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Western States 100

Last month we went to the Western States 100 to crew and pace for Molly’s sister (Kerrie Bruxvoort – Team Salomon). The entire experience is amazing. This race has so much history yet most of the figures that made this rich history are still involved and visible. I have never been to a race where there is such a high level of respect for the entire event. The aid stations each have a rich history of their own, the crews have came to participate from around the world, and each of the runners is realizing a far fetched dream by participating.

Starting off the trip we were exhausted. Part of endurance racing is the packing, traveling, and gear involved to get to the starting line. Molly and I had volunteered at the open water swim on Thursday night and got a late start on packing our gear. Finally getting to bed at sometime between midnight and one AM we were up again at 4:00 to head to the airport. I must stop to say that the drive into Squaw Valley is beautiful and I would love to spend a few days exploring the area. Once we arrived at the race start we proceeded directly to the raffle tent to purchase tickets for an entry into the race next year. No luck in the raffle but I already have a qualifying run for the lottery this year and there will be more raffles. Temperatures were high and there was limited shade at the race briefing making for an uncomfortable group. Western States singles out the top qualifiers for the race and brings each up infront of the crowd and talks a little about each one. Very interesting to see these guys in civillian clothes. Gordy Ainsleigh the man that first attempted and completed the race gave a few words of inspiration. After the usual do this not that of race briefings we were off to connect with Kerrie and eat some pizza to fuel up for the race. Once we returned to the condo at about 5:00 we both fell asleep and slept until 4:30 the next morning.

The race start of the WS100 is a very interesting place there is so much pent up energy that it feels like the world might explode, but explode very slowly. Participants and their crews know they are going to be working for the next 15 to 30 hours to get to the finish line 100.2 miles away. Amazingly the shotgun blasts and these runners start sauntering up the mountain side and the crews head off to do various tasks. Some hurry to the next crew point to aid their runner, some go get their gear ready for the day, and some (us) go back to sleep knowing it is going to be a long night!!!

Molly and I slept as long as we dared then gathered and organized our gear and headed to get food and water supplies for the day. We had an awesome smorgasbord of fruits, hummus, veggies, and lunch meat to get us through the day. Once loaded up we headed off to the Michigan Bluff aid station to wait for our runner and hopefully get to see some of the early leaders come through. While waiting we met a guy who happend to be from Lincoln (small world) and chatted for a bit trying to find some shade. Side note – the hamburgers as Michigan Bluff are cooked on a home made steel griddle and are out of this world. After a bit of waiting Kerrie came through and we found out that she had bruised her ankle on a rock and her shoe had been hitting on it for quite some time. Medical staff at the aid station cut a section out of the shoe and sent her on her way. Physically she seemed to be in great shape and the pain may have helped her limit the effort she put out early in the race. With her on her way we raced off to Foresthill.

Parking at forest hill is a bit tricky, there is not much of a shoulder and not a lot of parking lots. We quickly found a spot and set up camp so I could start getting my gear and nutrition ready to start my pacing duties. Knowing that I could be running for the next 10 to 15 hours I was diligently taking my time to thoughtfully pick each piece of gear and nutrition that I may need and where it would be stored. While placing my nutrition in my shorts pocket and taking a test jog without shoes on, I happen to look up and see Kerrie about 100 yards away and moving fast. Uh Oh time to grab and go. Luckily the test jog was a success and all my gear was ready. Molly tended to Kerrie as I gathered my handhelds and laced up my shoes. Heading out of the Foresthill aid station we met up with one of Kerrie’s teammates and headed out of town.

The section of the race from Foresthill to Rucky Chucky is pretty much 16 miles of gradual downhill. It was all very runnable and had great views. Pacing for me is all about being steady, watching for trail markings, monitoring your runner, and being a source of positive motivation. So for the next 38 miles that exactly what I did. Western States trail is really easy to navigate, I only saw one turn where the marking was not great, but if you paid attention you still knew exactly where to go.

Not much to say about the experience on the trail. It is a great trail that is very runnable and seemed to be very pretty. I only had about an hour of sunlight to enjoy the views and they were majestic. From there is was one foot in front of the other on the path in front of me. A couple of points I do remember. Walking the couple of miles up the hill out of Rucky Chucky is a great place to recharge a little and get some good calories and hydration in.  The last mile leading up to Highway 49 crossing is a relentless climb that does not seem to have an end.  Best aid stations i have ever seen. I know I have said it about other runs and will say it again after Run Rabbit Run but you can always tell when the aid stations are being put together by runners.

Probably leaving out tons of info that I had intended to cover but time to get this post out there.

 

Photo Dump

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Plugging Away- an Update Post

The last time I had a blog I felt the need to always have beautifully crafted clever posts with nice pictures. This became overwhelming to me and I just stopped posting entirely. I wish I had kept up with that blog to have an even better record of my progress, but I don’t.

That’s what has happened for me here too. I want all of my posts to be awesome and in proper chronological order. But, I don’t have time for that. So instead of just posting what I can here and there, I haven’t been posting at all. I have this long list of posts I want to sit down and write, but it just isn’t going to happen.

So, in order to get myself caught up to where I can post about my somewhat mundane day to day life and training, here’s a dump of what we’ve been up to over the past couple of months:

Cade paced my sister for 38 miles at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. Kerrie didn’t have the day she was hoping for (ankle injury early on slowed her down), but she still finished in under 24 hours. Awesome stuff.

We went for a trail run at my favorite place in the area- Hitchcock Nature Center. I forget I’m in Nebraska when I’m running out there. The trails are very challenging and very well maintained. It’s a great place to lose myself in nature and suffer while running (ok, hiking) up some super steep hills. I need more Hitchcock in my life.

We raced the Omaha Triathlon. Well, I raced the Omaha Triathlon. Cade and I are in charge of setting up the swim course before the race. We got to the race venue at o’dark thirty and put the buoys out with plenty of time to set up transition. One problem: Cade only had one cycling shoe in his transition bag. I was amused. He was not. I convinced him to do the swim anyway for practice. He swam and then ran all over the run course cheering and motivating our friends in the heat of the day. I had a pretty good race myself. I was pleased with my swim, surprised by my bike, and felt good about the run. I’m always slow on that course compared to other olympic distance races. It’s tough and hilly. I walked all of the hills on the run, but I was able to keep a better pace on the run overall. Progress. I didn’t quite beat last year’s time, but that’s ok.

We did a triple. Well, it was supposed to be a triple. A triple in our circle of triathlon friends is a bike run bike run bike run combo workout. I ended up doing a long kind of duathlon type thing- 48 miles on the bike, 13.1 miles running, and 22 miles on the bike. It was super duper windy and hot that day. That last 22 miles seemed like it took forever, but I did it and I’m stronger for it.

We traveled to Boulder, CO and raced the Boulder 70.3. The swim start was great. They are doing a rolling start now instead of just a mass start. This means that racers line up in order based upon their estimated swim time. I lined up in the 42-44 minute area. Cade lined up with me even though he thought he would be faster. It’s always nice to start races together. Our group went under the start line and as we were wading out into the water before the first dive and stroke, Cade said “Hey Molls, want to go for a swim?” I said “Hell yeah!” and off we went.

My swim was good. I felt comfortable the whole time and was just rocking along in my little rhythm. I was not stressed and not really putting out too much effort. I swam reasonably straight and didn’t have too much trouble with sighting or traffic. I looked at my watch as I ran over the timing mat and was pleased to see 40:30. Not too shabby! I went in knowing I would be happy with 45:00.

T1 was uneventful. I took a little bit of time to settle, get my shoes on, get my helmet, my sunglasses, my bike, and set off for the bike course.

At the beginning of the bike course I was wondering what the heck I was doing out there. I felt like I was riding through mud. It was a slight uphill until about mile 8 or so and I just could not get my legs. I decided not to push for fear of blowing myself up so I just slogged my way up the hill.

About mile 6 or so I got passed by my friend Michelle. She complimented me on my fast swim time and blew by me. She’s amazing on the bike.

About mile 7 I heard “MOLLSSSS!” It was Cade, behind me??!! That meant I beat him in the swim. That’s never happened before! He, too, complimented me on my swim, asked me how I was doing, and blew by me. Seeing him out on the course is one of my favorite things about racing.

After mile 9 or so the bike course got FUN. We had a sweet long winding downhill where I was averaging around 26 miles per hour. I finally got my legs back and was cranking away. The course was so beautiful and the terrain was just perfect- rolling hills. I loved it. I got three compliments from fellow racers on my bike- one from a dude. Yeah, my bike is pretty awesome.

The last 3 or 4 miles of the bike course were rough. There was a headwind and my low back was starting to bug me a bit pushing into the wind. I backed off my effort level and just rolled back to the park. I still managed to average around 18 mph for the 56 miles.

T2 was also uneventful. I grabbed my water bottle, got sunscreened by a volunteer, and set out on the run course.

Almost immediately my legs started cramping up. My right calf was a little crampy on the bike,  but it was no big deal. On the run it became a big deal. My calves cramped. My quads cramped. My hamstrings cramped. My shins cramped. I took salt tabs, I ate salty food, I drank water, I drank coke. Nothing was helping. I knew it was going to be a rough 13.1 miles. I roasted in the sun, but kept putting one foot in front of the other. I ran when I could and walked when I couldn’t. I put ice in my bra and in my hat to stay cool. I was so happy to see my sister on the dam. I told her about my cramping and she told me to drink more and maybe try taking a couple of gels. I did and I felt better for a while. Then the cramps came back full force. At one point both of my legs seized up from the knee down and I couldn’t move. My friend Polly happened to be right there and she rubbed the cramps out so I could keep moving. I started counting steps to take my mind off the cramping- run 100 steps, walk 100 steps, run 100 steps, walk 100 steps. That worked for a while and got me closer to the finish line. I was not about to walk down the finish chute, so I ran and my legs started to seize up so I finished by doing a little limp shuffle run don’t fall down don’t stop move. It worked. I finished in 7:15. I was happy with that- especially since my run was not exactly stellar. Oh well, live to race another day.

Cade had trouble on the run too. It was really hot. He had a pretty good time overall though. Next time we can both do better. It’s a little hard to believe that was the first half ironman for both of us. We just went straight to the full ironman last year. We intended to do a half, but with Lucy being sick it just didn’t happen. Now we both have baseline times to strive to beat next time.

Boulder is an awesome venue for a race. I’ll definitely go back.

Which leads me to… We signed up for Boulder Ironman 2014. Yep, there’s another full ironman on the calendar. I’m super excited. Two full ironman races in less than one year? Yes, sir. I’m in.

We rode 61.5 miles with great friends on a Saturday. It was my friend Erin’s longest ride to date. She did awesome.

I did a night trail run. Cade was out of town. The Greater Omaha Area Trailrunnerz (GOATz) had an informal night trail run at Schramm Park. I went out for two loops for around 7 miles. It’s amazing how different the woods look by headlamp in the pitch dark night. I need a few more night runs to prep me for Run Rabbit Run.

I ran a loop at lake Cunningham. Lake Cunningham has some great horse trails that are also excellent running trails. I ran a loop with friends last weekend. Cade was still out of town. We ended up with about 8 miles on the trails.

We ran 9.6 miles on Tranquility Park Trails. We ran almost the entire tranquility trail system. There are two little loops in the middle of the park that we did not do. But, Cade ran with me the entire time and I was going fast enough that he wasn’t just bored to tears. That’s progress, folks.

I started eating Paleo again. I admit that I’m not 100% compliant. If I get too caught up with being compliant all the time it stresses me out. But, I know I feel much better if I eat paleo, so I’m making an effort to do it as much as I can. I’m feeling pretty good. I can tell I’m getting some good fat burning workouts in (as opposed to carb burning) and am seeing some changes in my body composition already.

I had an asthma attack. Well, I think so at least. I’ve been coughing all. the. time. lately. It’s not a productive cough or a normal allergy type cough- just a cough- and once it starts, I can’t stop. One night I was coughing and wheezing in between and just could not make it stop. I found the rescue inhaler I got a couple years ago and took two puffs. That ended the coughing. I went to see my Dr. friend the next day and he gave me a daily inhaler to test out for a couple of months. I’ve been on it for a week now and it seems to be helping. It tastes super nasty though. I don’t think I’m supposed to taste it. Perhaps I’m doing it wrong.

I built my bike! We broke our bikes down and packed them in Ruster Sports Hen House cases to go to Boulder. I finally built my bike after being home for two weeks. For shame. But it’s done now.

I’m running as much as I can. Run Rabbit Run 50 is coming up quick. Last year I dropped at Dumont Aid Station (2). This year I really want to finish. I have a plan. I’m going to run a minimum of 2 miles every day until close to the race. On top of that I’m going to run as much trail as I possibly can. I am going to do a long run each weekend that will be done by time on my feet. I don’t care how far I go or how fast I go or if I run or walk- I just have to keep going. This weekend I’m going to shoot for 4 hours. I’ll also throw in some hill repeats on trail on Sundays. I’ve already done more than I did to prepare for Run Rabbit last year (clearly a couple of 10K runs in triathlons were not enough…) so I think with this regime I should be able to muscle my way through the race. I want that finish line!!

I signed up for the GOATz 50K. The GOATz (irunwithgoats.com) host a 50K at lake cunningham. This will be the second year for the race. I was out of town for the race last year so didn’t get to experience it. This year, I’m in and I’m running. Yes, sir.

 

Whew. Ok, I’m sure there are some things that I’ve missed in there, but I think I got the highlights.

 

Here’s what I’ve done so far this week:

Sunday: 6.5 miles on trail at Cunningham. Soccer game.

Monday: Run 1 mile, core work on TRX, run 1 mile. Spin class + core. Softball game.

Tuesday: Spin class. Swim 3000 yards. (plan to trail run after work).

Western States 100- Crew Perspective

We got to experience the Western States 100 for the first time this year. We flew out of Omaha on Friday, June 28 early in the morning. After a quick stop in Dallas, we arrived in Reno, NV at around 10:00 a.m. The drive from Reno to Squaw Valley is absolutely beautiful. I would love to spend some time exploring the area.

Friday afternoon and evening was a bit of a blur. We bought raffle tickets in the hopes that Cade would get in to the race next year- no such luck. We found my sister and checked in to the condo. We sat baking in the super hot sun and listened to the pre-race meeting. We ate some delicious pizza. We talked race and crew strategy with Kerrie. And we fell asleep. At around 5pm. Seriously. We must have both been exhausted because we slept from 5pm until the next morning. It’s a good thing Cade set an alarm because we would have missed the start!

Kerrie was already gone when we got up so we rushed down to the start and tried to find her in the dark. We had no such luck. I did wish Nick Clark (awesome ultra runner from Fort Collins, CO) good luck. And we were standing right next to Timothy Olson as he gave his wife a hug before the race. The shotgun blasted at 5:00 am and off the runners went up the steep escarpment.

Our crew strategy was to watch the start and then go back and catch some more sleep. The plan was for there to be two crew cars so that no one person would have to be up all night. That plan changed when my sister’s husband stayed home and I was the only crew member left. I wanted to be able to be at every aid station, but I knew that it just wasn’t feasible and it could get dangerous for me to be too tired in the middle of the night by myself. So, we stuck with our original plan and went back to the condo to catch a few more hours of sleep.

We packed up, checked out of the condo, and went to the grocery store for some supplies before heading out to the first point where we would see our runner. It was a beautiful winding mountainous drive from Squaw Valley to Aubern. We kept an eye on the online tracker to see how she was doing and how fast she was running. She was up near the front of the women’s race in the morning so we knew we shouldn’t dawdle.

The first aid station we made it to was Michigan Bluff. That was over 50 miles in to to the race. There was very little shade available and it was hot hot hot. We found a spot under a little bush and set up camp to wait. and wait. and wait. We were there for about 4 hours waiting. It was pretty cool because we got to see all of the leaders come through the aid station. We saw Timothy Olson. Hal Koerner. Pam Smith. All of the leaders and eventual winners of the race.

We enjoyed the famous Western States burgers being sold at Michigan Bluff along with some cold fruit popsicles and lemonade. Finally Kerrie came into view. She was visibly limping… uh oh. She said she had bashed her ankle on a rock many miles ago and while it wasn’t painful to stand or run on, it was bumping against her shoe and that caused her to limp. She spent some time with the medical folks who eventually just cut her shoe down to keep it from bumping. It was worth a shot. We loaded her up with electrolyte pills, sprayed her with sunscreen, got fresh cold water, and sent her on her way.

We had to hurry a bit to the next aid station. We rode a very very very slow shuttle bus up and out of Michigan Bluff. I was thankful for the ride, but the man driving the bus was certainly in no hurry to get anywhere. The next aid station was only 5 or 6 miles of running and we had some driving to do on winding roads to get there so we needed to hurry it up.

We made it to the Forest Hill aid station with plenty of time. This was mile 62, where Cade would start pacing. Kerrie was now several hours behind her original projected time so we needed to make a few adjustments. I calculated the distance and estimated time to the next aid station and made the decision to give both Kerrie and Cade headlamps. I thought it would be dark by the time they got to the next crew point and I didn’t want them out there without lights. It seemed like we had plenty of time. Cade was getting some last minute calories in, getting sunscreen on, getting his water bottles ready- and then there she was. Cade didn’t even have his shoes on yet! Ack! She had sped up a bit. It worked out fine though. Cade threw his shoes on and off they went.

From that point on, I was on my own. I had to carry all of their stuff by myself. Navigate the mountain roads by myself. Keep myself entertained so I wouldn’t fall asleep… I drove to the parking area for the next crew point. It was just a trail head parking area on the side of the highway. The next crew station was the Rucky Chucky River Crossing. There was no driving down to the aid station. I waited around for a bit and then a shuttle came to pick me and a big group of others up and take us to the river. It was a river rafting bus. The drive down was a bit harrowing and I can see why they didn’t want people going down there. It was a rough rocky dirt road with tight turns and long drop offs. The temperature was cooling the closer we got to the river- a welcome feeling. Temperatures were out of control all day pushing 110 in the canyons. Apparently it was the second hottest Western States on record.

I made it down to the river crossing when it was still light out. There was a rope strung across the river and volunteers were standing in the water helping runners and pacers make their way across. It was quite the production. I spread out a towel and leaned against a rock next to the aid station tent where I settled in to wait. and wait. and wait.

and wait.

I saw some interesting things while I waited there. Hal Koerner, in second place when I saw him last, had dropped out of the race and was sitting in the medical tent. Apparently he had been having some trouble with his foot this year and it didn’t hold up. He and his pacer hung around for a while before finally walking off. I met a nice girl who was waiting for her brother in law (racer) and sister (pacer) to come in. We commiserated about waiting and worrying. Both of our runners were taking a very long time to get in. There was a girl (racer) who came into the aid station and was not doing so hot. She sat down in a chair near me and the aid station volunteers were talking to her. She didn’t want to eat or drink and she didn’t feel well. The convinced her to drink a bit of broth if for no other reason than to get her to vomit- maybe she would feel better. Well, vomit she did. A lot. Medical came over to check her out and were told that she was fine, just taking a little rest. She was finally convinced to at least cross the river and see how it goes. I don’t remember her name or number, but I can’t imagine that she finished. She was killing it all day up to that point too. I think the heat finally caught up to her.

Finally, Kerrie and Cade showed up. Good thing I gave them headlamps because it was pitch dark. Kerrie got her weight checked at medical (as all runners did) and then they made it over to the aid station. I talked to Cade and Kerrie wandered off. Cade was not happy. He said that she wasn’t eating or drinking enough and she wasn’t listening to him. She was wasting energy and starting to whine about her quads hurting. He was frustrated and told me to be ready to run with her at the next crew spot. I talked Kerrie into taking a few electrolyte pills before leaving the aid station. Someone tried to give her ibuprofen when she complained about her quads but thankfully Cade saw it and stopped it from happening. Taking ibuprofen in a situation like that when your body is so stressed and easily cause bad problems- like renal failure. No Ibuprofen! I followed them down the rocks to the edge of the river and watched them make their way across and start up the hill back into the darkness. A few minutes of excitement and I was alone again. Mile 78.

I made my way back to the river rafting shuttle and back to the rental car. The drive to the next crew station was a bit harrowing. It was late. I was tired. I was on a very very winding road. And, I wasn’t quite sure that I was on the right winding road. I made a right hand turn just guessing that it was where I needed to go. I drove a lot farther than I thought I needed to. Finally, I saw police cars and flashing lights- it was the highway 49 crossing. I found the aid station. I drove past it to the designated parking area. Once I got there I calculated time and thought I would have plenty of time to catch a quick nap in the car. I set my phone alarm for 45 minutes and was out quickly.

I woke up disoriented. I gathered all of my things and made sure I had what I needed to run the last 7 miles with her. It felt strangely chilly out even though it was still in the 80s at around 1:00 am. I got on yet another shuttle bus for the short ride down to the aid station. Once there, I laid out my towel to wait. and wait. and wait. I ended up laying down with my sweatshirt hood over my head and my hands tucked under my body to stay warm. I think I fell asleep for a while. They were calling out numbers of approaching runners a few minutes before they would arrive. Finally I heard the number I was listening for and I popped up and hurried over to the lighted area just as they were crossing the highway. Both of them were in good spirits. Cade said she was eating better and they were in a good rhythm. He was going to keep running. I was a little disappointed I wouldn’t be running, but also a little relieved. I was tired and cold and they would hopefully be done soon. Mile 93.

Once again I gathered up all of the gear and walked back to wait for the shuttle. I got back to the car and realized I left the windows wide open while I was gone. Nothing was missing, thankfully. I drove that dark winding road back towards Aubern and headed to Placer High School where the finish line was set up. I found a great parking spot right next to the Placer High track and walked towards the lights. I’ve seen pictures and video of the finish line, but to actually be there was pretty spectacular. It gave me a new sense of energy and a feeling of excitement.

Runners are only allowed one pacer at a time starting at mile 62 of the race. But, after the last aid station with a little over one mile to go, anyone can run along. I set off into the darkness to find the last aid station so that I could run in with them. It was still around 80 degrees and it was now about 4:00 a.m. I was so excited to find the aid station that I was still wearing my sweatshirt- great for standing still but hot to run in- and I didn’t grab my headlamp. I really had no idea where I was going so I was just wandering around in the dark. I would wait to see headlamps bobbing down the street and then I knew I was going in the right direction. At one point I thought about how strange it was to be wandering around, alone, on the streets of a strange town in California at 4:00 a.m. In any other circumstances that would be considered so dangerous! But, there I was.

Finally I came upon a group of people. They were sitting outside their house which was adorned with tons of christmas lights. They were playing music and having a great time. I asked them where the aid station was and they pointed me down a big hill- about 1/4 mile further. I made it down to the aid station and sat on a rock. It was chilly there and I was suddenly glad I had my sweatshirt. I was only there for maybe 5 minutes before I heard Kerrie’s number called. She was ready to be done. Her quads were shot. She could move uphill pretty well, but the downhills were painful. We power walked back up the hill and by the happy christmas light people. We wandered through the neighborhood. At that point there was only one small incline and then a steady easy downhill to the track and the finish line. We ran the last 3/4 mile or so slow and steady. The announcer’s voice came into ear shot. Then we could see the stadium lights. And then, we were there at the entrance to the track. Cade Kerrie and I ran the 300 meters or so around the track as the announcer gave the crowd some information about Kerrie. Cade and I peeled off into the pacer and crew lane as Kerrie crossed the finish line. Her teammate was there waiting for her after finishing hours earlier. I think we were all happy to have reached the finish line at about 4:30 a.m.

We hung around for a bit and then made it to our hotel about 20 minutes away. Sleep. Finally. And a shower. That felt heavenly. We all slept and then made it back up to the track in time for the awards ceremony where Kerrie got her under 24 hour belt buckle. The rest of the day on Sunday we spent eating mexican food, taking a dip in the pool, taking a quick run to REI, napping, going out for a nice dinner, and sleeping. We got up early on Monday and flew out of Sacramento to make our way home.

Western States is an amazing race. I hope to be there with Cade someday so that he can realize his dream of racing. And I hope to be a strong enough runner by that time to be able to pace him and experience it alongside him. It will happen. It’s just a matter of time.

At the start:

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A little medical humor at Michigan Bluffs:

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Forest Hill:

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Rucky Chucky:

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Finish!

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Western States 100

Next week Cade and I will make the trek to California for the Western States 100. We are crewing and Cade is pacing for my sister, Kerrie Bruxvoort.

Western States 100 is the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultra running race in the world. Originally, it was an all terrain endurance horse race. But when Gordy Ainsleigh’s horse came up lame before the event one year he decided to attempt the course on his own two feet. He made the cutoff time running with the horses that year. The next year more runners showed up and eventually, the horses were pushed out and the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run was born.

Western States is a point to point course starting in Squaw Valley, CA and ending on a high school track in Aubern, CA. The terrain and elevation changes at the race are amazing.

Cade has a dream to run Western States someday, but it is not an easy race to get in to. Hopefuls have to have a qualifying time at certain races in order to be put into a lottery. Then, only a few lucky lottery members actually get chosen. Cade got his qualifying time for next year at the Ouachita Trail 50 earlier this spring. This year he will have one entry in the lottery. If he is not chosen and runs another qualifying time next year, he will have two entries. And so on and so forth until he is chosen to run.

Some people, like my sister, are just super fast and get in to the race by other means. Kerrie got in by winning 2nd place at the 2012 Run Rabbit Run 50, part of the Montrail Ultra Cup. The top two men and women from any race in the Montrail Ultra Cup get an automatic entry into Western States.

irunfar.com released their 2013 Western States women’s race preview today. Kerrie is listed as someone to watch for a potential top 5 finish. Pretty cool that my big sis is such a big deal these days. Read more about the Western States 100 women’s field here: irunfar

Open Water and Solo Training

Last night we had an open water swim courtesy of Race Omaha. I love that Race Omaha hosts open water swims several weeks in a row leading up to their races. It was immensely helpful to me when I was new to racing to get a feel for the water and preview the actual race course. Cade and I have been setting up the swim courses for practice swims and both races since 2011 using our little fishing boat and last night was no exception. I was late, as usual, so Cade had the course set up by the time I arrived. The course was open for an hour for participants to swim as many laps as they cared to.

I had a great swim last night. I decided to just swim one lap and take it super easy. I wanted to enjoy the calm water and nice evening. Cade and I started off together several minutes after everyone else jumped in. There is something so calming to me about swimming in open water. I’m one of those lucky people who has never had a panic attack in the water (knock wood) and I love my wetsuit. I rounded the first buoy and kept stroking along with Cade just in front of me. He stopped at the second buoy so I did too. We chatted for a few moments then started off for the next turn buoy where we stopped to chat again. While we were stopped I touched what I assume was a stick or something under the water. I jerked my leg away and caught a cramp in my hip- dumb! I am not a fan of sea life, fish in particular. They freak me out. I tend to pretend that there are no fish in the bodies of water where I swim. Yuck. I started swimming back to the boat ramp to get away from that killer stick.

I swam 950 yards in 17:00 according to my Garmin 910xt for an average pace of 1:48/100yds. That includes the stops to chat with Cade and touch the stick with my foot. I’d guess that my pace was probably closer to 1:40/100yds of actual swimming time. That’s a great pace for me especially since it felt so easy and relaxed. I guess all of those drills and sprints at my master’s swimming class are paying off- even if I curse my instructor the whole time.

Cade is racing tomorrow at the Topeka Tinman. I’m not going with him. He’s been wanting to do a solo race for a while now and this just worked out. I debated going with him, but in the end decided I would just stay home to avoid having to pay a house sitter to watch our critters. He’s leaving this afternoon and I’m sad about it. I’ve never missed one of his races before. I’ve raced without him before (Xterra Cheyenne Mountain 1/2 Marathon 2011 in Colorado Springs, CO) but somehow this feels different.

I have a solo mini triple planned for myself tomorrow. I’ll ride 10, run 2, ride 10, run 2, ride 10, run 2. If I’m feeling really frisky perhaps I’ll add a fourth repeat in there. We shall see. Hopefully the weather holds out.

Where I Started

I wasn’t always such a bad ass (ha ha). In 2009, I was over 200 pounds. I was unhealthy, unhappy, unmotivated, and had resigned myself to the fact that I would always be a fat slug. After Cade randomly decided to do a triathlon and completed the Topeka Tinman short course in 2008, we both eventually got road bikes and started on this awesome path we’ve been screaming down since 2010. I started a blog in 2010 and it is good for me to look back and see where I started and how far I have come. There is a post where I ran my first mile without stopping. That warms my heart. Check it out here.

Bandurance!

Cade and I were featured on the Bandurance blog earlier this year in an article about couples in triathlon. Check it out here: Bandurance

My Favorite Memories

In honor of our 9th anniversary (6/12/13) I thought I would share with you three couple memories from our endurance life. I am sure there are tons more that are equally important.

Picking up the kittens we have found out riding the country roads. Two of them that each found loving homes. One of them rode about 5 miles on the bike with Molly while i sprinted home to get a car. The other we went back to find. Molly followed in the car as I rode along looking for it. Quickly I realized that it would not know I was there if I was not making noise. So I talked to myself for the 400 yards it took to find her. She had been thrown from a car, had road rash, and a broken hip.

Running down the mountain (approx mile 47) of the 2011 Run Rabbit Run 50 miler and having a yeti (Molly) come bush whacking across a mountain meadow to join me for the last 3 miles of the run. Still cannot believe the amount of luck involved in her timing and sense of direction. We always seem to be pulled together.

Cheering Molly on as she pushed through the pain of an Ironman. Even though it was not my day, getting to be there and experience it with her more than made up for the fact that I had to pull myself from the race.

Wonder what Molly will think of?

Love you dear!

Goals and Plans

*I didn’t intend to write two race reports in this post, but I did!

I have several independent goals for this race season. They are attainable if I put the work in, focus, and dig down when I need to.

Goal #1: Have a good race at Boulder 70.3 on August 4, 2013. I’ve never done a 70.3 before. I just went straight from Olympic distance to Ironman. For those that don’t know, a 70.3 is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run. “Have a good race” is a pretty vague goal, I know, but to me it means a few things smushed together. I want to have a good run. I want to feel strong and comfortable on the bike. I want to have a decent swim time. I’m not going to make actual time goals until I get closer to the race, but I want this race to be on my radar as one that I will be well prepared for. It’s in less than 8 weeks. I’d better get crackin’.

Goal #2: Go sub-3 hours at HyVee 5150 US Championships on September 1, 2013. I’ve never had a sub-3 hour Olympic distance race. An Olympic consists of a 1500m swim, 20k bike, and 10k run. I’ve come shockingly close… 3:00:49 at HyVee in 2012. I know I can do it.

Goal #2a: Run a sub-1:00 10k at HyVee. I’m not a speedy runner. I’m getting better and I’ve had several good runs lately. I mentally wuss out on the run and either slow down or walk. Last year at HyVee my run split was 1:03:23. I think that’s the best 10k I’ve run in a race. I’m going to focus a lot on my run this year and hope to finally conquer some mental demons.

Goal #3: Finish Run Rabbit Run 50 on September 14, 2013. Cade and I have gone to Run Rabbit Run in Steamboat Springs, CO each year since 2011. We were going to take a year off from the race this year, but I just couldn’t stay away. My sister, Kerrie Bruxvoort, is a super awesome ultra runner. In 2011, she was just getting started with this whole trail running thing and told us that she had signed up for Run Rabbit Run. Sounded cool. Sounded a little nutty. The race was sold out, but, on a whim, Cade put is name on the wait list. He was contacted a couple of months before the race and told that he had a spot if he wanted it. Run Rabbit Run was our first introduction to the ultra trail running community. It. Is. Amazing. I’ll let Cade recall his experience at Run Rabbit Run 2011 if he chooses, but I’ll just say that it was a hell of a day with some really challenging conditions. It was raining, cold, snowy, windy, nasty, wet, and un-forecasted. People were dropping left and right due to the freezing conditions and potential hypothermia. But Cade pushed through and was able to finish in 11 hours and 11 minutes. So awesome.

In 2012 I decided that I wanted to give it a shot. I knew I would be slow and probably right against the cut off times (16 hours total with an early start plus intermediate cut-offs along the way) but after experiencing the race as a supporter, I just had to participate. 2012 was a rough year for us. Our beloved horse, Lucy, fought a terrible illness that put her in the horsey hospital for nearly a month. We lost her on August 1, 2012 and it was really hard on both of us. It still is almost a year later. The whole time she was sick I think I ran twice. Maybe. I know I raced twice but didn’t do much else. I ran a marathon in May, 2012 but after that my longest runs prior to Run Rabbit Run 2012 were the 10k run legs at the Omaha Triathlon and HyVee Triathlon. That was it.

Going into Run Rabbit Run 2012 I knew that I didn’t have the training to push hard. I still wanted to try to finish, but went into the experience with an open mind knowing that I would have a lot of time alone in the woods to process what had been on my mind since we lost Lucy. I took the early start to give myself a little more time and started off up the dark mountain. I was quickly by myself and remained alone for the majority of the day. I climbed mountain roads, jumped over creeks, hop stepped over rocks and tree limbs, fell over my own two feet, saw some of the most beautiful scenery my eyes have ever seen, met some great people, ate a lot of food, and made the 28 mile cut-off with a few minutes to spare. I decided to drop at mile 28. I was getting tired and knew I would be fighting cut-offs all night long. Cade was ahead of me, but he had to drop too because his knee was bothering him. We hung around and drank a couple beers with the aid station crew and hitched a ride back into town. I didn’t finish last year, but it was one of the coolest experiences that I’ve had. This year I plan to be more prepared and get to the finish line to earn my giant glass mug and fill it with local Steamboat brew.

Goal #4: Finish Ironman Arizona 2013 in under 15 hours on November 17, 2013. I loved Ironman last year. I was terrified beyond belief going into the race and knew that my training had not been what I planned. See my summer filled with no training above? That continued. I was not able to pull out of my Lucy loss funk. With not very much time before the race I began training again out of fear more than anything. Fear of getting myself into a pickle at Ironman and letting a lot of people down. Turns out I had plenty of training in the bank to carry me through the day. My experience at Ironman Arizona 2012 was amazing. Cade was sick with the flu leading up to the race (I’ll let him tell that story too) and I was worried about him. We jumped into the water together just before the swim start. I will always remember floating there with him full of anxiety, fear, excitement, joy… emotion. We gave each other a hug and kiss in the water and shortly thereafter the cannon fired and we were off.

My swim went really well. I was comfortable the whole time and didn’t run into much traffic. I got rubbed and kicked a few times, but that’s to be expected. I just got into a rhythm and chugged along trying to stay smooth and relaxed. After the turnaround point, the trip back seemed to just take a blink of an eye and I was turning toward the exit stairs before I knew it. 1:26:42.

T1 was pretty slow. I must have ordered a pizza in that tent or something. I remember getting my wetsuit stripped off right at the timing mat and running up the long chute to the change tents. My friends Michelle and Polly yelled at me as I ran by and told me that Cade finished the swim and was only a few minutes ahead of me. It was a relief to hear that he was doing ok. I grabbed my bag and went into the tent to get my cycling gear on. I realized that I had a pretty nasty rub on the back of my neck from my wetsuit that stung like crazy when I put sunscreen on. There was nothing that could be done about it so I slathered on some vaseline and grabbed my bike. 10:11.

I loved the bike. The course is three loops that go out into the desert. I got to see the pro field zoom by a few times. It is amazing how fast they are. I planned to stay within myself and enjoy the bike course. I ate honey stinger waffles and chews, I drank super strong gatorade and water, I ate electrolyte pills like they were candy, and, about halfway through the bike I followed the simple advice of those who had come before me: I chewed a piece of mint gum for about 30 seconds. It was the most amazing thing at that point in time. The mint was refreshing and made my mouth feel clean after eating all that sticky sweet stuff all day. That may be the best advice I got for Ironman. The bike course has a long hill going up to the turnaround. The first loop was challenging as there was a headwind going up the hill. I saw Cade going down as I was going up on the first loop. He wasn’t that far ahead of me. Zooming down the hill after the turnaround was fun and it was a great opportunity to flush out my legs and prepare myself mentally for the remainder of the bike. One loop down, two to go.

I saw Cade again just before I reached the turnaround to start the second loop. He was still about 5-10 minutes ahead of me. We yelled to each other briefly and I kept going. Only a few miles after the start of the second loop, I saw a guy stopped with is bike on the side of the road. As I got closer I realized it was Cade and he got on his bike and rode along the course with me. He told me he was done. He hadn’t eaten much in days because he was sick. He didn’t have the energy stores to complete the race and he was afraid if he continued that he would bonk hard and risk real harm to himself. His bike handling skills were diminishing and continuing would be dangerous. We talked it out for a few miles and as we reached the next aid station he made his final decision. It was the right thing to do. I stopped with him, gave him a hug and a kiss, and he told me to “go finish this thing for both of us.” With tears in my eyes and renewed determination in my body, I turned on to the beeline highway to climb the long hill for the second time.

The second climb up the hill felt easy. I was going much faster than I had on the first loop. Little did I know that the wind had shifted and my headwind on the first loop had become a tail wind on the second loop. I figured that out after I turned around. No big deal. I stayed with my nutrition plan and kept chugging along. I got my bike special needs bag around mile 62 on the second loop. I pitched my arm warmers (soccer socks with the feet cut off) and picked up a new bottle of super strong gatorade for the second half of the bike. When I reached the turnaround point to start the third loop Cade was there cheering for me with his mom. It was so good to see him. I found out later that after he got back and told an official he was done for the day he got checked out at the medical tent, lay down on a curb for a while feeling terrible, and spent quite a bit of time in the bathroom. But he was still out there cheering for me.

The third loop was challenging. I still had the wind to contend with and I was starting to get tired. Tired in general and just tired of being on my bike. I made a deal with myself this time going up the hill. I started counting pedal strokes to give my brain something to do. I would count every time my right leg pushed down 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… until I got to 100 and then I would stand and coast for a few seconds to give my butt a break. Then I’d sit back down and start again 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… before I knew it, I was at the top of the hill. Counting pedal strokes kept me from going to that dark place mentally that everyone talks about experiencing in an Ironman. I never went there. At the turnaround (mile 92 or s0) I saw my friend Michelle working the aid station. It was so good to see her! She gave me some fresh water and ran along side me for a bit asking how I was doing. I felt good and her energy helped renew my spirits. I owe a lot to Michelle. She’s an Ironman too. When I was terrified the morning of the race I was overwhelmed and emotional and started crying. I told Michelle I was scared and she gave me a hug and told me I could do it and everything was going to be okay. She was right. 7:05:55.

T2 was slow too. I knew my friend Polly would be working as a volunteer in the T2 tent so I looked for her and ran straight to her. She was finishing up helping another athlete so I slapped her on the ass, got a big hug and squeal, and plopped down on a chair. Polly asked how I was doing and I felt pretty good. I was still with it mentally and could tell her exactly what I needed. I ate some chews, I changed into my Salomon running shorts, grabbed my hat, put some more vaseline on my neck, got some more sunscreen, and was on my way. 11:21.

I started out running and just after I left the transition area I saw Cade, and his mom, and my brother, and my sister-in-law, and their two kids. There may have been other people standing there cheering for me as well, but I don’t remember. It was so awesome to see my family and to hear them cheer for me to keep going. I get emotional during races and that was a special moment for me. I’m getting choked up recalling what I felt like in that moment.

My plan for the run was to run between the aid stations and then walk through the aid station and walk an additional .25miles or so before running again. I knew that I had 8 hours to complete the marathon and was confident that I could do it even with my very limited run training. I didn’t run all that much. I’d say that I ended up speed walking 2/3 of the marathon. I ran when it felt good- mostly the downhill slopes and some of the flats. I walked any time there was a slight incline. I kept a close eye on my pace and my watch so I knew I had plenty of time. I made several porta potty stops along the way. I continued to run when I could and walk when I felt like I needed to- or wanted to. I saw my amazing friends at aid stations where I munched on salty potato chips, flat coke, and chicken broth. I saw more friends each time I crossed the Mill Avenue bridge. Cade and his mom were on the Mill Avenue bridge the first time I came across. He cheered me on and off I went into the darkness.

I talked to some interesting people on the run course. There was one guy that talked about how he did Ironman New Zealand. Another guy was bummed because he knew he wasn’t going to make the time cut-off. He was a lap behind me when I saw him. I got encouragement from more experienced athletes when I told them it was my first Ironman. There was a spectator lady who had a boom box playing music for the runners and she was hitting a cow bell with a drum stick to the beat. She was out there all night just playing the heck out of that cow bell. Who doesn’t need a little more cow bell? There were two people on the other end of the course playing music, dancing, and encouraging athletes that ran by. There were people dressed in those stretchy neon body suits running around encouraging athletes. The community and spectator support was awesome.

Cade kept popping up a few different places on the course. He would walk or run along near me and I would tell him what was going on. I’m sure I told him some interesting things. I felt totally lucid the entire time and Cade said that I looked amazing and was smiling every time he saw me. It was great to have his support even though I knew he was struggling and feeling sick.

Ironman Arizona 2012 Mile 20

Mile 20 on the Mill Avenue Bridge with Cade and Polly

My friends finished at their volunteer posts and I started seeing them on the course too. Michelle and Polly cheered for me and told me that they were so proud of me. I saw them all for the last time at about mile 24. I knew they would be waiting for me at the finish line. Off I went again into the darkness, alone. During those last two miles I was able to let my mind wander and reflect on the day. The day went so fast. It was almost hard to remember getting into the water at 7:00 a.m. It seemed like it was a different day. Even the bike seemed like it was a different day. I made my last potty stop near the cow bell lady and turned west along the South Shore Path of Tempe Town Lake for the last time.

As I got closer and closer to the finish line I could hear Mike Riley calling finisher names. I couldn’t believe that I was actually doing it. I was going to finish and I wasn’t anywhere near the cut off time of 17 hours. I got in with two other ladies about a half mile from the finish. One was a first timer like me. The other had completed other Ironman races. We walked together for a bit and the other first timer decided to run. I saw New Zealand guy just in front of me. Right before the turn up through the parking lot to the finish on Rio Salado Drive, there was a lady handing out glow stick necklaces. She asked me if I wanted one and I said yes. I wanted the purple one way on the bottom of her stack. She dug it out for me, put it around my neck and told me to go get that finish line.

By the time I got to the edge of the finish chute I was running. I burst through the darkness into the bright lights of the chute and saw hundreds of people lining the stands. I ran with a huge smile on my face taking the whole experience in. I didn’t actually hear Mike Riley say my name, but I did hear “Bennington, Nebraska You are an Ironman” and knew that was for me. I heard people calling my name from both sides of the chute. Michelle and Polly were on the left. Cade and his mom were on the right. I raised my hands above my head in triumph as I crossed the finish line and was caught by a volunteer. My legs shook as I stood there with him. He handed me my medal and congratulated me. 6:50:56.

15:45:05.

As he was walking me through the finisher’s chute, I heard my name called from the left. It was my big brother, Brandon. He had been tracking my progress all day and came to see me finish. I wasn’t expecting him to be there. It was so awesome that he came.

I picked up my  finisher’s shirt and hat, got my finisher’s picture taken, and went to the massage tent. My quads were totally trashed and my hip flexors were very tired. I got some compressions from a great sports massage guy then Polly and Anne helped me to an area with some chairs. I had some pizza, a few french fries, some water, maybe some pop and my friends came over to congratulate me. I sat there for a while wrapped in my space blanket to keep warm. Cade went and gathered our things and then we headed back to Brandon’s home. Walking was challenging. My body was definitely done. It was a slow walk to the car.

Perhaps the funniest thing that happened that night was this: When we left the finish area to head to the car, I had just the tiniest hint of needing to go to the bathroom. Brandon’s house was only about 15 minutes away so I figured I’d just go when we got there. After a couple of minutes in the car it went from a hint of needing to go to I Need to Go NOW or I’m going to pee in the car. We were on an on-ramp to the freeway and I had Cade pull over. There was a bush on the side of the on-ramp with my name on it. I hobbled over to the bush, pulled my pants down, tried to squat down and fell backwards into a fence. I was propped up by the fence a bit- good enough for me- so I went. Cade had to get out of the car and help me up or I would’ve still been stuck on that fence with my pants pulled down the next morning.

I didn’t really mean to just write a race report from Ironman Arizona 2012. There are a lot of details missing. Perhaps one of these days I’ll actually write a full report. Perhaps not.

Back to Goal #4: Finish Ironman Arizona 2013 in under 15 hours on November 17, 2013. I can probably cut a couple of minutes off of my swim. I know I can cut at least a couple of minutes off of my transition times. I can bike faster too and probably gain 10-15 minutes there. If I am able to really focus on my run this year, I am definitely capable of cutting some significant time off of my run. I’d like to actually run more of the run this year and that alone will make a huge time difference. There will be a HUGE group of people I know racing this year so I’ll see friends as fellow racers on the course. I know I can cut :45:05 off of my time. I will do it.

*I didn’t mean for this post to be quite so long. I got caught up in reminiscing about my past experiences. I’ll leave talking in detail about my plans to achieve my goals for another day. My basic plan is: Keep swimming and keep doing master’s swim at Pinnacle with my awesome coach and friend, Erin, do lots of brick workouts even if they are shorter, do hill work and speed work on the bike, keep up with some strength training, and really focus on my run.

It’s going to be a good year.