to wait for the short option. My OCD wouldn’t allow me finish on a weird number like 71, so I took off. I’m not sure where my speed and adrenaline came from, and I think Jessica was surprised I was running that fast at the end. I ran until I hit 75 to make my OCD happy, but stopped with about 20 minutes left, knowing I wouldn’t make it to 80 miles. I’ve never known exhaustion like that which comes from that time and distance, but it was a huge and new accomplishment for me. Who knows, maybe I’ll tackle the 48 hour next year?

That brings us to late April and the Weiser River 50k, just four weeks later. I ran this race last year, but had some overtraining issues and knee pain forced me to walk the last 10 miles of it. I worked on cross training a little more this year and didn’t push too hard on distance training. I road tripped and camped the night before with Josie and Michelle, and we laughed until our stomachs hurt! It was so much fun! There was also a good group of people running, so it was fun to see everyone. We got lucky with some beautiful weather. A chilly start, but clear skies that warmed up as the day went on.

Stephanie, Donna, and a few others opted for the early start. Some minor course changes had to be made because of trail conditions. Last year, it started with a mile out and back, but that was cut down and a mile out and back was tacked on to the finish. Jessica stayed with me the whole time and we kept a nice steady pace. We shared stories and we both felt good the entire race. We passed Kelli, Jodi, and Bob, chatted for a bit and took off. We ran with Otto for quite a while and passed Stephanie around mile 22. Close to the last aid station we ran into Todd who wasn’t feeling too good. We tried to get him to run with us, but he only could a short period of time. My knee was holding up, so I was really excited about that. On the stretch towards the finish, we came up behind Albert. We thought it would be funny to sneak up on him. I watched him drop his pack, and thought that was a good plan, so I took mine off and handed it to Ryan as I passed him cheering people on. Right as we were heading to the out and back, Jessica and I casually ran past Albert with a “Hi” and took off. He was not going to let the girls pass him right at the end, so it became a race- as much of a race as you can muster after 29 miles. All the way out, he was very close behind us, but Jessica and I kept out wheels turning and ran all the way through the finish. My finishing time 5:47 and a huge PR as compared to last years 7:20.

Training in between all of this and the upcoming second attempt at the River of No Return 50k consisted of runs up at Bogus Basin, steep climbs up the Wet Foot Trail, and a last minute half marathon at Redfish Lake. I also made sure to continue the occasional biking to strengthen my knees.

Fast forward to this past weekend- June 17th: another road trip to Challis, Idaho for RONR. Josie, Stephanie, and I carpooled and it turned into a caravan with David, Eric, and Jesus. All of us were running the 50k except David being the brave one doing the 108k. Between snow and high water, that course looked brutal! The start time became earlier and even still nearly half of the people ended up dropping out. Those of us on the 50k course still had our elevation challenges but the snow was minimal.

Going into this race with familiarity of the course, I felt confident and I knew where I could push it and where I needed to conserve my energy. The views on this course are indescribable! Every time you turn a corner or come to the top of a big climb, you look around and are just in awe that places like this are real. For that very reason, this race will always be high on my list of favorites!

My goal was to simply do better than last year and not have any knee pain. I was going for a time of 7:30. Josie and I started together, but she lost me for a bit on the first climb up. I ended up pretty close with Serrah and we chatted for a while. Towards the top I caught up to Josie and Stephanie again and we spent quite a while trading off chasing each other. For many miles down into the Bayhorse aid station, Josie and I were together and leap frogged with Stephanie and Brett.

While this course has a lot of tough hills, the climb back up from Bayhorse has got to the worst! 3.5 and probably at least 2,000 feet. You would be climbing efficiently, get a tease of flat, but there was another hill right ahead. It seems like the hills just never ended! We were doing 20 minute miles and my hamstrings were not happy. We made it back to the Keystone aid station and I knew the rest of the race was downhill from there. This was where my knee started to give out last year, but this time I was still feeling good.

Downhill and lots of rocks made it a little technical, so I didn’t take any pictures here, but again we had some amazing things to look at. At the bottom on this hill, you start heading towards the finish. First you are a dirt road, but then you’re running on pavement which does not feel good after that many miles, but I also knew we were close to being done. I think Josie and I were holding a 9-10 minute pace, which I call pretty decent with the way our legs felt. We turned the corner into the park and ran towards the finish line. I snagged a 7:28 and Josie was right behind me with 7:29. I got my PR and goal and Josie accomplished a huge feat for her first time tackling RONR.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out in the park with friends, watching everyone else finish. My friend Joe fought through piriformis pain, but still finished his first ultra marathon. We watched David come through on the 108k course earning himself 6th overall. There were lots of talks about me and some other people attempting the 108k next year. I’m not going to promise anything, because I know it’s a brutal course even under good conditions. I won’t say no just yet, but I need to focus on the rest of my goals for 2017.

Up next- my second attempt at the Beaverhead 55k here in a few weeks.  Hopefully, I can continue to train smart and use last year’s experience as my learning curve to snag another PR. I will be back into grad classes by then but I will try to be more timely about that update.

Happy Trails!

Recap 2016 & Move into 2017

I am sure, much like many other people, the New Year is a time to reflect on the past and look forward to what is next. I set some pretty high goals for myself for 2016. At the beginning of the year, I would say I was still relatively new with trail running. It had only been a year since my first trail run, but I was learning quickly that I loved it! I have this insatiable hunger for adventure, and 2016 definitely did not disappoint! I want to recap month by month some of my favorite adventures. Some pictures and stories I’ve shared before, but this will be the year as a whole.

winterfoothills2January– I was getting braver when it came to snow running, and I was able to climb to the top of Cervidae Peak for the first time and the snow covered hills were beautiful!

 

 

February– I ran the Moab Red Hot 33k and also got to run through Arches National Park. The scenery was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and it was a really fun race-cation.

March– My family vacation gave me the opportunity to check off my bucket list a run in the grandcanyonGrand Canyon. I didn’t get all the way to the bottom, but that could happen on another trip in the future. I also ran my longest distance thus far during the 12 hour Pickled Feet race. I made just over 44 miles!

 

 

IMG_1932-(ZF-2711-41523-1-001) April– My favorite trail sister, Stephanie, talked me into running the Weiser River 50k. It was rainy and cold, and I experienced some knee pain in the late miles, but we still had a great time.

 

 

tutu16

 

May– I still mix in some road running occasionally, and I got myself a new 10k PR of 54:00 at the Tutu Run  which earned me a first place age group award.

 

 

 

 

June– This was the beginning to a fun summer! It started with the Sawtooth Relay with a bunch of friends. There was also other Sawtooth adventures that were just beautiful! I ran the River of No Return 50k which had some amazing views! I highly recommend this race and I probably would even do it again. Despite having knee pain again in the later miles, I finished in under 8 hours.

July– By far my favorite month of adventures! It started with the Beaverhead 55k which was so mentally taxing and my longest time on my feet at just under 14 hours. As hard as it was, I’m going back for 2017. I also was lucky enough to get over to Colorado with the Pearl Izumi group. We had an amazing couple of days of running, product education, and food. At the end of the month, I convinced Karl to do an adventure weekend with me that included a 10 mile trail run to Sawtooth Lake which was incredibly beautiful. The following day we summited Mount Borah-the highest peak in Idaho. It was amazing and scary at the same time, but I’m so glad I did it.

August– I can’t say enough good things about my Pulse Dirty Soles friends. They have made such a positive impact on my running life this year. We had many adventures and some great training runs to prepare for Resort to Rock 60k. This race was challenging, but still pretty awesome.

September– My daughter and my mom ran their first 10k with me and I was so proud of them. I had more Sawtooth adventures including the entire 19 miles of the Alice Lake-Toxaway loop. This is one trail I had been wanting to go on for awhile and it did not disappoint! So many amazing views, lakes, and waterfalls.

October– The beginning of the month, I ran the Foothills Frenzy 50k again and smoked last year’s time by almost two hours! I’m pretty sure, this race will always have a spot on my calendar. At the end of the month, I spontaneously ran the OnWard Shay marathon only because my friend Josie offered me a last minute bib. We didn’t take it seriously and just had fun as it rained the entire time.

November– Ultra season was over, so the plan was a couple a road half marathons. It started with Zeitgeist, just 6 days after the marathon. I got a new PR of 2:02, but I was mad because I’ve never had a sub-2 half and I was so close! I tried again a few weeks later at the Struttin for Stuffin half and crushed it! I finish in 1:54 and got first place in my age group all in some really cold weather! I’m a big fan of the Opt Outside idea in replacement of Black Friday shopping. I got some friends together and we decided to attempt to get up to Observation Peak. The snow and icy river crossings were plenty, but Jessica and I turned around short of the summit because of avalanche conditions, being cold, and timing to get back to the trailhead before dark. November’s adventures coined a phrase amongst my friends: Epic Kari Adventures. I suppose I’m okay being known as the girl who plans awesome ideas!

December– I didn’t have much planned other than maintaining a winter base. I finally caved to peer pressure and signed up for the Wilson Creek Frozen 50k coming up here in a couple of weeks. We’ve had a lot of snow, so training has been difficult. I ran the Ho Ho Hustle 10k with Josie, but my trail miles have not been what I want. Snow running is fun, but it is much harder. Thanks to Holly and other friends, I’ve kept up my endurance and strength through Cyclebar spin classes, but I’ve definitely not confident about how Wilson will turn out. Currently, there is quite a bit of snow out there too, so the goal is to just finish.

cabinview

My goals for 2016 were:

*Qualify for the Idaho Trail Ultra Series by doing 4 ultras-did it! I actually did 6 ultras this year which was crazy, but awesome!

*1,000 running miles -did it! Finished the year with 1,160 just running miles.

*100,000 feet of elevation gain- did it! Finished the year around 134,000 feet

*To get that sub 2 half marathon- did it!

Not only did I have some amazing adventures this year, I definitely improved my running ability, strength, and endurance. I would still call myself an average runner, but I have a crazy amount of passion and determination. My runners heart is still sad a little that Pearl Izumi has taken away their running side, thus my team is over. I still love their brand and will continue to wear their gear and shoes until my stock runs out. Luckily for me, I have a new team to represent. I got chosen to be on the Feed Your Crazy team for 2017. I was introduced to this brand by a PI friend and the concept resonates with me so much. Everyone calls me crazy for the things I do, but as mentioned before, it is fulfilling my need for adventure and challenge. That is what FYC is all about. Running is a huge part of my life. Going out for long distances, intense and beautiful adventures is what makes me happy. So if that is crazy, I’m more than happy to feed it.

I have some races on my schedule already, and I’m sure more will come as the year progresses. I haven’t decided if my mileage and elevation goal should be numbers or if I just want to be better than 2016. As of now, my big goal race for the year will be the Elkhorn 50 in August. All my other races will likely just help in preparation for that. As the year goes on, I’ll keep writing race reports and sharing my adventures. I hope you continue to read and I also hope something I write or pictures I have can be inspiring to someone. Happy Trails!

Trails to Road and Back Again

 

As ultra season winds down to a close, I almost find myself at a loss of what to do. I’ve put forth so much time and effort this year in training and preparing myself to run ultra marathons, that now it seems as though the only thing I have to work for is maintenance. Someone close to me once said “racing gets in the way of training.”  Part of me would agree, but I also know myself as a runner. I know that if I don’t have something to work for, then it’s hard to motivate myself to get out.

Recently, on my race docket was just some road half marathons. I also added grad school to my plate, so I felt as though this would be simple. I remember training for my very first half and feeling like it was very difficult. Now I go out and run that distance with no problem. Being is constant half marathon shape would be a cake walk. I was also ending my 10th season coaching Girls on the Run. I ran the 5k with my 9 year old daughter and the rest of the group on Saturday October 29th. I was very proud of my daughter for keeping up with me and another older girl. She made mama proud finishing her 5k in 27:13 and I was right behind her earning myself a 1st place age group award!

That same Saturday, a friend of mine text me. Here is our conversation:

Josie: “what are you doing tomorrow?”

Me: “Planning to run some trails. You should come with me.”

Josie: “You should run with me instead. I have a free bib to the OnWard Shay race.”

Me: “is it the half or full?”

Josie: “the full”

Me: *thinking*- of course it’s the full marathon! I haven’t run a road marathon is forever! Should I? Is it really a good idea?”

After a lot of deliberation, I agreed to take the bib and just run it with Josie for fun. Who in their right mind runs a full marathon FOR FUN?!? Me, apparently. We decided we would just take it easy and have fun with it. And boy, did we! It rained nearly the entire race, but we just played our music, sang and danced, and didn’t have a care in the world about what time we finished. There was no pressure and I think this is first time I can actually say a road marathon was fun!

Fast forward to the following weekend- Zeitgeist half marathon. This is one of those races that is well known locally for its hills. I had never done it before, but Karl said he does it every year. He convinced me to sign up a couple of months ago and try it out. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I knew I could handle the distance and I had also had my share of challenging hills this year. Knowing Zeitgeist was in my plans made me a bit weary to run a full marathon the weekend before. But I kept falling back to my ultra training-knowing the distance wasn’t an issue. Trail vs. road and recovery could potentially be an issue. I’ve never had a sub-2 hour half marathon, and have hoped I’d get there someday. I didn’t know if it was possible on a course like Zeitgeist, but it was definitely a hope. Six days after a full marathon lessened that hope, but I sure as hell was going to try.

I shook out the soreness of 26.2 miles midweek on one of my early morning 3 mile runs. Once Saturday rolled around, I felt ready to go again. I knew it was rolling hills, but I was still unsure of the course. I figured I’d just start off easy and see where the race took me. The weather was perfect, and a few miles into the race, I felt pretty good. I was keeping a decent pace. I walked part of the steeper uphills and made up for it on the downs. I managed my time at aid stations well, kept an eye on my watch, and passed those people who I made my rabbits. I rolled through the mile 10 aid station with a time of 1:30ish. I knew I’d really have to push it to make that sub-2, but I was going for it. Of course, they put a stupid hill at mile 13 when you’re already spent! On the other side of this short little hill was the finish line. I crossed it at 2:02. It is still a half marathon PR for me, but to miss my sub-2 goal by 2 minutes!! It’s hard to describe that  feeling. It is one of disappointment for missing a goal by so little, but also knowing I ran a full marathon six days earlier, so that time on that course was something to be proud of. I’ll keep trying for that elusive sub-2 and perhaps I’ll get it on the next race here in a couple of weeks. That one is flat.

We all know that life throws unexpected twists at us. We all find our own ways to cope and heal when life becomes overwhelming. Some people get depressed and others look to food as sources of comfort. I am someone who needs time alone on the trails to sort through my thoughts. However, wine and writing also help. I couldn’t sleep Saturday night after the race, no matter how tired I was, physically and emotionally. I found myself awake at 4am, begging to go back to sleep, but unable. I decided to get myself up, drive to the mountains, and go for a solo sunrise run. It was still dark when I started. My legs were heavy, but I knew I needed the trails. I got to a higher, open spot, just as the sun was peeking through the trees. It was beautiful. I was wishing someone else was with me, but I also knew being alone was the best thing for me at that moment. I made it to about mile 6 before I just had to sit in the dirt and cry. The tears were not ones of anger, but ones of loss.

DCIM103GOPRO

Without getting too personal, all I will say is that there have been some emotional changes with someone I cared for very deeply. I have to keep reminding myself that things in life don’t always go as planned or hoped. I’ve experienced this more than once in my lifetime, but each time it is under different circumstances. It is natural to question why, but you cannot always find the answer. Maybe there isn’t one. Or maybe I just haven’t found it yet. That is part of healing your heart. As cliché as it is, they say time heals all wounds. I really am okay; I just haven’t had enough time yet.

Only a runner understands how therapeutic trails and mountains can be. I’ve always said that the mountains are my happy place. Many times they have also become my comfort and my stress relief. I have seen some amazing places that you can only get to on foot, and I am nowhere near finished with adventures. Finding new places to explore is what I need to be satisfied. Lucky for me, I have places close to home to venture to, as well as wonderful friends willing to go with me. There are times for solitude on the trails and other times where you need the company of people you love.

DCIM103GOPRO

After my upcoming half marathon on Thanksgiving Day, my race calendar will be empty for the first time in a long time. I’ll need to fix that. I’m feeling the pressure from my friends to sign up for the Wilson Creek Frozen 50k in January. I haven’t officially decided yet, but we all know how hard it is to talk me into a race. For now, my focus in life continues to be taking care of my children, grad school, and maintaining at least some form of a winter base. There will still be running, but I have yet to know what races will come in the near future.Until then, happy trails!

 

 

 

 

 

 

River of No Return

RONR

When I set out on the journey of doing ultra marathons this year, I had mixed feelings. There was a combination of nervousness for something so big, and an excitement for something new. I knew training for all these ultras would be a big commitment, but I’ve never been one to back down on a challenge. I went from being a beginner just a few years ago, to being in a constant state of half marathon shape. After a few full marathons and then falling in love with trail running, ultras just seemed like the next step. Here is my account of my latest adventure.

Saturday June 18th, 2016 was the River of No Return Endurance Run taking place in Challis, Idaho. I was running my fourth ultra, but third official 50k. My friend Eric was running the 108k and he offered a place a sleep in his camper, so we drove together. He ran the 50k last year so he was able to offer me some insight of the course. There were plenty of other runners I knew at this event and it was nice to see familiar faces. I have to admit some of these other amazing runners intimidate me a little, but one of my favorite things about the trail running community is how encouraging everyone is regardless of experience.

I woke up the next morning about the same time Eric did, so I could go out to the start to watch the 108kers take off. I spent the next hour casually getting ready and chatting with other 50kers before our 6:30am start. I was confident in my training but I knew this race would be difficult because of the terrain. The first two miles were on ATV road through the town before we cut into a park and headed up the trails. In the pre-race meeting the night before, there was lots of talk about it being cold, but I ditched my sleeves before mile two. I think the cold warning was more directed at the 108k runners who could potentially be out until dark. The hills started right away and they were no joke! The consistent climb started about mile four and kept going up through switchbacks and a few other long stretches until mile 12. That was the high point on the course at roughly 8,400 feet.

After leaving that aid station, we started the sharp descent down four miles to Bayhorse. This ended up being really fun, because I love running downhill and I had some good tunes on, so there might have been a little bit of run dancing. It was nice seeing familiar faces on the way down and the views were beautiful! I knew this upcoming aid station was not only the half way point, but also the cut off and I was way ahead of that. This race had the best aid stations! The Bayhorse aid station was mile 16 and it was getting really hot. One of the volunteers took a sponge and soaked my back in cold water. It felt so good! I also had a drop bag at this point, so I was able to ditch my gloves and sleeves from earlier in the morning. The only problem with coming down a fun hill is that now we had to turn around and go back up! Back up slowly (20 minute miles!) for four miles and roughly 2,000 feet of climb! On the way up I was able to talk with nearby runners and also ran into my friend Bertha who was having a tough time with her calf. I gave her some ibuprofen I had and told her she could get in my drop bag for some KT tape.

I got back up to the Keystone aid station, which was mile 20 now and suddenly my knee started hurting. It was similar, though not as intense, to what happened to me at the Weiser River 50k in April. That time is was my right knee and caused me to hobble the last 5 miles of the course. This time is was my left knee and I knew the last 10 miles were downhill. I didn’t want this to cause me a problem for potentially finishing the race again. I asked at the aid station if they had KT tape. I did….4 miles down the hill I just came up in my drop bag! Luckily, another runner had some. Unfortunately, because of sweat and sunscreen the tape did not want to stay. I did what I could, and it helped a little, but I just had to take it off by mile 25. I tried to run as much as I could, but it wasn’t fast. The last six miles of the race were on the road and it was pretty hard on my knee, added to the fact that you just get exhausted by this point in a 50k. The last aid station was again, awesome, with a cold towel on my head and probably the best Otter Pop ever!

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I had to keep pushing through for the last few miles. I still had some great scenery and I was chasing down a goal. Going into this race, knowing the elevation would be tough, I just wanted to finish in under nine hours. Tired, hot, and in pain, I crossed the finish line with an official time of 7:51. My two previous 50k’s were very different courses, so it was hard to predict a finishing time. To beat my hoped time by over an hour, I was so excited! We got a really nice Saucony jacket and a rock with a paw print on it as our finishers awards. I’m a self-proclaimed bling whore (I like medals), but one of my favorite things about ultras are the unique awards.

The bonus about Eric bringing his trailer, is that I got a shower! So after cleaning up, food, and a few beers, I was feeling much better. My knee was still tender, but there wasn’t much I could do about it yet. I sat around at the park talking with friends and watching other runners finish. I also wanted to wait for Eric to finish his 108k. It was getting late and cold. I was tired and most other people had gone to bed. I wanted to be there for my friend so I kept waiting. I had a few people to talk to, and Eric finished around 2:30am. Over 21 hours out on the trails! He was beyond exhausted, but he had a lot to be proud of for sticking with it! I was impressed by his determination. It didn’t take long for both of us to crash after.

We drove home after breakfast the next morning. Sitting in a truck for 4+ hours the day after a race is not the best recovery. The following days I was really sore! More sore than I am when I do my back to back weekends! I took it pretty easy for a few days, and I also needed to figure out my knee problem. It was feeling a little better, but I couldn’t take the chance it would cause me more problems in my next race, so I went to get an evaluation from the physical therapist. They determined I had patellafemoral, where my knee cap moves lateral and gets inflamed during long runs like a 50k. They gave me some exercises to do and wanted me to come in for a mess of treatments. It was going to be really expensive, so I had to cut back to just enough to get me through my next ultra in three weeks. My plan is to see how it goes in that race, and then decide what to do. I’ve already had my first treatment. They are helping me with some stretches and strength exercises, as well as scraping my knee to break up scar tissue. It feels so good and I really hope it helps.

I still consider myself relatively new to the trail running/ultra community, but I can’t say enough positive things about the wonderful people I’ve met in the last year because of this sport. Whether I see these people regularly or only occasionally, I consider them some of the best and most encouraging friends I have. I spent this past weekend running my last back to back  before Beaverhead 55k coming up on July 9th. There was a group run for 8 miles on Saturday and 17 miles with Stephanie and Maricela on Sunday. I’m back to tapering, but looking forward to the next challenge. As always, thanks for reading and happy trails!

Marathon Reflections

I really had the best intentions to write a reflection right after finishing my marathon, but life got in the way as usual. In the last couple weeks since my race, I’ve had a lot of thoughts go through my head about my running journey. It’s a little crazy to think that I have successfully completed 2 full marathons!! I did it, not once, but twice! And I didn’t die!

When I began running, I struggled to do 1 mile without stopping. I would have never thought I’d be able to call myself a marathoner! I slowly increased to 5k’s and eventually 10k’s. I can very clearly still remember signing up for my first half marathon and the anxiety I felt at that starting line. Now I register for halves without batting an eyelash. In the words of my boyfriend “I eat half marathons for breakfast”. My runners heart is most satisfied with double digit distances, which is something I’m very proud of. With two marathons under my belt and upcoming ultra races, I’m in the mental state of feeling both accomplished and anxious for the challenge of the ultra. More to come on that in the future.

Here’s the recap on race day: In my last post I made a comment about how calm I was prior to race day. Even the night before and the morning of, I wasn’t stressing. The only thing I was worried about was having all my things and getting there on time. Even after making a list and double checking, what is the one thing I forgot at home? My race bib! Of all things, that is an important piece, something only my forgetful self would do! I had some choice words when I realized. Luckily, they were able to transfer me to another number.

I have some really awesome friends. Megan dragged herself out of bed super early to drive me the race and volunteer at an aid station. Joey, Lori, and Eric all spent some hours at aid stations also. It was awesome to have people I knew there with a smiling and cheering me and other runners on. You are all appreciated and I personally thank you for the smiles and encouragement you offered.

The morning was a great race temperature. A little chilly, but not miserable. My hopes were high that the rain and wind that was forecasted would wait. My weakness in racing is going out too fast. My adrenaline is pumping and I struggle to make myself slow down. Mile 1 was less than 9 minutes, which never happens in training! Most of my miles were around 9:30-10:00 and I think I averaged a 10:30ish pace. Around mile 15, the rain began and gusts of wind started up. The rain and wind would come and go the rest of the race. However, when I turned the corner for the final two miles, it was spitting rain in my face and an awful headwind. Not to mention running past sprinklers and getting even more wet! But I kept on running. I climbed the small hill for the last quarter mile and at the finish line was my friends and my boyfriend cheering! Best. Feeling Ever!

Because this was a smaller race, I ran alone for most of it. A few times, I ran with a few different people. We’d pace each other for awhile, chat a little, and then one of us would run on. It was nice to see them see them at the finish line and be able to share that runners comraderie even thought we never exchanged names. Finishing any race I get an awesome feeling of accomplishment, but even more so when I get a PR! I’ve raced enough that they don’t happen very often. I had hoped for a time of 4:30, but the weather might have played a role in missing that. But I can still be happy with a time of 4:39- a PR by 12 minutes which is a lifetime in running!

The race company gets volunteer photographers, and race pictures are free. This is usually really nice, but not so much whenlakelowell there are no pictures of you. Luckily my boyfriend took a few at the finish line, but from an angle. The company I do most of my races through is Final Kick Events. Recently they changed to giving medals for all distances and much better quality. The medal I got from this marathon is by far the biggest one I have yet! It’s 5 inches in diameter and has stained glass as the background sky! medal

For two days after the race, my legs were pretty sore, as expected. I took most of the week off, but it didn’t take me long to feel ready to run again. To date, I haven’t done anything too major, but I’ve been enjoying hiking with my family and running with the team I coach for GOTR. Up next is the busy month of May with 4 races.

Sole Mates

Here I am, just 10 weeks away from my marathon. Training is coming along pretty well, but I don’t feel like I am increasing my mileage as much as I should. Although that should hopefully change within the next few weeks. I’m grateful that the last couple weeks have been mostly pain-free. As painful as my Astym treatment has been, hopefully it’s working.

At this point in my life, I want, but do not have time for, a dog. I need that running partner who is ready whenever, and let’s be honest, as a female, usually running alone, it would be nice to have the dog factor to deter any creepers. Luckily, I know someone who has the kind of dog I want so she has been letting me “borrow” her for my long runs the last couple weekends. This dog is built for running and needs to run, so I think we’re a match made in heaven. This is Hannah and she just might be the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen!

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On another note, in recent years I was heavily involved as a coach in a program called Girls on the Run. If you are not familiar, Girls on the Run is a non-profit program for 3rd-5th grade girls. We teach the girls lessons on standing up to peer pressure, not gossiping, and not bullying. We work on giving them the social and emotional skills to be a healthy and positive young woman. There is a fall and spring season, each one 9-10 weeks long. In addition to the lessons, we train the girls to run a 5k. Much of this program relies on donations and scholarships so that girls whose families cannot afford it are still able to participate.

Unfortunately, my job this year made me unable to coach, so I’ve decided to sign up as a Sole Mate instead. Sole Mates is the fundraising leg of GOTR. The idea behind Sole Mates is to raise money for the programs scholarship fund during training for any athletic event. My goal is simply $110, which would cover registration for one girl. Now if I can raise more, that would be fantastic! My marathon is April 11th, but I have until May 2, 2015 to raise the money.

If you’re feeling generous, or are able to donate, any amount would be much appreciated. The link for my donation page is below. You can select pre-set amounts or any other amount you can afford. This program means so much to my little runner (and teacher) heart!

Fundraising page: http://www.imathlete.com/donate/KariPorter

To learn more about Girls on the Run: http://gotr.org/

Wilson Creek Trails

WC canyonOn Saturday January 17th, I ran my first official trail race as part of the Wilson Creek Frozen 50k in Marsing, Idaho. Now I only did the 10.8 mile course which conveniently fit nicely into my training plan, but they had multiple distance options. I’m going to call this my first trail run, even though I’ve done Robie Creek and that race is partially on a trail. Robie Creek is in a category all by herself!

This was the first time running near Wilson Creek and it was a blast! The weather days prior had been rainy and warm for winter, so I assumed the trail would be muddy. Luckily, the first 5 miles were frozen single track. The views were incredible! The mountains with a little bit snow on top and the sunrise coming up over some low hanging fog. Around mile 4, you come to the top of a hill and it opens up into this canyon with little Wilson Creek flowing at the bottom. I had to stop and take a couple of pictures. There was a pretty good climb around mile 5, but it was so fun jumping over rocks and running switchbacks. It didn’t start to get slippery until mile 8 which is shaded on the back side of the mountain. It was starting to warm up and the last 2 miles were sloppy mud. I nearly fell more than once. My shoes got trashed, but it was still so much fun!

When the trails dry out, I’d like to go back out there and run it again. Wilson Creek is a hunting and shooting area, so how fitting (and funny) that the finishers “medals” were none other than a shot-gun shell casing hanging on a piece of twine. That’s probably the most unique award I’ll have in my collection.

Trail running is so much different from road racing. There’s better views, different terrain, and less monotony. Note to self: do more trail running!

The Plague of Plantar

Back in September 2013 during training for my first marathon, I was hit suddenly with plantar fasciitis. If you’re unaware, the plantar fascia is the thick band of tissue running from the calf, down the bottom of the foot connecting the heel and toes. Plantar fasciitis is a very common overuse injury in runners. The fascia gets inflamed and micro-tears try to heal and turn into scar tissue. Painful!!

Like most runners, I didn’t go to a doctor because I was afraid he’d tell me to stop running. I had done a lot of research on at home treatments, so I decided to try to fix it on my own. I tried anything and everything, including taking a month off of training, and luckily was still able to successfully complete my marathon. Since then, I’ve been careful about any trainings I’ve done and do my best to remember to stretch, ice, and roll my foot on a golf ball after those long distances.

After a recommendation from a friend who manages a sports physical therapy clinic, I did a few rounds of a treatment called Astym. Basically, the therapist uses hard plastic tools and scrapes your legs and feet to break up scar tissue and encourage the fascia to lay down the proper way. Once again, painful!! Extremely painful during the treatment, but it feels like heaven afterwards. And they actually want you to keep running!

My feet felt pretty good up until recently when I started to increase my distances and frequency for marathon training again. The pain is not enough to make me stop, but it is annoying. So nearly a year after my first marathon, I’ve gone back to PT for more Astym. I’m hoping I can use it as preventative treatment before the pain gets any worse. This time around, I can’t afford to take time off of running.

I have a passion for this sport and I don’t give up easily on a goal. These damn marathons might destroy my feet, but I will keep going.