March 28, 2011

AR 50 Week Twelve


Another cutback week, this time a little bit more than planned due to the ridiculous weather that plagued California this past week. Although I didn't run as much this week I did get a new running toy! Can't wait to use it : ) No real long run happened since I had to work full shifts both Saturday and Sunday, but I still got in some quality runs including a great tempo during the calm between storms and another 10 mile run to work. I even got back to bikram yoga for the first time in weeks! It looks like I've started my taper for AR 50 a week early, but I'm feeling good physically and mentally. Just 2 more weeks!

4 miles, 9:02 avg pace. Squeezed in an early run with the pup before work. Legs felt great just a couple days after my 22 miler on the AR 50 course and my intended "recovery pace" was no where close to what I planned!


6 miles (4 tempo), 8:35 avg pace. This was definitely a run to remember as I set out for a tempo run just moments after an epic hailstorm. In the 51 minutes I was out there, I experienced everything from rain and hail to thunder and lightning, and even saw a rainbow. I ran a bit faster than my last tempo, but that may have been because I was trying to outrun the storm. Here's how things went down:

mile 1 - 9:30
mile 2 - 8:11
mile 3 - 8:06
mile 4 - 8:14
mile 5 - 8:14
mile 6 - 9:15

I was aiming for tempo miles around 8:30, but clearly I don't know how to pace myself. Looks like 8:15 would have been a better goal and will be something to keep in mind for next time. My legs felt strong though and I finished feeling great. Definitely want to keep these tempo runs in my weekly routine.

I also had an appointment with my sports chiro to have some work done on my hips and quads and holy f*!&k did he go to town! I actually ended up with bruises on my quads and had some very sore hips flexors, but felt immensely better after. I plan on at least a couple more appointments before AR 50 so my hips are ready to go the distance (hopefully) pain-free.

90 min hot yoga. Due to some crazy weather that lasted all day, I opted out of my planned midweek 10 miler and went to bikram yoga instead. After several weeks off from yoga I was noticeably less flexible but it felt so good to be back and my tight muscles appreciated all the stretching. The long hiatus also meant I was quite sore the next several days, especially my back and hamstrings. It was a little ridiculous.
parking lot flooded by the American River at Watt Ave along my usual route

5 miles, 9:06 avg pace. Forced myself out of bed to get a run in before work. I ran in the opposite direction on the bike trail and took the pup along. Had to run a little faster than planned after hitting snooze one too many times, but as usual was glad I got up and got it out of the way. It was actually a beautiful morning despite the forecast calling for more rain (it eventually came later in the day).


10.2 miles, 9:04 avg pace. Another run from home to work. I'm actually really starting to enjoy these runs, and I seem to be pretty consistent in my pacing pattern each time. I tend to start out at a "happy pace" around 9:30, then end up getting faster as I warm-up and finishing with a negative split. In fact, 4 of the 10 miles were at sub-8 pace which is starting to feel much easier than it should...

Total: 25.2 miles

March 24, 2011

The Sky is Falling

Spring may have officially arrived this past weekend, but the weather here in California sure is telling us otherwise. Mother nature has really put a damper on things, not just in my personal training, but in the running world at large. First there's the great spectacle of rain and wind that was the LA Marathon last weekend. Cold temps and monsoon-like conditions made for a seriously crazy race day and caused thousands of runners to be evaluated for hypothermia. Then the Big Sur Marathon faced a big problem when, after this relentless stormy weather, a fifty foot section of Highway One collapsed, forcing an alternative out-and-back course instead of the infamous route from Big Sur to Carmel. Luckily the race will still go on, but it certainly won't be the same without the challenge climb of Hurricane Point and the awe-inspiring experience of crossing Bixby Bridge.
 relentless rain at the 2011 LA Marathon
Highway 1, part of the Big Sur Marathon course

Closer to home, the rain has been pretty relentless here in Sacramento this past week. The American River is reaching alarming levels, flooding portions of the parkway bike trail, including Discovery Park in Old Sac. The local River City Marathon being held this coming weekend was supposed to finish in Discovery Park, but seeing as it is now underwater they will be rerouting the course to be an out-and-back. And last weekend a local 50k, the Rucky Chucky Roundabout, was canceled because the trails were in poor shape from the storms. 

Despite the weather interfering with all these races, I'd been lucky enough that it hadn't really had a huge impact on my training. My usual routes along the parkway had remained above water (although the river has really crept up) and I'd only really been sprinkled on during a run. That all changed yesterday, though. I had the day off so I planned to get a bunch of errands done before going for a run later in the afternoon. When I got home I started to get ready, and then suddenly the sky started falling:

 yes, that's hail

This was literally 15 minutes before I ran. There was also plenty of rain, wind, and thunder and lightning. This may actually have been one of those times when it's smarter not to go for a run, but the hail eventually stopped and I was determined so I figured I would go for it. So, decked out in my rain jacket with my Ipod in a plastic baggie, I set off for a 6 mile tempo run. It ended up actually being a pretty awesome and crazy run. One side of the sky was ominously dark and moving closer, bringing with it wave no. 2 of the storm, while the other side was relatively clear and sunny. My route took me toward the sunny half, but the dark clouds behind me crept closer with every mile. It was like I was trying to out run the storm! Toward the end I even spotted a lovely little rainbow which made the whole run worth it : ) Surprisingly, I only got rained on a bit in the beginning, and other than getting a little spooked from the thunder and lightning I finished relatively unscathed with a successful tempo under my belt.

Today, on the other hand, is another story. I had the day off again and had planned on doing 10 miles at some point, but from the moment I woke up til almost sundown it rained buckets (for a total of 1.4") with gusts of wind that made the trees look way too flexible. Normally I don't mind running in the rain, but this was a full on storm and I was not about to be miserable for 10 miles. So for once, I opted to go to yoga instead. I'll admit, I felt a little guilty for a while (and still do a bit), but it is what it is. I don't have access to a treadmill, so that wasn't an option. I guess I could have gone for a shorter run, but honestly I didn't even want to be outside for 5 minutes in those conditions. Plus, I haven't been to yoga since, ummm, week 6? So no, it wasn't the same as running 10 miles, but I got my sweat on. And I'm sure I'll be plenty sore tomorrow : )

How's the weather in your neck of the woods?

March 23, 2011

Special Delivery!

I came home yesterday to find this waiting for me:
Inside I found something I'd been anxiously awaiting:
my new baby!

That's right, I'm now the proud owner of the Garmin Forerunner 310xt!! I'd been eying this bad boy for a while, lusting after it's multisport mode (perfect for triathlon!) and 20 hour battery life (perfect for ultras). The 310xt is currently Garmin's top of the line sportswatch so it comes with a pretty steep pricetag, but I was fortunate enough to be able to employee purchase mine at a significant discount since my work is a retailer. Major score. So last week, after months of hesitation, I faxed in my order and then...waited. I expected a confirmation email, but after a couple days I hadn't received anything. I was really hoping to get the 310xt by AR 50, so I was getting a little anxious. I decided to send an email to check on things and the next day received a reply that not only had they received my order but it was already on it's way! And when I got home that evening a lovely little box was waiting to be opened : )
 a nice, big screen!

I have yet to use my 310xt (I'm still working on a name for my new baby - open to suggestions!), but I spent this morning setting it up and customizing everything. This post was a huge help in getting me acquainted to my new addition. If you have any Garmin devices (or are considering buying one), I can't recommend this blog enough. It's written by an accomplished triathlete and has the most thorough, but still easy to understand, overviews and in-depth reviews of gear for runners, cyclists, and triathletes. One thing I can say about the 310xt so far is that it's far more user friendly than I expected it to be with so many features.

And if you were wondering, yes I already had a Garmin. Back in December 2009 my dad bought me the Forerunner 405 (check out my review), christened Juliette, which I've been using ever since and absolutely love. It took my running to a whole new level and made me feel like a serious runner : ) But while it was great for the running I'd been doing at the time, the battery life wasn't enough for ultras and doesn't offer a multisport mode (have to manually switch modes). With AR 50 coming up and several triathlons, I felt I was ready for a bit of an upgrade. I plan on continuing to use Juliette, mostly for my shorter runs, with my 310xt used mainly for long runs and races, cycling, and triathlons. I'm pretty excited to add this little beauty to my gear. I'll be putting together a review as I start using it so look for that in the future!

Do you have a Garmin? If so, which one?

March 21, 2011

AR 50 Week Eleven


Eleven weeks already!? Amazing how time flies, and speaking of which, AR 50 is now just a few weeks away - yikes. This week I tried to find a balance between recovering from Way Too Cool and also keeping my mileage up there since I'm not in taper quite yet. So it wasn't my highest mileage week, but I had a good recovery run early in the week, a (surprisingly) fast double digit run midweek, and a chance to run the entire trail section of the AR 50 course on Saturday (mostly solo and in the pouring rain, howling wind, and excessive mud, no less). I'm calling this week a win!

Rest. Decided I needed one more rest day from my 50k on Saturday, slept in a bit, and didn't feel the least bit guilty.

4 miles, 9:51 avg pace. This was my first run since Cool so it was more of a recovery run to stretch my legs and see how I felt. I was a little slower than usual but otherwise felt pretty good. Still amazed how much less sore I felt after this than all my marathons... I had perfect timing on this run and just missed the rain : )

10.2 miles, 9:05 avg pace. Had a later start for work so I took advantage and squeezed in another medium-long run to work. Wasn't sure how double digits would feel after Cool but it ended up being a great run. I ended up with a negative split and had a few sub-9 miles, too. Finished at my usual Peet's, got my coffee and snack, and just barely got ready in time to start work. I love when a good run sets the tone for the rest of the day.


4 miles, 9:08 avg pace. Had the day off from work so I postponed my run til later in the afternoon. It rained all day so when I finally headed out I was rocking my polka dotted Nike raincoat : ) Ironically though, I barely was rained on at all! I took my pup along for the run and decided to switch up my route for once and ran a 2 mile out-and-back on the main street in my neighborhood. It was amusing to see all the looks I got from people driving by in their cars, probably thinking I was crazy to be out running in that kind of weather! I tried to keep the run easy and didn't feel like I was pushing it very much, so I was continually surprised to see my pace in the low 9s every time I'd look.

22 miles, 14:12 avg pace. A local trail runner was kind enough to host an unofficial AR 50 training run and I jumped at the chance to participate. Since the first half is on the paved bike trail which I've covered either by foot or bike, I'm quite familiar with it and know what to expect for the most part. The second half, on the other hand, is entirely on trails that I'd never run before this weekend. Despite the heavy rain, persistent storm, and resulting flooding, a handful of runners showed up. There were two options, either 31 miles or 22 miles. I opted for the latter, having just run 31 miles a week earlier, and met up with fellow runner Mary at Beals Point in Folsom. The start was very informal and everyone just sort of took off whenever they were ready. The first couple miles were on paved roads and wide trails before turning into single track. It almost looked like we might luck out with the weather, and it did hold off for a couple hours, but eventually the clouds and rain took over. I stuck with Mary for a bit early on and was grateful for the company but my pace is a bit faster so eventually I went on ahead.
along Folsom Lake, looking like it might be a nice day...

Thankfully the trail was marked very clearly and I managed to make it the entire way without taking one wrong turn! I was quite proud of myself for that. The trail itself, however, was an absolute mess. We've had a near deluge of rain this past week up in Northern California, resulting in overflowing rivers and lakes and messy trails. I'm not just talking about mud, but entire sections that were flooded. At least every few miles (and usually more often than that) I found myself ankle deep in water. But of course, there was plenty of mud, too. The first 15 or so miles of the route took us along Folsom Lake with some great views over the water, despite the ugly weather. The rain did hold off for the first couple hours, but then it made an appearance along with some gusty winds that made thing that much more fun : /
 Folsom Lake
the sky getting darker...

The first 10k or so were along some pretty rocky single track that had us going up and down constantly. The hills weren't long or even super steep, but they were technical, and the constant starting and stopping was really frustrating. I just wanted a runnable section so I could get into a rhythm. Needless to say this first part was a bit slow-going. There were only a handful of runners out there and I kept leap frogging the same guy for a while. Then I caught up to a couple women who'd also run Cool and stuck with them until just before the first aid station at mile 11. It was nice to have the company and just "follow some feet". It got me out of my head and made the miles go by a little faster. The aid station  at Horseshoe Bar was manned by some amazing folks that gave up their morning to sit out in that awful weather just so we could have the chance to run the course. I made sure to give them a big thank-you before moving on.
the start of the rocky section
a small sign of spring amidst the storm

I was alone for almost the entire second half of the run, which ended up being both a good thing and a bad thing. I got a bit of a second wind after the aid station and there were also a lot more runnable sections which made things go by a bit faster. On the other hand, it started to rain and I was quickly soaked, but on the bright side, as long as I kept moving I was never really cold. I encountered the worst of the water on this half, some sections actually looking more like a pond than a trail. Around miles 15 (I think) we crossed over a bridge near a power plant and on the other end, beneath some bluffs, there was a sign warning about mountain lions. Several years ago a female runner was attacked and killed by a mountain lion in Auburn, and it was believed that it lept down from a ledge overlooking the trail. Recalling this and seeing these bluffs, I quickly became aware of just how alone I was (couldn't see any runners in front or behind me), I totally psyched myself out. I spent the next 5 miles with one eye scanning the area for potential mountain lions waiting to strike and my heart rate much higher than it should've been. At one point I bent over to stretch only to jerk upright a second later, remembering that mountain lions tend to attack people who look small or weak. Looking back I know how unlikely it all was, but my mind was not functioning properly after 3 hours of running on new trails, in a storm, by myself.
this happened quite a bit

I eventually caught up with a couple runners and was looking forward to having some company, only to find myself passing them pretty quickly and never saw them again. At this point in the run, I was focused on one thing only: getting to mile 19, which would also be the start of the infamous 3 mile long hill known affectionately as Last Gasp. I was a little nervous since this would be my first time on Last Gasp and I didn't know what to expect. I'd sort of built it up in my head and all I could think about was that 3 miles was an awful long time to be going uphill and how long it would take since I'd probably have to hike the damn thing. I finally emerged from the single track and made it to the base of the hill.

The first half mile, of course, was ridiculously steep and had my cursing out loud to no one in particular since, once again, I found myself alone facing this beast. I somehow made it up the first mile, and even managed a couple short bursts of running when the incline lessened up a bit. Still, that mile was clocked at 17+ minutes. Things actually got better as I continued to climb, and I actually ran more than a half mile of the next mile. I felt surprisingly good, even though the rain had really picked up again. One bonus of the climb were the views overlooking the American River Canyon, including a huge, gushing waterfall crashing down the opposite canyon wall. That next mile came in at a much more reasonable 12:22. I managed to run a few sections of the final mile which eventually emerged at the Auburn Overlook. Finished that one in 12:42. I was glad to have conquered Last Gasp and it was good to know that the incline gets a bit more gradual as you go up. But then again, come race day I won't be starting it at mile 19, it'll be 47...that could be another story.
waterfall across from Last Gasp

I ran a loop around the parking lot til my watch beeped 22 (a total of 5 hours, 12 minutes) then I grabbed some potato chips and chocolate milk at the final aid station. Once I stopped moving I got cold pretty quickly, though, so I didn't hang out for too long. Mary was already there, which confused me for a sec since she never passed me, but come to find out she had to stop early on due to a bad calf cramp. She still met me at the Overlook and drove me back to my car at Beals. Such a nice friend! I felt pretty good after, if not a little tired (more so as the day wore on) but during the run my hips really gave me problems. Strangely, though, they felt better when I was running than when I walked, so that was good motivation to keep moving. I wished I'd brought some ibuprofen to take since it worked so great at Cool, but instead I've got another appointment with my PT this week. I'm glad I got to preview the course, but I don't plan on running those trails again until race day. I don't want to be too familiar with the course and know what's coming. And hopefully they'll seem like totally different trails without all the mud and water : )

Rest. Had tentative plans to run with Diane this morning but she opted out. I woke up to more stormy weather and decided I'd had enough the day before so I decided to take an extra rest day and give my body a break.

Total: 40.2 miles

March 19, 2011

Help me pick a race photo!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my loooong race report on my first ultra. It still feels kind of surreal to have pushed my limits that much further. Trail running has been a breath of fresh air after such an intense year of road racing, offering new experiences, amazing people, and endless adventures. And, I'm convinced that trail running also produces better race photos! I almost always cringe when reviewing my shots from road races, but miraculously I actually like most of my pics from Way Too Cool! I like so many of them, in fact, that I need your help choosing which to buy (although I have considered buying all of them in digital format). Let me know your favorite(s)!
 no. 1 - getting dirty
 no. 2
 no. 3 - amazing, right?
 no. 4
 no. 5 - close-up
 no. 6 - the finish

p.s. I did an epic 22 mile training run this morning on the AR 50 course in the middle of this crazy storm we're having here in Northern California. I felt pretty badass out there : ) Will recap all the muddy details tomorrow!

March 17, 2011

Way Too Cool 50k (Race Report)

There's a lot I want to say about Saturday's race, Way Too Cool 50k, better known as my first ultra. And since I believe the length of a race report should be proportional to that of the race, sit back because this is gonna be a loooong one : ) I didn't quite know what to expect of the race or of myself, and I was more than a little intimidated by the thought of running 31 miles, 5 more than I've ever covered on foot. And in a strange way I felt like my performance would set the tone for my next big ultra, AR 50. So naturally I was a bag of emotions: nervous, excited, anxious, and scared. But ready or not, the moment arrived.

Way Too Cool has become one of the biggest and most popular 50ks in the country (for good reason), so this year they used a lottery to select participants. I was thrilled when I found out I got in, both because it sounded like an awesome race and because I hoped to use it as my longest trail run before AR 50. The timing was perfect and there was no way I was gonna run 30+ miles on my own, so I eagerly added WTC to my race calendar. The week leading up to it I managed to remain in denial until the very last second. The reality of the race, and the fact that it would be the longest distance I'd ever run, literally didn't hit me until I had already started running. I think my training leading up to this was just so different than my marathon training in the past that it made everything feel different.
course map
elevation profile

Friday night I went out for dinner with my family then headed home to lay my stuff out for Saturday. It's amazing how much "stuff" I take with me on trail runs, far more than needed on the roads! With my pack ready and my clothes laid out I hit the sack and tried to put all thoughts of the race out of my head. After a somewhat restless nights sleep I woke around 5:30am and began my usual pre-race routine. I was out the door a little after 6am and on my way to Cool, CA, about an hour from Sac. I found the start at the fire station easily, but since parking was limited I ended up following the caravan of cars and parked nearly a half mile from the start. I had just enough time to pick up my packet and bib, use the bathroom, and drop off my bag before I joined the throngs of runners heading to the start. I lined up in the back of the pack near the 12+ min pace sign and quickly spotted Ron. It was great to see a friendly face amongst the nearly 700 runners, and despite never having run together before, Ron made fore excellent company over the first 21 miles.
start area
Ron and I pre-race
back of the pack

The race began at 8am on the dot and we were off! The start line was a bit congested and we did the start-and-stop shuffle before finally getting across. The first mile was on the road where I discovered that my Camelbak was not issuing any water. I quickly discovered that the tube was simply pinched and managed to fix it mid stride, but I couldn't help but get a little anxious at the thought of a mishap so early on. As if I needed something else to worry about before I finished even one mile, I developed a sharp side cramp that lasted the next couple miles. I managed to run through it and tried not to let it psych me out. The first 8 miles took us out on the Olmstead loop, a pleasant single track lined with green grasses and shady trees. From the start it was clear that mud would be a big issue for the day, but I've learned to embrace it and slop right through it : ) Although there were a lot of runners out there I was surprised that we didn't see a whole lot of bottle-necking. Having never run on this kind of trail with so many people before it was a new experience. While there was a nice social atmosphere, I felt a little more pressure to run at a certain pace and I didn't feel like I could easily slow or walk when I felt like it. There were a couple stream crossings on this loop which was fun, and soon we found ourselves back at the fire station and the first aid station.
just lovely
traffic jam at the first stream crossing
first aid station back at the start

A few miles in I started developing some discomfort in my chest, almost like heartburn. I had no idea what could have caused it, but it reminded me of this miserable run and I sort of freaked out that this race (which was much longer than that run) would be miserable as well. Despite my anxiety I did what I had to and moved along. Ron had stopped to used the bathroom but quickly caught up when I stopped to stretch my hips, which were already giving me a little trouble. I chatted briefly with a couple folks and was reminded just how friendly trail runners can be. The next several miles are a little blurry to me, partly because my "heartburn" was becoming increasingly unbearable. Running downhill only seemed to jostle me and make it worse. I just tried to keep up with Ron and soon enough we found ourselves crossing Highway 49. Once again, I found myself stopping dead in my tracks at the awesome sight of the Foresthill Suspension Bridge and the vivid blue American River drifting underneath. We continued on, heading down to Quarry Road and the second aid station at mile 11ish. As I eyed the table full of sweet and salty goods I spotted an antacid. I figured I had nothing to lose so I chewed one up and Ron and continued on.
Foresthill Suspension Bridge
the Hawaiian themed Quarry aid station

The next several miles had some good ups and downs and the ratio of running to hiking started to shift. We passed the time chatting about training and races, Ron nonchalantly discussing his 30+ marathons and Ironman, making me feel like a mediocre loser : / Seriously, though, I was totally impressed and inspired! My hip flexors were pretty unhappy at this point thanks to all the ups and downs, and with so much further to go I decided to take the ibuprofen I'd packed with me. Turned out to be an excellent decision and it made such a huge difference over the rest of the race! The runners had thinned out considerably at this point and we often found ourselves alone on the trails. From the Quarry Road down by the river we began the climb back up the canyon. At one point we hit a nice flat stretch and it was so nice to actually run long enough to get a rhythm going. Of course that didn't last and we had a few more hills to climb before arriving at the Maine Bar aid station at mile 16.7. By this point I was feeling much better so I chalked it up to heartburn and was glad I found that chew.
Ron hiking up another hill
and another one...

Over the next four miles I was feeling progressively better, meanwhile it seemed like Ron was feeling worse. There were some good runnable sections along this section and the trail was absolutely beautiful. A couple more stream crossings and a lot more mud, but the miles continued to tick by. It was kind of funny to see some folks carefully try to cross the streams, stepping on rocks or logs, meanwhile I passed them, splashing my way across : ) From the beginning my Garmin had been measuring the course short, so I wasn't quite sure when to expect the next aid station and I started to get anxious. I got some mad cravings for the peach flavored GU chomps in my pack and I had the munchies, plus I was ready for a mini break. Mentally I knew that once I got to 20 miles it would be easier to wrap my head around having "just" 10 more miles to go. I had broken the race into three 10 milers, and I wanted to be two-thirds done. After a nice little descent we finally arrived at the ALT aid station at mile 21. Ron arrived as I was stuffing my face and tossing back cups of electrolytes and told me to go ahead and run my own race. I had really hoped we could finish together and would have loved the company for the last 10 miles, but I was feeling pretty good and was also eager to see what I could do. With one more glance back I took off, munching on my chomps as I went.
on our way to the aid station at Maine Bar

Here's where things enter a realm that defies explanation. As I left the aid station I got a sudden second wind and was just cruising on the trails, passing people one by one. I approached one guy who was running a great pace and just latched on and followed his stride, one foot after the other. He walked when I felt like walking, and I could just zone out and follow him. I hope he didn't mind me breathing down his neck! After a couple miles he paused to tie his shoe and that was the last I saw of him. I don't know what happened to me, but during miles 23-25 I powered along the trails passing at least a dozen people. The whole time I kept thinking "who am I?", but I've learned that on long trail runs I experience natural ups and downs and when I'm having an "up" I need to ride it as long as I can. Plus, I knew the biggest hill of the course, Goat Hill, was coming up at mile 25ish and I wanted to bank some time. I can't quite describe how I felt out there but if I had to I would say "alive". It was like everything started to click and I could finally taste the finish!

Although I didn't mention any goals going into this race other than to not die and to finish, I did have a secret goal: sub-7 hours. Based on my times on other trails runs and races this was a bit of a stretch but I figured if I had a could day then maybe. Just maybe. I was pleased to find out that Ron had a similar goal so we had that sub-7 carrot dangling in front of us, calculating our pace and assessing our progress at various points. Once I was on my own the obsession only grew worse and I couldn't focus on a whole lot else. I kept trying to do the math, which at that point in a race is much harder than it should be, but I knew that it was within my grasp.

And then, I hit the infamous Goat Hill. Earlier on a fellow runner had mentioned that this hill was just before the next aid station so I'd asked just how bad it was. He replied that it was steep, but short. Well, I start walking up this hill thinking that it wasn't so bad and, looking at my Garmin, that I was nearing the top. Only to turn a corner and see a volunteer telling us there was less than a quarter mile to the top, meanwhile the incline of the hill might as well have turned vertical. I let out a loud curse then bent low and started a long, slow, and painful hike to the top. At some spots I actually had to lift my leg with my arm to step up a ledge and I swore my heart was going to explode. While looking at my splits later on, I noticed that the mile that included Goat Hill was clocked at 20 minutes. Ha! Mercifully I made it to the top, gasping for air, and rested for a moment at the aid station. There were fun signs announcing that we had covered a marathon, which meant that every step from there on would be unknown territory.
the base of the treacherous Goat Hill
this pic does not do this hill justice!
aka climb this freaking hill
marathon mark! onward to the unknown!

With the relentless Goat Hill behind me I was antsy to get through the final miles and finish this thing! I did more calculations and determined the average pace I would need to finish sub-7 and just hoped my "up" and energy lasted long enough to get me there. There were some extremely muddy sections along the way which made running difficult and a few nice hills, too. I would get so frustrated every time I had to stop and walk, not from lack of energy, but because of a hill or stretch of mud and I worried how it ate away at my time. I took advantage of every runnable section and continued to pass folks in these last miles. It was a weird feeling to see mile numbers bigger than 26 on my Garmin, but even though I had never run that far, my body never really registered the distance and didn't feel all that different from a marathon. At mile 29.6 we crossed over Highway 49 again (different spot) and hit the last aid station. I didn't stay long as I was anxious to finish, but it was nice to hear the volunteers tell me I looked strong : )

As if playing a cruel joke on us runners, the last couple miles involved a nice, rocky, and muddy hill and I was once again reduced to a walk. Unexpectedly (because my Garmin was a bit off) I came across a sign saying one mile left, and looking down at my watch I knew that even if I walked the rest of the way, I had sub-7 in the bag. Although this was a great feeling, I really wanted to finish strong and this hill was putting a cramp in this plan. Some women behind me assured me that I was almost to the top and then it was just a nice, flat section through a grassy meadow to the finish line! I made it to the meadow and could see the finish area in the distance. There was an announcer about a half mile from the finish urging us on and as I passed him I kicked things into the last gear I had left and cruised past the two runners in front of me. As I made the final turn to the finish I spotted my parents on the side cheering and gave one final push to cross the finish line in a blissful 6:44:06 with a huge smile on my face : )
so close!
the final stretch & finish
I felt surprisingly good after finishing and could have kept going (although I don't know about another 19 miles...). In fact, I was so concerned with the fact that my Garmin had measured the course at only 29.5 miles (strange, because Ron's measured 31 miles) that I almost did a cool down "lap" to at least get it to say 30, but then it died. Probably for the best. I found my parents and took some finishing pics then went to wait for Ron to finish. I knew he was hurting those last miles so I was happy to see him come in and finish his first 50k. Awesome job, Ron, and thanks again for the company and encouragement! See you at AR 50!
ultra marathoner!
Ron on the final stretch!
50k finishers

My mom and I hung out for a while longer, enjoying the post-race picnic atmosphere. I forced myself to down a GU Recovery and refueled (or got a start, 31 miles burns a lot of calories!) with a slice of pizza and a little cup of homemade minestrone soup. Hmmm : ) They also had their famous frog cupcakes for finishers but I just couldn't stomach that much sugar at that point so I just took a pic instead. Before we left I took off my shoes and socks and was pleased to find not one blister (thanks, Drymax socks!) and amused that my feet looked more like those of a cadaver thanks to being exposed to so much water and mud during the race. Worry not, eventually they went back to normal : )
despite the frog theme i saw zero out on the course...go figure
on the trails, i say "the dirtier, the better"
 my dirty, wrinkled, cadaver feet

It's amazing the difference road racing and trail running have on the body. I was only a fraction as sore after WTC than I have been after all of my marathons, and just a couple days later I was back to running and feeling pretty good. If anything, I've just been very tired these last few days and I was pretty ravenous for a couple days after. I really couldn't have asked for a better race experience for my first ultra or a better confidence booster for upcoming AR 50. The race itself was extremely well put together and I highly recommend it! I would love to run it again in the future. But until then, time to focus on the next big challenge: running 50 miles next month!