Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

March 30, 2021

Spartan Las Vegas Super and Sprint, March 27-28, 2021

 Masks. Outdoors. Sigh.      Rant over. 

We had the most amazing weather for this race.    Sunny, warm but not hot, calm, did I say sunny?  After camping last week in mostly miserable weather this was great.  Jim and I had the Sprinter van, and we could take a shower behind it after our races and actually feel warm.  Wow.  I'm ready for summer.  

The Super on Saturday was run in perfect conditions.  We took a stroll down the calm Virgin River, which thankfully was not flooding like the last time we raced here.   I scraped across the Olympus Wall by the skin of my teeth, and lost a little skin on my knees there as well.   We didn't have to crawl through a sloppy cow pasture like a past race here, but to punish us for that blessing, the barbed wire crawl was up and down on the hills of the motorcross park, rock hard like gravel.  I gained a few bruises from rolling through it, and a noteworthy gash from the barbed wire on my shoulder that made me look bloody tough.  Ha.  

I wasn't at my best but close enough I suppose, after some drinking and overeating while camping.  I did sort of expect to podium but surprisingly finished 5th....this particular race always seems to pull the best racers from this side of the country...who doesn't want an excuse to go to Las Vegas?   Even if we really were in Mesquite....

Sunday's Sprint was equally great weather, and Jim joined me to do this one.   This time I felt really fast, but still finished 5th to probably the same fast women as yesterday.   But over two days I was very happy to be burpee free.  Now to just figure out how to run faster.  

March 5, 2021

Jacksonville Spartan Super and Sprint, Feb 26-28, 2021

Spartan is back!   

With a few COVID modifications, of course.   

I can't say I miss the dunk wall.  At all.  LOL.

I do think wearing masks outdoors is stupid, of course.   Hopefully the voice of reason breaks through eventually to follow the science.  Which says that there is absolutely ZERO chance of catching a virus outdoors even if you continually cough and sneeze on someone for at least 10 minutes straight.  But whatever, I'm sure Spartan along with every other race series out there has to bend over backwards to the venues to prove that they couldn't possibly be the culprit of spreading even one case of cold virus.  

Jacksonville is my absolute favorite Spartan venue.  The real obstacle on this course is wading through at least a mile total of swamp.   Along with a lot of muddy cow pastures, completely with smelly, fresh cow pies.  

Which made me laugh even more seeing a lonely bottle of hand sanitizer available after each obstacle.  Everyone is basically covered in mud and poop but yet should be worried about a desperate virus clinging innocently to a rail on the monkey bars.  Please.  

I flew in on Friday morning and went almost straight to the venue to race the 10k Night Trail Run.  This course avoided almost all of the swamps and took us on a tour of cow pastures.  We got to watch the sun set and the full moon rise, and soon the lights of headlamps were winding their way around the forest's edge.  I hadn't run at night for a while and really enjoyed this.  I tried to run faster than the mosquitos hanging in the still, 80 degree air.    10k in 1:01:16.  

Back again 12 hours later for the Super, which is another 10k.   The deep swamps were out in full force today, along with all the hardest Spartan obstacles.  Since I hadn't raced a Spartan for a year, I was unsure of my possibilities of success.   But, with no dunk wall, I could keep my hands and gloves dry.  My only fail was the Olympus Wall.  Hate, hate, hate that thing.   Luckily the penalty was a running loop, so no burpees!   

Spartan, for the first time maybe ever, near the end of the course, made us wade through a fairly clean pond, then finished up the course on sand.  I looked almost clean when I crossed the line.   What is up with that?  I also didn't see ANYONE trip in the swamps and do a faceplant.  Sad. 

Finished 3rd in Age Group in 1:26:02.

Jim flew in to do the 5k Sprint with me on Sunday morning.  The worst obstacles were taken out, no Olympus wall.   Yay.  Now to just get the spear throw again.  I hadn't picked up a spear in 7 months at least.  

My heel hurt a little, although my competitors were complaining of aches and pains too.  I determined to stay with my friend Andrea from the start.  We took off quickly and even ran through some of the mud and water sections, which feels like sprinting honestly.   I ran a little at the bucket carry and kept a few women in sight.  At the spear throw, a few others missed (I MADE IT!) and at the plate drag I found myself in the lead.  I truly redlined then, not wanting to give up an inch to the women now chasing me.   I was breathing so hard even the guys started getting out of my way!  

The rope climb right at the end took every ounce of finger strength I had left but yay, 1st place in my Age Group!  I have never done that at any length race but an Ultra.   Felt amazing.  

Some of you have complained that my shorts aren't bright enough to pick me out of a lineup, and have asked that I find something more colorful to wear.  

I'll try.  

It's all fun and games until you lose a shoe in the very first mud hole.



October 25, 2020

Crimson Canyons Ultra 50k, Sep 26, 2020

Eating ice chips out of my bra saved me on this race.    hot.   Hot.  HOT.  

Not many posts this year.   The Crimson Canyons 50k has been on my radar for a couple of years, but it has been getting bumped by the Spartan World Championships.   Thanks to COVID all my Spartan Races got cancelled, and a bunch of other races too.  Thankfully, Crimson Canyons found a way to keep racing, and since they are close to home down in Richfield, Utah, we were happy to finally race again.  

The race course started right from town, and made two loops up into the hills west of the interstate.   Jim was doing the 25k, which was just the second loop, which we found out was the shorter, but more technical loop.    The coolest moment of the day was at the start, but I was almost comfortable in just my sports bra and shorts, which didn't bode well for conditions later in the day.  

The first six miles were perfectly flat.  I love races where I feel like I can get some mileage out of the way quickly.   At mile 4 I found myself leading the women's race!  Now to just hold the lead for another 27 miles...not a problem, right?   I felt great power hiking up the hill on the first loop, and then ran down my favorite trail of the trail, a dry canyon where a couple of us bombed down sandy and rocky washes at full speed.   The first loop was quickly done, and I came in well ahead of any goals I could have made for myself, 15 miles in under 3 hours.   

Back at the START/FINISH/TRANSITION area, I put on my shirt for some sun protection, and grabbed my hiking poles as well as filling up my water bottles with my race mix.    The next five miles would be uphill, hot, dry and slow.  We would be heading through Dairy Canyon, Flat Canyon, and Cathedral Canyon, the iconic sections of the race.  Already thirsty, I quickly realized that my drink mix wasn't working for me.  Too many calories, not enough water, and I couldn't stand the taste of it.  My stomach didn't like it either.  I had changed my formula recently, and swore right then I was going back to the original immediately.   There was nothing I could do for a slow five miles as I picked my way up the canyons.  

The canyons were beautiful, but I was hot and dry and wishing they were over with already.   When I finally reached a flat section, my stomach was sloshing and I still had most of my drink mix left.  I would have loved to puke but couldn't.  Dehydration was setting in, and I was pushing hard at a fast walk.  Finally I could see the aid station.   They had plenty of ice, so I stuffed some down my bra and held a baggie in my hand.   My fatal mistake was sticking with my drink mix.   There was a short loop of 2 miles through Cathedral canyon and then we would come back to the same aid station.  I was still in 1st place leaving the aid station, but in the next two miles. dehydration would slow my pace, and 4 women passed me.   My motivation broke along with the sweat on my brow.   I couldn't even run downhill.  

Finally, back at the aid station, I refilled my bottle with plain water, grabbed a whole can of Coke, and started walking back uphill.   The next few miles would about break me.   The hills were steep like roller coasters, and the heat was intense.   On the other had, the Coke immediately made my stomach feel better.  Amazing how quickly that worked.   But it wasn't enough liquid to keep me going and my water bottle was down to dribbles.  I could barely keep walking, and stopped several times to rest under the infrequent shade of small pine trees.   The ice that I had in my bra and baggies was long reduced to hot water.   I kept enough wits about me to pop my third AltRed capsule of the day, if I couldn't eat anything useful at least I could let Altred give me some extra endurance!  

I staggered into the next aid station and sat in a chair for 20 minutes with a bag of ice and a bottle of water.  I was incapable of moving for a while, or even talking, which I'm not sure had ever happened to me before.   The volunteers were great and put an icy towel on my neck.  

I was thoroughly sick of my hiking poles by then, as trying to carry water bottles as well is hard without a pack.  Either poles AND a pack, or neither one, I concluded.  Doh.  The race director kindly agreed to carry my poles down to the finish as he dropped off some more ice at the aid station, and finally my hands were free to pick ice out of my bra with abandon!  LOL.  

So I grabbed a bag of chips, more ice, and a bottle of water.  I had 6 miles of mostly downhill to the finish.   I could run a little bit, but I was so hot.  I tried to ration my ice chips, but they always seemed to run out too quickly.   I tried to eat a few potato chips, but I had so little saliva that they literally turned to dust in my mouth that I just spit them out.   It wasn't an entirely pleasant last six miles, even with a refill of ice and water from the last aid station.  I ended up finishing in 7:45, when the women who passed me finished about an hour earlier, which I should have been capable of.   I definitely needed to keep on top of my liquids better with temperatures in the 80s.   

Jim was done and showered and relaxing long before I finished, but said the heat got to him as well.  He hadn't brought enough water for the first section through the canyons either.  Luckily he finished about midday, so it wasn't uber hot, and made it around that loop in a faster time than I had!  

Of course, the next day the high temperature was only in the 50s. But by then I was back home recovering.  When I weighed myself the next morning i was still four pounds lighter than normal, and no, you don't lose weight from a long run...that was all water weight as I was still drinking extra water for days.   Hopefully I get a chance to go back and run that course again, I did enjoy it and quite a bit was really runnable.   With 5000 feet of elevation gain it was tough but beautiful.  

Results are here:  Crimson Canyon Ultra 50k/25k

February 20, 2020

Arizona Spartan Super and Sprint, Feb 15-16, 2020

The Arizona race has been on my bucket list of Spartans since I started racing a couple of years ago.  Although I feel lucky to have picked 2020 as my first year to attend...I hear 2019 was really, really, cold...this year, the weather was perfect!

My first Spartan of the year, so the challenge is on to get my Spartan 2020 goal completed quickly...one of every type of race, and one of each podium spot!  Jim just laughs and shakes his head, but the sooner I complete them all, the less races we travel to, and perhaps we will have time for that backpacking trip I've been thinking about for a couple of years....

The Super this year is now a standard 10k, so shorter than ever before.   I figured doing it twice would be good practice for my Ultra coming up in a month.   Of course, race mornings always seem to start in the dark when it's still a little chilly.  I picked up a hitchhiker to bring to the race, a guy named Lance staying in my same hotel.  Getting a ride with me would allow his friends to sleep in a bit longer, and we drove out into the desert with a tinge of pink lighting the sky. 

I always seem to question my life choices when I am waiting at the start line of a Spartan race.  I'm stripped down to shorts and a sports bra, the sun is barely up, temperature is in the mid 40s.   I'm freezing and I know that the dunk wall will come around in just a mile or two.   Yet when I cross the line and start running out near the front of the pack, everything comes back into focus.

This year Spartan is starting the women's age group waves 90 seconds behind the men,  rather than mixed into a whole group.   This gives us a few seconds to eyeball our competition and get a better idea who may be in front.  I'm starting with two age groups as usual, so I play the guessing game.  "Is she in my age group or the next one older?"   I resolve not to let anyone ahead of me since I've been practicing with speed work.

That lasts until we start, and a couple of women shoot off ahead.  I can't catch them running, I'll have to do it on the obstacles.   And all the hard obstacles are here.  I've been lax in my strength workouts for weeks, and just hope that I can muscle through them all.   The dunk wall is absolutely disgusting, with the kind of squishy, sandy mud which gets in my shoes and socks (among other things) and makes running uncomfortable.

Nothing is worse this race, though, though, than the barbed wire crawl.  It is strung low over a rock hard gravelly path, made worse by deep tractor ruts left after the last rain.   I'm forced to roll over and over rather than crawl, so I can feel the bruises forming on my arms and hips rather than my knees.  This is where you have to ignore the pain if you want to win.   I try to remember that near the end of the 100 meters when everything hurts each time I roll over.   Everyone is still damp from the dunk wall, and there are mutters around me of us looking like sugar cookies, referencing the Seals training on the beach by coating themselves in sand.  I spit out some dirt and it doesn't taste like sugar!

The trail itself is a slow, rocky, uneven, hilly desert, with the occasional cactus just intruding into the path.  Passing is difficult and I'm stuck behind slow runners starting ahead of me.   There aren't any women in sight, and I think maybe I've passed them all.   One can only hope.

My race is clean, I don't do any burpees, and in 1:20 I finish the 10k.  It's good enough for second place.   I'm happy with that and will have to push harder tomorrow on the Sprint (5k) to keep up with the woman finishing ahead of me.   But now I have enough time to re-register and run the course again before the podium awards.   It's a fun run, and I take it easy, failing only the Olympus wall which I really hate anyway.  There's no easy way through the barbed wire, though, it hurts a little worse the second time.  And the dunk wall is dirtier!

My favorite photo of the weekend; some random person clawing their way under and through the sludge!
Sunday morning, I pick up Lance again (his friends racing Open are really happy they don't have to stumble to the race in the frosty dark) and gear myself up for a really hard effort.  It's only about 3 miles and I have to push from the start.  I even warm up a little running around the festival area, which i usually don't bother with.

It doesn't help.  I cannot run fast enough.   I run so fast I might puke and the same woman disappears ahead of me.   Dang.   Most of the hard obstacles aren't on the course today and although I have another clean race it won't be good enough.  The third time through the barbed wire is really horrible.   Just afterward, I see the woman who took third yesterday.   We run together for a couple of miles, and at the finish she's pulled ahead by just 15 seconds.   I'm absurdly happy to have the 3rd place medal.  Don't laugh.   I like a complete collection of things.    If I finish out the year with a 1st I'll post a photo of all of them together.

I had planned on running the Sprint again too, but the thought of a 4th time through the barbed wire is too much for my body.  My brain won't admit it, and I head to the line to re-register.  It's literally a mile long.  Some bus loads of people all just decided on a whim to come race I guess.  I take it as a sign, and rinse off to wait for the podium awards.  By now it's sunny and pleasantly warm and it feels amazing to be sitting in the shade and not racing.