I pinky promise this is my last [really long] post about the Run, Rabbit, Run 100 miler…seriously, I promise! In my defense I’m in full blown sit-on-my-butt-and-eat-ice-cream recovery mode so there really isn’t anything more interesting going on in my life. I have already written the basic recap of the race, from the night before to the night after. You can read all of that over here. This post is all about the nitty gritty details – the stuff that doesn’t fit nicely into a chronological recap, random thoughts I had along the course and an update on my cranky tendons.
As always – if this post leaves you with questions, ask ‘em! If I don’t have a good answer I’ll make one up…or I’ll shoot you a link to the next best resource. And if this ultra chatter is boring you I promise my next both will be full of mountain photos completely unrelated to running!
Running is the easiest activity to get involved in, you don’t need any gear but shoes…they say. They are wrong. Holy buckets, or more appropriately, holy totes! In an effort to stave off any crazy pre-race nerves I went into full blown organize-all-the-things mode in the weeks leading up to my drive to Steamboat Springs. Since I wasn’t really running it was easy to pile everything into nicely labeled totes.
Now, before you judge my crazy tote ways you should know these are small 5 gallon totes that I was already using to store my running gear and other random items. Don’t know this method until you’ve tried it – do you have any idea how simple it is to have a tote of random run-related food that you just toss in the car before heading to the mountains? If you always have the food ready to go you save so much time! Plus, you always have snacks on hand! And what, exactly, did I pack into each of these totes and did I use it? [bolded items = used]
rain jacket, Omniheat baselayer, cold weather hat, Omniheat gloves, one-sizer gloves, whole new running outfit (capris, shorts, sports bra, tank top, tshirt), short socks, Zensah compression socks, thick leggings, TurboDown puffy
Tailwind (pre-mixed and dry), Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids, Honey Stinger Chews + Waffles, jerky, peanut M&M’s, honey, reuseable bags to portion food to take on the trail
headlamp, trekking poles, UD Jenny vest, UD handheld, JammyPack, borrowed iPod, GoalZero battery chargers, Suunto Ambit 2 + charger, phone charger, BodyGlide, Saucony Xodus shoes, Saucony Peregrine shoes, extra batteries
Kinesio Tape, scissors, Nexcare tape, rubbing alcohol, paper towels, baby wipes, Tylenol + Iburpofen, Salt Sticks, gum, baseball, The Stick, extra food, bandaids, duct tape
Did I need all of that stuff?! Obviously not…but I packed it because I knew I had enough working against me going into this race undertrained. I did not want to deal with soaking wet clothes if it randomly rained and I had optimistically left them at home. I didn’t want to have to reason with an irrational brain if I thought I *needed* a certain kind of food. I didn’t want to be able to say “if only I had…” as an excuse to quit. Yes, I know ultra running is all about making it work with what you have…which is exactly what I did, I just had more than necessary!
Beyond just packing up all of the gear I may potentially need I had to figure out when people were getting into Steamboat Springs and how they were going to meet up with my crew and get access to the condo. I guess I didn’t have to figure this out but they were giving me their free time on a beautiful weekend, it’s the least I could do! I also needed to give them a rough idea of when to meet me at various aid stations. This all went down with the help of some colorful pens and then got transferred over to a spreadsheet that I sent out to my crew/pacers.
Since it was my first 100 miler on a very hill course I had no idea what my times would be. I knew I’d have one experienced ultra runner on my crew but the rest of them were new to all of this…which is awesome, I just wanted to make them as comfortable and prepared as possible. Hopefully I did…they’ve all offered to help out again so it was either my made spreadsheet skills or the cookies I baked them. You decide.
The Mental Games
I am actually really surprised with how well I faired mentally throughout the entire race. This is where I think a month of nursing an injury helped me…yup, actually helped me during the race. I’m not a hardcore runner (and I slack at training…) so I knew I really shouldn’t go into my first 100 miler with time goals, but you go right ahead and tell my brain that. On the surface I had zero goals aside from a finish but deep down inside I had numbers that I wanted to see (no, I’m not telling!). As the summer wore on and I started to struggle with “easy” runs and “no pressure” races I started to stress about “sucking” at Run, Rabbit, Run. I started to worry about what people would think of my time. Yes, yes, yes…it doesn’t matter, but yet it kind of does.
After two solid weeks of zero running (or hiking, or walking a dog, or…) I had to wrap my mind around the fact that the numbers truly did NOT matter. Going into Run, Rabbit, Run with my “peak weeks” of training spent on the couch with bowls of ice cream meant I literally could have no expectations. If I was going to have any chance of finishing the race I needed to go in wholeheartedly confident in my ability to cover 100 miles…but I could NOT care about the numbers, at all. Ultimately, I think this was a huge part of how I kept my head on straight throughout the race.
I only checked my time once – when I came into Olympian Hall the first time at 20.5 miles and I was only 15 minutes behind my “optimistic” calculations. My biggest concern at the moment…was I going too fast? Well…no, because I was moving comfortably without pushing the pace at all, so I kept at it. From then on I didn’t care what the numbers said as long as I wasn’t chasing cutoff times. I got a little nervous on my second trip through Dry Lake AS [mile 73.5] when the area was nearly cleared out but I was over an hour ahead of cutoff…so I kept repeating “it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay” as my very calm crew helped me get ready for 30 long, crew-less miles.
There was one other moment where I had to consciously redirect my thoughts. When I came into Cow Creek [mile 29.1] and my crew wasn’t there I was annoyed and feeling selfish. They were here for my race and I needed them! I didn’t care about the runner they were helping, that wasn’t supposed to be their priority, I was supposed to be their priority! Don’t judge…I said I was feeling selfish. In reality, I was just fine without them [plus, Paula’s crew was there to help me out] and it didn’t hurt me to think about my own needs rather than depend on someone else to make my decisions for me. I left that aid station with a handful of grapes. I gave myself until the very last grape to be annoyed, then it was time to move on and focus on the miles ahead of me, not the aid station behind me. I knew my crew wasn’t trying to sabotage me, and even if they were…I wasn’t going to let them. I saved that last grape for 12.2 miles, then told them to pretend it was a huge boulder as I threw it at them in the Olympian Hall AS [mile 41.3].
It seems like such a little thing but I know from previous DNF’s that if I let that “ugh, they hate me…I don’t have my own headlamp or layers…no one told me what to eat…now I’m going to fail miserably!” fester for any longer it truly could have ruined my race. A positive mindset really is that important…and I did my part to keep my head on straight! Once again, I’m insanely proud of my brain for pulling the 180 as directed!
Also, no point did I want to quit the race. I wanted to sleep [there was no sleeping, at all!] and I wanted it to stop hurting and I wanted it to be over…but dropping out never crossed my mind. I also never thought I wouldn’t make it – things never got bad enough for me to entertain the thoughts of “holy crap, I’m an idiot and can’t do this!”. I don’t know how I managed to keep my brain focused for 35 hours, but I am extremely proud of my little head for keeping itself on straight that long!
What did I do with my brain for the long hours on the trails of Steamboat? A little bit of everything…
- I talked to the people around me (whether they liked it or not)
- I cursed the up hills (and down hills, they both suck equally after a while)
- I literally had full blown conversations with myself, out loud (no, I don’t remember what I talked about)
- I played “airplane mode” (and reasoned out how my black arm sleeves were solar panels with reflective panels so it’s not “cheating”)
- I talked the ear off my pacers (especially Heather and Meaghan, sorry ladies!)
- I created life stories for the chipmunks (their lives are far more interesting than mine!)
- I sang songs (namely “The Bumble Bee Song” after nearly stepping on a bee)
- I pondered why there were cars parked throughout the forest (they were trees, my mind was just messing with me…!)
I never had headphones and aside from about two hours with the Jammypack it was just me and the mountains hanging out together. For whatever reason I love this part of running – I have no idea what I thought about as I ran/hiked along the mountain trails but I do know I was never bored.
My Body’s Battle
I approached the start line knowing it was going to hurt, a lot…and if I was going to survive the pain I needed to embrace it and power through it. Not only was it 100 miles but I was insanely undertrained! Forget believing in your [non-existent] training, I’d moved on to believe in my mental tenacity and ability to “just deal” with pain. I had a pretty good idea of how badly it could hurt after wanting to chop my legs off during the North Fork 50M and I knew at some point the pain would stop getting worse…eventually. It had to, that was my only hope!
As soon as the pain started I addressed it. After my climb up Mt Werner my hips/glutes were rebelling – probably because they lost all their climbing skills after a few weeks on the couch. Rather than just fight through it to save time I stopped at the side of the trail, stripped off my pack, flopped on the ground and stretched them out the best I knew how…then I spent an extra 5 minutes in the Olympian Hall aid station letting my crew abuse me. Wasted time?! Heck no!
The same goes for all of the agony my left Achilles/soleus put me through – when I felt the pain start I stretched along side the trail and as soon as I hit an aid station I plopped myself down on a baseball for some rolling that had me gnawing on my tongue to avoid squeaking in pain. I even let my crew smirk at my crumbled facial expressions as they worked on my tense muscles. Eventually my calf/shin muscle stopped responding to the abuse and I resolved to just embrace the hurt and carry on. By this time the pain stopped getting worse so it really was just pain management, one step at a time.
And the aftermath of sucking it up and dealing with the pain to get to that coveted finish line?! Well, I’m not broken! Actually, my muscles faired surprisingly well. Aside from some rather low key DOMS in the days after the race my muscles are happy campers. They’re ready to go play on trails and frolic in the fall colors.
My tendons, on the other hand, are angry! So angry. Namely my left Achilles, left Digitorum tendons across the top of my foot and the right Digitorum tendons leading into my shin (Google told me the Digitorum name, I’m no doctor…). These were the major pain points during the race and they are still giving me some grief. However, as tendons they are fixable with some rest, ice cream and strategically applied Kineseo Tape. I know shin pain can lead to terrible things so, just as a precaution, I went into PT a week after the race…the phrase “stress facture” was mentioned, but only because we 100% ruled it out. At one point my PT did tell me I had the crunchiest Achilles she’s ever worked on…I’m going to go ahead and take that as a compliment. I left with some Kineseo Tape artwork, instructions on how to recreate the design on my own and stern guidance to take it easy for another week. I can handle that! Bring on the ice cream!
The days immediately following the race had me staring down at comically fat feet. My poor toes looked like little cocktail weiners being awkwardly smushed by insanely swollen feet + ankles! Seriously, my cankles were massive…and a day of sitting at work only made them worse! Apparently this is fairly normal but I think my cranky tendons made it worse than “normal”.
After the swelling went down (almost a week post-race!) I noticed bruising on my right foot. You know where your toes jointed into your foot? I had a line of bright purple bruising right along these joints. Oddly enough these toes didn’t hurt at all, even when the bruising was visible. I’m guessing I bruised something deep in my foot on the long descent down Mt Werner – that was the only time I recall my toes literally screaming at me. And speaking of feet – two toes on my left foot are still mostly numb. I am also blaming the brutal run down Mt Werner for this. I’m told there is no need to worry about this until 2-3 weeks post-race, so we’ll see…
I will say, that after multiple PT visits before the race and having PTs work on me during the race I am definitely walking away from RRR as a smarter runner. I understand so much more about my body and how it all works together. It’s not just about fueling properly and stretching before/after a run…it’s about knowing what the pain is coming from, not just where it hurts. I’m no expert but I’m definitely learning more as I go and while I’m not asking for new pain I am thankful for the aches I’ve lived through because now I know how to address them trail side!
A Happy Tummy
I’m probably going to regret writing this but…I’ve never puked on the trail. I’ve actually never had to puke for any reason related to running. My stomach has never rebelled that bad. Maybe I’m not pushing myself hard enough, but whatever, I hate puking. I’m so bad at it – I hysterically cry, it’s embarrassing! Going into RRR there were many jokes about how my pacers would have to deal with the worst possible version of Heidi – the crying, puking Heidi. That never happened. Throughout the race I never had any issues with my stomach, which is a miracle on it’s own! I’m not sure how I lucked out so well, but I am so thankful my stomach kept itself together!
The only annoying thing I dealt with tummy-wise was gurgling. I regularly get “ocean belly” when I run and I’m fairly certain it is because I never sip water, instead I take a few big gulps and call it good. In the process of gulping water I’m also gulping air…which makes everything in my stomach slosh around until I burp. Do you have any idea how annoying it is to have your stomach gurgle and slosh around while you wait to build up a deep enough burp to get rid of all the air?! It drove me crazy! I probably burped hundreds of times throughout the race!
So, what did I eat to keep my tummy happy with me?! Whatever I happened to be in the mood for…
Some things I ate whenever I saw them at the AS or because they were easy to pack along, I grazed on…
- Peanut M&Ms
- Tortilla rolls with deli turkey + cream cheese
- PBJ tortilla wraps
- Nutella tortilla wraps
- Bacon + bacon bits
- Grilled cheese
- Potato soup
- Mashed potatoes + opened Salt Sticks (so tasty!)
- Ramen noodles
- Chicken broth
- Broccoli cheese soup
- Rice krispie treats
- Sour Patch Kids
- Swedish Fish
- Potato chips
- Chocolate covered espresso beans
And other things I actually paid attention to how much I consumed, either because it was easy to measure or for safety reasons…
- Tailwind (~60oz total?)
- Mt Dew (one can)
- Espresso concoction (3 Double Espresso gels/10oz of water, 300mg caffeine/bottle, I had 3-4 bottles)
- B12 + Calcium + Magnesium + Potassium (one of each, not sure on mg as my pacer just handed them to me)
- Honey Stinger Chews (2 pks)
- Honey Stinger Waffle (1/2 of one)
- Ibuprofen (~2000mg total with 600 to 800mg every 4 hours, pending a pee test)
- Salt Sticks (~6 total, including two mixed in mashed potatoes)
As I rolled into an AS I’d stare at the food for a few seconds and eat whatever looked good to me at the moment. Sometimes I’d spend the miles leading up to the AS thinking about what I’d eat but usually I was happy to just grab what appeared to be appetizing. Before I left the AS I made note of how long it’d take me to get to the next AS then made sure I had about twice as much food as necessary with me, just in case. There was a watch in my pack and every 30 minutes it’d beep, meaning I needed to “shove something in my pie hole” so I always made sure I had a variety of snacks with me to mix it up.
I’m surprised I was able to take in that much caffeine without any adverse affects on my stomach – I guess drinking way too much caffeine on a daily basis has it’s benefits? Although I do think the fact I ate 90% “real food” not “race food” helped my stomach a lot. It knew how to digest stuff like that so it didn’t freak out. Of course, my slow pace also gave my stomach time to actually do it’s job…I’m sure I’ll get the chance to live my own version of vomit hell should I ever decide to push the pace for 100 miles!
I’m stealing this idea from Emily [who ran the Pine to Palm 100 as her first the same weekend as RRR, read her recap here, she rocked!]. She recently posted about the three things she did well and the three things she needs to work on for her next 100 miler. Since I’ve already talked your ear off with nearly ever imaginable detail I’m doing this a bit differently – what I’m proud of, what surprised me and what I’ll do differently next time.
What I’m Proud Of – I am really proud of myself for keeping my head on straight the entire time. I didn’t have to pull myself out of a deep dark hole, instead I was able to reroute my thoughts and refocus on what I was in control of, not what I couldn’t change. While I do think running Quad Rock 50 and North Fork 50 helped with this it was the DNFs I had at Dirty Thirty and Mount Evans Ascent that taught me an important lesson – you need to want it and believe you can have it or there is no way you’ll make it. I wanted to finish and I truly believed I could make it…and there was no way my brain was going to get in the way!
I’m also really proud of myself for not throwing a pity party when things started to hurt. Looking back it would have been SO easy to just throw in the towel and whine relentlessly. Yea, I whined, but not pointlessly and only for short bits of time with a touch of sarcasm. Letting the pain and exhaustion win was never an option…ever.
What Surprised Me – Considering it was my first 100 you’d think this list would be wrong but it was the little things that took me by surprise. Like how badly my mouth hurt after the race. Note to self, while Sour Patch Kids are tasty they are a bad decision if you’re going to spend 35 hours eating non-stop!
I was also surprised by the weird level of consciousness I spent a lot of time in – I had very vivid, rational thoughts even as I processed the truth about the Ford Explorer and Acura MDX I swore I say ahead of me in the trees (they were all just fallen trees that looked like cars, in my head – I even saw people in them texting and talking). I also remember feeling very “in the moment” at certain points on the trail but have no recollection of what I was thinking as I look back. Oh, and fun fact, sleeping hiking is a legit thing – find a smooth jeep road headed up hill then just close your eyes as you hike. It gives your brain time to just shut off while your body still moves.
Nearing the top of Mt Werner – I have no idea how Paula loved this climb, she must be part mountain goat!
What I’ll Do Differently Next Time – Aside from actually train?! Ha. Bad joke. But really, I’d like to go into my next 100+ mile race at least more trained than I went into RRR. I’m not sure that there is any such things as “perfectly trained” but I’d like to at least have a few decide peak weeks of training! Oh, and hill work is a real thing – I should do it, both up and down mountains! I need to get myself to run uphill more!
I’ve also learned that having a variety of shoes is important. I already have way too many shoes but I don’t have multiple brands that I like to run trails in – I need to diversify before my next big race. Why? Well, my shoes weren’t causing my Achilles pain but their fit against my heel was amplifying it. I’ll be headed to Boulder Running Company in the very near future to try on every single pair of shoes that may work for me…then commit to a few pair to play in.
Lastly, the super fun topic of “what’s next”. Honestly, I don’t have a good answer for that right now. Throughout the entire race I knew that there would be another 100, and not for redemption but because I was actually having fun out there, even when it hurt. I’m not sure when I’ll take on my second 100 miler but I know it’ll be sooner rather than later (but not until I’m full recovered and capable of a legit training!). That said, a straight up 100 mile race may not be my next big undertaking…there are all sorts of multiday races that take you beyond 100 miles that look like a lot of fun, just saying… [sorry Mom, but you knew this was coming!]
So, there you have it…another epic post all about running a 100 mile race. I guess it’s only fitting for it to take 3,000+ words to talk about a race that took 35 hours + months to prep for, right?! I think I’ve covered every detail imaginable…but if I missed anything, let me know! Up next is a “back to normal” post about the Colorado mountains with a touch of fall color, probably.