Friday, August 1, 2014

Pineapple Iced Coconut Macadamia Cookies and State Fair Open House

So you know there is something REALLY wrong with your cookies when you bring them to work in the ED and no one eats them...

That was the case with these cookies last weekend.

I created this recipe in 2011 for the Ellison Bakery Cookie Contest at the Indiana State Fair. Back then, Ellison Bakery (the company that bought out Archway) sponsored a contest where you had to make an original recipe home style cookie - something that they could potentially mass market to their customers.

They picked 20 finalists. The finalists then had to bring 10 cookies on a white paper plate to the open judging that was done on the main stage at the Home and Family Arts building. There were 3 judges on an elevated stage and they made comments about each cookie as they tasted them. Then, the judges turned off their mikes and started sorting cookies - picking up plates and moving them around the table, eliminating and picking... Since the stage was elevated, all you could see were the plates they were moving around but not the cookies. I hadn't been able to fit all 10 of my cookies on a round paper plate. The rules only specified white paper plate so I had put mine on an oval plate and mine was the only oval plate up there. Therefore, every time they picked up my plate I could tell it was mine and my heart was beating out of my chest. Finally, they announced that they had picked the top 3 but were going to go backstage to discuss the placing... then one of them picked up my plate and left the stage! I ended up placing third and I was absolutely thrilled.

Here is my original recipe...

Pineapple Iced Coconut Macadamia Cookies
2 1/2 cups chopped macadamia nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 teaspoons coconut extract
1 2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pineapple juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 1 1/2 cups toasted macadamia nuts in a food processor and process with cutting blade until fine. Add 2 tablespoons oil, then sugars, shortening, egg, corn syrup and coconut extract and mix until smooth. Pour into mixing bowl. Mix in flour and salt until well blended. Add remaining 1 cup macadamia nuts and coconut. Roll into balls and place on cookie sheet, then flatten into disks before baking. Bake for 12 minutes until lightly golden brown. Cool.
Mix icing ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Drizzle over cookies. 

So there you have it. A pretty simple cookie to make. So what was wrong with my cookies? As I said in my last post they didn't taste right and I decided not to take them on Friday and remade them, bringing them on Sunday instead. Doubly doubly glad that I went with my instincts! As I discovered, I had omitted the sugar (!!) the first time.

This is the first time I've competed these cookies in the regular (meaning not a sponsored special contest) fair. I went to the Open House last night to see how I did.

They won the Cookie Sweepstakes! That meant it took First in the Nut Cookie category that it was entered in, then it beat out 20 other First place cookie category winners for the best overall cookie. Cookies are a huge Class at the Fair so I am totally thrilled!!

Moving on to find my other entries, I found my Honey Pecan Bars...

OMG!! I won the Sweeps for Honey Cookies too! There are only 4 categories in the Honey Cookie Class so not as big as the regular Cookie Class (where there are 21 categories) but still thrilled beyond words.

My Biscoff Cookies (No Bake category) and Nutella Sea Salt Stuffies (Filled Cookie category) did not place. My Raspberry Cream Cheese Tea Cookies ended up third in the Dairy Cookie category.

The Pumpkin Pecan Rolls did not place. I think they were either too dry or there was too much icing on them.

Remember the Honey Oat Bread that I remade on Sunday morning?

Glad I remade that too! I still think it looks a little flat on top but apparently it tasted just fine.

Finally, I went to find my Loaded Potato Rolls. My go-to yeast roll recipe.

                                                      ... and it took the Sweeps in the Yeast Roll Class!

I have never won this many Sweeps ribbons in a single year. Last year the only Sweeps I took was the Sweeps in the Yeast Rolls for the very same rolls and I said then that I'd be happy if I didn't win another thing for the rest of the Fair since I'd won a Sweeps. I have to say that in triplicate now! I am SO SO  happy! I only brought in 8 items which is the least amount of items I've brought for the opening weekend since I started doing this... but I placed five of them with four firsts and a third, and three of my firsts also took their respective Sweeps. Unbelieveable.

Today is Opening Day of the Indiana State Fair. I have to go to work in a couple hours so I am staying home. I have two cakes to turn in tomorrow morning before I go back to work. I had three cakes entered but I trialed my Honey cake recipe yesterday and it was inedible. Not kidding. I pitched it, then decided I was scratching out of that category. I was up til 1:30 am working on the other two cakes, then got back up at 5 am to pick my husband up from the airport... so I'm a little tired. Goal today will be to finish up my cakes then make it through my shift at work.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

2014 Indiana State Fair - Round One

First weekend of State Fair baking is done and I'm still sane! Yeah me!

As I mentioned earlier, I really scaled back and I'm glad I did. My original plan was to turn everything in this (Sunday) afternoon. However, G had 3 art entries to turn in and those could only be turned in on Friday or Saturday. Since going to the fairgrounds Saturday was out, that meant I'd have to turn her things in on Friday. So new plan - make my cookies on Friday and turn them in. Bake all my breads on Saturday after work and turn them in today.

Most of the recipes I'm using this year are tried and true ones that I've entered before. I had 5 cookies to make on Friday...

First up were the Biscoff (no bake) Cookies. Recipe HERE (Thanks Isabelle!)
No problem.

Next was a Meijer shopping run for everything else I'd need this weekend. They had an mPerks coupon for 5% off grocery items so I had a list and waited til Friday morning.

Second in the line up were Nutella Sea Salt Stuffies. Recipe HERE.
I remembered from earlier to make small balls of Nutella and put them in the freezer overnight so everything went off without a hitch.

Up next were Honey Pecan Bars. Recipe HERE.
For some reason the first crust I made came out of the oven with huge cracks all over the bottom like it was too dry. I remade the crust before pouring the filling in, then finished baking them and put them on my bun rack to cool.

My fourth cookie of the day was the only new one and it was something I had trialed on Thursday night, then decided to tweak on Friday. It was for the Dairy Cookie category where you have to have two dairy ingredients in your cookie. I decided to make cookies using butter and cream cheese and sandwich them together with raspberry jam. My mom used to make cream cheese cookies when we were kids. She used a box of cake mix and some cream cheese. I don't know what else was in them but they were a really sweet cookie that she squirted out of a cookie press and sandwiched together with raspberry jam.

I thought the cookies I had trialed on Thursday night were too thin. I added more flour and an egg on Friday and tried again. This cookie came out definitely thicker but tasted doughy. Visually it looked good, but I wasn't thrilled.

Moving on though, I went ahead and made my last cookie. Pineapple iced coconut macadamia cookies. Recipe coming this week.

This is a very easy cookie to make as you mix almost every thing together in a food processor, then dump it out in a bowl and add flour, then scoop it onto a cookie sheet. I remember putting a teaspoon of salt in and thinking that seemed like a lot of salt. I took a little taste of the batter before adding flour and it was salty but I went ahead and finished making the cookies. Once the cookies came out, I tasted one... and they were salty. Hmmm. Maybe they were salty because the pineapple icing is really sweet? I made the icing and ate another cookie. That didn't fix the taste. Next I covered the entire cookie in icing. Moderately better but the cookie just didn't taste like I had remembered it.

Now it was time to go. I had decided I was leaving the house by 5 pm at the latest. Entries were being accepted until 8 pm but I didn't want to wait until the last minute. I was plating my cookies when I decided I was not going to take the cream cheese raspberry cookies or the pineapple iced coconut macadamia cookies with me. They just didn't taste right.

This is what I turned in Friday night: Nutella, Honey Pecan, and Biscoff

After turning my items in, I came home and cooked a pound of bacon to prep for Saturday then went to bed as I had to be up at 4:30 am to go to work.
Saturday, a small miracle happened and I got off work on time!
I made Loaded Potato Rolls as soon as I got home. No problem.
I remade the pineapple iced coconut macadamia cookies while the potato rolls were rising. SO glad I remade them. They came out just like I remembered and I figured out why the first batch was so awful... I'd forgotten the sugar!
Next were Pumpkin Pecan Rolls. I had made these for the first time on Thursday. They turned out pretty good.
I remade the raspberry cream cheese cookies while the pumpkin pecan rolls were rising. Still not 100% happy with the taste but decided they were presentable enough to turn in.
Finally, I made my Honey Oat Bread.
The only "problem" with baking breads for the fair is how time consuming it is as you have to wait for the dough to rise at least twice for each recipe. Usually I will start the first rise of my second recipe during the second rise of my first recipe. Since I'm making other baked goods too, I will try to squeeze in less time consuming items like cookies during the rises. I have a double oven so sometimes I have two ovens going at the same time too. It's multi-tasking to the max and sometimes I get confused...
Last year I put some rolls in the oven to rise. I thought the oven was off and I was going to use the residual warmth to help my rolls rise. Well, the oven was actually on. I didn't realize it until the plastic wrap covering my rolls started melting and smoking... stuff like that...
So this year, I was pretty happy that I didn't have to do too much multi-tasking and I was feeling pretty sane... but then I messed up the rise on my Honey Oat Bread. I think I actually let it go too long and the middle collapsed during baking. By now it was after 1 am. The bread was not presentable. Last year I stayed up late baking bread items. I had one last thing I was trying to make and I fell asleep on the couch... then slept through the oven timer going off (deets HERE, and hey, looks like I had problems with that darn Honey Oat Bread last year too!) I decided the prudent thing to do was to go to bed and remake it in the morning.
I popped out of bed at 7:30 am today and remade the bread. I tried a different size pan but I'm still not happy with the rise. It looked better than the first loaf though so it went to the fair.
This is what got turned in today...

Top row: Honey Oat Bread, Pumpkin Pecan Rolls, Loaded Potato Rolls
Bottom row: Raspberry Cream Cheese Tea Cookies, Pineapple Iced Coconut Macadamia Cookies
My life has been so busy this summer I didn't even try to put out a garden. My neighbors tonight gave me two bags of fresh tomatoes. I gave them loaded potato rolls and pumpkin pecan rolls. I then caught up on who was running what this weekend. I'm a little sad I didn't race this weekend but, in reality, I don't think there was any way I could have gotten everything done.
Cakes are up next weekend but I'm going to get back to running this week too.
How was your weekend? It's the last weekend before school for us Center Grove families :(


Friday, July 25, 2014

Living at the Speed of Life

Life has been coming at me fast and hard lately. There have been days lately where I feel like I'm just barely keeping my head above water. Then I decided to stop the madness...

Last week was Johnson County Fair week. I took Friday and Saturday of the week before off as entries are due by 11 am on Saturday morning. I also took Monday and Tuesday of last week off as the bake-off is always on Tuesday of Fair week. The bake-off theme this year was pumpkin...

 ...and then, for the first time in 26 years, I didn't enter the County Fair.

My heart just wasn't in it. I was tired. I had other stuff I wanted to do more. It is my life after all and I decided I shouldn't do things just because I've always done them or I'm expected to do them. Last year I was just crazy the week before the fair. This year, I decided to step away. I went and ran the Midnight 5K in Seymour Friday night instead of baking all night and slept in Saturday morning. Once I made a conscious decision I wasn't entering the Fair, it made me feel free to do other things. Since I didn't have to bake all day Monday for Tuesday's bake-off, we took off Sunday night after I got off work and went to visit friends at their lake house in Michigan. We played in the lake all day before driving home that night.

Of course we couldn't let Fair week go by without a visit to the Fair. Besides, my 900 year old daughter had an entry...

"Nights With No Sleep"

... and it won First Place and Class Champion for the Open Class Junior (4th - 6th Grade) Fine Arts category. I think this also further confirms that the child really is 900. What other child draws a picture of someone who can't go the sleep because she has a 3-prong socket in the back of her head and her pillow just has a 2-prong outlet? I didn't get it at first. I thought she was making some statement about not being able to go to sleep because of being addicted to your electronics and she had to explain it to me (as I'm only 45).

So, no Fair entries for me last week and this is how Week 3 of marathon training went...

Sunday - No running. Worked all day then drove to Michigan.
Monday - No running. Played in the lake all day; did some stand up paddle boarding for the first time.
Tuesday - 7 miles
Wednesday - 7 miles after work.
Thursday - 6 miles at 8:31 pace. Crawled out of bed at 4:15 am to run with a group to do this!
Friday - 5 miles (had 12 on the schedule and bagged it at 5)
Saturday - No running. Too tired after working all day.

Week 3 Total Miles: 25

This week, Week 4, was supposed to be a bigger mileage week. Well Saturday was the first of 5 work days in a row. Ended up putting in 55 hours in 5 days. Add in an hour commute each way and that equals too dead tired to do anything!

Running went pretty much down the drain this week. I had asked off for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday as State Fair entries are due Saturday. I ended up getting Sunday off too and found out that the Culinary Arts entry deadline was also extended to Sunday this year.

State Fair entries require pre-registration so I had to decide back in June what I was going to do. Last year I entered 35 baked items. This year I decided to scale back and entered 17. I only have 8 items due this weekend; the rest are spread out throughout the course of the fair. Original plan had been to spend Thursday prepping, then Friday through Sunday baking, but... run a 5K in Scottsburg, IN (almost 2 hours south of me) on Saturday morning and a 5K in Columbus on Sunday morning.

Admittedly, this was pushing it time management wise. Then, I didn't have time to run this week. Then, my husband wanted me to drive him to the airport Sunday afternoon. Then, a co-worker had a family emergency and I picked up his Saturday morning shift. All signs from the Universe to back off some more... so I made a conscious decision not to run at all this week... and I felt like a thousand pounds had been lifted off of me and I could breathe again.

Why make myself miserable trying to do all the things that are suppose to be fun when pursuing "fun" makes me miserable?

Thursday was my day off after the 5 work-days-in-a-row from hell. I spent the morning running errands with the kids - eye doctor appointments, back to school shopping, lunch out, and grocery shopping. In the evening I trialed some new recipes...

                                                          ... and enjoyed it. Baking is fun when your heart is in it!

I plan to bake all my cookies Friday and take them to the fairgrounds. Saturday, I'll work in the morning then make all my breads when I get home. Sunday I'll take my husband to the airport, then my breads to the fairgrounds. Maybe I'll be ready to run again after that.

Week 4 Total Miles: 0

I am working on slowing down my life to enjoy it. I'm tired of trying to "catch up" all the time when all I'm doing is "catching up" on the monster that I created. Make sense?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Midnight 5K and Week 2 Wrap Up

Ever ask yourself, "Self, what the hell are you doing?" Those were my thoughts last night. "HaeWon, what the hell are you doing driving to Seymour in the middle of the night." I was driving there to run a 5K at midnight. My speed work for the week. If I didn't run the 5K, I'd have to run some speed work on my own this morning. Bed was sounding pretty good at 11 pm but the thought of having to run hard by myself in the morning made me go to Seymour. Besides, it turned out to be a very pleasant summer night, full moon and not too much humidity.

There were like a bazillion kids when I showed up at the Seymour High School football stadium. The run was to benefit the Seymour High School cross country team. The Seymour Owls. Maybe that's why it's a midnight run? I found my group of Crossroads runners and commented that I was about to get smoked by a bunch of high school kids. I actually felt pretty good though. My goal was to run under 25:00 and try to get my average pace down under 8:00 again.

The start was jam packed with kids. For a minute it felt like I was in a corral at the Mini-Marathon, it was that crowded. Gun went off and the kids took off. It was really dark. Too dark to see my watch for most of the run. My first mile felt 7:30-ish. My second mile didn't feel too bad but I felt pretty comfortable too so I was worried I was running too slow. The good thing about having all those kids blast out in front of me was that it gave me something to do... as in picking them off one by one. I was pretty sure my second mile was under 8:00 too but I was getting tired. The race was run through downtown Seymour. I had no idea where I was going. We kept turning block after block so I got really turned around direction-wise and just kept following the kids in front of me. Somewhere in the second mile Jane, who runs in the age-group below me, caught up with me. She's a bit faster than me so my goal at that point was to just stay with her as long as I could... to the next corner, the next street, the next sidewalk... where the heck are the stadium lights?!! Surely we're close to done by now. Finally, the stadium came into view and I let Jane go. Too tired to kick at this point but just trying to maintain my pace. I thought I'd run under 25:00 as long as I maintained my pace.

Here's what the Garmin ended up showing...

several of us thought the course was long...

Mile 1 - 7:35
Mile 2 - 7:46
Mile 3 - 7:55
last 0.1 - 1:21

Official time - 24:37 (7:55 pace)
Finished 74 of 237 Overall.
For the record, I got beat by 52 kids between the ages of 12-15. Fast little stinkers!
18th out of 121 in the women's race and won the 45-49 age group (1 of 9)

I didn't get home til 2:30 am but I was happy with my run and I got to sleep in this morning.

So this is how the week ended up...

Sunday - 10 miles
Monday - 6 miles
Tuesday - 12 miles
Wednesday - 3 miles (I cut it a mile short, it was pretty ugly)
Thursday - rest
Friday - 5 miles (5K + 1 mile warm up and 1 mile warm down)
Saturday - rest

Week 2 Total Miles: 36

I have more work days plus travel next week and no races so we'll see if I can keep up this pace in Week 3. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Training... on a Wing and a Prayer

So... Monumental Marathon training started last week... sorta...

Last week was Week 1 of 18. I am doing my own thing this time, winging it on my own. I'm basing the training program off of Hal Higdon's Intermediate 2 program that I've used for my last 2 marathons but I'm ramping it up a bit since, my problem has been, I crash in the last 8 miles or so. I'm sticking with the concept of doing a hard pace run that is about half the distance of your long run the day before the long run and doing another run the same distance as the pace run but not as hard, but I'm playing around with the distances.

That being said, Week 1 was pretty much not a training week...

Sunday - 20 miles. Not exactly running as it was Western States, but I did cover 20 miles of terrain
               after being up for, oh, 44 hours...
Monday - Took all day to fly home.
Tuesday - Got caught up at home and got a massage.
Wednesday - Worked all day then ran kids around all evening.
Thursday - Worked all day then was too trashed to do anything else.
Friday - Got up at 6 am to run a 5K.

Sparkler Sprint 5K

Mile 1 - 7:25
Mile 2 - 8:29
Mile 3 - 8:21
last 0.1 - 1:06

Official time - 25:21 (8:09 pace)

So this ends up being the third 5K I've done recently with pretty much no running in between. I've kept my times pretty consistent (25:49, 25:32, 25:21) so I guess I can't complain. This time around, the morning was perfect! Nice and cool. My legs felt good. I blasted through my first mile... then my body decided it was done for the morning. Plus, the turn around wasn't marked. I went down the path that everyone was coming back on only to find them yelling at me to turn around. Most of us, me included, ended up running more than 3.1 miles. After that incident, I was really done. I wanted to just jog it in. I did do a 2 mile cool down so 5 miles total for the day.

Saturday - Slept in, then worked til midnight so no running.

Week 1 Total Miles: 25

So now it's Week 2.

Sunday - Got up at 5 am to meet my friend Bob at Morgan Monroe Forest for a 10 mile trail run. He's training for a 50 mile ultra so he stayed and ran 10 more. I went home and went back to bed until noon since I am NOT a morning person!

Monday - G is doing a dance intensive up in Carmel all week so I arranged my schedule to be off all week to drive her. Dropped her off at 9 am and hit the Monon Trail. I love running on this "trail" (it's actually paved.) It was threatening rain when I started, then started raining 2 miles in but it wasn't a hard rain so it actually felt good. Plan was to do 6 pace miles but my legs wouldn't cooperate after my trail run the day before so I ended up averaging 9:36 pace for 6 miles.

Today - Thunder, lightening, and a monsoon woke me up at 5 am. It stopped for awhile, but by the time I got up to Carmel it was a monsoon again. I had 12 on the schedule for today so I decided I'd hamster track it at the fitness center in Greenwood. I started driving back when the sun came out. It was blue skies and dry pavement by the time I got home so I ran my 12 on the county road instead. It was freakin' hot!!

So, 28 miles in 3 days. I have 4 planned for tomorrow, then another 5K with 2 mile cool down for Friday. That should put me at 37 miles for the week. Hal Higdon's Intermediate 2 plan doesn't hit that kind of mileage until Week 7 so I'm being more aggressive on the mileage. I also know I'm breaking all the rules about ramping up your mileage but I've run this mileage before... but yes, I'm also praying I don't blow my legs out.

So this is what I've decided to do differently this training cycle...

1. Wear a watch on more of my runs so I push the pace a little more
2. Do longer long runs - I have three 20's, a 24, and a 26 on the schedule
3. Pay more attention to my nutrition
4. Do more strength training

I am going to continue racing the 5K's to get some forced speed sessions on the schedule in addition to my pace runs. I've found that they are a pretty good indicator of my fitness level. Since I haven't been on a training program since April, my 5K times are almost two and a half minutes slower than what I was running in the Spring. Hopefully those times will drop again once my training cycle ramps up.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Western States Days 6 and 7 - The Race

So Friday night, I couldn't sleep...

John and I had gone out to dinner with his friend David (who is running the race too), Lauren (David's girlfriend and an ultrarunner), and Rich (David's pacer and John's coach) on Friday night. I noticed then that I couldn't keep my hands from trembling. Everytime I picked up a utensil, glass, or piece of food my hand started shaking almost uncontrollably and I got real self conscious and sat through most of the meal with them clasped in my lap.

I went to bed at 10 pm. Wake up call set for 3:30 am. I then spent the next 5 and a half hours tossing and turning, quaking inside, feeling like I was going to throw up at times. It was ridiculous. All I could think about was the 101 things that could go wrong, parking at the aid stations, what we packed and still had to pack, etc., etc. Finally, at 3:30 I got out of bed to shower with this feeling of impending doom that I was totally screwed since I now had to go 20 miles tomorrow morning without any sleep.

JC and I met John at 4:15 am for runner check in.

John's "before" picture
4:15 am with JC
John's wife and kid's met us for the 5 am start and the runners were off! Most of them walked up the Escarpment at a brisk deliberate pace. Most of the runners will walk the big uphills in this race. We watched the mass of 400 slowly make their way up the slope, then went back to John's condo to finish packing his car.
JC and I then drove to Auburn and left my car at Placer High School. Then we went to the grocery store. At the crew meeting, we had been advised to buy our food, ice, and gas for the day before proceeding to the first aid station.
Next stop - Robinson Flat Aid Station at mile 29.7.
This is the first big aid station that crews can access. Since all the crews get there at the same time, it's a zoo. We were actually suppose to park in a parking area and a shuttle bus was to take us to the station itself. However, by the time JC and I got there, the entire parking area was full. We were told that they were going to let 10 vehicles follow the shuttle bus down to the aid station itself. We were car #7. Sweet!
John felt that, best case scenario, he would get there no earlier than 11 am. We got there at 9:30 am and saw some of the leaders run through.
Emily Harrison came through as the leader of the women's race
She was 7th last year; unfortunately she later had to drop out at mile 62
I really don't have more pictures from the race after that because it just got too crazy. The crews need to set up as close to the course as possible so their runner can just grab what they need and go or, take a quick sit down break and eat and drink while their crews change their shoes and socks, do any blister care, and soak them down with cold water. Watching some of the crews, it was like watching a NASCAR pit stop.
Since everyone was at Robinson Flat, we initially did not have a spot by the road. As runners came through and their crews finished and moved on to the next aid station, more spots opened up along the road and JC and I eventually ended up where Emily Harrison's crew had been. Then, we waited... and waited... and waited.
11 am became 12 pm. Then 12:30 pm. I started getting worried. John's Achilles had really been bothering him and he had really been limping on Thursday after our Escarpment climb on Wednesday. This morning he said he felt better but had considered Thursday that he might not be able to run today.
All of the aid stations have a cut off time. If your runner does not leave the station by that time, they will be pulled from the race and cannot finish. There is a 30 hour time limit for the whole race. All the aid stations also list the 24 and 30 hour times for that aid station. In the beginning, the 30 hour time and the final cut off time at the aid stations vary about an hour, however, as the race progresses, the 30 hour time and the cut off time get closer and closer together until the 30 hour and final cut times are the same at the finish.
The 30 hour time for Robinson Flat was 12:55 pm. Final cut off time 1:50 pm. John finally showed up at 12:44. When a runner first arrives, they have to go through medical and get weighed, then they can get any food or drinks that the aid station offers, then go out to see their crews to get whatever else they need. John was starting to get a big blister on his right heel so we yanked off his shoes and socks to get moleskin over the blister and change his footwear. I felt like I was all thumbs, couldn't find a towel to get his feet dry. As a side note, if you ever consider crewing for someone, make sure you are good enough friends with them that you have no qualms taking off gross sweaty dirty clothing to clean off wet dirty body parts (like between their toes) while they sit around and groan.
We finally got John out of Robinson Flat at 12:59. We were going to race the clock the whole race.
The next aid station we were meeting him at was Michigan Bluff, mile 55.7. Based on his pace, we guesstimated he would be there at 8 pm at the earliest. We had 7 hours to kill.
Most of the Western States Trail is out in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere. There is basically no cell phone signal. I was able to get one bar at one gas station in Foresthill, but pretty much nothing else for 2 days. Some of the aid stations are only accessible by foot. At those stations, the workers hike in the night before and crews cannot access the stations. There is a ham radio operator at some of the stations. For the remote stations, someone will hike out with a results update as runners come through and get them to a ham radio operator who can then radio to have someone enter them online. Due to these facts, the online results can often be behind by several hours. Most of us could not even access the online tracking because hardly anyone had a phone signal. All you could do is guess what time your runner was going to show up based on how they looked at the previous station and whatever else you heard from the other crews.
I tried to sleep in those 7 hours but couldn't. Foresthill was the only small town nearby and JC could get a descent signal on his phone there so we decided to spend most of our time in Foresthill and start driving down to Michigan Bluff at 6 pm. We had pizza and JC stayed inside the restaurant to watch the World Cup games and I tried to sleep in the car. It was hot. I couldn't get comfortable. My heart was still pounding out of my chest.
Finally, we drove down to Michigan Bluff and got there just before 7. Michigan Bluff also had a parking area a half mile from the aid stations with a shuttle bus. As we pulled up, the volunteers there told us the shuttles were stopping at 7 pm. After that, we would have to walk down but could drive down to pick up our stuff at the end. We were just getting off the shuttle when I ran into Lauren, walking David through the aid station. She said that John was still right on the 30 hour cut off time. She also said that if he got to this station after 8 pm, I could start pacing him from here. Runners cannot have pacers before mile 62. However, there is an exception that says if they get to Michigan Bluff after 8 pm, they can get paced from there.
Mike, John's other pacer, was meeting us at Foresthill (the next aid station). We had no cell signal to tell him to come to Michigan Bluff. We were pretty sure John was going to get here after 8. I had predicted 8:30 pm. The 30 hour time for Michigan Bluff is 8:50 pm. I was already dressed in running clothes but had my pacer bib, fuel belt, headlamp, and hat packed in a separate bag for later in the night. I ran up to the car and got it. Once the shuttles stopped, we saw that the other crews were just getting their cars and driving them down to the aid station, and since JC would be alone to pack the car if I left, he went to go get the car.
Then John showed up... at 8:03. JC was still gone getting the car. I got John what he needed and was getting my fuel belt on, trying to figure out how to tell JC we were gone, when JC pulled up with the car. We left Michigan Bluff at 8:10, 40 minutes under the 30 hour cut off.
John had made up some time, however he had a big climb out of El Dorado Creek to Michigan Bluff that really winded him and he was slowing back down.
climb out of El Dorado Creek
I just needed to keep him moving. We had to get in and out of Volcano Canyon and it was getting dark. Due to his Achilles, and now a ginormous blister, he was doing a walk/jog/shuffle. We could aggressively walk the uphills and try to jog the downhills. Ironically, he had difficulty running the flats due to the Achilles. I walked ahead of him when the trail widened and tried to get him to keep up until he protested. "I don't want to pass out" was a sign to stop and slow down. I let him lead all the single track areas so he could choose when to walk and when to run.
We went 6.3 miles and pulled into Foresthill at 10:02 pm. John had family and friends meeting him there but the exchanges were quick. Mike took over pacing and they rolled out at 10:09, 36 minutes under the 30 hour cut off.
I then drove us to Greengate, our most remote aid station. This is the one John and I had driven out to on Monday. Problem was, now it was pitch black outside and I couldn't see all the landmarks I had picked out when we drove on Monday. After two wrong turns we got there.
Greengate on Monday night
Running the 6 miles with John really helped burn off some energy and I felt more settled after that... or I was just finally totally exhausted and knew Mike was running with John. We found parking by the side of the road by midnight and decided to try and sleep in the car again til 2 am. I think I finally fell asleep because I remember waking up when JC's alarm went off at 2 am.
This time, since we had to hike 1.25 miles down to Greengate, then JC had to hike another 1.5 miles down to the river crossing, we tried to minimize what we brought. I had been using a chart in the Western States Guide for the cut off times and had planned to write the ones I needed on my hand but forgot. I did know that the last several aid stations had the same cut off time and 9:20 seemed to stick in my head as a final cut off time.
John got to Greengate at 3:48 am and I was really pleased. We pulled out at the same time since he had already changed clothes after the river crossing. We were 1:07 under but he was really tired (OK, we were both really tired). Greengate is mile 79.8. 20.4 miles to go (Western States is really 100.2 miles)
We made it to Auburn Lakes Trails at mile 85.2 by 5:26. Still 1:04 under. Then it got a bit ugly for me... I started getting lightheaded, my stomach was grumbling, my eyes started glazing over. It was still dark and you had to concentrate on every step you were taking on the trail... I thought it would be really bad if the pacer passed out 10 miles into her run.
We made it to Brown's Bar, mile 89.9, by 6:51 am. 59 minutes under. I took a bathroom break, ate a GU and some Gatorade chews, got some water, then felt much better. Phew!!
Then things got real ugly for John. He was slowing down. Each step was an effort. I still wanted to try to have him run some stretches but he would start sluffing his feet and I was afraid he would trip and fall so fast walking was safer. The sun had come up but we were still in the woods. I wanted to keep trying to make descent time before it got too hot. We talked, we sang, I tried to tell him every story he hadn't heard before... anything to keep his mind occupied while walking ahead of him.
We finally got to Highway 49, mile 93.5, at 8:04 am and pulled out at 8:09 am. The sign there said the 30 hour time was 9:00 am and the final cut off was 9:20 am. For some reason I had it stuck in my head that the final cut off time for the next aid station at No Hands Bridge was also 9:20 am.
It's only 3.3 miles between Highway 49 and No Hands Bridge. However, there is a climb out of Highway 49 then a quad burning descent down to the bridge. After 93.5 miles the body just doesn't want to move anymore. It took over an hour to get to No Hands Bridge. I was in full panic mode. I thought we would never get to the bridge! I just wanted to put a rope around John and pull him along because the pace was really slowing down at an alarming rate. Plus, my sleep deprived brain was convinced we had to get there by 9:20 am. Apparently sleep deprived brains can't do runner math very well.
We got to No Hands Bridge, mile 96.8, at 9:10 am. I looked at the chart at the aid station and realized I was wrong about the cut off times. 30 hour time was 9:55 am and final cut off was 11 am. As long as John kept moving, we were going to make it!
After No Hands Bridge, there is another painful climb up to Robie Point. By now the sun was overhead and we had no shade. I had started with a long sleeve shirt at night but decided to keep it on to keep my shoulders covered. Other than being hot, I felt fine otherwise. However, it was really painful to keep John moving and see how much pain he was in. We had pretty much run out of things to talk about at this point and it was down to short comments like "just keep moving and we'll make it" and "almost there" countered by "it would be bad if I passed out!"
Robie Point, mile 98.9, at 9:58 am. We have 62 minutes to go 1.3 miles. How hard could that be? We were now in a residential area leading to the high school. Families were out in their lawn chairs cheering us on. It was all uphill...
Finally, someone says, "Turn that corner and you will see the most beautiful track in the entire world," and we see the Placer High School track. We get on the track and start walking. John's wife and kids see us and run out to walk with us and take pictures but John keeps yelling at them to go to the finish line. There is a split down the final straightaway so the pacers go one way and the runners finish alone so all the photographers can get the finish line picture. I ran to the finish to see it and cheer. The runners get routed straight to medical after that, then released to family. John hugs his wife and starts bawling. Lauren grabs me and I start crying too. I've never been so happy and relieved! I cannot even begin to tell everyone how stressed out I had been for over 48 hours.
the "after" picture
Final time - 29:27:00
For those that know me, you know that I came out here to Western States to finish what I started. It's finished now. John, me, his wife... we all agree.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Western States Days 4 and 5 - This is getting REAL!

Yesterday was the calm before the storm. We woke up to rain and 40 degree temps and were really glad we had made the trek up to the Escarpment the day before. I finally got to sleep in!

The morning was spent watching the USA vs. Germany World Cup match then driving into Truckee to pick up last minute supplies - extra batteries, towel, sponge, ziplock bags, and more food. John's friend JC and his family got into town. JC is going to help crew with me. The three of us then went to a Crew Meeting at 2 pm and a Trail Meeting at 3:30 pm.

This is our plan for Saturday...

1. We'll see John off at the start at 5 am
2. We'll take 2 cars to the finish line at Placer High School in Auburn and leave my car there
3. JC and I will then drive to the mile 29.7 aid station at Robinson Flat and wait for John there
4. We'll then drive to the mile 55.7 aid station at Michigan Bluff
5. We'll then drive to the mile 62 aid station at Foresthill
6. John's other pacer Mike will meet us at Foresthill and start running with him there; John's family will try to meet us there too. You are only allowed one crew vehicle at all of the aid stations except this one so, from my understanding, Foresthill is a big party.
7. JC and I will then drive to the mile 79.8 aid station at Greengate. We actually have to park our car and walk 1.25 miles down to the aid station. I will stay at Greengate and JC will walk another 1.5 miles down to the aid station at Rucky Chucky Far. Rucky Chucky is the major river crossing. JC will have dry clothes, shoes and socks for John and Mike after they cross the river. The 3 of them will then run up to Greengate. John and I will then run to the finish at Placer High School. JC will drive Mike back to the Foresthill aid station to get his car, then the two of them will meet us at the finish line. Depending on the time, John's family may be at the finish line too.
There is a 30 hour time limit for this race. A 24 hour runner will get to Greengate by 11:20 pm. A 30 hour runner will get there at 4:55 am. I expect John to be somewhere in between. We'll have a better idea as the day goes on. You can track the race live HERE.
After our meetings, John's family got into town so all of us went out for dinner then retired to our rooms to try and get a good night's sleep.
Today, I met John at 9 am for runner check in.
This is where all the runners got weighed, got their medical bracelets, photos for the website, and their swag bags. They will get their official race numbers when they check in again tomorrow morning. I think the average BMI in the room was about 15...
Race Expo
Next stop was to drop off John's drop bags. They hold supplies for some of the aid stations that the crew either cannot access or will not be at. Some runners actually run this without a crew!

We then went and picked up John's family and drove into Truckee for brunch. We ate at a local restaurant called the Squeeze Inn. It was actually featured on an episode of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay." HERE is the Throwdown episode if anyone is interested.
Squeezing in at the Squeeze Inn
I went to get my pacer number after brunch.

This is getting REAL!
We then went to a final Runner Meeting at 1:30 pm. This was mandatory for all the runners so everyone was there. We got some final comments by all the various directors and the top 10 men and women runners plus some of the other top contenders were introduced. The conference room was standing room only (luckily we had a seat but I was too far back to take pictures). The ENERGY in that room was unbelievable. It was a bit surreal being there.
This is the starting line for tomorrow morning.
Under it is the countdown clock to race time.
This is a view of the Escarpment that we climbed on Wednesday.
After the runner meeting John and I packed everything for tomorrow and put most of it in his car. We then met some other runners for an early dinner. Now we're back in our respective rooms trying to get some rest. I'm meeting him at 4:15 am for the final runner check in. The gun goes off at 5 am.

Let's DO this!!