Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

October 9, 2021

Altitude Tent - Prep for the Spartan 24 Hour Ultra

All right, I've been working my way up to my biggest race of the season, which is the 24 Hour Spartan Ultra World Championships in Telluride, CO.     Watch it live here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrkf3TOWSNA at 10 am on Sunday October 10 until Monday 11:30 am Mountain Time.  

The race will be at about 10,000 feet, so when I heard that I could rent an altitude tent the week before the race, I jumped on it.  Runner's Corner in Orem, UT now rents out altitude tents, for a reasonable rate, and it turns out I was their first customer.   The unit was made by Mountain Air Cardio, and it's just a little tent that can either fit a mattress inside or sit on top of a bed.   Their claim is that the unit is quieter and less humid than other models, as it's built with a fan and an exterior control unit.   

I chose to just put in on top of my bed, and as Jim was out of town for most of the week, he didn't have to deal with it much.  It took me a couple of days to figure out how to use it, partly because I didn't have the manual right away and partly because I was too lazy to call the company and make sure I had it set up right. It interfaces with a phone app, so you can change it from inside at night.   It may have been working but until I connected the wifi I couldn't tell.  Oh well, it did in fact work fine for the last 4 nights I had it, and then I was heading to the race venue for a few more nights at elevation, so I think I had some great prep, more than usual time to acclimate.  

I did find the unit to be fairly noisy, but actually I slept really well all the nights I was in it, so I can't complain at all.  I just threw a sheet and a blanket in there and zipped myself in.  It was a little warmer than usual inside vs the room, so since it was cooling off outside I opened some windows.  

The data I have for the 4 nights shows me sleeping at about 10,000 feet for the first three.  Then I did something to the altitude knob the last night, and it jumped to 12,000 for the night even though I'd set it for 10,500.  I still slept pretty well so it worked out fine.  

Mountain Aire app -altitude tracking

The data from my Oura Ring verifies that my body thought it was sleeping at a higher elevation.   My heart rate, which is usually in the mid-50's, jumped to low 60's.  My Heart Rate Variability, usually 30-50, dropped into the 20s.  My Respiratory rate, usually about 14ish breaths per minute, crept up to 15 or 16.  And especially the last night, I awoke with a slight headache.   All good signs.  

Oura Ring readiness data

This isn't something I'd want to sleep in all the time, but for a week or two before a big event, it's amazing, and cheaper than renting a hotel room somewhere up in the mountains for sure.   Now to get all the other details right for the race and make it through the 24 hours with a smile!

September 30, 2021

Night Hike up Grandeur Peak

 It's always good to test out equipment you are going to use in a race.  Even if I'm tired, it's mind over matter, right?  I had just done Mt. Timpanogos the day before, but I wanted to get a little time on the trails at night, so Karen and I did Grandeur Peak as the sun was setting.   We brought our dogs Q and Spot for some entertainment, and to scare away anything bigger than we were.   

Grandeur is a steep and rocky little trail about 7 miles long with a couple thousand feet of vert.   We got some nice views of the fall colors on the trees and then darkness fell quickly.   We could see the trail for quite a while still, but the days are getting shorter and by 8 is was totally dark.   

I really wanted to push the quit button about halfway up, as my legs and brain were tired and wanted to go to sleep, but I knew the views from the top looking at the valley would be nice.  Plus the whole reason why I was doing this was to trail myself for a 24 hour race in a couple of weeks.  If I couldn't do 2 hikes in 2 days then I was pathetic indeed!  

The weather was perfect, the last nice warm night before a cool, windy, wet weather front came in.  We hiked up in a Tshirt, and I tested out a new pack that I would use for the big race.  It's a Nathan 12L TrailMix if anyone is curious.  

The views were spectacular and the dogs were really well behaved.  They stuck to us like glue for the most part, when the sun went down.  After the first few minutes on the trail, we never saw another soul, and it was very dark and very quiet on the descent.   Our main goal was to not stumble on a rock in the dark...even with two lights, the shadows were deceiving.   I sort of but not quite twisted my ankle, but don't worry, it's already feeling better so nothing horrible.  

The round trip took us about 3 1/2 hours, and Spot was really to go to bed when we got down about 10:30 pm.  I was headed to sleep for my first night in an Altitude tent, (more on that in a future post), and hoped being quite tired would help me fall asleep in it.  

September 29, 2021

Mt. Timpanogos, 11,752 ft., 26 Sep 2021


It's starting to feel like fall.   The pavement doesn't seem to want to melt the soles of my shoes anymore, and the trees in the mountains are turning gorgeous colors of yellow and orange.  Limhi and Deb both said they wanted to hike Mt. Timpanogos, so we found a day that would work for all of us at set off at 7 am sharp.  

Jim and I had done this summit as an overnight, but that's been 5 years ago now, and I can't believe I haven't been back there.   It's so much nicer than Lone Peak, and I've done that several times in the last couple of years!  The Timponeeke trail on the NE side of the summit is a really well maintained trail with at least a little water still running on a day in late summer.   It's actually nicely graded and switch-backed, so never gets as steep and rough as some other trails in the Wasatch.  

We let Limhi take the first lead, which set us on power-hiking mode, and we didn't let up, reaching the summit in about 3 hours.  I kept exclaiming, "this is so easy compared to Lone Peak!"  After a sandwich at the top, Limhi and I decided to run back down, which was fine with me.  This was my last big training hike for my 24 hour Spartan race coming up, so I could use a little running time.  

Deb decided that she would be much more sensible and enjoy the fall colors by not running down.  She took most of the photos I've added here as I didn't see much more than the rocks a step ahead of each foot I was planting.   Limhi and I managed to run all the way down in about 2 hours, picking our way through the slower rocky sections a tad more gingerly.  

It was an absolutely gorgeous day as you can see from the photos!


September 21, 2021

Back to Back Ultra Weekends, Crimson Canyon 50k, 18 Sep 2021


A week later after my last 50k, I was toeing the line again.   Jim was racing too, on the 25k course starting a few minutes later.  We had spent the last couple of months hoping not to repeat last years scorching hot weather for the race.   Sometimes hopes do come true, and it was a cooler day with a chance for rain.   With these odds I should play the lottery.  

The character of Crimson Canyon was completely different than the week before.  Set in the Red Rock country near Richfield, Utah, it started out with a very fast flat 5 miles before hitting the hills.  Psychologically, I always appreciate getting some fast miles out of the way first while my legs are fresh.  I kept about the same pace as last year on the first half, but managed to drink more to get ahead of dehydration, unlike last year.  We did get sprinkled on, but it was nothing horrible.  The women this year were a little faster tho, as I lost the lead early on and couldn't reel anyone in.  

Near halfway, we passed through the start/finish area again.  I grabbed my pack, and set off with a full can of Coke, my drink mix, and a bottle of water.  I was NOT going to do the heat exhaustion thing again.   The next 5 miles were slow and starting to get hot, so I used some of the water to dump on my head.  

BUT, and this is huge, my knee was not hurting and I was able to keep hydrated and keep running.  SO much better than last year.   The next aid station had a little two mile loop up through another canyon.  I dumped my pack and shirt by the aid ladies, and set off with ice in my bra and a bottle of water.    Soon enough I was back down to the aid station again, and filled up on more ice, soda, water, and snacks.  I amused myself by eating ice out of my hat for the next section, as the sun was shining and it was getting hot again.  

I knew I should eat something and I was tired of a bag of trail mix rattling in my pack, so I ate it.   Secretly, you know how you really want trail mix to just be all M&M's and nothing else?   This was just the opposite, I'm not sure there were any even though it said there should be.  Bummer.   

However, ominously to the west was a very dark sky and the rumbling of thunder, which turned into rolling growls.  I wouldn't need that ice anymore.  The next aid station was just 6 miles from the finish, up on a high ridge with a great view of the incoming storm.  I didn't waste time hanging around.   I did see bags of M&M's, so I made up for the trail mix' lack of chocolate by eating some!

The gust front hit just as I was leaving and the rain followed some time later.  I was running as fast as I could to beat the storm, but even in perfect conditions I had at least an hour left.   It could run faster than I could, evidently, and I put a the windbreaker to keep in some warmth.  The trails quickly went from dry; to hero dirt; to sticky dirt clinging on my shoes; to rivers of muddy water rolling off the trail.  

Inside my windbreaker I was hot, and when the rain tapered off a little I took it off again.  I now looked like a speckled red soaking straggler, but I was feeling good and my last mile was as fast as my first mile.  I made up all my time on the second half, finishing 55 minutes faster than last year in 6:49.  Ironically, I still finished in the same 5th place!  

Jim also had a really amazing race, finishing the 25k in 3:36, which was an hour and 10 minutes faster than last year!    This was his best finish to date, 18th overall out of 89.   

Here's the results:  https://ultrasignup.com/register.aspx?did=81079

I do have to state, that for the second year in a row, I'm pretty sure I was beat by a man wearing a skirt, with large muscles and a very deep voice.   I'm sorry, but if you were born with an anatomy that is different from mine, changing a few things and clicking F instead of M on a registration does not make you a woman.   You, on average, have a larger heart and lungs, larger muscles, and more testosterone than the average woman.  I'm glad you are out here racing, but please don't think it's right to take a podium spot as a woman.   

September 13, 2021

Back to Back Ultra Weekends, Baby Bear 50k, 11 Sep 2021

What are the odds that I get rained on twice within a week while racing in Utah?  Pretty slim in September, but there you go.  When we drove up the day before to the start of the Baby Bear 50k, east of Preston, Idaho, it was scorching hot and dusty dry.   What a difference a day can make.  The next morning, it had cooled off nicely, and storm clouds lurked.   The forecast talked about a "chance" of showers.  The dark sky said otherwise.  

This 50k was a beast, with over 6000 feet of climbing.  Most of that came in the first third of the route.  It was a small field of 13 runners, and with no official anyone at the start line in the dark, we started off as we felt like it.  Up a steep hill that continued steeply for a long ways.    I had downloaded the route on my watch, but pushed the wrong setting so the map never showed up. The flags were very intermittent, and it took a wrong turn for me to learn that blue and white flags meant I was going the wrong way.  In fact I didn't know that I was off the route until I randomly stumbled back onto the flags by following the golden rule:  "If in doubt of the route, go uphill".  I watched the flags more carefully the rest of the race.  

The sky was more than threatening an hour later, it was downright raining.  All I had brought was a Pertex windbreaker, which I put on over my pack, and it managed to keep the worst of the weather at bay.  It wasn't cold at all, just "not hot" in the way that a summer rainstorm in the desert can be.  The showers came and went, finally going for good at about the first aid station at 11 miles.  Two brothers offered to cook me up some eggs and pancakes, but my stomach told me that just a couple of chocolate covered raisins would be plenty.  

I left the aid station for the middle third of the race, which meandered along a ridgeline west of Big Bear Lake, at about 9000 feet elevation.  The lake was too far away to see, but that didn't make the views any less nice.  The rain moved on, but left patches of fog and clouds and it was nice and cool, making running along the trail enjoyable.  

What wasn't nice at all was some IT Band pain in my knee, making it hurt to run downhill which is usually my favorite part of the day.   It was manageable for a while, but by the second aid station I wasn't terribly happy.   This one was an unmanned tent, with water and some snacks and a sign-in board.  The couple in front of me had been ahead of me a minute or two for 10 miles, but my knee wouldn't let me catch them.  

The last section of the race was a last steep uphill and then a dive back down to the finish.  At the trail junction, there was a sign warning to avoid this steep section if the trails were wet.  That was all the motivation I needed to take the ATV road back down.  I wouldn't be the only one making that choice, so it was ok.  The gravel road was longer than the trail, but all downhill.  I supposed it evened out in the end.  

All I knew was that I was limp-running the last 8 miles.  By then it was pretty hot and I rationed my water, running out with a mile or so to go.   I should have been at least 30 minutes faster, which is how much time I lost to the woman who won.  I finished 6th overall.   My award was a smoked trout which I'm sure will be very tasty!

I would then spend the next week stretching, foam rolling, strengthening, and massaging the areas that affected my IT Band.  Time would tell if that would be enough to change anything, as I had another 50k coming up the next Saturday!

August 31, 2021

Spartan West Virginia Nationals, August 28, 2021

I flew to West Virginia to try and cement a spot in the Spartan Age Group Nationals podium for 2021.  I had finished 1st in Jacksonville, 2nd in Utah, and needed a 3rd race to qualify.  A good finish at a 3rd race, as well, of course!   

West Virginia is a nice venue, on the grounds of the national Boy Scout camp.  They've got all the fun stuff here, including lots of real bathrooms and water fountains spread out over thousands of acres of forest and pastures.   Real bathrooms can be nice at a Spartan race.   They would also be good shelter from a passing rainstorm on Sunday as well.  

It was foggy at the start of the Beast, with that East Coast humidity which brings no cooling effect whatsoever.   So many people fell off the rings that they put a penalty loop instead of burpees for the second day, just because it was so damp and wet.   Happy to say that I made it, but since I fell off the Twister just a few minutes later, I shouldn't be bragging.  

Yes, it's a hilly area, but jeez, we went up and down every hill in sight and then a few more.  The Beast lived up to its name.   An extra obstacle that got talked about a lot the next day was called "can you outrun the wasps next to the stream?"  Many people evidently couldn't, and were showing off their welts after the race.   After that was another hill, this one requiring that a heavy sandbag tag along for the ride.  

My favorite part of the race was the swim (with a floatation device), the longest one that anyone could remember.  Maybe 1/4 mile?   I passed a few people here, but I did not cool off.  The water temperature was as warm as the air if that was even possible.  

I finished 4th on the Beast, and that may or may not be enough to podium in the series.   Happily enough, that meant I got to go back to the hotel right away, shower and rest up.  Because my day was not over.

It was a struggle, and I had to talk myself into it, but I went back that evening for the 10k Night Run.  No obstacles, just a nice run on the fire roads around the Boy Scout property.   It was even fairly flat.   It was the most enjoyable run of the weekend, because I could actually run, and not get out of rythym on steep hills and obstacles.  It was actually really dark when I finished.  I passed a guy with a headlamp that was almost dead, but maybe that made it more fun for him.  

Bright and early the next morning I was back for the Super, which was actually less painful that I thought, the night run really helped stretch my legs out again.   The best thing about a weekend Trifecta is that the races and obstacles keep getting shorter!   In between races I showered off with a hose, had lunch, drank about a gallon of lemonade, and compared bruises with the other women running that weekend.  Oh, and I was 4th again.  

The Sprint was my fastest average speed for the weekend, and when I hit the spear I knew I was probably on the podium this time.  Problem was, it had started sprinkling with a mile to go, just after I popped out of the dunk wall covered in grime.   Minutes later, with the finish line in sight, it started pouring rain and lightning.   Volunteers were waving us past the final ring obstacle to keep us away from metal.  I finished 2nd.  I wouldn't find out until later, but skipping the obstacle even at the volunteer's direction and not doing burpees would take me out of the competition.   Oh well, no biggie, although I sat around a long time waiting for the awards instead of driving to the airport.   The good part was that the rain fell so hard that I pretty much got cleaned off without a shower!  

July 21, 2021

Utah Spartan Nationals, July 17-18th, 2021

 HOT.  WHY does this Utah race always have to be in the hottest part of the summer?   This was me and thousands of other people whining along what was a grueling course in any weather.  

I started with the 13 mile Beast on Saturday morning.   It was already hot when we started and just got hotter.  Especially since the whole course seemed to be straight up the mountain and then right back down again.  I remember on one steep section, the sign said something along the lines of "the next water will not be for 1.75 miles of steep uphill".   I started rationing my little squishy bottle, and it still ran out.  

Very, very happy to see the top of that hill.   I joined the long chain of people zig-zagging back down the hill on the bike trails, all of us happy to feel wind in our face, even if it was a hot wind.  

I definitely remember being very happy that I had not signed up to do the 30 mile Ultra here.  In fact, I know that I would have not completely it, as that second loop would have been too hot to contemplate.  As it was, many Beast racers found themselves dehydrated and with heat injuries.  The Ultra loop was shortened and still people couldn't complete it.  

I finished 2nd in my Age group, which made me very happy as I hadn't had a 2nd place medal yet in 2021.  I know, I'm a nerd.   It turns out that I finished 2nd because the woman ahead of me by just a minute or two cramped up, and then puked, just 100 yards from the finish line.  Another of my friends fell on a new obstacle and blacked out for a second.   Yet another was having trouble with the heat.  I handed off my spare drink mix bottle to him, which seemed to help, but it was a tough day out for everyone.  

More stories were told as everyone gathered to start the Super, and later the Sprint, on Sunday.  We are gluttons for punishment.  We know this.   

The woman who had beaten me the day before was out, she had sprained her ankle on the last obstacle and had to be carried up to the podium later.   Another friend had tried the Ultra, but couldn't keep even plain water in his stomach, and had to be withdrawn after he blacked out for the 2nd or 3rd time after an obstacle.  Even after drinking and eating the rest of the day like crazy, he said he was still 5 pounds down that night after weighing himself.   

The best thing about the Super was that it was shorter than the Beast.  Same thing goes for the Sprint, actually!   Ha.  No really.   Little did I know that this dry heat would be nothing compared to humid RAGBRAI.