Krispy Kreme Challenge 2012 Race Report

After my shocking defeat at last year’s Krispy Kreme Challenge, I was back this year for some revenge… in a wussier division. HERE is my report from last year for your amusement.

The original challenge is:

  • Run 2 miles.
  • Eat one dozen Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts.
  • Run 2 miles.

Last year, I registered for the more illustrious “Doughnutman” Division, which was:

  • Run 2 miles.
  • Eat one dozen doughnuts.
  • Run 2 miles.
  • Eat ANOTHER dozen doughnuts.
  • Run 2 miles.

I couldn’t do it. Not even close.

This year, I opted for the “Lite” Division:

  • Run 2 miles.
  • Eat half a dozen doughnuts.
  • Run 2 miles.

The race took place at DeAnza Cove at Mission Bay. It was a perfect morning for running: sunny and breezy. A vast improvement from last year’s pouring rain. We arrived in the RV with Shacky, Pat, and Ginger in tow. Pat was running to win, Shacky was running to finish, I was running to not puke, and Ginger was just running.

Group shot L to R: Pat, Rusty, me, Shacky

There was a great vibe at the race start and we warmed up by doing pull-ups. Except for Ginger because she doesn’t have any thumbs. I was thinking about running in shoes, but when I saw the flat, smooth sidewalk, I decided to go barefoot.

This is where we would be running.

This is where we would be eating doughnuts.

WOO pullup!

Pat almost sprained his pinkies.

So strong!!

The first two miles were great. We ran out one mile on Mission Bay, turned around, and came back. I was near the back of the pack. I was trying to push my speed, but it was still cold out and my feet were getting numb on the pavement. I tried to hop on to the grass, but that didn’t help much. So I just accepted a slower, comfortable pace, and finished up my first two miles.

The leaders fighting it out! (Lynne Cao Photography)

As I was finishing my miles, I saw the first place runner sprinting back out for his final laps, with his cheeks stuffed with doughnuts. He looked like death. He was grimacing, and his face looked white. Then I saw Pat heading out, not looking so hot either. His cheeks were also stuffed with doughnut.

When I got into the eater’s corral with my six doughnuts, most people were already munching. It was a somber, foul mood. Everyone had their heads down, overwhelmed in their own personal hells.

Yum? (Lynne Cao Photography)

Hitting the wall…. (Lynne Cao Photography)

Digging deep! (Lynne Cao Photography)

Last year, I imagined that I might actually enjoy the first couple of doughnuts. But this year I knew better. It sucks from the very beginning. As soon as you open that box and the smell of sugar and dough hits you, you immediately want to hurl. All you can do is take bite after bite, and hope to God that nobody starts puking around you.

Last year, there was so much vomiting, but this year people really held down their doughnuts. Pat and I developed a theory that when ONE person vomits, that sets off a chain reaction and everybody goes off after that. But if you don’t see anyone else throwing up, it’s easier to keep the doughnuts down.

Also last year you weren’t allowed to leave the corral until your mouth was empty, but this year you were allowed to stuff your face and finish chewing/swallowing on your final laps. I think this made for slightly faster times.

I flattened three doughnuts together into a pancake, and started eating. I tried to chew only as much as I needed to in order to manage a swallow, and I took two big bites at a time. In real life, I’m a super slow eater. I had to really concentrate on what I was doing to eat faster.

At first, I was looking around to see if anyone had a better strategy, but the eating was so disgusting that I would start gagging if I looked around for too long. People were stuffing and spewing and making terrible faces. So I just kept my head down and concentrated on my own doughnuts.

When I finished my three doughnuts, I flattened the other three in the same way and kept plugging away. I waited until I only had about four bites left, and walked over to the road again, tossing my doughnut box and stuffing the rest into my cheeks.

Just as I was getting ready to leave, Pat came in (finished the race) and asked how I was doing. At that moment, one piece of doughnut went a little too far down my throat, and I had to choose between keeping it down, or answering him. I just nodded and walked back to the eater’s corral—I couldn’t run with my cheeks this stuffed. I took a couple of extra minutes to chew and swallow, re-stuffed my cheeks, and took off.

Because I had only done six doughnuts, I was now ahead of Shacky and many others. It took me a good quarter mile at least to finish chewing and swallowing what I had in my mouth. The two miles went by more quickly, since I was concentrating on not throwing up. I kept a steady pace, but not sprinting. I didn’t want to make myself sick. There were two girls ahead of me, but one of them had done the dozen. There really weren’t many girls at this event to start with.

I saw Shacky on the out and back, and I had a good lead on him. Of course, he had eaten twice as many doughnuts as I did. Less than a mile to go, I spotted Pat who had run back to take pictures of us. I was feeling better and I knew I would be keeping the doughnuts down. It actually felt more comfortable to jog than to stand still with a belly full of glaze.

Doughnut high!

I finally swallowed!

We took some photos and then the finish line was right there! I sped up a little and ran it in: 48 minutes (second female in the Lite division, 5th Lite overall). Carlos was right behind me, and I watched Shacky come in. At the finish line, Shacky busted out some salt and vinegar crickets and some spiced larvae, which we ate and used to horrify the other runners.

Shacky running it in! (Lynne Cao Photography)

Me eating a cricket

More crickets…

… and worms!

It was a good day.

One thing I love about the Krispy Kreme Challenge is the high level of athletes that come out for this fun run. As Keith Kirby, the Race Director, pointed out: We had 100-mile finishers, Badwater finishers, and athletes of all levels. One of the competitors was Nickademus Anthony Hollon, who currently holds the record for being the youngest Badwater finisher. He confirmed that out of all the races he’s run, this easily ranks in the top five when it comes to difficulty.

I know exactly what he means.

There’s something about eating all those god-awful doughnuts that takes you straight to mile 75 at an ultra. Your body wants to shut down. You can’t remember why you registered for this. Every moment is terrible. You have no will to go on. And pushing through that gives you a good perspective of what it’s like to finish a 100-miler. The physical pain isn’t there, but the mental struggle is strikingly similar.

I also strongly recommend this race for anyone who needs some “sweets aversion” therapy. If you have a sweet tooth that challenges your diet year-round, this race might cure you of it. I used to like baked goods. I really did. But since the Krispy Kreme Challenge last year, I did not have a single craving, and was even sometimes repulsed by the thought of eating a cake or doughnut. You learn to hate even the smell of baked goods for at least a year.

Last year when I ate a dozen, I felt sick for three days. I could barely eat. With only six doughnuts this year, my recovery was much better. I felt good (and hungry again!) by the next day. It also really made me crave some fresh veggies. I am never more thankful for a clean, green diet than after the doughnut run. I’ve been vegan for almost a month now, and I wondered if this race would be a fun “cheat”. Instead, all it did was make me happy to be vegan and eager to go back to my regular diet.

Some people don’t want to sign up for the Krispy Kreme Challenge because it’s not a “serious” race. I assure you it’s not joke. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also incredibly horrifying and difficult. Completing this challenge will make you a stronger runner. It will teach you something valuable about your body, and it will make any stomach issues you get at future races seem that much easier to handle.

See you next year!

(Lynne Cao Photography)

 RELATED ARTICLES:

Krispy Kreme 2011 Race Report

Eat & Run Book Review

Why You Should Stop Rationalizing Running

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Win a 100-Mile Race Entry

I am excited to announce a free giveaway for the inaugural Mogollon Monster 100 this year in Northern Arizona on September 28rd!

I have never seen a 100-miler giveaway before, and I’m stoked because:

1. It can be expensive to race 100s.

2. It’s intimidating to sign up for a 100-miler.

Why You Should Enter

I jumped straight from a 50K to finish a 100-miler, so don’t be intimidated if you haven’t run 100k or 50 miles. This distance is very much a mental challenge.

Many don’t sign up because they don’t believe the can finish. And many would be surprised. You still have time to train for this event.

I’m a passionate advocate for running ultra marathons because we are always stronger than we think we are. The ultra can bring about such a life-changing transformation, and you cannot attempt 100 miles without being changed.

No matter what you have done or will do in the future – this is a victory that nobody can undermine or take away from you. And it’s free! So go ahead and throw your name in. Maybe this is your time.

Read this post about 7 Lies You Believe About Ultra Running to ease some of your fears. You CAN do this!

If you’re still having doubts, read my race report for my first 100-miler. And my thoughts before the race.

If you’ve finished 100 before, here is a worthy buckle to add to your collection!

The Course

  • Arizona’s 2nd 100-miler and 1st mountain 100-miler
  • 4 Mont De Blanc points
  • Start at 5,500 feet, max at 7,400
  • Each climb and descent is anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 feet, usually done in under 2 miles
  • Climb through multiple ecosystems
  • Scale the first climb to the top of the Mogollon Rim in the first 9 miles of the race
  • Series of ascents and descents of the Mogollon Rim
  • Run from red rock high desert terrain to the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the world (soldiers used to mark the Ponderosas high on the trees so they could still see them in high snow in the winter and today you can still see some of the markers)
  • Minimal dirt roads, and nearly all have a view
  • Dirt road sections are under 6 miles
  • 1 mile at the finish is pavement into town
  • Steep, rugged and extremely technical

Read more here.

The Race Director, Jeremy Dougherty, has spent years shadowing many RDs at ultra events, and can avoid the normal hang-ups of an inaugural race.

Here is a video of the upper region of the course called the Cabin Loop. This is right after the first snow break so the greenery hasn’t sprung up yet.

Visit the website www.mogollonmonster100.com for more course photos and videos.

If you really can’t make it…

Strongly consider being a volunteer or a pacer for this race. Both are tremendous learning experiences and will give you a chance to see what a 100-miler is all about. Shacky and I will be there with Ginger, volunteering.

If you’d like to get set up with a pacing gig but don’t know anyone who is running, email the Race Director at at azadventures@getoutgetlost.com.

How to Enter

You must complete the following three things for one entry:

  1. “Like” the Mogollon Monster 100 Facebook fan page.
  2. Share a link to this giveaway via social media or your blog and mention that you’ve entered.
  3. Leave a comment and tell me why you want to win.

The winner will be chosen next Wednesday July 18th through a random draw and I will announced it here on the blog. You have five days to claim your entry before I pick another winner.

Good luck!

Rocky Road 100 Mile Race Report Part 5

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

Read Part 3

Read Part 4

“Pushing your body past what you thought it was capable of is easy; the hard part is pushing yourself even further … past what your mind wants to let you. That’s what ultrarunning is all about; introducing you to a self you’ve never known.” – Rex Pace

Lap 6: Miles 76-90

Shacky wanted to quit. He was a walking zombie, his chaffing was intense, and if he dropped now he would still be credited for finishing 100k. It would still be a distance PR for him and there would be no shame in DNF’ing his first 100-mile attempt.

Our friend Rachel decided to DNF. Her feet were so swollen, she could no longer walk. Shacky was thinking about joining her.

Knowing Shacky was ready to drop out made me stronger. I knew that if I showed any sign of weakness he would make up his mind to stop. He was just waiting for me to say the words, “I’m done,” so he could breathe a sigh of relief and fall sleep in the car. I wouldn’t give him the pleasure.

I had run 100k before, and I wanted to push further. This was all new territory for me and I wasn’t ready to stop yet. I grabbed some food for both of us while Shacky went to the car to generously lube his chaffed parts. He wanted to sleep so badly, so I told him I’d wake him up when it was time to go. In seconds, he was out like a light.

I took 20 minutes to take off my shoes, rub my aching feet, eat as much as I could, and drink some Rockstar. “Just one more full loop…” I told myself. I was anxious about spending too much time here.

If I didn’t get back out on the course soon, maybe I never would. I was afraid to sleep because I didn’t think I would ever wake up.

I woke Shacky. “It’s time to go!” … but he didn’t want to. I set his alarm for another 30 minutes of sleep, and told him that I was heading out. I instructed him to catch up to me after he woke up, and we’d finish this together. He nodded.

I believed he’d come. My best card to play at this point was his sense of competition. I knew he didn’t want me on the course putting up miles without him, and I knew that would eat him up. I was sure he’d catch up to me.

I stepped out of the car and headed to the bathroom for one quick potty break before I started walking. My plan was to walk slowly and let Shacky catch up. I didn’t care about time, but I did want us to finish together. I was feeling better, and I felt like he might need me before the night was over.

I walked slowly. It was really cold, so I wore two sweaters and wrapped a blanket around me. My jammie pants were keeping me warm, with my skirt underneath.

I felt much better, but I didn’t want to move any faster. I imagined that every second Shacky walked by himself would be a nightmare for him. I remembered my own desperation, fear, and paranoia at being left alone in the dark, and I didn’t want him to experience that.

In the meantime back at the car, Shacky decided as soon as I left that he didn’t want to sleep. He jumped back on the course while I was in the bathroom, already running to catch up to me. He didn’t realize I was still behind him.

For several miles, he’d run faster to catch me, and I’d walk slower to wait for him. We would do this until we were hopelessly separated. And when we’d find out what had happened, my heart would drop to a new low.

I looked at my watch and estimated approximately how long it would take Shacky to catch up to me. I walked and walked, but he never seemed to come. Where was he?

The sun would be coming out soon and I was already at the second aid station. I was starting to get worried. Did he even wake up? Would he finish?

Just as I was starting to wonder if he quit, I saw Shacky coming back towards me from the turnaround point. I blinked my eyes and stared. Was I hallucinating?

When we reached each other, I was still confused. “Did you pass me??” I asked. When Shacky explained what must have happened, I didn’t know what to say.

He was running at a steady pace and he said he felt good. He said he would run to the finish, then maybe if he was feeling good, he’d run me in for my finish. Then he took off.

I just stood there with my mouth open. What was happening??? I looked back at all the time I had wasted walking slowly, and I suddenly realized how much distance he had gained on me. I wanted to cry.

MAYBE run me in for my finish?? Fuck that. I wanted to finish together.

I was at mile 80. The sun was coming out and I was still in my jammies, two sweaters and blanket. I was tired. I hadn’t slept at all and I was still a little delusional. But suddenly all I could think of was catching up to Shacky.

We hadn’t talked about finishing together, and catching up at this point seemed impossible. I knew he wasn’t slowing down, which meant I had 20 miles to run FASTER than his already-fast pace. Oh, and did I mention I had 80 miles on my legs?

It was insane, but I didn’t care. After the initial shock of watching him leave, I grabbed some food at the halfway point and took off from that aid station like a bat out of hell.

I didn’t know I had any strength in my legs. But they moved. I didn’t know I had any breath left in my body. But I inhaled. The faster I went, the better I felt. I was flying.

I remembered my Asian mentor’s words, “The race doesn’t start until mile 80.” This was it. This was mile 80. And the chase was on.

The runners that I passed would turn to clap or shout encouragement. Their surprised faces reminded me how insane my pace was. Nobody was moving this fast. Nobody was running the hills. Was I being reckless? Stupid? It didn’t matter. I had to find Shacky.

My single-track mind made the time go by quickly. The sun was coming out and I was started to get very hot in my layers. I took off my jammies, two sweaters, and blanket and tied them all around my waist.

The layers made me look like a round, chunky ball, but they didn’t slow me down. I was on a mission and failure wasn’t an option. I was running this loop faster than I had run at any point during this race.

About three miles from the start line, I still hadn’t seen Shacky. That’s when it started to occur to me that maybe this was stupid. Maybe I’d never catch him. I stopped to walk and for the first time, think about what I was doing.

I heard a car honk and turned around. It was Jeff. He was headed to the start line to pace, and seeing him immediately perked my spirits. If Jeff caught Shacky at the start, they might stop to chat and give me a brief window to make up some ground. I started running again. Maybe I could do this after all.

Steps away from the start line, I saw Shacky running back with Jeff. They were on their final 10 miles, and my heart sank. What was I thinking, I’d never catch them. I would finish alone.

When I passed Shacky, I didn’t even want to talk to him. I was too tired to explain what I wanted, plus I was afraid I would burst into tears.

But I didn’t have to say anything for Shacky to figure out what I wanted. He sent Jeff to pace me, and he said he’d walk until I caught up. So Jeff and I turned and headed back to finish my loop.

Lap 7: Miles 90-100

“When you are 99 miles into a 100-mile running race, your brain is not the same brain you started with.” – Paul Huddle

I didn’t waste any time at the aid station. I dropped the layers that I had tied around my waist, filled my water bottle and took off again, barely even slowing down.

Just 10 more miles. It was so close I could taste it. It was a relief to run with someone again, and Jeff was an amazing pacer. He made sure my form was good and ran ahead of me to all the aid stations so I didn’t have to stop. He was surprised at how well I was doing and he thought we might even catch up to Carlos.

But as it turned out, Carlos kicked it into high gear himself and basically sprinted the last 10 miles. When I saw him on the home stretch, he was flying.

There’s something incredibly inspiring about seeing someone who has run over 90 miles, who has been out there for almost 30 hours, and who can still sprint to the finish with a smile. It’s a true testament to the wonder of the human body.

I smiled to see Carlos whiz past with his pacer behind him, huffing to keep up. We are so much stronger than we imagine.

As for myself, I wasn’t even sure why I was still running. Shacky would be waiting for me, so there was no need to chase. There was no time goal we wanted to meet. And before long, this would all be over.

Looking back, this was probably the most pure stretch of running I have ever experienced. There was no reason to run, but I still did. My brain was fuzzy, my belly was empty, and my legs were tired. But I ran because it was all my body knew to do.

For a long time now people have been trying to answer the question, “Why do you run?” I imagined that on this race I would have a breakthrough or a vision that would make it clear to me exactly why we DO run. And suddenly now it was obvious: There’s no fucking reason.

That’s why people come up with cheesy one-liners like, “Because I can.” Because really… there’s no reason to run at all. It’s completely senseless. And I was about to senselessly run 100 miles. It felt awesome.

Maybe we don’t always have to do things for a reason. Maybe we shouldn’t try to explain everything. Maybe we can just run fast every once in a while for no damn reason. And if people don’t understand, well that sucks for them.

When we caught up to Shacky, we all started running together. We hit 95 miles, and I was starting to cramp up. Just 5 more to go…

I had to start taking walk breaks, especially on the hills. My feet were starting to hurt and things were getting ugly fast. Whereas in most of my races I gain motivation this close to the finish, this time I broke down.

About three miles to the finish, I started to cry. I just didn’t even want to finish anymore. My body hurt and all I could think of was how much I wanted to stop. I didn’t care when I crossed the finish line or who I crossed it with.

Jeff ran ahead to announce our arrival, and I tried hard to pull myself together. My nose was running and when I blew it, it started to bleed. I was falling right apart.

As my pain grew, so did my anger. Why the hell did I run so fast back there?? I wanted to kick myself.

Shacky walked me in to the finish, and when I crossed it there was no sense of triumph or pride or satisfaction. Just an overwhelming urge to lie down.

Shacky hugged me hard and then I had to pee. I was holding it in for the past 3 miles, so I headed straight for the bathroom. Plus my nose was also still bleeding and I wanted to get cleaned up before any pictures.

When the race director came over with my buckle, I wasn’t there. So Shacky took it for me. Until the ride home, I didn’t even remember there was a buckle. I wouldn’t even look at it until I was home. It didn’t seem to matter at the time.

As soon as I stopped and sat down in the car, the pain was overwhelming. It hurt more to stop than to continue. I was hungry, sore, and sleepy and I didn’t know what to take care of first.

Trying to figure out what to do next was enough to send me into another fit of tears. I couldn’t think straight. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. I was hungry but I couldn’t get up to find food. I just sat in the car and cried.

Shacky came over to check on me and I was so mad at myself for pushing hard in the last 20 miles. I told him that it wasn’t worth it. That I should have just run my own race and finished alone. But he said he was glad we finished together, and after Jeff and Terry went to get me some hot chocolate, I felt a little better.

I was so appreciative of everyone’s support at the finish line, and I was sorry to be in such a poor state. Days later I would come to see photos of other people’s feet and realize how lucky I was to come out of this with so few battle wounds.

Later analysis with the Robillards would convince us that it was probably our minimalist/barefoot choices that has strengthened our feet enough to take this type of beating. There aren’t many people who finish 100 miles. And out of those, there are next to none who can finish without supportive shoes.

Final Thoughts From a 100-Mile Finisher

“I have met my hero, and he is me.” – George Sheehan

The day after the race I asked Shacky if he felt any different now that he had finished 100 miles. He said no, and neither did I. I feel like the same old girl. The same old runner.

I think that’s a good sign. I feel like it means this is who we were all along. This is where we belong.

For me, it was almost like a coming out. Now I have nothing to prove. It was a validation. A declaration that this is who I am and this is what I can do. And I’m going to keep doing it. Senselessly.

I don’t really know why I run. But I don’t have to explain it.

Now registered for: Nanny Goat 24-Hour & Chimera 100 Mile

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

RELATED ARTICLES:

My Final Thoughts on 100 Miles

Noble Canyon 50K Race Report (My First Ultra)

Los Pinos 50K Race Report (My First DNF)

Across the Years 24 Hour Race Report

 

Los Pinos 50K Race Report

The trail gods were angry with me and decided to punish me with Los Pinos.

I knew this would be a tough race, and that’s what initially attracted me. It was rumored to be much harder than Noble Canyon 50K, and I had done well at Noble. So I thought I was ready for a harder challenge.

I thought wrong.

DIET ERROR

It started going downhill before the race even began. We had been doing a 30-day Paleo challenge that ended on October 20th. The race was on the 22nd, so we thought about keeping up the diet until then. Instead, we went ahead and indulged in crappy carbs for two days pre-race. I chalked it up to carb loading, ignoring the fact that I had never actually carb loaded before a race and eating shitty bar food probably didn’t count.

I loved the way I felt on Paleo, so it was hard to imagine at the time that I wouldn’t feel amazing during the race. On Paleo, I felt strong and energetic. But two miles into the race, I knew I was in trouble. And I knew it was because my body wasn’t processing the processed carbs.

That was my first mistake.

GEAR ERROR

We decided to stay in a hotel the night before the race so we’d be closer to the start. I meticulously packed everything into my race bag. I remembered my toothbrush, my socks and my handheld water bottle. On race day morning I pulled on all my clothes and slipped on my injinjis, but something was missing.

My shoes were still neatly packed… at home.

Enter wave of panic.

I had no shoes. I didn’t even have my huaraches. I had literally nothing to wear on my feet. And this was not a barefoot-friendly race.

Because this was such a tough course, none of my female trail running buddies had registered for it, so there was nobody I could borrow shoes from. Shacky had an extra pair of shoes in his car—a men’s pair of Neo Trails, about three inches too long for me. And that was it.

I was determined to run this race, so I slipped on my new clown shoes and took a deep breath. I decided that I’d run this ultra in enormous men’s shoes, or I would die trying.

And die I almost did.

RACE START

We got to the race early. The volunteers were still setting up, so we chatted with Carl and Shacky told him my shoe story. Carl asked if it was ok to make fun of me, so I knew he had his priorities straight. Trail runners are awesome like that.

Carl also suggested I stuff the end of the shoes with paper. I think he was joking, but it actually ended up being a great idea. I stuffed toilet paper in the 3-inch gap between my toes and the ends of the shoes. Feeling the toilet paper gave me the illusion of having the shoes actually fit. So instead of feeling AND looking like a freak, I only looked like one. I was ok with that.

A few minutes before race start, I felt a tap on my shoulder and someone said, “Vanessa?” I turned around to find myself staring at Michelle Barton. I immediately turned into a dummy. I had no idea what to say and how the hell did she know my name??

Michelle is my hero, I love everything about her. I love her clothes, her hair, and how she wins almost everything she runs. I’ve never been star struck before and I still have no idea how she knew my name. She knew Shacky’s name too, which didn’t surprise me as much. Then Shacky suggested a picture while I just stood there like an idiot.

The pre-race pep talk wasn’t very peppy at all. It basically consisted of the race director Keira begging everyone to be cautious and trying to convince people to drop out before the hill. She warned us strongly about running out of water on the climb and stated frankly that if it happened to us, “You’ll die.” I was pretty sure she was exaggerating. Or joking.

Hours later, I’d be collapsed on the side of the trail praying for death to come.

THE FIRST THREE MILES

I started off too fast.

I don’t know if it was nerves, or if I was just trying to keep up with the mob. But it was too fast, too soon and it set me up for failure.

This was a small race—less than 100 people started, and most of those seemed to be elite runners. The first small stretch was on pavement and there was a very small incline in the road. By the time I got to the end of the road, I was already out of breath and less than one mile in. I knew then that I was in trouble.

My feet hit the trail and immediately I felt better. I’m not a road runner. My heart drops whenever my feet are on pavement, but trails seem to simulate flying for me. So I kept up the faster pace, and that was a mistake. I couldn’t get my heart rate down and I knew I was headed for disaster if I didn’t relax. So early into the race, I walked.

It took a bit of walking before my heart got back down to its normal beating. In the meantime, we were passed. A lot. And just like that, I was in last place.

That’s where I would stay for a very long time.

THE ATTACK

About three miles in, Shacky suddenly stopped and ripped off his hydration pack.

“What’s the matter?!” I asked. Then I felt it. The most painful stab I have ever experienced. A hornet sting on my finger.

I screamed a curse and grabbed my hand. Then immediately felt another. On my belly. Shacky got two more on his back milliseconds later. It was an ambush.

“RUN!” Shacky yelled. And we did. Fast.

We never saw the hornets, but we sure as hell felt the multiple stings. They were coming hard and continuously. A few meters away, we tried to stop to assess the damage, and got bitten again. So we ran as fast as we could until we were sure everything was clear.

I was bleeding from my belly and my finger was starting to swell up. I thought about how horrifying it would be if I turned out to be allergic, but there was nothing we could do other than try to get to the next aid station as fast as possible. I was in so much pain.

It turned out that the runner in front of us got stung five times on his head. The runner behind us got some bites on the back of his knee. Nobody came out of that trail unscathed. I couldn’t stop swearing.

GETTING TO THE FIRST AID STATION

The first aid stop seemed like a million miles away. I couldn’t find my groove even though it was all downhill. I felt miserably sluggish and I was burping bar food nachos. Pain from the stings seemed to shoot through my whole body.

I thought about how crappy my nutrition had been over the past two days, and I wanted to kick myself. I had messed up. And I wanted to quit.

LAZY W AID STATION

Both Shacky and I seriously contemplated dropping out at this aid station. It was only the first station, but right at the bottom of the famous 8-mile climb and we were hurting from the bites. Neither of us felt good and we were warned by the race director to not attempt this hill if we didn’t think we could finish it. There would be no aid until we got to the top.

Still, I wanted to take it on. I wasn’t sure I wanted to suffer the disgrace of a DNF. Surely I was stronger than this?

Somewhere behind us, Randall was still running. We met Randall on the trail and this was his second attempt at finishing an ultra. He had tried to run Twin Peaks and dropped out. We decided to keep him company at least to the top of the hill and drop out there.

I was very curious about the hill. I wanted to conquer it. Had I know what was coming, I would have sat down at the bottom and called it a day. But I was stubborn. My heart said GO, but my legs said “We will make you suffer a pain you have never known if you make us go through with this.”

They kept their promise.

LOS PINOS AKA THE BEAST

In my mind, I envisioned one big uphill trek. How tall could one hill be? How bad was it, really?

But this was not one hill. It was several.

We were less than a mile up when I knew I had made a terrible mistake. We were afraid to go back since we were in last place and were worried the aid station below us had already packed up and headed out. All we had was big hills up ahead.

It wasn’t the distance that broke me down in this race. It wasn’t even the elevation. It was the steepness. The steepness of these inclines was comparable to Stairway to Heaven’s 15K. Hills that I had climbed using my hands. Hills that I had never trained on. And steepness I had never run. It was 8 miles of this.

About a mile later we crossed two girls who were headed back down the hill. They were dropping out. One of them couldn’t stop throwing up and couldn’t keep any water down. We watched them go, and we should have followed. But we didn’t.

Looking at the elevation profile before the race, we initially thought that we might be able to recover on the downhills before climbing to the next peak. But that wasn’t possible.

First of all, the downhills felt like they were about 15 seconds long, whereas the uphills could last hours. Secondly, the terrain on the downhills was loose rocks, which meant that instead of running them, I was too busy trying not to fall on my ass. Inching along slower than walking pace.

As soon as we’d reach a peak, we were greeted by wonderful views of three or four more peaks that we’d also have to climb. I tried to take pictures because I knew that although I couldn’t appreciate the breathtaking sights in the moment, I might appreciate them later. As far as I could see, there was only mountain. No sign of relief. No sign of an end.

The race director warned everyone to go up with a hydration pack and at least one handheld. We had packs and handhelds, but we still ran out of water. It was about 90 degrees and we were climbing at 12-2pm. There was no shade. There was no place to sit.

Several times, Shacky would sit on a prickly bush and I’d literally collapse right in the middle of the single track trail, sprawled out with rocks up my bum and flies landing on my face. I blocked the path, but it didn’t matter because I was in last place. I was cut from the sharp bushes and bleeding from my legs and arms. My hornet bites were throbbing. But I was too tired to care.

One of my motivational techniques before this race was to ask myself if there was anywhere else I’d rather be. Before this race, the answer was always no. Los Pinos retired that technique for me. There were a million and one places I wanted to be instead of on those cursed hills, so I didn’t dare ask myself that question.

I endured every discomfort I could think of, at different stages. My head hurt. My stomach hurt. My chest hurt. My belly growled, but I was unable to eat. I was thirsty, but I was low on water. Every once in a while my heart would start racing as soon as I hit a steep hill, even though I wasn’t going fast. I was basically crawling up, so I didn’t know how to keep my heart rate down other than to lie down and sleep.

After a certain point I started to wonder what I would have to do to get air lifted out of those hills. Could I dislocate my shoulder? Bash my skull against a rock? Would that be enough to excuse me from having to move another inch?

I lost all will to continue. I wanted to die. I wanted to cry so badly but was too proud. So I just ended up with a painful lump in my throat.

My irritation seemed to build with every step. What were we doing here? WHY was there even a trail here?? There should NOT be a trail here dammit. And what sort of sick person made a race out of this hill?? It wasn’t fair to expect people to climb this with no aid. Not everyone was an elite. People could actually die out here. This isn’t even running. This is tortured hiking. This is just wrong.

A few miles up, we came across a kind mountain biker and Shacky had the energy and foresight to beg him for water. He didn’t have much, but he gave us some. Every time I lay down, I felt like I might never get back up. But Shacky kept prodding me along and if it weren’t for him I’d probably still be lying there right now.

Then Carl ran down to us with water. They had been worried at the aid station when they didn’t see us coming. We were on that hill for hours. I have never been so happy to see Carl in my life. He filled up our handhelds and promised that we were close. And so we continued.

THE AID STATION

By the time we pulled into the next aid station, we had 15 minutes to run 11 miles and make the cutoff. There was just no freaking way we’d make it.

I was so exhausted and suddenly I could not stop eating. The aid station was already packing up and getting ready to go. I managed to eat:

  • One whole orange
  • Several potatoes with salt
  • Cookies
  • Chips
  • Drank one entire coke can

On the hill, I couldn’t eat. Whenever I tried, my stomach would start hurting, even though it was growling the rest of the time. I had never been so happy to see food at an aid station. And I had never at any race been so hungry.

CROSSING THE FINISH

Although we had planned to get a ride to the start line from the last aid station, Shacky chugged a Rockstar and suggested we run two miles to the finish. I didn’t feel like I had another step in me, but wasn’t about to get left behind. So I ran on fumes to the end.

Shacky looked like he could have finished the entire 50k and I felt lucky to be running with someone who could make me push further than what I thought I had in me. He waited for me in those last 2 miles when I had to stop and walk again.

We crossed the finish line uneventfully. Part of me felt like I had failed but at the same time I knew I had done the best I could… and then some.

The race director Keira was glad to see us. She said that because we had climbed Los Pinos we still got a medal, and we qualified for the 30K category, which I believe was invented because so many people failed to finish.

This is the last year Keira is putting on this race. She said it was because the course was just too rough, and she worries about everyone out there. She explained how she tries every year to stress how hard it is. She begs people to head up there with enough water and not to attempt it as their first ultra. But people still do, and they still run out of water. She felt she couldn’t provide for them on that hill. It was just too brutal.

Everything people say about this climb is true. It can and will destroy you. It will completely break your will. On that hill, Shacky and I swore that we would never run it again. I even thought about taking up some other sport.

At the finish line, I ate like a beast. Sandwiches. Cookies. Another orange. I ate on the car ride home, and then we went out to eat some more.

On this race, both Shacky and I were testing INKnBURN gear. I have a lot more to say about this company, so I’ll be reporting on them in a separate post. For now I will say that I’m very impressed with their products.

IT’S GOOD TO HAVE FRIENDS

I’m pretty sure I would never had made it out of that hill without Shacky’s prodding, so I think that deserves a special call out. I didn’t want to move for over half the climb, but having him ahead of me gave me someone to mindlessly follow. As long as I could see him out in front, I had hope of seeing civilization again.

Whenever we stopped, he listened to my breathing and told me when it was time to keep moving. He found a stick for me that I could use as a trekking pole when I was grasping at rocks with my bare hands. He begged that mountain biker for extra water for me. And he made me run those last two miles.

So many people run these races alone and face their demons one-on-one. I’m beyond lucky to have someone stronger than me watching my back and willing to sacrifice his own race if necessary to drag my ass to the finish line.

CONCLUSIONS

Three days later, we’re planning our hill training so we can conquer the beast of Los Pinos. I love how ultra running does that to you. Flips defeat into determination.

Before this race, I was driven by curiosity as to what my limit was. Now it has stood in front of me and punched me in the stomach repeatedly. But there’s a great relief in finally seeing your enemy’s ugly face. Because now I know what to conquer. I know what my goal is.

I might have run this race out of ignorance, but I’m proud that I was brave enough to attempt it. I shared the trail with some of my elite ultra running heroes, like Michelle Barton. I’m proud to say I collapsed on the same trail where she ran, in a race that was way out of my league.

Michelle and I both wore the same INKnBURN design, only she was first girl and I was last. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m getting better. That maybe someday I’ll be running that hill, minutes behind Michelle, chuckling at the time when it almost made me cry.

All I remember now is that I had the balls to try it. That I faced the beast and somehow survived. That I can regroup and try it again.

After all, an ultra runner who had never missed a cutoff is surely an ultra runner who had never truly challenged themselves.

Final Thoughts Before Noble Canyon 50k


This Saturday I’ll be running Noble Canyon!

I’ve only done a timed ultra, so this will be my first real ultra distance trail race. I’m super excited because this is my favorite type of race – long, challenging trails. I’m going into it without any expectations. I’m just going to enjoy the day, have fun, and take in the experience.

I hope I make the cut-off, but I sincerely have no idea if I will. The last couple of training runs I’ve basically had to walk the entire way up the mountain. So I’d love to at least get a little more running in.

I think it’s cool that this is the first race where I know so many of the people running or crewing or volunteering. In Toronto I always experienced races alone – starting and finishing alone, no one I knew cheering, and no one I knew running. Racing was fun THEN, so I can only imagine how much better it will be now. The ultra running community is completely different than road racing, and I’m enjoying the shift.

I had a little mishap on my run at Torrey Pines yesterday. I got a little overconfident running down the side of the canyon and I was going much faster than usual. I stepped on a rock with what I thought was a steady step, but my foot shifted off of it and slid down to the ground. I didn’t fall or miss a step – I didn’t actually feel any pain at all. I just kept running. But Shacky said it sounded bad, and about 40 strides later it started to sting. So I took a look.

I had sliced off a bit of my sole, so my skin was flapping and the wound was filling with sand. It wasn’t a big cut, but it was deep. I ran to the beach and soaked in salt water to clean it out. Then I borrowed Shacky’s shoes and finished up the run. I was hobbling a little, but it was much easier to run than to walk. I actually ran faster because it was getting dark and the faster I ran, the less time I would spend putting pressure on my wound.

When I got home I washed it up again, put on some socks, and went to bed. In the morning my skin had started to re-attach. I used some Neosporin, and it looks like it’s going to be ok. I’ll probably still bandage my foot for Noble, just in case.

I’m trying to come up with things to think about to stay motivated during this run. I feel like it’s going to be a mind game much more so than a physical feat. I know I have the strength in me to finish strong, but it’s just soooo easy to walk!

I’ve been inspired lately by Shelly, who just finished a 50-miler, and we’ll be running our first 100 miler together soon! So I’m sure I’ll think about her.

I’ve read on a couple of blogs about how people decide to dedicate a mile of their long races to people who have inspired or helped them, and I thought about doing that. If I do, here are some people I admire that I would definitely include:

  • Shacky – cause he’s always there for everything
  • my birth mom – cause I miss her
  • Eli – cause she’s the bravest lady I know
  • Emma – cause I love her and miss her
  • Angie – cause she’s a supermama and strong lady
  • Shelly – cause she kicked ass at her last race
  • Jason – cause he writes the stuff that needs to be said and finished Western States in under 24 hrs
  • Pat – cause he’s my cool record-breaking uncle
  • Kate – cause she’s a cute little runner and climber who never gives up
  • Cat – cause everything about her inspires me
  • Caity – cause her podcast is the awesomest podcast in the universe
  • Krista – cause she’s got ninja moves
  • Christian – cause he taught me how to get everything for free
  • Michael – cause he suggested a long time ago that I try running barefoot…
  • Robin – cause she’s my fellow badass Canadian ultra runner
  • Carlos – cause he makes me laugh and he pushes some impressive speed/mileage
  • Jeff – cause he always gets back up when he falls
  • Theresa – cause she’s insanely supportive
  • Christine B – cause she’s a super strong lady and great runner
  • Nadia – cause she’s always trying new things to stay active
  • Nate – cause he’s not afraid to be himself

I don’t really have any other ideas as far as motivation, so I think I’m just going to go into it and see what happens.

Wish me luck!

 

I should have been born white.

The first man to imply it was my dad. Then years later my (now ex) husband would say it. And my partner after that. A unanimous verdict from all the men in my life. All of them Hispanic.

They meant it as an insult of course. I remember my dad taking me out for meals and talking at length about why white women were not REAL women. Why they could never please a man. Why they were so cold and so wrong.

But Hispanic women were beautiful. They were gentle and kind and always did what they were told. They served others and they had kids. Lots of them. They cooked and were happy with very little. They never wanted anything more than what they had, never asked any questions, and never did anything without permission.

The Hispanic women I knew all did actually fit this mold. They could take abuse like “real women”, be it verbal, physical, or emotional. As I understood, that’s what made them beautiful. That’s what men wanted.

Over time I started developing what I knew were “white” qualities. Stubborness. Imagination. Ambition. A desire for something better. My own voice. This would upset the men around me, and if I didn’t try to suppress it – they would.

I was horrible at making friends with other Hispanics. In the company of Spanish-speaking women, I felt awkward. I didn’t talk about the things that did – cooking and kids and sex. I talked about books and ideas. The men would look at me like eye candy and nothing more. I was accused of thinking I was too good for them. I felt white.

A few weeks ago I was told my decision to move to the States was a “white” one. And I hope that’s the last time I hear that word used as an insult.

The funny thing is, since moving to San Diego, I feel more ethnic than I did in Canada. I have more opportunity to speak Spanish. My skin is better at soaking up the sun. And I’ve eaten more Hispanic food in two weeks than I usually do in Canadian months.

Running these hills and mountains, it seems I’ve spent most of my life feeling homesick for a place I’ve never been. A place like this. Miles away from brown or white or black or yellow. A place where I can just be myself. Ambitious and determined. Maybe even a little stubborn. But still beautiful.

The 3100 Mile Run

I’m running a guest post today by freelance writer Maria Rainier about the 3,100 Mile Self-Trascendance run. That’s right, folks: 3, 100 miles.

I love reading about races like this because it’s a testament to the reslience of the human body. It makes me excited to own such a remarkable dwelling, potentially capable of some incredible things.

I’ll let Maria tell you the rest.

SRI CHINMOY AND 3100 MILES OF SELF-TRANSCENDENCE

by Maria Rainier

Ask your average Jane and Joe if they can run 3,100 miles in the steaming heat of summer and they might go to the trouble of walking across the room to slap that innocent look off your face.  They haven’t even heard that they would be given only 51 days to complete the 3,100 miles—approximately 60.78 miles (or 97.82 km) a day.

Nevertheless, since spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy created the Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race in the mid-1990s, a small group of runners have gathered annually to smash their self-imposed limitations beneath their heels.  In his mind, sports supplied the body and mind with fitness and joy but also expressed his philosophy of self-transcendence, or expanding the consciousness to conquer perceived limitations.

SRI CHINMOY: ATHLETE AND TEACHER

Accusations of misconduct aside, Sri Chinmoy walked the walk in the athletic community.  Once a formidable competitor himself, he completed 22 marathons, 5 ultramarathons, and participated in track-and-field events in Masters Games.  These include the 1983 World Masters Games in Puerto Rico and the 1993 World Veterans Games in Miyazaki, Japan.

When an injury put a stop to his running career, Sri Chinmoy turned to weights, purportedly lifting 800 lbs with only his right arm less than two months prior to his death in October 2007.

ATHLETICISM AND THE SPIRIT

Runners turn up for the Self-Transcendence 3100-Mile Race in his memory every year, although the list of participants is, as one might imagine, quite short.  Ladies’ record-holder Suprabha Beckjord—who completed the 5,649 laps of an extended city block in Jamaica-Queens in 49 days, 14:30:54—is the only participant to have completed every edition of the race.  The course record belongs to Wolfgang Schwerk in 41 days, 8:16:29.  Asprihanal Aalto has won the most of these races (six out of his nine starts).  These athletes and those unnamed tap into the body and mind’s inner reserves of energy and power, doing what even they might on some days believe impossible.

One of his students, Ashrita Furman, today holds 100 Guinness world records and attributes them his Guru’s philosophy.  “I am not a natural athlete, but Sri Chinmoy has shown me that if one can be in touch with one’s inner spirit, anything is possible.”

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she’s been writing about online physical education programs along with computer hardware engineering jobs. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, playing piano, and working with origami.

A Campaign of Hope 5k Race Report

This is a sentimental race for me, so although I don’t race many 5k’s anymore, I make a point to run this every year. This was my first 5k race two years ago.

I hadn’t done any hill training that year and I had a really rough time on the final Spring Road hill. It took me over 30 min to finish the 5k and I felt like I was dying.

The year after that I came in first girl! It was the first (and still only) race I’ve ever won in my life. You can see that race report with pictures HERE.

This year I wanted to set another milestone and make it my first barefoot race. But my day didn’t start out so well.

My plan was to run to the race start, which I have been doing for a while now. It was about a 20k distance to High Park from my house, where the race was being held. No problem.

I woke up a little late, so I was rushed to get out the door. I didn’t have time for breakfast, but figured I’d be ok since my last half marathon I also ran on an empty stomach. Not so this time around.

My stomach started growling uncomfortable at around 7k, and by 11k I was unhappy and sluggish. I thought about pushing forward, but I didn’t see a point and thought it would be better to save myself for the race.

So I stopped to buy some food and hopped on the subway for the rest of the trip. When I got out of the subway, the weather had taken a turn for the worst. The temperature felt like it had dropped about 10 degrees, and it was raining. Because I had already been running in the hot sun earlier and had worked up a sweat, I was now freezing cold. I wasn’t dressed for rain – I was wearing a tank top and a little orange tennis skirt.

I jogged up to get my race kit and I realized my feet were still tired. And because I had taken the subway I now had an hour to kill in my tank top under the freezing rain with no shelter. I wasn’t thrilled.

I also realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to race barefoot on the wet concrete paths and I wondered whether I should just turn around and go home. To help me decide, I texted some rant-like messages to Shacky. He always keeps me tough by never feeling any sympathy for me.

Before he could reply, someone approached me to ask about my Vibrams. As it turned out, it was a friend of Sarah Marie from Daily Mile, and I got to hang out and chat with them and with Sarah for a while. Sarah reads my blog and it was so fun to meet her that I forgot to be wet and miserable. I also met Daniel from Daily Mile, and right before the start I saw yet another familiar face.

That last guy was someone that I ALWAYS see at races. He’s a runner from El Salvador, just like me. Except he’s a speed demon and I can never ever keep up with him. But I always try.

I don’t know this guy’s name and I’ve only chatted with him briefly. He’s sort of off on his own and doesn’t always seem approachable. He runs fast and just leaves. He doesn’t show much interest in any of the other aspects of a race, like hanging out or talking. But his running attitude intrigues me (so opposite of mine), so I went out of my way to say hi. We didn’t talk much because he wanted to head out and get a spot at the front of the pack, but the last thing he told me was “Push!”

So I did.

This felt like my fastest 5k in terms of the time passing quickly. I hardly felt the kilometers go by. The downhills were a little scary because the rain was making everything slippery and I was flying in my VFFs. I figured it was safer to just go with my momentum than try to hold myself back and feel my legs slip from underneath me.

Earlier, I tried to walk to the start line barefoot (thinking I would run the 5k barefoot), but it wasn’t happening. Even just walking to the start was tough and I knew my feet wouldn’t take it. I didn’t want to DNF a 5k, so I went back for my Vibrams. Wet pavement continues to be my nemesis.

The uphills felt better than the downs, and the final hill right before the finish line was easier than previous years just because I knew I was only meters away from the end. I’m starting to feel comfortable and familiar with this route.

Some Asian dude in a cape tried to pass me a few meters from the finish, and although I ultimately lost I didn’t go down without a fight. I pushed with all I had but in the end the guy was just faster and slipped ahead of me. It’s because I didn’t have a cape.

The rain had gotten progressively heavier during the race, and by the time I crossed the finish line at around 26 mins (16th place!) it was full blown thunderstorms and pouring rain. I was soaked and wet and cold. I had nowhere to put my certificate, so it got destroyed, and there was no food at the end.

But I forgot to be miserable.

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