Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Year of the Monkey: A 2016 Recap

Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer

I was also born in the year of the monkey so maybe it's fate (F8) that my year was epic but I don't believe in astrology. I did, however, enjoy reading all about the different Chinese astrological signs on the paper menus at the Chinese restaurant we used to go to when we were kids. I had a pair of Chinese silk pajama-type things that my mom let me wear to the restaurant when we went. Anyway, they looked a lot like this....

Moving on... Overall it was a pretty good year for me.  I haven't blogged since Georgia Death Race and the last time I sat down to begin a blog was after Western States but I couldn't figure out how to put it all in words. So I gave up. Plus the summer was busy and I knew Edward was going to have the short film done eventually, that trail Racing Over Texas commissioned with the support of Nathan, documenting  my Western States experience.  So allow me to summarize the rest of my year after Georgia Death Race.  Without that Golden ticket I earned from my 2nd place finish at GDR, my year would have gone in a completely different direction.  It's scary and exciting to think that a single race can shape your life that much. I don't mean earth shattering change and I am pretty sure my day to day life hasn't changed too much because of it but in terms of where my running has taken me and where I think it can go in the future is not the same as a year ago. A sentiment I think about often.

Western States - June 2016 - Squaw to Auburn, CA
Result: F8 - 45th overall - 20:50:07

Edward Sanchez shot and edited Determined: The Rise of Maggatron which is my journey to Western States.  It is surreal to even have this film exist and I am forever grateful that Robert Goyen from Trail Racing Over Texas and Edward envisioned this film in the first place. I am glad my race turned out the way it did because it can always be worse and an F8 finish is better than some of the alternatives. Regardless of the outcome of my race, the film's message would not have changed.  If you haven't already, check it out. I don't think F8 is a spoiler and the music is awesome.  So if you have 22 minutes give it a watch.

Thank you to Connie Gardner for being my pacer and an inspiration. If you told me 3 years ago that I would run Western States via a Golden Ticket, finish in the top ten AND Connie Gardner would be my pacer, I would have thought you were delusional for real.  Same goes for being paced the last 7 miles by Ryan Schannauer. He's amazing! Also he puts up with my neurotic obsession with ultrarunning on a daily basis.  We share the same love of trails and running but differ in our love of distances over 40 miles and suffering.

Speaking of amazing, the rest of my massive crew who made it happen; Jeremy Hanson aka Jimmy Taco, Matt Magalengo (and his sweet Olympic Valley condo hook-up), Edward Sanchez (mostly filming), Team Nathan; Brent Hollowell, Greg Brantner and Sablle Scheppmann who went directly to the airport shortly after I finished to fly back to SoCal for the sales meeting the very next day.

Here is a quick recap in photos. All pics by Sablle Scheppmann.

Sablle calls this Ryan's male model photo. Please note his 'Western States beard-thing"..oh and THAT shirt.

The talented Edward Sanchez and his short shorts. Not as short as Rob Goyen's shorts.

Crewing is clearly great fun
Refusing avocado sandwich.

Connie meant business getting me out of Forest Hill fast! Sorry about that avocado sandwich I didn't eat, Ryan. 
Teamwork makes the dream work. Part of my Nathan crew hauling stuff to Green Gate, Brent and Greg.

Crew Nathan was on point.

Gratuitous product shots!
Brent giving me the 411 on women ahead of me.

47 seconds after finishing.

Our reenactment of our Georgia Death Race post race pic.
Bethany, Erika and I all celebrating our top ten finishes.

White Face Vertical K - July 2016 - Lake Placid, NY
Result: 7th place - 56:52

Having never done a Vertical K before and not feeling super recovered from Western States I didn't place a lot of pressure on myself. Ian Golden, the RD had to delay the start due to lightning at the top. It was stormy weekend but the clouds broke enough for us to get up and down. Overall it was fun weekend with Ralph, Evy and Ryan at our cute AirBnB garage loft. We ran the race and then played random board games that were in the guest loft as it rained the rest of the weekend. Beautiful area and our hosts were very interesting, accommodating and wowed us with stories of the 1980 Olympics (held right there in Lake Placid). 

That view is real!

Ryan Espulgar passing me.

"Ryan, come one, hurry up!! The clouds are coming!"

That's better.

Transrockies Run - August 2016 - Buena Vista to Beaver Creek, CO
Result: Teammate Katalin Nagy - 3rd Place - Womens Open Team

Like the vertical K, I had never tried this flavor of race. Well turns out, it tastes delicious!!! It truly is a running vacation. Unlike most stage races, this one carts your crap to the next location while you run with only what you need for the 13-25 mile run that day.  The race covers 120 miles over 6 days with 120,000 feet of gain. I was lucky enough to convince, Katalin Nagy, 24 Hour World Champ, to come out of her comfort zone and be my teammate. She had agreed without hesitation but later told me she thought I was asking her to do some sort of all at once 120 mile relay.  She didn't realize it would involve camping, sometimes below freezing temperatures (a few mornings we work up with frost on our tents) and 6 days of racing. Like the true champ she is, she made me proud and we fought our way to a 3rd place finish behind two really strong women's teams.

Kevin McDonald and his TRR crew put on an unforgettable 6 day adventure that is organized seamlessly.  The food, showers, entertainment, couches, and tents being moved everyday from location to location is no small feat. I am still in awe at the magnitude of this operation and its flawless execution. It is worth 4 times as many pennies as they charge, believe me.

Also, notably, Katalin went on to repeat her Spartathlon victory after dealing with injury for much of her summer. Love her to death!

Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer

Day One start line: Me, Devon Yanko (3 day solo), Amanda and Keely (1st  place open womens team) and Katalin.
PC: Otto Lam

Kati and I strategizing.
PC: Otto Lam

Monica Ochs, Nikki Kimball and I. There was a cold river to be found after every stage.

Epic Finish. Kati said, "Let's hold hands!"
Awesome ladies! Super happy to have met them all.

After TRR, Ryan flew out to meet me in Leadville so we could pace our good friend Otto in race 2 of his grand slam, Leadville Trail 100. But first, this happened.....

Leadville Beer Mile (or in my case the Seltzer Mile) - August 2016 -  a dirt road in  Leadville, CO
Result: I finished - around 16-18 minutes.

Ryan DNFed because he threw up from too much seltzer and maybe he ran too fast having just gotten off a plane and being a 10,200 feet for the first time. I endure more pain and suffering than I thought possible from a 16 - 18 minute mile. It is best explained in pictures.

 All pics by Otto Lam who also posted videos on Facebook at the time.

Before. Having no idea what we are about to experience.


After..... I do not recommend.

Franklin Mountain 50k - September 2016 - El Paso, TX
Result: 1st Place Female - 10th overall - 6:54:01 

Another first for me, a legit sky race. This 50k kicked my butt like no other race. The jagged rocks and the steep climbs were hard enough but on race morning we were pummeled with 40 mph hour winds. With no trees or anything other than one side of the mountain to block the wind it made for a very challenging and unique experience.  This is yet another area of the country I may have never bothered to come to if not for this crazy running thing! I don't know how Rob finds these places but I know how much he holds Franklin Mountain dear to his heart. This weekend in September made me see why.

Check out this beautiful video recap here by Edward Sanchez. And if you happen to pick up the December 2016 issue of Ultrarunning Magazine, check out my article on Franklin Mountain.

All pics by Myke Hermsmeyer.

That about sums it up.

Just a typical pre-race meeting at TROT race.

Team TROT. Like family.  These guys....

Total badassery here. Also as of  yesterday the stud on the right, Jeff  Ball, is a golden ticket winner. See you in Squaw!

RD extraordinaire, Rob Goyen and ultra-stud of the year, Jim Walmsley.

Jim says, "Good job but what took you so long? I have been done for 3 hours."

Shandra Moore was on my heels all day and finished just 3 minutes behind me. This girl is awesome.

Getting onto the podium was harder than I thought.
But I finally got to stand above a number 1 on this thing!

Also we premiered Determined: The Rise of Maggatron at the pre-race meeting.
Kind of never racking watching your own movie for the first time in a room full of people.
Thanks for capturing this one Myke. :)

Edward's avant garde moostash. Director and subject Q & A.

 Brazos Bend 100 - December 2016 -  Brazos Bend State Park in Needville, TX
Result: 1st overall,  course record overall - 14:47:02 

So with an epic 2016, I feel lucky enough to close it out with a bang. I honestly wasn't sure how this race would go. I felt a bit under trained having struggled with time and motivation. I battled to keep training with the same vigor and enthusiasm race after race since GDR (so many A races this year) but I can't say it was perfect.

I had the American trail record in mind when I landed in Texas knowing that the weather was going to be ideal.  Not sure if I had the fitness or if my legs would hold up as I felt I had let the leg strength workouts slide the most. Would the flat get to me? I hadn't done much flat since 2015.

I was happy to just fall into a rhythm early on and felt that I had a "flow"experience, that I have only ever experienced twice before (and those times were flat races as well). I really thought I had the trail record within reach. Finishing the 5th lap with 16.67 miles to go, I felt determined. Jeff Ball said he would set the pace. All I needed to do was stick to the pace but 3 miles in I put a gel near my mouth. Not even in it, just near it and the uncontrollable dry heaving began.  I struggled with the most hardcore bonk I have ever experienced. No amount of willpower would will my legs faster than a 10 minute mile at one point.  I crossed the finish line with the third fastest known trail 100 and somewhere on the top ten fastest 100 time on any surface. I finally got to join my girls, Katalin Nagy, Aly Venti and Traci Falbo in the sub 15 hour club. In fact we called Traci seconds after I finished to confirm her trail 100 PR.

The theme of that weekend is one that will stick with me forever. Rob gave a motivational speech before the race. He said "If you want to take the island, you gotta burn the f$&^ing boats!"  Caroline Boller in a similar "boat burning fashion" succeeded in running what we will call a nation's best 50 mile trail time, breaking Ann Trason's 25 year old record. She also won overall and set the overall course record.

Look for Trail Racing Over Texas to release a Brazos Bend movie soon. It's delves into all that the Goyens put into this race and all their races. I can't thank them enough for all they have done for me.  Being part of Team TROT has been life changing.

All pictures by Myke Hermsmeyer

Thanks to Drymax, Altra and Trail Toes. I had the happiest feet I have ever had after a race.

On my way to burning some boats.
Rob calling Traci while we wait for her to answer.

Brazos Bend State Park is truly beautiful.

Rob acting serious?

First lady to earn a sub 16 hour Brazos Bend buckle and only race that has a sub 16 buckle!
I think some more ladies (and dudes) need to come claim this buckle.

Well that about sums it up. If you made it this far you should really consider a 24 hour race because you can clearly tolerate long and monotonous stuff.

I have seen far more places this year than in this post.  I think I crewed and paced as many races as I ran but that I will save for another blog.

Happy New Year, Kids! Here's to the year of the Rooster: 2017. Cock-a-doodle-doo!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Georgia Death Race: Friendship and Pain in the Georgia Mountains

The Golden Ticket Race

Thanks to Dylan Armajani I received an actual golden ticket. So for the curious; there was no actual golden ticket per se. Dylan just made one himself. Well actually he bought one on Amazon when he purchased this $12 Wonka costume but he left it at home so he made this one. Bethany Patterson may have had two ultra running legends as her crew (What up, AJW and Dr. Horton?) but I had Dylan aka Papa Trail! There is no one on the planet who knows how to crew me better than Dylan. I am not the most organized person but we work well as a team and each time we learn how to do something better. Let's face it. Crewing isn't really always all that fun. Sometimes it's boring. I would say running is the easier job. So thank you, Dylan for the countless times you have crewed.  

Counter clockwise from top left: Viaduct 100, Oil Creek 100, IAU 24 Hour World Championships, NJ One Day

So much has happened since my last post after the Barkley Fall Classic.  I ran Oil Creek 100 in October and Brazos Bend 100 in December. Both well organized, unique, 100 milers that I would actual consider repeating. They deserve posts of their own but life just did it's thing and time slipped away. In order to hold your attention and not let too much of YOUR life slip away while reading this blog, I will stick to my at experience at Georgia Death Race. If you want to hear more about the race after reading this enlightening blog you can check out Bethany and I live (previously recorded duh) on Ginger Runner.

Some Memorable Moments

  • Well to start... there were snakes!  At the pre-race meeting there were snakes.
  • Who brought these snakes? An army ranger who had the most insane stories and told us to be on the look out for guys in ranger school who would be trekking through the woods with all their gear and most likely have not slept in days.
  • One of the most memorable moments was actually seeing two of those guys. One in particular I will never forget. He had what I now understand is a 1000 yard stare. He looked right at me yet through me and I could feel his exhaustion. We both uttered encouraging words to each other as we passed, him coming up the hill and me going down. Suddenly, my pack didn't feel so heavy.
  • Seeing Mary Lou Corino is always a highlight. One that doesn't happen quite enough. She lives in Canada but oddly enough I have seen her in places like NJ, Italy and now Georgia. She has also been known to run long distances across the state of TN or sometimes just in circles.
Mary Lou Corino
  • I finally, met Katie DeSplinter and Dom Grossman in person.  They were my favorite internet people and now they are some of my favorite real life people. You can read Katie's masterfully written blog on Georgia Death Race by clicking on the word PANDA. Katie, please don't bother reading further or is it farther? You can join a support group with my boyfriend Ryan who can't bear to read my poorly, structured narratives.  He has won awards in English. :)
    Look at our cute matching VaporAiress packs. #cockatoo
  • Speaking of favorite people, these two ladies take the cake; Bethany Patterson and Jenn Benna. 
Me, Jenn and Bethany.


And now to the start line. Sean Blanton, the RD, gave an inspiring speech from the top of his truck about how he almost died on Everest. I have a tiny obsession with all things Everest yet have no desire to go myself. So much respect.

Georgia Death Race boasts 40,000 feet a of elevation change. It is run point to point from Vogel State Park to Amicalola State Park in northern Georgia for a distance of 72 miles. To top it all off, this year for the first time, it is a Golden Ticket Race which means top two men and women earn a coveted spot in the Western States 100.

Finally that moment arrives, when you start a race you have been preparing for for months. It is nothing but pure relief. Right from the beginning i ran close with Jenn and Bethany.  We all had the same idea,that the first half shouldn't feel like an all out race. We ran where we could and hiked where it was necessary.  We pretty much ran near each other for the first 35ish miles. During that time we came up with some pretty ridiculous scenarios; my favorite being we all tied for second place and finished holding hands just hoping maybe the WS board would accept us all. Later AJW assured us that would never happen. They would not give away three 2nd place golden tickets.  This was all just to pass the time. We all knew when it came down to it, it was a race and we all just wanted a ticket to the 'big dance."  

Sarah Woerner, who we didn't know that much about, was almost 30 minutes up on us at mile 28. This was the first spot to see crew and all 3 of us were in and out.  Bethany, as I mentioned, was crewed by AJW and David Horton. Jenn was crewed by her husband, JB Benna, who was also filming as he is known to do. I think it had taken us almost 7 hours to go 28 miles so at that point it was still early. I was in awe that Sarah was able to put 30 minutes on us in a section that tough. I skeptical yet terrified that she may be able to hold that lead. I just knew I had to catch her if I wanted that ticket. And believe me I wanted it. By the time Bethany, Jenn and I reach the second and final crew aid station at mile 47 we will have split up.  Bethany running ahead and gaining on Sarah. Jenn will struggle with a debilitating quad injury and will push on a bit farther than she ever should. But that's what we do. Stubborn, just like a good ultra runner. You can read about Jenn's race and more about what went down in her words by clicking SPACE BLANKET PICNIC. I will forever treasure those 30 or 40  miles we ran together.  The first half was more like Georgia Friendship Race rather than Death.  

On to the Death part.....


Pulling into mile 47, my second and final spot to see Dylan, I knew I had to make it count. Dylan and I had discussed how important this spot was so we had a check list of things to run through.  Eating was an issue at this point and trying to choke down the noodles he had waiting for me proved more difficult than I was hoping. Dylan loaded up my Nathan VaporAiress with all the goodies I would need to help me get the job done. I had been using Tailwind in bottles and a bladder with water up to that point but since the temps were soon to drop we opted to swap out the bladder and just use the Exo Shot and one SpeedDraw Flask.  I changed into a dry shirt, chugged some water and headed out at a quick pace as AJW screamed, "LEAVE BEFORE SHE GETS HERE!"  He was, I assume, referring to Jenn who was in rough shape at that point. I did not know what condition she was in at this time, however, so the rest of the race I figured there was a chance she was just behind be.  

The remainder of my trek through the Georgia wilderness went by like a dream. I had found that "flow" I had been searching for that I experienced once before on a chilly, November night at NJ One Day. I just ran thinking about only one thing. Although everything hurt appropriately, I felt strong and confident I could catch Sarah. I had learned she was just 10 minutes up when I left Winding Stair at 47 miles. I knew Bethany would over take her because she is a strong finisher.  I tried to maintain a "cautiously aggressive pace."  It was still a long way and I feared I would get in trouble with my stomach. I was already not capable of swallowing solid food. So I mostly survived on tiny bits of gel a little at a time and coke and chips (the only "food groups" I can ever stomach late in a race). Because I was able to fuel consistently well during the first half of the race, I was able to survive on less in the second half. Surviving on way less was not part of the race nutrition strategy my coach, Michele, and I went over before hand. But the fact that I sent her a proposed nutrition plan at all was a first. This game is all about constantly adapting and improving. Without Michele's guidance, I really don't think I would have a golden ticket right now.

Despite popular belief, I do not prefer roads. However, I have to admit the road section was one of my favorite parts of the race. It was quiet country road and the sun was beginning to set. I ran past a field of cows who silently watched me float by (maybe it was more like lumbering at this point). I was really moving or so it felt...only the cows know the truth. I was on a mission and I was hoping to soon catch a glimpse of Sarah.  That moment finally came shortly after I made a right onto a dirt forest road. A road which would begin to climb for miles just as I ran by Sarah. Read more about Sarah's race HERE. I wanted to slow down and chat with her but I couldn't. I was feeling too good and I knew Bethany was still ahead of me.  I continued up the hill as long as I could until it got so dark I needed my Halo Fire headlamp.  I needed light not to see the terrain, which was well enough lit by the moonlight, but to make sure I didn't miss a flag in case one indicated a turn off.  I was so scared to screw something up at this point like getting lost or falling badly. I could not believe i was finally in a golden ticket spot. i just had to maintain.   

Running up that hill seemed like forever. At some point on this road I see JB and Dom once again and at that point knew I must be getting close. They had been out all day shooting video and would appear out of nowhere along the course.  I could hear hooting and hollering deep in the woods long before I ever saw the glow of the aid station at Nimblewill. That meant 9 miles to the finish. Just 9 miles and the golden ticket was mine regardless of whether I passed Bethany or not.  But of course I want to catch Bethany, so one last hard effort it has to be given.  The inviting and attentive volunteers helped me fill up my exo shot with coke and I downed some chips and sprinted off into the night.


This last part was mostly downhill. My quads were holding up. All the training and prep I had done were enabling me to run consistently well up and down the hills.  Michele had designed the perfect plan for me to be able to do this. Typically these types of climbs would just trash my legs.  As always, I did what she suggested and reaped the benefits.  Finally, I came out into a parking lot and see JB and Dom again.  They point me across the parking lot and to a super technical rocky downhill.  CRAP! I know this was Bethany's strong suit and my feet were really hurting. I did the best I could. I picked my way down and finally heard Dylan's voice in the dark.  David Horton was with him too.  Dylan yelled something about Western States and I turned to yell something back and went flying hard to the ground.  My left calf instantly cramped and I yelled, got back up and started running like hell.  "Don't f$^cked this up now" was my new mantra. 

I knew there was one more big climb; a paved steep pathway up the waterfall which led to a set of 175 stairs.  No problem. I knew how many stairs because the ominous sign was there to warn tourists that this was a "strenuous" climb and that there were in fact 175 stairs. I did lots of stair sessions in training and I knew how long it would take me to climb 175 stairs. Not long at all.  Back on the pathway.  The next sign I come to leads up to what the sign promises are "425 Stairs". I stand at the base of the stairs and throw my head back and just laugh.  Out loud in the dark. All alone. Laughing at Sean Blanton's sick sense of humor. I begin to climb. Just one foot in front of the other, very steady but with purpose. I sway a bit.  Lack of calories and I'm on metal grated stairs.  Eventually I reached the top and then it was another bone-crushing downhill.  I knew I was almost there. Back onto a trail and soon I hear yelling and see lights. I didn't see any headlamps behind me. I was about to cross the creek to the finish in second place! The golden ticket was mine! Carefully I waded across the creek, climbed onto the bank and crossed in 14:42. 2nd place female and 9th overall.  

Bethany had finished 12 minutes before me and despite feeling like she was going to puke had waited for me at the finish. You can read Bethany's first ever blog entry on Georgia Death Race by clicking on BEASTCOAST.  I took out the dirty old railroad spike each runner had to carry the whole distance and threw it in the open coffin Sean had waiting. In return, I got another dirty, old spike but this one was engraved with "Georgia Death Race". This spike was for someone I had been thinking of along the way. I will tell you in a minute.  Afterwards, Bethany, David Horton, AJW, Dylan and I sat around and chatted. Eventually, Bethany excused herself to go puke next to a tree and then eventually I as well.  Hey! No guts, no glory! RIGHT?! 
Photo by Dominic Grossman
So that's it. My golden ticket story. Team TROT for life.  I am proud to be a part of such a diverse group of athletes.  On my feet, as always, Trail Toes (use code MAGGATRON) and Feetures.  Once again no blisters. In fact, that was the best my feet ever looked after a race. Thanks to Tailwind for the delicious flavors and my sweet new tech shirt.  Had it not been cloudy, I would have sported my Julbo Access.  They are by far the best pair of sunglasses I have ever put on my face.  Nathan, you have me geared to the ears. Also I love my job which happens to be the new marketing coordinator for Nathan.  And if you still haven't had enough of me, check out this Nathan blog about my race :) Thanks to all my good buddies who cheered me on from where ever they were in the world that weekend. I think about all of you at some point while I'm running these long races.  One person I kept in mind was my buddy Joe Delano's daughter (also named Dylan).  Joe was supposed to run GDR as well but little Dylan was in the ICU. She has glycogen storage disease, which I had never even heard of until a week before Georgia Death Race.  Her body can't regulate its blood sugar and she has horrible seizures. She also had trouble breathing. She spent two weeks in an induced coma while they tried to keep her blood sugar and breathing regulated. There is no cure and it is something she has to live with for now.  Some friends of Joe have set up a research fund for a cure. The link is here

This "Georgia Death Race" railroad spike is for Dylan Delano. #SEEYOUINSQUAW