Monday, 12 March 2018

Monument Valley 50 Miler Race Recap

Alarms were set and I was ready to go! It was my first ultra marathon.  I had spent the last 4 months of the Canadian winter training and couldn't wait to get it done. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I felt comfortable knowing that I was in good hands. My two run buddies are both experienced ultra train runners and would be sticking with me to the finish. My buddy Laura had all things mapped out for our race from what goes into our drop bags, to our nutrition and well as a map of the routing, times and cut offs of our race.




It was a half hour drive in the dark into the start line in Monument Valley Park. We drove in the dark with anticipation for the sun to rise and to get going. There was a bit of a back log getting into the park as we could see a line up of tail lights from quite a distance. We parked the car with 5 minutes to the 7 am start. We quickly rushed to the port of potties and met back at the start line to realize that the 50 miler group had just started, my buddies and I looked at each other and took off to catch up with our fellow racers. The first section was 4 km to the East Mitten Aid Station. It was a great way to start surrounded by many runners like a beginning of any race, all trying to find our groves. The sun was just starting to come up.  I was lucky to have a photo taken of my buddy and I with some other runners at this section.

Photo Credit: Jack Jewell Photography
We ran into the first aid station, showed them our bib numbers and headed straight out to the next check point, the Three Sisters Aid Station about 7 kms away.  Most of what we had run was on a  single track hard dirt road. This section followed washes until we got onto the main road, Valley Drive which we stayed on, until we got to Three Sisters Aid Station.
It was a quick stop for us to take a quick pee and move onto the biggest climb of the course, up Mitchell Mesa. There had been a change to the course and we were going to be climbing the Mesa at the beginning section of the course which I was happy to get out of the way. Our legs were still fresh and spirits high.  
Navajo Guide on horseback guiding us up the Mesa
It was a 15.5 km climb to the top of the Mesa. The sun was starting to come out and as we were making our way up there were already people making their way down. We are also coming up on people running the 50km race as they were doing this loop in the reverse. It was a single track heading up so had to stop along the way to let the speedsters coming down pass. It was a nice and steady climb up with shear drops so I was cautious with my footing.  The views from the top of the Mesa were incredible. We stopped to take some photos, grab a quick drink and turned around to make our way back down to the Three Sisters Aid station.
   

Top of the Mesa    
It was unreal. I was trying to take it all in, but it seemed like it was going by so quickly in slow motion. I was feeling good as we were about 3 hours into the race. It was nice to go down the Mesa and see the amazing views of Monument Valley.
 
Running down the Mesa

We headed straight back to the 3 Sisters Aid Station to refuel.  In my head, I had thought that we would be resting at the aid stations, but that wasn't what my buddies had in mind. I came into this race with no expectations and was just following along with what I was told to do. We pretty much ran into the stations and the tasks were divided among the three of us. One was to refill bottles, the other was to grab our drop bag and take out our nutrition and whoever needed to use the potty or change went as quickly as they could. The aid station was fully loaded with volunteers cooking up all sorts of great food. There was bacon, eggs, pancakes, cooked potatoes, ham, veggies, and so much more. It was an amazing spread of food, but there was no time. I grabbed a few slices of bacon, chugged down some Tailwind and maybe some eggs. We changed our socks and used the poop/pee tents. Time was ticking and there were cut offs that we had to meet, so off we went onto our next loop.    


Perfect view of us coming into 3 Sisters Aid Station

Walking towards The Arches


Next was the Arches Loop which was about 9.5 miles.  This was another picturesque loop with a LOT of sand and view of the Totem Pole and other arches. There were other runners on course with us still, especially when we reached the Big Hogan.  We all seemed to stop here to take photos and empty our shoes. We could not escape the sand. It was like fine talc. The sand that was in between every crevasse of your feet.  We finished the loop and ended back at the Three Sisters Aid Station for the last time. We were about half way done at this point and I was still feeling alright. I think I had already taken 6 Advil's by this time along with a few caffeine pills and salt capsules. I had been carrying Hammer Perpetuem in my bottles and drinking them along the way, making sure they were empty by the time I reached every aid station. My friends were also carrying electrolytes and nutrition. We always made sure we were drinking and eating along the way checking up on each other.


Runners emptying Sand out of their Shoes    

Stopping to Strike a Pose under the Big Hogan    


The next section was 7 miles from the Three Sisters Aid station to East Mitten Aid station.  This section had the least amount of sand, as in the dry talc sand that would seep into every inch of your shoe. We were running down Valley Drive which is a main road which cars drive down so the sand is hard and packed down towards the visitor centre. We make a sharp turn right before we even make it close to the visitor centre. This will take us towards the North Window overlook and then follows what's known as the "Marlboro Trail" around City Butte towards Artist Point then drops and follows a drainage that parallels Valley Drive to  the East Mitten Aid Station.  I was happy that my feet had a break from all the sand in my feet and my calves were happy that I was able to actually run on a firm surface. We changed socks again grabbed some warm food, refilled our bottles and off we went.  


Horse Trails



This second last section was 7 miles to Brigham's Tomb. We were all in good spirits as this section was fairly flat, but we could see some very dark threatening clouds overhead.  This section is down a dirt road and then follows horse trails to a junction we here there is a slight climb up to the aid station. At this point in the race, there were very few runners left on the course with us. There were monuments all around us as it was flat all around for parts of this section. I was in awe of how beautiful the land was around me and trying to take it all in while trying to keep moving.  I knew that it was unlikely that I would be back to this area again, so I was mentally taking photos and locking them away in my memory.  We kept joking to each other that we had to pick up the pace because the dark clouds were getting closer and the winds were picking up. We pulled up our buffs when the winds blew to help us from eating sand for dinner. I was sure that we were going to get caught in a horrible rain storm, but we lucked out and stayed dry.  With Brigham's Tomb in sight we made the climb up to the aid station. It was super windy as this aid station was exposed to all the elements. I remember trying to sit down on a chair to change my socks and the chair was blown over by the wind gusts. This was our last aid station.  We changed socks, put on an extra shirt and grabbed our head lamps.  I grabbed some turkey and make a sandwiched, wolfed down some pickles, took some more Advil and rolled out of the aid station to the final section of the course.  We only had 9.5 miles to go.  


Still Smiling


Dark Clouds Moving In

 
Trying to Outrun the Storm    

9.5 miles, which is about 15 kilometres was all that was left for my buddies and I to reach the finish line. We could normally run15 kms in our sleep, but we had already run 40.5 miles. I just wanted to be done at this point and this last section seemed to never end.  The course runs along horse trails and skirts around the stagecoach formation.  I felt like we were going in circles, my stomach was starting to feel funny. Thank goodness for the Pepto Bismol that my friend shoved into my mouth. The worse part was that we were back to running in sand..... lots of sand, including a 200 foot climb up a sand dune about half way to the finish line.  I was so done with sand. I never wanted to see sand again. We stopped a few times to empty sand from our shoes. I could see that the sun was starting to set and my buddy yelled for me to pick up the pace and that we were going to finish before dark.  As dusk was settling in, I was finally able to make out the main road and eventually saw the finish area.  We picked up the pace and forged ahead towards the finish line. We make it off the sandy trail and onto a gravel road past the back of The View campground where finishers were camped out cheering us in.  My buddies grabbed each of my hands as I could hear the cheers and our names being announced and we ran across the finish line.  


Finishers!! 


I had done it ! My first ultra. I was finally done. I just wanted to sit down. We got our finisher reward which was SAND....ahhhh. I grabbed a Navajo Taco and tried to eat it before jumping into the car to head back to the hotel.  No one had told me how awful you would feel after an ultra. My gut hated me. I had taken more Advil's and caffeine pills in that race than I had taken in a year. I had survived on gels, chews, and fluids for the past 13 hours and all I wanted to do was to throw up.  I don't think any of us got much sleep that night, but we were done. Until the next one :)


Some of the Sand I emptied from My shoes At the Hotel

 
Our Awards (I filled mine up with the Extra Sand From my Shoes)

Thank you for reading. Have you done any Ultra Marathons? Which one would you recommend we do next?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Current state

I thougt i was done with blogging. I had started blogging when I decided to train for my first marathon. I was super keen on sharing my thoughts and feelings about my love of running as i had been inspired by many fellow bloggers.  But over, I got lazy and also because I felt like I was wasting my time since no one was reading.  So where am I now,  I currently have my Monument Valley 50 miler race recap sitting on the side waiting for me to finish. It may take a while. I have run quite a few races that I have not witten recaps for and feel like i have so catch up on, but will get to them eventually..... maybe never, but I am ok with that.   If any of you have been following my blog, thank you.  I would also suggest you check out my Instagram page where I am quite active and post quite often.  I wanted fo write this post to say that i haven't thrown the towel in yet, and hope to get writing soon. I have lots to say, but just lazy and not quite sure on how to put it all down on paper.  To be honest, I am currently quite tired of road running. I had a blast running my first ultra, Monument Valley was incredible. But, the training was hard. I was very fortunafe ro have some amazing friends who trained with me through the harsh Canadian winter. A month after I raced in a local marathon.  A friend of mine was hoping to qualify for Boston, but missed her time.  On our drive home, I suggested she run a fall marathon to try ro qualify again and that I would train with her. I think I was probably still delerious and dehydrated from finishing the race. 
So here I am, 4 weeks out from another marathon and already dreading the long run waiting for me at the end of the week. I will be away for work this week, which means I will be missing a few of my runs due to the time change and jet lag. 
To say that I am unmotivated could be one thing but I think I'm just tired. Tired of running, tiried of training,
I am hoping this is just phase and will pass. Until then, I will finish this training cycle. I promised a friend that I would train with her and run the marathon with her. Countdown is on...

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Monument Valley Race Weekend Part 1

It has taken me some time to get off the high of completing my first ultra race.  It had been months of training through the awful Canadian winter. Long runs back to back in snow storms and ridiculously cold temperatures.

I was fortunate enough to have two awesome ladies train with me and guide me through the entire process. They are both experienced ultra runners who kept me going, even on days that I just didn't want to make another step.

We flew into Las Vegas and picked up our rental car and drove 7 hours to Kayenta. Monument Valley sits between the Utah and Arizona border. During the drive, our clocks kept switching back and forth from the time zones, which I found amusing. The drive the breathtaking and the pictures do not do justice to how magnificent the view were.

Driving Hwy 59, Hurricane Utah

My buddies had done some ultras in this region, so they were able to explain to me what I was seeing and also take photos for me while I was driving. We made a quick stop in Glen Canyon to take some photos as the sun was setting and I also had never seen a real dam this big before.

Glen Canyon

Glen Canyon Dam

We made it into Kayenta in pitch darkness and passed out from our LONG day of travelling.  We got to get a real sense of the area once we woke up and looked out our windows. We were in Navajo Nation and in a very small town. There were only a few hotels, 1 grocery store and a number of restaurants. The views were none that I had seen before.  We were in the dessert surrounded by many random monuments. It was as if I was in a movie.

We were able to get a sense of our race setting as we headed to Monument Valley for bib pickup. 




Bib pickup was inside Monument Valley National Park and was quick and simple. After dropping off our bags and picking up our bibs, we took a look around the visitor centre. We bought some race swag and took in the incredible views and snapped some great shots before heading back to the hotel to rest up.


A tradition Navajo Hogan for the Ceremony

We decided to go back to a local restaurant in town to rest and  grab some food.  I had heard a lot about the Navajo Fry bread and was dying to try some.  We went to Amigo Cafe, a spot that we had gone to for breakfast but had a limited menu at the time, so we went back in search for Navajo fry bread. The photo below shows our pre race feast.  Our waiter, Chandler turned out to be a runner and running the 50K race with us the next day.  He was working hard serving all the runners that had come in for supper and giving us tips of the area.  If you're ever in that neck of the woods, I highly recommend the restaurant and calling up Crawley's Monument Valley Tours. You will not be disappointed

Mmmm, Fry Bread Taco


With our bellies full, we headed back to our hotel for some sleep.....




Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Ultra Training.. the good, bad and ugly

My running lately seems be feel Groundhog Day. I feel like I've been running everyday and for endless miles. This is most likely because I've been immersed in training for my first ultra in March. My family has had to endure me waking up a ridiculous hours on weekends to get my long runs in. I've spent my layovers sleeping, eating, and running.


I have tried to incorporate more strength training to build strength to help me be a stronger runner/athlete overall.  But there never seems enough time in the day to fit it all in.

If it's one thing I learned so far in my 2 months of training for an ultra is that you really need to organize your time well. I am a working mom with 2 young kids and a job that requires me to travel.  I have had to squeeze in as much of the training in when I can along with keeping up with all the other responsibilities I have.  

The training has taken over all my free time. I am dressed to go for a run as I take my kids to school,  then off to run errands in my running clothes.  I have cooked dinner in my running gear and many times not gotten to the shower until the end of day.  I have gone through many pairs of socks. I can barely recognize my feet and I think I will be losing a few more toenails along the way. I am constantly doing laundry. 

I started training in December with my buddies and I finished the month with 317 km.  We just finished month 2 (January) with 330 km. I am pretty sure that I have never ran this much in all my years of training for my races.  As of today, I have run over 560 km. I am happy to say that I am still able to walk and not hobbling around my house.  The foam roller is my best friend as well as my cabinet full of oils and elixers.

One of the best things that has gotten me through all this training so far are the strong ladies that I am training with. No matter what the weather is, we run OUTSIDE!!! I have run in snow storms, wind storms, my feet and shoes have been soaked through, splashed by buses, and yelled at by drivers.  I relish in any day where the temperature has been about -10. I however have been able to get in a few runs while I am away at work. Although I am jet lagged, I try to get out and squeeze in a run just because I do not have to wear 3 layers, gloves, and wool socks.


So far I have learned to try to stick with the training plan and if things don't work out, relax and let it go. I have had to get used to running back to back long runs. It doesn't always work out for me as my work gets in the way. I used to think having to get one long run a week was tough, trying getting in two. I had my first 100km+ week which has NEVER happened. I haven't gotten any faster by any means, but I think I am getting stronger. I still battle with negative thoughts before many of my runs and contemplate giving up most days. But having to be accountable to my pals has gotten me to pull myself together and forge on.

Thanks for reading... have a great week.

Any tips for getting through those dark moments when you just want to give up? 




Sunday, 4 December 2016

Ultra , Why Not?

I had met a wonderful group of running moms a few years ago and started running with them on and off early last year. At first, I was afraid to run with them as most of them are experienced runners, Boston qualifiers with tons of races under their belts.  I had a lot of self doubt and didn't want to be "that" slow one, or the one that they had to wait for.   But we all had a few things in common, the love of running and love for our family.  When I first met them, we were all training for a range of distances from half marathons to ultra marathons. I was inspired by their many stories and found myself wanting to run with them.

I spent this past year training with alongside them. I was training for my full and they were training for 100 miler and 100 km races. We spent many runs together chatting and getting to know each other. It had become my therapy to meet with these women from all walks of life and just run and forget about all that was going on in our busy lives for that couple of hours we were out for our long runs.

My 2016 racing season did not go as planned. I spent many days after my fall marathon thinking about all that went wrong and how to do it better for 2017. After a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to try something new.  They were nothing but supportive when I asked if they would be interested in running my first ultra marathon with me. I had heard all about their previous races and was just dying to try something new. They were both experienced trail runners and had done a few ultras in the past, so I knew that I would be in good hands.

My buddies had given me a criteria for me when I was looking up races. They did not want to train in the Canadian summer which meant I had to find a Spring race, no races that are just in the forest,  they wanted something with breath taking views and nothing in Utah. We decided on the Monument Valley 50 Mile Race for 2017. I have days where I'm super excited, but most days I try not to think about it, because I am freaking out.

So tomorrow we start our training. ....




Thanks for reading...

Have you ever run and Ultra Marathon?

If so where?

Any Tips for this Newbie??

Friday, 17 June 2016

A Slow Comeback

It has been a few months since I have written on my blog.  So, what's new? Things are coming along slowly. I had decided early this year that I was going to run less races this year and focus on my training. I would work on my mental game plan along with the physical part of racing.

My first race of 2016 was the 30K Around the Bay Road Race. I have run this race a few times as it is a very popular race in the run community. I went into the race rather nervous as I wanted to do well, but the weather changed right before the race. It snowed. I had been training through the winter with my little guy in the stroller through some pretty wicked weather.  I was disappointed with the race as I did not do as well has I had last year. I guess there will always be next year.

So Much Fun with Buddies
Have Stroller will Run

In April, we went down to Rochester, New York to celebrate a good girlfriend's birthday as well as run a half marathon together. It was a full family weekend as the kids also were able to participate in their own races. I love running in Rochester. The city is quaint and full of runners. Streets are not crowded and the course is always rolling.... as in hilly. I had run the half a few years ago with the birthday girl for her first half marathon experience but this time I wanted to see if I could do better on the hilly course. I kept a good pace for the first 10km but slowed down quite a bit as this is when the hills started. I was pleased with the race and now looking forward to my next half marathon in August.



I am now training for the Seawheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver with my cousin.  It will be her first ever half marathon. I am super excited for her and also for our getaway weekend. I ran this race 3 years ago when I was on maternity leave and took her out there with my kids. This race is hosted by Lululemon, so needless to say, it's an amazing event. It was one of my most memorable races ever. The course and vibe is like no other. I had told my cousin three years ago that if she was to ever run a half marathon, this one should be it and I promised I would take her and run with her. 

After talking with the coach earlier in the year,  I decided to only run 1 marathon this year and focus on my pacing.  I signed up to run the Wineglass Marathon in the fall. As always, I am going to try to PB. Here's hoping that all goes well.

I have found a great group of ladies that are as excited about running as I am and we get together every Saturday morning at 5:30 for our long runs.  Most of them are experienced runners and training for all sorts of distances from half marathons to ultra marathons. I have learned that I enjoy running in a group setting. The time definitely passes much quicker when there are people to chat with and keep the pace going.  It is always tough when the alarm goes off at 4:30, but I wouldn't miss it at all. It has been a good boost for me to have these strong runners push me when I want to turn around and give up. 

Have a great weekend ! 

What races to you have planned?

What keeps you motivated to keep on training? 












Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Hong Kong or Bust !

Hubby and I had decided in early 2015 that we would end our year partying it up in Hong Kong. My parents decided to join as well as a few of our close friends. Our last family trip out that way was Christmas of 2013.  It was a rough trip as hubby and the kids all got sick.  I spent most of the holiday nursing them all back to health. Hubby was very nervous before heading out, but was excited as now our kids were 2 years older and our friends were going to be joining us there.

Mom and My Princess
It's always a surprise when travelling standby, but were were all lucky to get on the first flight we tried. The route to Hong Kong is one that I am familiar with as I work it all year round. I am used to the long flight, but not as a passenger. I'm usually asking if you want the chicken or the beef :)
15 hours to go
My post 2 years ago has a few suggestions for travelling with kids.  My kids have been very fortunate to have started travelling at a very early age. My hubby and I love to travel and always take our kids with us. With that being said, I still suggest bringing lots of bribes and goodies to keep the kids entertained for hours. Bring comfort items as well and always keep in mind all the things you take out during your flight at the beginning because it will be a frantic end of the flight searching for all the stuff you took out at the beginning.

After 20 hours of travelling we made it to our final destination.  Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities.  It should be on everyone's top 10 places to visit. Here are some of the many highlights of our trip.

Posing in Front of Bruce Lee's home
Hubby is a huge Bruce Lee fan and found out that we could actually see it. It was sold after his death and turned into a 'love hotel'. It now stands empty, but was still cool to see.

Disneyland

One of the best things about Hong Kong is their public transit system called the MTR. It can get you to pretty much anywhere in and out of the city. It even brings you to the boarder crossing at Shenzhen.  There is even an app that you can load to help you with schedules of the trains and busses. We took it it everywhere even to Disneyland to surprise the kids for Christmas day.
Mom and Dad with the Kids


Running with Hubs

My parents joined us on this trip which allowed us to squeeze in a few quick runs. Hong Kong is not just big city, but has many gorgeous nature reserves and hiking trails. We stayed at an apartment nestled in the many hills of HK and was schooled by these hills.

Views from The Peak
We also did many touristy things as it had been a few years since our friends had visited HK. The Peak is a must do for any visitor. It has the most spectacular views of the city. There are also hiking trails nearby with the Pok Fu Lam Reservoir right there.

Cable Car ride at Ocean Park

We love HK
Ocean Park is part aquarium, part theme park nestled into one of the many mountains.  It was one of my fondest memories of HK. My parents had taken me there on my first visit to HK in 1983. I am told that much of it has changed, but their signature cable car still remains the same. It spans 1.5 km one way and offers AMAZING views of the surrounding area, the park and the sea. It connects you to the other part of the park where most of the new rides and shows are. 

HK Railway Museum

My son is currently a huge train enthusiast and when I found out that there was a Railway Museum, I knew I had to take him there. Both the kids had a blast seeing old engines and trains from the past.


Frozen Beer
Here's to an amazing finish to 2015 for me. We survived the trip and no one got sick this time. I was able to squeeze in a few runs and saw new places that I had never seen. As, I mentioned earlier Hong Kong is a fantastic city. It is busy and crowded yet peaceful and free. There are many things to do and sites to see. The food is incredible. Many of the restaurant chains in North America can be found there. All signs are in both English and Chinese and their transportation system is top notch.

We are looking forward to visiting again on day.... after we recover from the crazy jet lag.

Thanks for reading.

Where are you top places to visit in the world?

Have you been to Hong Kong? What are your favourite memories?






Monument Valley 50 Miler Race Recap

Alarms were set and I was ready to go! It was my first ultra marathon.  I had spent the last 4 months of the Canadian winter training and co...