Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chapter 9 - Final Chapter. The Race

My wake up call was not from my obnoxious phone beeping but a sweet melody coming from Jimmy's phone somewhere in the living room announcing it would be a lovely day. And what a lovely day it would be!
Not being a morning person, I still did manage to rise with a smile and get ready somewhat in time. The lovely day song wasn't on my computer but I "absolutely needed" to have it on my ipod for the day. Since the apartment didn't have internet access, I did what every normal person would do - go to the start of a 100 mile race with a laptop in my arm.

Sparkly 'princess' sticker from my fairies

Download, transfer to ipod and pick-up of my race number all within the last 12 minutes before the start didn't give me time to be nervous again until I got my last hugs from my fairies and then the clock hit 5a.m.

With Jimmy (coach) and my fairies Kate (sun), Katie (water) and Bev (tree)

The first 20 seconds, I ran - just so I could say 'I started running a 100mile race' and then I switched to hiking. About 450 runners made their way up to the highest point of the race at 8713ft (2656m). A little climb for breakfast never tasted better! I did feel like the complete tourist, stopping several times to take pictures but it was worth it to stop and 'smell those roses'! 

On the other side of the mountain, the fun continued in snow. The trail was pretty slippery at times and several runners fell. Including me. Once I did a beautiful ass-plant all on my own and the other time I fell because I was laughing so hard at the rowing-in-the-air and pirouettes of another runner just in front of me that I lost balance myself. As I said, tons of fun. Luckily, I did all of my falling on snow and kept the skirt clean.

Looking west

Creek crossings, beautiful scenery and solitude on the next miles had me going at a good rythm for about 25 miles. I did eat, drink and take my electrolytes on time and was a very happy burper and farter. All systems on track.

At Robinson Flat, I got to see my crew for the first time and I was definitely ready for some uplifting words. Before I was allowed to see my fairies, I had a little discussion with the lady reading my weight on the scales as she was trying to stabilize the scales but actually added a couple of extra pounds by doing so. I found out later it didn't really matter since I was within the marge at all times.
My crew filled up my little chia bottles and my hydration pack and supplied me with little sticker of a castle on it since I owned the house at that moment. 30 miles done, 70 to go and off I went.

Tiara still in place. Now on top of a hat

I felt like I could unroot the trees around me for the next 8 miles. Life was wonderful!  Sometimes I wondered where the names to the different aid stations came from. Dusty Corners was understandable as it really was a dusty corner of the earth and the afternoon sun added its part to change my mood a little bit. The following 5 miles were probably my worst of the whole race. My stomach was trying to tell me it didn't want all the food I kept forcing down my throat but I eventually won that argument. Besides that, I experienced my first stretch of mental challenge. It all came down to tears and me telling all my fears of my current life to a runner who was incredibly understanding. She even suggested several solutions and kept making my half empty glass half full again when we reached the aid station fittingly called Last Chance. I reset my mind and fueled up on calories to make up the little deficit accumulated in the last 45min. Refreshed and ready to face the challenge again, I took that "last chance" to heart, stepped out through the swinging saloon doors and banned destructive thoughts about my life from my mind. I was sent off with a hug from an aid station volunteer who did a good job replacing my crew I didn't get to see for another 12 miles.

Remembering the training run weekend, I knew better not to race down the following canyon. Too vivid and present was the image of my stomach disagreeing with me on the uphill on the other side of the bridge at the bottom. That ascent to Devils Thumb was still an unsettled affair between me and the hill. And this time, the hill came in second. From the bridge to the aid station, I powerhiked with an amount of energy I didn't quite understood where it came from and celebrated my 35min climb with a watermelon Popsicle that turned my tongue the same shade of green as my ipod. Still the all-matching princess with a smile. 
I really liked that aid station and only realized I probably had spent too much time socializing when a volunteer told me it was about time I got back to running. 

The late afternoon sun and early evening breeze were perfect companions on my way to Michigan Bluff at about 55 miles where I met my crew again. At 7:30pm I sat down for the first time and it felt awesome. They always say "beware of the chair" and I believe to some people the chair might be a trap but I was eager to continue and run though the full moon night and got up after only a few minutes. My fairies gave me a chariot sticker - one of those cinderella ones to stick to my hydration pack since I had already run enough and was entitled to ride it. 
It was really nice of my fairies to tell me that the next aid station - Bath Road - was only 3 miles away and they would see me in just a few minutes. In reality, it was 2 miles more and I got delayed a little because the local TV reporters asked me for a quick interview by the check-out station. Couldn't refuse that, could I?
I kept telling myself that it would be one of the last ascents of the day. Of course, I wasn't thinking about all the uphills of the night. If you think too much ahead, 100 miles are really 100 miles. And that's really far. So concentrating on how far it is to the next aid station makes the 100 miles seem a touch shorter. Foresthill was about 10km away and I had at that time run further than ever before.

Foresthill was the place where the picture was taken a few years ago that got me hooked on the race in the first place. I remembered the ugly feet from the picture in the illustrated book I looked at a year ago. My feet were still pretty but I had a tiny blister under my pinky toe that I needed to take care of. While my fairies took care of my culinary needs, I changed clothes and again, spent way too much time at the aid station. 

Kate, the cook of my choice at Foresthill

My water fairy Katie was ready to run and pace me for the next 16 miles. She did an excellent job telling me I was running at a good pace. Positive thoughts and comments do wonders.
Just before midnight, my stomach was getting back to me about the argument we had earlier and didn't let me burp up for quite a while. I felt pretty sick and refused to eat solid food. It resulted in fatigue as well as a sudden shivering attack. Katie told me we wouldn't leave the aid station before I hadn't eaten everything she held in her hand. 1- I was glad I didn't see what and how much food was in her hand and 2 - I was grateful to close my eyes, open my mouth and have her drop bits of solid food into it. I wore my thermo shirt for all of 10minutes. That's how much it took to make me snap out of the caloric deficit.

Following my little dip in form we spent 2 hours of pure fun singing all sorts of songs from 'I got a feeling' to 'Build me up buttercup' and entertaining the other runners while running in the full moon light. I was so happy and excited that I wasn't the only one knowing the lyrics to so many songs.

Western States....you're so silly

By 2:30 in the morning, we finally reached the famous Rucky Chuck river crossing. Due to the late snow melt and the high water level, we didn't get to cross the river in the water but were brought across by rafts. A limo ride to the other side. Or something like that. My friend Craig was helping the runners get out of the raft at the far side of the river and it made me smile to see him in a full body wetsuit and a t-shirt. It's a priceless sight for a happy but very tired princess. 

Full of smiles at mile 78

A little more of my Swiss broth and some more solid bits later, my lovely sun fairy Kate tried to gently tell me that she wouldn't be running with me for the next 15 miles as we had planned. Right then I didn't quite understand what had happened and only found out later that she had injured herself sprinting across a parking lot and tripping over a side walk, falling hard on both of her knees. She could barely make it up the hill without pain to Green Gate, the next aid station. She was with me at all times through the race though and we both were glad that Katie, my water and singing fairy could add some more miles to her pacing duties. 
The hill to Green Gate. Well, that's when I was really feeling the fatigue and started talking to the hill. I wanted it to be done, to become flat again. I despised it for being so steep exactly at one of my physically low-energy moments. Kate suggested I spit on it but I refused as a) I didn't hold mother earth entirely responsible for the steepness of the hill and b) the hill didn't deserve my royal spit. I actually said b) out loud. I know. I also asked where the star for the top of my pink glow-in-the-dark wand was. Kate later jokingly commented that most people ask for a new pair of new legs or morphine at 80 miles of such a race.

Green Gate to Auburn Lake trail aid station. 5.4 miles and possibly the longest 5.4 miles of my life. I have partied all night before but without any alcohol that makes you lose track of time and with some miles in my legs, it was a whole different story. The dark of the night and the lack of coffeine made me ask Katie for permission to lean against every other tree we passed (and we were running/shuffling through a forest), very well knowing that I couldn't do that. So Katie was busy telling me 'no you can't, princess Gabi' and still cheering me on despite my slow pace. After 2h10min we finally reached the next aid station and the horizon announced a new day - another lovely one!

I'm soooo tired, but it's soooo beautiful!

Hearing about kidney and other problems of other runners, I could barely keep my eyes open at Auburn Lake Trails aid station. Again, the fairy power saved me. Knowing that I don't like coffee but like that sweet wanna-be instant coffee that we didn't have on us, Katie mixed me a super sugary aid station-mocha. What the sun did for my spirits, the mocha did for my eyes. Both were wide awake again and I was ready to attack the last 15miles. Unfortunately, all my other systems woke up as well. Let me tell you, finding a place to leave some extra weight behind on a single trail lined on either side with poison oak, a steep gradient, one up, one down, is not so easy and asks for quite some creativity in the early hours of a day like this. Thanks to the trees and close to impeccable aiming capabilities, poison oak had nothing on me. The following 4.7 miles just floated by in 1h10 and I could hear the party at Brown's Bar aid station from far away.

Brown's Bar is a fun aid station where all men wear red dresses and wigs and serve home made potato soup. It was devine and the vibe from the volunteers felt so good. I was back to the unrooting trees emotions. Only 3.6 miles to the next aid station. Yay!

Coming into Brown's Bar aid station - I did refuse the beer

Getting my soup

Tiara in place, fairy at my side. Can it get any better?

I had been concentrating so much on staying awake for the last 3-4 hours that I did not feel any physical pain. That one, and I can say, my only real physical pain throughout the whole race materialized itself now. A nasty heal contusion and inflammation at the insertion of my Achilles' tendon. Hurts. But nowhere near enough to stop me. The beautiful scenery was perfect for a Sunday morning run and last bit with my water fairy Katie.

Easy like Sunday morning

We reached Highway 49 aid station at 8 in the morning with about 10km to go. Endorphins had kicked in full blast somewhere in the last 3 miles before and I was convinced with my whole body and soul that I would see the finish line from the far side today. I do remember that despite the somewhat early hours of the day it was already very hot. Maybe my systems were just not well calibrated but standing in the shade while my injured sun fairy Kate got my hydration pack ready to finish the quest and tree fairy Bev applied more sun screen (it was hot after all...) under the supervision of Katie, felt good.

more sunscreen

Just one happy princess

no words needed

Let's do this!

Bev, my tree fairy, was my last pacer for the remaining miles to the finish line and was expecting to be busy repeating the RFM mantra. RFM = relentless forward motion. Basically, whatever you do, don't stop. Run, walk, shuffle, crawl, just don't stop. Makes sense. The finish line doesn't get closer when you're not moving. I did not fulfill her expectations as she was giving me the second to last wind I needed to run my heart out to No Hands Bridge. Just like a Sunday morning run. Because I had been running again, my stomach was ready to argue again and Bev allowed me to switch to liquid food to trick my opponent. The 7-up not only provided me with the calories I needed for the final climb but got me to be very unprincess-like again. Burpfest reloaded and all systems working.
By now, even if I was biased a bit, it was really hot and the sun was beating down on us. A thought crossed my mind. If I had been one of those fast runners, finishing in time to get some sleep in a hotel bed before picking up my buckle, I wouldn't have to run in this heat. But why would I want to miss all the fun I had up until now? Exactly!
Another déjà-vu from the first training run in February had me concentrate once more. In winter, I didn't expect the last climb be so steep and again, I attacked it way too aggressive. The amount of winter aggressiveness was replaced by a conservative summer approach. I was still powerhiking but I was surprised that so many people walked so far down to cheer us on until I realized that I had already reached the last aid station and the town of Auburn. I was unprepared for it that my only reaction was to cry happy tears. 
1.3 miles to go, a last paved road climb that didn't seem to bother me at all and a look at my watch that I hadn't really consulted all day and night planted the first competitive seed in my head. It was still possible to finish in less than 29 hours.

Running the last mile with my fairies and coach

My last mile took me 9min. and I couldn't even slow down on my victory lap. I know, that's when you get to indulge a bath in the cheering crowd of the high school stadium and hear the speaker tell the spectators a little more about you. I did not see the crowd in the stadium running on that track, I just saw the finish line. And I did hear another comment about my skirt that miraculously did stay white and how he doesn't know how I did it. Probably the same way I finished my first 100 miles. I don't know how. I just did it.

Last 100m

Flying across the finish line. It's done!

Chapter 8 - The fairytale set-up

Running 100 miles in one day (and a little) is something extraordinairy to begin with. Doing it for the first time might even be frightening. I can honestly say, I did have my minutes of worry and questionned my abilities to actually come up with the necessary physical and mental strenght to win that belt buckle. Training for such a strenuous challenge is time and effort cosuming. Most of the time, it's a fun experience. But sometimes, as many things in life, it is not. To make it as much fun as possible and to take away the serious part of the process, I came up with the fairytale theme. Working out seemingly unimportant details were supposed to take away the uptight/concentrated aspect and lighten up the 7 weeks building up to the big day.

Usually, a prince fights dragons and rides long days and nights through forests and over mountains to finally get the treasure or free the his princess. Because there is no way I can pass as a prince and I there wasn't a princess to free in Auburn, I made my Western States a somewhat 21st century quest. I have always wanted to be a princess and the belt buckle seemed the perfect treasure to go after.

There are several essential things a real fairytale princess needs. 
A puffy dress is not so easy to run in and also not really my style. My white skirt has already been the topic of discussions at earlier races and runs and I was up for the challenge to wear it and keep it clean running 100 miles. Flowers to put in my hair matching my shirts, painted toe and fingernails and of course a tiara were all part of the outfit.

A princess usually has her fairies who help her out if she's about to be sidetracked. I had my 3 fairies being my crew and pacers. Sun fairy Kate to bring the sunshine in dark hours, water fairy Katie to refresh me in the heat and tree fairy Bev to give me shade and be the strong person when I needed someone to lean on.
Their presence and their planned little surprises were all I really needed to succeed. Just in case, I glued rhine stones with their colors to my skirt. Never go anywhere without the fairy power!

Fairy power skirt, tiara, manicured hand, star and necklace shirt

My own lucky charms were ready in a bag to put into my hydration pack whenever I might need them: 
- a small piece of steel - painted pink. To remind me of Katelyn "Pink Steel" Benton and her performance at SD100 that inspired me to never give up.
- a chip of amber. To remind me of Amber Girard's endless positive attitude running with pain at the Shadow of the Giants 50k.
- a small frog my friend Zhi gave me the day before the race. A princess needs a frog to kiss - even if the prince might take a little longer to appear. 

For a little extra magic, I had glow-in-the-dark wands for my fairies in their color - yellow, blue and green. And part of their surprise was a pink, also glow-in-the-dark wand with a star for my night run. 

I was all set and ready to go!

Week 7 - Pre-race days

My visiting friends stayed until Tuesday and the weekend fun just kept going until they left. A Temescal run/hike on Tuesday was the last and only run related fun of the week and again, I did not look at my pink post-its and let that water flow in my wallet. I was a calm camper.

On Wednesday, the nervousness kicked in. I wasn't actually sure if it was only due to the running excitement but it left me restless, almost sleepless and my mind was racing non-stop. Besides the fact that I thought I was supposed to be at least a little bit nervous to run my heart out in a few days, I was mainly stressing over the fact that I didn't really have a plan mapped out for my life after the race and the following vacation in Hawaii. I know, life is tough sometimes. Or we make it seem that way.
Currently jobless on purpose, with an offer but no visa in progress, I let my mind wander to dark corners I really didn't need to visit that week.
Wednesday evening, the packing was done really quickly as I had planned that part in advance. My princess outfit would get its last touches in Squaw Valley.

Thursday morning at 4 am, I picked up Jimmy to drive up to Squaw Valley. I was very glad he could do some of the driving - and also very glad I fell asleep and did not notice the speed he was going at. It's like control issue therapy where somebody takes over and you have no choice but accepting the facts. Maybe I should do that more often...
In Squaw, we listened to the trail seminar, getting useful info on the changed snow-course while I was rocking back and forth, my arms wrapped around me, nervousness definitely peeking at that moment. It was definitely my worst time of all, my fairytale having a sort of unusual climax. 

To calm down and relax, there are many ways people use. Mine was to finish my wardrobe. I glued little sparkly rhinestones to my shirts. One was the star shirt with a big dipper hidden in between the other stars, the other one was the necklace shirt. I figured, I can work around the jewelery part of a pricess. I really got into it - and really relaxed.
When Jimmy came back to the apartment, I was at peace and totally calm. I even slept for 10 hours, making up some rest time I didn't get earlier in the week.
Friday was filled with watching the Worldcup group H games, the disappointment of the outcome, runner check-in and meeting a lot of new people. I did have a long conversation with Cowman A-mooha and felt like walking on a little cloud with all those good vibes circling me. 

In between legends - Cowman A-Mooha and Gordy Ainsley

In the early evening I did what everyone except Jimmy told me not to do: I walked up the first third of the climb to Escarpment. Jimmy thought it would be the best thing to get rid of any remaining nervousness. It did the trick. I finally recovered my appetite and enjoyed eating dinner with a glass of wine that gave me wonderful heavy eyelids. 
With a ear still closely listening for the arrival of my crew, I was in bed early again, got up to hug my friends when they did arrive, took a pre-race-feet picture and got a couple of hours of dreamless sleep before the fun could finally begin.

Pre-race feet

Chapter 6 - Week 6 with a lot of rest

Up until now I had been following the my training plan almost 1:1 but this week, my intuition decided to take a different road. Somehow I just didn't want to run anymore before the actual race day. Seeing Katelyn finish her 100 miler motivated me on one side but also made me relax because I truly started to feel that I am ready.
I remember what Jimmy had told me when he gave me the pink post-it training plan. It's like water, it flows. He meant that I don't have to stick to the hours written down. My interpretation this week was that if it flows and I keep it in my wallet at all times, it might make cash flow. Not out of my wallet, obviously. 

Not running made me concentrate more on my work/life situation again and brought me close to insanity at times. Being a control-freak doesn't work too well when you are waiting for other people to make decisions or do their part of the job. 

Luckily, the World Cup was on and I spent a lot of time sitting at Barney's Beanery and even had a 7:30am beer to support my favorite teams. Switzerland writing history by winning against the later World Champion was definitely a happy moment. Followed by the Lakers victory the next day, this week was truly a very active one - just not for my feet and legs. I actually didn't really care who won the NBA finals but I was very glad the Lakers did as I was watching the game with one of the biggest fans I have ever seen. Just watching him was priceless!

The second part of the week, I finally made it to the Getty Museum with visiting friends, enjoyed their company with lots of food and drinks and did not once feel bad about not running and doing all the things "you're not supposed to do" before a big race. Already last year, a week before my WS qualification 50 miler, I had a 3 day party with plenty of beer and very little sleep. It was my best 50 miler yet. So why should I start with new habits this time??

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chapter 5 - Week 5 all the way to sunrise

All through the night, I'll be awake and I'll be with you.
All through the night, this precious time, when time is new....

Morning coffe with a view

Post-running fun

Post Shadow of the Giants, I got to do enjoy 3 chillaxing days at the Norhtern California coast with friends and a tension releasing run in the middle. I actually had a swollen right foot, probably caused by excessive pressure from my shoe. The pain and swelling did shake up my little security system and for a moment, I did have the term "stress fracture" in my head but successfully got rid of it as it didn't hurt at all running on pavement. I guess it was just another thing trying to upset me or to get me off balance and keep me working on my mental strength. I have been extremely happy and confident about Western States for quite a while now. The only old habit I still haven't been able to overcome yet is my issue with lack of patience. I am really working on living day by day but the not-knowing how and where my professional path is leading me is taking its toll on me every now and then. I am in a good place as it is with a dream job offer in a perfect setting but somehow can't just enjoy the ride without knowing exactly where I stand. The control freek still shines through. Hmm.

Thursday morning with the Coyotes (my running group) I was voted Coyote of the week for  my extra miles and finishing the Shadow of the Giants race with Amber. I am sharing this title with her as she was as much involved as I was. 

The same day, I became part of Katelyn's crew for the San Dieo 100miles Endurance Run. It was actually not in San Diego but about an hour inland, by the Pacific Crest Trail, a very beautiful area. Please read Katelyn's awsome race recap to get a better picture of the weekend.

Katelyn's and our long day started early in the moring as the start was at 7am. Crewing all day was a new but fun experience and when night time came around, I started my pacing part just before 1am. It was my first time running through the night and I really enjoyed it. It was a new moon night and very dark. The stars were breathtaking when we stopped for a moment and turned our headlamps off. Sometime on the first 8 miles, I unknowingly gave a very hairy caterpillar a ride on my fleece jacket I had tied around my waist. It thanked me by stinging me in the back of my leg and really scaring me (aka having me make funny noises) when I discovered the uninvited passenger. The first aid station welcome could have been a bit better than "you have to get going, you got 9 min before final cutoff". Maybe a "good job" or a simple hello would have been nicer but I do understand the motive of it. We picked up the pace and made up enough time to be back on track comfortably, passing frogs, other runners and moving up on the never ending winding trail.
This second leg of 8 miles turned out to be a huge learning experience for me. Not only did I get to feel what it is like to run in the dark but also see what can happen to a runner during such a long race. Pacing between Mile 64 and 80 for the first time was like being thrown into really cold and deep water. All you can do is swim. And I swam. I had no idea what to say or do and sort of put myself in autopilot mode. It seems that I managed to do and say things right by instinct. All the way to the aidstation ironically called "sunrise" that we reached just after the actual sunrise and where the next pacer took over. I was very tired at that point and do not know how I'll manage to get through a day, a night and another half day of running myself.

Kate and I already celebrating Katelyn's finish with champagne

Seeing Katelyn finish so strong and with a PR a couple of hours later was one of the best experiences in this whole training tale. She showed me just how bad it can get running 100 miles and also, how you can pull yourself out of a dark moment with a little help of your friends. Friends, pacers and a good crew are here for you but you have to do the actual work within yourself. Katelyn taught me more during that night than she probably remembers. I now am more excited than ever to run my first 100 miles and also convinced that I will get to cross the finish line in Auburn unless something is physically stopping me from moving forward. My mental tenacity and my crew/pacers along with some fun will make it happen!
I sort of feel like I did before I ran my first ultra when I was 19. It was also a fun experience with a couple of unexpected moments but mostly filled with smiles.


Mile 26

100yrds to the finish line

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chapter 4 - Week 4 with a bear and an inspiration

Halfway on the timeline to my biggest adventure ever (so far), week 4 was more of a mental preparation chapter.
After a great experience on the WS trails, I took two days off, trying to give my quads a little rest. A midweek run with Erin and John at Chantry Flats was the perfect way to ring the halftime bell as far as my training goes.

We moved at a comfortable pace while I was very busy trying to avoid the masses of poison oak (Gifteiche). I now know exactly what it looks like. Very fortunately, I didn't show an allergic reaction after probably brushing against it on the WS trails. Today, taking funny pictures as well as the giant swing were as important as the actual running. 

My adrenaline level almost went through the roof a little later when we ran past a bear. Erin and I being in front only witnessed the movement going away from us while John did see the it in its true size. 
That's how big the bear was....

He told us to be "big" and keep walking. Being in the front, I heard the loud noise of something big moving and stopped as I didn't want to be the one confronting the bear face to face turning around the next corner. Eventually I did move again and we finished this beautiful run with some excellent lunch and coffee.

On Friday, a group of Coyotes went to Oakhurst to run the Shadow of the Giants 50k the next day. We all stayed in a beautiful house in the country and drove up to Fish Camp the next morning. Big Baz had his little talk about the new and a little bit longer course due to too much snow and off we went. It was the first ultra race for the majority of the group and a very exciting moment for them.

My goal was - again - to take it easy and take it as a training run. I got to run with Chris for almost 23 miles and shared some good conversations as well as tree hugging moments.    

I'm the master treehugger with my 4 arms

On the nasty 4 miles down/4 miles up out-n-back, we crossed almost all of the other Coyote runners and exchanged a few quick words. Amber was having major IT-band issues and I ended up running back down with her to give her all the mental support she might need and finish her first ultra. I wasn't prepared for theses 10 miles of inspiration. I have had my share of IT-band pains and I know what it feels like to run or much more likely, walk with it. Amber would not complain or whine once about her pain and when asked if it hurts, responded with a light "a little". She even produced plenty of smiles when I tried to crack a joke or took a picture. All, while she kept moving, even running the entire last 4 miles! I was deeply impressed by her and learned my lesson to keep my smile and positive energy flowing at all times!

The following day, a couple of the group went up to Yosemite National Park and had some fun on the mist trail and taking post card pictures. It was a great way to finish this week and I have definitely stored more pictures in my heart.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Chapter 3 - Week 3 Sneek Preview with a burpfest

Snow white and Sleeping beauty had two important things in common. They both got to sleep and they were princesses.

Week 3 turned out to be a very sleepy, slow build up with only two fun short shakeouts and a lot of what felt like rest being awake. I found that a princess needs her beauty sleep to be a true statement. Sort of like sleeping beauty. Or Snow White. Although Snow White didn't sleep for a long time, I sometimes wish I had some sort of fruit to make me go to sleep earlier in the evenings. Or maybe some chocolate.

Western States training weekend where I got to run on the actual course started out with a long drive including a wrong turn, some scenic drive out in the country and a lot of traffic  to Auburn. I am a calm and somewhat composed person but when it comes to driving, I tend to use language and volume not suited for young ears when bad driving is in my way or slowing me down. Not very typical princess-like but as I like to say, I'm perfect every day. It's the level of perfection that varies.

Perfect was also the morning of day 1. We didn't get to run from Robinson Flat  but got dropped off at a little lower altitude because there was still so much snow. So instead of 32 miles, most of us "only" covered 28 that day. But what a run it was. I had been told that the canyons would be tough but I did not expect them to be THAT tough. And it was only 28 miles. At the bottom of the first canyon I had already killed my quads half way and the uphill didn't let me be the little kid who needs to burp so badly. I so know why babies cry when they can't let go that extra air from their stomach. I felt the same way. And I ran out of water. Not oh-so perfect at that time. After the aidstation at mile 14, I had a great moment of really loud sounds working their way up my chest and the rest of the run became a burpfest like I have never experienced it before. Even beer hasn't done the same to me yet.
Jim and Tom, my companions on the second half of the distance talked a lot about the interesting historical facts of the area and gave me the same advice everyone has been giving me: hike the uphills, jog the rest and be prepared for the heat (up to 40°C/104°F). I keep realizing that 7 weeks is not a lot of time to prepare for such an adventure but that someone like me probably would be better prepared even if I had more time for training in the heat and other aspects of this race. My life is an adventure as it is and WS is going to be a volume of that book "life".

Michigan Bluff

I was staying with Brian, another WS runner from Australia in Auburn and he wanted to experience some "real" American food. We ended up at Denny's and Taco Bell, two fine choices for our budget and within walking distance. And I do like Taco Bell, I admit it. It sometimes, no at all times doesn't like me back. The effects of that lack of love I usually experience the next day. 

And sure enough, day two turned out to be another airy day. Beautiful sunshine, lots of happy faces and another 20 mile trail run. I did announce once or twice a gas alarm to the runners behind me and did some more serious burping similar to the day before. It all sounds funny but preceeding the bliss of a good and loud belch there's a lot of suffering and nausea. Nothing to worry about but it did slow me down a bit. 
The most fun of the day was the little dip in the river that will have to be crossed at about mile 78 in the race. We either walk across or are taken to the other side by boat, all depending on the snow melt in the next few weeks and the water level of the river. I really hope we'll get to walk through the water. It will be dark by the time I get to that point and it would definitely add more fun to the adventure. 

I will only hear the river on race day because it'll be dark once I get there

Some pleople only cooled down their legs in the really cold water but I semi-intentionally lost balance walking in between the rocks and ended up completely in the water. The swim was really refreshing for the last 3 warm miles uphill where more food and drinks were served in the shade. 

I took many pictures these two days but the real beauty of the world is captured by the eyes and stored in the heart. I can only encourage everyone to go and see it for themselves on a hike or run.

even this princess needs a break sometimes