Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Elsay Lake hike

This past Sunday, Jenna and I did the hike to Elsay Lake, and although it was a longer study break than intended it was not unwelcome. Turns out that Elsay lake is the beautiful back side of Mt. Seymour that you'll want to see! That being said, this was a challenging route, so plan appropriately.

The stats:
Distance: 19.9km round trip
Climbing: 1160m ascent/1160m descent
Time: 6hours (that's how long it took us with some running, a lot of walking and no stops)

Starting from the Seymour parking lot, we headed toward the trail and the sign post for Dog Mountain. Instead of taking the sharp left to Dog, we headed up Mt. Seymour trail, still to the left, but you can tell it's going to go straight up the mountain. This part is a good incline and a bit rocky but everything is well packed in, so definitely runnable in portions. After about 2km uphill, just before the first pump of Seymour, we reached a bit of a plateau and a sign post indicating the direction to Elsay Lake and Elsay Mountain. The distance markers were rubbed off, but it was clear where to go. We were sure because of the warning signs saying "not the way to the parking lot" and the overhead cable signs indicating the extreme risk of avalanche. After questioning what we were doing and the meaning of life, we proceeded past the signs to the first descent. This section wound between the forested section on the right and the boulder field on the left, dropping about 250m.

First descent after the turn-off from Mt. Seymour trail.
From here the trail stayed left to cross the boulder field. This section was still downhill, but somewhat less steep, dropping another 50 meters or so.

Crossing the boulder field below the peaks of Mt. Seymour. Trail is visible on the far side of the valley.
Despite the hot summer we had, there was still some snow on the trail. I'm guessing this route is not accessible for a good portion of the year, and given the potential for avalanches in winter, perhaps not the smartest route to choose anyway.

Jenna carefully crossing the snowy patch.
On the far side of the valley as we got back into the trees and started going up again, there were a few markers indicating a small trail going up to the left (Approx: 49.398026, -122.929947). This trail went to Mt. Elsay and apparently can be connected for a loop to the peak of Mt. Elsay from Mt. Seymour. We took the trail to the right to continue to the lake.

After the short up, there was a short but steep downhill to a series of small ponds. This section required some skill to keep our feet dry as we hopped across the mossy/marshy area. The pond was tranquil with the still water reflecting the mossy rocks and surrounding trees. Although this isn't the campsite, it looks like there is an area you could pitch a tent if needed.

The mossy pond. Careful keeping your feet dry!
Continuing on, we followed the outflow of the ponds down a small valley, eventually reaching another steep descent, followed by an open boulder field. The valley provided a nice soft section to run on and the first part of the descent was switchbacks through the trees along the narrow trail, so not too bad. The boulders however were quite large and the trail markers were not super clear, making this section challenging. As we only had small running packs on we were able to scramble over and down the rocks, but I could see this being tough with a big backpack.

At the far end of the boulders, there were trail signs indicating the direction to the lake and back to the parking lot. Only 2.5km to the lake now, but we had to hurry as we were getting close to our turn around time.

This section up to the lake was a slight incline over beautiful spongy trail. Made for some fantastic running! Before getting to the lake we crossed several small streams and one larger one.

One of the bigger stream crossings shortly before Elsay Lake.
Arriving at the lake we were treated to views of the surrounding mountain peaks and the warm sun shimmering off the water. It really felt like summer still!

Left/south toward Mt. Elsay.
On the far side of the lake we could see a small A-frame. Didn't expect that! Maybe should have done more reading before the hike... Anyhow, just a few minutes around the lake to get to the cabin.

Looking across to the cabin.
The emergency shelter (as the sign indicated) looked nice from the outside and looked big enough to fit quite a number of people, but the inside could really use a little cleanup. The outhouse appeared to be clean, just need to remember to bring TP if we go back to stay overnight.
The emergency shelter up close. No fires :(

A little messy inside, but the loft was clean and roomy.

I was not able to identify this one, so let me know what it might be if you have an idea.
More neat and very large fungi along the trail.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Soul Sucking Sinister 7

Oh Sinister 7. Where do I start.

I've been dreaming of my first 100 miler for years... at least since 2015 when I signed up to do this race. Let me just say, it was not at all what I expected.
The spring started out so well, I was getting in lots of running before work, enough that I managed to set a personal best 10k in April. Although I seemed to be running lots, I really struggled to get in the long runs I needed. Every weekend there seemed to be another road block that kept us from reaching our long distance goals.
Though were a bit lacking in mileage, we thought we were in decent shape by June when we planned to do our longest run - the Vancouver 100 (a 100k course from deep cove to horseshoe bay area and back).
A bit of "luck" came our way at the start of June, and we found ourselves with this lovely little thing called the flu. And not just an "I'll take some Tylenol and sleep it off in a day" type flu. A knock you on your ass, high fever for days, puking off the side of your kayak flu. You can ask Chris about that last part ;) Shout out to Nick for getting him home safe - I believe Chris still owes you a kayak trip!
Alright, so now we're two weeks until race day, and all of a sudden instead of "it's okay we've got lots of time" it becomes "okay, maybe we're under trained." So we do what any 'normal' runner would do, and we attempt one last shot at getting in a long run. We decide to head out to Cultus Lake and spend the weekend running laps around it. We know the route around the lake from running the Cultus Lake Give'r Take 30 each fall. Really fun race, but sells out in the first day of registration so you gotta be quick to get in! The distance around the lake is 25k. Our goal was to hit 4 laps for a solid 100k run.

Lucky as we are, on lap 1 we discovered this beautiful little plant that goes by the name of stinging nettle. It. Was. EVERYWHERE. Now, I don’t know if you’ve had the pleasure of interacting with this lovely herbaceous perennial flowering plant, but I don’t recommend it. When you touch it, it stings. When you run through it, it stings, and stings, and continues to sting. Long story short, there was a lot of it, and as such the first 15k was significantly slower than planned. By the time we finished the first lap, it was already looking like 100k was out of reach. We continued on to complete a second lap. I downed a can of coke and was ready to rock. Chris, however, wasn’t feeling so great.  I made a great speech about going on without him, but we decided to take a quick nap in the tent, and eventually had the strength to go on! We manage 75k and decide another 25k isn’t worth the pain. I know running around the lake sounds lovely, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some killer hills!

So we head out to the race having established that our training wasn’t the best. However, we have our eyes set on our next race, the Fatdog 120, and decide that Sinister will be a great training run no matter what happens.

Race day comes, and as promised, it is hot as hell. I’m talking 30+ degrees in town, doesn’t cool off, can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t escape the heat. PERFECT race conditions. Especially when part of the course is named Satan’s Sack as it is “hot, dry and exposed.” I'd love to say we did some good heat training, but given the cold spring we had with the term 'Mayvember' thrown around - let's just say we weren't all that prepared.

The morning of the race went a little like this:
1) Wake up - can you call it waking up if you never really sleep?
2) Eat breakfast - Too nervous. Can't eat. How do you run 100 miles without eating breakfast? Choke down some food. Good enough.
3) Use the washroom - 4 times, 5 times, when will I see another toilet?
4) Start race - Clouds in the sky make for a nice cool(ish) morning. This might not be so bad.

Leg 1 was great.
We ran on some roads and trails out of town and headed up into the hills while the weather was still reasonably cool. 100 miles ain't got nothing on me.
Leg 2 was hot, steep and dusty.
Suns out, clouds are gone, things are heating up. We start by winding up through the mountains. Then it's time for our first big ascent. It is steep! Fortunately for us, the descent is just as steep. Except it wasn't all that fortunate, because they were too steep to run down! It was more just sliding down and debating if rolling would be easier. Easier? Yes. Less painful? No. They were also dusty. Very very dusty. If you're behind anyone they kick up dust and you eat it. Guess I didn't need breakfast after all. I made a poor choice at the last minor aid and didn't fill my water bladder. So when I rolled into the aid station 20 miles in I was covered in dirt and had been without water for 2-3 miles. I burst into tears as soon as I got there. I wouldn't exactly call this fun (insert typical - 'how in the hell did you think a 100 miler would be fun' comment here).
With a little food, a lot of ice, and a face wash - we head out onto leg 3.
Leg 3 was the sackiest satan that ever sucked my soul.
I'm not trying to be dramatic. But this leg was awful. It was just endless rolling ATV trails with very little cover. We had to stop at every stream and soak our hats and dunk ourselves to stay cool. We couldn't eat solid food because all of our energy went to cooling down. I was roasting. I had no energy. I couldn't escape the sun. The trails weren't even that pretty (maybe I'm a snob from BC, but I love my single track and alpine meadows). I had zero motivation to go on. The miles were SLOW. I remember at one point hitting a sign that said 9k to the next aid. It was the longest 9k of my life. It felt like a death march. That was even before we hit the burnt out forest. We pushed on at the SLOWEST PACE EVER (see, no drama here), with little desire to continue forward. We passed people wretching on the side of the trail. We didn't talk to a single solo runner out there that didn't feel like shit.
Seriously, picture those movies where people are crawling through the desert, dying for water and seeing mirages. That's basically how I felt (except I had food, and water, and wasn't seeing things).
Alright. So I'm done. But I'm not giving up that easily. I'm at least going to make it back to the major aid station where Chris' parents are waiting.  But it's so hot, every kilometer feels ENDLESS, even on the downhills. We're living on electrolyte drink. Apparently everyone is. We run into the race director (not literally, and by this point I'm not sure you can call it running) at one of the minor aids who appears to be concerned and is telling the volunteers to ration electrolyte.
WE SURVIVED LEG 3! With enough time to keep going onto Leg 4!
Leg 4 consisted of us sitting at the aid station with Chris' parents, happily eating pizza with no intention to continue. It was an extremely easy decision to make at the time. We were both hot, hungry, and miserable.

It was less of an easy decision the following days when we looked back and wondered whether we could have continued. Though rumor has it that the course doesn't get any better, so we did ourselves a favour by not going on. Maybe a course better left to relay runners.

Big shout out to our crew who drove all the way out to Alberta to wait (at the same aid station allll day) for us to run 40 miles. Who slathered us in sunscreen, and dealt with my sobs a mere 20 miles into the race. Brad and Sue you guys rock! Whoever said in-laws are awful?! In case you're curious I just googled it. It turns out there are lots of people that say it. Clearly they don't have in-laws as cool as mine.

With that wonderful experience behind us the pressure is on for Fat Dog! Better start training.....

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fat Dog Race Course Profile - Updated for 2017

I just wanted to post an updated version of the Fat Dog race profile that I had made a few years ago (posted here with the GPX course files). The new version has crew access points added and some changes to various aid stations. Notably, Heather Aid Station is now 2km from the Bonnevier/Heather Junction on Bonnevier Trail. This is 2km closer than the original location at the junction, and several km closer than the location in recent years at Buckhorn Camp.

FatDog120 profile with aid stations (major/minor) and crew/pacer access points. T40/T48 times based on Ultrasplits pace chart. C times represent hard cutoff times from the Fat Dog Race Guide

FatDog120 profile with aid stations (major/minor) and crew/pacer access points, without all the pace or cutoff times.
 **Updated Aug 7, 2017

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The curse of pointy heels: Modifying shoes for Haglund's deformity

First off, Haglund's deformity is an extra bony growth on the heel, typically a little lateral to the Achilles tendon. It is not to be confused with a heel spur which is under the foot. A technical definition of Haglund's deformity would be an abnormal prominence of the posterosuperior border of the calcaneous.

If you have this heel bump you may not have known the name, but you would have certainly felt it! It would have rubbed on your shoes and gotten inflamed, or maybe you repeatedly wear through the back of your shoes on the inside. Luckily, there is surgery available to correct this if it's really bothersome. The inflammation, a bursitis of the back of the heel, is called Haglund's syndrome. It's thought that the inflammation actually leads to the bony growth, not the other way around. Nonetheless, the rubbing and pain is worst in shoes with rigid heels.
Haglund's deformity *not my foot*

Since I figured out I was a little abnormal in 2013 (I can't believe it took that long either...) I've been modifying my shoes so that I don't wear out my heels or the backs of my shoes. I have two methods for this. The first method is to simply cut a hole in the back of my shoe where the growth on my heel is. This works, but it isn't pretty and wouldn't work well for trails. I've only done this modification once, on a pair of road shoes where the inside fabric was already wearing through (see below). Be careful with cutting through the hard plastic - I found cutting pliers can be useful, along with an x-acto knife/scalpel.

Method 1 - cut a hole and leave it open.
Sew around the edge if you want.
The second method has proven quite reliable and comfortable, though it involves a little more work. I cut in through the back of the shoe, snip out some of the hard plastic making sure to keep the inner fabric intact, then sew up the incision site. Step by step instructions follow below where I cut into a new pair of Altra Lone Peak 3.0's.

Keep in mind this may decrease the stability of the shoe. Also it will void your ability to return the shoes, which is a bit of a problem since this modification is best done when you first get the shoes and the inside fabric hasn't been worn at all.

Step 1 - draw on your cut.
Step 1 is to figure out where you're going to cut. For me this is a little lateral to midline, and about the middle third of the height of the shoe (2cm). At the top and bottom of this we need to cut left and right about 1 cm, making an "I". Ideally, the top incision should be just at the top of the hard plastic inside - you can feel this by bending the top of the heel of the shoe.

Step 2 is to cut! Cut in so that you get to the plastic, but don't go through it into the inner fabric.

Step 2 complete, ready for Step 3. White is plastic with
glued on layer of fabric.
Step 3 is to remove the plastic. Take care to separate the inner fabric from the plastic if it's glued on, that way you don't damage it. Use your knife or your snipping pliers to remove a "U" shaped piece of plastic approximately where your heel deformity is. Make sure the piece you're taking out is as large or larger than your bump.

Step 4 is to double check that enough plastic has been removed and in the right spot. So, put on your shoe and lace it up. Feel the back of the shoe for your heel bump relative to the area without plastic. If they don't line up or there is still some plastic rubbing your heel, take that out too.

All done. Not pretty, but it works!
Step 5 is to close it up and sew the flaps together. To ensure the flaps don't rip open I use upholstery thread (Tex 75) as it's super strong, though I'm sure normal thread would work too. As I'm sewing, I only go through the outer layers to keep the inner layer intact; this seems to do the trick. A pair of pliers can be handy if the shoe material takes a lot of effort to punch through with your needle/thread combo, just make sure to use non-cutting pliers! Also, to save time, only sew the vertical cut as the horizontal ones don't seem to matter much.

Now get out there and run!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Gluten-Free Banana-Nut Date Loaf

This loaf recipe is the result of an experiment to see if we could make a super running snack using mostly nuts, chocolate and fruit, no flour needed. So yes it's gluten free, but that wasn't really the intention. As expected it's a little denser than a traditional loaf, but oh so tasty! Full recipe is at the bottom.

We started by blending dates, cashews, chocolate

Mashed our banana

Added all the wet ingredients to the blended ones.

Mixed in the baking power

Baked, cooled and cut!

PDF printable instructions for this Gluten-Free Banana-Nut Date Loaf can be found here

  • 1 cup, or 16 pitted dates
  • 1 cup unsalted cashews
  • 4 oz unsweetened baker’s chocolate
  • 2 extra large eggs
  •  2 large bananas
  • ¼ cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp baking powder

  • Use a food processor or blender to process dates, cashews and chocolate into a fine, sand-like consistency
  • Transfer to a bowl (optional; you could do everything in the blender) and add in eggs, beaten banana and peanut butter
  •  Mix in baking powder
  •  Transfer to a greased baking tin
  •  Bake at 350 deg C for approximately 30 mins
  • Allow to cool for 3-5 minutes before removing from pan. Cool further before slicing.
  • Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts
Per 1/8 of the loaf.
Calories 315
                               % Daily Value *
Total Fat 20 g 30 %
   Saturated Fat 6 g 28 %
   Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
   Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
   Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 53 mg 18 %
Sodium 145 mg 6 %
Potassium 126 mg 4 %
Total Carbohydrate 33 g 11 %
   Dietary Fiber 5 g 18 %
   Sugars 18 g
Protein 9 g 18 %
Vitamin A 3 %
Vitamin C 4 %
Calcium 10 %
Iron 23 %

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Runners Tale - When Life Gets in the Way and Doesn't Even Give You Lemons

The last few years have been a rollercoaster of classic 'life got in the way' moments, which I'm sure you've gathered from the fact that our posts ceased to exist after February 2015. This year I've got 100 mile dreams, and I want to be able to share the experience with you! But before I go big, I need to step back and walk you through a thing or two:
1) My introduction to trail running and my glorious 'rise' to a solid middle of the pack runner.
2) The reason(s) why we disappeared in 2015, complete with legitimate excuses for not running a 100 miler sooner.
3) Highlights of some of our recent adventures.
Bonus Track: The injury that has plagued me for years, that I liked to pretend didn't exist.

In 2011, I ran my first ever trail race. It was only 12k. What did I learn? You can fit a surprising number of evil hills in such a short distance! I remember flying down each hill feeling super human, and walking up every hill sadly out of breath wondering "Why on earth am I doing this". I would proceed to cross the finish line, forget the pain, and eagerly sign up for the next race vowing to train more.

For the next few years the pattern was very similar.
1) Sign up for race, planning to train ridiculous amounts
[Optional: 2a) Start out strong, train really hard for two weeks, get injured. Stop running.]
2) Realize the race is in a couple weeks and you really haven't trained. Start taper.
3) Run race, feel pain, vow never to do it again
4) Cross the finish line, feeling elated! That was AWESOME! Forget pain.
5) Eagerly sign up for longer race, vowing to train more...
6) Repeat steps 1-5
That, ladies and gentleman, is how to be a solid middle of the pack runner.

The calm before the pain! MOMAR 2016
By August of 2014, I middle of the packed myself all the way through the Fatdog 70 miler. After completing it, in true middle of the packer fashion, I signed up for the Sinister 7 100 miler in July 2015. In March of 2015 my job took me up north to Yellowknife and beyond, where I worked 12 hour days on a 2 and 2 rotation. It took a bit of getting used to, and my days were typically eat, sleep, work, repeat [insert wicked techno beat here]. My two weeks off went by so fast I rarely got any good training in. By June I knew there was no way a hundred miler was an option. With high hopes of more time to train, I deferred my entry to 2016.
The Bucket of Blood post MOMAR

2016 didn't exactly go as planned either (for me, or a number of celebrities). We decided to try our hand at adventure racing, and got all geared up to mountain bike. Which by the way is TERRIFYING. I mean, I love adventure. However, learning to mountain bike at 26 years old on the North Shore mountains isn't exactly the easiest task in the world. Then I went up north for work again, which means training (as per usual) was nearly non-existant. By the time we got to the race, I had been on the mountains maybe three times (One of which we had a chance encounter with a cute little bear). Three times DOES NOT prepare you for trails named "Bucket of Blood". It does, however, prepare you to become a bucket of blood. Luckily we went with a team of four with various strengths and weaknesses. This meant I could successfully run the downhills with my bike without getting behind... which for the record I DO NOT recommend. I had bruises on my legs for DAYS. Not to mention the bushwacking (orienteering) through thorns to finish the race that added some nice fresh blood to the disaster in the making.

Not all things were bad, I married the amazing man that got me into this crazy trail running madness (On the same weekend as Sinister, so deferred that again to 2017). We went on a glorious honeymoon to Iceland, and would 100% move there if the weather in July stayed all year round...

The real fun, however, came near the end of 2016. I signed up for the BMO half-marathon so that I could run with my brother (Okay, fine I signed up for the full marathon and dropped to the half because I failed to train, yet again). We then took on the Cultus Lake 30k, which I've signed up for for the past two years but conveniently been away for work so never actually had to run it. This race is great. I forgot about all of the crazy hills, and as always was ill-prepared. Halfway through I got a bug in my eye that the lovely aid-station people managed to get out! Thank you! Then my calves cramped like never before and I could barely jump over puddles, or logs, or anything. I contemplated rolling down the hill to the finish. I crossed the finish line second in my category, but there was only a handful of people in my category to start! The Phantom 24k in November went as well as can be expected on very little training. I nearly didn't run the race, and wasn't sure I could even going up to the start line. I figured worse case scenario I drop at half, which is conveniently the start/finish.

This next part of my story is hard for me to write about, which is why I haven't. Here's the part where if you don't want to get to know me too well, you should pick up a novel, or turn on the tv, or go for a run (I love running)! But for someone, somewhere this may be relevant.

So, taking a step back in time to the winter of 2014... I went into emergency at VGH because 'things' were bleeding and I was in a whole lot of pain (excruciating, can't sleep, or move, WHAT HAVE I DONEE?! kind of pain). I know "things" doesn't really help much, and I bet you're sitting there wondering how many places I could have been bleeding from that would take me to emergency. I'll leave you in suspense until we get to the diagnosis in 2016. After all, if I had to wait nearly 2 years, you can wait a few minutes. For now, lets just say this pain led to a team of gynaecologists staring at me, sending Chris out of the room, and repeatedly asking if I was sexually abused.
Dr: Have you been sexually abused?
Me: No, I just run really far and play a lot of sports.
Dr: Are you sure you haven't been abused, this is very typical of sexual abuse victims.
Me: No, I just run really far. Like farther than marathons far. Often.
I basically spent my entire day explaining this to multiple Doctors. At the end of the day I was told to rest and bathe in Epsom salts and to take it easy. I left frustrated that there was no solution or diagnosis, especially considering I had been feeling pain/discomfort off and on before this. The follow up appointment was made slightly more bearable as the Doctor was genuinely excited to meet someone so stupidly active.
Luckily I survived through the rest of 2014 and 2015 running like a wild person without too many hiccups! The only race I had to cut short was my first ever attempt at the Vancouver 100 where I felt great at the 50k mark, but certain 'things' weren't so pleased with the distance.

In the spring of 2016 I was still feeling pain on and off, and by this point the pain had been affecting my running and biking and life more and more. I decided to see what a different doctor at a walk-in clinic thought. She recognized it right away and recommended me to a urologist (yay?) who only had a six month wait (double yay?). When I finally saw the urologist he said I had a urethral carunkle... WTF is a urethral carunkle? (Do NOT google this. You do not want to know.) It's basically a common ailment in older people where your urethral lining is hanging outside where it really shouldn't be. Just so happens that in 2014 it was so inflamed/bruised/bloody that nobody knew what they were looking at (triple yay!). Turns out every time I ran or biked really far in the previous 3 years it would get inflamed and hurt or bleed. So now it's 2016 and we finally know what it is. Phew. Now to fix it. Step one was a rather awkward and uncomfortable cream that did nothing. Step 2 was surgery... AHHH!

Three weeks ago, on December 14, I had surgery to get it removed! I don't wish this on anyone. For the first week after the surgery I couldn't do much other than sit on the couch (in pain). By the second week I could walk, but I am still far from running. My hope is to be able to start training again at the end of January. The best part of the surgery was when they injected the general anesthetic. You can feel burning/tingling/crawling up your arm, and then you breathe it out like fire and fall into a deep sleep. I'm not sure what my super power is yet, but when I figure it out I'll be sure to let you know!

So 2017 brings with it the hope of finally running pain free! A chance to train (or not train) and run some fantastic races that I've put off for a couple of years!

It's time for running to get in the way of life, forget the lemons.

Happy Trails!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud - My recent lack of motivation and surprising success at the Orca's Island 50k

Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood
So follow me follow, down to the hollow
And there let me wallow in glorious mud!

Before we dive into the glorious mudbowl that was the 2015 edition of the Orcas Island 50km, let's step back a few months so that we can apologize for our lack of riveting blogging material.

Cascade Falls along the race course
I'll attribute my lack of writing to a few roadblocks I hit in the final months of 2014:
September - My failure to complete REDFAM left me rather disappointed (Probably not the best way to recover from a big race, but I'll keep dreaming!). 
October - I had to work the weekend of the Cultus Lake Giv'r take 30, which left me further unmotivated. 
November - I chose to go for the short 12k Phantom race to work on my speed a little (I've previously done the 19k and 24k). My ankle was giving me a bit of trouble so I wore my ankle brace, unfortunately this resulted in my right leg going numb for the latter half of the race (Is it worth stopping to take off your ankle brace in such a short race, or do you just suck it up?). I still set a PB for the course - so it's not all bad!

Hardly events to brag about - and nothing I was motivated to write about at the time.

In December we had begun training for the Orca's Island 50, and we'd rang in the new year with a solid 15 mile long run distance.
If I thought the end of 2014 was frustrating, the start of 2015 brought in a whole new bag of surprises.
I started off the year feeling a little tired/dizzy. I had myself convinced I was iron deficient right up until the doctor told me I had a low platelet count. This led to a few more blood tests, and a whole lot of worrying. Needless to say, with the start of January came very little running.
After a few more visits to the doctor I was assured that everything was fine and I could run along as usual (it was probably just a nasty virus).  This left me a whole two weeks to train for the race! Who needs to taper? We'll just train through it and hope we survive!

View from Mt. Constitution - the highest point in the race
Had to go back the next day for this view!
With at least one 18 miler under my belt in the last few weeks, we headed over to the island the night before the race. Had we been a little more prepared, we may have managed to get on a ferry that got us to the island before 11 PM. Lucky for us when we got to the island all the campsites were full too! Thankfully we had set up a nice little bunker in the back of the new outback to snooze in on the ferry and we were able to park right next to the race start to get in a good six hour sleep (Who can actually sleep the night before a race, anyways?). Not me! The pouring rain all night was not a sleep aid. 
We woke up to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof, and with little time invested in training for the race there was VERY little motivation to get out of bed that morning.
Somehow I managed to pull myself together, pull on a rain jacket, and start the race. 
I did not regret this decision.... yet.
The first hour of the race I was a small child stomping through mud puddles without a care in the world. And then the first uphill came. The uphills were relentless, and the downhills were so mud-logged none of us knew whether we were running or skiing.
A few hours into the race I had a pretty good idea this was going to be a full day affair. And then the uphill came. The real uphill. By this I mean straight uphill practically crawling through the mud, and just when you think its over you turn the corner, look up into the sky, and see people. WAY. UP. THERE.

I don't know how I kept going. But I do know a good part of my motivation was knowing that if I finish I can say I've done it and I will NEVER have to do it again. Never again until next time, right?!
Zoomed shot of Mt. Baker!
I don't remember what I ate, though I'm confident it wasn't near enough. However, I do very clearly remember the second aid station, where it was announced someone had gone to the hospital as they had fallen and been spiked with a branch. 
I managed to only fall once the whole race - but I did have several Matrix like near-fall events.
I would like to thank the nice runner who lit a fire under my butt at 12:25 when he says "I think the aid station cutoff is 12:30." I ran the next few miles a lot faster than I needed to, at least until I realized that was the cutoff for the previous aid station.
After nearly 8 hours of sliding around in the glorious mud, I crossed the finish line!
I still can't believe I did it!! Not too bad considering our longest training run was about 3 hours!

At the end of it all, I have to say I would go back, despite telling Chris I'd never do another one of these when I crossed the finish line (what's the definition of insanity again?). I would hope for a little less mud next time, but what's the fun in that?!

I left Orcas island motivated as ever - and ready to plan our next running adventure!

Let's go lets go lets go!!!