I had no plans to do a 100 this year. 2 years of Leadville training and finishes, kinda finished me on the hundred mi distance for what I felt like would be a year or two. Last year my goal was to complete all of the US Skyrunning Ultra races. I did all but one, mostly high altitude, all very difficult courses. I fell in love with mountains and the 50 -100k distance training and racing. Far less overall fatiguing for me than the dedicated 100 mile training. A year off of 100s also gave me a break mentally and the ability to play around with different styles of racing and training. A huge plug here for coach Eric Orton. He has been with me for over 4 years now and his training program caters to me and keeps me fresh and happy, except when it's not supposed to and he always reminds me at those points, "you are supposed to be tired", or "this next week is trying to mimic how your legs might feel at mi 70", that's how it's supposed to feel". So often when I'm tired I lose perspective and think something is wrong, Eric knows what to watch for and knows infinitely well what my body is saying based on my heart rate, my effort, my paces and my comments on my runs. It's nice to have that trust in him and know he knows right where I'm at and what we need to do next.
In January I picked all my races for the year. My goal was to continue to work on altitude training, climbing and descending, and technical trail work. My key races would be Jemez 50k...not my A race, but a good test of the waters (came in 6th female and had fueling issues). Next would be Tushars 93k (3rd female). Great experience of steep and rugged trails and the bonus of 16 hours of running at 10,000 to 12,000ft. Had some gi issues/fueling issues there too, but better in that realm overall, and gave me confidence that I was doing well with my training and that the trails I was using around Flagstaff were definitely "tough enough". I basically got on Strava and found the steepest, gnarliest segments I could around Flagstaff and go run them, over and over. Rob Krar even gave me some tips on the local bootleg trails to use. My next race would be Flagstaff 55k Skyrace and then my A++ goal race this year, the Boston Marathon of ultra races, The North Face Ultra Champions 50 miler on the Marin Trails in San Francisco in December. This is the one I want to be as fine tuned as possible for...that was until 6 weeks ago.
The Hardrock 100 came around again this year. I've always wanted to do that, but not enough to set my heart on a qualifier. That changed after this year's Hardrock. Now I reaaaaaaallly want it. So, about 6 weeks ago I signed up for Mogollan Monster 100. It was one of only a few races left this year that was a qualifier for Hardrock. So basically 6 weeks ago my training went from mileages and efforts right for 50k-50 miles to 100 mile training.....and boy has it been a hard 6 weeks. Part of me wondering if we were doing enough for me to be able to complete a 108 mi gnarly course, and the other part too tired to do an ounce more than we were doing.
Even as we started to taper, my runs felt hard, my heart rate not responsive, and I was tired. I was really worried I was going to go into the race fatigued, but like magic (not magic, excellent coaching from Eric) 2 weeks before the race my energy bounced back and so did my hr responsiveness, with my last 2 runs feeling phenomenal. All systems were go.
My husband Todd, Tom Lane and David Newman would be my crew and pacers. Todd wouldn't arrive until I was over 50 miles into the race, So Tom and Dave were my guys. Tom and his wife opened their home to me, and it felt like home. Their guest bed is the most awesome bed I have ever slept in! His wife was gracious and even set things out for me for my pre race breakfast.
I slept great the night before the race (unusual for me), but I was not nervous. For me this was not a race at all. My only goal was to get that qualifier. To finish. And with only 6 weeks of 100 mi specific training, I knew I would be lucky to get that finish. It was all about doing everything I could to make that finish line. Tom and David took me to the start...
A quick side note about my nutrition during a race. I'll be boringly detailed with regard to this race if anyone cares. My disclaimer being that I definitely do NOT have race nutrition down yet. I have found race nutrition to be very elusive. It is so individual and race condition specific. There are very few things similar about any runners race nutrition. The common core is enough water and enough nutrition, unfortunately "enough" is different for every person, and for me it is different depending on the distance, temperature, course difficulty and altitude. I am still a novice at figuring out my own needs on any given race. But practice makes perfect so practice what you plan to do during the race, even if it's only a 3 hour run. Just do it. Just like you would if you were in the race.
So I wanted to make sure I kept my pack light and I really wanted to try and eat solid food. This seemed to work better for me at Tushars. I started out with 2 bottles in front, 1 with SOS (electrolyte mix, no calories), 1 plain water bottle in front and 1 water bottle in back. I decided to not use the bladder as i knew i probably would never need more than 3-4 soft gel bottles between aids and i could easily stash 2 bottles in the sleeve I would normally stick the hydration bladder in. I use a Salomon S-Lab 12 pack. This also helped me keep excellent track of how much water I was getting. I also never had to take my pack off to mess with filling the bladder. I packed a granola bar and peanut butter crackers and a gel. The first aid station would be 2:30-3 hrs away.
I was so relaxed going into this race because it really wasn't a race for me, it was an adventure and an experience. I only hoped I wouldn't be out there till 6pm on sunday. The only parameters I allowed on my watch were HR, current mile pace/split and overall average pace and activity time/hours. No time of day. I didn't want to have much awareness of "how long" I was out there or how long I had left to go. I just needed to know hours so I could make sure hour by hour I was eating/drinking enough.
I started mid pack of about 70-80 runners. The first climb out of the aid seemed gradual and my HR spot on with how I felt, maybe a little higher hr than effort at first. I decided to stay under heart rate zone 4a and really try to not even get into 3 on the gradual climbs and for sure zone 2 on flat easy. The trails the first 8 miles were less rocky and technical overall than Flagstaff. I was relieved! Nice n cool around 40-50 at the start and not a cloud in the sky from start to finish.
I figured there were probably 7-10 girls ahead of me. I knew the predicted winner, Olga King and I recognized the other predicted leaders and really wanted to stay behind them. Olga and a few women my age or older had some pretty extensive tough 100 mile resumes. I knew they knew how to be smart so I wanted also to watch them and be smart like them.
I felt fantastic from the get go and mid zone 2 felt like 1. Low 3 felt like 2. I was really happy about this and had to really watch to not go by just feel. About 2-3 more girls passed me including Olga who was hiking almost as fast as I was running. We were climbing above the town of Pine, aptly named with the trees. The trails seemed to flow easily with lots of desert plants and lizards scurrying. We greeted each other and I followed her just trying to watch her hike while I jogged. I tried shifting to a hike following her, but my effort and HR would go up, so I continued my easy relaxed jog. We chatted a little and I dropped back a bit, but kept coming up on her on dhills. She tripped a few times and then took a nasty little fall/ twist and a few runners ahead of me helped her up. She was ok and opted to walk for a bit and so I passed on. It was a bit of a conga line, but a low pressure easy one. No one was in any hurry which was nice and we all chatted and found our own grooves. I shifted between hiking and running and around mi 7-8 it got steeper, but still nowhere near the grades I did routinely in Flag and way less techy. I shifted to hiking as my hr jumped up into 4a a couple times. I hiked mostly in upper 2 to very low 3 these last couple miles I think. I knew I had passed a couple of girls, but was not paying attention. My crew knew NOT to tell me where I was in the pack or what kind of pacing I was doing, ie..."you are on track for a __ finish" just tell me I'm doing great, whether I'm in the front or last place. They all knew this was just about finishing. Tom and David were there to greet me at mi 10, filled my bottles and reminded me to be patient. Good stuff. They both knew how important a finish would be so they took good care of me at aid stations and helped keep me smart.
The next 5 mile stretch was super easy, mostly dirt road. Stayed in zone 2 here, sun up and warming. I ate my granola bar and 6 peanut butter crackers and 2 bottles of water/electrolytes bottles by 1 at around 2:30 into the race. I ate a pb&J at aid and drank 4-6oz cola. Left aid 1 with 2 bottles and pb crackers and my emergency gel. I knew I was only 5 miles or about an hour on flat to downhill roads to next aid, so I wouldn't need more than 1-2 bottles and 6 pb crackers to munch as I went.
My stomach loved the pb crackers, my energy level was great and I was taking advantage of being able to breathe! 5-8k elevation is so different than racing 100 at 9-13k! I felt very well hydrated and fueled. Made sure I always got at least 1 17oz bottle per hour and was averaging a little over that. Hit aid 2 at 14-15mi. Tom and David missed me at mi 15 aid, the course is remote and aid stations were hard to find, which I anticipated. The other thing I always do is pack every drop bag with everything I could possibly want or need. I pretend I won't have any crew and the aid station won't have what I want. It's these things that can unravel a good day. And KNOW the course. I knew what every section would be like, I read and reread and reread the detailed course directions and made little 3x4 cards with detailed instructions from aid to aid. Lots of runners got lost on this course the first year. I was determined to give myself every opportunity to know where I was at any given time or be able to figure it out. The course was flagged really really well this year, but flags get blown away, trampled, eaten by hungry deer, elk or Yetis, or even worse vandals remove the flagging from sections... happens every race. Can't control 100 miles of trails and dirt road mazes.
Next section would be mostly downhill with a good 2 miles of really techy dhill (still not as bad as Mt Eldon trail in Flagstaff). I passed 1 or 2 women here, no one I recognized and several men. I kept my dhill very easy feeling, noticing Hr was mid zone 2 mostly on the techy faster stuff. There was some shade intermittently, and it still felt nice out. Got to Geronimo at mi 19-20 feeling very well.
I knew the next section of "highline trail" is considered to be very difficult and very exposed. It was warming to close to 80, and it's a dry heat ;) This is the trail used for Zane Gray 50 miler. One of the toughest 50 mile races in the country. I took an extra minute or two to make sure I had all 4 water bottles full and ate more pb&J and had enough pb crackers, pb filled pretzels and my emergency gel. My stomach was doing great and my energy level and mood fantastic. I left with sunglasses, cooling neck bandana (plug for Columbia brand) the softest most spongy bandana that holds water and has cooling material and a visor by Columbia with the same cooling fabric. Most cooling fabrics are stiff and scratchy especially that Frog Togg stuff. I also wore a white super soft Columbia tee with the same cooling material. I wore some solar sleeves, but they were annoying and I pulled them off at aid 1. I stuck an empty 20 oz bottle in my pack with full intentions of dousing myself at every stream possible.
1-2 miles of easy switchbacks up going out. I alternated run/hike and stayed in zone 2 mostly. Rare if any zone 3. I wanted to feel good this section. It was definitely warming up but I was comfortable and there was a nice breeze. Lots of red slickrock, prickly brush and rocky, but not seemingly very techy trail. Little stream crossings about every mile. I could hear them as I'd get close. I determined one should never pass up a stream in the desert, and pulled off my hat and bandana and soaked them at every one. I also whipped out that empty 20 oz bottle, filled it with cold stream water and dumped it on my head and back every time. "Remember Lori, this race is about finishing", I would tell myself. Take the time and do what it takes. That empty water bottle was my favorite trick! We were funny, the next stream I caught 3 other guys, we were like dogs playing in the water. One of them told me I was right behind the second female. Awe shit. I told him to shut up, it was way too early to be even thinking about place and that was not where I was going to go in this race. It did make me really evaluate my effort, was I going easy enough? The answer was yes, but this helped me to relax even more, there was absolutely no hurry, and I was obviously doing very well and could take it as easy as I wanted. So I took all the time I wanted at every single stream and thank God there were about 3 or 4 equally spaced streams on this section. It was all short ups and downs, seemed mildly technical, but man the brush was chewing up my legs. Feet felt great in my Innov8 terraclaws. Knees were happy and so was i. There was more shade than I expected, but still not much. I drank almost all 4 bottles, going through 1 and 1/4 to 1 1/2 17 oz bottle per hour here. I ate up my pb crackers, I was eating about 8/hour or 300 cal/hr mostly. I came up on Nadine Haluzcak- know I just totally butchered her last name, but that's the only way I can think to spell it, sorry Nadine! This was about about 1-2 mi from aid. We chatted and I let her stay ahead of me. Definitely no need to pass her. She won San Diego 100 in june. I noticed she was a strong fast hiker. I am not....yet. Both she and Olga so far could hike with less effort than I. I played with it a little, just to see what hiking her pace felt like...it felt like work! So I stayed with my easier jog mostly, hiking when my hr or effort went up. We came into the aid together at Wahington park, mi 29. She breezed on through. I took time to eat more pb &j and make sure I had plenty of water/sos, granola bar and pb filled pretzles. I had done well, 300 cal/hr over that last section. Leaving mi 29 there was a Nasty little power line climb going out. Now this was very rocky/slidy/techy/steep, but really for less than a mile. The other 1-1.5 miles was rocky jeep road with an oh so awesome cold stream crossing I again took full advantage of dumping 20 oz on my head (loved that empty water bottle!) Soaked bandana and hat as well..... and managed to lose my prescription sunglasses down the stream. Damn. At least i had them for the worst part of the day. "I'll think about how much that just cost me later". After 2 miles of climbing a football field of nerf football sized rocks layered upon more of the same layered on dog food, the next 5 would be gradual up a dirt road. That got old quick and I passed several male runners that were hiking. I kept my slow jog. I did not want to walk any roads if I could avoid it. "We dont walk roads" became my mantra. Totally sun exposed and not the place to lolly gag. It seemed like it was not as hot here, a rim road, so prob 8k high. I had no idea time of day and didn't want to know. I was just pleased I was feeling so good and really tolerated the heat well with all the stream crossing, my neck stayed cool with my bandana and my face shaded with my hat.
But That road seemed to go on forever, until we finally hit Houston aid. Now at mi 36. I was not nauseated, but not craving anything they had. Pb&J was not as appealing but I ate one anyway, drank 4-6oz cola and filled 2 bottles. The pb crackers were working and I was able to get 300 cal/hr so I decided I would stick with that as long as it worked. Gels and pretty much everything else sounded horrible. I was swelling a little, but as long as I pushed the water it would go down at this point.
The next section would be rocky trail up and down the first 3 miles under tree cover,then smoother trail. I was thinking it would be all gradual downhill and was a little annoyed at the first 3 miles of up/down. I hiked most of the ups and ran easy down, still mostly in zone 2. The last mile into the aid I caught back up on Nadine, we chatted, and I let her hike into the aid in front of me. She was in/out fast as ever. We were now at mi 42ish. I had not been paying attention to my splits, only the hours to keep track of calories/fluid. I knew it was later in the day, and asked the aid worker if dusk would be coming in the next 2 hours, she said yes so I grabbed my headlamp. I ate a little at the aid and drank 4 oz cola. Nadine gone, which was fine. No hurry. I expected this section to be a gradual uphill. It was at first, but the trails were nice and it seemed very very runnable. I felt great! My energy was good, tummy good, and mentally feeling very sharp. We snaked along and across a nice stream. Campers here and there with their tents set up. We were shaded and I had survived the heat of the day very very well.
I passed Nadine and came upon another female. "Oh shit" was my first thought. "That's the first female". It was Susan, can't remember her last name, but a tough gal from what I remember. She was nauseated and walking intermittently. I offered her some pepto or zofran. She declined, she said she just needed to walk a bit. I went on ahead. This is NOT where I want to be at under mi 50. Not even halfway into this race. I think I eased up even more, and dammit if I didn't come upon Nadine. We'll shit. Nadine said she was fine. I noticed her walking some too. I was completely baffled. I could hear them chatting with each other behind me as we climbed. I hit a trail intersection that wasn't well marked and so I walked back about 50 yards to the girls. Why not walk with them for just a bit? No reason to run ahead. We would be going down that nasty power line back to Washington park in less than 1/4 mi. Nadine had bonked. She asked if I thought she could recover. I told her "Hell yes, you'll be amazed at how well you will recover". I told her she was blazing through aid stations, take time and eat and drink and really get what you need. I asked if she had a pacer and she did which would help her get on the right track. Susan was still a little green and at a low point, but perking up as we just walked. We really enjoyed our time together, gave us all a boost and a chance to reset. We hit the power line and I went down first. I hit Washington, mi 52 just ahead of them with headlamp on. Sun went down just as we came in.
I panicked at first, no sign of Tom or David. I was faced with the possibility of doing the gnarliest section of the course solo at night. Then they appeared out of nowhere. I ate Ramen noodles till I was full, drank 6oz cola. Filled my pack with more pb crackers, and headed out with Tom. I was now in first place. Tom said not a word about this. This next section was absolutely ridiculous! 5 miles of highline trail/not trail. In the first mile I heard that sound, that rattlesnake sound. As tired as I was, I realized very quickly he had to be around 3 feet, or hopefully more, to the right of the trail. Dark, can't see it so we just plodded on. No jumping or screaming by mi 57, just a very dull comment to Tom, "was that a rattle snake?" "Yep". "Thought so" and on we went. The grass was over my head, we lost the actual trail more than we found it. There were bumps and logs and boulders and dips I couldn't even see. I fell hard several times. Very little if any running through here. If we ran I fell. I took one fall down a ditch I didn't appreciate and grabbed a tree limb going down yanking my R shoulder and landing very awkward and hitting rocks and tree limbs as I went down. I scared the hell outta Tom I think. My shoulder and neck muscles were now on fire, deep burning sensation and muscles tight. This is also where I started to get some burning in my R glut medius when I climbed. It was mild here. I still ate and drank well, 300calories/hr mostly here. My headlamp sucked. But I knew I had another at Hell's gate aid. I heard another rustling to my left and turned my head. My head lamp caught about 6 pairs of eyes all at eye level staring at me. Now this time I yelped and cursed! My first thought? A family of Yetis. Not elk, deer, bears....Yetis. they were cows. The rattlesnake didn't scare me, but the cows did. Those vicious cows.
We finally hit Hell's gate at mi 57. No drop bag. I forgot we couldn't have drop bags here.Shit. I ate some ramen. The next section would be 7 miles. No sos, no pb crackers. I filled 3 bottles with water, put new batteries in my headlamp, asked the aid station worker if she had a small baggy I could put food in for the next 7 miles. She hooked me up and I took 2 bananas and a baggy full of chex mix. We left the aid and headed out on that nasty trail. It opened up a bit and after 2 miles we started our next rim climb. It was beautiful with the brightest moon!
I was climbing seemingly very slow for effort and R glut was burning pretty good. I reminded myself to keep this climb as easy as possible, I still had a very long way to go. I got passed by a couple guys. We finally hit the top for 2-3 miles of road running. I had eaten my banana and was enjoying the chex mix. Still getting 200-300 cal/hr and at least 1 water bottle per hour. It was very cool now, but felt good. We hit Buck Springs aid at mi 64. Ate good bowl of ramen. Again no drop bag.. well damn. Another banana and more chex. I was still feeling very good. A little sore all over, but sharp mentally and in good spirit. Nadine and her pacer arrived as we left. Next 7 miles would be all single track and seemed mostly flat/down with 2 different short drops into canyons and climbs back out. Climbing kinda pitiful, but running well down/flat. Glut burning with climbs mild to moderately, but disappeared when running flat/down.
Arrived at pinchot mi 72 and ate more ramen, drank more cola added a light jacket and gloves. Filled bottles, got my sos back and was digging the chex so continued on munching as I went. Always muching. I was pretty sure I was still getting at least 200cal per hour plus loading up on ramen and cola at aids. I started to swell a little more, so I drank more which helped, some. I started to realize I was probably getting way too much salt. All I was eating was crackers and chex and pretzels, and adding sos electrolytes. It was cool and i was no longer sweating so not losing much salt either. At mi 75 Nadine and her pacer passed us. This didn't bother me at all. I teased her and said, "I told you, you could recover!" That was the last time I saw her. We kept on. That 7 mile section to mi 80 was tough! Up and down, very rocky, the climbs seemed a little harder, but I kept my effort in check and ate and drank well.
Tom gladly handed me off to David just before dawn at about mi 80. I was looking forward to the next section, rolling dirt road for 5 miles along the rim with an amazing moon! David's conversation made the miles go faster. I ran almost all of this section, hiked just a little up one section of road. We came upon a radio guy with flashing lights directing us down power line. I could see him about 1/4 mi out and fantasized he was an alien spaceship and hoped they were there to abduct me off the course. I told him my fantasy and he said, "I was thinking the same thing about you guys!" He was tired too. Actually, I still felt very sharp and fresh other than sore. I took some Ibuprofen earlier in the night which also helped.
Remember that power line climb I mentioned earlier...like nerf footballs on nerf footballs on dog food, we got to go back down that little treat.We hit Washington aid at mi 86 at dawn. I Ate a slice of bacon, some ramen and cola. It was here I noticed pretty significant swelling and started really getting it that my cracker obsession was probably doing me a bit of harm. Unfortunately, nothing else sounded good and I made the poor choice to continue with pb filled pretzles. I did stop the sos. I debated 3 or 4 bottles of water and made the very stupid decision to take only 3. The next section would be 9 miles on Highline trail, the very exposed trail. it didn't occur to me I would be in the sun for the next likely 4hrs, not 2:30-3 hrs. I went through the water within 5 miles. The salt was overwhelming. I did NOT want another cracker, and had no water now anyway to wash it down or flush the swelling I had. We hit a spring and I opted to fill 1 water bottle and take my chances with whatever organisms it might be contaminated with. We had too far to go to do without. My watch had long since died. That bottle was gone seemingly fast, and I was as swollen as a toad and feeling hot and dizzy. I knew we were about 2-3 miles, likely a good 45 min out as slow as i was moving here from the aid station. I told david to take my bottles and go ahead to the next stream and fill them and come back while I kept jogging the downs and hiking the ups. I wasn't sweating, I was just this dry skinned swollen toad. I had way too much fluid.. all in my soft tissues and I was thirsty as hell from all the salt. I was completely waterlogged and felt like I was dying. I finally got 100 meters from the aid and here todd came with 2 water bottles(he didn't get in with kids til late the night before, so this was first I saw him). I broke down and cried, but knew now I was going to be ok. This was the first time I sat in 95 miles.
I had some hot spots on my feet and Tom taped em up as I guzzle water and ate a whole grilled cheese sandwich. Todd said, "I've never seen you this swollen". I could tell he was a little alarmed. We stopped all crackers and only water and put gels and stinger wafers in my pack and headed out. I drank and drank and finally started peeing straight clear water. The swelling improved a little. I was off a little mentally, but held it together as my kids were there petting on me and I could see their worried faces. I was a scratched up bloody mess. My legs looked like I had been fighting for my life with a Bob cat, I had some bigger cuts too from my falls in the Hell's gate section and I was so swollen. David handed me off to Todd, and he took on pacing me the last 11 miles. Poor guy....
Then it hit. As soon as we started climbing my R glut was on fire and then my R low back would spasm as well. Every step up was excruciating. If I stopped it would ease, but any uphill step would trigger full on back and glut spasms so severe they rivaled hard labor pain. We tried massage, stretching, contortions, it would ease while we did that, but as soon as we started up it would start all over. We were just wasting time. I climbed 1-2 miles per hour up that rim, 3 rolling up then 2 wickedly steep and technical. Todd got me up that mountain. "The pain will go away the sooner we get done". I told Him "I can't do this" when we were about a mile and an hour from the top. The only thing less appealing was running back down the rim, so on we went, me whimpering the whole way. About mi 100 Susan passed me. That hurt too, but I was glad it took to mi 100 before she caught me and I was glad for her to come back from her low point. We finally topped out and I was hopeful I could run.
I ran slowly over the next mi across a field and then we went down a super rocky steep nasty trail. I did ok at first, the spasms were still there but milder. It didn't take 100 meters though and my glut and back were spasming 10/10 pain all the way down. So I down hiked at about 2-3mph at the most. The pain was making me severely nauseated. I nibbled on stinger wafers and drank water, but not much. After what seemed like an eternity we hit the paved road. Walking the paved road helped. We walked fast, but I was done. I was tilted to the left. Tom, David, and soon the kids met me about 1/4 mi out and encouraged me to run. We all ran.... well I jogged while they walked slowly to keep up (this was very depressing) through the finish in 33:08. I was so relieved to be done and so relieved my back eased up once I stopped.
I felt awesome until I jacked things up at mi 86. I set myself on a dangerous course with regard to salt and water which spiraled out of control from mile 85 to 95. From mi 95-108 the back spasms nearly broke me, definitely broke my spirit, but I was grateful I made it, grateful all that did not spiral down earlier in the race. If it had, I would never have finished for sure. am sore all over, but definitely not hurt.
This was my best 100 mile race ever. I just wish I had recognized what I was doing to myself with all the salt before it was too late. I've never had problems with glut/back spasms before, I took some nasty falls that may have triggered things or just plain ole muscle fatigue induced em.
I can't thank everyone enough. The volunteers were stellar. Without Todd, David, and Tom I would never have finished. Tom kept me from wandering completely off course through the night. Left to my own route finding skills, I'd be in Mexico by now. David made those last miles go much faster with his humor and conversation, relieving my mind and spirit of the burden at hand. Todd, my rock, got me over that last rim climb and to the finish. No one else on this earth would have been able to convince me I could get to the end. By George, we did it boys!
I had the yeti walk down by the end!