Gnarly Bandit: Introducing competitor Jessica Pendleton…

Gnarly Competitor - Jessica Pendleton23 runners toed the line to begin the 2013 UMTR Gnarly Bandit Series. This grueling five race series kicked off back in April at the Zumbro 100 Mile, ran through the Kettle Moraine, Black Hills and Superior 100 Milers, and will wrap up October 19 with the Wild Duluth 100K. With one race left to run, eight runners remain in contention for the $600 cash prize courtesy of Wilderness Athlete. We’ll be looking to talk with all of the finalists.

First up, Jessica Pendleton:

1. When you started out at the Zumbro 100-mile back in April did you feel confident you would still be in the running for the award at this point?

No. I tend to just focus on the race in front of me. Last year, I DNF’d at Zumbro. It was my first 100 mile attempt and I made a lot of mistakes that first race/year – under-estimating the mental side of a 100 miler, not selecting a running crew and pacers. So, for Zumbro, it was all about conquering Zumbro. I had an awesome crew for Zumbro and 2 pacers that paced me for the entire second half of the race. Finishing gave me a feeling of redemption. I figured for each coming race, I would give it my all and see what happened. No matter what, I wanted to run each race.

2. What races in the series stand out as memorable (good and bad)?

Oh, each one. Zumbro because of the fluctuating temps and the alternating frozen/slick/muddy terrain. Kettle because of the alternating land changes and being able to have family there. Black Hills because of the beauty of the area and a memorable trip to the Badlands with friends after the race. Superior because it takes the cake as far as the toughest race I’ve ever done (terrain and hills) – and the striking beauty. What has been wonderful about each race is the opportunity to be out in nature, meet awesome people (runners, volunteers, race directors), and work with my fantastic team (crew, pacers, and coach).

3. Which race would you say “went according to plan” more so than the others?

Hmmm. Um. None. Each race had its own interesting challenge. Though weather was a factor at Zumbro, my pacer recognized signs of hyponatremia in me in the later part of the race and got me back on track with some salt tabs. I didn’t even know what that was before the race. Kettle felt good until I had a major bonk because I had gone too long without food in the later part of the race and let the mental bit get to me. Black Hills I took a wrong turn and had to make up time. Superior I had under-estimated. I should always assume a course will humble me – it always does.

4. How was your recovery between the races?

Slow. Or, at least I thought slow. This is my second year of doing 100 milers. My first year was a DNF at Zumbro and then Lean Horse. My body (and mind) were just not accustomed to doing multiple 100 milers. It usually took me a couple weeks to recover. I use a HR monitor in training and it took at least a couple weeks before my HR would stop spiking (I take HR spiking as a sign that I am not recovered). Additionally, I was surprised at the mental toll the 100 milers would take. I usually had “ultra” brain the week after and then I’d have this kind of post-race depression. The only cure for it was to be patient with myself and take the time to enjoy the people (and animals – I have 2 dogs) I have in my life.

5. What’s on your calendar after Wild Duluth?

Volunteering at the GOATZ 50k race on October 27. Our local trail running group, the CS Turkeys, are manning an aid station there. It’s going to be awesome cheering on other runners and see some of my friends complete their first 50k!

6. Any advice for runners looking to attempt the series next year?

Do it! My belief is that you should do things that scare you a little. That when you say them, they make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up a little and you think “who am I to think I could do such a thing?” Each person has more in them then they think they do. These races bring that out. It’s amazing to watch – and watch in yourself. Also, these veteran gnarlies and veteran 100 milers are the nicest, kindest people you will meet! They will gladly share their experiences and advise you. I’ve been very grateful for the advice I’ve received this year.

7. Any additional thoughts?

I’m so looking forward to reading and learning more about the other gnarlies! I love this competition! I’ve gotten to know some incredible people. This is one of those rare competitions. It rewards completion rather than speed, making it accessible to a back-of-the-packer like myself. A big thank you to the UMTR and its sponsors for hosting and supporting it!

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