Saturday, June 26, 2010

My first Ultra - Scorched Soul 2010

Hello pain, nice to meet you. Now p*^%$ off!

That was part of what kept me going today in my first 50k trail race (with over 1700m of elevation gain I might add), and first win of the year. Today, I was able to try a new technique of observing the pain, the negative thought, or destructive emotion and then placing it outside my body and detaching from it. It worked famously. Like watching a movie. It never became a part of ME and I was able to push through this incredibly tough race with ease.

It's been a frustrating year in that I have been second at every race I have entered, and had to drop out of the marathon in Vancouver after training for it for months.

But today, everything just seemed to fall into place. I had my best race in a long time and part of that was just feeling incredible the entire time.

After a week of not running and paddling around the ocean up near Prince Rupert, I wasn't sure my legs would even remember how to run this morning. We got to the race at 630am for a 7am start which was plenty of time to finish my coffee and stand in the lineup for the biff. Temps were perfect at about 18 but I had purposely eaten a lot of salt yesterday in an effort to retain some water and prevent potential hyponatremia, knowing that the forecast was for 30 degrees today. I had a bigger than normal breakfast for me, as I usually don't eat much on the morning of the race. It seemed to do the trick. Felt great to have a really full belly of banana and (eeek! don't tell anyone!) a snickers bar. OMG. Yes. A snickers bar. A lot of people ask me what I eat before a race and I really can't say I have a set breakfast. It totally depends on what I've eaten that week and what I feel my body needs. I just listen to my gut (literally) and it usually tells me what I want. And this morning it was Vega Sport, water, coffee, banana and a small snickers bar. I felt great.

After the gun went off, I got out in front, as I like to do. We climbed for more than 10k before hitting a dirt road, just past the second aid station. I grabbed some water but was basically ok up until the 14k aid station, where I stopped for a swig of more Vega Sport and a gel. More climbing but this time through rocky, wet and very muddy creek beds. The footing was terrible and I was pretty sure I was going to roll an ankle or better yet end up face first in the creek, but I was able to run almost the entire way up to the next aid station at 19k, just before the ascent to the summit and turn around point.

The only thing that really slowed me down on the way up was having to stop and stretch every 20 minutes or so. After Vancouver, I just couldn't risk seizing up again and figured I should take a proactive approach and just chill on going out too hard and fast. Again, I consciously listened to my body and stretched as soon as I felt pain, which actually got quite bad at some points. The climb was slow. Really slow. We're talking 9 minute kms. But I was ok with it. I knew that after the halfway point it was all down hill and figured I could make up some time on the way down.

After passing the 19k mark, I had another package of Vega Sport and ditched my pack in the bushes. It was just me and the music all the way to the summit. More mud, creeks and after a couple km's, snow! Yup. Snow in Kelowna. At least 3km of deep snow all the way to the top. Made for some interesting slip and slide trying to stay on track. A little slow but nonetheless a great distraction. At this point I was still in the leed and running past a few of the 80k females I got a lot of "go sista!" and "go get those guys!" to which I responded "that's the plan"! There were 5 or 6 guys ahead of me and as I still hadn't seen any of them and was nearing the summit, I thought I might try Ellie Greenwood's approach of "chicking" the guys. No such luck.

Almost missed the turn around (typical Amy didn't pay attention on the start line) at the top. Luckily I stopped after a few meters and asked some of the 80k runners that I was following and they politely guided me back to the bag of numbers that I had to grab to prove I had been to the summit.

The descent was all about footing. And after growing up in Canmore, years of hiking, backpacking and mountaineering I knew that I had to pay attention or the race was over.

So while I was lucky enough not to roll my ankle, it was at this point that the pain really set in. My hip flexors had been pretty sore on the way up but this pain was muscles seizing, knees, calves, ankles. At 30k I bent over in a downward dog to stretch and realized that my ankles were caked in blood. I hadn't even noticed the blisters forming, let alone popping and bleeding. So I stopped, pulled my sox up a little higher and kept moving. I thought about Jasmine and Natalie, felt the bracelets they had made me for this race and our week apart, and sent them out a whole bunch of love on our silver wire. (A magical, unbreakable and invisible wire we use that connects our hearts whenever we are apart, to send each other love. Something my dad had invented when I was little). Additionally, it was incredible how well the new technique of "observing" this pain and placing it outside of my body worked. I felt like I was floating (or maybe I was just getting delusional). Either way, it worked.

I prayed, let go, and floated. When I can, I pray during races. It really helps me to focus and let go and remember what's really important in life. For this one, if I had held back on the downhills my legs would have seized up even more. I had to just relax and ride it down. I had lots of energy, took gels at every station and just cruised. Passing the 32k point (where I dropped out in Vancouver) and the 42k point made me even stronger. I had run a smart race, which is uncharacteristic for a girl who likes to get ahead of herself and then blow up. As I passed the last aid station with 4.8k to go I felt incredible. I couldn't see any women behind me so I just cooked down the hot dirt trail, averaging 4minute kilometers, crossing the finish line in 5 hour and 19 minutes. The longest, steepest race I've ever done but I felt great.