Monday, July 18, 2016


So, I had this great idea a few months ago.  I decided to sign myself up to run The Scream Half Marathon. First of all...bad idea trying to race on an 18 hour training week with zero rest and also I was sadly mistaken thinking that a downhill race would be 'easy'. Not only that having an achilles issue since March, probably not the brightest thing to do to myself. Live and learn though, right?

Saturday's race proved to be pretty brutal on my body and I'm pretty certain I won't be doing a crazy run like that again! My body is wrecked!! WRECKED!! That's saying something considering what I put it through on a day to day basis. How the hell can a 13 mile hill do me in? Well, it did!! At 5am Sunday morning, Rich woke me up and asked why I was crying! Hahahaha...crying? In my sleep? He said I was whimpering and moaning and he was concerned. I was out like a light, so didn't even know it, but apparently I was whining and moaning haha! That's how sore I am. My body is not happy with me! ESPECIALLY my glutes, hamstring and quads!!!

Anyway, I had decided to do this race before I signed up for Ironman and even thought Rich wanted me to just do it as a training run, I simply can't run a race just for training. I have to push myself. I knew that I would be going in tired and made sure to get in all of my training sessions last week because my race in Oct is much more important to me than this. That left me pretty tired though and a 4am wake up call is not something I like except on an Ironman race morn. Anyway, I dragged myself out of bed and headed over to my friend Catherine's house. She had pulled her calf muscle so was unable to race but chose to volunteer instead so we could still go together. We made the long drive up into the mountain and it's so beautiful up there. I couldn't help thinking that I am pretty certain that the movie Deliverance was based on that area and I just kept waiting to hear the Banjos ;)

Nuff said...

Catherine drove me up the mountain so I didn't have to ride the bus and there we met up with Nicole and Chris. They had done this race before and also Peak to Creek so were trying to fill me in on the what and what NOT to do's. I listened, but for some reason when it's go time my mind forgot everything they told me NOT to do ha!

The first couple of miles were on pavement and rolling. The air was so thick with humidity it was tough to breathe. Thankfully it wasn't too hot though. I started out like I always do (too hard) and on between one and two, I was praying that the downhill would start soon.

We took a right onto the dirt and then it began. Running down and down and down some pretty steep sections at times. I have always been good on downhill in trail runs, but the mileage is much shorter than this. My leg turnover was incredible and I was thankful. Garmin says sometimes it was up to 220spm. This was a good thing...on a downhill! I needed to keep my leg turnover good and settle in. It was going well, really well until around mile 6-7. I started hurting. The jarring, the pounding, the change in run form etc etc. OMG. Things started hurting. I was starting to blow in a different way than blowing from going too hard. My body was blowing. Hit some uphills around mile 8 and 9 and that's when I knew the rest of the race would be a struggle. My hips and glutes were absolutely in knots. Every step started to ache in my hips and rear. OH BOY! I just kept moving though but everything slowed down at that point. Cadence fell, spirit fell. I went in feeling confident and there I was at mile 10 thinking...will I make it????

3rd in Female 40-44
I ran hobbled to mile 12 and saw Catherine at the aid station and she cheered me on which helped lift my spirit back up. I was almost finished. I finally made my way across the line and once I stopped, that's when the real pain set in. Unreal the soreness I was really feeling!!! I was hoping to go faster in this race, but now knowing how hard this is, I was happy with my time and most of my performance. It was exciting to learn that I actually placed 3rd in my age group for this race.

After reading several articles last night on downhill running (wish I had done that BEFORE the race), I realized that it's actually very tough. My pace on this race is actually a little slower than my last few long training runs where my heart rate is low. Definitely not a course you want to try and get a PB on unless you are accustomed to this kind of running.  I think to make it work on a course like this is mostly about conditioning your body to run the terrain and from what I read, it's pretty dang important. Most people that do well on mountain runs either up or down train the terrain and condition their bodies to it.  Nicole and Chris both did well in the race, but they had actually gone up there to train several times on the course before race day.  I am stuck with mostly flat running in my training so yes, my body was in shock! BIG TIME SHOCK!

After some pretty amazing barbecue and some cooling off in the river, we headed home. The hurt really set in at about 8 pm Saturday night. Yesterday I woke up and could barely move, but triathlon training waits for no one though and I had a two hour hilly ride to do. It actually didn't hurt so bad, but when I got off the bike....oooooooooh my! It's times like these I wish I did NOT have stairs in my house! All in all, it was a fun race. Got to spend some time with some tri friends and also got to see a beautiful place in NC that I didn't even know existed. I recommend the race if you want a beautiful course and you like going down a mountain. If you do sign up though, do it quick. It sells out fast. Oh and if you do get may want to get a wheelchair for the next couple of days after ;)

Here's a great little video of the fabulous Emelie Forsberg downhilling it like a boss.

Cheers All ~x

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Leatherwood Mountain 10 Mile! Another great mountain race, but not quite as tough as some of my prior races, thankfully! I used to live and train near this gorgeous place and I haven't been there in years so it was really nice to go back. I became a triathlete training on those mountain roads, so going back was nice and refreshing.  On the drive there, I could remember cycling on those roads and never once thinking how hilly it was...even though it's very hilly. I could remember the happiness I felt in becoming a triathlete on those hills. It's a really gorgeous place. It was exciting thinking I was about to tackle the actual mountain itself.

I wasn't sure that I should do this race because I have been haunted by achilles tendinitis since Table Rock and wasn't sure this was something I should do now that I am planning on Ironman. Don't want to take a chance to further injure this Achilles. However, I thought if nothing else, I will take it easy if the pain is too intense. Luckily, I didn't have very much trouble on race day.

The weather was pretty much perfect. The sun was out and temps were very comfy. I pulled of my jacket and chatted to a few people. Loads of people came from all over the place to race this one. I met the female winner of the 10 mile just before the start and she came all the way from Austin for this race. She was super nice and super fast.

At 9am , it was go time. We started off doing paved road for quite a while. I am not a fan of the paved roads with my trail shoes on, but it wasn't too bad. I am quickly learning to control myself in the start of these races now, so held back. I also wasn't sure just how hard to go with the tendinitis because I did want to actually run this thing. We soon hit the trail and it was so refreshing.  I loved it. Some one the women that had passed me on the road, I quickly caught up to on the trail and made my way around. Road running and trail running are so different. I am much better on trails than on road that's for sure. I think learning how to maneuver on rocky tough terrain is important and the more you expose yourself to it, the better. I kept moving with a pretty even steady pace. Nothing too crazy because the hills were coming.

I was happy with my pace and I felt really strong even though I had absolutely zero rest before this race. I had just started Ironman training again and had cycled 115 miles, ran 30 & swam 6 in the six days leading up to this race, so was pleased with my energy level out there. I am no spring chicken, so rest is crucial for me, but I am still rather fresh since I've just started adding the long stuff again, thankfully.

I was feeling good halfway so I kept trucking. We hit the river crossing around mile 5 and that was really fun. I crossed really quickly and came out to feet that probably weighed about 5 pounds more than when I started. The water quickly came out of my Hoka Challengers tho. I really love those shoes. No blisters, no discomfort. There were several more water crossings along the way, but none like the river. Lots of steep climbs on the last half of the race, and not going to lie...they hurt.

Pretty soon, I was making my way back home and to the finish and still felt really good. My shoe which had been double knotted came untied though on the last mile. It was so full of wet sand that it must have somehow worked it's way loose from that, so I actually had to stop and tie my shoe in the last mile ha. That's a first! Anyway, I pushed along to the finish and ended up with a 1:51. I had hoped to go 2 hours for this race, so was really pleased with my result. Around 2,500 feet elevation gain over the course.

I was 7th overall female and 1st in my AG for this race. There was some pretty stiff competition this time, so was really pleased with my result. I am not the best of runners, but I am getting stronger and this race result really made me happy. The atmosphere there was fun and laid back as always. Everyone is super friendly at these events. Not quite as much as ego in the trail run community as the tri world, but I do obviously love the tri world too. I think I have to have a bit of both worlds now-- I like being laid back, but I also need the competitiveness of the tri scene to thrive. I have found my great mix of both to keep me nice and balanced.

I am supposed to be racing Quest for the Crest Vertical 10k next weekend, but the achilles is still haunting me and not only that, I now have been told by Doctor Nick that I also have Piriformis Syndrome. I have been having that haunt me as well since December, but with no relief I had to find out what was up. It sure is a pain in the ass...literally! Trail running sure does make you strong for sure, but it also takes a toll on the body. In the several years of triathlon, only little niggles here and there. 6 months of trail and mountain body has revolted. I was not doing enough cross training with all the running, so that really took a toll. Thankfully now that I am back into Ironman training, I have that balance back and doing a little less running now. With these two nuisances,  I can manage and deal though. I just have to play it smart. We just have to take things as they come and deal with them the best way we can. So, with that being said...I am 50/50 on the fence about pushing myself up that vertical 10k next weekend. It may not happen. Ironman training is more important to me and this is what I have to think about. We shall see...

Thursday, April 21, 2016


I posted in a Facebook group a couple weeks ago about my bike crash from last year and I had a few people message me and ask that I write a blog about it. Apparently, it gives some people inspiration on coming back from injuries, so I appreciate them saying that. I never thought what I went through could help another, but if my story helps, then I am glad to write it. Since my first race back post crash was St. Anthony's which is this upcoming weekend, I thought now would be as good a time as ever. So here goes...

December 28, 2014. Yorkshire England. I decided that morning that I would go cycling in the cold damp dreary weather that is winter in northern England. Rich pleaded with me not to go telling me that it was icy out and he didn't have a good feeling. Well, if you know me, I am pretty headstrong and fearless, so I decided to just do it anyway. Hind sight is always 20/20, right? I kitted up and headed out the door. I hopped on the bike and felt great. We had just done a really tough trail run race a couple of days before, The Chevin Chase, and my legs were a little tired. Anyone that knows Yorkshire, knows the hills there are no joke. Anyway, I just wanted a nice spin out to breathe and get the blood flowing.

I set off. I was on a mountain bike and was headed to the trails, via the road. Not long into my ride, I was going down hill and through a bend when I saw it- ICE. It was stretched across the road in front of me. I was going around 18mph at the time. I have been cycling for several years and in my mind, I knew what to do. I thought I knew what to do. My body reacted differently though. As the front tire touched the ice, the bike wobbled underneath me. I grabbed the front brake. Too quick, too hard. The front tire was over the ice and locked up on the pavement.  It all happened so fast. My body, attached to the bike, was hurled into the air. The back end of the bike coming over the front end. My face hitting the pavement and taking the blunt of it all. I heard ringing. I saw nothing. I felt everything. According to my Garmin data, my heart stopped for 7 seconds. Weird huh? I can't really describe the feeling, the pain. If you have ever crashed with your head or face taking the blunt of a hard fall, then you know. I felt my teeth and my facial bones crush upon impact. After I came to, I realized I was on the sidewalk. A runner passing by had helped me out of the road and over to the side. I was down on all fours on the cold Yorkshire ground in a pile of blood and brokenness. Spitting out chunks of my teeth. I was crying, oh yes...crying. I remember saying to the guy that my teeth were gone and that my jaw was broken. I don't think he understood because I couldn't even open my mouth property to speak. I knew though. I knew the damage. I felt it. I won't post the photos. There are some back through my blog from a year ago though if you care to look. Anyway----

Pretty soon there were cars everywhere. Some people thought I'd been hit by a vehicle. I saw a little boy in his fathers car crying looking on in horror. I turned my head because I figured he was scared at what he saw. Perhaps the blood. My head was spinning. Everything was spinning and the pain was intense. Then Rich was there. All I could say to him was that my teeth were gone. Things were going numb after that, I couldn't feel my chin, jaw or face anymore. He took me back to the house. Luckily, my father-in-law and my sister-in-law are both doctors and one look told them I needed to go to hospital.

Off to Leeds hospital we went. I won't bore you with all the details about that, but the crash left me with 3 facial fractures including a severely broken jaw. More specifically...a condylar that was broken completely into two pieces. Two chin fractures and 8 broken teeth. Luckily, the front teeth were still in tact only separated and only time would tell if I would be able to keep my front teeth. I had thought after the crash when I was on the road that they were all gone. Thank god there were there and fingers crossed for six months of waiting to make sure the nerves didn't die. The back teeth took the impact though. From my incisors back.  Cracked, broken teeth. 8 of them. Top and bottom.  I also could not feel the left side of my face. The break of my jaw had damaged a facial nerve as well. I had a bone deep laceration underneath my chin that had to be sutured. Oh boy. What a predicament. The rest of my body was ok apart from bruises and scrapes.

So, that is what happened. This post though is really about what happened after--

We flew back to the states on January 2. I had to see a doctor immediately upon our arrival. Actually three of them. What an incredible team of people. So thankful for the good care.

Post crash- Let's just say this was probably harder than the actual accident itself. I ended up with my jaw being wired shut for almost 4 months. Yes, that's right. Imagine that. I ate through a tube
How I ate...
attached to a syringe. As an athlete, I train, eat, and take care of my body. Here I was now, a crumpled mess that couldn't do anything. I was dropping pounds by the day. I was thin to start with, but this was taking things to a whole different level. 20 lbs disappeared within the first two weeks. 20 pounds! Imagine the feeling of your body just wasting away. The muscles and strength that took years to build, disappearing before my very eyes. No matter how many calories I pumped into my body, the weight came off. I was struggling. Mentally. This broke me on the outside and now it was breaking me on the inside. I was getting down, sad, sometimes angry. Miserable. The days seem to pass so slowly. Imagine being hungry, but not being able to pop in a snack or a drink. I had to buy a special blender and plan ahead just to even have a small snack. This was the beginning though and just like anything you learn to adapt. I started to make peace with the injuries and knew I needed to adapt.

After about three weeks of this,  I made a decision that I would not let it defeat me. I put my bike on the trainer. I cannot tell you the feeling of fear I had when I first looked at the bike, let alone getting on it. Clipping sent shivers down my spine. But I did it. I made myself. I knew that I had to. This was me, 3 weeks after my crash, jaws wired shut. First time back on the bike.

I took it easy, I stayed indoors on the trainer. Trying to breathe through jaws that are wired shut is no easy task. But dammit, I did it. I was told by my doctors that I couldn't swim or run for a while and finally begged them for permission at 5 weeks post crash. They said that didn't see how anyone could swim with their jaws wired shut, but I was determined and dammit, I did it! I got back in the pool and like sucking wind through a straw, I swam three times a week.

The run. This was the toughest. My bones were healing, so I had to be careful. The docs didn't want me to do it, but I had to. Five weeks post crash, jaws wired shut. I ran. It was slow and easy, but I ran. 5 miles! Again, with teeth clenched tight, breathing is tough just sitting. Imagine running like that. It was no easy feat but I was determined.

First run. 5 weeks post crash. Jaws wired shut. 
The hardest part for me was getting back on the bike...on the road. But I did it. Around the 5 week mark. I had to do it. I had to get rid of the fear that was haunting me. I'll be honest, it was NOT easy. When I clipped into my pedals for my first ride, I thought I would pass out from anxiety. I had never felt anything like this before. It was real fear. But dammit, I did it anyway. I took off. Afraid. I felt woozy, but rode for an hour. Jaws wired shut. Crying pretty much the first 15 minutes. Pulling back on every hill. Just nice and easy. Baby steps. After my first ride back on the road, I felt a little better. I knew that I was on the right track to healing on the inside.

I had to learn to adapt. I had to learn how to eat. I was not going to let my strength and everything I had built up in years of Ironman training just go away. Once I started 'training' again, I was determined NOT to lose another pound. I ate, and ate, and ate. Well, really it was more like drinking, but whatever. Calories. I consumed more calories a day than probably five athletes put together. In liquid form. I had to keep the weight on and I was successful. I dropped around 25 lbs total from this accident, that being the first few weeks. Once I started training, I didn't lose another pound.  I was on the road back.

I was healing on the outside and the inside. The nightmares (or instant replays) of the accident every night in my sleep were becoming less and less. The more I did the things I love, the better I felt.
I started to become a stronger person. I pushed. I worked. I trained. I wanted to be back racing even thought I was told to take it easy for months. I am just not wired that way. I am a fighter.

Proud to say that I trained for 3 1/2 months for that triathlon with my jaws completely wired shut. I swam, biked and ran, everyday. A broken face, broken teeth, pain.  It did not stop me!

I did my first bike TT three weeks after I got my wires out and I had my fastest TT to date with a 24.6 mph average over a 10 mile course. Then there was St. Anthony's triathlon which was a year ago this weekend. I raced it one month after my jaws were finally set free from all the wires and I had one of my best bikes ever. Sub 1:15 oly bike on a hot and very windy course. I did NOT let my accident stop me. I did NOT let that crash weaken me. What I did do was learn from the crash. I learned about who I really am and what I am really made of.  It made me stronger. More of a fighter. Stronger...inside and out.

St. Anthony's Tri- 4 months after the accident
I finally got the last of my teeth taken care of just one month ago. Luckily, all of my teeth 'lived'. My dentist was worried about the nerves dying, but they didn't, thankfully. I just need some repairs on them. One year of doctors/dentists visits and it's finally come to a close. One year. I still have facial paralysis on the left side, but it's not severe. I can't feel my nose and part of me cheek and chin. This is permanent, but it doesn't really affect me. My smile is different, my jaw and chin are a little crooked now and that's ok. My jaw popped out of place just the other day and it took about a minute before I could even open my mouth. It is what it is though, right? These are my scars!! Like the above quote. It's a reminder of when life tried to break me, but failed. This is where my character was truly defined.

I hope this helps anyone who's ever had a sporting accident. I am honored that people reached out to me after my post. I believe that when life knocks you down, you really have only have two choices. You either stand back up with fists clenched or you let it consume you. I stood back up and it has made all the difference!


Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Train with lions. Right? EEEK!
I'm back! Well, I wasn't really ever too far away from it.  I guess 'back to the grind'  would be a more accurate statement. Back to what I love most. I love long distance and am over the moon with my decision to do Ironman again. It's just who I am.

I look at everything that I have done over the last six months since my last Ironman and am so content. I had such a nice break and a much needed one. Although my running intensified in every way, easy time on the bike and in the pool have paid some pretty big dividends so far.
Recovery ride after Blackrock
Last year, I focused on becoming a better more solid cyclist and through time trailing really developed some good strength and also great confidence. Winning the series last year in my AG was pretty exciting and I am contemplating on doing some more of these this season for training. They really are good for training! Anyway, last week, coach had me do my good ole CP20. I always dread these, but kind of look forward to them at the same time. They hurt, but as cyclists we want to know where we are in our fitness.  I was unsure of where my bike strength was having only cycled very easy and short distances over these last 6 months. During my warm up, I began to dread what was about to come. These tests are important to see where your bike fitness is. Since I am really just now starting to train, I didn't really want to see power lower than last year or even the year before, but I was prepared for it. After a quick warm up it was go time. Full throttle. For 20 minutes. I don't do anything half-assed and this test is not the time to wimp out.  You just suck it up, push and know it's going to hurt like hell. The first ten minutes weren't too killer, then 12, then 14. OMG this is starting to hurt. Push, power, push, breathe, don't vomit. Oh, you just vomited a little. Swallow it. Breathe. All good. OOHHH, this hurts.  I imagined myself in the time trial. The last lap. Pushing. I thought my legs were going to blow----one more minute. You can, you can. Grunt, snort, blow, vomit. DONE! I rolled off the bike and was in the position below for about 10 minutes before I could move. Work hurts. If it doesn't hurt, it certainly doesn't change you and that is something that I have become very comfortable with in the last year and a half. Pain.

Vomit level & not able to move ;) 
I was finally able to stumble down to coach and take him my power meter. I couldn't even look because I didn't want to see low numbers. You can imagine my surprise when he told me it was my highest power test yet. Higher than last year!?!?? I haven't been training and I was able to power through my CP20 and have my highest numbers yet??? What???  Over 250 FTP is pretty exciting and going into a flat race this fall...exactly where I want to be early season. I am pretty ecstatic with that. I have just started training, so I really was shocked. I read recently that time off the bike is the key to getting stronger. I now believe that. Although I cycled throughout the winter, it was short and easy. A few strength sessions here and there. I also think that my leg strength has improved a lot. With the trail running, mountain running and all the strength and conditioning work this year...these things have made a big difference. In running and cycling. I'm seeing super huge gains in my running and all of the trail running has really made me stronger. I love hills now. Prefer them to flat actually. I am running fitter and faster than I have ever run before and I couldn't be happier. On the trails the pace is a little slower, but when translated to the pavement, I am sometimes really surprised.  I have gained so much confidence in my running and am planning to continue trail racing throughout the summer for training. I have had some achilles tendonitis flares from Table Rock and Blackrock, but it's manageable and actually starting to get better (hopefully). I was planning on NOT doing Leatherwood Ultra, but my AT is feeling better, so am putting in back on the schedule. Looking forward to that one. It's on my old turf and old training grounds. My swimming is consistent as always, and I am happy with where my swims are. Only able to swim 2x weekly at the moment, but not planning on killing myself in the pool this year. I need to build back some swim endurance, but that's about it. Speed is good. Strength is good. Just need to go from those comfy 2800yd swims back to the longer ones.

Long runs are on the trails these days
Next month is Quest for the Crest Vertical 10k, as long as the AT is ok, still doing it. Leadville in June may or may not happen. With the new job starting for me, it's going to be tough to make it work, but it's not out of the picture just yet. Still planning on the Xterra Series and also now on the waitlist for The Bear and The Scream. Ironman in October, then perhaps some more run races late in the year.

This year is about having lots of fun. Not that it's not always fun, but sometimes we tend to put too much pressure on ourselves as amateur athletes. It really is all about having fun and in having fun, sometimes we become better all around than when we take things too seriously. I want to be as strong as I can, have as much fun as I can and enjoy every minute of the ride. Being able to do what I do at 42 is pretty freaking awesome. Being able to show my kids this...means everything.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016


And just like that-- I hit the submit button! It's only after the fact that I gulped! Ha! Really though, I had some people who were wagering on me actually sticking to my guns and taking this year off from Ironman completely. I even thought that I had myself fooled into believing that I could. However, when the heart has a calling, you have to answer. Ironman is what I have done for the last six years. It's what I know. What I love. The rigid structure of training, the times on six hour bike rides when you truly learn who you are.  The mental battles that come along with training. The battles of being too tired to carry on but carrying on anyway. I love this and I need it!! I love all the running. I do. It's just not enough for me. I need more than the one thing. I need it all. The long swim sets, the miles and miles and miles of biking and running. Not to mention everything in between. It's the balance in that that I need and that balance that I crave. I believe that triathletes are perfectly well rounded because of being able to balance those three sports and to me I have to have it in my life to make me happy.

So, for those of you who said "I know you'll end up doing Ironman this year", and you know who you were right. Even if I didn't believe it at the time myself. My riding partner Erik said to me..."it's in your blood." I think perhaps he is right. It's what I love and it's a piece of what makes me, well me.

I am really excited to have taken the plunge again. Very much looking forward to a flat course this time. I have become much strong with my running over the last few months by taking it off road. I plan to continue to work the trails to help me get stronger. I have been swimming and cycling all along, and my swimming is exactly where I want it to be. I need to start my power sessions back on the bike now. My last bike interval was about 5 weeks ago. Not too bad.

My other love & passion
I am still going to be running mountains, trail running and racing all throughout this year. It, like Ironman, is also a part of me and what I really do love. I have always been an off road junkie and my plan is to keep on keeping on with it. I do believe that trail running helps to translate to better running on the road. At least it does for me. My easy runs are now what my race pace road runs used to be. I'm digging that...a lot!  Still doing all of my trail races this year and yes, even the crazy vertical mountain runs. Eeeek! I am currently the points leader in NC Xterra Trail Run Series for my age group and will be running all of the Xterra trail races this year for more points. I really would love to get to Oahu, Hawaii for Xterra Trail Run Worlds in Dec. That may have to wait until next year, but it's something that I am definitely working towards.

Think I've nailed my balance. I have it all back and have vision of where I want it all to go. That's good. No, actually, that's great. Last year was a blur. From the accident that took me down for about four months, to a lot of nonsense, to pushing to hard and getting too exhausted trying to get back into it. Not giving myself time to heal from the crash etc etc. It was all too much. This year is ace though. Everything is falling into place as it should and I'm beaming from the inside. Even landed a dream job in the tri industry that I get to do from home, but more on that to come. 

I'm pumped and excited to have my direction as an athlete back. I'm 42 years young and to be able to do what I do is a blessing. So here's to soaking it all in, having a lot of fun and training and racing with a big ole smile on my face. How lucky am I to have a body that lets me run it too exhaustion over and over again, and still lets me continue to do what I love? 

Always, always, always!

Cheers friends~

Friday, March 25, 2016


WOW! And I thought Table Rock was tough, but this beast took the cake! What a brute of a mountain race. I came across this little gem about a week ago and in search for mountains and more mountains to run while training for Leadville, I thought, why not? I called up my bestie TJ who has been there for so many firsts in my life to make this journey with me and she said okie dokie and with that, I hit the submit button. And then gulped ;)

We headed to the Smokies on Friday and what a fun trip. We ended up in Maggie Valley. Such a nice little mountain town with such a friendly hometown feel. We explored a little and had a nice dinner and then chilled out for the remainder of the evening.

When I woke up on race morning, I quickly looked outside because the weather had been calling for rain and cold. Much to my surprise ( well, not really because they never get it right) it was quite warm and it was dry! Hallelujah! I didn't really want to be scaling those cliffs on wet rocks. Turns out...they were wet anyway. More on that in a bit--

We arrived at the race site and once again there's such a positive vibe in the trail and ultra community. It is so laid back and so enjoyable. I went over to pick up my bib number and that's when they asked me to sign this....

Well, ok then. With Ironman you obviously sign a waiver and it's pretty intense if you actually take the time to read it, but I don't think that I have ever quite signed one like this. I knew this race was tough, but wow! I had to take a picture just to laugh about it later, hoping none of the above actually happened to me!! I would say this race is definitely Chuck Norris worthy ha!

Thankfully TJ was an amazing Sherpa. I ended up ditching most of my clothing on her because it was much warmer than we initially thought it would be. I was down to a tank and shorts and I felt comfy. I decided to warm up for a few minutes and I ran up the hill where the race started. Within minutes my heart rate was pounding. Actually within maybe a two minutes. This beast started on incline. Straight up from the get go. The terrain seemed to be large rocks and skree which really takes a toll on the ankles. Oh boy! decided to go easy on the liquids any my Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra pack. I didn't want any extra weight slowing me up on the climb. The lighter you are, the better in these type of races. I had just enough liquid to get me through, but knew I had to use it sparingly. It was warm and I have a very high sweat rate, so was cutting it close. Anyway, made my way to the start and listened to the RD give us the race info. Seems he wanted us to know just how treacherous this was and not only that...every year someone has gotten lost out there. Um, wow! I am seriously geographically challenged so was really trying to pay attention. I didn't want to be 'that person' ;)

5,4,3,2,1...we're off! I kept telling myself--control it, control it. The heart rate was climbing fast and were weren't even 2 minutes into the race. Breath, control, too late! Heart rate was soaring and I knew it was going to be a rough day. Of course everyone around me was pretty much the same. I heard someone say "Here we go, 'this' for the next 3 miles."

Rather than go on about how hard this was, just have a look at the course info above. Table Rock was roughly 3,350ish elevation gain over around 5 miles or so. Tough, yes. This baby was nearly 3,000 in only 3.5 miles, but the kicker was the last actually 1/2 mile which was 650 gain and topped out at 5,810 altitude, and let me tell you, that baby was basically vertical. I thought about crawling a couple of times. Perhaps it would have been faster. If there hadn't been trees along the trail to pull myself up on, not quite sure how I would have gotten up to the top. It was a bit tough too because we ran down the same way and so the faster guys were descending like lightning as I was trying to reach the top. Talk about potential for some serious head on collisions. EEEK! There's no stopping on a decline like that!

Once at the top, you had to climb the rock at the top to get the bib marked. I pretty much needed climbing gear at that point just to get up that rock. Thankfully an outstretched hand of a fellow runner helped hoist me up. Thankful for that but then once at the tip, gulped because I knew I had to get down. I am all about running downhill, and I knew with the terrain and the steepness, that it would be really rough! Once I slid on my bum down the tip of the mountain to find ground, I just decided to go for it. Again using trees and rocks to keep me upright. It was slippery and it was steep. Runners were still coming up and like I mentioned before, there's just no stopping when you are running downhill with speed. Thankfully everyone is very courteous and made way for those of us barreling down.

After about 1/3 mile of the massive steep portion, it got a tiny bit easier. This still was so much more difficult than Table Rock, but I can only compare the two. This was my second mountain run ever. The creek crossings, the mud, the stone, the skree--this race had just about every thing you can imagine. I now know that for races like this I need more grippy shoes.  I love my Hokas but these are for easier trail running and not so much steep, wet or technical. Anyway, barreling down, down, down. Ankles screaming, knees screaming, quads on fire. It's certainly a balancing act! The last mile or so was on a steep ravine section and was very rocky. I was running pretty quickly at this point and knew one wrong move and I was a goner down the ravine. I took the chance and kept trucking.

Finally nearing the end, my ankles had had enough and I rolled my left ankle in between two rocks and had to hobble the final feet to the finish. As soon as I stopped, I couldn't put any pressure on my ankle and removed my shoe. I was nearly in tears at the stabbing pain I felt. TJ was holding me up. Luckily after a few minutes, the sharp stabbing eased off a bit and I was able to put my foot down on the ground and stand. A swollen ankle would haunt me for a couple of days and then my body forgave me and made peace with it. My body sure took a beating on this course and really I gave it my all and am pleased with that. This race certainly tested me, my grit. I really like that!

While I was out there in the thick of it, my mind drifts to places that you just don't find when out on the road.  I am focused and alert to my surroundings. I am pushing myself, but paying attention to every detail of the course. During Table Rock, as well as this race, I had this amazing sense of peace. It's hard to explain but it's almost a 'primitive' feeling. Out there, you're at one with nature, your surroundings, the earth. Isn't that the whole essence of trail running?!?  It really does feel good.  I think I have found a new passion in mountain running as well. I have been trail running and racing on and off since 2011, but running up mountains is brand new to me and I am in love with it. Good thing too, I guess, since my ultimate goal is Mont Blanc.

I am really pleased with my performance. I don't get to train on mountains, so I am happy at how well this is going. Coach says that my legs are strong from all of the years of bike and run training and that's why I still continue to cycle and do the leg strength work. The carry over strength helps me up and over even though I am unable to train on the terrain or mountains. Hoping to increase the strength to get me through Leadville.

I am a triathlete through and through and now I am starting to miss the grind of Ironman training. It's all I have really known for the last several years. I am still cycling and swimming 2x weekly on top of the running. I'd be lying if I said I haven't been considering a late season Ironman. We shall see. I am trying to decide on what to do after Leadville. There are some ultras in the fall that look really appealing and I'm trying to get Rich to start racing some of these too. We may do a couple of fall races together, but if I change my mind...well, you know what I will be doing if that happens :)