May 7, 2016
About a year ago, while 8 months pregnant, I volunteered at the finish line of Canyons 100k with my friend Lisa. It was a long day but I had a lot of fun hanging out and seeing all the 100k finishers into the wee hours of the night. I made many new friends that day and even got to sit and chat with Rob Krar for a bit (after his amazing win). Even though a part of me wished I was out running the race, I still enjoyed working the finish line and seeing all the runners.
During the race and after, I made myself the goal to run Canyons 100k in 2016. I was looking forward to my post-baby come back in 2016 and saw Canyons would be the perfect event for me. The race covers some of the best parts of Western States (some of my favorite trails to run on) and it was a hilly course (I prefer hilly courses). Naturally, I had hoped to get selected for Western States for 2016 but I knew the odds of that happening were slim so set my sights on Canyons 100k.
When Canyons 100k became a Western States qualifier, that was just bonus. I had my mind set to run the race regardless. And when I didn’t get selected for Western States this year, I wasn’t too disappointed as Canyons 100k would be my A race for the year.
My goal for Canyons 100k was always to run a strong, solid race.
I have done a lot of crazy endurance events. I know I have endurance. I know how to endure through the crazy distances. I knew I had the endurance to get through Rio Del Lago five months after having a baby. I knew even though I was undertrained for RDL and had lost a lot of speed and fitness, I had the mental endurance to finish. I know how to get through things.
The trouble with this knowledge sometimes is that I would then not put in as hard of an effort in training and in the race. Before, I used to just do crazy event after crazy event, barely making it through some. I was a little cocky then believing that I could get through anything, even if it's slow, I'll finish. Before my first 100k (Gold Rush in 2013), I was doing event after event, not really focusing on anything as an "A" goal. Everything was an "A" goal. I would do AR50, Napa Hits Full (an ironman distance triathlon), and Grand Canyon R2R2R the month prior to Gold Rush. At Gold Rush, I would finish 2nd to last, fighting the cutoffs the last 10 miles. At Napa Hits Full, after hardly doing any triathlon focused training, I would finish last, just minutes before the cutoff. Training for my second 100 (Zion), I kind of haphazardly threw together some long runs on some weekends. I had no worries about completing Zion since I already completed a 100 before. I knew what to expect. At Zion, I would fight the cutoffs for the latter 50 miles of the race, coming narrowly within 5-15 minutes at many of the aid stations. For CIM 2014, I completely slacked off on the training and I would finish about two hours from my marathon PR (getting pregnant just beforehand was a convenient excuse).
Part of running is learning about yourself and how to make yourself better. Even before I had my baby, I knew this about myself. I knew I would sometimes get too comfortable with the knowledge that I could endure through things that I wouldn't push as hard as I could (unless I had to). I also had a feeling that if I continued the way I was that one day, I will lose. The cut off clock will beat me. It's one thing if you put it all on the line and you fall short. At least you know you put it all out there. But, I think it's another thing if you don't put it all on the line and you fall short. I felt like I'd get lazy and I don't always put it all on the line and I had been lucky so far where I'd usually make it.
I didn't want to just merely get through Canyons 100k. I didn't want to just kind of train for it. I didn't want Canyons to be just another crazy event I just get through. I knew that a race as challenging as Canyons 100k (especially the last 15 miles), that's a hard clock to race at the end. I didn't want to race the cut-off clock. That clock could easily beat me in the end. I wanted to make Canyons my A goal. I wanted to train for it well. I wanted to run a strong, solid race.
So, in January, ready to start training hard for Canyons, I hired a coach (the legendary Ann Trason) to help me complete a solid Canyons 100k but also help me get back to my pre-baby racing fitness. And for the next four months, I trained hard and watched as my speed and fitness improve. I did a few races in preparation for Canyons 100k. But, it was all to help build up for Canyons. I didn't just do event after event just because. I withdrew from Lake Sonoma and dropped from AR50 keeping my eye on the prize. Surprisingly, Ann was a bit more conservative on my running mileage that I expected (but it was good that way given my working mom schedule). She had me do a lot of strength and stability exercises (which helped immensely). And, she gave me tons of advice to help be a better runner, a better racer. While I feel that I am not quite at my pre-baby speed, I know I am fitter than I was pre-baby. I actually feel the fittest I have ever been. Not just in running shape but I just felt fit all around. And, I feel mentally stronger than I was pre-baby.
Originally, I had an ambitious goal of finishing around 15 hours. But after a couple training runs on the first half of the course a few weeks prior to the race, I adjusted my goals and made a realistic goal to finish between 16-17 hours (really hoping closer to 16 hours). I realized the first half the race would be much harder than the second half. I hoped I could run the first half in around 8 hours and maintain a consistent pace for the second half. But, as always, my back up goal is to just finish under cutoff.
I made a race plan which included distances to the aid stations and expected time of arrival at the aid stations. Copying my friend Meg, I made little laminated (by packing tape) flash cards of my race plan and carried it in my pack. It was helpful to look at throughout the day and helped break up the run into small parts.
When I picked up my bib, I saw I was number 100! Number 100 for a 100k that I hope to qualify for Western States 100 with. I often call my race number my lucky number for the day. When I saw I was number 100 for the day, I saw it as a very lucky number and a good sign for the race.
Foresthill to Michigan Bluff (6.2 miles)
~2.5 miles from FH to Volcano Creek (mostly downhill) – go easy
5am, the race begins. I start running with Veronica and Samantha up Foresthill Road. I realize my Garmin had been running since before the start so have to reset it. I run chatting with Veronica for a bit. The pace starts feeling a bit too brisk for me so I slow down a little. I see a few other friends and run with them for a little as we descend down Bath Road.
It’s a bit warm out. I have worn too much on (why do I keep doing this?). I stop along Bath Road right before we hit the trails, take off my jacket, and put into my pack and debate whether to take off my long sleeve too.
|descending to Volcano Creek (photo credit: Paulo Medina at Single Track Running)|
The trail then descends on some steep rocky trails down to Volcano Creek. I am a relatively conservative descender. Add rocks and darkness, I am even slower -- practically crawling down the hill. I fall to nearly the back of the pack. But, I had expected this and don't mind as I know I'll move up on the climbs.
As I near Volcano creek, I see the runners have backed up at the creek. I wait in a line to cross the creek. While waiting, I use the time to take of my long sleeve and stuff it into my pack.
~3.7 miles from Volcano up to Michigan Bluff, mostly uphill. Power hike steadily on climb and run easy when it levels off. Eat every 30 minutes.
After I cross Volcano Creek, I start power hiking my way up the climb. I originally think to just stay in the congo line to conserve but after a minute or two, I felt I was going to slow for me. I also don't like being confined in a pack of runners. So, I start asking to go around runners. I start passing many runners. I saw hello to a few friends along the way. I feel strong on the climbs. I follow my plan in power hiking steadily up (not hammering it up, just going steady). I have a good uphill hiking pace (all those workouts hiking on my treadmill at 15% grade are paying off).
My friend Brian comes up next to me when we start to level off near the top. We chit chat and run together the rest of the way to Michigan Bluff.
Arrive at MB between 6:26 - 6:33 am (pace between 14-15 min/mile average)
Be quick through this aid station as next one not that far away.
I arrive at Michigan Bluff at 6:28 a.m., happy to be right on target. I am glad I didn’t go out too fast. I feel I have plenty of water to the next aid station so I just run past the aid station without stopping and start my descent to El Dorado Creek.
MB to El Dorado Creek (mile 9)
2.8 miles to El Dorado Creek, mostly all downhill. Go easy pace.
As I descend down to El Dorado Creek, I run easily, being careful on muddy sections. It’s raining lightly out so there are a couple muddy patches but otherwise, the trail is easy to run down.
A runner comes up behind me and I ask him if he wants to pass but he says my pace is good. We run together for most of the descent. He introduces himself as Yejun from San Jose. We talk about what ultras we have done. I ask him if he’s ever run out here. He tells me how he ran Overlook 100k in the inaugural year and finished last. That’s Ann Trason’s race he tells me and asks me if I know her. Yes, I know Ann (hehehe). We talk about ultras and such as we descend. I like you can just easily make a friend while running an ultra.
As we near the bottom, I really need to pee so I pick up the pace a little and leave Yejun behind. At the bottom, I find a bush to go pee behind.
Arrive at El Dorado Creek around 7-7:15 am
Make sure water is filled up as long climb to next aid station.
Grab a bite to eat and get moving.
I arrive at the El Dorado Creek aid station around 7 am, feeling happy to be right on target. My friend Jeff helps refill my bottle with some Tailwind and I grab some GUs and head on out.
El Dorado Creek to Pump (mile 13.5)
4.5 mile to aid station nearly all uphill. Power hike steadily. Eat every 20-30 minutes depending on effort level on climb and how legs feel. May need extra because of climbing.
~3.2 miles from creek to Deadwood
As I start the climb, I eat a Cucumber Mint GU. I normally eat the Salted Watermelon GU but grabbed a Cucumber Mint one to try. If I didn’t like it, I’d just keep using my Watermelon GUs I had in my pack and drop bags. The GU ended up tasting not too bad. I was glad for this as this will save me some time and effort from of fishing into the back of my pack for extra Watermelon GUs. I continue eating a GU about every 30 minutes feeling pretty good.
I start power hiking my way up to Deadwood. I pass a lot of runners on the climb. I see and pass many friends as I climb my way up. I'm a strong climber and an okay descender so I expect to see some friends catch up to me on the descents. It is nice to see one friend after another after another as I go up the climb. Makes it not so lonely.
There’s one section where you get absolutely stunning views of the canyons. A few weeks prior, my friend Jesse and I did a training run on this section in the rain. We had stopped to take a few pics of the view. I remember taking those pics as I pass by, just taking in the beauty of the canyons. The rain today doesn’t bother me. It’s actually nice as it keeps me cool on a tough climb. I’m grateful I did do a lot of training in the rain.
|the climb up to Deadwood (photo credit Jesse Ellie, from the run three weeks prior to the race)|
~1.3 mile from Deadwood to the pump
I pass Deadwood and mostly run towards the Pump, where the aid station is. I start seeing some of the front runners heading back to Foresthill. A few guys go flying by. I see Magda run past me, looking strong.
Arrive at Pump around 8:09-8:22 am
Make sure have enough water/electrolytes for next section.
I arrive at the aid station at 8:15 a.m. It is cold up by the pump so I put back on my gloves. I refill my Tailwind bottle and grab some gels before I head to Swinging Bridge.
OAB from Pump to Swinging Bridge
Swinging Bridge - mile 16; back to pump - mile 18.5
~0.75 mile from pump to Devil's Thumb. Run/hike this section.
~1.75 mile down to Swinging Bridge. Go easy down this section. Arrive at bridge between 8:44 am - 9 am
I run easily to Devil’s Thumb looking at my watching and thinking I can make it to Swinging Bridge before 9 am. It’s raining still but I hardly notice it now. I am glad I am not too cold as the last time I ran out here, I was painfully cold.
The descent to Swinging Bridge is steep and technical. I really pay attention to my footing on this descent. I start singing/humming as I descend; “da-dum-da-dum” with each step. I guess since becoming a mom, I make up songs and sing random things to my baby at times. For some reason, singing as I descend is helping me focus. Da-dum-da-dum-da-dum, each of my words matching my foot fall. Quick and efficient on my feet is what I am thinking (what Ann often tells me). I’m not hammering it down the hill but I feel like I’m being efficient. I’ve never really sang or hummed while running and I find this helpful so I keep humming away. It is making the descent somewhat fun.
Partway down the hill, I cross paths with my friend Paul (who's climbing back up). He warns me to be careful as it's really slippery. Shortly after, it starts getting muddier and muddier. There are some sections that are basically a slip and slid. A couple times, I slide a little and it scares me but I manage to stay upright. I go really slow and cautious on the slippery sections.
I see more of my faster friends climbing back up. It’s nice to see many familiar faces as we go. I’m in pretty good spirits so I say hello and good job to everyone I see passing me on the way up. A few of the leaders of the 50k start passing me. They go gliding down the hill with ease. I continue humming my way to the bridge.
I arrive at Swinging Bridge around 8:54 am and no one is around. I grab a rubber band (proof that you got to the bridge). I take a couple pictures and and just take a moment to enjoy where I am. Then, I turn around to climb back out.
~1.75 mile up from Swinging Bridge to Devil's Thumb, power hike. Eat a gel at start of climb and at top of climb.
~0.75 mile from Thumb back to Pump. Run easy.
The climb back up is really hard, probably my hardest for the day. I don’t mind steep climbs but it is really slippery and muddy.
I see a few friends descending as I’m ascending and warn them to be careful as they go down. I do like the out and back allows me to see everyone and see how everyone is doing. So far, all my friends are looking pretty good and that makes me feel good.
I keep climbing along and get into the muddiest spots, which is hard enough to try to climb but trying to move over for people descending is even trickier. As I am trying to move over for a runner to go by, my foot cramps and luckily there's a tree there for me to brace myself for a moment.
I continue to climb as best as I can. My legs feel a little cramp-ish, especially the inner thighs from sliding around in the mud. I worry that I may have climbed too hard earlier. I worry about how my legs will hold up. I had some hip pains the week leading to the race and so far, everything has mostly held up, but I worry. But, I feel those little pre-cramp twinges. I remember how my legs felt when I did the K2 challenge a month prior. I hope that I don't cramp on the climb and make sure I'm eating my GUs regularly. I eat an extra gel on the climb and make sure I drink more Tailwind.
My climbing legs are definitely feeling it but still going okay. I remember that even though I had some cramps when I did the K2 Challenge, I still did well. That challenge was to prepare me for today. So far, I am climbing well. And after this climb, I will be past the worst of the race and have a lot of downhill running for awhile. This gives me a little more confidence and I stop worrying so much.
Instead, I take a moment to take in the views though. The misty morning air and clouds through the forest make it look magical.
I reach the top feeling cold and wet as it seems to be raining more. But, I don’t feel cold enough to put back on my jacket. I throw on my gloves and hurry my way back to the Pump.
Arrive at pump around 9:20 - 9:37 am.
Be quick through aid station as mostly downhill to next aid station.
I arrive at the Pump around 9:45 a.m. I’m a little behind schedule but I don’t worry too much about it as I know I can make up some time on the next section. I refill my bottle with Tailwind, grab some more GU, hand over my rubber band from Swinging Bridge and head back to El Dorado Creek.
Pump to El Dorado Creek (mile 23)
~1.3 mile from pump to Deadwood. Run steadily/easy downhill.
~3.2 mile from Deadwood down to creek. Run steadily/easy downhill.
Remember to eat about every 30 minutes (easy to forget when going downhill)
It feels good to open the legs up and run again. A few runners go past me as we are going down. I don’t seem to notice the rain other than the ground being muddier and slippier. It is definitely muddier than when I climbed up.
I see a few of my friends in the 50k race and say hello as we pass each other. Gives me a little boost every time I see a familiar face.
On this descent, I don’t feel quite the urge to sing or hum as I did getting down to swinging bridge. Maybe because it isn’t quite as technical so I don’t have to pay as much attention to my foot placement. I just cruise on down.
As I near El Dorado Creek, I think of a training run I did with my friends Bonnie and Heather. We had fun on that run and had many laughs. I remember Bonnie talking about Pegasus Power (you had to be there to understand) and I thought about it know. Even though Bonnie and Heather aren’t with me now, I think about them and feel the fun energy of the last time we ran together.
Arrive at the aid station between 10:22 - 10:45 am
I arrive at El Dorado Creek at 10:38 am., right back on target.
El Dorado Creek to MB (mile 25.8)
Jeff helps refill my Tailwind bottle and gives me some words of encouragement. I can tell the bladder in my pack is low on water but think I have enough water to not need to refill on water (it just takes so much time to get the bladder out to refill). I drink a quick shot of Coke and grab some GUs and begin the climb.
2.8 mile climb. Remember the little creek is about a mile from the top. Climb steadily up. Eat a gel at the bottom of climb and maybe another one about halfway up the climb.
I eat a gel and begin my climb. I continue power hiking my way up, feeling pretty good. I see my friends Cheri and Beth, both looking good. I tell them as well as myself that this is the last big climb for a while. I don't know if it was helpful to Cheri and Beth but it was helpful to tell myself that. I just have to get to the top. Then, I can just cruise my way down to the river.
A little over a mile from the top, I can tell I am getting close to the creek, which my one mile marker from the top. As I’m eating a gel, I notice my Garmin has frozen. I continue hiking a good bit and see nothing is tracking. This has happened before and frustrates me. It’s stuck on lap distance of 1.2 mile (I hit lap at every aid station so I can track distance between aid station).
I cross the little creek and know I should be at 1.8 mile for the lap and just a mile to the top but it continues to be stuck at 1.2. Nothing is happening with my Garmin so I reset it. After hitting stop and powering it off. I try to start it again but again, it won’t record anything probably because it can’t locate the satellite. I am annoyed with this Garmin watch. My backup watch is in my drop bag at Foresthill so I’m stuck with it for now. It’s supposed to be a newer, better watch but it’s been unreliable in long events. I’m just glad I know these trails super well so can easily identify how much farther I need to go. I eventually get the Garmin to start working again.
Arrive at MB between 11:00 - 11:27 am
I arrive at Michigan Bluff right before 11:30 am. I see some of my friends out cheering and some MRTT friends working the aid station. I am a bit focused on what I need to get done so perhaps not as friendly/social as I normally am. I want to get to Foresthill by 1 p.m. and calculating things in my head and feel like I am right on track. Grab some chips to eat, drink a little Coke, refill the Tailwind bottle, and grab some GU. Now, move! I think I say bye and thanks to my friends volunteering and get moving (sorry if I forgot).
MB to Foresthill (mile 32)
~3.7 miles down to Volcano Creek. Run easy. Remember to eat every 30 minutes.
It continues to rain after I leave Michigan Bluff but luckily it isn’t too muddy (not like out at Swinging Bridge). As I start running along, I start thinking back to Michigan Bluff. I feel like I wasn't very friendly back there. I hope I did not come off rude in not wanting to chit chat very much. I hope they understand. I think I forgot to thank them. I'll have to thank my friends later. It was nice to see them. I hope they know that. My friend Heather and I have talked before about how we sometimes get into race mode and get so focused that we aren't as friendly. I remind myself to remember to smile, to have fun, to say hello and good job to fellow runners, and to thank the volunteers and/or friends out providing support.
There's a little bit of climbing (though not steep) before you really start descending down to Volcano Creek. I run a little and hike a little. There’s hardly anyone around me. All I see is a runner behind me with walking sticks.
I eventually start descending back down to Volcano Creek. I descend well enough. Not fast but just moving along at a steady pace. I hear another runner behind me and I keep moving, waiting for him to ask to pass but I am able to stay ahead of him all the way to the creek crossing. I am glad I am descending decently today as my biggest concern was the descents (not the climbs).
At the creek, I debate whether to just cut across or go up to where the cable is to cross. I decide to go towards the cable as I just don’t know how steady I’ll be and the water seems to be really moving. Just as I get to the cable, I slip on a wet rock and fall on my butt in the creek. I laugh at myself and get back up. I grab the cable and use it to cross the rest of the way.
~1 mile climb to get to Bath Rd.
~1.5 mile to get back to FH.
I climb my way back to Foresthill, still feeling pretty good. Actually, I am feeling really happy that I’ll be finishing the first half right at target time of 8 hours. We will see how the second half goes, that’ll be where the race really begins, I think to myself.
The climb back to Bath Road goes by easily enough. I am very grateful for the cooler weather today. I remember doing this climb on a hot summer day (with Edd and Roger) and how it felt like the longest climb ever to get back to Foresthill. In the cool rain, it isn’t so bad.
I hit Bath Road and begin climbing along the road. I notice some signs someone has put up. The first sign I see is “Conquer the Canyons! You are Trail Beasts!”
That was a nice sign so I take a picture of it. As I go up the road, I see more signs with people’s names on them. I thought, how thoughtful. That’s nice. I continue running and hiking up the hill, kind of using the signs as markers. I’ll run to that sign then I’ll hike a little. I’ll hike to that sign and run a little.
Then, I see a sign that says “Trail Beasts! Hardcore Helen, Canyon Carver Clint, Run Fight Conquer” What?! That’s a sign for me! Someone made a sign for me and Clint. I’m moved by this and it really boosts my spirits up. I know Clint isn’t too far behind me and I can hear how excited he will be when he sees this sign too.
With a big smile, I continue on up to Foresthill.
Arrive at FH between 12:30 - 1:00 pm
I arrive at Foresthill right at 1pm feeling happy I did the first half exactly as planned. But, I am even more delighted to see my husband and baby girl (knowing this would be the only time I'd see her during the race).
Foresthill to Cal 1 (mile 35.5)
At FH, Refill on water/electrolytes and go to drop bag to refill on gels.
Lube up more if needed. spray sunscreen/bug spray. Eat
Say hi to family but try to not to spend more than 5 minutes here.
I give a couple kisses to my husband and baby, so happy to see them. I then restock some things from my drop back as well as unload my long-sleeve shirt, which has only been dead weight. I toss my backup Garmin into my pack too. I look at the fresh pair of socks I have but decide not to change socks since my feet still feel pretty good (and Drymax socks keep my feet from getting cold even when they get wet).
I hold my baby while my husband takes my pack to have it refilled. I say bye to them and quickly hit the aid station to grab some Frito chips to eat on the way out.
I spend a little less than 5 minutes at the aid station overall. I feel good that I'm doing so well at sticking to my plan. I usually start with my plan and then things start falling behind but so far so good.
3.5 miles mostly downhill to Cal 1. Run steadily. Watch your feet placement (no ankle rolls here!).
As I run down Foresthill Road towards Cal Street, I pass a number of people cheering runners on. I pass two guys standing on the side of the road and then hear them yell towards me “Good job Sunny!” Sunny is a running friend of mine who is also Asian and not running out here today. But, apparently, us Asian running girls all look the same to these guys. I keep running along and laugh to myself about this. I look forward to telling Sunny and our other friends about this.
After hitting the trails again, the back of my pack starts bugging me. I can feel the top of my pack rubbing on the top of my back. I stop to readjust things hoping to not end up with chafing issues. I see a few friends go running past me as I'm adjusting my pack. After moving some things around and adjusting some straps, I continue along.
I turn on an audio book on my phone and listen to it for a bit as I run along. The rest of the way down to Cal 1 goes smoothly. I run shortly behind Cheri and Beth. They descend better than me but I keep them within eye sight. My quads are definitely feeling all the hills but they are still able to move at a descent clip.
Arrive at Cal 1 between 1:17 - 1:52 pm
I arrive at Cal 1 at 1:50 pm, right on target. I grab some chips and eat them as I walk out of the aid station. Just get in and out.
Cal 1 to Cal 2 (mile 40.5)
About 5 miles mostly downhill. Remember to eat every 30 minutes.
Steady effort down.
After Cal 1, I come upon my friend Christine. We kind of leap frog each other for a bit and have small chit chat here and there when we are running near each other. One of us will slow down to grab something to eat or adjust something or whatever and the other will pass. We go back and forth like this all the way to the river.
I see some of the race leaders flying the way up to the finish. I see Magda power hiking strongly up a steep climb on her way to another victory. I try to shift over to let her go by and worry I am in her way. I tell her good job and she tells me the same. She's so friendly. I also think it's nice to see that she was power hiking up the climb (rather than running). She still blows my mind as to how fast she is able to get through this tough course.
My left shoulder itches here and there as I think I’m getting bitten by some mosquitos. I try not to let it bug me too much. I left my bug spray in my drop bag thinking because it’s been raining, the bugs wouldn’t be out. The rain had stopped for some time now and I try not to pay too much mind to my itchy shoulder. But, I occasionally scratch my left shoulder as I've definitely been bitten on my shoulder. Damn mosquitos!
I eventually come upon my friend Francisco, who I’m surprised to see as he’s usually faster than me. We run together for a bit as he tells me he hasn’t been able to pee, even though he needs to. I don’t know what advice to give him other than to drink more (I guess?). I enjoy having some company as we run but he eventually tells me to go ahead as he’s going to try to pee again.
When I see Francisco, I think about a picture he shared a few week prior about a wolf pack. He and our other friends had joked about how our little group (Francisco, Beth, Cheri, Samantha, Clint, Veronica, Lisa, Stephanie, and Edd) should be like a wolf pack at Canyons together. We move together and help each other, watch out for each other. I think about our "pack" and wonder how everyone is doing. I hope everyone is doing well. I look forward to getting to the river turnaround so I can see how every is doing. I feel like through training, we have bonded with one another. I want us all to do well. I want us all to make it to the finish.
|me with some of the "wolf pack" at the race start.|
Arrive at Cal 2 between 2:27 - 3:07 pm
I arrive at Cal 2 at 2:58 pm.
Cal 2 to River (mile 47.8).
Make sure refill on water/electrolytes as next section long.
7.3 miles mostly downhill. Run steadily. Eat every 30 minutes. Enjoy this section, you know it!
I get into the aid station and refill my Tailwind bottle. I feel the back of my pack and feel like I have plenty of water. No need to waste time refilling it so I grab some GUs and head out.
I push the pace a little down the switchbacks, knowing this is the last long downhill section. My quads are tired from descending but they’re not burned out yet. I maintain a decent pace. I am pleased that I have been able to stay consistent so far.
I zone out and just enjoy the trails as I run along. I see a number of friends along the way and say hello and great job! I see more and more runners climbing their way up from the River and tell them great job. I am running pretty steadily and hiking on the inclines. But, I move along pretty good towards the river.
After crossing a small creek, I notice that the bottom of my left foot feels like a blister may be forming. It’s nothing too bad right now but I start thinking about changing my socks and adding my Trail Toes (anti-chafing lube) onto my feet when I get to Rucky Chucky.
I start feeling like I need to pee but there’s not exactly a good spot for a girl to go where I am. And, there are runners coming from both directions. I’m also not so sure about my ability to squat. I think about the nice bathrooms they have at Rucky Chucky and push myself a little to get there a little faster.
Arrive at River between 4:09 - 4:57 pm
I arrive at Rucky Chucky at 4:40 p.m. I immediately go into the bathroom there to relieve myself.
River to Cal 2 (mile 55.1)
Make sure you refill on water/electrolytes and food as long section back to Cal 2.
At the aid station, my friend David helps me get my drop bag. I see my friend Christine sitting on a bench changing into clean, dry socks and saying how wonderful it feels. Yes, I think I will change into clean, dry socks too. I open my drop bag to find that there are no clean, dry socks in the bag. I have a clean, dry shirt (which I don’t need), an extra headlamp (which I don't need) and some fuel stuff in the bag. Oh well, my feet will be okay, I tell myself.
I see they have some quesadillas. I grab a couple pieces to eat and stuff one in my pack. Some more real food will be good. Someone offers me chicken broth so I grab the cup and it tastes AMAZING! I’m moaning in delight as I drink the most amazing chicken broth ever.
Okay, I’ve wasted too much time at this aid station. I need to get going. So, I head back out.
Run steady on the runnable sections. Power hike on the climbs. Keep moving steadily as best as possible. Eat every 30 minutes (maybe more frequently depending on how feeling on the climbs)
I stick to my plan of power hiking the climbs and running on the runnable sections. I start to feel the bottom of my left foot rubbing. I think the wet sock is crinkling on the bottom of my foot and causing a blister. I need to deal with it now before it gets worse.
I find a nice flat rock that I can sit on and take of my shoe and sock. I dig out some Trail Toes out of my pack and rub it all over the bottom of my foot, hoping it helps as that’s all I got right now. As I try to put my foot back into my sock, my hip tightens uncomfortable so I stretch my leg out for a moment.
I eventually get the sock on and make sure it’s pulled up so the bottom is smooth. Back into the shoe it goes. Then, I’m back at it. Foot seems to be doing okay with the Trail Toes rubbed on it.
I have and start more friends as they head down to the river. I look at my watch and so far, everyone looks like they are good on time and that makes me happy. A few friends run past me on the climb up, including Christine again. As she passes, we run together for a few minutes talking about saving some of our energy for the big climb back up to Cal 2.
A little later, my Garmin beeps that it’s low on battery. ARGH! Stupid watch, it’s supposed to have a 20 hour battery life but it doesn’t even come close to that. This happened at RDL where it died well before it should. I pull out my backup Garmin (my trusty ol’ Garmin 910xt) and turn it on. Where I am, the Garmin cannot locate a satellite. I hike along, occasionally waving my arm in the air (like an idiot) hoping my Garmin 910xt will connect to a satellite soon. Christine disappears ahead of me.
It takes about a mile and it finally connects. Thankfully as my Garmin 920xt sends another “low battery” alert. I stop 920xt and start the 910xt. I toss the 920xt into my pack, glad to be done dealing with it. I know my 910xt will go the rest of the way with no problems.
Around mile 54-55, there’s a short-ish but steep section downhill. I shuffle my way down, definitely feeling it in my quads. There’s a runner a little bit ahead of me and I hear him groaning in pain with every step downhill. Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow I hear from him. I feel your pain dude!
A little while later, we are climbing the switchbacks back up to Cal 2. I get closer to him and we chit chat for a bit. His name is Pete from Philadelphia. He’s never run on these trails (reminding me how grateful I am to live so close to these trails). We make small talk for a little bit on the climb.
Arrive at Cal 2 between 5:51 - 7:30 pm
I see Christine again on the last switchback. I get ahead of Pete and power hike my way up to Christine. We hike into Cal 2 together at around 6:45 p.m.
Cal 2 to Cal 1 (mile 60.1)
Ann should be at Cal 2! :D
Refill on water/electrolytes. Grab food to eat.
As I come into the aid station, Christine goes to go do her thing and Ann comes running around to me, so excited to see me. This warms my heart. The Donner Party Mountain Runners group is handling this aid station. So, the volunteers are dressed in Donner Party costume. Seeing Ann dressed in some silly Donner party outfit totally cracks me up. She gives me a big hug and excitedly asks me lots of questions of how things are going and what do I need. She brags to other aid station volunteers about how I just had a baby and how my baby is just the cutest.
I tell her how I ran the first half in exactly 8 hours as we had planned and she’s so pleased. I tell how the day is going right on plan and how good all the other Cats are doing (especially Paul and Ohnmar). She asks me if I’m warm enough and if I’ve eaten enough and says she has to ask. "I wouldn't be a good coach if I don't ask...I care you know" Yes, I know. I tell her I’m fine and that I’m moving well enough to not be cold and that I should get moving. She says yes, let's get moving and tells me to run as much of the runnable section back up to Foresthill as I can.
5 mile climb to Cal 1. Run on the flatter/runnable sections, power hike on the steeper stuff. Remember to eat every 20-30 minutes.
Arrive at Cal 1 between 7:01 - 9:01 pm
Right as I am about to leave the aid station, I see Christine downing a drink (Ensure I think). I could just leave ahead of her. Instead, I look at her and say to her “Ready? You and me. Let's finish this thing!”
Christine says “Alright!” We agree to stick together to the end. And BEST decision ever!! We hike and run along together talking about sorts of things: the race, training, Western States, lottery, our kids, work, etc. . . On the runnable sections, we run. Otherwise, we hike. I think we are well matched in our paces at this point in the race. We are hiking at a good clip on the climbs and running comfortably together on the flats. I think having her with me is helping me put a little more effort in running on the runnable sections. I believe Christine is a faster runner than me (and I think I am a faster on the uphill hikes). I don't want to feel like I'm slowing her down so I push it a little on all the runnable sections. I think I would have not pushed as hard on this section had Christine not been with me. And, she stuck right with me the whole time.
We talk about how we have it in the bag and what an amazing feeling that is. Even if for some random reasons, the weeks come off, we can make it to the finish. And, it’s also nice to know we have less than 10 miles to go. Single digits!
I have too much fun chatting with Christine that I forget to eat. I start to feel hungry and remember I haven’t eaten in a gel in a while. I grab one and eat it. I start to feel hungrier.
I feel like we talk about everything and the aid station still hasn't appeared. After a little while, we run in silence. No one is around us. Not ahead or behind. It is just us two. I keep looking at my watch willing the aid station to get closer. We both got inpatient for the aid station. Where the heck is it? Why isn’t it here yet? At some point, we both start complaining as to why these five miles seem to be the longest ever!
After what seems like forever, we see Cal 1. We yell for joy! Last aid station. Just 3.5 miles to the finish! We got this!!
We arrive at Cal 1 at 8:05 p.m.
Cal 1 to FH (mile 63.6)
3.5 mile climb to the finish. Steady effort as best as possible during this stretch.
Don't miss the turn to the right before the last little climb to the road.
Eat leaving Cal 1 and again before getting to FH (maybe at the small creek crossing)
We get to the aid station and I grab some food to eat and a couple gels for the last stretch. Christine and I dig out our headlamps then head on the final stretch.
We run when we can and hike otherwise. It starts getting dark fast. At one point, I hear an animal breathing in the bushes above and it freaks me out. I feel even more grateful that I have Christine with me now that it’s dark. Any sort of downhill is really rough. Any steep incline is really rough. Our legs are so done climbing.
We talk about how we haven’t seen a single runner ahead of us or behind us since Cal 2. It would have been super lonely had we not stuck together.
My power hiking up isn’t as fast as it was earlier in the day but we are moving along steadily. Oh, our legs are so done. I also start feeling a little queasy. I eat a gel and keep in mind that I only have a couple miles to go.
Christine and I talk about sitting down, getting into warm clothes, eating, drinking a beer, etc. . . All the things we’re going to enjoy when we finish. Christine tells me how she had told her husband before the race that she was going to make a friend today. This makes me smile as I definitely feel that we now have a special bond with one another. We tell each other how grateful we are to have spent the last section together.
We make the sneaky right turn and eventually start seeing the lights of Foresthill. We see the road and Christine yells excitedly. We come around on Cal Street and start hiking up the final stretch.
When we see the finish chute, Christine says let’s run it in and finish under 16:15. The two of us start to run together and as we come into the final chute, we scream with utter joy with our arms raised in triumph as we cross into the finish line together!
Finish between 7:50 pm - 10:00 pm
Finished 9:12 p.m.
My official time was 16:12:01.
After Christine and I finished, we shared a good hug and are both overjoyed that we ran a strong, solid race.
My husband and other friends were at the finish also to cheer me on. Afterwards, I checked on the status of my other friends. Nearly all my friends finished. Some of my faster friends had amazing results.
I was really happy with my race performance. I had a plan and I followed it almost exactly. I kept consistent throughout the day. At Cal 1, I was still on track to finish at exactly 16 hours but the last 3.5 miles were really tough climbing back to Foresthill. I am very happy with not only my race time but how everything was executed fairly well. I had a few minor issues (stupid Garmin, mosquitos, not having fresh socks) but nothing became a major problem. I had pretty good spirits throughout the day. This is one of the first ultras I've run where I don't recall hitting any real low points. I had no stomach problems other than a little queasiness the last few miles.
I had a goal to run a solid, strong race. I did that. I am so happy with myself. And, I am so utterly grateful to my family and all my friends who helped me either before, during, and after.
I have once again qualified for the Western State lottery. . .let's hope the lottery Gods are in my favor come December!
Three Favorite Moments:
1. Seeing my husband and baby at Foresthill during the halfway point.
2. Running with Christine the last 8.5 miles to the finish. As she had said, in those 8.5 miles I made a friend for life and shared something I will always remember.
3. Seeing Ann at Cal 2. Her happiness and excitement made me even more excited and happy.
Three Things Went Well:
1. Followed the plan as far as maintain a consistent effort throughout the day.
2. Climbing. I know I climb strong so I used that strength. I didn't worry that I wasn't the best on the downhills as I knew I could do well on the uphills.
3. Kept a mostly positive attitude throughout the day. I have hit some lows in races where I know just I become a bitch and a brat. But, I don't think I ever got to that point. There were a few moments where I got into race mode and got focused so not so chatty. But, I think overall, I kept pretty positive. I tried to remember to smile and acknowledge other runners and thank the volunteers.
Three Things to Improve:
1. Don't need to wear so much clothing. I have done this time and time again. A few weeks ago, I did run in the canyons and FROZE from the rain/cold. So, I think I got a little paranoid. Race morning, I could tell it wouldn't be that cold. I don't know why I thought to wear my tank top, a long sleeve, AND a jacket. Even on cold days, I don't wear that much. I am glad that I made a last minute decision to wear shorts over capris. But carrying the long sleeve shirt and jacket ended up being just unnecessary weight for me to carry.
2. Remember to put socks into your drop bag. I'm lucky my feet didn't end up being a major problem but I don't know why I forgot to put socks into my Rucky Chucky drop bag. It never hurts to have extra socks available. It was disheartening when I realized I didn't have extra clean socks.
3. Don't stress too much about the stupid Garmin(s). I know I shouldn't have let that preoccupy me as much as it did during the race but I let my Garmin issues frustrate me. I could be better about not letting it bother me.
Three Things I Learned:
1. Having a coach is worth it. Having someone to be held accountable to is immensely helpful. I have followed all of those online training plans you can find and they can kind of work for some but I needed someone who could custom something to me and my busy schedule of work and family. And, Ann is really good about reminding you that family first. She also was good in keeping me in check and not overdoing it.
2. Having an A goal and focusing on accomplishing that goal including doing course specific training helped immensely. I didn't just put in the miles just get in miles but I put in training on hill courses. I worked on my climbing and worked on my descending. Sometimes my training runs would be a little shorter than I had wanted but I felt that they were still good as I still got the hill work in. I changed around my race plans so I could do the K2 Challenge and the Ruck a Chuck 50k as a big back to back weekend as I thought that would be better for my Canyons preparation. And, boy was it. The K2 Challenge helped me be strong for the first half of the race during the big climbs and descents. And Ruck A Chuck helped me be familiar with the latter half of the Canyons course and be comfortable running that section on tired legs. In the end, focusing my training on my A race and not trying to just race and do runs just for the hell of it was worth it.
3. Strength and Stability Exercises help. I used to just run a lot of miles. Having a baby now, it's not so easy to just do that. Instead, I focus on more quality training over quantity. Part of quality training has been adding strength and stability exercises to my routine. I have felt myself get fitter the past few months. Not just getting into running shape but overall fitter shape. I managed to be able to do 10 push-ups a month ago and was really happy to accomplish that milestone (for me) as for many years, I could not even do one push-up. And, I can feel how being stronger has helped on the trails. I used to get knee pain doing long descents. I don't anymore. I feel I move better on the trails than I did before. And, I think it's because I've been doing strength and stability work on top of my running.
Three Things about Canyons Endurance Runs:
1. Chaz, Chris and Pete put on a top notch event. I knew Chris before I volunteered and got to know Chaz and Pete when I volunteered last year and saw how much they really care about the runners and putting on a quality event. It's been amazing to watch how much it's grown just from last year to this year. And this year, the aid stations were all fabulous, the course marked really well, and the pre/post-race area they had set up for everyone was fantastic (other than the stairs to get up there). I loved the swag we got: an awesome shirt that says Give the Thumb the Finger, an awesome trucker hat, an awesome pint glass, and a finisher's necklace.
2. The course is no joke. 63 miles and about 14,000 feet of climbing AND descending is going to work your quads. Respect the distance, respect the canyons.
3. The 100k male finishers get a belt and the 100k female finishers get a necklace. Now, the necklace is nice and all but I kind of wanted to have a belt to go with my belt buckle(s). Last year, everyone got belts and so a little disappointed to not get a belt this year. But, the finisher's necklace is still nice. :)
CANYONS ENDURANCE RUNS - Thanks Chaz, Chris, and Pete and all your volunteers for putting on a wonderful event. I had the wonderful time out there and the support out there was fabulous!
ANN and the CIRCLE CATS - I want to give a HUGE thank you to Ann Trason and this group for helping me get through Canyons 100k. I started with Ann in January to help me run a strong Canyons and I got just that, a strong solid Canyons 100k finish. I kept all of Ann's many advice in mind all day long and what a wonderful boost it was to see you at Cal 2. I also am so grateful for this group for all the advice I've received (much of was used during this race) and the training runs! it was great seeing a few of you Cats on the course! Congrats Paul Miller and Ohnmar Shin on killing it out there! What amazing results! And congrats Andy Burger, Meg Bradbury, Scott Saunders on finishing a tough race!
SINGLETRACK RUNNING - Thank you Paulo for letting me represent Singletrack Running. In preparing for Canyons 100k, I ran Fourmidable, K2 Challenge and Ruck a Chuck, all of which were immensely helpful in my preparation for this race. Thank you for putting on such fun, challenging races. And thank you for being out there to support us on and take great pictures.
FOLSOM TRAIL RUNNERS - My FTR friends who I trained with, thank you so much. FTR, you are always my running family I can rely on to take care of me through it all and to be there through ups and downs. This day was mostly an up for me and I could not have gotten there without you all. It's been fun training with you all and I am happy so many of you finished with me on Saturday! Congrats to you all! And extra special thanks to Jeff Egoff, David Lent, and all the FTR volunteers who helped out at the race! Thank you Kelly, Theresa, Rebecca, Mike and all the other FTRs who went out to cheer all of us on! Seeing your friendly faces and having your supports was wonderful.
MRTT- This group has been wonderful since I have become a mother runner. Especially the Auburn MRTT gals, my new running family. I love you all so much and thank you for your support. The MRTT gals that I saw out there volunteering or spectating, thank you! And, congrats to Vickie and Janae for finishing a tough 100k! So proud of you girls!
TOM SELF at VUDOO FITNESS - Thank you for all your massages and keeping my body in working order through my hard training. Extra thanks for getting me a few days before the race to work out the pain in my hip. I ran the race with no issues or pain (other than expected wear/tear of the course). I am always grateful for your help as I couldn't put my body through all that I do without you always helping put it back together again. :)
JULIE HOPE - thanks so much for the wonderful signs you made for me and our friends on Bath Road. It was such a pleasant surprise.
CHRISTINE VINCENT - I cannot thank you enough for sharing those last 8.5 miles with me. The friendship that was formed in those miles will always be cherished.
VALERIE MARTIN - Thanks for coming over to watch Ellie so Craig can be at the finish for me.
CRAIG MARTIN - Thank you for being a wonderful husband and supporting me in all my crazy endeavors. Thank you for allowing me the time to train for this race and for watching our wonderful baby girl all day while I raced. And, thank you for being out there during the halfway point with Ellie as well as being there as I finished. I love you for all the things you do for me. Thank you!