Monthly Archives: July 2015

Pacing Burning River Race Report

Mission accomplished. I paced the Burning River 100 and my runner, Coach Hanks completed the distance in 29 hours 6 minutes.

Pacing Burning River

Pre Pacing Ledges Shelter Aid Station

Matt was pacing his brother before me and I relied on  his texts to have an idea where they were on the course.

I arrived and hung out at the Ledges Aid Station. It was afternoon, hot, and happening there. I saw a bunch of old friends, but managed to settle down into my chair and save energy.

Matt and Coach arrived and Coach immediately found a bench and became prone. Matt indicated that’s how Coach was also at the previous aid station.  Coach’s stomach was bad and he wasn’t eating-well, just about anything. He did manage to drink down most of the vanilla milkshake I had brought (still cold since it was in the cooler!).  Coach and Matt left, and I migrated on to Pine Hollow, where Matt was stop and I would begin pacing.

Pine Hollow Mile 71.29

It was a zoo! It looked like a concert at Blossom! With the relay teams, there were people, chairs, blankets everywhere! I took my cooler and found a little spot to sit. I still had about 1.5 hours until my team arrived, and I wanted to eat and drink my Cherry Coke.

Coach eats a little Ramen soup, a bit of chicken sandwich, and we are out of there! We are doing a 3.77 mile loop, ending up basically back at the same aid station.  We walk a bunch of this loop, because I don’t know where Coach legs/stomach are.  But he’s definitely in better spirits than he was at Ledges.

Pine Hollow II Mile 75

We’re back again at Pine Hollow, now we get to move along the route more toward our final destination.  We’re on the way to Covered Bridge.  We start to run much more now.  My feeling was, I was going to keep running, and if Todd wanted to stop, we could stop, but we needed to keep moving. We were ahead of the cut offs, but we needed the momentum.

Burning River is a bit of a tricky course. There are many road miles up north. Combine that with heat of the day and going out too fast and then you meet trails in the dark.  It does many runners in.

I found the trails interesting because this section is where many of the Northern Ohio ultra events take place on, and we were on many various sections of these, albeit sometimes in the opposite direction. And of course, it was dark. We were existing in our little lamplight circles.

I tried to keep chatting away. Todd was actually doing well-mentally-at least to me-because he was still making complete sentences and contributing to the conversation.  Many runners, at this stage of a race, are reduced to “yeah” “no” or just listening.  Pacers, don’t expect your runner to talk. If you can keep them engaged with chatter, do it. If they ask you to be quiet, do that too.

Covered Bridge Loop 85.71

Now we are the Covered Bridge Loop off Everett Road. I really don’t like loops like this, as they don’t move the runner any further down the course! We’re still doing okay with the cut offs, Todd eats a bit more Ramen and we start the loop, which is basically the Perkins Loop, which I remember from the old Runs With Scissors Course.  Todd knows we are doing this trail “backwards” and warns of big switch backs to start.  We also catch up with one or two runners through here.  We climb and then run everything that we can.  With the hot heat that Cleveland has experienced in the past week, the usual infamous mud is non-existent. We hit tacky sections of mud, but nothing that is you would even sink into.

Covered Bridge II 90.61

Back again. Todd sits and eats more Ramen and I get water in my pack. A nice aid station volunteer is giving Todd a pep talk, and I interrupt, telling him Todd is fine and we are out of there!! So we are!

Botzum 90.61

This is a section neither Todd or I have been on.  The aid station works tell us it’s road.  I tell Todd if he needs to or wants to run on without me, that’s entirely fine.  It’s cool if a runner drops their pacer.  This race is about him finishing, not he and I finishing.  I am only there to help him along. If my running is too slow for him, I don’t want to hinder him. Todd indicates he’s fine,and we run on.  This is probably 3 miles of road, then we are back in trails. Crap.  We were making good time on road, now we’re going to be a bit slower back on trail.  We catch up to Max and I give him a PB&J Bonkbreaker, as he is out of calories.  We also catch and pass 4-5 runners through this section.

Finally to the Botzum Aid Station, and now it’s towpath almost to the finish.  One more aid station. It’s looking REALLY good that we should have enough time for this finish. But it’s still ten miles-okay, 9.6, and I want to keep moving, I don’t want any issues.  I do not want a five second or one second sprint to the time cut off!

Todd changes shirts, eats about 14 grapes, we chat with Bill Warner, and now we are off.  I tell Todd we are going to employ the run-walk strategy.  We start running, and then Todd would say-“the yellow flag” and we’d get to the flag, and walk. Then, after an interval, I’d say “we’ll start running at that tree” and we’d then run again.


An older gentleman and a blonde female are running toward us. It turns out this is Todd’s father and sister! They are runners, and thought they would explore backwards on the course. They are adamant that they are not ‘pacing’ us, and I tell them, hey, this is a free and open towpath course, they can run in our direction at our pace also.  This is a great distraction to have people to chat with, as the towpath section seems loooong.

Memorial Parkway-the last Aid Station 95.98

Todd has indicated that he’s not stopping here, just getting water.  We also catch up to Paul “The King” at this aid station, and we start up the cobblestone section of road that I remember. They’ve changed the course a bit in this last 4 mile-ish section, although I do remember the jeep road under the power lines.  They eliminated a big section of steps but replaced this with a big hill on trails. This is where Todd drops me, he is  just stomping up this hill. He and his family disappear from sight. But then I catch them in the next mile or so on a big downhill that I charge down. Now we’re back together, and Todd’s  dad thinks he sees smoke. I think it’s just fog, but as we get closer, it’s smoke, and FIRE!


Well, this is Burning River, isn’t it?  A tree branch has fallen on the power line, and it’s burning!  There is also a fireman on the trail in front of us, calling this in.  I get concerned and yell “go go go” to all three of my runners. The last thing I want is that fireman to STOP us and tell us that it’s too unsafe to go under this powerline!  We make it past. I hope that no runner gets stopped by this fire.  A small fire truck is moving down the road toward us, and there is a big fire truck with the bubble light at the end of the trail.

Okay, now where to go? Back on road, up a hill. We are in a little bubble of runners/pacers, all moving, passing and getting passed.  The road finally smooths out and you can see the Sheraton roof in the distance.

Todd takes off. His sister says “oh I better go with him!” and she catches up and runs in with Todd.  Todd’s father and I follow, much more slowly and have a nice chat in.  Mission accomplished! Todd’s first 100 Mile Race!  (Todd had already completed a 100 miles in a timed 24 Hour event.)

Pacing Burning River 100


Pacing Burning River


I’m pacing this weekend at the Burning River Endurance Run, a point to point 100 mile race in Northern Ohio.

I originally offered to crew, but my runner indicated that he would rather have a pacer. Coach Hanks is a faster runner than me, but when I pick him up he’ll have 70 or 75 miles in his legs, so I should be able to keep up. Or he could drop me, always good for the runner!

My runner doesn’t seem to know when he’ll be getting where, which makes my prediction game a bit harder to play. I am hoping technology will help with the day.  Burning River should be well covered in cell phone towers, which means the web site should get regular updates. Theoretically, I should be able to punch his splits into this handy dandy predictor to keep an eye on his progress.

Weather? High of 86, low of 70. This is pretty typical Cleveland-and Burning River weather.  I must remember to bring plenty of bug spray!



Ruminations Post Hardrock

Ruminations Post Hardrock

I had no plans or agenda post Hardrock. I really had not even flipped over the calendar page in my day planner from June.  I didn’t want to focus or concentrate on anything until after the run.


Post HR, now what?  What to do now that I’ve turned that calendar page to July, and even further into the summer and the fall?

I am going to take a little break.  I was envisioning more of a longer recovery period post Hardrock. I now don’t have to worry about a long recovery since I only ran the *Hardrock Marathon*.

I’m not sure how long my little break will be, or actually what that means. I need to take care of some family stuff that got kind of pushed to the backburner while I trained for my A Run.  That’s going to take priority. ( My husband may be a little sad, because it’s now time to continue with the home remodelling/redecorating/decluttering project that was started in 2014. 🙂

I am already antsy, even though I just started this post two days ago. But I really don’t feel like running-much. I think I will go run 4 miles around the block on Sunday. I have a mountain bike that I would like to get re-acquainted with-that should make some different muscle groups sore!

DNF at Hardrock 2015

DNF Hardrock 2015

I was one of the lucky entrants to “win” the lottery and enter the toughest ultramarathon in the United States. The Hardrock 100 has 100 33,992 feet of climb and 33,992 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 67,984 feet with an average elevation of 11,186 feet. You also get to climb a 14’er Handies Peak, in the middle of the race.


DNF means “did not finish”.  In my circumstance, this time, it meant “did nothing  fatal”.   The short version is, my exercise induced asthma kicked in quickly which led to a rather early stop for me.


Run morning-6 am-was cool. Short sleeves, running skirt, and breathing mask was in order. I take medication for my asthma. II  have what is called  “late onset exercise induced asthma”.  This means my asthma does not normally kick in until 8 or 10 hours into a run.  As an ultra runner, I can finish a cool weather 50K (31 milers) without having any breathing issues at all.


I wore my mask from the starting line. The first climb out of Silverton is 13,000 foot.  As we climbed it became colder. My breathing was a little rough but I attribute that to the climb and race excitement.  I was very happy to summit and start down the steep other side to our first aid station, Cunningham Gulch.


Right out of Cunningham is the second big climb of the run in this direction (Hardrock changes direction every year) up to Green Mountain. climboutofcunningham  Now I am into my counting. I take fifty steps, then pause for a 10 count to catch my breath and let my heart rate drop a beat or two.  I top out at Green Mountain, 13,000 feet again, and the weather rolls in. snow Wind, snow and sleet.  I decide now is a good time to sit down and put on my rain pants. Thank goodness I stashed them in my first drop bag.  It’s cold, I move on.  snowkimba Fifteen minutes later, that weather moved on and now I have to sit down again and take the rain pants off.


I haven’t mentioned how beautiful the San Juan Mountains are. I really can’t put it into words, the pictures should do more justice than I can do.  There’s another little climb, which I believe was Buffalo Boy, buffaloboy so I am glad to be descending again, now down to Maggie Gulch.


I haven’t glanced at my watch, but due to the fact that I am way behind other runners that I had *hoped* to be around, I know I am behind my pace schedule. But your pace is what your pace is. I couldn’t climb any faster than what I was doing.


Another runner Scott was just leaving Maggie when I arrived and gave me a pat and told me to keep going. I was determined to keep moving until I timed out. Which seemed like it was going to have sooner than later (much to my dismay).


There is a routine to aid stations at Hardrock. You leave an aid station and then you climb. Leaving Maggie was no different. This climb, to Maggie-Pole Pass, is *only* about 12,500 feet. Given that Maggie Aid Station is about 11,800 feet, piece of cake, right?


The asthma really seemed to be kicking my ass after leaving Maggie. I left Maggie at almost one pm.  This was well off the split that I had planned, but what can you do? Nothing. Your pace is your pace. Your climb is your climb. Hardrock is…hard.


A friend described asthma which fit really well. Put a straw in your mouth, close your lips around it, and try to run. That’s what it is like. My bronchioles were shrinking by the hour.  In the beginning, the breathing is not too bad. But as time goes on, the bronchioles will just not expand. What even becomes worse for me, almost any effort leads to no breathing.  So my fifty steps uphill dwindles to 30 steps uphill. Which then becomes 10 steps uphill, with a ten second count pause.


This is what I wore from the start

This is what I wore from the start

It occurs to me (well, the timing out had already occurred to me that this was going to become a reality) that I might have to drop due to my asthma before getting timed out. There is no dropping at Pole Creek, but my stopping at Sherman is fast becoming probably a reality in my head. Which leads to me getting a bit emotional and upset-which also just exacerbates the breathing-so I try and put that out of my head.

Then I remember my pacers! Hannah and Heath! Great, I have no way of reaching them. If Hannah goes to Grouse Gulch, there is no cell coverage there, I don’t want her to be stranded there waiting for a runner who never shows up.  There is nothing I can do for this situation. I  have no cell phone with me. I have no *Plan B* because I was confident pre-run that I was going to do this.  I try to put this also emotional issue out of my head and head toward Pole Creek.

All the aid station works at Pole Creek are inside the tent talking among themselves. They finally notice me, and are surprised to see me. I apparently was listed as a drop at Maggie. I tell them no, I checked out of Maggie,but I am going to drop out at Sherman. I get a bit emotional telling them this which makes my breathing worse. I get a cup of coffee, hoping the xanthine derivative will help open up my breathing.


I thank the volunteers and head out for my last nine mile stretch. I try to calculate how long this will take. I wonder about it getting dark while I am still on trail-and remember I have a good handheld Fenix light in my pack that I have carried since the start! Good planning there!


It was a pleasant day out there. I moved along as quick as I could. I remembered, looking around, how small I was in the huge scheme of the planet. verysmall

Being alone, by yourself in the vast beautiful San Juan Mountains-well, there are far worse places to be. Seeing my tiny self in the huge landscape also reminded me how small my problems were.



sherman  It is just a run. I still felt honored that I was lucky enough to get selected for the run, and I showed up healthy on the starting line.

There was nothing I could do about the asthma. It would have been a similar situation if I had sprained my ankle and could not continue.  Although I am terribly frustrated with my medical condition, I still had a wonderful awesome day out in the mountains that I love. Cheers!


Altitude Adjustment: Part Three, Did it Work?

Altitude Adjustment

As an experiment of one, I would conclude that yes, the altitude tent system helped.

I arrived on July 4th and spent the night in Durango, altitude 6500 feet. I made sure I started drinking water right away. I did have two beers that night, but nothing more. (Note: avoiding alcohol is a good thing to help with AMS.)

I drove to Silverton on Sunday and kept with the hydrating. I believe I drank one beer on Sunday. We walked around Silverton but did nothing streneous.  I did not sleep well on Sunday night, got up twice to pee (versus the 6 times or so when I arrived in 2014.)

Monday I went hiking and climbed the first climb on the Hardrock course. The elevation is 9400 feet in Silverton, and I topped out about 12700 or so according to my altimeter.

Hardrock course profile

It was a slow climb up. I was a bit out of breath, but as it was my first day at altitude, I didn’t let that freak me out.  When I got to about 12,000 feet, still going uphill, it was take fifty steps, stop for a ten count, then continue upwards. I don’t think that had anything to do with acclimatization, it’s just there is less oxygen at 12000 feet than sea level.

mountaintrail smallscreefield

I felt a little dizzy at the top, but that was all.


Monday night I also did not sleep well, but other than that, no altitude problems. I have continued to drink water and not push myself too hard physically.  Tuesday night I slept well, actually slept all the way through the night with no bathroom breaks.


I think using the Mountain Altitude Generator was beneficial to my training for acclimatizing for Hardrock 2015.  I have had less symptoms than I did in 2014 arriving just a few days before the race.  There are many cons to using an altitude system-lifestyle interruption, cost, change in training, sleep issues, so carefully evaluate for your own use.

4 Keys to Hardrock Success

4 Keys to Hardrock Success
The concept of the “4 Keys” comes directly from the Endurance Nation Podcast.  This is their “keynote” address for success at the Ironman Distance. The Coaches generally give the Endurance Nation members this speech before Ironman races. I appreciate the wisdom in their speech, I have used this before, as “4 Keys to a MMT Success” and I thought I would apply their keys, their four points,  to my Hardrock success.
Four Keys of Ironman Execution
From the EN Talk: Execution, not Fitness. All you’ve done  is build a vehicle. Ironman racing is about how you DRIVE that vehicle, it is NOT about the vehicle. It’s easy to get caught up in the buzz and energy of the day, but creating and sticking to the right plan for you is the only thing that will lead to the best possible day.What shape I am in on race day is not relevant now. I’ve driven the vehicle to the starting line. I need to have a plan ready for me. I need to be able to modify that plan, on the fly, if things change and Plan A no longer works.plana
From the EN Talk: The Line. Nothing on race day really matters until you reach The Line on the run. The Line is the point at which continuing becomes very, very difficult. You define success as simply not slowing down at The Line. EVERYTHING before The Line is simply about creating conditions for success for when the Line comes to you.

I could define success of staying to the positive side of the 48 hour cutoff bubble. Everything that I do on run day is to allow myself to continue on to the next aid station. Aid station to aid station.

 The Line, in the EN talk, is mile 18 of the marathon.

There are many lines at Hardrock. Continuing becomes very very difficult early on at Hardrock-that’s why it’s called Hardrock.  You need to split it up into mini sections.
This is the same way I run all my ultras. Aid station to aid station. Hardrock can be even more specific, each time I summit one of the climbs.
Dives. Green Mountain. Buffalo Boy Ridge. Etc. Repeat.
From the EN Talk: The Box: All day long you are going to race inside a box defined by what you can control. Ask yourself “What do I need to do right NOW to create the conditions for success at The Line? Is what I’m doing right now counter to this goal? 

  • Keep the box as big as you can for as long as you can.
  • Keep in the box only the things you can control. Let go of the rest.
  • Exercise this decision-making process inside your box: Observe the situation, Orient yourself to a possible course of action, Decide on a course of action, Act (OODA Loop).
What do I need to do, right NOW to create the conditions for success?
Keep a positive attitude. I might be last person on the course. Just keep going. You did great with the cutoff in 2012. You are far better trained and prepared here in 2015. You know most of the course. You know what you did wrong in 2012 (got behind in eating/calories which led to poor decision making skill.)
Stay in the box. Keep only the things I can control, in the box. Stay focused on the climb in front of you. Stay cognizant of course markings and any turns you may need to make.
Eat. Make sure you have food when you leave the aid stations. When you get to the aid stations sit down and drink a full bottle of water right there. Make sure the hydration bladder is refilled.
Make sure you EAT at each aid station. Make sure you take your carefully packed foodbag out of your dropbag with you.
Make your list for each aid station regardless of whether you have a dropbag there or not. “Get rid of trash. Drink bottle of water. EAT. Sunscreen, bugspray? Move gels/food around in pack if need to.”

 From the EN Talk:

  The One Thing. If you swallowed the Kool-Aid we’re serving you here, you will show up at the Line, in your Box, ready to git’erdun and simply not slow down. But we’re not done yet. There is still some psychological stuff you need to address. During the course of your race day, expect your body to have a conversation with your mind:
“Look, Mind, you’ve had me out here slogging away for 132 miles. This is really starting to get old and very painful. You need to give me a good reason to keep going forward. If you don’t have one, I’m gonna slow down and you can’t stop me!”

The One Thing-why do I want to complete the Hardrock? Because it’s there? Because I want to prove to myself that I can manuever myself around the toughest course in the United States? Because I love a challenge and I am stubborn and determined and will not quit this time? To be able to experience the most beautiful course in the country and successfully finish the race?
Another point I got from the podcast, not one of their 4 points, but very worthwhile:  Your racing self owes it to the training self.
Racing self needs to respect all that the training self did, to set up the racing self. Racing self needs to suck it up and embrace the hurt to honor the training self.
Training self put itself out there always-ran in cold weather, cold downpours of rain, icy windy ass days, sloppy slow mud days, early early morning runs; cold clothes changes in parking lots; runs endured on treadmills.  You owe it to training self to get out there and endure on racing day, racing self.
That’s my 4 Keys to Hardrock.

Running the Strip in Vegas

Running the Strip in Vegas

We slept in on Saturday, in Vegas….till 8 am. Not too bad, unless you were planning on running in the morning AND it was going to be 115 F outside.

I immediately got up and donned the running clothes and got outside. Good gravy, it had to already be 90 F or better. I started down the Strip from the Monte Carlo.


Before long, the Strip construction shunted me INSIDE the Aldara. I think. I was just trying to follow the signs. The air conditioning felt good I admit.


Then I was outside again. But again, the Strip directional arrows now wanted me to go inside the Cosmopolitan. I decided to eschew the directive, and continued down the sidewalk, which then ended.

Then I  had to turn. Onto the Strip. Now, in the last few years, they have put up a BIG fence to keep the tourists OFF the road. Which is now keeping me-in the road-with no way to get back on the tourist sidewalk. I keep going, figuring I’m going to get a ticket sometime soon.

bellagio caersars flamingo forumshops

Luckily, the fence ended at a turn in drive to a casino and I was able to discard my rebel running self and join the rest of the tourists. They offered free spins for all tourists.

Did I mention it was hot? Oh my god.


My first pictures of The Linq Hotel are here because this was the site of the former Imperial Palace. The IP was a cheap place to stay, and needed to be imploded about fifteen years before it actually happened. But we had at least two trips of cheap hotel stays at the old IP.

linq linqhotel

There is pretty much nothing cheap in Vegas these days. Fifteen years ago, or so, you could get a cheap and decent hotel room, the buffet meals were cheap! and a Vegas weekend didn’t break the bank.

My husband got to hang out with his Army buddies on Saturday, and I wandered around losing various sums of money in machines-indoors, out of the heat. While we had a good time in Vegas, I’m not sure of our next return trip will be.