>Mt. Washington

>

A few weeks ago I headed up to New England for a sweet hiking trip up Mt. Washington. This is a hike I have wanted to do for quite some time, and even with looking for a reservation back in June, this was the first available night at the hut at the top of the mountain.

Blah blah blah I started writing this post awhile ago and apparently never finished. And now I don’t really feel like it so the short version is:
hiked Mt. Washington
went up Huntington’s Ravine. It was mad hard and I thought I was going to die at some parts. Lots of danger.
Didn’t die, the summit was awesome. Lake in the Clouds was also awesome. Nothing like sleeping in bunk beds with 100 other people.
Awesome trip, would definitely recommend the adventure to anyone!

>”That tastes like Kelly Clarkson…”

>quote courtesy of Mike Zero after drinking my awes pink gatorade on our awes super long ride today!

Also spotted on this ride: a sign for my new fav city…and where I’ll prob move soon…
IJAMSVILLE! If only it was Myjamsville…..sigh….

>Prov Seventy Point Three

>

Last weekend I raced the Ironman Rhode Islandm 70.3 in Providence, RI. As soon as I got to the Providence area on Sunday, I remembered why this race was such a pain last year: lots of driving. Up to Prov for a race packet, down to Roger Wheeler State Beach to drop off the bike, up to Warwick for dinner/hotel. Finally its back to Roger Wheeler in the morning. Sunday morning was cold and windy. Windy is never a good thing at a swim start for me. Especially when it’s so windy they postponed the start about 30 minutes to fix the bouys, and they added a bike-run race option for those who were too nervous to swim. The nerves were there, but I lined up for the beach-start, and sprinted into the water with the rest of the 18-29 year old women. I made it over the first few breakers and saw people dolphin diving and starting to swim, so I followed suit. However, I soon found myself getting slammed by some waves and getting nowhere. For the first time, I actually found myself somewhat freaking out. The only thing left to do was to put my head down and get myself out past the breakers. I managed to get pretty far wide of the course by the time I was settled, but I quickly worked with the rhythm of the waves to get into a groove. The return trip was much easier, letting the swells push me forward. Odds are the swim was a bit short, but either way I swam a 34:xx which was long enough for me. Finally out of the water and onto land.

I love the first few miles of this bike course. Fast and down by the water, I felt great. What hundred miles? I was thinking. Haha, oh how soon things change. The overcast and cool weather was quickly giving way to a hot day. The middle of the bike course is hilly, and the end this year was challenging in that we had to battle numerous railroad tracks, traffic, and a few good hills. However, it wasn’t the hills or the railroad tracks that was getting to me. It was the fact that in the last 10 miles of the ride, I felt like mini steamrollers were attached to each of my quads and rolling over them. There was no way around it: my legs were shot. I kept putting the questions to the back of my head: did I have anything left for the run?

Both of my transitions actually went really well this race, and I hit the run looking strong. That lasted maybe a half mile to “the hill.” If you’ve ever been in Providence you know the hill that I’m talking about. That hill seemed to suck all of the life out of me, and from then on it was aid station to aid station, mind over matter, forcing myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Had I had fresh legs and run the same (or close) as Eagleman, I would have been on my way to a 3: 25 and a 10 minute PR for the course. Instead, I was struggling to get those 13 miles in under 2 hours for any sort of PR. The sun was in full force, and the temps were at 87 degrees. It was hot and I was not happy. Needless to say, the end was in sight and I managed a 35 or so second improvement from last year. Both my swim and bike were faster, while my run fell about 4 minutes slower.

If this were an ordinary year, and I was using this race as my last tune-up before IM Louisville, I’d be pretty worried. However, I am well aware that this is not an ordinary year for me. My training is at a new level, and I did run 100 miles 2 weeks prior to this race. An improvement of any sort – even a matter of seconds – shows me that I truly am at a new level of fitness, and I am ready to take on Louisville in 6 weeks. This past week was all about the rest. I will not forgot how bad my legs hurt after that race; without rest they would not make it through another hard 4 week training phase. So, I took a lot of time off, got some more time in the pool, and fine tuned my training plan for the weeks to come. My training leading up to the race is coming straight from beIRONfit by Don Fink, so hopefully that will go well.

>Western States

>

First and foremost, I’d like to say that spending 28 hours doing anything is not enjoyable. Not sleeping, not eating ice cream, not watching reality TV. 28 hours is a long time, and I found that out the hard way. However, everything I encountered on my 28 hour run is something that will stay with me for a very long time.

Brad and I arrived in Squaw Valley on Wednesday. I immedietly fell in love with the area. Everything was so clean, the mountains were gorgeous, and everywhere you went you were provided with miles of roads and trails to run and bike. I did short runs on Wed/Thurs/Fri and didn’t really “feel” the altitude. Sure, I noticed it, but I certainly didn’t feel impaired by it or anything. Arjun and Jen joined us late Thursday night and before I knew it, it was Friday and the race preparations were on. We stood in line for about 45 minutes to check in. They gave out some pretty sweet stuff – T-shirts, a fleece and a backpack. I had to weigh in, get my blood pressure checked, and most importantly, scope out the competition. I can honestly say I have never before stood among such fit people.

With that behind me, it was now a matter of getting through the worst part of the trip: the waiting. We couldn’t do anything super sweet since I was supposed to be resting, so we settled on going out to Lake Tahoe and a lunch with Frannie and Gill and their crew. We had a good time, Frannie and Gill answered all our last minute questions and then we headed back to the hotel to put together the final race plan. This included mapping out crew directions, making the final call as to what aid stations they would be at, and organizing my nutrition stuff and giving them a plan for what to have ready for me at each stop. Then, we made dinner, and as soon as I felt a little drowsy, I was off to bed.

3:30 in the morning came pretty quickly. I ate breakfast, went and picked up my chip and number, and then returned to the room for the final preparations. It was pretty chilly when we finally went out to the start around 4:45, but I was so nervous I barely noticed. The countdown came and went, and before I knew it I was hiking up the 4-mile trail to Escarpment. In these first 4 miles, you climb over 2500 feet, and it took me 1:03. I hiked the entire thing, but looking back I was still moving faster than I probably should have. Either way, I still gave myself a much more conservative start than most. In fact, the leaders were so eager to get moving, they took a wrong turn about 100 meters into the race and had to backtrack. It was pretty cool to be ahead of Scott Jurek and Hal Koerner for all of 30 seconds!

As I pulled myself up and over (yes, pulled myself…it was that steep) I had seven miles of downhill running with some of the best views I have ever seen in my life. It was awesome. I tried to balance my excitement with the voice in my head telling me to be conservative, so I stayed with a group and just let myself run, but didn’t push it too hard. By mile 16, I noticed that it was actually hot. That’s not a good sign at 8:30 in the morning. Neither is having to fill up your hat with ice to stay cool. I kept to my nutrition plan and just had to hope that my 2 bottles would be enough to get me to Robinson Flat. Unfortuantely, it wasn’t. I left Duncan Canyon and had 6 miles to get to my crew at Robinson Flat. I ran the first 3-4 miles, and stopped at the bottom to douse myself in cool creek water before starting the 2.5ish mile climb up to the aid station. Within the first 30 minutes of the climb, I was out of water. Hungry, hot, tired and dehydrated is probably the worst way to arrive at the first stop your crew can see you. I had to hop on the scale first, and the doctor took one look at me and said “you look….dry.” Yeah, thanks. I tried to just step around him but he held me there and looked me in the eyes and said “no, really, are you okay?” Yes, I replied, just thirsty. My crew is here, I’ll be fine. He let me go and I took a handful of foods, a couple of cups and went down to where the crews were stationed. Ready with mountain dew and smiles, they were great, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that things weren’t going well. I was 20 minutes behind the 24hr projected time, but that didn’t worry me. What worried me that I felt like shit. There was no way around it.

I said some choice words about how I felt to Brad, and in an effort to give me a boost he said “well, at least you don’t have to worry about Jenn Shelton anymore…we are pretty sure she died.” Granted this was a bit of an exaggeration, but sure enough I found out later that my biggest age-group competition did drop at mile 30. I can’t say I blame her. I tried to wash down a PB&J with some mountain dew, and promptly threw it back up. Crap. I looked up and just kept seeing more women come through, so I made the rash decision to just get up and go. About 200 yards after that, I stopped and puked again. Great. After another mile-long climb, we had a 3 mile descent to the next stop. This so called descent was a double edged sword though. Steep switchbacks were a quad-killer, plus it was in the wide-open sunlight. Any tree cover that may have been there once was no longer due to the forest fires last year. Again, it was hot. And dry. And dusty. I made it to the next aid station and made a beeline for a chair under the tent. Again, I tried eating, but nothing except watermelon was going down. I am not sure how long I was there, but a doctor came over after a bit and told me that his one peice of advice is just to keep moving. He said if you stay in one place too long, it’s only going to get harder (reminds me of my dad’s famous words of wisdom for my races: “well alyssa, it’s only going to get worse from here.”)

I nodded, but I’m sure my face just spelled out my doubts. Then came pivotal moment #1. An old man, probably 70 or even 80 years old, walked over to me and bent over so he was looking right at me. How do you feel? He said. I shrugged and said, well, I’ve certainly felt better. How old are you? 24. He got this very serious look in his eyes, shook his finger right in my face and said “I want you to promise me one thing today. Tell me that you promise you will not give up on yourself today. Just don’t give up, and you’ll finish.” I’m not sure why, but that man struck a chord with me. He helped me clear my mind. It wasn’t about making it in under 24 hours. It wasn’t about winning my age group. It was about getting to run around that track and finish the race. I had had dreams of that track since last December, and dammit, I was going to be there this weekend. I didn’t want to wait for it anymore.

Somewhat inspired, I got up and jogged on. I wish I could say that from that moment on, it all got better. But, true as my dad’s words, it actually got worse. I made it about a half mile before I felt overwhelmed with heat, dizziness, and nausea. Dry heaving, I sat down on a rock. I didn’t know what to do, and after a few minutes two women who were safety volunteers on the course came up. They asked if I was okay and for the first time that day I said no, I wasn’t. One of them ran back to the aid station to get me some crackers, while the other talked me through the race thus far – what had I eaten, drinking, am I cramping, etc. I kept telling them I’d be fine, just move on, but they refused to leave me. In fact, they promised me that they’d get me up and running and up to Foresthill (mile 62) where their shift was over and my pacer would be. They wouldn’t let me quit. In those 20-30 minutes, I was passed. A lot. I saw Justine Morrison (my other age group competitor) go by. I saw others who were just happily running along. And there were others who didn’t look so happy, but at least they were moving which was more than I could have said. Finally I was ready to get up. I managed a slow run to the next aid station, where I got some potatos and chicken broth in me. Just keep moving.

The next part of the race felt like a bad record stuck on repeat. Down quad-burning switchbacks for a couple miles, then back up identical ones on the other side. Soon I was facing the infamous climb up Devil’s thumb. That one mile climb took me one hour. I don’t know if it was my nutrition, the heat, the altitude, or all of the above, but I have never been so tired climbing up a mountain. Finally, I made it up to Devil’s Thumb, and for the first time I honestly thought I might really make it to the end. But as I looked down at my watch and saw that I was within 7 minutes of the 30 hour cutoff, I realized there was still a lot of work to be done. I checked in with my new besties the safety runners and let them know I was going to take off, I’d see them up there. They caught me after 2 miles and said I was making great time. It was more of the same as we went on, only now I was paying attention to taking breaks on the downhills to eat, drink and recover. I was feeling likea new person, I didn’t want to ruin that again. At last I was at mile 52 of the race, and had one more 3 mile climb up to Michigan Bluff where I’d see my crew again. At the bottom I came across Justine, laying down on the ground with her hands over her head. “It’s just not my day” she said shaking her head when I tried to encourage her. I understood, and I went back to my own seat, where I promptly threw up so hard my ab muscles seized and cramped and I was stuck in the throwing up position for a couple minutes before the muscles released. Awesome. The WS powers that be were not going to let me feel better even for a minute. Up we went, and finally I came striding into Michigan Bluff, and I could see the looks of shock written all over Arjun, Jen and Brad’s faces. “you look so much better” was all they kept saying. I know, I know I said. But I had to keep moving.

At this point it was 8pm. I had gained some time on the cutoff, but I was able to pick up my pacer here because I was so close. So Brad got ready to go, and we took off. The next few parts are a blur. It got dark, and we kept running. Up and down, up and down. There was never an opportunity to stretch the legs out on a flat section and really run. It was always up or down. Not to mention it was up or down on the side of a mountain. One wrong move could easily send you tumbling down into the darkness.

Coming through Foresthill at mile 62, I had gained 45 minutes on the cutoff. A quick change of the shirt and shoes, and I was able to give my feet a small bit of relief. It was still dark though, and I was still running. And I still had a long way to go. I got into a routine at the aid stations: sitting, eating 2 cups of broth, 1 Gu, a cup of soda and some chips. Sometimes it came back up, sometimes it didn’t. I stuck with it until the river crossing. Crossing Rucky Chucky is another one of those pivotal sections. It’s one of the great moments you have heard and read so much about, and finally it’s your turn. The cool water presented some relief, and my mind was somewhat at ease because I had always heard that after the river crossing, it’s “easy.” Let’s just say, whoever thinks that, is dead wrong. Not counting the 1.25 mile climb out of the river, I still had a long rocky and mountainous way to go. In many respects I was glad it was dark so I couldn’t really see what was coming. Although the next 20 miles probably took me 5.5 hours, it went by fast. The sun rose again, and before I knew it I was finally at mile 98.6 where Arjun and Jen were ready to head to the finish with me. Of course, it was “a mean 1.3 miles” remaining, as Arjun pointed out.

My lap around the track was pretty unreal. I crossed the finish line in 28:09:30, weighed in (gain of 2 pounds!) and finally sat down, this time for good. For the first time in a long time, I had finished a race where I didn’t care about my place. I had no idea where I finished, and it simply didn’t matter. Western States taught me that I never want to be the runner who drops at 30 miles because it’s hard. I never want to be the runner who drops because it’s simply not my day, and I won’t win this one. For the first time in a long time, I was at a race where I’d be lucky to do well, but I was luckier to have even gotten there in the first place. Coming back from a rough start and gaining almost 2 hours on the cutoff time taught me more than winning, and hopefully I can keep this perspective for all my races in the future.

The next day at the incredibly hot a miserable award ceremony, I received my bronze belt buckle. It no longer mattered to me that it wasn’t silver. By staying out there when things got bad, I proved to myself certain things, and I showed that I respected not only the race, but the sport. Sometimes you have to be humbled to really feel like you won. In a strange turn of events, I also found out at the awards ceremony that I did in fact win my age group. It was a sweet icing on the cake to follow in the footsteps of so many women runners who have won the age group before me, but it no longer carried the weight it did before. Every bit of that awards belongs to my crew, the women who ran with me, and the man who told me not to give up on myself, just as much as it may belong to me.

“We had done this thing we had set out to do, and instead of becoming larger because of the experience, we became smaller, more humble more aware of how little we know: about the world in general, about ourselves specifically.”

– Richard Benyo in “The Death Valley 300.”

>Snacks and Activities

>It has come to my attention that a lot can be accomplished in 24 hours. I hope to run 100 miles in that time frame. However, many other activities can also be completed. My dear friend Brennan took the time to compile a list of activities that he thought may be suitable for the time period in which I’m running, and I’d like to share that list with you:
* Puzzles
* Lazer tag
* 14 mile run
* Capture the flag at Patapsco
* Purchase a dog at BARCS
* Watch Field of Dreams on the scoreboard at the ballpark
* Sleep on the roof
* Donate a dog to BARCS

I think this is a great idea, and I’d like to issue a challenge. Who can compile the sweetest list of activites that they completed in the time period of 8am EST on Saturday – 8am EST on Sunday?

Howevs, I hope at some point in that day, you go to http://webcast.ws100.com/ to track my progress or sign up for e-mail alerts!!!

>A Race

>

It’s not too often that an endurance race come down to just seconds. But when it does, it’s the greatest reminder that these events – no matter how long, or how much people say that they are only competing against themselves – are still as much of a race as a 10 mile or a marathon.

There’s no better way to tell this story than through these pictures. After 70.3 miles of racing, it all came down to this: defending Ford Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander and Chris Lieto sprinting to the line.

>Shut up and put your money where your mouth is…

>It’s getting to that time. We’re within the 10 day window of Western States. A lot of predictions have been made. A lot of expectations have been set. But, in the words of Katy Perry’s “Waking up in Vegas” it’s about that time to shut up, and put your money where your mouth is. It doesn’t matter anymore who everyone thinks will be first — what matters now is whose bank has the money in it, whose barn has the hay, and will they show up next Saturday and have a flawless race?

I can’t even properly convey through my limited but amazing vocab how excited I am for this race. In search of a little motivation, I wanted to share two things. The first is a quote from AJW’s blog:

“In the last 30 miles of a 100 miler everybody’s hurting. Everybody is way beyond physical fatigue and mental, emotional, and psychological fatigue is setting in, Big Time. If you want to succeed in these things you need to know that, dig deep, and fight it. In the end, you need to race every step like there’s someone three minutes ahead of you and someone three minutes behind you.”

The second, is Jeff Johnson’s speech to Borderclash runners the night before the 2001 race.

>Eaglemania

> **Special thanks to Bobby Gill for snapping some sweet pics of me at the race! This one is especially awes because you can see my parents cheering for me just over my shoulder!**

The weekend of Eagleman plus my super sweet 24th birthday started with (drum roll please) work! Yay! Shoot me. Whatever, I actually was able to get out a little early, and Ryan and I rolled out to Cambridge. When I saw my number was 1869, I thought that could be sign #1 that I was going to have a good race (Anything with 4, 13, or 69 is always good luck). Pleased with that, I headed over with Claire, Ryan and his friend OJ to rack my bike. I got on for a little test ride and good thing I did, because I found out that my bike wouldn’t shift into the big chain. Uh oh….there was no way I could be competitive if I didn’t have a big ring. Luckily Jammaster OJizle is savvy enough with the bicycles to know what to do and helped me fix the problem and at least get me through the race. Whew.

Anyway, back to the race, we racked our bikes and took a little swim. Ryan got stung by some jellyfish, but didn’t really complain about it at all. I think I would have. We headed out to the hotel in Salisbury and ate din at the Green Turtle. We watched the storms blow through that were strong enough to knock off my sweet plastic bags I had fastened to my bike that day. Oh well. Sign #2 that this race would be awes was that we pulled up tot he hotel and parked next to not one, but TWO UVA vehicles. Bonus! Thanks to Ryan for helping make my birthday a good time despite the circumstances of racing the next day!

The early morning came and the cloud cover was a blessing. The wind, however, was not. By the time my wave came, the wind and the boats had stirred the water up a little bit. But, I still swam 1 minute faster than at Providence, so I’ll take it.
I got to T1, felt like it was pretty quick and just as I was about to step out I realized that everyone around me was wearing their race number belts already. Huh? Then I felt like I sort of remembered doing that at Providence. I thought it was an Ironman regulation or something, but maybe it was just because Providence was point to point or something? (If anyone can clarify this please do!!). Either way, I didn’t want a penalty so I stashed my bike on the closest rack, ran all the way back to get it, and then headed out. The course is pancake flat, and I honestly wanted to die after about 10 miles. I have never pedaled so much, and doing that ride felt just as hard as the almost-90 mile ride I did a few weeks ago, especially with the strong headwind on the last 10 miles. I was able to pass about 4 girls from my age group on the bike though, so I knew I was probably inching my way up to the top. I still knew of at least 2 people ahead of me though.

T2 went well, and I headed out on the run. The two things that stand out in my mind here are 1. I felt really tall and 2. My steps are so small right now this run is going to take forever. A girl (Cate) in my age group caught me at this point, we chatted and made friends (can you believe it? I was actually friendly!). We passed another girl in our age group, and we knew there was one other girl who was way outta reach. At that point I had a feeling that there was no one else in between, but you can never be sure. Cate began to drop back (or did I begin to pull forward) and I had to make a decision. Do I step it up and “go for it in the run” because there might be another girl out there? Or do I just sit tight, knowing that ultimately I am tapering for WS? I went with the latter. My splits were somewhere in the 8-8:30 range, and I felt extremely comfortable. I was throwing back the soda, water, and gatorade at the water stops like it was my job and felt great by mile 4. My legs had come alive! I knew that if I held on to this, the chicks that I had passed wouldn’t catch me. A big thanks to Arjun and Alex for being out there on the course, they gave me that extra umph in the beginning when I wasn’t sure how it would go.

I hit the turnaround and it was all downhill from there into the finish. I also ran into my old marathon coach at the end who had just done his first triathlon ever (but has done 34 marathons) and so I think I may do some summer/fall training down in Annapolis with the team this year. As always, I’m extremely lucky to have a great group of friends and parental units, so thanks to everyone! And congrats to Ryan, Claire, Rudy and Spider who also had dece-double-plus days of racing!

My nutrition for the day which worked perfectly (I actually lessened it when I saw the cloud cover for the morning) was: 4 endurolytes – 1 before, 2 before the bike and 1 before the run. 1 bottle of Perpetuem on the bike. 1 bottle of water with a Nuun tablet on the bike. 1/2 a bottle of gatorade on the bike. 2 GUs on the bike, 2 GUs on the run. Ice at every stop on the run; water on my face/head at every stop; gatorade and pepsi to drink at every stop.

Numbers wise, I finished in 5:19:10 with a 16 minute PR from Providence! I nailed 2nd in my age group (a technicality actually got me first when they bumped up the first place girl to 3rd place amateur). But best of all, I was able to get that slot for the 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, FL this November! Some people question how I’m able to not even blink about throwing down 300 bones to pay for a race where I’ll get smoked at. But seriously, this is probably my only chance to get there for awhile as I move up an age group next year and will face much stiffer competition. PLUS my UVA Tri friends Rudy and Andrew will be there, so some fun times will ensue I’m sure. I’m pretty pumped with how the day ended up and I’m even more pumped to get things ready to head out to CALLLIFFORRRNIAAAAA (said like in the OC theme song, obvi).

>Introducing….

>

Amelia Cupcake Bedelia

Height: comes up to your shins
Weight: About 10 pounds but she won’t stay still on the scale
Eyes: Green, just like her mother
Favorite food: Burritos (also just like her mother)
Likes: licking things, catnip, building sandcastles in the litter box
Dislikes: Loud noises and men