My history with San Diego 100 goes back to 2005, when, having not completed Grand Slam due to Leadville's pulmonary edema and picking this race as a consolation prize I won and even set a CR when Paul Schmidt was the original RD of the race. In 2007 I returned there, on a new course, to pace a friend to a crazy finish - and to witness huge fires sweeping the area. In 2010, when they new course was designed (the more difficult of the three), and my long time friend Scotty Mills, an AMAZING ultrarunner (at 62 years young, he's got 20 finishers at WS100 in sub-24! and he is originally from VHCTR) took reins as a new RD as Pauly was consumed with taking care of his beautiful wife Kathleen fighting cancer (while they both still helped with course design and management), I returned to run it again, as part of my long summer and 4 weeks after MMT100, but the day wasn't stellar (they don't often are), and I wanted to make a come back. I wanted to give this course what it deserved. I wanted a great run out there.
My history with the sport...That would be a book, not a post:) In that very 2005, while training for Grand Slam under guidance of Scott Jurek, I was in best shape of my life. I ran a total of 22 ultra races that year, most of those very well, and some just as part of solid training. Years passed, I had stellar races, good finishes, I had dips as well, but I always enjoyed being out there and testing - testing myself, figuring out what am I made of, seeing new places, visiting "old" ones, and sharing it with friends. Years went by, we got older, life got more overwhelming, things changed, some for the better, some not so much. But we kept plugging along.
Some time last summer I made a decision to give up 100 milers. It's a long story I won't go into, but I was pretty set on it. And then there was this weird sudden urge, a moment, really, a simple email: "Is there any chance?", and a simple respond, almost immediate...and my life for the first 5 months of the year was changed.
I had butterflies. I can't explain why, couldn't then, still can't, but it gave me a purpose, a focus I was lacking, an excitement, a destination, a goal. I was going to get int a best possible shape of my life and I was going to rock that race in sub-24 hrs. And I was going to have a great time in a process.
I know it's already a long intro, but it deserves it. In Larry's words: " I had the pleasure to watch her train her ass off for this race and reach her goal. Considering her full-time job, 2 part-time jobs, coaching clients, running a boot camp, dealing with other "stuff", and still finding time to be an awesome Wife and partner, it's even more sweet. I get exhausted just watching it all." I got on a wagon and did Whole30 and then stuck with Paleo - it worked for me, I dropped a few pounds, most importantly, I lost 5% body fat. It made my running easier. I hate running in Texas, it's hot and the trails are just not the same, but I designed the plan, the "schedule" - and I stuck to it to a "t". No matter what I never deviated. I also went on a running streak, what wasn't necessary, but added on a benefit of a couple more miles even on days off. I did my speed intervals religiously, my hill repeats first on the road and trail hills I could find, then, as they "grew" in length, on a dreaded Treadmill - and I never even blinked my eyes on it. Yes, I stayed on a TM for 2-3 repeats of 30-40 minutes of 5-8% hills, and no, I was not bored. I had a goal. I was giving it my best shot.
I have to say, this past spring in Austin has been blissful by all means. I was blessed with weather mild enough to get me through the training outside all the way into beginning of May. I had smartly put races into my plan as well, and those went great, every one of them, from a 5k to a 100k, with fantastic times and finishes. Things were rolling, giving me hope, and giving me apprehension at the same time. It was getting real. It was getting scary. I was "running myself in shape" and I had big goals and hopes. Now, I just had to not slip into what Lisa Smith-Batchen used to call me "sabotaging myself through a fear of success".
The time drew near. There were a lot of personal challenges I choose not to discuss on my blog anymore, and a lot of times/days/weeks when the race was pretty much what made me not to loose my mind, not to go into depression, not to fall apart. That race combined so much beyond a simple 100M finish. Beyond a (hopeful) finish #20 for a 100M race, being "old school", having history and friends and run on an absolutely beautiful terrain with breathtaking views. The previous RD Paul Schmidt graciously opened doors for me, I studied last year's splits and made my chart - I was shooting for 23:45. The course is extremely rugged despite not being expected as such, and totally open to the sun 90% of the time, and I knew what I was getting myself into. Squeezing sub-24 was a high goal on a good day under great conditions. I had no pacer, no crew, and no fear. I was excited and ready to go. And then the weather forecast began dropping bombs of the heat index...and indeed, it was a hottest day of the year, hottest day in history of the race, hottest I ever ran in (taking that away from WS100 circa 2006 with 106F) - yet I made myself calm and steady-nerved. There was nothing I could do - I can not control the elements, only how I manage myself in those...
|Pre-race hang out|
|Trying to contain excitement, photo by Liza Howard|
|Photo courtesy of Joel Livesey (FB)|
|Photo by Lynne Cao|
|"I went off course" - photo by Liza Howard|
The heat was coming in, and by Todd's cabin I was already finding stragglers on the trail and passing them. I think it was hitting 90F by then, and I told some guy "5 more minutes, and we take a turn to the left and dive to Todd's" - as the turn came, we dropped, and I almost threw my water bottles to a volunteer (thank you!) as I stopped prior the table and dozed into the ice water bucket with sponges. Heaven on Earth! I would do it on and on at each and every station from there until sunset, and that was another decision that had saved my race. Those 15 seconds of cooling myself off were priceless. I picked up more time, and now was 2 minutes ahead of my pace chart.
Now, it may sound funny, but those who had followed my blog and read my race reports, know I am pretty good on my time predictions. How I do it is beyond my own understanding, but that said, I always have an estimate, and if all goes well, I hit those arrivals to aid stations like a clock. Thus, my mood often depends on where I fall between the numbers, and that is important point before I go on to the next sections write ups.
|Photo by Lynne Cao|
At some point I got emotional and talked to my body. You know, one of those: "You and I are a team, a great team. Sorry for coming down on you often, for calling you fat and being unhappy with how you look - it doesn't matter how you look, because how you work is absolutely incredible!".
And funny thing is, not only was I never bored, the miles clicked very quickly, and I never thought to myself "Why the heck am I doing it?"
There was nothing exciting to describe, until, after Penny Pine AS at mile 91.5, which I left at 4:20 (and left behind the 2nd bottle, to empty hands a bit), I run some and begin a stupefying climb, turn off my headlamp as the dawn approaches...look to the left into the bushes on the side of the trail - and see 2 green eyes and a black line right above them. "Egyptian eyes" Larry called them.Yep, that's exactly what they were - 2 green eyes with lateral sides slightly higher, starring right at me. I blink - what kind of animal is as tall as 5 feet bushes, not a rabbit...I don't know why I thought rabbit first. I slowly take a look to the right - a wall of a mountain - back left - the eyes moved 2 feet up, all of it happening less than 10 feet ahead of me. It dawns on me - it is not a joke or hallucination. It is a mountain lion. Great. Rattle snakes, skunks - and now a cougar??? Jesus, really? I am trying to remember what I read in Joe Grant's and Candice's reports about their "meets" while going around Mt. Rainier. For the weirdest reason (I guess those bikers were right after all about our brain damage) the fear doesn't penetrate me. I mean, I am kind of scared, but mostly I am pissed off. I got a 3M freaking climb on rocky trail to make, I am at mile 92-93 of a 100M run, I got sub-24 on a line when nothing is for sure, and I have a mountain lion blocking my way! No fucking way! I spread my arms wide and growl. Don't laugh. In the 5 years I lived in Oregon and ran Columbia River Gorge more often alone than not, I thought about meeting one of those, and I always thought I'd probably either drop dead from a heart attack or scream like a girl. But here I am, growling what I think resembling a bear (what do I know, I never met a bear either!)! I make s step forward looking intently and trying to remember - should I look or not? Why did I not memorize what to do with various animals? Some of them don't like starring and attack, some don't like and run away. Which one is this?? The eyes moved one more time up. I step forward again, looking - and then not looking, because it's kind of IS scary, you know, and also trying to predict next moves: if it comes, I'll smack the shit out of it with my water bottles! I'll punch it in the face and poke its freaking eyes out! I got no time here, I am late!
|Photo by Lynne Cao, Scotty Mills holds me from falling while I am crying.|
|Photo by Lynne Cao. Paul Schmidt shares my moment.|
|3 years at SD100|
Lisa Bliss - Yeah, that's Sweet Olga (Varlamova) King, for ya'! We miss her here in the PNW. She now hails from TX where she says there is no better heat training. :)
She's run more than a few and won more than a few ultras. She's had her ups and downs in training over the years, but she always comes back strong. She's tough as nails but is the kind of person that exudes enthusiasm for life. She is a wife, mother, great friend to me and many others, a fantastic athlete and an inspiration.
Just a shout out to Olga!