ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (marathon)
[personal profile] ilanarama
Yesterday morning I ran the Kennebec Challenge, a 14.75-mile trail race I did three years ago (although running the lollipop-course in the opposite direction, as it switches every year). I didn't bring a camera this year, nor hang out with anyone who did, but here are some photos from 2009, and the GPS track overlaid on Google Earth - this year we went counter-clockwise instead. It's a pretty serious mountain race, and in fact this year all runners were required to have Colorado Search and Rescue cards - I figured I should get one anyway so I didn't mind! (It's $3/year or $12 for 5 years, although it's included in hunting and fishing licenses. It pays into a fund that pays for SAR services, so you won't get a bill if you have to be e.g. heli-evac'ed. Spoiler alert: I did not need to be heli-evac'ed.)

In 2009 I ran 3:19:20; this year I ran 3:03:49, an improvement I'm quite happy about even though I did not make my sub-3 goal. Oddly, both times I had an emergency bathroom break at exactly the same place; according to my watch this year I wasted a little more than three minutes on this, so I was awfully close to my goal without it! I also came in second in the 40-49F age group, about three minutes (again, those three minutes! argh!) behind a 43-year old (let me remind you that I am almost 49) who incidentally just ran the Hardrock 100 last month.

It was a beautiful and sunny day, and I didn't carry a pack but instead just a handheld water bottle (with toilet paper stuffed into its pocket as usual, fortunately). The race starts around 9200 ft elevation. The first four miles, to the intersection at around 10,500 ft, have both uphills and downhills (though mostly up), and although my pace was marred by STUPID GUTS, I averaged 12:30 pace, which is okay for that kind of terrain. I took off in the front-middle of the pack, some people passed me, I passed a few. I was just closing in on a woman wearing a black skirt and a Durango Crossfit shirt when I decided I really needed to go off into the bushes. When I was finished, I was pleased to see there were at least two people behind me, but man, a LOT of people passed me during STUPID GUTS break.

I slowly passed a few of them back on my way to the intersection, where I grabbed a cup of water from the aid station. Then the jeep road got steeper. I passed a couple more women, including Crossfit Woman, and two guys, one with a dog, on my way to about mile 6.3, another 2.3 miles and 1200 vertical to 11,700, at a blistering 16:20 pace. I noticed that when I could run, I made time on the people ahead of me, but when I walked, I kept about even with them. This is actually an improvement over my usual situation in steep mountain trail races, which I attribute to my weekly practice powerwalking up Babyhead Hill, a section of local trail that gains about 200 feet in less than a fifth of a mile. got hard. An aid station marked the beginning of the singletrack section - they had a water jug and I refilled my handheld to about halfway. We turned off onto a 'trail', by which I mean a steep animal track cutting up toward the ridgeline. Fortunately it was flagged with colored ribbon, because it was nearly impossible to see any actual path. I managed to pass several people here as well. This singletrack section is about 1.2 miles long and climbs to cross the ridge above 12,100 before descending. I tried to run along the descent but it was quite scary, and I slipped several times although never actually fell. I did pass a couple more people, though at one point I got passed by a guy.

Then came the really stupid part. The 'trail' cut diagonally down a ludicrously steep hillside and then ended on a dirt bank. The dog who was with one of the runners behind me just slid right down it on all four paws, but the rest of us had a tougher time of it. I ended up going down on my butt and hands, which was pretty unpleasant and resulted in a cut on my left palm that still hurts.

This got us back down to 11,800, where we hit a very bad old jeep road that is covered in rocks, which goes up to the Notch at just over 12,000 feet. I ran and walked up it, passing a few people but also being passed here. When I did this in 2009 I walked it entirely, downhill, because the footing is so nasty. The Notch is a high cut between two rock walls, and I hit it right at the 2 hour mark - which meant that my 3-hour goal was still possible, but unlikely.

From there it was thankfully downhill, and I passed quite a few people here. (Some of the people I was passing at this point had started a half-hour early; if you think you'll be slower than 4 hours, you're encouraged to take the early start.) It was nice to open up and run at faster than 9-minute pace for the first time that day, but I noticed that my breathing was really ragged, like I was getting exercise-induced asthma, and I had to cut back on my pace until I got below 11,500 (which I have noticed in the past seems to be my threshold level for feeling the altitude).

I grabbed a handful of grapes from the aid station where the jeep road started to descend the canyon, and started flying down. I re-passed the guy with the dog who had passed me up on the stupid descent, and a few other people as well. I felt really solid on the downhill, and remembered that in 2009 I was more careful about picking my way down the rocky bits - and my friend Ramona, who was also running, told me I should just RUN and not watch my line so carefully. Well, I guess I have synthesized her advice, because I was moving faster and feeling good about it.

And then I abruptly stopped feeling good. I'm not sure if I overcooked my running or simply overcooked - it was very sunny and I was feeling quite hot - but I started feeling very tired and nauseated. I had also run no longer than 2:20 in one go in the previous weeks, so by 'time on my feet' I was well past what I was used to. By this point I had hit the intersection and rejoined the original jeep road, and as I mentioned before, it had both ups and downs. The ups felt brutal, even though they were tiny, and I even (don't tell anyone) walked one of the uphills. My pace went from 8:30-8:50 to 9:40. Fortunately I was almost to the finish. I made it to the finish line, went straight into the shade and sat down, and it was a long time before I stood up again.

I went down to the river to soak my legs in its icy waters, but could barely manage a few minutes. It was really COLD! Then I went back up and waited for the awards. They only gave prizes for first overall and first in age group, so I didn't get one, but they had a lot of random draw prizes and I won a pair of trail shoes! (I decided to give them to my husband in the interest of marital harmony. This is actually the second pair of shoes I've won that I've given to him. I figure if he gets my prizes he will be happier about me going off and doing races! Also, maybe he will run more often with me!)

Final stats: 3:03:49 official time, 2nd AG. 7/23 women, 19/49 overall. (Yes, it's a tiny race!) No woman older than me finished ahead of me, although a 54-year old man did.

From Greenlee

Date: 2012-08-12 09:20 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
That sounds extremely tough! I am totally in awe of you for tackling this and ranking so highly. Congrats!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-12 09:32 pm (UTC)
sobelle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sobelle

And Whoa! that was brutal just with the reading!!

I think I had a little bit of heat exhaustion with you there at the end ... and your dirt surfing down the rocky hillside passage gave me the heebie-jeebies!

You are seriously awesome!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-12 11:54 pm (UTC)
traveller42: (Default)
From: [personal profile] traveller42
Congrats on the course PR!

Descending Mt Fuji was mostly scree. I sat down abruptly once and the footing was atrocious for most of it.

Marital harmony is a high priority.

What's the next race?

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-14 01:32 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
A three MINUTE bathroom break? Ouch. :( Amazing job. That's quite an improvement! WAY TO GO!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-14 01:32 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
<3 Rebecca :)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-08-15 01:27 am (UTC)
ainsley: (the birds began to sing)
From: [personal profile] ainsley
Fucking guts. Glad they got better-ish soon, and congrats on the time! (I tried to envision Babyhead Hill and failed, but it was a good stretch for my brain.)


ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

August 2017

131415 16171819
20212223 242526

My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @


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