Saturday, April 23, 2011

My 44 Mile Trail Adventure: April 20-21

Wednesday afternoon - Thursday morning I did a 44 mile run/hike through the 1st part of the Shenandoah National Park. I had to carry all my food, emergency supplies and a change of clothes (just in case the weather got bad) in my pack so that really slowed me down. The other issue I had was that I really need new trail shoes. At mile 5.5 I was already feeling hot spots, so I stopped, added a 2nd pair of socks and it took about 5 minutes to decide to keep going instead of turning around and going back to the car. I could feel the pack really slowing me down on the climbs, many of them done at only about 2mph. At mile 13 there was a camp store at the Elk Wallow wayside, so I got a few things to have for "dinner", tried to doctor my feet and then kept going. There is a really steep climb out of Elk Wallow, and at the top I had a cell phone signal. I needed to call Steve and tell him my plans. It was here I had to make a decision. My turn around was at mile 22, Thornton Gap. I could have him come get me there, and it would have been a nice long trail run. But despite the foot problems and everything else, I really felt like I hadn't pushed myself in so long. So I told him not to come get me. I was going to do an out and back. Those last 10 miles weren't bad, a lot of very runnable trails and I was able to pick up the pace, but somewhere in there it had turned dark and I had a few miles of adjusting to running with the headlamp. At the turn around I drank a bottle of gatorade that I had purchased at the store and ate the rest of my "dinner". Then it would be the long run back through the night. I felt pretty good, the wind was picking up and the temperature was dropping, but as long as I kept moving I felt okay. Right before I returned to Elk Wallow (which was shut down since it was about 1am) there was a long rocky descent. Every step hurt! I knew I was in for a long night, but I thought if I could just get to Elk Wallow, I could get a drink from the drink machine, sit down for a few minutes and regroup. Finally I made it! But the relief was short lived. The wind had picked up and sitting there I started shivering. I knew I had to keep moving. I put my arm sleeves on and that seemed to help. I also took some Aleve to try to ignore the pain in my feet. From Elkwallow there is about a 2-3 mile 1200ft climb. It actually felt good, the exertion of climbing warmed me and the uphill didn't hurt my feet as much as the steep downhills. The only issue was that because of all the rain, the trail was like a creek. I felt like a salmon trying to jump upstream. After I made it to the ridge top there was another excrutiating 1.5 mile descent. I was in tears by the time I made it to the bottom. My feet felt like they were shredded. And I still had 9 miles to go. They were a long 9 miles. I could "run" when the trail was mostly dirt and either flat or slightly uphill. It was more of a shuffle than a run. The temperature continued to drop, the wind was whipping especially on the ridge tops, and because of my slow speed I was having a hard time keeping warm. I just had to focus on moving forward, of getting done. Every ridge I crossed I thought I was closer to the car than I was. I remember going down a long descent thinking my car was at the bottom. Imagine my dismay when it wasn't and the sign said Compton Gap(my starting/ending place) was 3.6 miles away. At the pace I was going I knew it could be over another hour before I got back. I just wanted to sit down on a rock and cry. But I had gone 40 miles, surely I could manage another 4! The trail here was really quite manageable and I kept thinking that when I had better shoes and didn't have the pack on my back, I was going to come back a run this like I know I can. The sad part was this was also one of the sections that the fires in February had destroyed. So as morning dawned I was running through blackened and bare trees. Spring would not come to this section of the mountain. It seemed to symbolize some of my struggles these past few months - feeling like I'm having to let go of the past 25 years of my life to start a new adventure, but instead of seeing a future full of bright sunshine and green grass, I've been running through the darkness, through burnt out scars, and emotions that threaten to overtake me, of bad habits returning, and I'm trying to run away from all that but it is so hard and it hurts. And so I keep running and running, but the finish line seems all the farther away. Finally I am at the top of the last ridge - now I just have to make it down one last steep descent. Pain and cold are my only friends at this point. They block out all other thoughts - I can only think of taking one step at a time, of finishing. Slowly but surely I descend. Step by step I inch closer, then suddenly the car is in view and I am done. I limp to my vehicle, fumble to find my keys so I can get inside and out of the wind. In the car I relax, take off my shoes and socks. I am finished. I actually feel good. It is the farthest I've run since October's 100k. I kept going despite the temptation to call in the calvary to come rescue me and two days later I feel ready to run again. I know that fires happen for a reason - they are a refining,and a cleansing. They purge the ground of deadwood and brush. And I know that the next time I run through there, I will see among the blackened trunks and limbs, little green shoots will be working their way out of the soil, starting over, starting new - new life, new hope. And I will smile.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Movement Challenge!

The Movement Challenge

Help me win $25,000 for

Teens Opposing Poverty

(Without Spending a Penny)

New Balance Shoes is sponsoring The Movement Challenge. The winner receives $25,000 for the charity of his/her choice

Here's how it works: I get 100 points for every mile I runs in an official race. I also gets 500 bonus points when I improve my time for a specific distance.

PLUS... I get 100 points for every runner who signs up and 10 points for every fan who signs up. You have to be 18 or older to participate.

We are trying to get 50,000 extra points to make sure I win. If everybody pitches in, we can do this. I am now in 10th place.

Sign Up as a Fan

1. Go to and click on the Sign Up as a Fan Button.

2. Enter your name, email address, make up a password and enter referral code: 3c624c00-1ce5-4046-8130-bde121ac69b2

3. Click that you agree to the terms and conditions

4. Click Submit

Sign up as a Runner- if you run one official race during the year, you qualify as a runner.

1. Go to and click on the Sign Up as a Runner Button.

2. Enter your name, email address, make up a password and enter referral code: 3c624c00-1ce5-4046-8130-bde121ac69b2

3. On the next screen fill in the other info

4. Step 3: Select "Community" for Cause Category, then scroll down to Teens Opposing Poverty for the cause.

Why make Teens Opposing Poverty your charity?

Teens Opposing Poverty (TOP) empowers youth to meet physical needs and offer hope, friendship and encouragement to poor and homeless people

Every day, millions of people in the United States struggle to survive. Many have no place to call home. Others must choose between food, shelter and medicine.

Meanwhile, a generation of young people filled with compassion and a powerful sense of justice are hungry for an opportunity to make a difference in their world.

They don’t want to wait until they become “adults” to have an impact on others—and they don’t need to. Through its outreaches, TOP provides that opportunity. In 2009, 1,200 volunteers from 61 youth groups served over 3,000 poor and homeless people in the region. Currently we have ministries in DC, Winchester, Richmond, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and Newport News. As funds are provided we intend to expand as far as the Lord leads.

Impact the Valley

Every summer, over 130 volunteers participate in a week-long home repair mission project. Since 2005, over 650 volunteers have repaired 50+ homes belonging to low-income families, many of whom are elderly or disabled. The homes have been in Warren, Clarke, Shenandoah and Frederick counties and the city of Winchester.

Motel Ministry

Since 2009, TOP has led an outreach to families living in the lower cost motels of Winchester, bringing groceries, toiletries paper goods, laundry products and has helped families with rent and other special needs.
This ministry model will be used in other cities as we expand.

New Ministries

We are developing a summer mission program to DC. This ministry trips will last for a week and will be open to all youth across the United States. We plan on eventually having 6-8 weeks where youth from all over can experience hands-on ministry to the poor and homeless community on the streets of DC, and learn how to take TOP back into their own community.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Freedom's Run Marathon - Oct 2, 2010

At 3:40 am, the alarm went off. I fumbled around trying to turn it off and just when I had success, the alarm on my cell phone went off. Okay, okay! I'm awake, but brrrr, it's cold outside. I don't know if I can remember how to dress for this type of weather. So I decide to wear knee length shorts, my knee high compression socks, and a short sleeve shirt with my arm sleeves. I slip a garbage bag into my drop bag and at about 4:30am head out the door. Since this is a point to point race, I have two choices - I can either park at the finish and take the shuttle to the start, or park at the start and take the shuttle back after the race. I opt to park at the start because I still need to pick up my race packet. The website says that late packet pickup is from 5:30-6:30am. I want to get there right at 5:30, just to make sure there are no issues. The problem is, the starting line is about 1/2 mile from the parking lot and the shuttles are not supposed to start until 6:00am. So I pack my headlamp as well, anticipating a dark, cold walk. However, when I pull into the parking area, the shuttles are already running. Yay.  When we get to the starting area, the bus driver doesn't know where he is going and we drive around the parking lot for a little while until he figures it out. Now to find the packet pickup. I see the table where it should be, but there is no one manning them! I realize I am a lot earlier than I need to be, as there are also only about 10 other runners there. The race director is running around, and says they are waiting for the t-shirts to arrive. So, while waiting, I decide to take advantage of the flush toilets and use the bathroom. It's even warm in there. I take my time:)

The t-shirts arrive and I get my bib and my race packet. I pin my bib onto my shirt - the timing chip is stuck to the back of the bib! First time I had seen that, but I was worried that sweat would cause it to fall off. Then, I put everything else, including the jacket I was wearing, into my drop bag and check it in. I could hear the race director telling the volunteers that they needed several vehicles to take the drop bags to the finish line. For some reason, I had an irrational fear of my bag getting left in the dark corner of someone's trunk. Putting my trash bag on, I wandered around, trying to stay warm. The photographer was on hand taking pictures of everyone's unique ways to keep warm, including me and my trash bag, and the guy with the disposable surgical gown.

I met Jill, who is from Berryville, and is an ultra-runner. We talked for a while, then I went to use the bathroom one last time. A guitar, fiddle, and wash-tub bass are playing live music. Finally, the sun was rising, and it was getting close to 7:00. At the start line, I talked with an older gentleman who said he had 9 more states to run before he had done a marathon in all 50 states. He had run 71 marathons in all. Somebody sang a rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and then we were off. I was in the back. I thought the chip timing would pick up when we crossed the start line, but there was no mat to cross, so the 30 seconds it took me to cross the start line were "lost" seconds. No big deal. The course looped through the parking lot (following the way the bus driver took) and then went out and down towards a small battlefield. My garmin was freaking out on me, and when I looked down, it had somehow turned itself off. I figured I had lost over 1/10th of a mile before I realized it. So I was guessing 1-2 minutes lost time that I would have to account for. This was the most congested part of the course. We were on a dirt trail, which was wide, but it was out and back so that there was really no room for passing unless you wanted to venture into the wet grass. In the field was set up a series on canons. It was very surreal, because the sun was beginning to burn off the fog and it gave the canons a dreamlike quality. At the turn around, there was a view of the river snaking between the mountains, the fog, and the sun glimmering off the fall foliage. But I didn't take time to gaze on its beauty. Anyway, back to the race. After we got off the trail we headed back to the start area, ran through the parking lot again and then headed down this huge hill! My first 2 miles were 9:35, 9:40, then when we hit the "hill", my split for mile 3 was 8:22. I love down hills, and I was passing people right and left. Of course, by the end of the day, most of them had passed me back. My goal for this race was to run the first half up tempo, try to hit the half close to the 2 hour mark, and then be more relaxed when I got to the hills in the battlefield. Realistically, when I came into the race, I knew my pace would be off. My runs hadn't been going that well, and my eating has been atrocious. So, I felt heavy and slow from the beginning. Miles 3 and 4 were the only miles that I really felt more on pace with where I should be (mile 4 9:05). We ran right through Historic Harper's Ferry. There was an aid station there which had not only water and gatorade, but also gels. Since I hadn't packed any at all (I know, poor planning) I grabbed one and stuck it in my pocket. There was also flush toilets here, if you needed them (I didn't). We ran up to the railroad bridge and crossed the Potomac River. The bridge was wet, so I took it easy. Here the first photographer of the race was set up. It should be an interesting shot. Then, we had to climb down the winding steps to the C&O. These I took slow.
(Mile 5 with the bridge and steps 10:08)

Now we were on the C&O canal and would be there for about 10 miles. The towpath is a packed dirt trail. It's pretty smooth and wide, especially in the first few miles where it gets a lot of traffic. It's also beautiful as you are following the Potomac River the whole way. The river was up because of the recent rain, and you could look out and see many people on the river in rafts, kayaks and canoes. Of course, I'm mostly looking down at the trail to avoid and unsuspecting roots and rocks. There were a few people who had battle wounds because of this. There were aid station every 3 miles or so and they were well stocked. They had gels, oranges, potato chips, peanuts, m&ms besides the water and gatorade. Since this was fairly flat, I should have been making better time, but I just wasn't feeling it and my pace from mile 6-10 varied from 9:52 to 10:35. I would walk through the aid stations and made sure I at least got something to drink.

At mile 10, my hamstrings started to tighten some. The trail was a little rockier in this section, but compared to the mountains it was great. I crossed the halfway point at around 2:11. Now I was trying to figure out what time I could finish the race in. At the start, I just wanted to finish. With the hills yet to come, I knew I would be slowing down considerably. So I set in my head to try and beat 5 hours. Just before mile 15, I noticed runners running down a little hill and they looked like they were running to the porta-potties. Boy, that's a lot of runners who have to go to the bathroom! As I got closer, I realized this was the turning point! The hills started immediately. Up, up and up we went. A group of girls were yelling and cheering for us. One of them was handing out pamphlets, but maybe they should have realized that in the middle of a race we don't really have time to stop and read it, or a place to put the pamphlet for reading later. But hey, we'll give them credit for trying. Up, and up and up. That's all I can say. There's another sign for a photographer ahead! Right at the top of the hill. Oh man! That means I need to start running again! We're running down a country road and it really is beautiful. Eventually, we turn into the Antietnam Battlefield. After a brief but steep down hill we head back up another long up hill. I'm trying to read the monuments and markers on the side of the road. "PA 9th Infantry." It really is a scenic run. Everybody is now taking walk breaks up the steeper hills. You try not to look too far ahead because you might get discouraged. At the top of another hill, there's a photographer again. This time I jokingly complain to them as I pass by. I mean, give us a break! They said I wasn't the first person to mention their "poor" choice of location. What I really "love" is the person who says, "Last hill ahead," and then there are 3 more miles of hills! At the mile 21 aid station there is a guy playing the bagpipes. I'm really tired and my legs really ache, but I see that I can still make 5 hrs if I just keep moving. It's still rolling hills but at least they aren't quite as steep and there is more down hill now. At mile 23, I decide I really need a potty break. This was my slowest mile at 15:19. There were also 3 llamas at this aid station. The only part I didn't like about this section was that we were running on the shoulder of the highway and traffic was not stopped. It was okay for most of the way, but sometimes the shoulder got really narrow. Also there were a lot of walkers walking two abreast on this section. I think they were half-marathoners, but there was no way to get around them except to go out into the road. With one mile to go, I knew I could make it if I could just keep my pace going. You ran down the hill to the river, crossed the bridge and then up to the football stadium. But there were too many people just milling around and I felt a little confused. Finally, at the top of the hill, I saw where I was supposed to turn into the stadium. Around the corner and onto the football field to the finish line. I looked up and saw that the 4 was still there, 4:56:36 to be exact. I had made it under 5 hrs. When I stopped, my legs just started aching something fierce. I grabbed a bottle of water and pretty much hobbled around until I found a chair and sat down. I think I didn't drink enough during the race. I lay on my back and put my legs on the chair, massaging and stretching them. I drank the water and took a couple of electrolyte tablets. Eventually, I could feel them relax. Now to find my bag, and the bus back to the start. Of course I had to walk back up the hill to get my bag, but as I approached the tent, they already had my bag in hand ready to give to me. "That's service!" I said, "Now, where is the bus?" Of course, he pointed up to the top of another hill. "You're killing me!" I whined. There, at the Bavarian Inn, I was able to get a nice commemorative pint glass, which I opted to leave empty instead of filling it with the complementary brew. The bus ride back to my car was enjoyable, because I was talking to several other runners about the different races I had run. Some of them were training for their first 50 miles, a new race, the Stone Mill 50 Mile Run in November. I told them I was considering it. The man sitting next to me was also going for 50 states, he had done 37 so far and was running the Rehobeth Beach marathon in December. That was another race I had just looked at. So I went from saying I was never running a marathon again, to seriously considering all these races I had just looked up for the remainder of the year. With the New Balance Movement Challenge, I have a chance to win some serious money for Teens Opposing Poverty. But I don't know if I can beat the leaders, even if I race every weekend between now and the New Year. It's something I need to pray about. But mostly I need to refocus my training and my nutrition. Philippians 3:13 says, "One thing I do: forgetting what is behind (especially past mistakes and failures), and straining toward what is ahead (focus!), I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. So that's what I'm going to do - Press on, move forward, Focus!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Barn Again 5k, Berryville, VA - 9/25/10

I decided to test out my 5k speed at a local race. The last 5k I had run was in February so I was very out of practice. In fact, running a race shorter than a marathon was a rarity(the norm? one 100 miler, and 3 marathons besides the 15in15). This meant there were a lot of long and slow running and not much short and fast. Never-the-less, I showed up at the race sight, paid my $12 (skipped grabbing a recycled t-shirt from a race I didn't run) and decided to check out the competition. The usual subjects were there, so I already knew who would most likely win the race, and then I saw her - my nemesis. Her blonde hair framed her pixie face, and her 3 foot stature of poise and youthful exuberance was a frightful sight. Not only that, she brought her whole running team with her! A flock of bright blue shirts, laughing and skipping as they joyfully warmed up. I was doomed from the start.

After about a one mile warm up, I mingled around the starting area, and talked to a few people I knew. I let the 5 blue shirted speed demons line up in front of me as well as the soccer team kids. For some reason, I was a little nervous. I think I just didn't want to have something like a 3 minute personal worst race, and I knew that for me it was going to be a  bit like torture, sucking air while trying to maintain a respectable pace. Finally, we're off and away I go. The speedy guys and girls quickly pull away. The first 1/4 of a mile is downhill (which of course means the last 1/4 of a mile is uphill). I try not to constantly check my pace, but go with the flow. I like running downhill and pass a lot of people who I know will pass me as soon as it levels out. The young whipper snappers are pulling ahead so I just try to keep them in sight. We run down the street towards the railroad tracks, then make a left to run alongside the tracks. This is actually a pretty good course, but because it is a small town race, the roads are not blocked off to traffic. There are runners all over the road anyway and the cars seem to be respecting us.

At the first mile, I check my Garmin - 7:47. Not bad. The first part of the second mile is pretty good too, but I notice a general downhill slope to it. That means the third mile is going to be the hardest one. I pass the mom of the little blue shirted speed demon.

"The race director said you were supposed to stay close to the kids," I joke.
"I know, but I can't keep up," she pants.

So I adjust my goal - beat the mom! I've been trading leads with another young woman and finally, as we make the turn to go back I catch her on the hill. Mile 2 - I glance down and the watch still says 15 something or other. I'm trying to calculate what I need to run in the last 1.1 mile to get under 25 minutes. Now there's a 10 year old girl who's been ahead of me the whole race, but she's tiring on the hill. I'm merciless, I know, but I gleefully pass her. Up ahead is an older gentleman. He's pushing  pretty strong and I just can't seem to catch him.

"1/2 mile," I tell myself. "I can do anything for 1/2 mile."

We're at that last climb and then around the building to the finish. I'm afraid to look back to see if anyone is catching back up to me, but I know I've slowed terribly. I hang on the heels of the old guy, gasping for breath, and trying to hang on to the finish. Finally! Crossed the finish line and was glad I hadn't eaten anything yet. Missed my goal by 21 seconds, finishing in 25:21, avg. pace 8:11. I noticed that I was consistent in my slowing down, about 20 seconds with each mile.

Turns out the young girl I passed was running her first race, and hadn't really trained for it. Well, eat some more humble pie. I hung around for the awards ceremony anyway and was surprised by receiving the 1st Masters Woman.

I find the contrast between the shorter and longer races interesting. The 5ks and 10ks are harder in the sense that you are pushing your body up near the max the whole time. There is no conserving for the later stages of the race as in a half or full marathon (or longer). They are more of a gut race. If you are willing, you gut it out to the very end. The longer races wear you out bit by bit, they break you down until you want to cry, or sit down, or just quit. But in these, you have to dig deep into your reservoirs, rely on that inward spirit that propels you ever onward toward the finish line. I want guts! I want to push hard and fast all the way to the edge. And I want determination, that stubborn will to keep going no matter what. And so I race, and I run and maybe someday when I need it most in life, I'll really learn what it means to dig deep and I'll have the guts to see it through to the finish.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Abebe Bikila Day International Peace Half Marathon - 9/11/10

About Abebe Bikila

The alarm goes off at 4:30am, and I stumble out of bed wondering why I signed up for this race, a mere 12 days after I finished the 15in15. I've been running slow for so long, I didn't even know if I could run faster than 11-12 minute miles. But I guess that really was the reason I signed up - to see how much speed I had lost. After a quick check on the directions, I headed down to Georgetown in DC. I had plugged in the address in my GPS, but it always sends me a different way than Mapquest. Which to use? Finally, after passing several exits that the GPS tells me to take and listening to it say "re-routing" 100 times, I decide to trust it and listen to the GPS "lady" tell me how to get there. She brought me right to an open parking space. The next challenge was trying to figure out the machine to pay for parking. Several runners were standing around the machine trying to make it work. One even went and got pliers out of his car, so that he could extract a stuck credit card. Then we realized that the machine wouldn't work until 7am and it was 6:56. We all stared blankly at the machine for a few minutes; finally I decided that I could run up and get my race packet and be back in time to feed the meter. That done, I need to find a bathroom. It turns out the only one available was in an open air cafe on M Street. That's the problem - it's one bathroom for 100+ men, and one for 100+ women. By now, it's about 15 minutes to race start and there are about 10 women in front of me. I calculate approximately 1 minute per person and I should have 5 minutes to spare.

When I get to the starting area, Jay Jacob Wind, the race director is just getting ready to ring a small bell 184 times in memory of those who lost their lives at the Pentagon on 9/11. The crowd was hushed as we listened and counted. Jay Wind ran with me on Day 3 of the 15 in 15 for the last 7-8 miles. He was a great help that day because he knew the area and could get my crew to the next stop.

After the bell-ringing ceremony, somebody else said a few words but I couldn't hear him (I think he was an Olympic boxer). Then they played the Star Spangled Banner and we were set to go! There was no chip timing, and the starting line was very crowded because we were running completely on the C&O towpath. A whistle blew to start the race, but I couldn't hear that either, but we were slowly moving towards the start line. I figured I had started my Garmin about 5 seconds after the official clock, which I wanted to keep in mind as I got towards the finish. Plus I had to add the extra distance that I was starting behind the line.

My goals for this race were basically to finish uninjured and to see if I could run it in under 2 hrs. I knew a PR was probably out of reach (I would have had to run faster than 1:53:45) so I didn't even set my sights on that. As I finally made it on the trail, it was very crowded and my claustrophobia kicked in. Get me out of here! I began to weave in and out of people to try to make room so I could run my pace. Splits for the first three miles were: 9:00, 8:51, 8:48. That was about right where I wanted to be, I was hoping to bank a little time before I hit the halfway point and headed back to the finish. It finally cleared out and I seemed comfortable with my pace. People were passing me, and I was still passing others. Everyone was trying to get in their happy running zone. I passed by the first water stop, again trying to make time, and because it was a nice cool morning. Miles 4-6: 8:49, 9:01, 8:46. At the mile 5 water stop I grabbed a quick drink and kept moving. I was watching my pace pretty close and when I began to feel pretty comfortable running, I would look down at my watch and say "Drat, I'm slowing down," then pick the pace up. The good thing about an out and back race is that you get to see who is ahead of you, and when you turn the corner, you get to see who is behind you. The bad part is the trail gets a little crowded for a while. Because there were other people out doing their morning run or bike ride, or walk, it was hard to tell who was in the race and who wasn't.

The course is dirt, the ground is fairly even, but every now and then it gets a little rocky or uneven, so I spent a lot of time looking at my feet. On one side is the canal filled with green water; on the other side is the river but you can't see it. We parallel the Capital Crescent Trail for most of the race, every now and then you could see people running and biking on that trail. As I neared the turn around, the last 1/2 mile seemed to take forever. The course was pretty much flat, but I could tell I was on one of the small inclines that you only notice when you are running hard. In my head I was saying "Only 6.5 miles to go! You can do anything for 6.5 miles." I glanced at the Garmin and  I think it read 59 minutes and change. "Don't give up! You can still make it under 2 if you just keep pushing." By this time I had been trading leads with a man in a white t-shirt. He was ahead of me now and I decided to latch on to him and try to get him to pull me in under 2. I pushed the pace as much as I could and moved to be next to him, then I got ahead of him. "Keep pushing," I tell myself. Then he comes back and passes me. I let him lead for a while, then slowly begin to pass him again. A couple of guys run by and see my Umstead 100 mile shirt that I'm wearing. "She's one of those 100 milers. This is a sprint for her," they say as they pass. I catch up to one of them in a blue t-shirt and he wants to know all about the 100 miler, where it was, how I trained for it, etc. I'm huffing and puffing and trying to talk. Finally, I have to back off the pace a little bit. He wants to know where we are so I call out the mileage every now and then.  I drop behind him, and now white shirt is passing me so I stick to his heels. Mile splits 7-10: 9:14, 8:54, 9:19, 9:03. At one point we crest a hill and white shirt slows down. He's looking for the aid station, but it's down the trail a little further. I pass him and take my time at the aid station, walking through - my slowest mile 9:36. I'm getting tired. But with two miles to go I take off, realizing I still have a chance to make the two hours. I pass blue shirt and don't see him again. A few people pass me, including this girl who I've passed a couple of times before and another girl who is probably doing intervals. I'm trying to pass people too. Mile 12: 9:19. At about one mile, white shirt catches up to me and passes. I need to stay on his heels. Can I make it? I don't know how close my Garmin miles is to race miles (no mile markers were out). I pass 13 miles (9:17) and I'm seeing the city limits. I hear cheering and people's voices. The finish line! Push hard! I see the clock and I push across in 1:59:25! Did it! (last .17 at an 8:29 pace). Jay announces me as the woman who ran 26 marathons in 26 days. Well, not quite that much, but it sounds good!

I get my medal, talk to a guy who runs ultras for a while, grab a banana and a drink and stretch. I decide to wait for the awards ceremony, mainly because I'm trying to decide where and how much extra mileage I want to do. I really didn't expect to win anything, but because it was a small race, you never know. Lo and behold, he calls my name as 3rd place in the 40-49 age group! Jay has already assumed I've gone to run more miles, but I accept my $25 gift certificate and tell him I might run the course again. A guy standing there is shocked that I would even think about it. However, when I get to running again, my hamstrings are really tight. I decide to try out the Capital Crescent Trail. It's crowded! I only make it 7 more miles with the tight hammies, plus I have some shopping to do and a night at Wolf Trap.

This race was good for me to put everything in perspective. The good is I maintained a more consistent pace than I have in previous races. Usually by the last few miles I'm a good minute off pace, having started a good minute over pace. I felt mentally stronger in making myself keep the pace going when I started to get tired, thanks in part to white t-shirt (I did introduce myself after the race and we talked, he was pacing off of me too and he felt we actually did a good job of sharing the load, but I can't remember his name for the life of me). The reality is that I know I can't maintain that pace for another 13 miles, which is what I would need to do in order to BQ (Boston Qualify). The McMillan pace calculator has me doing a marathon in 4:11, which would still be a PR, but I don't think I'm going to try at Marine Corps. I know what I have to do - nutrition and getting back to what I call "race weight" will get me where I want to be. And a good marathon course that I can focus on the prize (not Marine Corps). So I'm setting a goal for 2011. This morning while working out in my gym, I was reviewing my goal cards. I have 3x5 cards with all my goals on them. I say them aloud and have a scripture that correlates to the goal. Isaiah 40:31 really stuck out this morning. "Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up as with wings of eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint." I need to wait on the Lord. I need to be patient and he will show me what to do next. And He will give me the strength to do it.

Race Stats:
3rd in age group (40-49)
39 out of 132 women
113 out of 269 overall

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

15 in 15 Run - Day 15 (Aug 31) Charlottesville to Lynchburg (Leg 3)

Isaiah 40:31 For those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings as eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.

Last night, with the help of the Toneys, we mapped out a new course to run into Lynchburg, thereby avoiding Rt. 29 altogether. We would start in Amherst, VA and run the back roads into Lynchburg. Donnie Toney was going to run with me, his goal to do the whole distance if he could, otherwise he would hang in there as long as possible. I was ready to run, but so tired. I knew that having Donnie run with me would be the shot in the arm I needed to make this the best run yet.

Also joining us, additional angels that God has placed in my life, were Pastor Karen and Reba. They got up really early in order to make the 3 hr trip to be with us the whole day. There was a real spirit surrounding me as we joined hands to pray - I was being renewed and lifted up by the support of others. Then we were off! I felt as though I was being pulled toward the finish line with wings of eagles guiding my feet. Donnie and I talked and ran, and I knew we were going out faster than normal. Our mile splits for the first 5 miles were: 10:39, 10:38, 11:00, 11:04, 11:39. The course was very hilly, but there were long stretches of down hill to counteract the long stretches of up. I ran aggressively on the downs and so our mile splits showed when the mile was mostly up or mostly down: Miles 6-10 were 10:21, 10:52, 10:55, 12:04, 9:33!

The countryside was beautiful! We were surrounded by mountains, and I could only imagine the glory of the autumn leaves in another month. Each stop we made, Reba would be there holding up her bright pink sign and Pastor Karen would be cheering me on. Lindsey was ever faithful with putting ice in my water, getting me sports beans or whatever else I needed.Kendra Toney also arrived to help with the rest of the run.  Miles 11-13 splits were: 11:09, 11:19, 10:53.

We ran down a couple miles to Route 130. The next 3 miles were difficult as we were running on the shoulder of a busier highway. The sun was out in full force and there was no shade. Plus with the traffic we were needing to run single file.  Still our splits from mile 14-17 were pretty good:  10:21, 10:08, 10:12, 10:08. When we were going up the hills, Donnie was stronger. In fact I think he was helping to pull me up the hills. On the down hills I was able to really take off. After several miles of this, Donnie had a cramp on one of the downhills. But he was able to persist and keep running until another cramp occured at mile 17. At this point, he decided to take a break and would join me as I went into Lynchburg.

Now I was on River Road, and the final stretch before going across the bridge into Lynchburg. The road was winding and up and down. At mile 20, I was starting to have an issue with cramping myself - mine was in my side, so I was able to keep running, but had to keep pushing the spot to keep it from cramping. At about mile 21, ABC news showed up to interview me. My crew warned me, so I tried to put on my best form and ran down to meet them at a pretty good clip. Then, as I continued on the run, they followed along filming my feet! I waiting to see what they actually show on the news. Now I looked at my watch and realized that I could have my fastest time of the entire 15 days. I tried to keep my pace up as I neared the 5th St. bridge, but it was mostly uphill and my side was really hurting. Splits from 18-22: 10:11, 10:37, 10:23, 11:05,  9:47.

Now all that was left to cross the bridge and climb the last hills to Fort Hill United Methodist Church. Donnie joined me and we started across the bridge. I was almost done. The final climb was almost done. After a mile and a half Donnie had another leg cramp. I kept going and hit the 26.2 mile mark at about 4:42. But I wasn't there yet! Boy, it was hard to keep running after that point. I kept looking for everyone who was going to walk with me to the finish, but they seemed to be nowhere in sight. Finally, there they were waiting for me - Steve and Lindsey, Pastor Karen and Reba. At 26.92 we ran into the parking lot of the church and up the steps "Rocky" style. Then big hugs and tears all around!

It has been an amazing journey. God definitely sustained me every step of the way. Instead of falling apart or having an injury, he kept me strong and protected me. I felt like the Israelites as Moses led them through the wilderness. Even though the journey was long and hard, God promised that their clothes would last and their shoes would never wear out. For 400 miles, I never got a blister. That had to be from God.

As I spoke at Fort Hill, I explained the reason for my run. In a scene from the movie, Eric Liddell was trying to explain to his sister why he wanted to run in the olympics. He said, "God made me for a purpose - for China." Well I believe that God made me for a purpose - to reach out to the poor and homeless and to inspire others to never give up, to overcome all obstacles. Then Eric said, "but he also made me fast (well, I'm not fast, but God gave me the ability to run long distances without injury - to be focused and to keep going even when the going gets tough). He then said, "when I run I feel God's pleasure." and that's how I feel. When I run on the trails in the mountains it's my chance to get away, to commune with God, to be still and hear him speak to me. And so I run where God leads me.

Never let doubt keep you from taking a step of faith. Never give up. For with God all things are possible. We can change, God can transform our lives and take us on a new journey of faith. We merely have to believe and be willing to listen. And God will be with you every step of the way.

Joshua 1:9 Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Monday, August 30, 2010

15 in 15 Run - Day 14 (Aug 30) - Charlottesville to Lynchburg (Leg 2)

After a restful night's sleep at Robert and Susan Dube's house, we made the trip back to our starting point. With packing up and travel time, we got a little bit of a late start - it was sometime after 9am. We started at the railroad crossroads in Rockfish, VA. The first 4 miles were along the river and weren't too bad. It was shaded and had only a slight uphill grade. As soon as I turned the corner onto Stagebridge Rd, things change. I climbed a mile, got a 1/4 mile break, then climbed another mile. It was also starting to warm up quickly. Kendra Toney from Lynchburg came to help crew, while Steve went back to Charlottesville to take care of the truck.

Kendra was great. She was the cheerleader. She would clap and say "You're looking great! Keep going." I tried to keep focused on knocking the miles off. At one point, I had to run along Route 29. After 2 miles of that, I realized that I needed to change my route for the last day. There was no way I was doing 20+ miles on that highway.

Slowly but surely, the miles went by. Up, up, up - hot, hot, hot. We turned on Oakridge Road and there was a long two mile stretch where the sun was beating down and there was no wind blowing. I felt like I was running on a high plateau in the middle of the desert. When I came to the next stop, Steve was back to take over crew duties. I stood in the shade for a minute before running on.

When you map routes and the road is called Digges Mountain Rd, assume that you will be climbing over a mountain ridge (make that two ridges). And if the road is called Wilson Hill, that means that you have to climb Wilson Hill. I came back out on Rt. 29 and had 2.5 miles more of the dreaded highway. 1.5 miles was up, and then finally 1 mile down to the river. I turned off of 29 and had a nice .7 mile walk with my daughter to the finish. Day 14 was done!

The Toneys, who are graciously hosting us tonight, fed us a wonderful gluten-free pasta dinner and we had a great time of fellowship with Nelson United Methodist Church. Tomorrow is the last day. How do I feel about that? I don't know. It's been an amazing journey - God sent angels all along the way. As each mile ticks down tomorrow, it will bring me closer and closer to the finish line. Then I will be done. The next morning will not be spent studying maps and routes, lubing up or getting ready to run. It instead will be a time to rest and reflect. 26.2 more miles....