Leaving mile 31, feeling great! PC: Elizabeth Towe
I think races are always good for an athlete, despite the outcome. If we listen closely they will each tell us something we can take and learn from and if we are really motivated we can use them to do better next time. I think that my success in Cruel Jewel was, in part, due to my epic failure at Black Canyon 100k, and also Run Rabbit Run last fall.
Back in Feb I ran Black Canyon 100k and had a disappointing day. I can't blame anyone but myself coupled with a touch of bad luck, however, what I did do was listen and take what that race was telling me and fix my problems.
The first problem I started to address was some wacky gait pattern. My best guess is its from a concussion I sustained from a fall last summer. After falling I ran Run Rabbit Run 105 mile race just 19 days after being confined to complete bed rest for my head between the fall and the race. I picked up, and reinforced a weird limp I had from the fall resulting in a swollen knee and irritated hip. Things that REALLY hurt during Black Canyon had just started to hurt during Run Rabbit Run. Clearly training through the pain and hoping that I could correct my gait myself wasn't working, so after the race I started visiting Brian Beatty at Balanced Movement Therapy on a regular basis to address this problem. My coach also helped me train smarter, not harder keeping my problematic achilles in mind. Left to my own devices I am always tempted to over do things. Meghan smartly guided me to just the right amount of training, but not more than my heel could handle.
Second problem: nutrition. I have been ultra running since 2012 but the right fuel plan has been ever elusive. When I first started ultra running I was a vegan, which was actually great for recovery, but I just don't build muscle, so I was really tiny and not very powerful. In 2015 I added meat back into my diet, being aware of where the meat was from, and if it was raised responsibly and with out hormones. I gained some strength, but still had energy highs and lows(crashes) during races. My friend, Sam, recommended the book ROAR this past March, which really helped me gain a lot of insight to fueling and recovery for women. Its a book specifically for female endurance athletes. It addresses the different hormone changes throughout a woman's cycle and how different times of the month need different fueling strategies. A lightbulb went on for me! Training got better, I changed my hydration strategy, I ate more protein after exercises, added in good carbs during high hormone times, and I gained muscle, and got leaner.
I also stopped trying to drink my calories, meaning I separated food from hydration. I found that Skratch works best for my personal hydration needs. THIS CHANGED EVERYTHING! In the past I wasn't bonking due to lack of calories, I am pretty sure I'm an awesome fat burner while at ultra pace...I was DEHYDRATED all along!! So how did this all help? Well, even with unseasonably hot weather, and a nice stretch of pavement mid day, I stayed hydrated THE WHOLE RACE! (read no energy dips!) I didn't eat any more than usual, I think I ate one beef jerky stick, 3 or 4 picky bars, bone broth I made, and also a home made smoothie at mile 30 a few chips, a salted potato, and some gummy bears. Not a lot of calories, but I felt really great.
So if you're here for a race report, the course is the same as it was in 2015, with the finish being slightly altered due to some down trees. You can read my race report from 2015 here. I was a few minutes behind my 2015 pace into the first crewed aid station at mile 25, but I stayed positive, being mindful that there was so much more race ahead, and it would eventually cool down. The mid day heat was HOT and I felt feverish around noon. Fortunately this is where my crew had an ice bandana for me that helped immensely.
The first half of the race is the "runnable" half, while the second half is where the technical steep climbs come in. I switched out my Orange Mud Hydraquiver, for the Endurance pack because the time between aid stations would get much longer and I didn't want to get dehydrated so late in the day.
As I ran the "dragon spine" or the Duncan Ridge Trail, I remember exactly where things went bad for me previously, but this time I felt strong and ran all the sections I had opted to hike the last time.
The last 8-9ish miles are broken into a mile straight up Coosa Bald with no switch backs, and then back down over rocks and roots for roughly 5 miles to a water stop, and then more gently up for 2 miles and back down for a downhill finish into Vogel State Park. This is where I picked up time. I was feeling awesome! I ran/hiked up to the top of Coosa, paused at the top and braced myself for the long downhill. By this point my quads were TOAST. Coming out of Black Canyon I had aggravated my Achilles tendon so during training I was more conservative so I didn't do any downhill training. I put my head down and told myself from there on I was going to suck it up- ignore my quads and run--and run I did...down the hill, pausing once or twice to make sure I was going the right way. I didn't stop at the water stop, just cruised right by smelling the barn...in 2015 I think I mostly hiked from the water stop to the finish, I was not going to do that again. Just as I ran over the bridge here the wind picked up, and I saw a tree fall over to the left of me....like I needed any more motivation to keep running. The cold rain felt amazing, and the thunder and lightening made my hair stand up.
I didn't once look at the time on my watch after cresting Coosa, 11+ hours had passed. I knew I wanted to better my last Cruel Jewel time of 13:33, I actually stopped and told myself here that I could do it if I just went for it, and I did! I was shocked to see the blinking red lights of the finish line clock through the driving rain still under 13 hours! I was ecstatic!
12:57! 36 minutes faster than my last CJ50, and 33 minutes better than the women's CR of 13:30! First place female and 3rd overall! The rain continued into the night, and stopping only as the sun rose. After a quick shower and food we stayed up to watch every last one of our group from Chapel Hill finish. Congratulations to you all!
I have to give thanks here to Carson Footwear and Everett's support, Orange Mud and Josh for the hydration packs! Big thanks to my coach Meghan Arbogast too!
Also, to ET and her lucky crew pants. I so appreciate having you there to boss me around, to Liz for her first 50--you were awesome! Thanks for the fun birthday weekend, and for the training runs. Thanks to Brian and your magic PT, thanks Lawst, Galoot, Nymf, Riff, Kyle, Elliott, Steep, and Tim for getting in on the weekend fun. Congratulations on your races as well(and for your crewing)! Saving the biggest thanks to Drew and Emmitt, thanks for being my guys and supporting me. love you!
Great job Rachel