I feel like I’m running the longest race yet.  I’m nearing 36 weeks so the end is in sight… and yet like the last 5K of a marathon, it still feels like a long way to go. And it’s always pretty awful when you have 5K left to go in the marathon and all the spectators are shouting “you’re nearly there! almost done!” and you think…. shut up shut up…. I have so far to go……

I recently enjoyed reading professional triathlete Rachel Joyce’s blog post on entering her third trimester. She is around 6 or 7 weeks behind me when it comes to the bump and (irrelevant but fun) we have the same birthday. Her bump is also teeny tiny.  Not so surprising I guess considering she is a professional athlete. Meanwhile I was out and about this week and had nearly a dozen people come up to me and ask if I was due that week, if I were overdue, if I were carrying twins, and so on……  oh the fun!

I am still running. Like molasses, but I’m getting out there. I know I look ridiculous but thankfully the upside of the intense heat here is that I can only consider running before sunrise, so not many people get to see me to point and stare……  This morning I managed 5 miles in the heat, whoohoo!  I felt great and then Tom took a photo and I couldn’t stop laughing….

Let’s play spot the differences:

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Nearly 36 weeks

But I’m not running much.  A few times a week is a good week, and i’ve been hitting the pool more instead. Which is still so hot that I swear you can see the water bubbling at times.

I would actually like to try my hand at another 5K race but we are now out of season here in disgustingly drippingly hot south Florida so I haven’t managed to find one taking place in the next few weeks (if you know of one, please tell me!). I’m on a bit of a deadline so it’s not much good when Active.com tells me about September or October races.

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I lost my goggles and swim cap at the pool yesterday. Gutted. Particularly because the swim cap was a gift from Leanda Cave‘s sister Melissa (who is half fish), so obviously it imbued me with superpowers – now gone forever.

A number of people have asked me what the belly support band is that I’ve been wearing to run.  It’s called the Gabrialla Maternity Support Belt and I inherited it from my sister who used it all day every day during her later pregnancy.  I don’t find it that comfortable to wear, but I think it does make a huge difference when I run and I wouldn’t really consider running without it now.  It costs USD $31.74 on Amazon. It is VERY sexy.

 

I was heartened to see that even a professional triathlete doesn’t necessarily take all the huge changes to her body in her stride. Rachel Joyce writes,

My bump has only recently formed as a “bump” but before that I would call it a paunch. I remember one day around 15-16 weeks where I stood in the change rooms in my swim suit feeling a little self conscious about my new shape, and for a moment I was hesitant about heading to the pool deck. I’m thankful that I have never really suffered with body image issues but that day I did waiver a bit. I have found a few strategies are good in this situation: a sense of humor, reminding myself that my body is doing a pretty freakin’ amazing thing and now is the time to be kind to myself….

I know all about that hesitancy and adapting to the “new shape.” I used to think that you could regulate weight gain during pregnancy through diet and exercise, but I’ve since learned that it largely appears to be out of your control.  While I’ve obviously massively lowered my training volume and intensity throughout the last 8.5 months, I am still very active and I generally keep to a good diet without too many excesses. And yet the weight just piles on as it pleases. The downside to gaining so much weight is that holy crap, my feet hurt so much!  Tom keeps reminding me that it’s like I’m carrying a huge rucksack at all times (ugh!). All I can hope is that my body knows what it’s doing to make a healthy baby, and that it will all come off afterwards – fingers crossed.

And to help me achieve that, I’ve signed up to the London Marathon (April 2017) and have just submitted entry for a semi-elite place at the Tokyo Marathon (Feb 2017).  Fingers crossed! Both of which I had to miss this year due to the pregnancy. Maybe I’m naive to think that I can do either of these races so soon after having the baby, and of course I will have to play it by ear. But at least if I’m registered, it’s a possibility.

On that note, one of the biggest mental adaptions for us at the moment is realising that Tom and I won’t really be able to do the same races anymore. We’ve done so many together and it’s been so much fun, but the reality is that going forward, we are going mostly going to have to take turns.

 

NON-Sport alert

As for non-sporting news, well, I’ve been busy with my very nerdy sewing hobby, making a quilt for the baby. I was especially chuffed to special-order custom fabric from Spoonflower using a photograph Tom took years ago of our cat Ballon’s eyes.  Turns out she approves of the quilt:

 

 

Ps…. if you were wondering how the amazing Lara is doing after reading about her sporting achievements in my last blog post, at 41 weeks 6 days, Lara gave birth to a beautiful healthy girl named Sasha Dae! Hurrah!

 

 

25. November 2015 · Comments Off on SPORTLIGHT on Bob Becker, Double Badwater record holder! · Categories: Sportlight on...., Ultramarathons · Tags: , ,

We recently attended a talk given by Bob Becker at the Delray Beach Running Company Bloody inspirational. I had read of Bob’s epic Double Badwater run in various magazines and websites, but I had no idea he was local to south Florida or that he is race director for two big local ultras.

Bob running in Badwater

Where even to start? How about some quick facts:

  • Bob is 70.
  • Bob ran 292 miles (470km) from the Badwater to the top of Mount Whitney and back, in July.
  • The average daytime temperature in Badwater was around 125° F (50° C).
  • Badwater’s elevation is -280 ft (-79 m) – that is to say, it is below sea level.  Mount Whitney is 14,505 feet (4,421 m). That means he climbed 14,784 feet (4,506 m) from the basin to the top.  There are additional big big climbs en route. His total climbing and descending was 23,346 feet or 7116 meters.
  • Bob set a new age record for the accomplishment.

Have you picked your jaw off the floor yet?

Bob at the top of Mount Whitney – having run 146 miles, and about to turn around to run another 146 miles back to Badwater

What running with a tyre looks like. Very hard.

Bob looks twenty years younger than he is and trains harder than any of us. He told us that he didn’t do crazy mileage while training for his Double Badwater attempt, usually running around 70 miles a week (113 km), but that he really focused on cross-training. He showed photos of him running while dragging a large truck tyre. Someone in the audience asked how long he would drag the tyre for. He said, “Maybe around 6….” I waited for him to say “minutes.” “… miles, with the tyre, and then maybe run 10 miles later in the day without the tyre.” Gulp.

As an experienced ultra runner, Bob had most bases covered going into the event.  But the unexpected can always happen. Bob developed devastating blisters under his callouses (not usually an issue for him), resulting in the need to completely tape his feet and making him run much slower than he had originally planned – but he never stopped moving towards his goal.

He completed the iconic Badwater race (135 miles to the Mount Whitney Portal), plus the additional 11 miles up to the top of Mount Whitney, in 67 hours, 25 minutes. The total 292 miles, including catching a few hours’ sleep here and there, took him around a week.

If you’re hard to impress, let me also tell you that I learned that Bob only ran his first marathon at age 57, and that he also overcame prostate cancer a few years later.  He has run the Marathon de Sables, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and completed Badwater several times.  He is also the race director of two local races: the Everglades Ultra (distances of 50 miles, 50 km, and 25 km) and the Keys 100, an iconic 100 mile race than runs the whole of the Florida Keys (shorter distance options are also available).

Listenting to Bob’s little talk about his Double Badwater success reminded us of why we got into ultras in the first place – the excitement, the camaraderie, the challenge, the sights. He said, only half-joking, “Multi-sport people will roll right over you in their rush to the finish line. In ultras, the leader will stop to assist a fallen runner. That’s why I love this sport.”  Ironman Florida is now a distant memory and we are definitely considering signing up for Bob’s races in 2016 – anyone want to join us?

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With Chip Corley (also a very accomplished ultra runner) and Bob Becker after Bob’s talk at the Delray Beach Running Company

With thanks to the Delray Beach Running Company for arranging the brilliant talk, and of course to Bob himself for giving it.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

A beautiful summer’s day in the mountains in Iceland.  The snow crunched under our feet as we ran, and the sun warmed our faces as the wind blew across the mountains.  The footing wasn’t easy, so I was looking down a lot.  Every time I looked up around me, my joy was palpable.  The views of the lava fields, the multi-hued mountains, the steam rising from the hot springs, the drapings of snow and ice.  Every look in every direction was just spectacular.

I had found Nirvana in the Laugavegur Trail running the Laugavegur Ultra Marathon.  Trail runners’ paradise.

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Midnight Sun

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Not yet 4 in the morning!

Race day started with a 3:45 am alarm clock in order to catch the 4:30 am bus from Laugardalur in Reykjavik. But hey, it’s really not hard to get up that early when it’s nearly full daylight outside!

21-IMG_4217With a breakfast stop en-route to Landmannalaugar, we arrived at around 8:20, with our wave scheduled to start at 9:05. This meant a very cold 45 minutes of waiting at the start, marvelling at the hundreds of tents containing runners who opted for an icy night but a leisurely race morning.

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Some pre-race acrobatics in the vain hope of warming up

 

Did I mention it was cold?

The Laugavegur Trail starts in Landmannalaugar, going directly up into the mountains with around 600m of climbing to the top at Hrafntinnusker.  It then sharply descends down to Álftavatn, then up again to Emstrur and finally down to Húsadalur in Þórsmörk.  Hikers normally take 4 days to cross the 55km, camping along the way near the mountain huts.  The perfect setting for an ultra marathon!  This year there was the added challenge of unusual amounts of snow for this time of year.

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Going by the allocated race numbers, there were around 430 runners divided into three waves.  After the usual shuffling and shivering at the start line, our wave was called, and up we went!

Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker ~ 10km with 600m climbing, around 1:40

There was good reason for the wave start – we immediately headed up a single track mountain path, nose to tail.  We had been warned several times by the race organisers to take the whole of the first section very easy, not only because it was steep, but as we climbed higher into the mountains, the snow took over.

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The start of the race – photo thanks to marathon.is (all other photos are ours unless specified)

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Landmannalaugur – photo by Mattias Klum

In retrospect, I think they perhaps overly emphasised the need to take the first section of the race easy, because it meant that 1/6th of the runners had the devastating consequence of not meeting the cut-offs imposed in the later stages of the race.  Our goal from the beginning was to enjoy the race and to get around it comfortably, without actually racing it.

And enjoy we did.  Tom took a few short videos of me running through the snow, complete with questionable commentary:

I’m originally from Canada so I grew up with snow as an integral part of my life, but I left the country when I was 19 and haven’t lived there since.  I didn’t get into running properly until I was in my 30s, so…. I am most certainly not used to running in snow.  The occasional light dusting in London never meant more than a bit of slippery footing and wet feet, and it never lasted long.  So Iceland was my first real time running, and racing, in the snow.  I loved it.  That crunch!  The bit of slip, the slide!  The views!

No surprise then that this first section was my favourite of the whole race.  As we neared Hrafntinnusker, we crossed around 8km of continuous snow.

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The depth of the snow is made evident as some nearby hot springs melt a cavern underneath! (me in black waving at the camera)

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After nearly an hour and a half, the mountain huts at Hrafntinnusker came into view – the very first aid station.  A quick loo break and we refilled our water, ate a banana and set off sliding down the snow.

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Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn ~ 12 km, with 180m climbing, 600m descending, 1:35

We continued to climb up into the snow, then slowly down the other side only to find the very best views yet. On one side we had dark mountains with a glacier in the background.

53-IMG_4334On the other side, spectacular sandy mountains with hues of red, orange, and brown and lacings of snow so beautiful and almost so unreal as to look like a painting.

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Further along, we could see the lake near Álftavatn, our next aid station and the first checkpoint.  We had to get there within 4 hours in order to be permitted to continue the race.  We began the sharp descent, and the air grew warmer until I was sweating heavily in my waterproof jacket.

And we eventually hit the valley, complete with a glacier-fed stream that we had to cross – the first of many.

We hit the checkpoint with about 50 minutes to spare, although we didn’t think much about it at the time. We refilled with water, sat down in the sunshine for a few minutes to eat another banana, stripped off a layer and headed off again.

Álftavatn to Emstrur ~ 16km, with 220m climbing, 280 descending, around 2:20

This was the hardest section of the race for me, although the terrain was perhaps the easiest.  I enjoyed crossing a few more glacial streams and rivers, and when we reached Bláfjallakvísl, we were able to change our shoes.  Given the heavy snow on the mountains, both Tom and I had opted for very heavy Salomon trail shoes, which did their job perfectly but were feeling pretty heavy on the feet after nearly 4.5 hours.  Mine were waterproof too, which had been great in the snow, but not so good once we started fording all the rivers (water goes into the shoe, but then doesn’t drain out unlike in a normal shoe).  So it was a very welcome to change to put on our minimalist trail shoes and to feel the trails beneath our feet again.  Although the new shoes didn’t stay dry for long!

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Soon we were heading across a great expanse of lava fields.  We could still see mountains around us, but the terrain was completely different from before.  The ground underneath was fine lava sand.  A moonscape.  I had read that NASA had come to Iceland to have its astronauts do a simulation moon-walk before they landed on the moon, and I could see why.  Were we really just in the snowy mountains the hour before?

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We had spent a good chunk of time at Bláfjallakvísl changing our shoes, and we were stopping frequently for photographs.  When we reached a mini aid station and refilled our water, we heard another runner ask how far it was to the next checkpoint – around 6km, they said.  I looked at my watch and realised that we were cutting it fine.  No more photographs until the checkpoint!  Time to get going!

And so we tried to pick up the pace as we headed across the lava fields, as best we could over 5 hours into a mountain ultra marathon.  We made it with just 15 minutes to spare – and what a huge relief.  I later found out that many runners were forced to retire from the race. I can’t imagine how disappointing that must have been.

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Reaching the mountain huts at Emstrur, so relieved to know that we had made the cut off.

Emstrur to Húsadalur in Þórsmörk ~17km with 380m climbing, 645m descending, 2:30

This last section of the race brought us down out of the mountains properly, although with plenty of uphill on the way down.  The pressure was off now that we knew we had made the cut offs and could just enjoy the rest of the race. Would you believe the terrain changed completely again? Suddenly we were running atop a big canyon with waterfalls and views spreading out before us that looked like a scene from the Lord of the Rings (or, New Zealand). Spectacular in a completely different way from the previous miles we had covered, and very hard to capture on my little camera.

How about this? Mountains, glacier, river, and just beyond, a waterfall…..

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Down begins to hurt as much as up, or even more, after a while.  As we headed down down down the mountains, we welcomed the occasional up as relief to our poor pounded quads.

We certainly hadn’t run this ultra fast by any stretch of the imagination, but our slow and steady approach meant that we overtook a lot of runners in this last section to Þórsmörk.  But first, more river crossings.

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Although not deep, the river had a fierce current and we were holding on for good reason.

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We knew the end was within reach.  We had enjoyed this race so much, but we were most definitely tired and ready to stop running.  Just a few more hills to go.  We grabbed some pieces of Snickers bars and gulped some flat Coke from the last aid station, and headed up the last few hills. Up the hills. Up, up, down, up, down, down. The grass grew red alongside us and we could see down into a valley full of nothing but the same short, fine red grass. Then through another river, then a stream, then a short tunnel of foliage that looked like it was straight out of England.

Then suddenly the path was littered with people cheering us on, shouting, and we could hear the finish line. Without comment, our pace increased. We came down the last hill, and we could see all the tents at the finish line. We ran together, as we had done the whole way, and passed through the finish line. Still smiling.

91-IMG_4879Total time: 8:29:07

Total distance:  55km, ~1900m climbing, 2200m descending

We placed 313th – nothing fancy, but we made it to the end, and we loved it from start to finish.

In fact….this was the best race I’ve done to date.  Most scenic, most beautiful, most enjoyable, most fun, most tremendous. If you’re thinking of running it and want more information (what? My thousands of photos here aren’t enough?) or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  I mean that wholeheartedly.

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NB – The 19th edition of the Laugavegur Ultra Marathon took place on July 18, 2015.  The winner, Þorbergur Ingi Jónsson, finished in an unfathomable 3:59:13, setting a new course record!

13. July 2015 · Comments Off on From Swamp to Snow · Categories: Run, Trails, Ultramarathons · Tags: , , ,

Laugavegur Ultra is in 5 days!

If you read my very woe-is-me post some 10 days ago, you’ll know I was very unwell following the Leadville Marathon and pre-Iceland ultra.  I’m pleased to say that I am now more or less recovered… and ready to hit the snow.

Yep, snow.

The good people organising the Laugavegur Ultra have been sending us updates on the current snow conditions.  It may be well into July, but when the snow is higher than the buildings, it takes a while to melt.  They tell us that there is still heavy snow for the first 20km of the race.

These photos were taken on the trail just a couple of weeks ago:

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We have been advised to dress accordingly:

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I did mention that we have been doing all our training in flat Florida, right?  From flat swampland to snowy mountains…. gulp!

imageWish us luck!

 

30. June 2015 · Comments Off on In sickness and in health – run that by me again? · Categories: Marathons, Run, Ultramarathons · Tags: , , ,

After the absolutely amazing experience of racing the Leadville Marathon in Colorado…. I got ill.

I was ill on the plane ride back, ill upon arrival in Florida, and even ill when I wrote about the race in my last blog post, not that you would have known it.  I was in denial.  It wasn’t going to last.

It has been 10 days since I have done any running. That has taken some willpower.  To the runners out there, you know how bad that feels. Like all my hard work this past year is drifting away, like I will never run again, like I never knew how to run in the first place.  Worse yet is the fact that the Laugavegur Ultra in Iceland – my next big race – is in 17 days.  And I’m still not healthy yet.  Forget about tapering.  This is just about recuperating and desperately clinging on to any semblance of fitness.  I can’t even pretend I’m laughing about it because I lost my voice 4 days ago and it hasn’t come back yet.

But this is out of my control.  And while the Laugavegur Ultra looks really hard, really tough, and really absolutely astonishingly beautiful – it is not my A-goal race this year.  It’s probably going to hurt a lot more now than it might have.  But it’s one foot in front of the other and hopefully that will get me to the finish line.

So there is my update.  Now I’m going back to bed…..

Sometimes I am in awe of the serendipity of life, of the chains of events that lead to something happening.

For example, the fact that I married my husband Tom in 2010 can be traced directly back to the fact that I was teaching at Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla, Colombia in 2003. If I hadn’t done that, Tom and I never would have met. Life is weird and unexpected.

Tom and I are signed up for the Laugavegur Ultra in Iceland this summer.

"Running" through the wilds of Florida

“Running” through the wilds of Florida

But as the time passes and the July 18 date nears of the ultra, and we train on these flat hot swamp trails – the fear has set in.  How are we going to handle climbing glaciers, mountains, technical terrain, when all our training is through the dead flat boggy Everglades?  Don’t get me wrong – the trail running here isn’t easy (see here!).  Our runs are still unbelievably slow as we slog through yet more wet bush and wrestle with alligators, but nonetheless, it’s flat.

 

 

So discussion ensued how to get some practice runs in with some actual elevation.  And then we saw that Beth from Shut Up + Run blog was suggesting people join her in running the Leadville Marathon and/or Heavy Half. Yes, that’s the same Leadville as the famous Leadville 100 mile race. And as detailed previously – in a matter of 12 hours, we had bought our flights and registered for the race.  Thanks Beth!

Ok, first things first – we got to meet Beth at the start line.  How cool is that?  Turns out she is a real person and there is no panel of 25 writers putting together her hilarious blogs.  Yep, the real deal, and she didn’t freak out that I was some stalker who followed her 2,105 miles across the country (didn’t think of THAT, did you, Beth, eh?).  Here is our celebrity photo shot:

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Karis of See Kay Tri on the left, Beth of Shut up and Run in the middle.

 

Don’t forget to check out those big snow-covered mountains in the background.  Now have a look back at that wild green swampy photo above, and then back at those mountains.  Then take a big gulp and imagine how we were feeling.  Oh, and did I mention that Leadville is actually the highest altitude city in North America, at 3094m (10,200 ft)?  And that the marathon took us up to 4019m (13,185 ft)?  In case we were to forget about the altitude, there was this nice big sign there to remind us:image

Yes.  So, altitude sickness was on all our minds, and shortness of breath was in all our lungs.  But we were excited!

You might have thought that the elevation profile of the race might have given us some warning as to what we had got ourselves into.  In theory. Tom claims the race was as he expected, but the rest of the Flat Florida crew just really had no idea.

So here was our elevation profile, courtesy of Strava, post-race:

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See that tall skinny peak in the middle?  That’s called Mosquito Pass and up until last week, it was entirely covered in snow.  Wonderful race volunteers actually went all the way up there to shovel it.  Yes, they actually shovelled us a path up to Mosquito Peak.  This was the photo that Leadville Race Series posted for us just a couple of days before the event:

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Maybe you’re beginning to understand some of our trepidation in getting ready to run this race!

It was a nice leisurely 8am start (races in Florida start much earlier to beat the heat) and Colorado was having a heat wave.  Although we headed to the start line in jackets, we stuffed them in our packs before the race even started.  How does Leadville start?  Just like the Leadville 100 – with a gunshot!  I jumped out of my skin…but it was ok, we were far enough back from the front that I had time to recover before we shuffled over the start line.

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As you will see from that elevation profile, we headed uphill from the moment the race started. We all ran at first, and then slowly as the lithe Colorado-bred high-altitude gazelles overtook the rest of us, we settled to a fast walk. Oh, how naive we had been. Heading to the airport on Thursday evening, I had announced to the others, “I think we need to be realistic – we will likely be walking some of this race.” Oh hahahahaa. Some? Some!?! No. We had to walk pretty much every uphill, and by uphill, I mean each massive mountain. We even lost the will to jog for the photographers.

But it was beautiful.  The mountains surrounded us, and the higher we went, the more snow appeared, much to our delight (thanks to the wonderful shovelers, though, we never had to run in it!).

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We were excited when we reached the first of the snow at around mile 4. Travis celebrates by throwing a snowball at me.

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Ben, Tom, and Travis climbing to the top of Ball Mountain, our first mountain of the day.

Although the Heavy Half (so called because it’s actually 15.5 miles, rather than the traditional 13.1) started with the Marathon, the split was very early on, so we didn’t see Karis for a good few hours until we met her again as she descended from Mosquito Pass. The rest of us stuck together pretty much until the end. There were 9 aid stations so we were well fuelled for the well over 7 hours it took us to get around this marathon. Watermelon has never tasted so good as it did atop of Ball Mountain.

Ball Mountain was a relatively gentle climb compared to what was waiting for us going up Mosquito Pass. Remember that snow? This is where it got real.

It went up, and up, and up. And it was much steeper than it look in these photos.

 

And it got steeper, and more and more snow appeared….

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And then finally, blissfully, as the winds picked up to 50 mph, we rounded the corner and there was the top of Mosquito Pass at 4019m, or 13,185 feet, with a timekeeper sitting there bundled head to toe in fleece and windproofs.  It was – unsurprisingly – glacially cold. The wind was a furious smack of ice and I couldn’t feel my hands anymore. Tom snapped a quick photo of me before the wind blew me away (that’s no joke) and then we headed back down the mountain.

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I found the climb up Mosquito Pass a real struggle.  In fact, Ben and Travis were about 10 minutes ahead of me by the time I reached the top. I managed to make up the time coming down the mountain to meet up with them all at the aid station at the bottom, thankfully (or else it would have been a lonely rest of the marathon). Travis took a great little video of Ben descending and running into me. I think this gives you a real idea of what the marathon was like, more than any of these still photos:

The race was out and back, so it meant that we then covered the same ground as before – back up and down Ball Mountain once we finally descended Mosquito Pass. The clock was ticking and we were worried about making the cut-off of 8.5 hours, especially since the slog back up Ball Mountain seemed even steeper than before. But we made up the time on the downhills and we even managed some sort of proper run for the last few miles back down, with Ben hitting 7 minute miles (“I got mad,” she said.  “I just wanted to be finished.”).

imageTom parted ways with us at the 21 mile mark due to ongoing issues with his foot, so Ben, Travis and I all finished together and were met at the finish line by Karis sipping a cold beer.  Oh, and her finish?

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OK, so this photo was staged the night before. I wasn’t there when she finished, but judging by how fresh she looked, I expect this was probably accurate.

All in all?

This race was one of the best I’ve ever done, and it totally kicked my ass.  Results-wise, we did terrible! (ok, if you must know – I was 109th out of 155 women!) but we had a blast. We lost around half an hour at aid stations and I am pretty sure I left half of my legs up Mosquito Pass. The altitude crushed us, the footing was technical, the ascents were brutal, the descents required goat legs, the scenery was magnificent, the company was tremendous and we had so much fun.

Bring it on, Iceland. I may well come last – but I’m gonna love it.

[Update:  Karis has now written her own race report, a most excellent one – you can read it here.]

So the London Marathon is over.  Last month’s news. It was an obsessive focal point for months and then it didn’t go as planned.  So what happens next?

FUN STUFF.

When a road race doesn’t quite work out after all that effort and work, I need to stop and think:

  • Why do I run? because I love it
  • What do I love most?  being outside. Exploring.  TRAIL RUNNING!

As I had mentioned previously, Tom and I are running the Laugevegur Ultra Marathon in Iceland in July.  It looks awesome, in the true sense of the word.  Mountains, glaciers, valleys, fording rivers, snow and ice in July – seriously breathtakingly beautiful.  The race is 55km long (34.18 miles) and covers around 2000m (6500 feet) of climbing.

The challenge is: how do we train for that here in flat hot Florida?

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The elevation profile from one of my recent long runs.

Answer:  enter another mountain race as a warm up!

We’ve been doing a lot of trail running with our friends Ben and Travis lately (they are also training for a truly epic race, the GoreTex Trans-Alpine Run, 8 days of running across the Alps through 4 countries!), and I’ve been loving it.  But there is a distinct lack of hills here and it has been a cause of concern to us all.

We were heading home from our club run the other day, which consisted of hill repeats in Okeeheelee Park – 10 times up and down the one 23m hill, and we were thinking what more can we do?  Ben’s training plan says to find a hill that takes 20 minutes to run up and down – these hill repeats were taking us 40 seconds. Then I happened to flick through Instagram and saw that one of my favourite running bloggers, Shut Up + Run, had just posted about doing a hilly mountain race in Colorado in June.  I was intrigued.

I’ve certainly been spontaneous before (flying to the Arctic Circle on standby on a whim in the middle of winter and landing there at midnight with nowhere to stay comes to mind, back in my youth…), but this still ranks up there.  By lunch time the following day the four of us had registered for the Leadville Trail Marathon, bought our plane tickets, arranged hotel rooms and a rental car. I’m still a bit in shock, and slightly terrified, but 100% excited.  Who wants to join us?

The race starts and finishes in town, with most of the race up in the mountains.

I CAN’T WAIT!!!

And in the meantime, we have been doing long runs out in the bush/jungle/scrub – whatever you want to call it. There is a great trail called the Ocean to Lake Trail (guess where it goes?).  In total it covers 62 miles. We have done roughly half of it so far.

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Don’t be fooled by that simple looking line.  Most of that trail is as wild as can be and it is very slow going despite flat terrain.  And by slow, I mean turtle slow, snail slow, molasses slow.  But it’s really fun and a great break from all the pavement pounding I was doing up until the marathon.  And it’s very pretty in a wild sort of way.

Animal tally so far:

  • 6 manatees
  • 3 alligators
  • 1 wild boar
  • maybe a dozen deer
  • 1 snake
  • many a squirrel
  • even more birds

Photo time:

1)  Riverbend to Hobe Sound (the ocean!) – 16.5 miles, took 3:15 total time!

We swam in the ocean fully clothed at the end of the run.  Can’t tell you how amazing it felt to rinse off the grime.

2)  Hungryland to Riverbend – 17 miles, took around 3:40!

3)  We’ve also been running at Apoxee Wilderness Trail, which is quite a bit easier going and good for ‘gator spotting:

Wishing you all happy trails!

*NB – if you subscribe to this blog via email, you may not be able to see the photos in galleries above – sorry about that.  You need to open the blog in your browser and then you’ll see these stunning, award-winning images of nature and incredible athleticism. Wait, maybe better you don’t look….

02. February 2015 · Comments Off on Ten fun things that happened · Categories: Run, Trails, Weekly Roundup · Tags: , , ,

TEN fun things that happened this week:

1.  Brunch with my sister (and brother-in-law, not pictured).

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2.  Tom came back from California and we had our first ride together in a month! Oh, how I missed that sweet drafting pull!

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3.  We took Haile shopping.  Here he is enjoying his first ever ride on an escalator.

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4.  Tom bought some crazy shoes.  Hoka Bondi 4.  First time trying Hokas!  And I also bought crazy shoes – On Cloud!

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5.  We cooked up cat for dinner.image

6.  We watched some polo and then ate BBQ’d lobster.  I know, it’s a tough life!image

7.  I ran 27.5 km along the Apoxee Wilderness Trail with Ben, which was so so fabulous.  I love trail running, and this was a great trail with great company.  The miles flew by.  I wish every long run could be like this.

  

8.  Tom and I did yoga.  With candles.

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9.  We had a puppy play date with Ben’s dog, Alice (who is crazy fast!).  Haile conked out for the ride home!image image

10.  We generally eat pretty healthily, but sometimes you need to just go for it… and Sunday night we gorged on veggie cheese burgers with avocado, onion rings, sweet potato fries, baked beans and vanilla milkshakes!  It was definitely worth it!

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How was your week?  

Weekly Update

I am now starting to focus on training for the London Marathon, which means less cycling and swimming.  That results in less time spent training in general, but more time spent doing nasty things like tempo/threshold runs.

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Totals:  14:23

Swim:  0

Bike:  38 km, 1:19

Run:  73 km, 6:38

And….

Totals for January:

Swim:  8.04 km, 3:07

Bike:  412 km, 13:39

Run:  222 km, 19:54

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