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Brazos Bend 100 – 2017 Race Report

This past weekend I ran the Brazos Bend 100 miler.. my first 100 miler! It was an excellent experience and I want to share my journey with you guys. Skip to the end for training, food planning, crew prep, and gear worn.

Brazos Bend 100 is a looped course, 6 loops of 16.67 miles. It’s dead flat, maybe two 20-foot long bumps in the road per lap. Each 1/2 loop is a series of loops or out and backs itself, so you’re always seeing other runners that are ahead/behind you, it’s nice because while ~200 people do the 100, you do end up seeing a lot of other folks on the course, plus there’s also a 50 miler, marathon, and half marathon that start at different times the same day, so at times there are lots of folks on the trails (the trails are primarily dirt and gravel roads, and they’re very wide, so more people is fine!)

The race started at 6am, it was around 26 degrees at the start, unusually cold for TX. We took off at a steady pace so I warmed up, and the sun came up quickly as well.. probably around 6:30-7am. First loop I felt great and it was uneventful, I was finished the first loop in 3:16. I ate food from my pack and the aid stations, which there are plenty of.. one every 4ish miles. I did learn after the first loop that it was accidently 1 mile long, they had forgotten to put some turnaround cones out, but the cones were there when we went back for the second loop. A bonus mile!

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I came back around to the start/finish, saw Ian, I swapped out packs; I have two Nathan VaporHowe’s so I wore one while Ian packed the other so I could quickly just take the new one each lap. As someone who has a tendency to really hang out at aid stations, I was trying not to do that here. Started off on lap 2, it was really warming up so I dropped some of the layers I was wearing. Lap 2 was also uneventful, I found some friends to run and chat with which helped pass the time, and I was still feeling great. Looking back, I did not start out conservatively enough and was not able to maintain my pace for the whole race. I finished lap two (33+ miles) with a cumulative time of 6:31.

Lap 3 came and went, 50 miles in 10:15 (a 50 mile PR by an hour and 15 min, that’s how you know you went out too fast, lol). On lap 3 the sun was up and the gators were OUT! I was worried going into the race that they’d be all over the trail and I’d have to leap over them, that is not the case. I saw 3 the whole race: 2 swimming in the lake and 1 sunning itself on the bank. Just stay far away from them and they’re no bother.

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Lap 4 started and I think about halfway through this lap is when it started to go down. I knew from reading other 100 miler race reports that you should take the first 60 miles painstakingly slow and eat a ton, while I was able to eat A TON, I did not go slow enough. The sun went down after 4.5 laps and it got really cold really quickly. My pace slowed significantly. I talked to Ian at the 4.5 point and told him to get ready to do half of lap 5 with me, knowing that my pace and mental state were on the downward trend and I needed a buddy. I finished lap 4 with a cumulative time of 14:53, 67+ miles in.

Ian and I started out on lap 5, it was dark out, I was doing a lot of shuffling and walking. He did a good job of encouraging me to trot a lot, a few minutes of power walking with big steps and a few minutes of trotting, which was honestly just as fast as the power walking at this point. Once the sun went down the hot food came out at the aid stations, which was really nice. Cup-o-Noodles, cheese quesadillas, bean burritos, all the good things. I was not really into chewing food anymore at this point so Cup-o-Noodles was perfect, just broth and really soft noodles that I was able to drink. I had to make a pit-stop for an aid station volunteer to check my feet, there was some rubbing on my heel and everyone knows that if you don’t address small problems right away during 100s that they turn into BIG problems, so I sat down and let this very kind woman take off my shoes/socks and cover my feet in vaseline. My feet were in bad shape and it was jarring to see, huge and swollen, covered in a rash, felt like pins and needles all over, but 0 blisters (hurray!) so I just loosened my elastic laces a bit to ease the pain on the top of my foot. Lap 5 felt like it took quite some time to finish, I came in to mile 84 in 20:12.

Lap 6!!! Last lap! Ian was considering going back out with me but he didn’t have enough clothes, only shorts and a windbreaker, and his longest run ever was 13.1 miles so he was enough of a trooper to stick with me for 17, I’m very thankful for that. I was so freezing cold at this point that I had to put on my giant winter parka that has a fur hood and comes down to my knees. I also had on: a long sleeve shirt, a Patagonia houdini, a down vest, another windbreaker, a Patagonia Nano Puff, and now my winter Parka. I was so cold and nothing was making me warm. The parka helped and I took off with the intention to walk it in on lap 6. I walked the whole first half of it, dying to find a buddy to walk with. I tried listening to music but eh, music in the pitch dark in a gator state park while walking alone wasn’t doing it for me so I was in find-a-friend mode. I took out my phone which had been away until this point and took it out of airplane mode to find lots of encouraging texts, yay! This really helped. I found one lady on the trail who immediately admitted to me she was going to drop, noo! I tried talking her out of it but sure enough she dropped at the next aid. Need to find a positive buddy. At some point on the second lap I ran into my AirBnB roomie Elaine, BOY WAS I HAPPY TO SEE SOMEONE I KNEW! We stayed together and chatted until the end of the race. Elaine is a total badass and has completed 13 (now 14?) 100 milers so she was wise and cheery, and we even trotted a little towards the finish! We crossed the finish line together in 26:31.

Overall it was a great experience and I’d do it again. The TROT community is exciting, welcoming, and just great folks.

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Training: I went into training with a solid base, I had just come off of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail  which was at the end of June. After taking a few recovery weeks, I started following this plan that I found on the internet pretty religiously. 21 weeks felt long enough to build up again but not get burnt out (I was very burnt out before/after LUT). Another perk of this plan is 2 complete days of rest per week. I did 0 those days. While following the plan I obviously moved some things around to account for vacations or races, but I tried to hit that weekly mileage each week. My longest training run was 35 miles, a month before the race.

Food planning: I wanted to get in 250-300 calories per hour, so I tried my best to make sure I’d be carrying enough food to eat, and also planned on grabbing stuff at aid stations. This was a looped course, 6 loops of 16.67, so I had my bf/crew person Ian pack my hydration pack with all of these things and I just put a new one on when I came around. I meant to whittle this down better before the race but didn’t get a chance to, so he just put all this stuff in my pack. EDIT: I did not eat all of the food below. It was a mix of this and aid station food. 

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Crew: My 1 crew person was my boyfriend Ian, he was also my emergency pacer. He was great, my packs were perfect (I showed him how to fill up the bladder and where to put the food, where to put my iPod, etc.). It was seamless.

Gear: I stayed in the same outfit/shoes/socks the entire race, just added or removed layers from it. Nathan VaporHowe, Saucony Hurricane shoes (road shoes were fine), Nathan elastic shoe laces, Injinji socks, Dirty Girl Gaiters, 2XU calf sleeves, Patagonia Strider skirt, Patagonia Houdini pants, Gloves, a Nathan hat, a wool hat, Buffs, Petzal headlamp, Zensah sports bra, Long sleeve with NP PHL tag, Patagonia Houdini jacket, Nike down vest, a random windbreaker that Ian got from a golf event, Patagonia Nano Puff jacket, and last but not least my Calvin Klein knee-length parka with a fur hood. 

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Questions, comments? Find me on the interwebs on Twitter/Instagram @brimil

Happy running, yall!

The North Face Lavaredo Ultra Trail 2017 Race Report

Note: At the end of this report I have bullet points on the good, the bad, Aid Station Food, Aid Station Cutoffs, Runner Tracking, and Gear I wore/carried, if you’d like to skip down.

I ran the 2017 Lavaredo Ultra Trail in Cortina, Italy and finished in 29:07:05, 53 minutes before the 30 hour cut-off. Going into the race I had never run more than 50 miles, had never run at elevation, and had never run a European trail race, so it was hard to predict a time when I would finish, but I was hoping for the 24 hour mark. In preparation for the race I had read several race reports, but none from anyone who finished towards the back of the pack, so I’m writing this to hopefully help someone in the future!
Race elevation:
 
Source: https://www.ultratrail.it/files/LUT_roadbook.pdf

Source: https://www.ultratrail.it/files/LUT_roadbook.pdf

 

The race started at 11pm (23:00); I had taken a 3 hour nap earlier that day to try to prepare for the sleep deprivation. It was cool and clear when the race started, 1,500+ runners took off through the town and immediately started a crowded uphill climb on a single track trail.
Initial uphill climb:
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I got my trekking poles out halfway through this climb and used them throughout the remainder of the race, I should have started the race with the poles in my hands. Trekking poles will save you during this race, bring a good pair. I reached Ospitale aid station (17.9k, 11.1 miles) after 3:04 hours, at 2:04am. This aid station was extremely crowded, and it was hard to get to the table to get food and water. I ate some food quickly, refilled my water, and kept moving. After this there was a long hike uphill, then downhill through the woods to Federaveccia, the second aid station. I arrived at Federaveccia (33.9k, 21 miles) after 5:52 hours of racing, at 4:52am This is where you could have crew meet you, and my boyfriend Ian game me some cold pizza that he brought which I quickly ate. Taking in calories is extremely important in this race, I tried to always be eating something while hiking, whether it be a Gu, Honey Stinger, or Larabar.
Views around Federaveccia:
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The hike after Federaveccia was a long, long uphill to our first real mountain peak of the race, to Rifugio Auronzo. Before you get to the Rifugio you’ll come up to Lake Misurina, which is a pretty flat area and very beautiful.
Lake Misurina:
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At this point, the sun had come out which gave me a renewed energy, but it was also getting very hot outside (around 80-87F, or 27-31C during the daylight hours). I made it to Rifugio Auronzo (49.2k, 30.5 miles) after 10:17 hours, at 9:17am. This was where I first started to feel dizzy and ill, maybe from the altitude, it was 7611 feet (2,340 meters) at the Rifugio. I sat down for a moment and then ate broth, bread, and Coca Cola and the sick feeling passed. After this you’ll go up and around the mountain to Tre Cime (elevation 9,839)! After this there is a long downhill to Cimbanche aid station, where you can get your drop bag and see your crew. I was walking every uphill and steep downhill at this point, I walked almost the entire race.
On the way to Rifugio Auronzo:
 
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Views from Rifugio Auronzo:
 
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After you stop at the Rifugio, you’ll go up and around the mountain and on the other side is Tre Cime!! It was really exciting to get to this point and take a lot of photos.
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I arrived at Cimbanche (66.9k, 41.5 miles) after 14:02 hours, at 1:03pm (13:03). I ate food, but didn’t bother changing clothes because my feet weren’t wet (there are no water crossings before this point) and I was just going to get more sweaty in the hot sun anyway. Speaking of hot sun, there are MANY rivers, streams, etc. from snow run-off off the mountain, I highly suggest dipping your hat, Buff, legs, arms, etc. into this cool and refreshing water. It really kept me going.
The next aid station comes up pretty quickly compared to the others, which have all been about 10 miles apart until this point. I reached the Malga Ra Stua aid station (76.4k, 47.4 miles) after 16:21 hours of racing, at 3:22pm (15:22). It is SO IMPORTANT to eat and fill your water bottles completely at this aid station, the next hike uphill is grueling, and the next aid station is the furthest away.
I left Malga Ra Stua and started the long hike uphill, which seemed to last FOREVER. It was at this point where I started to hallucinate a bit, the trees would be zooming backwards if I looked at them, I would see quick movements out of the corner of my eye that were nothing. There are also a few water crossings at this point. If you toss some huge boulders in the water you may be able to make a jumping point for yourself and only get one foot wet. This is also when the thunder, lightening, and drizzle rain started. There are some dark times during ultras, and this is where they were for me. Just keep telling yourself that you’re ok, you’re going to keep walking forward, and that everyone is rooting for you to do this because you can do this. I also put my phone in a waterproof wet bag at this time so I don’t have any of my own photos after this point.
Race photo from right before Col Gallina aid station, around 9pm (21:00):
 
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I reached the next aid station, Col Gallina (96.5k, 59.9 miles) after 22:12 hours of racing, at 9:13pm (21:13). For this aid station and the last one, I was coming in just under the aid station cutoff times. The cutoff for this aid station was 9:30pm, and they were breaking down tables and getting ready to close it down at 9:30pm. They are extremely strict about the aid station cutoff times, no exceptions. You could have crew at this aid station so I got to see Ian again. I changed my shirt to a long sleeve (for the colder night), and changed my socks to dry socks, but kept my same shoes on. My Garmin was about to die so I took it off and plugged it into a charger to run with (but I forgot to turn on the charger so it died anyway, brilliant). Once I noticed this I turned on the charger and started a new run once the watch was charged enough, so I only missed a couple miles of the race.
I had a new fire under me because I was so close to the cutoff and didn’t want to get cut, so I took off like a mad person out of that aid station and began the next climb. There was a solo guy with a make-shift aid station at Rifugio Averau (elevation: 8691 ft / 2649 m) , he has hot tea and water which is nice. I kept going and made it to Passo Giau (103.9k, 64.5 miles) after 24:38 hours at 11:39pm (23:39). This was the last time I could see Ian before the finish. I honestly don’t remember anything about this aid station, I can’t picture it. I think I was pretty out of it at this point. This was also the last aid station with a cutoff time (midnight).
I kept going through a few more difficult hikes up, at this point it was raining and VERY foggy, making it pretty difficult to see the trail and course markings. If you’re here in the dark try to find a few folks to run with, two headlamps are better than one. Luckily I found a guy named Fred to run with and we stayed together until the end of the race. That helped me keep a good pace, and the chit-chat kept me from getting in my own head about the night, rain, climbs, etc. We hit the last aid station Rif. Cord da Lago (111.6k, 69.3 miles) after 26:54 hours of racing, at 1:55am on Sunday. IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE! LITERALLY! After this aid station you go downhill for ~10k towards Cortina. There are some steep sections but also some really nice rolling single track in this section, I was so amped about finishing that I was actually able to run a bit. I came out of the woods onto the street in Cortina, then it was a couple more kilometers to the finish line!!! The bar crowds had long gone home by the time I finished at 4:07am on Sunday, but I’m very lucky and had some great friends wake up to cheer me in. I finished in 29 hours and 7 minutes, 53 minutes before the 30 hour cutoff. It was an incredible thing to be able to participate in and finish.
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The good: Race scenery is like no other, it’s beautiful and you’ll want to be videoing and taking photos the whole time. Volunteers and staff I encountered are friendly and want to help you. The race is well organized. Overall this is an excellent race! A lot of people do the race (1,500+), some folks may see this as a ‘bad’ but I appreciated being around other people almost the entire time.
The bad: It is a tough, tough race!!! (is that good or bad? :)) There is A LOT of walking uphill and walking downhill. Weather in the mountains can go from good to bad quickly (like a clear night to golf-ball sized hail in 5 minutes – it happened the night before the race), be prepared. Some aid stations are pretty far apart, be ready to carry a lot of water, I had run out of water a couple times and that is no fun (I had a 2L bladder in my backpack and two 500ml bottles, which is 6lbs of water!).
Aid Station Food: The aid station food (VARIES per station, also they did run out of certain items by the time I got there near the cutoff times): White bread baguette, olive oil, chocolate pieces, crackers with Nutella, crackers with Jelly, pie, apple slices, bananas, cookies, water, Coca Cola, the Italian version of Gatorade/sports drink, hot broth and noodles, sugar cubes, cubes of cheese, meats (salami), hot tea.
Aid Station cutoff times: The aid station cutoff times and elevation are printed on the bibs. The race is very strict about cutoff times and won’t bend them. They have timing mats at each aid station (or people that will scan your bib) to register your time; some of the timing mats are at the beginning of the station and some are when you leave, so make sure to get out of there quickly to register your time if you’re near the cutoff.
Runner tracking/info: They offered runner tracking through an app and it also posted to Facebook. The tracking also gave the expected time when you would reach the next checkpoint so this was very helpful for my crew member. Also when you finish there’s a website where you can see your place, pace, stats, etc., for each aid station and the whole race. It’s very thorough.
Gear I had on me: Brooks Cascadias shoes, Injinji Socks, 2XU calf sleeves, 2XU shorts, Patagonia tshirt/Champion dry long sleeve, Zensah sports bra, Patagonia Houdini jacket, Arc’Teryx Goretex jacket, Buff, hat, Nathan Vaporairess, 2 Camelbak quickstowe flasks, TREKKING POLES!
Gear I carried in my bag: 3L of water, Gu, Honey Stingers, Larabars, other food, Emergency blanket, whistle, Patagonia houdini pants, gloves, extra injinji socks, chafing cream, bandaids, a poncho, phone charger, watch charger, a Jackery charger bar, ibuprofen, salt pills, waterproof wet-bag, 2 iPod shuffles, headphones. I didn’t end up using a lot of this and felt like I had an extremely heavy pack on. If I did it again I’d try to leave some of the non-required items behind.
I hope this was helpful for you if you’re thinking of doing the race! It is an incredible experience and I would highly recommend it. If you have any questions please feel free to message me, Twitter & Instagram @brimil. Cheers!

Conference Brochure Cover

My artwork was featured on the cover of the Annual State of the States in Head Injury Conference that was hosted in Philadelphia in October.

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Inliquid Benefit 15

A few months ago I had the opportunity to donate a piece to be auctioned off at Inliquid Benefit v.15. Someone bought the piece, and I even won an auction item of my own! It was a good night.

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Landscape Painting

A few months ago I did a custom landscape painting for a friend of mine that he gave as a gift to his financé. It was a paining of her grandfather’s backyard, a place where they have lots of fond memories riding horses and sitting by the fire pit.

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Custom Home Painting

I did a painting of a farmhouse style home for one of my best friend’s families. The family has lived in the home for 20+ years, and wanted a way to remember their special place. They even ordered notecards and postcards from the print!

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Philadelphia Skyline

A couple of months ago I did a huge (4 ft. x 5 ft.) Philadelphia Skyline painting for a gorgeous home in Chestnut Hill, to go above their fireplace on the mantel. The painting was a gift from the husband to the wife, and included hidden latitudes and longitudes of some of the meaningful places in their lives. I had a ton of fun painting this piece and am thrilled with how it turned out!

Are you interested in a special, commissioned painting for yourself or as a gift? Shoot me an email at britt(at)brittmillerart(dot)com to chat about it!

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LOVE Bookshelf

A custom-painted bookshelf.

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Frankford Ave. First Friday Fracas

Set up shop outside of The Pickled Heron for the night!

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Of The Trade

Photo on the set of CBS3’s Talk Philly, where my friend Andrew was filming my episode of Of The Trade.

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