Tuesday, March 29, 2016

One story from a recent race . . . and of course, potty humor

Wait a sec.  Do you enjoy bathroom humor?  Whoopee cushions?  Fake vomit?  If yes, proceed.  If no, please close this window and peruse something else, because I'd hate to lose your friendship by offending you with the following story.  

I really hesitated to type up this story at all.  I think it's hilarious, and have really enjoyed sharing it face-to-face with folks, but I'm not sure how it will play in written form.  Here goes nothing.

This story comes from a recent ultramarathon I ran in the desert.  Prior to the start of the race, I went to the bathroom, but wished I could've done more.  (Runners, you all know the feeling.)  Around mile 30, I finally felt like it was time.  No one else was in sight; I had passed two male runners maybe half a mile back, so if I was going to go, I should go now.  

Just one problem: to my left, sand.  To my right, sand.  In front of and behind me: sand.  And some scraggly tumbleweeds.  So I got into squat position off the trail, next to two tumbleweeds.  That's when I pondered the next problem: what shall I use to wipe myself?  My usual trail-running toilet paper (rocks, grass, leaves, pinecones facing in the right direction) were nowhere to be seen.  I certainly couldn't use sand: can you imagine the chafing?  

As I glanced down at my hydration vest, inspiration!  It suddenly came to me that I'd been carrying around this quesadilla from an aid station for a couple hours, in the hot sun.  I didn't really want to eat it anyway, by this point.  



I used a quesadilla to wipe myself.  I then buried my business in sand, like a cat, and stood up to continue my race -- just as the two gentlemen I mentioned earlier came into view behind me.  "Whew!  Good timing!" I thought.  

Just then, an older man on horseback came into sight cresting the hill ahead of me.  He pointed to the sky behind me and commented, "Helicopter."  I didn't even bother looking back; this guy must be crazy.  What would a helicopter be doing in the middle of the desert?  Seeing my lack of comprehension, he again pointed and said, "There's a big helicopter behind you!"  In disbelief, I turned my head and saw, approaching from behind, the race director's drone, zooming around to capture footage of the race.  

I was on the course for almost 11 hours.  This was the one time I went to the bathroom, and the one time I saw the drone.  Good timing?  Or the worst timing ever?  I'm not sure what the range of a drone camera is.  If it did get footage of me with the quesadilla . . . well, that may be the next big viral video.  And if so, maybe I'll be on Good Morning America or something.  And you can all say you knew me when . . .

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Race report: Mesquite Canyon 50M

Short on time?  Here's the condensed version:

The night before the race, I wrote in my journal that I was feeling a combination of anxious/nervous/scared.  To quote my journal entry, "I just have no idea what to expect from the trails, how I'll feel, when I'll finish, anything!"  I have never run a mountain race before, I was up against mostly local runners who presumably have some experience on the course, and I'd gotten dire warnings about the intense toughness of the course from my friend Chris, who had run the 50k before:
But then I revisited my journal entry from the night before Rocky Raccoon 100M, where I had written a prayer I heard from my pastor back home in Minnesota, Fr. Richard: "God, you're here with me now.  You'll be with me then.  So I let go."  

After praying this, I felt my stress level immediately go down.  I released any pretense of control and just relaxed, realizing everything was in God's hands.  Even during the race, I repeated the prayer to myself, when I'd feel myself starting to worry over what place I was in, how I was feeling, etc.  After I finished, as people asked how my race was, all I could think to say was, "It was fun!"  And that was the truth.  Thanks to my new-found relaxed attitude, I just really enjoyed the day.  I never really had any low spots, and I smiled a lot.  The end. . . . unless you want the longer version:

The Longer Version:

I arrived in Phoenix the afternoon before the race, picked up my rental, and drove to White Tank Mountain Regional Park.  My rental car was my hotel room for the night, and it provided 8 hours of sleep . . . although I woke up once every hour to attempt to find a more comfortable position.  (Never happened.)

Wise words from my friend Edward gave me some encouragement:

In the morning, I spotted Jamil Coury (fangirl!), set out my drop bags, and admired the laid-back atmosphere of Aravaipa's races.  No runners approached the start line until literally 5 minutes before race time, when the race coordinator made some announcements about the course markings.  And then we were off!  I set out on my "All Day" pace, since that's how long we'd be out.  I never let myself think of it as a race until at least halfway through -- for better or worse, that's my strategy.

The 50-mile race was two loops: the first loop followed the 50k course, and the second loop followed the 30k course.  During the first loop, I toggled between 3rd, 4th, and 2nd place.  Although I loved the beautiful desert views -- mountains, saguaro, flowering cacti -- I kept my focus on my right foot, which I re-injured last week at the Pandora's 52M race, making sure to not take any bad steps and roll it again.  Coming into the start/finish at the end of loop 1, the 1st female, Jen, passed me heading out on her second loop.  I judged that she was about 2 miles ahead of me.

Loop 2: Pulling out all the Stops

The second loop, for me, means the race has really started.  So I gave up my "All Day" pace and switched to a push.  I also pulled out all my tricks:
  1. Music!  Everyone should have Neil Diamond's "Brother Love's Traveling Show" on hand for races.
  2. Pedialyte.  As my buddy Edward says, "Electrolytes!  It's what plants need!"
  3. Caffeine pill
  4. Ice in my hydration bladder.  And after every ice-cold sip, blowing through the nozzle so the water didn't hang out in the tube getting warm.
  5. Replaying inspirational quotes in my head from my current favorite video, which everyone should watch.  "Think of it this way.  It took 11 Apollo missions to make it to the moon.  So you have 10 tries before I consider you a failure."  "Feeling like a loser 'cause you only have $5 in your pocket?  Well, you still have $53,000,005 more than Kanye West."
Amusing the Passers-By

Owing to the beautiful, mid-70s weather, tons of hikers were out and about on the trails.  They were all very kind to move aside for the racers and offer encouraging words.  I entertained a small group of them when I (for about the 6th time that day) tripped and stubbed my right toes against a rock.  They emitted a collective gasp, but I just kept running and called back to them, "It happens!" which seemed to amuse them very much.

The one not-pleasant interaction with a hiker came on my 3rd journey up Goat Climb, a tough ascent.  I was laboring up the climb, hands on knees, when a leisurely hiker coming down told me, "At the rate you're going, you won't get anywhere for hours!"  Me externally: "That's cruel." *good-natured chuckle*  Me internally: Thanks, a-hole.

Deep Questions

I did that thing I do, where I don't want to stop to pee, because it's a race and all, so I hold it for 30 miles.  Does anyone else do this?  It can't be good for me, I know.  My Garmin read 33.25 miles when I finally stopped to go.  I wonder what the record is for holding it.


When I picked up my headlight around 3pm (just in case I didn't make it to the finish line before dark), it was already turned on.  It had probably been on ALL DAY.  Dang it.  I could hear Edward's voice in my head: "WTF, Julie, learn how to use your damn headlamp!"  Sorry, Edward!  Please sign me up for your next headlamp class.  At least that was good motivation to hurry up and finish before dark.  

Iron Stomach for the Win

I usually bring my own nutrition to races, but since packing space was limited, I relied on aid stations for most of my nutrition this time.  Coming into the Bajada aid station on loop 2, I said, "You guys had the best bean burritos last time."  The volunteer responded, "The secret is, it's from a can.  And we take it out and let it breathe for four hours in the hot desert sun."  I said, "You could tell me anything, and I'll still eat it."

Unsurprisingly, my 2nd bean burrito made my tummy hurt.

Surprisingly, my 3rd bean burrito made me feel great.

PS: That 3rd bean burrito fell on the ground, but I still ate it.  Now with minerals!

All 3 bean burritos were somewhere in my digestive tract when I passed Jen, who had stopped to puke.  I felt almost ashamed of my careless burrito ingestion when she was unable to tolerate anything at all.  I offered her ginger chews and Tums, but she said she just needed to stop for a bit.  After I passed her, I really put on the gas, not wanting to relinquish the lead and never knowing just how far back Jen was, and if she was feeling better.  Sadly, at the finish line I learned that she had to pretty much walk it in from that point, which was about 10 miles from the end.  She was so determined and strong to keep going!


This was honestly the first race in my life where I've been a little disappointed to see the finish line.  It was just such a fun day, I was sad to see it come to an end.  But how cool to see friends at the finish line, when you feel like you're in a foreign land and don't know anyone!  I saw Dave James, who I met at Team RWB Trail Camp, and who is now working at Aravaipa.  And I met Ana, a Rockhopper who hangs out with Tanya and Jason.  It was great talking with Dave and Amy, and Ana and her family, as well as Jen and her friends.  The wood-fired pizza and beer were nice touches, too.

At the finish, with Dave James

Meeting Ana, a Rockhopper from San Antonio, who finished her 50k!

We missed the 3rd place female!
Didn't need the headlamp, thank goodness.  Approaching the finish.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Pandora's 52.4M Race: Pop Quiz

I went into this race giving myself "permission" to have fun, and not worry about my placing, my time, etc.  As it turns out,

a) this was a very good thing, considering I didn't race that well, and
b) it's easier said than done, having fun at a race that isn't going well.

Fortunately, there's always another race. . . . like the one next weekend.  Or the one the weekend after that.  Yep, 3 ultras in 3 weeks -- one major reason I gave myself that "permission" in the first place.  Anyway, once I got to the halfway point of today's race, I did genuinely enjoy myself.  And I learned a lot throughout the race.

Here is a quick summary of my race, in quiz format, because why not.  Answer key at the bottom.

Loop 1 

When the sun finally rose partway through this loop, we saw:
a) bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes
b) cool rock formations
c) miles and miles of vistas from the top of the granite dome
d) high water in the stream crossings and the lake
e) all of the above

Photo Credit: Darcy McMaughan

Loop 2

When I rolled my foot really, really, bad, and the pain level felt beyond manageable, I found the best remedy was to:
a) mutter the f word over and over for about a minute
b) brusquely tell the polite guys who were trying to help me to "Just go! Run your race!"
c) walk it off
d) think briefly about quitting and then remind myself there's no f---ing way you're quitting a race
e) all of the above

Photo Credit: Darcy McMaughan
Loop 3

Which of the following represents my thoughts as I listened to my running playlist?
a) Dang! I forgot Donald Trump is mentioned in "Country Grammar."  Don't let that ruin the song for you, Jules!
b) You're right, Miley, there is always going to be another mountain.  And I will always want it to move.
c) Whatever happened to Crazy Town?  I only know this one song.
d) There is no better running song than the Footloose song.  Hands down.
e) all of the above.

Loop 4

To manage the heat, I tried:
a) wearing white arm sleeves
b) asking volunteers to scoop ice into my bra
c) sucking on ice from said portable ice chest (pun intended)
d) drinking copious amounts of water and Tailwind
e) all of the above

Answers: e, duh!

Like always, it's a gift to get to run -- just run, and not worry about work or schoolwork or anything beyond putting one foot in front of the other.  And it's a gift to get to run with my friends, particularly the Rockhoppers.  After the race, a couple of us enjoyed some hard-earned pizza pie.