Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Team Swiss Miss Badwater Dance

If you've ever wondered what my amazing Badwater crew is doing while they have to wait for me ...

... they are having so much fun! You guys ROCK! I have the best crew in the world!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

For my family I'm always a winner even when I don't win... 

Thank you Ayana, Yorik, Manuela and Bruno

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Badwater Ultramarathon 2013

Team Swiss Miss did it again! Badwater belt buckle #4 in the books! It was indeed "the world's toughest foot race" and we had to fight very hard for it but crossing the finish line (36:42) was absolutely amazing again.

Team Swiss Miss at the finish line (missing Monica Scholz)

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my amazing crew. I could not have done it without you! John, Jeff, Adam and Monica you are the best!

Peronin High Tech Food

Last year while I was training for the Irontrail 201K I did some online research of what kind of sports nutrition food is available in Switzerland since I didn't want to have to take everything with me from Toronto. 

While browsing online I discovered the website of a product called Peronin It sounded very interesting and I contacted the company asking if I could get some samples to try before my race. They were very helpful and offered to mail samples to my sister in Switzerland since they don't ship to Canada.

I arrived in Switzerland a few days before the race and had some time to test the product on shorter runs. Peronin is an all in one food powder with added vitamins and minerals that you simply mix with water. Its taste is very neutral and it is very easy on the stomach which is important for high performance in long endurance events. It comes in three different flavors: orange, vanilla and chocolate. Peronin has been used successfully for years by extreme sportspeople on mountain and desert marathons, Ironman, expeditions and in many other ultra sport and long distance events.

Peronin High-Tech Food

Since last year I have been using Peronin on my long training runs and in long ultra running races, like Sulphur Springs 100 and this year's Badwater Ultramarathon. It works great for me as I prefer to stay on liquid fuel for as long as possible because it is easier to digest and it doesn't stress the stomach at all. I'm very glad I discovered Peronin and I can recommend it to all athletes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Badwater Ultramarathon Charms

I got my first lucky charm for the Badwater Ultramarathon in 2009. Since then I got a lucky charm for every Badwater Ultramarathon. From left to right on the picture below:

Badwater 2009: Dragon - Symbol for Strength
Badwater 2010: The Sword of the Amazon
Badwater 2011: The Wing (I would actually have 2 wings, if the second one did not get lost in the mail from Switzerland)
Badwater 2013: The Hand of Fatima and the "Swiss Heart".

Thank you so much my best friend Susanne and my little sister Annette! You will be in Badwater with me all the way to the finish line.

Niagara 50K, Cramps and a Cold

The last 10 days have been very challenging in my Badwater training. 

The Niagara 50K did not go as well as I had hoped for. My plan was to run a sub 4:30. It was a hot day - the way I like it. I felt great for the first 25k and it felt like I was running effortlessly. My time at the turnaround was 2:18. Perfect, I thought, with a negative split I should be able to run the time I wanted. 

But unfortunately it wasn't my day. Shortly after the turnaround my legs started cramping really badly and I had to slow down a lot. I tried everything to get rid of the cramps, even walked some sections, and took one Aleeve but nothing really helped. I finished in 4:57, the slowest time in the past three years. Very disappointing! I knew I took enough Saltsticks and drank enough water, so that could not have been the problem for the cramps. After some online research I figured it was probably due to muscle fatique. I ran a lot of miles leading up to the race in preparation for Badwater. 

Feeling great on the first half...

It took a few days till the soreness in my calves was finally gone and I was back on track with my training. But just when I thought everything is going great - BOOM another setback - I got a nasty cold last Thursday which knocked me out completely for a couple days. It looks like my body has its very own way to tell me it's time to taper. Only 12 days left till Badwater. I'm doing everything I can to get better and most important - stay positive!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sulphur Springs 100 Mile Race Report

I've done the Sulphur Springs 100 mile for the past 5 years and this year was the first time that I was a bit nervous before the race. Since the cancellation of Irontrail 201 last July I haven't done any races and this was the first race in a year - a true test how well the tear in my meniscus has healed since December and a status quo about the level of shape I'm in for this year's Badwater Ultramarathon race in July.

The temperatures for race weekend were much cooler than I prefer. Like every year we camped the night before at the start/finish line. Wow, it was a very chilly night and I got so cold that I woke up at 1:30am and could not get back to sleep. I was freezing and my feet were completely numb when I put on my Hoka running shoes in the morning. 

Race start at 6:00pm
On the first two loops I was just trying to warm up. My feet were still feeling numb. I even sat down twice to take off my left shoe and sock because it felt like I had some small stones in my shoe. Wearing my colourful Dirty Girl gaiters I knew it was almost impossible but I didn't want to take any chances this early in the race.
Running through the Start/Finish area
After the second loop I started to get cramps in both my calves. Wow, this was way too early to get any kind of problems! I tried to figure out what could have caused the cramping when I caught up to my friend Monica. She suggested that I probably didn't take enough salt pills. Since I didn't sweat I've only taken a couple salt pills since the start. 

After taking a little more salt and getting a couple calf massages by my husband Jeff using his secret "poison" at the end of loop 3 and 4 my legs felt finally ok. 

Worked wonders for my leg cramps

Flying downhill in my Hokas

Usually I'm using liquid fuel (Peronin and Perpetuem as long as possible in long races because it is easier on my stomach. But since the temperatures were much cooler this year I found it very difficult to get enough calories in from liquids only and I started using solid food after my second loop. I'm not a fan of Mac & Cheese but as "ultra food" it worked great for me.

Chef Boyartdee's ultrarunner food

Wish it would be a lot warmer
Before heading out for the 5. loop I changed into some warmer clothes. All in all I felt pretty good and I tried to keep an even pace. The good thing about running on home turf is that I know the course inside and out and didn't have to worry about getting lost. I can just enjoy the run and relax. On the 6th loop it got dark. It was beautiful when the moon came out. I love running in the dark. It's very peaceful. 

Thinking of Badwater heat!
The 7. loop I always find the least enjoyable one and I was very happy my friend and amazing Badwater crew member Adam came out to pace me for one loop. We had a great time out there on the trails and Adam somehow always can make me run a little bit faster. We were just flying down on the downhill section in the lollipop loop when we suddenly stepped on a branch in the middle of the trail. The branch somehow got stuck between our legs and bam - I went down like someone tripped me with a hockey stick. Luckily I didn't hurt myself. Adam helped me to get up but it took me a while to get back into the running rhythm.

On the 8. loop the adrenaline kicked in and I even could pick up the pace a bit more. I didn't want to waste any time at the aid stations and went in and out as quick as possible. Walking up the last steep uphill on Martins Road I felt pretty good. I crossed the finish line very happy in a time of 20:35, more than one hour faster than last year, 4. woman and 15. overall. 
Since this race was a training run for Badwater, my plan was to run each of the 8 loops in less than 3 hours. It worked out great. My splits were pretty even:
Loop 1 - 2:15
Loop 2 - 2:28
Loop 3 - 2:32
Loop 4 - 2:32
Loop 5 - 2:42
Loop 6 - 2:47
Loop 7 - 2:40
Loop 8 - 2:36

Mission accomplished! Sulphur buckle #6 in the books

I want to thank my husband Jeff for crewing for me during the whole race. Thanks so much Adam for driving all the way from Thornhill to pace me for a loop. Thanks to all my friends and fans who cheered me on every time I came into the start/finish area. I heard from some of them that I would have won for cutest outfit :)

And a big thanks to my sponsors Hoka One One and Drymax socks Knowing that I won't have any problems with my feet gives me huge confidence going into every race and on all my runs.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pick your Poison 50K

This was my first race since last year's cancellation of the Swiss Iron Trail and months of suffering from all kinds of injuries and pains. Most of the winter I was running on the treadmill to avoid doing any more damage to my bad knees (tear in my left meniscus) and calves, and to keep off the freezing Canadian temperatures. So running up and down some steep ski sloops was challenging, especially on the uphills.

At the start of the race

The race was a 4 loop course with still snow in some sections. My plan was just to finish and not to worry about time.

My custom "winterized" Hoka Mafate were perfect for the course

The first 2 loops were slow but otherwise I didn't have any problems. That changed suddenly at the beginning of the 3rd loop when I started to get cramps in both legs and had to slow down even more.

Walking the uphill - still smiling

When I came back to the start/finish line I wasn't really looking forward to go out for another loop. I couldn't really figure out what the cause of my cramps was - salt, dehydration or just simple tired muscles. It is very rare that I get cramps. The last time it happened was at the Dirty Girls 6 Hour race back in 2011.

Since I still could move, even though slow, DNF was not an option. "Suck it up princess" and off I went for the last loop. During the entire race I was looking forward to have a glass of red wine with my good friend Gord England to celebrate my birthday. That really kept me going :)

So glad I'm done!

When I got to the finish line, Gord was waiting for me with a glass of Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon. How awesome is that! Thank you so much Gord! 

My finishing time was 6:48:23, which was quite slow. However it was a good training run for my main race this year - the Badwater Ultramarathon.

It was great seeing all my OUS running friends. The post race celebration was a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to the next race - the Sulphur 100

Friday, April 12, 2013

Badwater 2011

Team Swiss Miss before the 8:00am start

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Badwater 2011

Team Swiss Miss on the way to Badwater

Friday, April 5, 2013

Race Review 2012

After having such a great running year in 2011, last year was the worst year in my running career so far with a big disappointment and lots of injuries.

My main race for 2012 was the Irontrail 201K in Switzerland My training went well all winter but got to an abrupt end on Good Friday during a trail run at Sulphur, when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in the back of my right knee. The MRI result showed a tear in the ligament and I couldn't run at all for more than three weeks.

May 12: Seaton Trail 50 Mile

Nevertheless I decided to run the Seaton Trail 50 Mile and just run it as a training run for Irontrail. Well, it was my worst race so far time-wise (12:45) and I finished DFL (last!). I usually make up all my time on the downhills but with my injured knee I was not able to run very fast. In addition, I got lost on my way back from the second turnaround because the volunteers had already removed the course markers. Luckily I made it back before it got dark. Looking back now, it was still a lot of fun and I especially enjoyed the "Running Free" aid station at the turnaround. Great job guys!

Testing my hydration pack and poles for Irontrail

What I'm not done yet?

May 26: Sulphur Springs 100 Mile

Going into Sulphur my knee felt a lot better but I was nursing another injury (strain in my left quad) and my training wasn't where I wanted it to be for this race. I knew a sub 20 was not possible and I decided just to go out and run an easy steady pace and hopefully not slowing down too much at the end.

Flying downhill in my Hokas!
(Photo credit: Ryder Photography )

It definitely was a lot harder than my race there the previous year were I felt strong from the very beginning till the end. After a few hours the pain in my quad started to get worse and I took one Aleve. Usually I'm not taking any pain killers but my thought was if I don't finish this 100 miler there is now way I will be able to run the Irontrail 201K in Switzerland at the beginning of July. That race was my main goal and I know I had to do all the training I can in order to have a chance of finishing such a long race in the high altitudes of the Swiss Alpes.

Taking a walking break
(Photo credit: Ryder Photography )

During the whole race I tried to keep an even pace and not to slow down too much, and at the same time not to do anything stupid to make my injury worse. That plan worked out quite well even though I felt a bit tired throughout the whole race and needed to take a few more Aleeve to keep the pain under control. 

In the last two loops I was very happy to have a pacer. Adam came from Toronto to pace and was a bit late to catch up with me at the start/finish line, so Ken offered to pace me and I accepted thankfully. As soon as we got into the Gatehouse aid station we saw Adam in his car. Adam took over the pacing duties and Ken drove the car back to the start/finish area.

It's great to have company during the night and the last two loops went by a lot faster with Adam's help. He really pushed me hard especially on the last loop. He wanted me to finish in sub 22 hours which I did (21:49). Thanks so much Adam and Ken. I could not have done it without you.

June 23: Niagara Ultra 50 K

This was the last race before our departure to Switzerland. It was a beautiful day, sunny and very hot. The course is an out and back and the turnaround is right at the famous Niagara Falls. I love the view to the falls but running and avoiding to bump into hundreds and hundreds of tourists made it tough to race and I could not wait to run back.

I knew my training was not up for another PB like in the previous year (4:24) and my goal was to finish in under 5 hours. I finished in 4:45 and celebrated with some free beer at the finish line.

July 6: Irontrail 201K

This should have been my main race for 2012! I always wanted to do an ultra race in the Swiss Alps and combine it with a visit to my family. When I found out about this new race, called Irontrail 201, I was very excited. They offered 3 different distances: 81 K, 141K, and 201 K. The cut off time for the 201 K was 56 hours and I knew it was doable. In my training runs I was wearing a fully packed backpack with the mandatory gear and I was also running with poles to get used to them.

Living in Switzerland for most of my life I know about the importance of acclimatisation to the altitude for a race that took place at an average height of 2100 m above sea level. On the race website they recommend to arrive at least 4 - 7 days before the race. Ideally would be 8 - 14 days before.

We arrived in Pontresina 5 days before the race. We spend the days with hiking and shorter runs on the trails to get familiar with the first sections of the race course. The weather hasn't been great in Switzerland in weeks and they had lots of rain. Also the temperatures were lower then usually for this time of the year.

On Thursday we went to the race kit pick up and we found out that the race course had to be changed due to lots of rain which made the glacier crossing section too dangerous to run. So instead of 201 K the race was now only shortened to 154 K. Bummer!

The next morning we were all very excited for the race to start at 8:00am when we found out from the RD that due to bad weather the race start will get delayed and that we will get updates by text messages. Luckily we had a late check out booked at our hotel which was right at the starting line and so we went back to our room, waited and tried to relax.

Finally we got the message that the race will start at 4:00pm. So off we went to the starting line again. Everybody was very excited when the gun finally went off. The sun even came out and it looked like a great day. After a few hours into the race on the first major uphill climb the clouds came back. It was very windy and it was raining at the top of the mountain where the first aid station was. On the downhill trail to St. Moritz (aid station 2) the rain stopped. I took a longer break there, ate and changed clothes for the next long uphill climb to Piz Nair. The weather was still bad, actually it got worse with snow and fog. Nevertheless I felt great! I was wearing a waterproof jacket, felt warm and was listening to "Move like Jagger" while climbing up the slippery trails. When I got to Corviglia, which is about half way up to the top, a race official came to me and informed me that the race got interrupted due to bad weather and no runner was allowed to continue until further notice. Bummer! I was guided inside a building where a lot of runners were already waiting. After about 40 minutes a race official told us the race course got changed again and instead of climbing up to Piz Nair we supposed to take another trail over a different route. Nobody really knew where to go. We just followed each other. I was happy to hook up with some runners from Germany. After a few more hours we saw some lights which turned out to be another race official who told us the race was officially canceled due to very bad weather conditions. Huge bummer! After that information nobody felt like running anymore. We walked for hours till we got to Bever from where a bus took us back to St. Moritz.

This was the first time I could not finish a race and I was very disappointed like many other runners who came from all over the world for this race. It took me a while to get over it. In the meantime I understand that the safety of all the runners and volunteers was more important than to finish the race. And I also know that I will go back and run the Irontrail another year. 

Beautiful Engadin, one of my favourite places in Switzerland
where I used to live for 8 years

Real "Swiss" mountain washroom

Restaurant Segantini Huette

With Jerry at the starting line

Starting line - and off they go
(Photo credit: Jens Vieler )

First very long and very steep climb
(Photo credit: Jens Vieler )

First aid station at Fuorcla Surlej
(Photo credit: Jens Vieler )


First long downhill on the way to St. Moritz
(Photo credit: Jens Vieler )

Yes, the runners are still on the trail
(Photo credit: Jens Vieler )

Irontrail 201 K Profile

A short video about last years race - Irontrail 2012 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Race Review 2011 - Part 2

August 6: Dirty Girls 6 Hour Trail Run

And then there was Dirty Girls again! My friend Diane, the race director always adds a very special touch to the race, starting with the race kit, the finisher medal, and the arm sleeves or race t-shirts with the ambiguous imprint (for the male runners only) "I did the Dirty Girls".

In the previous four years I did the 12 hour race but this time I decided to run the 6 hour race as a "tapering" run for the Beast of Burden 100. The course is a 5 mile/8k loop, with time measurement at the 2.5k, 5k and 7.5k marks. The weather was perfect - hot the way I like it! I felt great until the last loop when suddenly my legs started to cramp. Even though, I felt still strong I had to slow down and I could hardly lift up my feet. To make matters worse I hit a root and took a hard fall down the side of the trail. My whole body cramped up and I was screaming when a lady from Houston who was in third place passed me. She looked at me and just kept going without even asking if I was ok. Usually trail runners are very friendly people and we help each other. So I could not believe she didn't say anything which made me really angry. I pulled myself up on a little tree, stretched out my legs a bit and started to run the downhill section to the 7.5k time station. No way this woman was going to beat me. All I have to do was catch her before the time station and I ran downhill as fast as I could. I passed her with a few meters to spare and finished 7 seconds ahead of her. Yes! I have to say even though I had to walk back to the start/finish line because my legs started to cramp again, it felt pretty damn good! Sometimes even a lady can be very tough!

Running incognito

August 20: Summer Beast of Burden 100

Two weeks later I was ready for the Beast of Burden 100 - another hot weather race! Friday evening before the race we got together after dinner with Kino whom I met at the Jerseyville 100. He introduced us to his friends Marco, Brian, Jacky O and Jacky C. It was very nice to make some new friends and to talk race strategies.

The next morning, before the start it was great to see two of my Badwater friends (Tony Portera and Lisa Smith Batchen) again and to get a chance to catch up.The Beast is a flat 25 mile out and back loop course, and there is no shade at all. The race started at 10:00 because according to the website, the race director likes to sleep in. It was a hot and very humid day and the humidity was definitely a challenge. I have to say I prefer the dry "Badwater heat". Nevertheless I felt pretty good for most of the race and thanks to my lovely husband who was crewing and pacing I was lucky to finish before the thunderstorm and the rain started, and finished in 18:03 my 3rd fastest 100 mile time.

At the beginning of the race with Charlotte Vasarhelyi

Winners with a big smile. 
Congrats Brian Hsia! First place in your first 100!

Note: Ultrarunners are some of the most amazing and nicest people out there. I would like to share a very special note I got after the race. Thanks so much Brian. It means a lot to me.

"Thank you Iris. Truly you are the Swiss Miss and what your skirt said was true. I was fearful of the Swiss Miss (even ask the aid station people). I was in and out fearing you would come at me. Thank you for the competition, you brought that out of me as I was trying to have fun with the race and experience what being an ultra marathoner was just about. I hold you all up in high regards: Valmir, David and yourself, you guys are running legends and gods (mere mortals) of this sport and you exemplify what running is (body, mind and soul)...the best thing about it was all of your personalities. Thank you for allowing me to have a memorable experience that will live with me forever and I look forward in seeing you at other races again..."

September 10: Haliburton Forrest 100 Mile

This was my 5th time at the Haliburton 100, my favourite race in the Ontario Ultra Series, and I was hoping to run sub 24 hour again. The year before I just made it in 23:52. This time I wanted to run a little faster than that. Having such an amazing running year, I was confident I could do it. 

It was a beautiful day and I felt great from the beginning. The trails were pretty muddy due to the rain in the weeks before the race but that didn't take away any of the fun. At around 90K I caught up to my friend Kinga and we ended up running together all the way to the finish line and finished in a time of 22:45 (1. women, 7. overall). Thanks so much Kinga! I had a blast out there with you!    

Heading out of the "Submarine" aid station

Finishing together with my friend Kinga Miklos - girls rock!

October 1: Run for the Toad 50K

George and Peggy do a fantastic job year after year organizing the Run for the Toad. For anyone who is looking to do their first ultra this is the race. The course is not technical and the atmosphere is a lot of fun. Before the race start I got the chance to meet one of the top female ultrarunners - Ellie Greenwood. What a an amazing woman!

I was hoping to finish in under 5 hours but missed it by 8 minutes and finished second in my age group. All in all I had a great time out there. At the award ceremony I also got presented with ACU award for my new 100 Mile age group record I set at Jerseyville 100 (17:33). Thank you Nadeem and Armand!

October 15: Vulture Bait 50K

This is the last race in the Ontario Ultra series and also my last race for the year. My plan was to finish in under 5 hours but this time I missed it by 9 minutes :) Nevertheless I had a great time out there! Now it's time to take it easy for the rest of the year and give my body the well deserved rest. See you next year!