My journey from having a baby to finishing RDL!
At five months postpartum, I finished the Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Endurance Run (RDL) in 29:41
A few days before my baby was due, I went into what I thought would be a routine prenatal appointment. My blood pressure was concerningly high so I was admitted for induction.
The next few days would be filled with various complications before (high blood pressure leading to pre-eclamsia, painful swelling), during (vomitting, two hours of pushing, tearing), and after (excessive bleeding, blood clot, blood transfusion) the birth of my baby. While there were many complications, I did manage to have a vaginal birth to a healthy baby girl. All the complications were mostly with me, not the baby.
Labor was very long. I went in on a Thursday afternoon and my baby was born just after midnight on Saturday, June 6, 2015. And, I wasn't released from the hospital until Monday. My body was put through the wringer with the whole process. I feel fortunate I was already an endurance athlete as the whole experience was certainly a test of endurance.
Postpartum Running and Training for RDL
After my name was pulled in the Western States lottery last December and I had recovered from all the heartbreaking tears as to not being able to train or race in the 2015 Western States, I signed up for Rio Del Lago 100 in my early pregnancy knowing the race would be the last Western States qualifying race for the 2016 Western States. I was (and still am) determined to run and finish Western States some day. I knew that I would have five months after giving birth to my baby to do RDL. I believed that would be enough time for me to train and fortunately, the race was local.
The training was harder than anticipated.
First, I thought I would be running sooner than I did. I waited nearly two weeks before my first attempt to run. I was taking a walk with my baby in the stroller around the neighborhood. I decided to run down the street a little bit to see how it felt. After only a few strides, I felt so weird that I immediately stopped and walked. I did not feel pain. I just felt like everything down under was so loose and ready to fall out. After that, I chose to wait a bit longer before starting to run. I wouldn't begin to really run until after a month postpartum.
However, I did do a lot of hiking around as it was easy enough to bring along the baby. I frequently hiked on Stagecoach trail near my house. The trail is two miles long with a decent, steady incline (or decline if you're running down). Hiking on Stagecoach made me feel like I could get a little hill work done.
At three weeks postpartum, I would go to Squaw Valley for the start of Western States. The day before the race, my husband, baby and I did the Montrail 6k Uphill Challenge. We hiked three miles up the mountain to high camp. The elevation really kicked my butt. I also found I no longer had my cardio. That experience along with a "talk" someone had with me earlier in the day about starting the race as well as my baby having some feeding issues made me decide to not toe the start line as I had originally intended. Instead, I watched the start and the following day, I watched some of the finishes including an amazing finish by a 70-year old woman within seconds of the cutoff.
After Western States, I was determined to get back into ultra running shape.
I invested in a quality treadmill (PROFORM 995i) knowing that having a baby would make it difficult to get training runs done. The treadmill has a fan (while it is helpful but I still sweat like crazy), quick speed buttons (which I love, especially when doing intervals), quick incline buttons (great for hill workouts), speakers, and other bells and whistles I haven't quite figured out yet. The treadmill ended up being very key to my training. I put a few hundred miles on it training for RDL.
Around one month pp, I did my first run on the treadmill. I walked for a bit and did a few one minute runs. From there, I built up my time running. My cardio was very weak initially so I did a lot of walking and running. And, when I was running, the pace was fairly slow. When I tried to run a little faster, even at a 10 minute pace, my heart rate would skyrocket and my lungs would burn. My legs felt like they could still run fairly well but my heart and lungs struggled during my workouts.
Initially, I tried running on the treadmill while the baby was napping or sitting in the car seat next to the treadmill. Those workouts started out okay as my workouts were fairly short in time. However, it eventually got frustrating as the baby would always cry and interrupt my run. I'd stop and go change her diaper and get back on the treadmill. A little bit later, she'd cry and I'd have to go feed her and/or get her to nap. I'd get back on the treadmill for a little bit and she'd cry. And so the cycle continued.
Later on, when my baby started sleeping longer in the night, I started doing my treadmill workouts shortly after I put her to bed. I'd put the baby monitor screen on the treadmill so I could see monitor her while running. These night runs were much better as the baby would generally not interrupt me. I ended up developing a good night time routine of putting baby down to sleep, running on the treadmill, showering, tidying up the house, and going to bed. While treadmill running isn't that appealing generally, I did start to really enjoy my night time treadmill runs. It was the time of the day where I could get my "me" time. I'd like escaping from mommy-hood for a bit to listen to my podcasts and just run. I also found doing my night time runs regularly helped give me more energy and definitely helped me unwind.
As RDL got closer, I started focusing on more quality workouts on the treadmill. I did a lot of speed work. I liked doing intervals on the treadmill. I did slowly get some speed back but I'm still a ways from being as fast as I used to be. I did a few long runs (2+ hours) on the treadmill too. Those long runs were really tough mentally but I stuck them out believing it was really good mental training for the late stages of an ultra. My longest treadmill run was 12 miles and I think it was harder than running 20 miles outside. But, I felt like this is what is going to make me mentally strong 80 miles into a 100 mile race when I want to quit but I keep grinding it out. I did a few hill workouts too including just hiking at steep inclines.
Stroller Strides and Stroller Running
Around 4 weeks postpartum, I started going to Stroller Strides classes at a park in Auburn. This is a boot camp-like class done with your little ones. These classes were great workouts, working the whole body. It was also really fun meeting other active moms with babies. I also found the strength exercises done in the classes were helpful to my running (I was not good about doing strength work before with my running). When I went back to work at 12 weeks pp, I wasn't able to keep going to Stroller Strides due to my schedule, but I continued doing strength exercises at home.
Around 6 weeks pp, I joined the Auburn Moms Run This Town running group for their summer running event. I pushed my baby around in the stroller for our first 5k run together. Auburn is not flat and pushing a stroller up a hill is quite the workout. Running with the stroller also worked additional muscles (the core and arms) that normal running does not. I was super sore from this run. Some postpartum bleeding came back after this run so I had to ease up a week before I went back to running.
At 9 weeks postpartum, I ran pushing the baby in the Stroller around Lake Natoma (11.5ish miles). Being able to complete a lake loop was a big milestone of my return to running. In my early days of running (especially when I was training for my first marathon), I did a lot of running around Lake Natoma. To me, a lake loop is a good foundation to my running training. Getting my first postpartum lake loop was a good feeling. Now, running that long with the baby was not so easy. She does initially enjoy being outside and checking things out as I run. Sometimes, she'll nap. But, she fussed a few other times. Towards the end, she was tired of being pushed and had to be carried back to the car. After this run, I kept my runs with her for shorter distances.
Building Up the Miles
At 7 weeks postpartum, I ran Blood Sweat Beers 10 miler. This would be my first double-digit run. I was nervous since I had a few not so great runs beforehand. The race would go on some Auburn trails that I have run a lot on pre-baby. When I started the race, it was as if my running legs remembered those trails and I felt wonderful being out on the trails again. I even felt strong running up the hills. However, I only felt great for about 9 miles when I started cramping and bonking a bit. Luckily, I only had a mile to the finish. But, I realized that I would need to re-learn how to fuel on the long runs.
With the help and support of my amazing husband taking on daddy duty, I got more long training runs out on the trails after that. Most of my weekday running was on the treadmill but I could usually get one long run in on the weekend. Planning some of the long runs was challenging with the baby. I couldn't go to many group training runs as they usually started around the time I would need to be feeding my baby. So, I did do a lot of training alone. I did a lot of my long training runs later in the morning, or in the middle of the day. I continued to struggle with cramping and fueling as I built up my mileage. But, it usually happened when I started going farther in my distance.
At 10 weeks pp, I did my first 20 mile training run on the RDL course. I pumped in my car mid-way through the run. This would be my first run where I pumped during the run. I used a manual pump and pumped in the backseat of my car (usually with the car -- and AC-- running). As I built up my mileage, I not only had to figure out when to do my long runs that would work with my husband/baby but also pick locations where I could loop back to my car to pump. The good thing about these pump breaks is that I could refuel at the same time.
At 15 weeks pp, I ran a 26.2 mile training run, my first pp marathon run. Things were progressing along, a little slower than anticipated but I was feeling good that I was getting some longer runs under my belt.
For the first 20-something miles, I felt great running on the trails. I was going faster than I had anticipated I would be going but wanted to put a little extra in my pace knowing I would lose some time pumping at the aid station. Around mile 20-something, I pumped (with a double electric pump) at the aid station.
After that, the course got a lot harder, the day got a lot hotter, and the wheels started to come off. I started cramping around mile 26. My calves, quads, and hips were screaming in pain going up and down all the hills. My feet started to blister too. And, I didn't carry enough water so was just wilting in the heat. A few friends who volunteered at the aid stations were fantastic in helping me keep going through this tough section.
I made it to Cool, 40ish miles in, to see my husband and baby as I pumped again. Seeing my family gave me a bit of a boost as I continued on.
As I left Cool, my legs cramped up some more. I knew I was getting close to the cutoff. I debated whether I should just call it quits in Auburn. My legs had been cramping for nearly 20 miles and not getting any better. I didn't want to compromise my legs for RDL. I knew a part of me is stubborn and didn't want to quit and wanted to keep going. But, another part of me felt said my legs are SO done and I needed to remember that this is not the A race.
After No Hands Bridge, as I climbed up to ADO (not the usual way but another crazy route that goes down some steep technical trails to the river and back up a brutal climb), I decided I was done. 13 hours with nearly 50 miles was a good long day on my feet. This was a good training day for RDL. So, I slowed down to get there just after the cutoff. I probably could have made it there before the cutoff if I had wanted to. But, I knew if I got there before cutoff, I would have been tempted to keep going. So, I arrived two minutes after the cutoff happy to call it a day.
I did not feel disappointed in FLUT. It actually made me feel good about RDL. A friend told me the bad training runs or races you have before a hundred are great training for the big day. You put yourself through some suffering and you learn what things need to be adjusted for the A race. Before Zion 100, I DNF'd two races and I thought they helped me get the finish at Zion. So, I looked at me getting a DNF at FLUT as a good sign for me being able to finish RDL.
Also, I took a number of lessons learned from FLUT with me into RDL: start SLOWER, carry more water/fluids, eat more, do a little more strength work, and take care of blisters/feet issues early on.
After FLUT, I tapered down my running. I would run the Overlook 30k as my last long run. I started doing more strength exercises (squats, planks, lunges, push-ups, etc) and yoga more frequently in the weeks leading up to RDL. And, I continued getting my massages at Massage Vudoo, including getting one the day before RDL. The massages helped keep the body was in good working order.
I sometimes wished I had run more miles but I couldn't change that. I think I did enough quality training. I was as ready as I could be.
RIO DEL LAGO
In the wee hours of the morning, I wake up and get ready for the race. My baby must have known something was up as she woke up early too. I breastfeed her and get some morning snuggles before I head out to the race.
At the start, there are many friends gathered around ready to start on our big adventure! There's a lot of excitement in the air!
Lake Natoma Loop - first 19 miles
5 am, everyone takes off from Beals Point. I run a little bit with some friends but watch many of them drift off ahead. I learned my lesson from FLUT that I would not start out too fast. This first section is dangerous for people starting out too fast as it's mostly on paved bike trail and relatively flat terrain.
I run mostly with Edd but do see a few other friends too (Samantha, Patty, Gail, and Lisa). Edd jokes that he is a smart guy as he's with all the girls at the back of the pack.
Other than a few chilly patches, this first section goes by fairly easily. I have some good laughs with Edd. We see a few non-racing friends out along the way, either out on a morning run or just out spectating.
I arrive back at Beals Point around 9:30ish in 303rd place.
Theresa (my super star crew person) has set everything up so I can pump (with the double electric pump). I pump while chatting with Theresa and my husband. My baby is asleep in the baby carrier so I don't get any baby snuggles. :(
Beals to Rattlensake Bar (Mile 35.8)
I leave Beals running alone and continue at my conservative pace.
My feet had blistered badly at FLUT and the skin on the bottom of my feet has not quite recovered so I can tell my feet are ready to blister again. When I arrive into Granite Beach, I change my socks. The feet feel much better in the new socks. I also see many of my FTR friends at the Granite Beach aid station too and that gives me a little boost.
I continue running along and run a bit with my friend Lisa as we head through Granite Bay dodging many mountain bikers zipping by us. We eventually get into the meat grinder where there are no more mountain bikes.
In the meat grinder, I get a little ahead of Lisa and run alone for a bit. It's very quiet and peaceful out here. I think about how I was out in civilization earlier running around Lake Natoma and now, I'm all alone in nature.
As I'm moving along, I catch a glimpse of Edd so I scramble to catch up to him. Happy to have his company again, we get through the rest of the meat grinder and most of the way to Rattlesnake Bar together.
I arrive at Rattlesnake Bar around 1:36 p.m. in 282nd place.
At Rattlesnake Bar, a lot of people are there. Theresa has set up my breast pump for me again. However, I see my baby with my husband. She's awake this time. So, I take her and breastfeed her as it's much easier to breastfeed her than to pump. It's also nice getting to hold and snuggle with her.
Theresa helps me to get fueled up and prepares me for sundown as I won't get to the next crew stop until dark.
After feeding my baby, I tape up my feet with duct tape trying to get ahead of my blister problem.
I head out a little bit later feeling happy to have seen my baby.
Rattlesnake to Cool (Mile 52)
From Rattlesnake, I continue my way towards Auburn running mostly alone. I see Lisa occasionally ahead or behind me. But, Edd has disappeared ahead of me (he didn't take as long at the aid station as I did).
I arrive to the bottom of Cardiac and start climbing the bypass. I see one guy sitting on the ground slowly picking himself up. I ask if he's okay. He says he's feeling light headed. I climb up to the Last Gasp aid station and tell the volunteers there about the guy. A couple guys go running down to tend to him. I hope he is okay.
At the Last Gasp aid station, there's all kinds of food. I eat part of a grilled cheese sandwich and part of a breakfast burrito. I know I haven't been eating quite enough (mostly munching on peanut butter crackers and gels so far) so try to eat some more food here.
I then climb my way up to Auburn. Here, this is home turf for me. While I know the entire course, here in Auburn, it is where I have spent the most amount of time running since I live nearby. Being back in Auburn is comforting.
I hike fairly briskly up to the Flint Gate, next to the Auburn Overlook. When I arrive up there, I see a whole slew of posters my FTR friends have put together for all the FTRs racing. Each poster is a picture of each one of us but on silly drawings. My face is plastered on a flower. All the posters give me a big smile and laugh. I am grateful for having such amazing friends!
While heading down to No Hands Bridge, I start seeing a few of the front runners starting their way back to Beals Point. The sun starts to set and it's nearly dark by the time I reach the bridge.
From the bridge, I power hike my way up to Cool. It's three miles there but nearly all uphill. I want to get up there in less than an hour so I power hike away in the dark. I hear some rustling in the trees/bushes near me and this makes me a little anxious but I keep powering on up. Try not to think about. Just get to Cool.
I arrive in Cool at 6:32 p.m. in 262nd place.
A lot of people are at Cool so it is fun to see a whole village of runners have gathered in Cool. My crew as well as many of my friends' crews are there as well and everyone is ready to help each runner out.
My husband and baby are there as well. I take my baby and breastfeed her while I eat a burrito my husband has gotten me. He wants to make sure I eat enough.
After baby and I have eaten, I layer up. The temperature is dropping and everyone is getting cold.
I leave the Cool Fire Station with David pacing me. We walk and shuffle along as best as I can. My feet are blistering on the pads of my feet so it's starting to get uncomfortable but I am still able to move at a relatively decent pace. David and I chat about various things from travel, food, our friends, running, etc. . . . I always enjoy David's company and it's nice having him with me now. David trips a number of times on the trails (loose rocks, tree roots, etc). He doesn't fall but each time he trips, he fumbles a little that it makes me laugh. He's so graceful. Hehehe
In the race, you do the Olmstead loop twice but in opposite directions. So, you get to see other racers on this section, which I normally enjoy. It gets a little tricky trying to move off the trail for incoming runners but it's nice as I get to see a few of my running friends. There are a number of people who run by saying "Hi Helen!" but it's too dark for me to see who it is. Fortunately, I do recognize some (some I recognize by their voice). About half the people who passed me and called out my name, I have no idea who they are.
As we loop back to the Cool Fire Station, it starts to get even colder. By the time I return back to the aid station, I am freezing and ready to put on my fleece sweatshirt and sweat pants over my running clothes. My pacer Adam is there wearing some interesting knit shorts. He says they are warm.
After bundling up and eating more, I drink some of my Starbucks frappicino as I can feel myself getting tired. Paulo lets me hold his white mocha which feels so warm in my hands. He lets me take a sip and it's the most wonderful, warm tasting white mocha I have ever tasted.
Adam and I head back out to the Olmstead Loop (in the reverse direction). We move along at an okay pace. I knew I would slow down at night but I am feeling decent as to my time. I've been going almost exactly to my projected times and I had anticipated slowing down at night.
Adam and I chit chat about various things from babies, the holidays, future races, etc. . . At some point, he comments on how cool the stars look and just as we are looking up, we see what we think is a shooting star (it is later determined to be something else, a rocket maybe?).
The blisters on the bottom of my feet start to bother me when I run downhills but I push through the pain and keep trudging along. I can tell my feet are starting to swell up and starting to press up against the side of my shoes. It is usually at 60-ish miles when my feet start to go south. I can feel the duct tape is somewhat holding things in place. At least keeping things from getting worse.
We get back to Cool at 12:11 a.m. I am in 242nd place.
Theresa asks if I want to pump. I am too cold to pump and don't want to lose time to pumping so I tell her to not worry about it the rest of the way.
Clint helps changes my socks and shoes (the new shoes are the Altra Superiors which are bigger than my Altra Lonepeaks). I drink more coffee as I feel the sleep monster coming to get me. I feel so tired and rub my face trying to wake up. I think Clint thinks I'm upset (like I'm about to cry or something) as he mumbles "uh-oh" or something. I see his look of concern but I can also hear his voice from previous conversations we've had telling me how I'm mentally tough. I am tired but I tell myself I can do this. Just keep going. Theresa gives me a baby wipe to wipe my face down, which helps.
I get back up and head on out into the toughest part of the night.
Cool to Rattlesnake Bar (Mile 84)
When I leave Cool, the wind blows and my face starts to freeze. I tell Adam how my arms and legs are warm but my face is so cold. Adam runs back to Cool to get my buff for me to cover my face. There is a very cold chill in the air. I'm glad I have a lot of layers on. At times when I am running, I feel a little warm but when I hit the cold sections, I am grateful to have all the extra layers.
When I did RDL a couple years ago, I ended up falling asleep on my feet and sleep walking at a very slow pace for a few miles. As it gets later into the night, I can feel myself getting tired and I try my best to keep focused so I don't fall asleep. I cannot afford to slow down too much.
The run down from Cool to No Hands goes relatively quickly. I am able to get a good shuffling run going and we make it down there in a relatively decent time. I drink some hot chocolate and continue my way up to the Overlook.
I start paying more attention to the time. I do a lot of thinking ahead as to how fast I can do each section and what the cutoff times are. I make goals for myself as to when I want to reach each aid station. I tell myself I need to get to Flint Gate by 2:30 a.m.
My feet are hurting so that's making me cranky. Adam tries to push me to run at times and sometimes I go, sometimes I tell him no. He tells me that Clint told him to make sure I keep moving. Adam starts to kind of annoy me. He keeps saying "You're doing great" which I am tired of hearing. So, I tell him to stop. I tell him to read me facebook messages to help motivate me. He reads a few which is nice but I wish he would read more.
The climb up from No Hands back to Flint Gate gets tough. At 70 miles, climbing is hard. I know they say the new RDL course is "easier" but is it really? I'm doing these climbs later in the race on much more tired legs. I try to keep moving as best as I can but climbing is really exhausting. The good thing is I know this climb to the Overlook like the back of my hand, even in the dark. So, I just keep looking at little things to mark my way, knowing I am getting close to the top.
Right before getting up to the Overlook, my headlamp dies. Luckily, I have my other headlamp which Theresa had put new batteries in me for. I remember my headlamp dying at Zion and having to go in the dark for a couple miles to the aid station. Glad I was prepared this time.
We make it to Flint Gate sometime after 2 am. They have already started packing things up. I quickly grab more gels and move quickly through the aid station wanting to get to the next one as quickly as possible. I briefly think about how my house is nearby and how nice it would be to be back at home. But, I continue moving down to Last Gasp.
From there, we mostly run (shuffle run) down to Last Gasp since it's mostly downhill. Adam asks me if I feel excited that we are heading back to Beals. I say no. Beals is still a long way to go. He talks about how it must feel good knowing I'm on my way back and I get very upset at him that I can't think about how far Beals is. To him, it doesn't seem that far but to me, it is. While I have gone 3/4 of the way there, 25 miles is still too far to wrap my brain around right now. It is too much to think about. I think how far away 11 a.m. is and that's over 8 hours from now. It upsets me to think that I have to be out here for 8 more hours. I go back to focusing on getting aid station to aid station, bite sized portions.
I get to the aid station, eat a little pizza and move quickly out of the aid station again. No time to waste dilly dallying. I am thinking about the time a lot. I start doing time calculations as to where I want to be the rest of the race. Doing these time calculations (which I did in Zion) are good in keeping my mind focused so I don't fall asleep. I want to get to Rattlesnake Bar (in 6 miles) before 5:30 a.m., then to Horsehoe Bar before 6:30 a.m., to Granite Beach by 9:30 a.m., which should give me enough time to finish before the 11 am cutoff. I think about these things and think if I can get a little ahead of these times to give me more cushion at the end, that will be good.
Adam runs a little bit ahead of me when we hit the single track. We aren't talking too much now. I kind of just want my own space and he seems to be getting that. He does annoy me sometimes as he will slow down and I will get behind him and have to snap at him to "Move!" or he'll run too fast and disappear ahead of me. I am shuffling along fairly well considering I have blisters on my feet. I pass a number of people as I really want to get to Rattlesnake as far ahead of 5:45 am as possible. I know I can make the cutoff but I want to have some cushion as I know the stretch from Horseshoe Bar to Granite Beach (almost 9 miles) will be a long one. Luckily, if I am running, I can run at a decent pace. Almost the same pace that I was running during the start. I just happen to walk a little more now. But when I walk, I try to walk briskly. I make a goal to get to Rattlesnake and be out of there by 5:30 a.m.
We run what seems like forever to get to the Powerhouse. There's a port-a-potty there which I am making myself get to. I feel like it's getting close but each bend comes and it still isn't here. I argue and whine with Adam as to where the hell is the Powerhouse! I am getting so frustrated. I am so tired. I just want to get to Rattlesnake. I want to see Theresa who will comfort me. I want to see Cathy who will find a way to make me smile. I want to see Clint who will give me the pep talk that I need. I can hear Clint's voice in my head urging me to keep going.
After awhile, we finally get to the Powerhouse. I take a relatively quick potty break and we continue on. I know Rattlesnake is nearby. I argue with Adam some more when I think the aid station should be here by now but I don't see it. He chuckles at me, amused at my grumpiness. That annoys me more. I think I have reached my limit of my time with Adam. I am ready for my next pacer.
We eventually arrive at Rattlesnake Bar at 5:19 a.m. I am in 227th place.
I get here and with the help of Theresa, I take off some of my layers preparing for the morning. Theresa restocks my pack and Clint offers to help with my feet but I tell him there's nothing to be done to make it better. It is what it is. Painful but tolerable and I don't want to mess with it to make it worse.
I get some food in me including a cold pancake that Clint managed to find at the aid station. Theresa and Clint being there give me the comfort I needed. They just seem to know what I want or what to say to make me feel better.
I get up to head out. There's no more crew from here to the finish so I tell my friends I will see them at the finish. I am determined to get there.
Rattlesnake to the Finish (101.4 miles)
Cathy and I climb out of Rattlesnake Bar back onto the trail. Once back onto the trail, I am able to get a good run/shuffle going on the flatter sections. We get into a pretty decent running groove with a few walking moments.
I am happy to have Cathy's company. You can never be really that grumpy around Cathy. She's such a happy, sweet person. We talk about various things from our friends, cooking shows, food, funny race moments, etc. . . .and we have many laughs.
The sun begins to rise as we near Horseshoe Bar. I feel more energy as the sun rises and able to run a little more than before. But then, we hit the meat grinder. And what a grind it is! My time really slows down through this section but I push through as best as I can. I really want to get to Granite Beach before 9:30 a.m.
My husband texts me in the morning asking for an update. He sends a picture of my baby saying "Go Mommy Go!" This gives me a nice boost. I get a little emotional thinking about seeing my baby at the finish. I must get there.
As we near the Granite Bay aid station, which seems to take forever, I start losing energy. I start getting drowsy again. We run a little less and walk more. But, time is still looking okay. I tell Cathy how I look forward to getting to the aid station as Steve will be there and he will give me some shit, as that's what he does.
We finally arrive at Granite Beach around 9:15 a.m. and sure enough, Steve is there yelling something at me. I can't quite hear him but I know he's giving me some shit of some sort. I get into the aid station seeing some more friendly faces of fellow FTRs.
Seeing my friends peps me up a little but I end up forgetting to grab more gels. As I head towards Cavitt, I realize I forgot to grab more gels. My energy is fading but I keep pushing on knowing the finish is near. And, this last section, I know all too well.
I let my husband know that I am getting close and he tells me him and the baby are waiting for me. Cathy and I trudge along the last couple miles. I slow down more, not really in a hurry anymore. I know I can get there in time so I don't feel compelled to push anymore. I actually think it'd be kind of fun to be DFL. I let some folks pass me as they head to the finish.
It begins to rain on us, just lightly. The rain does not bother me. It's quite refreshing. But, this makes me worry about my baby being out in the rain. I still hope to see her.
I climb my way up to the last levee and there is my husband with our baby in the stroller (nicely covered from the rain). He had dressed our baby in her giraffe costume as I had suggested since it's warm and fuzzy and has a hood. I'm so happy to see them, especially my little girl. A few other friends are there on the levee too to cheer me on.
I push the stroller across the levee running and walking a bit. As I near the end of the levee, I start running more thinking again this is like the old course where you just run to the end of the levee and down into the finish. Nope, I reach the end of the levee and I am told I still have to do a loop around the parking lot.
Good grief. Do you really need to have this extra loop? Does the course really need to be 101.4 miles? Can't you just leave it at 100?!
My husband, baby and I go around the parking lot. My husband takes the baby over to some covered picnic tables to change her diaper. I slowly walk and kind of wait for him to get back to me. I've got more than enough time to finish so am really taking my time now as I want to finish with my baby.
My husband, baby and I come along the final stretch (the real final stretch now). We are walking along but I can hear my friends at the finish line urging me on. So, I start pushing the stroller towards the finish chute. When I get to the finish chute, I take the baby out of the stroller and carry her across the finish line while my many friends cheer!
And, I feel overjoyed that I did it and got to share in the special moment with my wonderful baby girl. :)
Official Finish Time 29:41:48
For my third 100 miler, I think this one went as well executed as I could have hoped. My pace was mostly right on par with the pace chart I had put together. It's been tough accepting that I am slower than I used to be. But, I am glad I played it smart and started slow, which did pay off later in the race. I moved from 303rd place to 227th place from the beginning to the end so that makes me feel good I paced myself as I should have.
I am happy I did not cramp at all during the race. I think doing the extra strength work and yoga the weeks leading up to the race helped a lot. I am glad I finally got my fueling down. At least I managed things better. I was surprised how well my stomach held up during the race. GI issues is usually my biggest struggle in ultras. I started eating more gels and less of the snacky foods so who knows if that's the case or not.
My biggest issue was the blisters on my feet, which I knew were going to happen. I used duct tape like I did at Zion. It didn't work quite as well as Zion but I think it helped keep things from getting into a bigger problem. I managed to still move at a relatively decent pace.
Pumping and breastfeeding didn't end up adding too much time to my race as I tried to be more efficient at the other aid stations. I did enjoy breastfeeding more than pumping as that's me getting to be snuggled up with my baby. It was an interesting element to add to my racing.
Finishing RDL, I qualified to enter the lottery for Western States again. I put my name back into the hat and we will see what happens in 2016. I hope to get in as I dream of taking my baby across the finish line at Placer High School. If I don't get in next year, I will continue to qualify and keep at it until my day comes. :)
As always, I am grateful to the trail running community for all their love and support. I am grateful to everyone who's extended kind, supportive words to me before, during, or after.
And, I personally want to thank:
-NorCal Ultras, all the organizers and volunteers for putting on a fantastic event as always. The course was marked well. I really liked the giant "NO" at the bottom of Cardiac making sure you did not go the wrong way. The aid stations all were fantastic.
-Java Joggers - You were the group that made me into a runner and have remained always there to support me. It was great running with you when I was working on getting my running base back. And, thank you for all the love and support you have always given me.
-Folsom Trail Runners - Love our FTR family! Thank you to those who put together those great posters for us FTR runners. Thank you for those working the aid stations, especially Steve Godfrey for organizing the Granite Bay aid station. Thanks for all your support in everything I do, both in the ups and downs. I also thank you for the wonderful finish line cheer I received from you all!
-Congratulations to all the race finishers especially Edd, Jerry S, and Roger who I was grateful to share in this adventure with you guys. Thanks for your encouragement during my training and during the race. You were part of my last two hundos and glad you were there in my third hundo.
-Thanks Edd, Samantha, Lisa, Patty, and Gail for sharing some of the miles with me. I enjoyed being able to run with you and chat with you for some of it.
-Thank you to Theresa for being an awesome crew person and tending to my every need! You are the best!! You always knew what I needed and anticipating what I might need ahead! Love you!
-Thank you Clint for your treadmill advice. I followed your example with my treadmill training. Also, thanks for reminding me that I'm mentally tough. Your voice definitely helped me keep going through some tough parts. And, thanks for your help during the race, be it changing my sock/shoes, finding me a pancake, etc. . .
-Thank you Rebecca, Paulo, and Zena for helping me out in the middle of the night as well.
-Thank you David, Adam, and Cathy for pacing me. The night part is not easy for me and having your company was helpful (even if I did get annoyed with you Adam =P). I'm grateful to have shared my adventure with you!
-Thank you Tom for all the awesome massages that keep my body in working order so I can accomplish these amazing events.
-Thank you MRTT (Mothers Run This Town). The running while pregnant and/or nursing group has provided a lot of inspiration and support. And, the Auburn chapter has been a wonderful group cheering this mama on! I hope to be able to run more with you all in the future!
-Thank you ultrarunningpodcast, Talk Ultra, Ginger Runner, and Trail Runner Nation for your awesome podcasts. I spent many many hours listening to the podcasts while on the treadmill or out on a long training run!
-Thank you Liza Howard and Jennifer Benna, elite female runners who ran while pregnant and after having a baby, came back stronger. I am inspired by all elite runners but you two were ones I read more about when I was pregnant. I read your stories and gained a lot of inspiration from you and women like you. Stories of how you still kicked butt in your races where you had to pump really made me believe I could do RDL while pumping/breastfeeding.
-Thank you Paul for driving my car back home after the race. Glad to have seen you out there on the course!
-Thank you Carolyn for helping watch Ellie after I finished the race so I could take a shower.
-Thank you Valerie for helping watch Ellie during the race day/night.