Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Puppy's Tale

Zeumer and Tiller
After having made the decision not go to JJ100 in order to save $$, I talked hubby into getting me a puppy, a future trail companion. Meet Zeumer. He's a rescue, a stray found on the streets of Riverside. And of course, there's a tale....

Next door to the karate studio I work at is a Pet Spa. A high-end, really expensive Pet Spa frequented by the really rich folks across the street at Marbella Golf and Country Club. The Spa owner takes rescue dogs from over-crowded local shelters and finds homes for them. A brave and noble deed one would think.

One Friday morning I noticed a fresh car load of puppies being dropped off at the Pet Spa. Five black and white fluffy bundles of fun in particular caught my eye so I went in to meet them. I just had to have one. Mike had reservations but agreed so I picked out a middle-of-the-pack, not overly jumpy male that I thought my 9-year old son (who's deathly afraid of dogs) could learn to live with. We stopped at PetSmart on the way home with him as we had nothing prepared and took him to the vet for a check up. Slight respiratory infection, nothing that a course of antibiotics wouldn't clear up fast. The boys were amazed that we'd got a dog!

By Tuesday, Zeumer was really sick. Coughing badly. I took him back to the vets. Kennel cough that had developed into pneumonia.  I had to decline x-rays as we couldn't afford them but several hundreds of $$s later and a suitcase full of meds, I had to go home to tell everyone that he might not make it. He was just too young to be this sick. The Pet Spa owner insisted he was fine when he left the Spa and that none of the other puppies were sick (although how on earth she can claim he got that sick during a 20-minute drive to PetSmart I'll never know). The shelter told me if I returned him they'd have to euthanize him (I'm a softie, so not an option)

6 weeks later, I'm happy to report he's doing well. Treating him pretty much blew my race budget for the foreseeable future but he's a welcome addition to our household. Typical pain-in-the-ass puppy; in to absolutely everything, chases Tiller Cat, chews anything... and loves being out on the trails with me!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wow, what happened...

to the last two weeks? Some success, some disappointment, lots of laughs with friends and family.

Team InknBurn
Rio del Lago 100 was a bust. I ran a great race (I mean GREAT) until I got lost in the dark on the way back to Cavitt School. Shelli had dropped behind early on in the race and had become so dehydrated that crew member Art eventually pulled her from the race at Cool Fire Station. That left me alone in the dark on an unfamiliar course which typically would not pose a problem except that someone(s) had sabotaged the course by pulling ribbons! Luckily I was a) with Carmela and b) I had grabbed my pack complete with survival gear so apart from getting mad at the time eaten up by my mistake, I was going to be OK (even if I had to hunker down for the night). Carmela and I had to push to get back to the school to make cut-off. She recovered and went on to finish, I did not. I thought I wasn't going to make cut-offs so dropped at Hazel Bluffs, deciding to save my legs for JJ100 on Oct 23.

The following weekend I volunteered at Chimera 100K/100 mile. I worked packet pick on Friday, helped pack supplies into storage tubs labelled for each aid station, hung out by the campfire at Blue Jay with friends Jody, Leonard, Janet and Sam then slept in my car. Race morning I was up at 4 a.m. to help with runner check in and load supplies for aid stations into transport vehicles. I swept the first 20 mile loop with Art and Shelli, then headed up Main Divide to captain the Trabuco Peak aid station. It was Shelli's birthday so we celebrated with laughs and birthday cake while she drove runners and pacers up and down Main Divide like a demon. Good times and a very successful race thanks to Jody's hard work.

However much I love to run in the wilderness, it is very cool and rewarding to volunteer at a race. To hang out with friends, make new friends, encourage and help other ultrarunners and sleep on a cot under a clear starry sky. Truely amazing! I am very blessed to have a husband and sons who may not always "get it" but understand sometimes Mom simply needs to be in the mountains.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Have I gone mad?"

"I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are."

After a crazy busy summer with very little training since SD100 and just back from 3 weeks in UK with no training, I'm going to attempt to capture this beautiful buckle at RDL100 on Sep 11/12. Woohoo, bring it on!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Toodle Pip!

Off to the land of Queen Elizabeth II, The Beatles, Cricket, Big Ben, Fish and Chips, Bangers and Mash... all things properly English. It's time to take the boys "home" to visit the English side of the family and find out why Mom talks funny. It will be a whirlwind tour, only 3 weeks to visit Slough, Eastbourne, Mousehole, Stoke-on-Trent, Lincoln, Coventry and London. Lots to see, lots to do, lots of driving. I wonder if the boys will understand a word anyone says to them?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

You might as well be walkin' on the sun

Badwater Basin - 282 feet below sea level, the lowest point in North America.

Whitney Portal - 8,360 feet above seal level, the gateway to Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous 48 states at 14,505 feet.

Who on earth would be crazy enough to run 135 miles across Death Valley to get from Badwater Basin to Whitney Portal? 80 ultra runners, that's who. 2010 was the 33rd year of the race! And I was lucky enough to get to witness first hand the crazy, surreal experience that is Chris Kostman's AdventureCORPS Badwater Ultramarathon.

I had met Dan Marinsik at various races last year, usually hanging out with my SD100 buddy, Jakob Hermann, so when I saw that he was going to attempt his 8th consecutive Badwater, I jumped in and offered to crew/pace for him. I was lucky that Dan was a crew member short (Jakob) and I got the crew spot.

On Saturday July 10, I met Dan and the rest of the crew (Clare Abram, Terry Ridgway and wife Kelly, Scott Corchero and Danielle Marinsik) at race finish HQ, the Dow Villa in Lone Pine. We drove in the two rented crew vehicles to race start HQ in Furnace Creek which gave me the chance to get to know Clare, Terry and Kelly. Who would have imagined that 3 British-expats (me, Clare, Terry), who all grew up within probably a 50-mile radius of each other, would meet at the 2010 Badwater Ultramarathon. More proof of my husband's theory "all Brits know each other".

Furnace Creek, an oasis in the middle of Death Valley. A beautiful resort but hot, hot, hot. I called my boys to tell them it was 118 degrees (is that really hot, Mom?). So hot that water coming out of the cold faucet is not appreciably cooler than water coming out of the hot faucet. Out on a team run at 6am on Sunday, it was already 106 degrees. What had I got myself into?
L to R: Clare, Terry, Rachael
I have to say I was somewhat in awe seeing big name ultrarunners, veteran Badwater runners and rookies all mingle at pre-race check in and briefing. What an amazingly talented group of people! My friend (and the person responsible for me ever thinking I could run 100 miles) Michelle Barton was there too, supported by her crew of Team INKnBURN runners all decked out in their colorful team shirts.
Race morning was an early start for all. Dan was on 6am start so we were all packed the night before and up and out the door by 5am. It was already toasty!
Badwater Basin
6am starters
Dan with the star of "Running on the Sun", 75-yr old Jack Denness
At 6am, they were off. Some running, some walking but all moving forward enthusiastically. Somewhat naively, I hadn't fully understood that although Dan was running unaccompanied for the 17.4 miles back to Furnace Creek, crewing duties would start a half mile up the road. I don't think we ever drove more than 0.7 miles up the road before stopping to wait for Dan. Out here, water in liquid and solid form is life. No water to drink, you're toast. No ice to keep yourself cool and food/drinks cold, you're in a whole heap of trouble.
Dan in his Solumbra sun protective suit
Dan was pretty much on pace at Furnace Creek but soon started to slow. The heat was taking its toll, the water he poured over himself continuously to cool down was seeping into his shoes causing blisters and causing chafing in unmentionable places. Plus he was tired very early on. As crew/pacer, my job was to wait on him continuously - anticipate his needs as much as possible, feed him GU every 20 minutes or so, give him SaltStick every 30 minutes and keep him moving at a decent pace.
Unlike most races, pacers stay behind the runner except to hand off bottles and shout words of encouragement.
There's a whole lotta nothin' out here!
Was I mean to him? If I was I didn't mean to be (no pun intended). He may have thought so, but I took my job seriously. To get him safely to the finish line, hopefully in under 48 hours.

Around 6pm, we reached Stove Pipe Wells (mile 42) and the night crew of Clare, Terry and Kelly took over. We switched roles, cars and the day crew headed back to Lone Pine to clean up, eat and sleep while the night crew got ready for the long climb up Townes Pass to Panamint Springs (mile 72).

It's a small world afterall - who should I meet in the pizza restaurant across the road from the Dow Villa but Lorraine "Croc Lady" Gersitz, Janet Waugh and Lori H-C, my San Diego 100 pacer - all friends and Headzettes. The day crew crashed but all to soon it was time to head back to find Dan and the night crew.

More climbing, more endless stretches of nothing, some running, lots of walking. Half mile by half mile, Dan moved closer to the finish line. SaltStick every 30 minutes, GU every 20 minutes, chunks of blueberry muffin, cold cheeseburger, cantaloupe, Gatorade, water. For runners, the focus is to simply keep moving. For crew members, the focus is on the runner - hydration, nutrition, preventing him overheating, taking care of blisters, keeping his spirits up, keeping him moving. It's an exhausting routine but tremendously rewarding too.

6pm came around again and we hadn't quite made Keeler. I calculated that if Dan could maintain 3.5 mi/hr pace, he could reach Lone Pine in 41 hours, giving him 7 hours to climb 12.7 miles and 4,671 feet up to the finish line at Whitney Portal. I was honored that Dan asked me to join Clare in helping him make the final climb. It meant not much sleep for the day crew but we'd intended being with him at the finish anyway.

Unfortunately, the pain from blistered feet took it's toll mentally and Dan didn't make the 48 hour cutoff to buckle. His requests for 10 minute breaks turned into frequent requests for 2 minute breaks. He was struggling, he was totally spent but Dan is not a quitter. He missed it by 8 minutes that's all. His 8th consecutive finish.
Team Marinsik at finish line
I came away with valuable information. This race is amazingly tough both on the runner and crew. Runners battle heat early on, then exhaustion towards the end, not to mention the blisters, chafing, GI issues etc. I saw first hand what Dan went through. I saw Michelle Barton in the worst condition I've ever seen her, both physically and mentally. But both runners pushed through it to finish strong. Amazing! Crewing takes a lot out of you too. You have to take care of yourself as well as your runner. No runner finishes this race on their own. A competent, positive crew is essential.

That said, nothing I saw or experienced out there has changed my mind. I will buckle at Badwater and who knows, one day I might just win it!

Dan Marinsik 48:08:04
Michelle "Badwater" Barton 45:54:20

Sunday, July 4, 2010

180 degree musings

  1. Who on earth shaves in the sauna?

  2. Co-ed saunas are gross! Women-only saunas at least smell a little better.

  3. Worst pick up line - "nice tat" (said by a 40-something shirtless guy with belly hanging out to a cute 20-something girl moments before her boyfriend walked in).

  4. The oddest people frequent 24-Hour Fitness after 9 o'clock at night.

  5. Dry saunas don't seem to get hotter than 180 degrees.

  6. Most women glisten in a lady-like manner; I have beads of sweat within 2 minutes and I'm pouring with sweat within 10 minutes.

  7. Glue doesn't hold together on magazines: Shape lasts just 8 minutes, Women's Health 10 minutes, Self 13 minutes (all June 2010 issues) and the surprising winner.... Women's Running (Jul/Aug 2010) at 16 minutes! Note: I haven't wanted to destroy my copies of Ultra Running and Trail Runner so I don't have data for them.

  8. Ice melts within minutes, iced tea becomes hot tea within 25 minutes.

  9. Pulling out a baggy of Saltstick capsules, some of which have leaked white powder, in the sauna is not advised; I had some serious explaining to do to staff members.

  10. An iPod shuffle can survive an hour in the sauna.

  11. Most people don't sit in the sauna for an hour at a time; I can do so quite comfortably.

After 4 weeks of sauna training, driving everywhere with the windows closed and heater on full blast and a trip to Palm Springs for heat training, I'm ready to crew/pace Dan Marinsik at Badwater next week. Bring it on!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Much more muchier

"You were much more muchier (then)...You've lost your muchness" said the Mad Hatter to Alice. Some folks say it of me these days. But I think I proved them wrong at San Diego 100. Wow, what an experience!

The day started perfectly. I was nervous but not too nervous. My crew and pacers were all fired up ready to go. By the first aid station I was 20 min ahead of my "best case" plan, 40 min ahead by Pine Creek 2 at 36 miles into the race. I had it together mentally and physically. I was on track for 25 hour finish. Then...

As I came out of Pine Creek 2 and began the long, long trek up to Pioneer Mail I was attacked by bees. I was stung multiple times. They went for my arms, my face, into my shirt. Very aggressive. Never having been stung before I wasn't sure about allergic reaction but as I seemed to be OK, I just got really mad. Mad at the bees, the pain of the stings, the fact that the two guys with me took off and left me to it. I killed the bees, pulled out the stingers, picked up everything I had dropped while dancing the bee sting boogie and took off up the hill.

By Sunrise 1 at mile 51.3, I was still ahead by 15 min. Kristen got me out of the aid station fast and off we went. It got really spooky out there after dark. No moonlight, flashlight only, lots of stream crossings, lots of animal sounds. I was starting to slow down, starting to have problems with dizziness and wheezing on hill climbs.

Lori was patiently waiting for me at Sweetwater mile 72.3. I was now an hour behind. I ate, drank and off we went. By now I was struggling. Every time my heart rate went up, I got dizzy. Legs like jello. No energy. Wheezing. My crew figured I just wasn't getting enough calories (I'm notorious for my ability to run 50 miles on sports drink and potato chips). No way was I quitting now so I picked up Dorene at mile 87.5 and we hiked/shuffled to the finish line in 28:00:18. 3 hours slower than I expected but still almost 2 hours faster than last year.

As the finish line volunteers put the medal around my neck, down I went. I simply couldn't breathe. Everyone assumed I was having an asthma attack. Luckily Dorene had an inhaler and after a couple of puffs of it, I was OK. Scared the beejeezus out of RD Scott Mills and my crew.

Turns out, I'm allergic to bee stings. Especially multiple stings. Luckily for me, I had so much adrenaline coursing through my system (from racing, from the way-too-close encounter with a rattler around mile 30, from the bee attack) that I was able to metabolize the venom quickly and keep moving. It may have slowed me down but no way was I quitting. Live and learn. Survive to fight another day (or race course). See you out on the trails... with my epi pen of course!

Many, many thanks to pacers - Kristen, Lori and Dorene - and crew - Shelli, Randy, Sensei Paul and Kellie. Without you guys, I couldn't have done it! Thanks also to my race sponsor, Dr Michael Shalhoub of True2Life. Check out their products at

Also, many thanks to Scott Mills, the Bad Rats and all volunteers - without you, no race is possible. This was an exceptionally well organized race from start to finish. And, although tougher, I do prefer the new course. See you next year!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Memories....

Memorial Day - a day of memory, recollection and prayer for all the U.S. soldiers who died in military service. Thanks and God bless you and your families for your sacrifice.

Gosh, Memorial Day already. Where did March, April and May go? Here's where...

After a great race Old Goat's 50-mile in March where I knocked 30 minutes off last year's finish time, my race plan became a series of "not quites".
* Labor of Love 50-mile, 4/10/10 - dragged the family all the way out to Las Vegas and promptly came down with flu. Too sick to run.
* Leona Divide 50-mile, 4/17/10 - at least I showed up for this one and gave it a try! I now realize that coughing and a fever were probably signs that I was still sick. Kudos to Keira on her first time as RD at Leona.
* PCT 50-mile, 5/8/10 - no running for 3 weeks took its toll and despite the beautiful course and well-organized race, I had a crappy day.
* Whoo's in El Moro 50K - aid station captain. Kudos to Molly for putting on this inaugural race.
* Nanny Goat 12/24/100 - volunteer and barista. What can I say, another great race put on by Steve and Annie Harvey, hosted by BFF Shelli and her folks at the Sexton Horse Ranch. Fun, fun, fun going around and around and around a 1-mile loop.

So, what's next? San Diego 100 on June 12. Again, a series of "not quites" has me on Plan E but I think this one is solid. Pacers and crew are ready and able. I just need to show up at the start line fit and mentally prepared. Bring it on!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chasing Rainbows

I'm back from Costa Rica and The Coastal Challenge Route of Fire. What a week! From lush rainforest to crossing chest-high raging rivers to cold, wet, windy mountains to dry, dusty plains to rock hopping on reefs and beaches. Highs and lows, happiness and sadness... but terrific fun, thanks largely to the friendship and support of the Team Tenacious girls (Jody, Shelli and Beiyi) and camaraderie of my fellow racers. I learned the hard way that a missed turn can cost you the race and I didn't get the result I hoped for but on the way, I made new friends and learned a lot about my existing ones. Here are some of my favorite memories....

Day 1 : La Fortuna - Rancho Margot

Day 2 : Rancho Margot - Tierras Morenas

Day 3 : Tierras Morenas - Cuipilapa

Day 4 : Cuilapa - Curubande

Day 5 : Cuajiniquil Bay - Junquillal Beach

Day 6 : Junquillal Beach - Bolanos Bay

As I watched the antics of some of my fellow racers, I couldn't help but think of the words to Sheryl Crow's "Soak Up The Sun"

I'm gonna soak up the sun
Gonna tell everyone
To lighten up (I'm gonna tell 'em that)
I've got no one to blame
For every time I feel lame
I'm looking up
I'm gonna soak up the sun

Some folks just need to lighten up and enjoy the moment.... Pura Vida!

This was a great race, well-organized, tough at times, very varied terrain as we travelled from the mountains to the Pacific coast. Highly recommended - why not step out of your comfort zone and take The Coastal Challenge?

Huge thanks to Team Tenacious' sponsors:

Special thanks to Jody, Beiyi, Tim Holmstrom, Martin Nobbs and anyone else whose photos I used in this post.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

TCC & Team Tenacious

Do you think these girls (pictured here with their kids)....

fear this....?
No! Bring it on!

Team Tenacious - Tenacious in name, Tenacious in attitude.
Beiyi, Jody, Rachael & Shelli (not pictured)

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Year in Review

Well, another year over and several firsts; first stage race (TCC Rainforest Run), first (trail) 50-mile (Old Goat's 50), first 100-mile (San Diego 100). I must really like the longer distances because I went back for a second and third 50-mile, then a second 100-mile (my fastest, Javelina Jundred). Unfortunately the Chimera won the battle and I didn't get my third 100-mile buckle. Revenge will be sweet in 2010.

Made new friends, lost touch with a couple of old ones. Good times and sad times. Ups and downs. I'm eternally thankful for the support of my husband, boys, family and friends. To sum up my life philosophy.

“All of life is a journey, which paths we take, what we look back on, and what we look forward to is up to us. We determine our destination, what kind of road we will take to get there, and how happy we are when we get there.”

A new year, a new decade - bring it on! Next challenge: TCC Route of Fire. Stay posted.