Posts Categorized: Race Reports

Finding Strength in Numbers at the 2020 Marathon Olympic Trials

This is not the story of an Olympic hopeful or elite athlete. This is the story of friendship and a ragtag bunch of misfits surprising themselves and urging one another along in the ungrounded goal of qualifying and competing in the U.S. Marathon Olympic Team Trials.

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I’d competed in one 100 miler before this summer; the Leadville 100. I wouldn’t say I ‘ran’ the thing, though. Instead, I ran a good 60 miles before hitting a wall made of hyponatremia and altitude. I never recovered and walked it in pretty darn disappointed in myself. Like anybody, I had a lot to learn about running this distance, and I wanted to figure it out as best I could, but the next year I skipped the distance and ran 75 mile efforts at Lavaredo Ultra Trail and an FKT on a section of the PCT. I figured I would edge forward the longest distances and durations I’ve run in an effort to increase confidence and ability for the distance that had wrecked me.

Inspiration 

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) has been on my radar for about 4 years since my pal Chelsea Blanchard showed me the video, “Curiosity” starring Rory Bosio, saying something along the lines of “this woman is your spirit animal.” If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend watching. I was in awe of the energy and spirit of the race, and knew I just had to experience it someday. In the summer of 2016 I ran the course (Tour du Mont Blanc, which circumnavigates Mont Blanc and passes through France, Italy and Switzerland) with two of my medical school classmates Beth and Audrey, after that (2017) I went back and ran the Mont Blanc 10km. In 2018, I ran the reverse Haute Route (Zermatt to Chamonix) with my boyfriend (now husband) Tyler and our friends Ben and Katie. All these trips in some way were spurred on by my fascination with UTMB, and this finally culminated in running CCC this year. While UTMB circumnavigates Mont Blanc, CCC goes around about half of it. It is a 101 kilometer mountain race with 20,000 feet of climbing. It starts in Courmayeur, Italy, winds through Switzerland and ends in Chamonix, France. The UTMB races draw many of the fastest athletes of the world, and has been called the “Super Bowl” of trail running.

There is a lot of hard work between having a vision for a dream race, and having runners roll up to the starting line at 6AM on a Saturday morning. I think a huge thank you to Ethan Newberry (The Ginger Runner) and Kim Teshima-Newberry is first in order. These two thought up an awesome concept and produced a world class race. I can’t thank them, the volunteers, and sponsors enough. 

February in California can be a total crap shoot weather wise. Some years it’ll be sunny and warm in the foothills of the Sierra. Others well, not so much. This is my third year in a row racing near Auburn in the middle of winter. In 2017 I ran Fourmidable, 2018 Way Too Cool, and 2019 back to Fourmidable. All three races have been complete and total mud baths. So much for drought plaguing the state, I think maybe not this year! While much of my personal racing focus has moved towards longer distances I still love to do 50k races! They are hard, and I get to run fairly fast for a change which is not so much the case when I employ my pacing strategies in 100 mile races. My wish was granted as we began the first descent in a pack of about 20 guys running solidly under 6 min pace.

 

 

A little background might help. 2018 was pretty much a year off from racing and a significant reduction in training. All the training and racing of the previous 10 years just piled up and it was clear some real rest was in order. So that’s what I did. As the year came to a close I found myself happily fit. I cut an hour off a favorite 26 mile mountain loop, all of the sudden I was running faster on my everyday runs (still at easy effort) and started doing some light workouts. I’d heard great things about Rocky Raccoon 100 and since I really prefer the 100 mile distance I decided it would be a good first race of 2019. 

Failure is a funny term. It means different things to anyone that uses it. It has been sighted that I am someone who happily fails a lot, especially when it comes to attempting FKTs. I have set out on dozens of different attempts on trail and mountain records over the past 15 years, and I have succeeded no more and no less than four times. When people use the word failure to describe all but the four successful attempts well , I get why they use that word. But the reason I am able to come back again and again to the realm of the FKT is that I don’t see missed attempts as failures, for me they are just part of the deal. The main weapon in my athletic arsenal is my ability to shrug off the misses without losing my confidence that most anything is possible. After a failed attempt on the Wonderland in 2016 the trail had woven it’s way into my mind, this year I had to go back and try again.

For the past few years I’ve gravitated towards doing, and putting more emphasis on longer races, primarily 100 milers. I thought that 100s had to be my best event. I mean I am not a sub 2:20 marathoner! I can’t compete with all these fast guys in the “short” distance ultras. I’ve slugged it out with long trails, Euro 100 milers and for the most part I’ve lost the battles. I certainly don’t intend to lose the war, but I needed to start 2018 on a good note. I decided I’d race at Way Too Cool. I’d never run this event before. With it’s long history and runnable course I figured I’d at least be able to maximize my fitness level and really see where I was at.

Summers never seem to last long enough. Not that I dislike winter, on the contrary, I LOVE winter. If I were not a runner, I would be one of those skiers chasing storms from the Northern to Southern Hemisphere searching for powder and steep lines 12 months a year. When I say summer is never long enough I mean as a runner, all the coolest, raddest, most fun trails are high up in the mountains where snow can linger long into July and August. There is a short window of time to tackle what has become a fast growing list of MUST DO mountain running objectives. A person could have worse problems obviously.

Mile 107: Nothing left.