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Monday, December 18, 2006

Chuckanut 50k

The following Blog comment spurred the idea to post about Chuckanut 50k:

Krissy, it's great to read about your continued running adventures. Very inspiring! Your Hellgate experience sounds scary. I wonder if you could give any advice to a person running their first 50k in March (Chuckanut). Training mileage leading to the race and maybe some pointers on how to attack the course, I used to run parts of it when I lived in Bellingham. I ran my first trail marathon in Auburn, Ca. In October, and ran it in a time of 4hrs 24min, although I think I could have been around 4:15 had I not had the stomach flu the day before. Hope that gives you an idea of where I'm at. My goal is under 5 hrs. Thanks, and keep up the great updates.

The Chuckanut 50k is March 17, 2007. This will be my fifth year as race director and it takes place on St. Patricks Day so I’m hoping to have a few extra special touches. One being chip timing – this is more as a saving grace to my volunteers than anything. I have called in numerous favors to friends and family the last 4 years to help me put on this race. Time keeping and the kitchen are probably the two most difficult tasks – this year I hope I’ve remedied one by bringing in a timing system. Enough plugging for my race.

1) See the course – there are maps & descriptions on the GBRC website that dictate the course. Also there are plenty of local runners that train on the course that you could easily join.
2) Practice for race day – what ever you are thinking about racing in/with (clothes, shoes, hydration pack or bottles, music) and using during the race (energy gels, food, drinks) you should try out in training and be comfortable with it before race day.
3) If you are curious about mileage and a correct way of building your mileage it might be a good idea to consider getting a coach to help you outline a program.
4) Some training tips that I use include back to back long runs, cross training (elliptical, bike, yoga) and weight lifting.

The race filled in about two weeks this year. I’m excited for the event and hope you might consider volunteering if you are not running.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pointers on Cold Weather racing:

Having never raced in freezing temperatures before I clued in to a few “issues” that I have never dealt with during the Hellgate 100k. Hopefully this will serve as a resource of things to consider when cold weather racing.
1) At one point I had to chew on my hydration tube to break up the ice. I finally fed the hose down my shirt to keep it warm. Then the little bit that leaked onto my outer layer froze. Consider a pack designed with insulation for colder weather. The Nathan Blizzard would have been perfect!
2) I had put brand new batteries in my Petzl Tikka Plus before the race and they began dimming a couple hours into the race; the cold will do that. Carry extra batteries or find a way to keep your battery pack warm.
3) The layers of clothing were much more than I normally train in. Fortunately I picked a system of clothing that functioned perfect for me. Be sure to know your apparel and its strengths in varying situations.
4) My Clif Shot and Shot Bloks took on a different consistency; I had to put them in my glove to warm them up before consuming.
5) Creek Crossings: This was not an issue for me, but before the start a couple of people had me worried as they had DNF'ed in years past due to wet, freezing feet. To prevent this one guy wrapped his feet (up to the knee) in saran wrap. A couple of others carried heavy duty plastic garbage bags to put over their feet when they reached the water crossings. I wore my standard, good socks (Smartwool) and trail shoes (Montrail). Within minutes of running after the creek crossing my feet warmed up.
6) The scariest of all was my loss of vision. At the finish line I found out I was not the only one with this problem, in fact the top two males had similar issues. Consider glasses to protect your eyes. My race report on Hellgate goes into detail about the experience.

Clothing layers:
Patagonia thermal (similar to R.5 material) sport bra/tank
Patagonia long sleeve lightweight capiliene
Patagonia short sleeve airius t
Patagonia Axuwool hoodie
Patagonia Houdini jacket (carried with me just in case)
Black Diamond ski gloves
Patagonia Axuwool tights
Smartwool Adrenaline socks ¾ length
Montrail Hardrocks

At mile 42 I changed:
Left tights, put on Patagonia Desert Duster shorts
Left ski gloves, put on Smartwool lightweight gloves
Left the Axuwool hoodie and put on the Houdini

Nathan Intensity vest with bladder first - 42 miles
2 Nathan Thermal Quickdraws – remaining miles

Mostly Clif shot & Shot blocks
I ate 1 Clif bar, 2 First Endurance Bars, lots of soup, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and some fruit

Frozen Eyeballs

A story from Hellgate 100 km
December 9, 2006

Tip: When dressing for a race where temperatures are going to have you bundled up for hours (read: below freezing), don’t forget about your eyes. A pair of clear or light colored lens glasses and perhaps a brimmed hat to trap the warmth around your face may make your experience much more bearable.

start trailhead street sign to the start

Hellgate is unlike any other trail running event you will ever participate in. A 100 km event that begins at 12:01am Saturday morning (Friday night) so that everyone runs in the dark the same amount of time.

prerace meeting

The prerace dinner and meeting are held at the finish line in a cozy lodge at Camp Bethel. All runners and crews maneuver around the room in prerace preparation and try to lie down for a bit before the caravan departure to the start. Each year Mother Nature adds a special touch, be it ice, snow, leaves, freezing temperatures you are in for a unique challenge. This year the last two in the list of challenges awaited the runners.

Apprehensive. Quiet. Tentative. Not usually words I would use to describe my prerace behavior, but even Race Director David Horton (a good friend of mine) commented on the change in my mood. An 11pm caravan to the Hellgate Trailhead for the 12:01am start on December 9 was just enough time to really consider what these 95 runners were about to get into. Without the normal preparation distractions (because we had to be 100% ready to go by the time we left the finish line to head to the start) the time in the van was just enough for the magnitude of 100km “Horton miles” to set in.

Below freezing at the start, reaching a low of 12 degrees (not including the wind chill factor) it made for quite a chilly night. Most of us bundled and layered; lights on head and in hand we took off into the night. It was a beautifully clear night a bright half moon and plenty of stars filled the sky. Running with Bethany and Sarah eased my mind as we conversed easily and laughed about the irony of this race and our friend, Horton.

We also ran with Aaron (3 for 3 finisher of this race) who has written a detailed description of this course complete with maps. So to save time and space please read his write up of the course as well. I will say that Horton has designed a challenging course with technical rocky trail sections interspersed with overgrown grassy roads and forest service road sections. This year the trail was often knee deep in leaves covering the many rocks hidden below. My watch clocked 13,196 ft of gain and 12,802 ft of descent on the point to point course with the high point at 3110ft and the low at 207ft.

During this race I encountered perhaps the scariest experience I have had to date in any race or training run. Below is a quick recount of how my vision loss developed.

3am on December 9, three hours into the Hellgate 100 km and I feel like there is something in my eye. I remove my ski glove and try to gingerly wipe and clean out my left eye, but nothing I do seems to help. There has been some dust from a few crew cars passing, perhaps that is it.

Just before 7am I arrive at aid station #6, about 35 miles into the race and ask Sean and Paul if they can see anything in my eye. I have been running for nearly seven hours and in the last four the vision in my left eye has slowly deteriorated; it has gone from blurred to cloudy to pretty much non-existent. I feel like I’m looking through foggy sunglasses and depth perception is a joke with only one good eye. Fortunately the sun is now rising, so I will have a bit more to work with.

The last 11 miles of the Hellgate 100km and my right eye is quickly clouding over and progressing towards an equal status of my left. There are 5 miles of trail I must get through before arriving at the final aid station. Negotiating these five trail miles is a nightmare and I’m near tears with my thoughts wandering to fears for getting through this race and concerns for my long term vision. I can only see the bright orange trail markings when I am within a couple of feet. I’ve run off trail numerous times because I can’t follow the trail for all the leaves and lack of sight. I know if I can just keep moving forward and get out of the woods to the aid station the situation will improve. I can barely make out the numbers on my watch to get an idea of how long I’ve been negotiating this section when a girl runs up the trail and informs me that she has run seven minutes from the aid station, meaning I’m nearly there. I ask Carrie to run in front of me to the aid station; just having her company and confirmation that the loss of sight is due to the conditions is a huge moral booster. When we arrive at the aid station she loans me a pair of amber lens sunglasses to protect my eyes. The last six miles are on a forest service road, so sight is not nearly as important. I head out of the station with one full water bottle and in much better spirits. I am a couple minutes ahead of record pace as I head up the last hill to the Parkway.

In these last six miles I was able to calm down a bit, focus on finishing the race and reflect on the fun and challenges of the night and following morning. I drew strength in traversing the course with 94 other athletes that were there for many different reasons and knowing that others are out there enduring the night. The trails required focus, quick feet and solid foot placement. I enjoyed the varying terrain and actually looked forward to the smooth forest service road sections that allowed me to relax and simply run. Making this last climb, that Sarah and I had marked just a couple of days before, crossing the parkway to drop down into Camp Bethel I reached a feeling of acceptance of what this event threw at me, that I was able to overcome my “issues.” I am so thankful that each experience is new and challenging. Nothing is a given: this drives me to train, research and prepare, to feel nervous at the start and elated at the finish.

Eric Grossman (also experienced the clouding eyes) set a new men’s record in 11:03.
Sarah Johnston (new to the Ultrarunning world this year) ran the third fastest female time on the course 13:37
Aaron Schwartzbard finished his 4th Hellgate (4 for 4!)
58 runners of the 95 starters completed the 2006 event. RESULTS

Andrew Wilds took photographed the event from various locations throughout the race. He also took pictures of cloudy cornias - there were a couple of us with this condition. This picture shows my left eye (the worst one)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Home again, gone again

I'm sitting at SeaTac waiting for a flight to Lynchburg, VA to visit HORTON and to run in the Hellgate 100k which begins Friday night (Saturday morning) at 12:01am. Made it home safe and sound after visiting Hal & Carly in Ashland and Stacy in Portland. The Rogue Valley Running Company is looking good! Hal has moved in to that store and business seems to be moving along great for them. I joined the Thursday night store run which was a nice loop through town and the park. Always fun to visit with these two - they are headed to Sunmart for the 50 miler (Hal) and 50k (Carly's longest run to date!) this weekend - GOOD LUCK GUYS!

In Portland I stopped by the Montrail office and scored a sample pair of the new Nitrus (it's nice having big feet sometimes, I'm men's sample size), and signed my year to be a part of the Montrail/Nathan Ultrarunning team. Good to visit with Paul and see the faces that shaped the beginning of this year again in much happier places now.

I met Stacy at her place, it is always great to meet up with friends that have known you through thick and thin. We went out for a yummy Mexican dinner - try this the next time you make enchiladas: Butternut Squash filling with a peanut/mole sauce. Delicious. The conversation ran well into the evening and continued on our mellow run around the city the next morning.

Home that afternoon! What a wonderful place to be. I must admit I felt a bit silly; as I drove into the city (you know that rise in I-5 where you look out over downtown) the magnitude of this summer and fall, all that has happened, all I've experienced... it all hit me and (bashfully) I got a bit emotional. I am SO very thankful for this time, the people that have supported me along the way, the fact that I ran into no adversity and am safely back in Seattle. My advice to anyone that has even the most remote thought about taking off for something like this, may it be a week, a month or a year... DO IT! You will not regret it. And if I can offer any ideas/suggestions on places to visit, pointers on making the trip easier, packing tricks I am more than happy to do so. All I ask is that your travels include a visit to Seattle so that I may host you, let you clean up, do laundry, share your stories and let me feed you a good meal before sending you on your way.

Happy Holidays! Enjoy the decorations and Holiday spirit!