Posted in Races

The Keys 100

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May 17th-18th: Oscar talked me into The Keys 100. He’s not one to let me give up on my dream of completing a 100, so I agreed even though I would have preferred the 50, but here we were getting ready to run from Key Largo to Key West.

The temps were unusually low and people that had come out to train for Badwater were irritated that it was actually chilly. I couldn’t have been happier. We kept up our 7 min run and 3 min walk for a good 25 miles. Then the heat started getting to Oscar. We walked some, but nausea and dizziness began to set in. I don’t remember how many bridges we had crossed before we made it to a manned aid station. Thankfully the unmanned aid stations had ice and water, so that helped out a great deal. The heat continued to go on the rise and we were both feeling it. We had ice in our hats and around our necks and with little shade we knew we were in for a long haul until the sun began to set. We walked in the shade and ran to the next piece of shade we could find.

We made it to mile 50 with no significant problems. I changed socks and hoped that would be good enough to carry me through the night. Up next was the 7 mile bridge. The biggest challenge of the night.  It was 9pm and if you’ve ever been on the 7-mile bridge you’ll know that their is no shoulder. We only had those orange barrels protecting us from the vehicles that zoomed past us, who were clearly not following the speed limit. We ran for a bit, but slowed it down to a walk somewhere in the middle. We noticed others whose walking pace was close to a jog and wondered how they could be cruising along so quickly. It was nuts! The bridge seemed to go on forever and running across a bridge at night made it even worse. Where was the end of this thing? I could feel a blister forming on the bottom of my left foot. I knew it was going to be ugly by the time we reached the next aid station. It took us 2 hours to get off that bridge. I wondered if I had it in me to continue. My feet were killing me and we were at mile 62 or so. Christian, one of the volunteers popped the blisters on both our feet slathered some Aquaphor on them and we set off into the dead of the night. I really don’t remember most of the night. I was dream walking and Oscar was pulling me along…literally pulling me along. We sat in front of gas station for a good 10 minutes. I just wanted to sleep for a little bit. I thought it would help, but we found out from Christian, that if we didn’t make cut-off time we wouldn’t be able to continue on in the race, so we proceeded. With a few shots of Espresso and Christian encouraging us along the way, I woke up enough to increase my pace. It was nearing cut-off time and as the sun began to rise, we ran over another bridge before we saw the aid station at the bottom. We crossed the mat to read our chip timers. We barely made it, but we made it… by mere seconds. A small triumph. It was 6:30am.

We persisted towards Key West in the never ending heat. My feet could barely carry me. The blisters felt like a waterbed and I was scrunching my feet to avoid feeling more pain. It felt like pins and needles with every step. We ran across the overpass and to the last aid station, but felt deflated when we learned we wouldn’t make the 32 hr. cut-off time. No buckle! This is the part I deeply regret. A mile after the aid station with only 4 more miles left. I dropped out. Oscar followed suit. My mind once again shut down and so did my body. Susan, the volunteer who had urged us on and helped us along through the night, morning and afternoon greeting us with ice packs to put around our necks and keeping us fueled, drove us to the finish. Only 4 more miles to go and I DNF’D, not only that I should have encouraged Oscar to continue on. I admire him greatly for quitting when he could have gone on. It wasn’t just my dream to finish. I knew it was just as crushing for him. 4 stinking miles! It would have taken another hour or so to finish, but it could have been done. Total miles completed- 96 miles.

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What did I learn from this experience? Pop the blisters and soldier on cupcake!

Well, the sting of this defeat has only urged the two of us to sign up for another in November to get the job done. Wild Sebastian is officially on the calendar.

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Posted in Races

Zion 100

April 4th- A truly humbling experience. My first attempt at a 100 mile race. I had signed up for this race at the end of December with the full intention to finish this race. Why would I do anything less? Throughout the coming months leading up to the race, I went back and forth on whether or not I should run this difficult race. Was I really prepared for the mesas I would have to ascend and descend? I live in Florida for crying out loud! What kind training can a flat lander like myself get out here?!

Last minute, I decided I had enough training and with a 100k under my belt at least a couple months prior, it seemed I could take on the challenge. It was a mental game after all, right? That’s what I’m told, so I decided to take that theory on a test drive.

I enlisted the help of my friend, Tyler, to help pace me the last 50. He’s a native to Utah, so he was familiar with the challenges this course had to offer. I consider myself a semi-native. I lived in Utah from 7th grade until I graduated from college, but I hadn’t taken up running until long after I left the state.

We arrived late afternoon on Thursday, the day before race day. During packet pick-up I found myself with a few other Filipinos from San Francisco, which was a pleasant surprise. We talked about race pace and goal times. Race pace? Slow. Goal time? We all just wanted to finish.

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I woke up around 4am and with a couple of coffees, I was ready to get my run on. I set my drop bags out and gathered with the rest of the runners. I studied the other runners. Many carried the usual gear: a pack, compression calf sleeves, headlamp, gloves. One guy had on a pair of sandals on with each toe painted a different color. I wondered how his feet would hold up on the course. I wondered how my feet would hold up, after all I was using a brand new pair of Montrails I picked up in Virgin. I know, you’re NOT supposed to do that, but I did what I had to do because I knew the shoes that I had brought would be no good where I was running.

The countdown began and before I knew it, we were on our way. The only thing I could see were the dust clouds created by all the runners and further up ahead were a trail of headlamps. The course began with a 7 mile ascent. I slowed my pace and made my way up the mountain. Just when I thought I couldn’t get up that mountain, it finally leveled out. It felt good to be on top. Little did I know what lay ahead.

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Ran a bit with the guy in the colorful shorts, but ended up joining another group of guys which included Josh from St. Augustine, and two guys from Seattle. Pete, 62, who was Josh’s uncle, and the other guy was Pete’s personal trainer. We made our way to the second aid station talking about strategy. I was a willing listener due to the fact that Pete had ran this 100 before. As we approached the aid station,  I knew something was wrong with the back of my right heel, but didn’t realize it until I took off my shoe off. Sure enough, I had dried blood running down my heel from a few granules of dirt rubbing between the back of my heel and sock with added friction from my shoe. Luckily, the three guys had a crew waiting and with band aids to spare we headed off once again.

We meandered through the trails, some single tracks and some dirt paths that could accommodate two runners. The trail took us up past dried creek beds and past juniper trees. We ran in anticipation looking for the next mountain. When would it strike? After a while Pete said, “There it is. We’re headed that way.” It was a monster of a mountain. That’s where the next aid station was located and we were going straight up to meet it. Josh and Pete left PT and I to struggle up the nearly 90 degree mountain. I found a stick and used it as an extra foot hold. It was slippery. Up ahead someone was coming back down. It was another runner. “What the f$#%@?” PT said, We’re running back down this mountain? That’s when I began to think, I really should have reviewed the course map.

We finally made it to the top. There seemed to be a party going on at the Gooseberry Aid Station. People were sitting in camp chairs, changing socks and refueling. I stopped for a couple pieces of watermelon and began what I thought was a 4 mile loop. Nope, it was much longer than that. I ran through a pleasant path filled with Juniper trees on either side and some cows (didn’t expect to see that) and then the landscape changed and I was running on slick rock. I was leaping and bounding rocks and my hips were not in agreement with the change in terrain. The views were magnificent, but after making the final loop to turn around back to Gooseberry my body did not want to carry on. I was running on my own and it was getting cold. I began to trip over pebbles. Then I started walking. That’s when I knew there would be no buckle. I felt defeated and completely unworthy to call myself an ultramarathoner. Negative talk consumed me. I called my boyfriend, Oscar. He was in sunny Florida and I was in near tears in cold and desolate Utah. He wished he’d had come out. He knew before I called that something had gone wrong. I told him I had to throw in the towel. He stayed on the phone with me until I neared the aid station. It felt like an eternity just to get that far. I ran 43 miles. The mother of the RD was manning the aid station and nearly swayed me to run another 20 miles so that I could at least complete a 100k, but I thought better of it. I wasn’t feeling like running down that steep mountain at night. I knew I’d probably roll down the mountain and need to be carried out in a stretcher. No thanks. I’ll take my 43 miles and call it a day.

My mind could not carry me through this one. A volunteer who was the RD’s brother drove me down the mountain, so that I could meet up with Tyler. As the temperature continued to drop, I watched the other runners bundled up in their night time gear. It was supposed to get down to 25 degrees. Their headlamps were on and with determined faces they made their way down the mountain. At that point my devastation turned into a joyful feeling that I wasn’t going to have to endure a long night on the trails in the cold. I decided that I would try again next year. I wasn’t going to give up that easily. I’ll come back and defeat the beast. It wasn’t my time and decided that I was okay with that. So, what did I learn from this? The terrain is what did me in, not the elevation change. Also, my mind did NOT want to have anything to do with this race. Once your mind says no, you’re body will do the same. So, yes it came down to my mental game and inadequate training. I learned a lot from my first 100 and as a runner I continually learn about myself in the process.