Friday, December 25, 2009
My daughter and I headed down to Virginia Beach on Friday, planning on making a stop to check out Regent University. All week, the weather forecast kept changing. First, it was supposed to be dry on Saturday, then a chance of showers, but by the end of the week a full blown winter storm was forecast. I debated the wisdom of driving down there, but with race paid for and room reservations made - away we went. By the time we checked into the hotel room, the snow was already coming down up north, and high winds, heavy rain and possible flooding were predicted for VA Beach. It was too late to change our minds and turn around, because we would have had a hard time making it back home in the midst of the storm. The race was still on with a slight modification to the course. Now instead of two loops, it would be three loops (or more correctly - 3 out and backs), with part on a paved road inside the state park. This little change made for mentally a tough day. Never-the-less, I showed up for the 7:30 start ready to go. Temperatures were rainy and in the forties at the start, but were predicted to drop during the day. I had on 2 layers on top, with my rain jacket over all that, plus running tights and rain pants on the bottom. Two pairs of socks, gloves and a hat. I wore my hydration vest, plus also carried a small bottle in my jacket pocket along with numerous gels and sport beans. We ran about half a mile and entered the trail. Already it was pretty muddy. Most people were running on the sides of the trail to avoid the puddles in the middle. I followed for a while and then because it was impossible to keep the feet dry, and I was expending extra energy dodging back and forth across the trail, I decided to run straight down the middle. This worked for at least the first loop. The paved part was a nice break from the mud and I kept a good pace. The first 10 miles were done in 1:36. Now, for the second loop. The rain comes and goes. It would taper off for a while, then begin to pour! With 160 people moving up and down the trail, the footing gets worse. My strategy of running right through the middle of the puddles gets harder because the ground is getting softer and softer. We are also running in a green tunnel. While the trail had markers every 1/2 mile, it seemed like forever before you come to the next marker and everything looks the same. As I approach the paved section for a second time, the wind and rain pick up once again. Right before the turn around point, the road is flooded! Other people are plunging in, so I follow. In the middle of this new lake, the water is over my knees and freezing cold. When I finally trudge through to the other side, my feet are numb until I get them moving again. Turn around, and then I have to go through it again. Soon, I was on the muddy trail again. By this time, I was stopping to get extra gatorade at the aid stations. I hit the 20 mile marker at 3:33. I thought I was doing pretty good and figured if I could even maintain a 12 minute mile I would finish in less than 6 hours. A lady in a red outfit ran by me, and I decided to try to keep up with her. We had been playing tag for the last 4 miles. But mentally, I didn't want to do the third loop. The mud was getting to me. As we ran down the trail, she seemed to get farther and farther ahead. Lots of people were starting to struggle - you could see the toll of the rain and mud on their faces. Plus I could feel the temperature starting to drop and was so glad this was my last loop. I waded through the "lake" one more time and then on the way back finally gave in and took the route through the woods. My legs were really starting to ache. I walked for a little bit with a guy doing his first ultra, having never run over 14 miles in training. He was also wearing Vibram 5 Finger shoes. I left him to try to run as fast as I could while still on the pavement, knowing that the 3.5 miles of trail leading to the finish were going to be tough. My time at the marathon mark was 5:00. I still had a chance to break 6 hrs, but even when I was running I felt my pace slipping closer to 14 and 15 minute miles. The trail was so muddy that I could only walk through the slipperiest and softest spots. At about mile 29, I was thinking "I quit. I'm just going to go to the next aid station and drop out." Of course the aid station was right before the finish line and I would have to walk past the finish line to get to my car. So I just laughed at myself - it was my running internal joke "I quit, I'm done," knowing that it would get me to the finish line. Weird about what works when you're tired. Finally I saw that last aid station, picked up my drop bag(which I didn't use) and ran/walked to the finish. Done in 6:10:44 - over half an hour slower than my 50k PR, but what an adventure! I went back to the hotel, took a long hot shower and jumped into the in-room jacuzzi. Nice! Va Beach got a dusting of snow that evening. The next morning on my recovery run I saw people surfing! I guess you got to catch a good wave when it comes!
Monday, November 23, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
So this is the short version (the long version no one but me will read because I poured out my soul on the paper and you really don’t want to see it, trust me):
Shivering, teeth chattering cold at the start, too many people, pushing crowding against me, weaving through the crowds, long lines at the potty – held it for 26+ miles. Noise, noise and more noise – horns and people. I can’t think, I can’t focus – just got to get away from these people. I’m tired and its only half way. Slowing, slowing. Maybe I should just stop, maybe I should find my family and go home. Can’t hear my inner voice – no drive, no ambition. Tired, dizzy, I think I’m going to pass out. Walk, run, cramp, walk, dizzy. Crying. why is this so hard? Want to drop to my knees and crawl to the finish. Dizzy. No! stay standing! Musn’t quit, musn’t quit……done. Give me room to breath, fake smile for the camera, where’s my family, crowding, never again…
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I seem to be developing a pattern here with my races - schedule other activities right up to the last minute, drive long distances to get to the race, and make sure not to get much sleep. I really did plan to leave earlier on Friday, honest, but I just needed to finish one little task at work... then, of course, traffic was terrible as I drove to drop off my daughter at her cousins. My other little problem is that I was driving with only one contact lens. Don't ask me where the other eye disappeared to, but I ended up taking a small detour back home to pick up the missing lens. Normally I wouldn't bother with trivial little details such as being able to read road signs, but being as I did eventually want to arrive at the race site, I decided to be prudent. At last, I was on the road. The first part of the trip was uneventful. I was happily listening to my books on CD and letting the miles click by. I ignored the gray clouds thickening to my west. By the time I got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike I could no longer deny the fact that, yes, it was going to rain. This part of the trip could only be described as rain, trucks, traffic, road work, fog, rain, trucks, traffic.... so much for making up time on the speedy interstate. Finally I was on the last part of my journey. Within 10 miles of my destination, a big sign loomed in front of me: "Road Closed Ahead - DETOUR". Detour! That's not on mapquest! By the time I rolled into Titusville, it was after 11pm. Since I had come into town a different way than intended, I was totally turned around. Eventually, some nice teen-aged boys hanging out in the McDonald's parking lot directed me to the school.
Squeaking into the school (wet shoes), I laid out my sleeping bag and pad in an empty spot on the gym floor and tried to get some sleep. I settled down into my comfy bag, closed my eyes and.. "ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!".......cough, cough........flush! I just had to laugh (note to self - earplugs next time). Just when I was starting to fall into that nice REM sleep, the 100 milers were waking up to get ready for their race. I laid there listening to the morning noises and wandering how long I could delay the inevitable - that soon I would need to get up and start getting ready.
The next hour was a flurry of activity. I dressed in my black skin-tights with the blue spider-web (compression) lines running down my legs, my pink camo shirt, my "Warrior Princess" vest (I had written that on the back of it). My arm sleeves made from colorful toe-socks, and my Dirty Gaitors over my shoes. I was ready for battle! Fortunately, the rain had stopped, and the air was cool and crisp. Headlamps on, we 50 milers lined up and were off. The first couple of miles were on the bike path. I was running with a group of people, all the while wondering why my headlamp was not putting out a strong light, since it had fresh batteries. This was fine for now, I was in a group of people and feeding off their light. I kept fiddling with the lamp but couldn't get it to go brighter. When we turned up the mountain trail, it was impossible to see. I stumbled and fell over something and let a few people go by me. Finally, I realized that the red cover was down. Duh! Rookie error. A few more adjustments and now I could see. It's interesting running in the dark. Your world becomes very small, it consists of a space of about three feet in diameter. Upward we climbed, an occasionally "Woot!", "It's time to party!," and "Gnarly!" As the early morning birds began to sing, we fell into a rhythm. I followed whoever was in front of me, walking when he walked, and running when he ran. I slipped in the mud (that's 2), then going down a steep descent I fell hard on the side of my left knee and my Garmin flew off my wrist, the band breaking. Someone behind yelled, "Man down!" Ultrarunners, being the nice people they are, waited to see if I was okay and we headed down, up and around to the first aid station. Jack O'Lanterns led us in, the glow from the pumpkins was welcoming. Quickly, I fueled up and was ready to tackle the next section. After being pointed in the right direction (guess it wasn't time for the short cut yet). I began a long climb up. Here, the runners started to spread out. I got passed by a lot of people, and passed a couple myself. I had stuck my Garmin in my pocket and there it stayed for the rest of the race. Now, I wouldn't know distance, pace or time - I would just keep moving forward.
The trails were beautiful and I was surrounded by shades of red, orange, yellow and green. There were several long stretches of single track, smooth dirt trails where I felt I was keeping a good 12 minute pace or better. These were broken up by an occasional downed tree to climb over, or a stretch of climbing that left me winded. I arrived at Aid Station #2, where the volunteers helped me retrieve my drop bag and offered me a multitude of food and drink. I drank a VESPA, and grabbed a protein bar from my bag.
The next section, after a nice brisk climb, led us into some cross-country ski trails. These trails were nice and wide, and a bit grassy. While the 100 milers and 50kers turned around, the 50 milers proceeded on a little further for a little out and back loop. On the way back I noticed the girl in front of me heading off a trail to the right. Our trail had a tree partially blocking the path, and she had taken the path of least resistance. "Wrong way!" I yelled, imagining what it would be like to go several miles before you realized you were lost.
Down and around, up and over, I ran. I talked with a runner who had been deployed in Iraq. He said one of the women in his unit had been given the name "Warrior Princess." I told him it was really a joke, I'm sort of a novelty for running the longer distances, and after encounters with bears, and bobcats while training, the name stuck - as a motivating force for me to keep going when the going gets tough...
We had another longer loop for the 50 milers. At one point it went straight up a steep incline under the power lines. It was on this loop that I was starting to feel fatigued. I thought I was keeping a consistent pace, but I'm sure about 10 runners passed me at this point. I was either slowing down, or they were speeding up. I didn't even know how far we had come, but I was hoping half-way. "Nope," one of the runners said, "probably about a 1/3." Without my Garmin, I had no reference for time or distance.
At some point we ran through an area where there were small cabins. In the middle was an unmanned table with some water and gels available. I grabbed a gel, filled my water bottle and headed out to where I thought the sign was pointing - up a wide road. However, I began to realize that there were no little pink flags marking the way. How strange. Perhaps, I missed a turn (I am, afterall, a bit directionally challenged). I turned around and ran back down the hill, and arrived just as some runners were heading down a single track trail off to my right. Yea, I just wanted to run a little extra mileage. Parts of this section were run on beautiful paths under the pines. Somewhere in here (I think), the 50 milers also had their final extra out and back. At last, I came out of the woods and onto a road. "Half a mile to the aid station." What a relief and to find out that I was at 28.5 miles was pure joy. Over half way! Again I was offered an array of foods and drinks. It was time to start drinking GatorDew - half Gatorade, half mountain dew. From here on out it would be my choice at the aid stations. Being gluten-free, I had to turn down many of the delights, like grilled cheese sandwiches and the variety of crackers and cookies - but chocolate covered expresso beans were a nice pick me up as well as a couple of slices of cheese which I took, and ate as I walked to start back on my journey.
This next section was the hardest for me of the whole day. It started with a steep climb and then I entered the "Twilight Zone." Seriously, where did everyone go? I ran and ran, what seemed mile after endless mile of trail, and trees. Was I really going anywhere? Had I entered an alternate reality? Then I started thinking about the next aid station. It was at the school and the finish line. But I wouldn't be finished. I would still have over 14 miles left. I didn't want to go back out, and do the loops again, and I didn't want to finish after dark. When I stumbled and fell for the 4th time of the day, a veil of self-pity came over me. My legs were tired, I was tired and felt I was making terrible progress. Every time I thought I was turning down into the final descent, the path would wind back up into another climb. "Relentless forward progress." I kept telling myself. "You're the Warrior Princess, remember. You're strong. Quit you're whining (the inner drill sergeant). And then suddenly I was back on the bike trail heading for Aid Station #4.
My first question was "What time is it?" 2:30pm. I had run over 35 miles in 8 1/2 hrs. It was possible to keep a good pace and finish relatively close to 12 hrs. I got my GatorDew, pulled another protein bar and VESPA from my drop bag and headed back out. For some reason, once I was there the self-doubts had disappeared and now all I wanted was to make good time. I was moving along, having gotten that 2nd or 3rd wind, when my bowels finally decided to start to move and I felt like I was going to burst. This was not good. Without time to make it to the next aid station I ducked into the woods and tried to relieve myself. Not as easy as I hoped. When I made it to Aid Station #1, I handed the volunteer my bottles, and told her to fill it with 1/2 Gatorade and 1/2 Mountain Dew. She looked at me skeptically, "You've done this before, they're not going to explode on me or anything?" I had to smile, then reassured her as I ran off to the port of potty. Why now when I was doing so well? Retrieving my bottles, I was shown the short cut (Yay) and within minutes was at Aid Station #3. Now I like that kind of short cut. A few more treats and then the last and final 7 miles of the journey.
Again, I found myself alone on the trails, but this time a wave of heavenly peace fell over me. Scripture starting pouring out of me - the most powerful being Isaiah 40:31
- those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint
God with with me in these mountains, His mountains, walking with me, and strengthening me. I would make it, I would finish - and maybe, even before dark. Tears started streaming down my face as I felt His presence in the stillness of the woods and my ever relentless forward motion.
Soon I was running down the bike path for the last time. I saw the school and turned to run across the finish line as the dying rays of the sun were slipping behind the horizon. The clock read 12:48:51. About an hour slower than I had hoped for, but I was done. I would have gotten on my knees and said a quick prayer, but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get back up. So I just smiled up at God and said silently, "Thanks."
After stretching and showering, I started the long trip home. No rain, the traffic was much lighter, but I was tired. The books on CD didn't seem to hold my interest as much and I kept stopping to get a snack, get gas, or just put my head back and rest for a few minutes. At 4am I pulled into my driveway, and at 8:30am I was in church leading worship as usual. My journey was over, and now it was time to rest. (until the Marine Corps Marathon in two weeks and the JFK50 in 6 - Aagh! am I crazy or what? No, I'm the Warrior Princess(insert theme song)).
Monday, September 28, 2009
I don't recommend preparing for a 10 mile race in this fashion: First, the day before run 14 miles at marathon pace(for me that's 9min miles). Then, wear your contacts too long and irritate your eyes to the point that they're swollen and painful. Schedule a swing band gig the night before and play your trombone until 11pm. Get home at about 1am. Get up at 3am and have your husband drive you 3 hours to the race(at least that part was smart). Try to sleep in the car. Pick the hilliest 10 mile road race in Virginia. Take some Excedrin to try and get the swelling out of your eye and the headache right above the eye (the little boost of caffeine doesn't hurt either). Now for the race strategy: Take advantage of the down hill in the beginning and start too fast (7:35 mile 1). Now settle into your normal hilly pattern - pant, wheeze, huff and puff to get up the hill, then sprint down the other side trying to gain momentum to get up the next hill. Get passed on the uphills and pass back on the down hills. At mile 4 don't get too discouraged when the 4 mile racers turn off to go to their finish line. After all, you're almost half way. Ignore the mile splits being called out. Sure you're at 39 minutes at mile 5, but you've got a mile and half hill to climb at the end of the race. Run next to someone who has your same first name and is from the town. When the crowd yells "Go Susan!" pretend they're cheering for you. Take a few seconds to walk through the aid stations and drink some Gatorade. Okay, so it made you nauseous the first time, but now your legs are wanting to cramp. Keep pushing at mile 8 when the legs really start to bother you. Don't look for the top of the hill when you begin that last climb, you're going to be here a while. And don't look at your Garmin, you don't want to know what your pace is. Talk to your legs for the last quarter mile, tell them not to freeze up or go numb. Threaten to drag them kicking and screaming across the finish line. Don't worry about the other people passing you, just get it done. Rejoice when you see the finish time: 1:26:33. Realize you didn't run the tangents and ran 10.13 miles instead of only 10 with an average pace of 8:32. Be proud you put 100% into a race and left nothing on the table. Feel empowered as it says in Philippians 4:13(Amplified):
I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who [a]infuses inner strength into me; I am [b]self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency].
Sunday, September 13, 2009
September 12, 2009
After I got home from my swing band gig, I laid out my running gear so that all I would have to do is wake up, get dressed and head out the door. Getting to bed at 12:30am and getting up at 5:30am is not the best race day strategy. It doesn't count that I woke up about once an hour either. The weather was cloudy and cool, not bad for a race day run. Once registered, I did the normal pre-race ritual - stand in line to use the toilets, last minute wardrobe changes, warmup jog, etc. I decided to try my race-vest hydration bladder. I was at my car when they said the race was going to start in a couple of minutes. So I jogged down to the starting line and there was no place to go, except on the front row. The men who were volunteering for this all-women race sang "Happy Trails to You." Ha - it was very off-key and they got a wonderful round of applause. Then it was time to go! I was running with the leaders and they had no idea where they were going (neither did I). They started to head out to the road and the poor guy standing there was pointing the way, only it was the wrong way! "This way!" a bunch of women shouted as they headed to finish the parking lot loop. So we had to back track a few yards. The first 1/2 mile or so was on a road and it was fast. I couldn't believe how quickly the leaders pulled ahead of everyone. Of course, I started off way too fast - but that's my normal procedure (first mile was 8:15). Finally we turned to do the trail running and I was in a group of about 5-10 women. The trails weren't as muddy as I envisioned except in the bottom of some of the steeper inclines, and they looped through the woods, which was good, because although it was cool, it was also very humid. I stayed with this group for a while, we would change positions periodically depending on the terrain. At the first aid station (2.8 miles) I kept moving and the group spread out more. This is the "Do Loop" section, complete with relics from the 50s - a Ford Fairlane and a Nash Rambler. How they got back there in the woods, who knows. This section runs down by the reservoir and then back up to the aid station in a series of up and down hills. I was able to pass a few people on these hills and felt pretty strong coming back up to the aid station. I passed a woman who was being helped by the volunteers. She had gotten stung by a bee, tried to keep running, but it must have started to affect her. I again ran through the aid station and left behind the group I was running with. Now I was alone and scared that I was going to get lost in the woods. Plus, how do you pace yourself when you've got no one breathing down your back as you're climbing hills? I went like this for a while and eventually someone caught up to me and passed me. Actually two or three women passed me on the steep hill climbs. I was about at the half-way mark and starting to feel it. On some of the steeper hills, I was pushing hard (now that I had company) and was feeling pretty light headed by the top. I would use the downhills to recover and would usually gain ground on the woman in front of me. This is when the woman in orange passed me. At least I could keep an eye on her. Finally I made it to the last section of the run, an out and back, 2.5 miles each way. Because I had water with me, I again ran by the aid station, but walked a little to take a gel(with caffeine). Dang it, if a couple more passed me. In this section, the hills were both longer and steeper, and because this was an out and back you could see the leaders coming in for their final mile or two. Those ladies couldn't have walked up any of the hills, even the steepest. I usually took my cue from whoever was in front of me. I was so happy to see the turn around even if it meant climbing up a hill. The guy directing traffic said something about the hills and I said "I'll just take the elevator up." Those were the kind of visuals I was trying to keep in my mind. As I passed the aid station, they asked, "Do you need anything?" I called out, "Yea, I need to finish this thing!" They thought that was pretty funny and cheered me on. 2 miles to go. Now I was watching those behind me head to the turn around. Finally, the last hill. Can I push it harder, oh no my calf thinks it might cramp. Slow down slightly, then hear the guy yelling "400 yds to go!" Finish line in sight - time 2:12:18. It's a done deal! Final results 4th in age group, 38th out of 188 overall. The winner obliterated the record and finished in 1:37:38. The field was much stronger this year and the weather was cooler. In 2008 only 7 runners were under 2 hrs, this year 13 runners.
The lady in orange was 3rd in my age group, I had her in sight most of the 2nd half of the race, just couldn't muster up the strength to pass her. Still thinking about fueling, hydration, and nutrition in general. I can be stronger and faster. This is a good trail race to try to conquer again and maybe be one of the sub 2hr runners.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I knew it was going to be a bad run when I almost had an accident just getting to the starting point. I was going around a curve on a narrow country road when I came face to face with a speedy sports car. I had to drive my car halfway up the embankment to avoid being hit. That was the second time in a week I had a close encounter with another car. My guardian angels were working overtime, and their job was not yet done. My goal was to start at Route 50 in Clarke County by the river and run through Warren County and into Frederick County, ending at Middletown, VA where my daughter was at rehearsal and my husband could pick me up. 28-30 miles of beautiful, rolling country roads. I gave myself 5 hours. The run started off well, my pace was good and there was hardly any traffic, but this was familiar territory for me until about 8.5 miles. Then I turned towards Front Royal. At least here, the road was straight, lots of hills but straight. However the traffic was a bit more than I would have wanted and the cars were going really fast and not slowing down a bit for a lowly runner. And since the only wildlife I had been seeing were the normal cattle and horses, I decided to count roadkill instead. I was up to 5 when I thought I might become roadkill myself by a pickup truck that thinks ditches are the best place for runners. Then I turned onto Fairgrounds Road. Note to runners, if you value your life do not run on Fairgrounds Road. I felt like I was running on a major highway. Problem is, no shoulder and lots of uphill climbing. You couldn't see if there was a car cresting the hill, and they certainly couldn't see you. So my strategy here became, run/jump-in-ditch/run/jump-in-ditch. It was a short stretch of road, but seemed to take forever. Finally, I turned onto a much less traveled road and continued climbing hills. The views were lovely, and I passed the half-marathon mark at about 2hrs15min. I made it out to the highway, crossed it and continued on towards Middletown by way of Reliance Road. Now it was mid afternoon and the sun was beating down on me. Reliance Road continued to climb up, up, up, and I was drinking, drinking, drinking and still having to avoid traffic on another heavily traveled road with very little shoulder. At mile 17, I ran out of water. Okay, no biggie, the town of Reliance is a couple of miles ahead. Surely, they have a general store. So I run for 2 more miles uphill in the sun. Where is that town? Every house I go by, I look to see if someone is sitting on the porch. Would I be so bold as to ask for a little bit of water? But nobody was in their yard. Finally, I think I'm in the middle of Reliance. It's one of those town where the entering/leaving sign is one and the same. There is a church and they are having a yard party at 4pm with homemade icecream, food and drinks - but that's next week! I'm a week early! I had mapped out a two or three mile spur at this point which would get my mileage closer to 30 miles. I decide that to avoid heat exhaustion, I probably better keep moving on the main road. I take to walking up some of the steeper hills. It was one of the few times I would have jumped into the truck if my husband had come by to check on me. But then I said, "No! I'm the Warrior Princess. This is how I do battle! Relentless forward progress. Get moving soldier!" I remember I have a VESPA supplement in my pack. It is based in orange juice. I drink it, it's only a couple of ounces but it wets my mouth some, and gives me the energy to run again. Finally at mile 22 I reach the Route 81 intersection with a gas station and water! I refuel and continue on into Middletown. I'm at about mile 23, feeling better and still have time to spare so I opt for my Belle Grove loop and hope to make at least marathon distance. Finally I'm back in town with 27 miles under my belt. But where is my ride? I had turned my cell phone off because it hadn't charged properly. Sure enough, they were looking for me, thinking I might be down on the side of the road. So I head back down Reliance Road and get another mile in before we hook up. I'm crusted with salt from head to toe. Even my eyelashes have salt in them. But I had done it - 28 miles in about 5 hrs under not the best circumstances. What did I gain? Confidence. Confidence comes from facing a challenge and pushing yourself when obstacles threaten to defeat you from your goals. It comes from falling down, but still getting up and moving forward. It comes from believing that you can and will overcome and finishing knowing you did your best. You may not finish in the time you wanted, there may be pain or discomfort, and you may have been short of your goal but because you persevered, you have the confidence to brush yourself off and do it again.
Monday, August 10, 2009
The leaders start off fast, and I’m right behind them, but as we go down into the woods and make all these turns we’re supposed to make, suddenly they are out of sight and there’s no one in front of me. I get to an intersection and think “Which way did he say to go?” Fortunately, there were people coming up behind me and a guy yelled out “Go right!” With that we made it out to the road and down to the trail. This is where it got fun. My strategy was to try to maintain a 9:00min to 9:30min pace for as long as possible. I was in a group of about 5 runners and they were maintaining a steady pace, so I decided to stick with them as long as possible. The ground was lumpy and soft. Railroad ties were still stuck in the ground, sometimes jutting out at weird angles. You would get close to one side of the trail to try and avoid an obstacle and get whacked by a raspberry bush. I pretty much followed the path the person in front of me was taking. In this manner we went about 4 miles out to the end, then turned around and went back over that same lumpy ground. Between the group, we changed leads several times. Another woman caught up and joined the pack, then one eventually dropped back. At that point, I was the 4th woman. We ran by the spot where we got on the trail, and were now into new territory. It was “better” but not by much. Some stretches were thick with rocks. They grab at your feet and tried to twist your ankles. Some of it was packed dirt (I liked that best) and you could pick up the pace a little. Eventually, the pack started to break up, and I was at the end of it, seeing them get further in the distance. I was essentially running alone now. At about mile 13 the trail took a diversion and went onto a single track trail up a steep little hill. Oh, this is what I’m used to. But it only lasted for a minute and then it was back to lumps, railroad ties, and rocks. I passed the ½ marathon mark at about 2:08. I was still right where I wanted to be. Then, at the half way point of the race, this group of runners comes from behind me and passes me. Where’d they come from? Oh well, I slipped into 5th woman at that point and so my goal then was to not let anyone else pass me. Finally I made it to the turnaround point at about mile 19 ½. I had them fill my bottles with coke and gatorade. Caffeine and sugar – here we go! Now I could see who was behind me. I tried to give some encouraging “Great job. Way to go!”
Eventually, I found myself alone again. I passed one person, cruised into the aide station, filled up and kept going. My legs were on the edge of cramping. I started taking the s-caps, one per hour, then increased it to two per hour. I never walked, except at the aide stations, and up the steep hill with the single track trail. I hit the marathon mark at about 4:30. Five more miles, 4 more miles, keep moving forward – watch your form. The last aide station was at 3.5 miles out. “That’s just a little more than a 5k. I can do that!” I keep listening for footsteps behind me, but I’m all alone on the trail. Just keep moving forward. Finally, I see two gentlemen directing me up to the road and final stretch. I yell to them, “I’m so happy to see you, I could kiss you!” They brightens them up and then I throw each of them a kiss as I climb up the embankment and onto the road. The road isn’t closed at this point and I’m running on the shoulder. There are people trying to slow the traffic down, but some of the cars don’t want to move over very much. Then I get onto that last windy trail section with all the turns and no one to follow! Fortunately, I don’t get lost and am up in the meadow running toward the finish line and hoping my legs won’t seize up on me. I cross the finish line. I know if I stop I’ll cramp up, so I grab my finisher’s cap on the run, and the guy hands me a water bottle. Finally, I manage to get my legs to calm down. My final time was 5:35:29. , 5th woman and 17th overall (out of 53 finishers). I’m happy with the time, but I know I can do better. I need to maintain my pace over the long run, and figure out my electrolyte balance. I ate two gels, and one Vespa on the trail. I grabbed a few m&m’s, and other junk at the aide stations and mostly had them fill my bottles with Gatorade. I never really felt like I hit the wall, or bonked, but I really slowed down, especially in those last five miles. I enjoyed talking with the other finishers as they came in. One guy was crazy. He said he had his will all made out, was leaving everything to his brother, and was signing up for this really hard 100 mile race. He also said he almost passed out once on the trail but didn’t slow down. He likes to live on the edge. So I gave him the name of a race where since 1986 only 8 people have actually finished the race. “Where do I sign up?” he asked. My bag finally showed up and I could call my husband. They were enjoying George Washington’s birthplace while I was racing.
Saturday afternoon, I got two more miles while walking back down to the fossil beach for another swim. I was wearing sandals and had a pretty blood blister. A little stick flew up into my foot and ripped the blister open. Yucky mess. Then, Sunday, I did a 6 mile hike/trail run for recovery. My legs felt amazingly well. Tired, but not that sore. I did bring the mini-trampoline and bounced on it, and I think that helped too.
There were no great epiphanies during this race. I stretched myself, but not to the point of breaking. I can feel myself getting stronger, but can also feel where I’ve let myself slack (especially when it comes to diet). So I cross this finish line, and get ready for the next start line. The Warrior Princess has more to do before she’s through.
Monday, August 3, 2009
It was the first day of August and it was going to be a hot one. The race was at 6:30 pm. The good thing about evening races is that you get to sleep in. The bad thing is, figuring out, how much and when to eat before the race. After a little snafu with getting my race packet because I was the last person to register online (it was filed by bib number, not alphabetically), I began my warm up and pre-race necessities(standing in the long line waiting for a porta-potty). The race was being held on the bike trail and with over 300 people registered to run, you can imagine how jam-packed we were. I tried to squeeze in a spot and was pretty far back from the starting line. I didn’t even know the race had started until the people in front of me began inching forward. 20 seconds to cross the line (glad this was chipped time) and then I started to try to weave my way through people. Finally the crowd started to spread out. By this time, I’m sure the temperature was approaching 90. The sun was right in our faces for the first half of the race. Mile one was fast, on a slight downhill incline (7:24), After another ½ mile we took a little spur off into a neighborhood. This had the only real hill in the whole course, and I was glad. Once back on the trail, I tried to concentrate on form, but by mile two (15:24) I had already slowed considerably. I was also beginning to feel the weight of food eaten earlier in the day. When we passed mile 3 (23:15), I thought the turn around would be at the 5k mark, but we kept going, and finally turned around right where a road crossed. Now I knew the reason for the spur, so we wouldn’t have to cross any streets. This was a water stop and I grabbed a cup and threw the water on me. At mile four (31:39), I was happy to see that I had beat my time in the last four mile race. It was then I realized that I might actually be able to get a new PR. The problem was it was so hot! My clothes were drenched with sweat. Sweat was running down my legs and into my shoes. Suddenly, I had a new problem. My bowels started acting up and I had to go to the bathroom bad. I started looking around, seeing if there was a place on the trail where I could duck off. I finally passed mile five(40:29). Focus on the finish, I told myself, then you can take care of business. Just 1.2 miles to go. I concentrated on trying to pass the person in front of me on the trail. Everyone was slowing down. I think I got by 3 guys when finally the finish line came into view. Sprint across the mat – official chip time 50:41, a new PR by 16 seconds! I’m inching down towards breaking the 50 minute barrier. Give me 10 degrees cooler, and 10 less pounds and I’ll have it. I liked the race, and I’ll probably do it again – some people were complaining about the fact that there was no Gatorade. One person was transported to the hospital in an ambulance, probably due to the heat. I wish they had 5 year age group awards instead of 10. I would have placed in the 45-49 age group. I came in 6th in my age group, 20th out of 157 women, and 80th out of 328 total runners.
Now to get ready for the 50K next weekend!
Monday, June 22, 2009
At 4:20 am, I felt my husband touch my arm. I don't know if he was asleep or awake, but the touch was enough to wake me up. Gotta get moving! The sun will be rising soon. Friday night I had packed my mule pack with all the essential gear I thought I would need: Food, first aid kit, parachute cord, emergency rain ponchos, emergency blanket, large trash bag (for emergency shelter), water purifier, extra socks, headlamp, knife, toilet paper!, etc. Once I fill the hydration bladder with water, the pack weighs about 10 pounds. Now I just had to get dressed and prepare my body for the longest day run - body glide in all potentially chafing areas, aquaphor on the feet, shorts, tank, combat vest (after all I am the Warrior Princess!) hat or headband, knee pads, weightlifting gloves(hand protection), Injinji toe socks, shoes. I'm ready and it's 5:00am and I'm already late since it's going to take about 2 hrs to get to my starting point - Swift Gap near Elkton, VA. Finally, at 7:30am, I'm at the trail head and ready to start moving south. I meet my first through hiker of the day (those going from South to North on the 2175 mile Appalachian Trail) and he points me in the right direction. The trail begins ascending immediately, but it isn't very technical(rocky) and I'm able to start running right away. It's more of a run/power hike, run until it's too steep then power hike, trying to keep the heart rate up and the pace steady. It's cloudy, hot and muggy - feels like a storm is brewing. The most eventful thing that occurred in the first hour was the black bear that crossed my path! In the second hour, as I was descending and picking up the pace pretty good, one side of the chest strap on my back pack breaks. I tried running for a few minutes and realized that it had to be fixed somehow. So using parachute cord, and my knife, I managed to jury rig it. My husband would be proud. Back on the trail, I pick up the pace to make up for lost time. Now I'm descending down some slippery rocks and sure enough my feet go out from under me and I land on my rear end, my right arm going backward and cracking my elbow on a rock. So much for the knee pads. Well, it was just an elbow, so even if it's broken, I can still run, right? I get up and start running again, and the pain starts to lesson. However, I look over at it and there's blood running down my arm. Another unscheduled stop. Pull out the first aid kit, clean the wound, and put a bandaid on the cut. Time to start moving again. It's starting to sprinkle which feels good, because with every ridge I climb I get soaked with sweat. My mantra is - if you're hiking up hill, make sure you drink. The tops of the ridges were wonderfully breezy, but when you descended into the hollows the air became close. At about 9:30, the rain started to come down. It quickly turned into a full blown storm, with the rain coming in great sheets. I stopped, put my emergency rain poncho on, and kept moving. There was really no place to take shelter and so the only thing to do was to push on. It poured and poured. I thought to myself, "At least it's not thundering and lightening." As if on cue - boom! the first clap of thunder. I just had to laugh and keep going. The storm lasted up one ridge and down the other side, then began to slack off. I pulled the emergency poncho off, stuffed it away and kept going, sloshing through puddles of water. Soon the sun came out, and things began to dry off. There were some beautiful views on the tops of the ridges and one mile began to turn into another. At times the trail was overgrown, the underbrush encroaching on the path. At other times, the forest was mature and the path strewn with soft pine needles. I encountered two snakes along the way, a black snake that took his time crossing the trail, and a big copperhead that was curled up under a log next to the trail. At mile 17 I was near the Loft Campground. I took a quick sidetrip to the campstore and bought a Pepsi (sugar & caffeine, yes!). I tried to convince the store clerk that I was going to Waynesboro. "You'll never make it." he said - 26 more miles. At that point I probably had 8hrs of daylight left. "Sure I will," I insisted. Then he said, "Even in the army they give you 10 minutes break." So I remarked, "Well, this is my break. I'm going to drink this Pepsi and then get moving." I pushed on. At mile 24, I came out on the ledge where this picture was taken. This is the Warrior Princess in all her glory. This is also where I ran out of water. It was midafternoon and hot. I was a little concerned, but I knew that somewhere along the way there would be a shelter with a spring. It happened to be a mile away. These shelters are usually about a 1/4 mile down the side of the mountain, and the springs can be hit or miss. Luckily, this one was trickling out at a nice pace, and the water was cold and refreshing. Since I was getting the water straight from the source, I didn't treat it, just drank it up. That task done, I chatted with the through hikers who were done for the day, and then moved on. From mile 25 to 30, it seemed the uphills were getting longer and longer and the downhills shorter and shorter. At mile 31, I had to make a decision. My cellphone was running low on batteries and reception was in and out. To rendezvous with my husband who was picking me up, he had to know where I was. The mile marker sign showed a gap about 6 miles away. If I stopped there it would be a 12 hour day. With the drive home being close to 3 hrs, I thought that would probably be a good stopping place. I managed to get a signal, called him (got his voice mail) and told him the location of the pickup point and what time I would be there. I hoped he got the message because my cell phone battery was almost gone. Now that I knew how much farther I had, I tried to pick up the pace a bit. Finally, there were some longer stretches of downhill. I passed some people setting up camp along a ridge. I paused briefly at an overlook, took a few pictures and then finished my last descent and climb up to Jarmin Gap. The total mileage ended up being 36.5 miles in about 12 hours. We traveled on the parkway on our way back to get my car. An ambulance was parked at the overlook where I had just been, and it looked like they were going on the trail to rescue someone who had been injured. Then a little further down the road, a momma bear and her 3 cubs crossed the road in front of our car. Unfortunately, I couldn't get my camera out in time to take a picture. We stopped one last time to take a picture of the sunset over the mountains. The Summer Solstice Run was at its end.
For more photos go to:
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Monday, May 4, 2009
The race course was an eight mile trail loop in Prince William Forest Park. There were lots of hills to climb, roots to trip over and rocks to maneuver around. At the end of each loop, there were bathrooms, a table laid out with food and drink. This is where you checked in and out for each loop. You could stay there as long as you wanted.
Race packet pickup and the pre-race meeting was the night before. We got to the campground and when we opened up the popup camper, we realized mice had gotten in the camper, chewed through stuff, and left their nasty little droppings. We had to pulled everything out of the camper, throw a bunch of stuff away, clean everything up and then put everything back in. The only vindication was finding a dead mouse that had fallen in a bucket and couldn’t get back out. I said we should put him on a stick as a war trophy like they used to do in Roman times. By this time we had 20 minutes to get to the pre-race meeting. Oops. Fortunately it wasn’t too far away and we made it just in time. They covered the usual information – the course, the aid stations, hydration, etc. There were about 70 runners total, including the teams. One difference between road races and ultras is the size of the crowd. The largest ultra is the JFK 50 Miler and last year had 922 participants. Most are limited by the fact that you’re running on single track trails and in National Parks. It’s not much of a spectator sport either.
My husband and daughter were there to crew me. That was a real blessing as the race went on. It was good to see them there at the end of each loop, catering to my every need. And I’m sure I got pretty bossy as the day went on! I love them and they’re a blessing. There wasn’t a whole lot of room down near the start/finish line, so they set up under a tarp up on the hill. This meant I had to run down the hill, check in (go potty) and check back out before I actually stopped at my crew station.
Loop One (miles 1-8)
I had decided to wear my skin compression tights, my TOP Challenge t-shirt, and my vest with which I would carry my gels and things. I also wore my trail shoes because I thought it might be pretty muddy and I wanted the extra traction, and I was using my camel back mule pack for hydration. We started the race (I hung way in the back, didn’t want to get in the way of the speedsters) and off we went. This was the only time I ran up the hill leading through the cabins and onto the gravel road that led to the trail. Once on the trail, I began the series of twisting climbs and descents. I got behind and met a nice gentleman named Farouk who was setting a comfortable pace and let him lead the way. He was walking up the steeper inclines and running everything else. He was an experienced ultra runner; in fact, this was his third consecutive weekend of racing ultras. He had done a 50k and a 50 miler. His goal was about 80 miles. I told him I was going to follow his lead for a while, walk when he walked and ran when he ran. After the aid station at the midway point we began the long ascent up a steep fire road. I was feeling pretty good and went ahead and passed him. The second half of the loop is worse than the first half. There was a series of ups and downs with some tricky footing that slowed you down. Finally I arrived back at the start in 1:45 which was about a 13 min pace. It wasn’t raining but it was humid! I was soaked and hot. I took off my t-shirt and just wore the vest. That felt so much better! I took 15 minutes to refuel, eat a little, go potty and off again I went. I noticed that while I beat Farouk in by a few minutes, but he left for the next lap before I got started. He remained ahead of me the rest of the race and lapped me at least once, finishing with 80 miles. Yay Farouk!
9:00am (miles 9-16)
Loop Two – I started this loop at about the same pace and tempo as the first loop. Now I was running alone. It’s interesting that with all the runners on the eight mile loop, that sometimes you would go for a mile or two and not see anyone. Usually I would hear someone coming from behind me and it would be one of the team runners. Those guys were going fast! The first half of the loop has some nice trails that run along side the creek and are fairly flat. This was where you could make up some time from when you had to slow down to crawl over rocks and stuff. I came up to the halfway point after running about 45-50 minutes. So I was still setting a pretty good pace. As I started the climb up the hill, I did one of my race strategies. When I was walking up a hill, I had to drink. On this hill, I was going to take a gel or eat some sport beans as I was climbing. As I finished this loop I realized I was having some serious problems with my trail shoes. They were too big and my feet were sliding. I was getting some hot spots that threatened to turn into major blisters. I had slowed a bit and finish the loop in about 2 hrs. Still on a good pace. The first thing I did when I saw my husband was tell him I needed my other shoes. Unfortunately, they were in the back of the car and he had come in the truck. I took my shoes and socks off, lubed my feet with Aquaphor and headed back onto the trail. Meanwhile my husband was to go back to the campground, switch vehicles and meet me a little over halfway where the trail crossed the road and there was a parking lot.
11:20am (miles 17-24)
Loop Three - I decided also to switch to the fuel belt with the water bottles. The camel back needed to be refilled and at the mid point aid station there was water and Gatorade but no cups. I was thinking that Gatorade might be needed as the race went on. The Aquaphor helped and I was able to keep my pace up pretty good, and hit the halfway point at about an hour. I had empty two of my water bottles and so refilled on Gatorade. I climbed the big hill ran through the woods a bit and was so happy to see my husband waiting for me with the shoe exchange. That felt so much better. It was still hot and humid, but every now and then a rain shower would sprinkle me and cool me off. My legs were tired but nothing major (now that I had the right shoes on). I came into the starting area at about 2pm, a 2 ½ hr loop. Now you can see that my memory is getting fuzzy on what happened on which loop. Don’t worry; the last loop is painfully clear to me!
2:15pm? (miles 25-32)
Loop Four – I was excited to do this loop because when I finished it, I would have a new PR for miles traveled (by ½ mile) in a day. That meant that anything I ran beyond this loop would be new territory. It was also the first full loop in my road running shoes and I was glad to have them. I think psychologically that lifted my spirits. A lot of the race, I concentrated on form and trying to be efficient with the use of my body. I tried to stay loose and keep my core strong. I was still drinking and eating on schedule. This loop passed without incident and I raised my hands as I went through the chute – a new PR! But, I wasn’t done. After all, it was only about 4:45, another 2 ½ hr loop. Now the fun could begin.
5:00pm (miles 33-40)
Loop Five – My legs were getting tired and I thought I might have to walk more of this loop, but as I started moving I began to feel better. Once I got passed the first part of the trail and it smoothed out a bit, I began to pick my pace up again. I reasoned to myself that the aches I was feeling at 35 miles were no different than the aches I was feeling at 27 miles. One thing Farouk had said on that first loop was to keep moving forward – it was the key to adding up the mileage. So I did. Again I kept focusing on body form and paying attention to whether I needed to drink or eat. I was feeling pretty bloated by now and had cut back on my food in between loops. I was also wondering about whether I should spend so much time before I started each loop. I would often see people come in after me, and leave before me. Sometimes I caught back up to them, and passed them, some of them I never saw again. But I also knew that I needed that short little break, if just to sit down for a few minutes, or stretch. I’m not sure if my leave times are really accurate. I may have spent more time at my crew area than estimated. The first half of this loop went fine; it was the second half of each loop that was getting to me. Somewhere during this loop, I turned on the headlamp as it started getting dark in the woods. Still I pulled into the starting area at about 8:00pm, 3 hrs later.
8:20pm (miles 41-48)
This would be the first full loop in the dark. It would also put me close to the 50 mile mark! I knew that if I finished this loop, I would definitely have at least one more in me to cross that 50 mile threshold. I was still wearing the vest and the skin tights. Showers would come and go and it was finally starting to cool off. That revived me and even though I told my husband I thought I might walk more of this one, after I got my legs going I felt like I could run some more. I also realized that if I needed to go potty, all I had to do was go off the trail a few yards duck behind a tree and turn my headlamp off. No one would see me. (Don’t know why that made me feel better, except knowing I didn’t have to wait until I got back to the start). I actually began to cut my water, Gatorade intact back. My stomach felt alright, just bloated. If I erred, I erred on the side of over hydration. The hooty owls were out, lizards scampered across the trail, and the hills seemed to get steeper and steeper. In fact, I don’t remember some of those hills being there before. It’s amazing what darkness and fatigue can do to you. I finished the loop a little before 11pm. I actually beat my husband and daughter back from wherever they had gone off to. My daughter was going to go back to the camper and sleep. My husband was going to come back and lay down under the tarp. He was thinking of walking my last loop with me, if I had it in me to do an eighth loop. It was getting cooler, so I put on a dry t-shirt under my vest and that seemed to be just enough. I was now getting ready to break the 50 mile mark.
11:00pm? (miles 49-56)
The midnight hour. I started walking and again was able to run a bit once I got my legs back. Now, I was pretty sure “wasting” time at my crew tent was a good strategy. This loop went okay for a while and then it started raining, and raining, and raining…You could see the rain coming down in front of the headlamp; you could also see your breath. Plus in places it was foggy. It was basically hard to see. I kept my head down and focused on the path, not wanting to be surprised by any rocks or sticks. The amazing thing about the whole race was that I stumbled a few times, but never fell. For my knees, I had the straps that go under the knee and stabilize the leg. I took them off for a couple of loops because I felt like they were rubbing under my knees a little. I had also been doing some targeted exercises to strengthen the whole leg area around my knee as well as the quads and hamstrings. So I think the combination of all that really helped, especially when climbing hills. I had adapted a sort of shuffle run where I could keep moving at a pretty decent clip while not jarring my legs too much. By now, I was forcing myself to drink and eat. I was pleased that I never had GI issues during the entire race, just bloat. It was muddy and slippery. Parts of the trail were like walking through a creek. The long steep hill was a muddy mess. But I thought, if I can finish this loop, there will be still five or six hours left. Maybe I can get one, or even two more laps in. Just think, 64 or 72 miles. And so I kept going, kept telling myself that the aches I felt were the same aches at 30 and 40 miles. No difference – just keep moving forward. Finally I was back at the start. Before I went down to the start area I went over to my crew tent where my husband was sleeping. I didn’t want to, but I woke him up. I had to decide before I went down the hill whether to try for at least one more loop. He decided he wasn’t going to walk it with me. I decided I needed to do it anyway. I took my shoes and socks off and lubed my feet, and put dry thick Smart Wool socks on. I took off everything off my top, toweled myself dry, and then put a dry bra, long sleeve tech shirt and my rain jacket on. Finally, I felt warm. A little bite to eat, then down to the starting line to check in and out. This time I knew it was 1:30 am because I remember saying “Five and a half hours left, right?”
Loop Eight – (miles 57-64)
The final loop. I was tired, but I thought I still had a few running legs left in me. Shortly after I started the loop, the rain began to let up. I took off the jacket and tied it around my waist. Once I got on the smoother section I started doing my shuffle run number. The fog was whirling around my face and it was pretty mystical. I remember one runner come running by me and I nearly jumped out of my skin. I passed two “zombie” runners. I swear one of them looked over at me and his eyes were glazed over. I seriously don’t think he knew where he was. About half a mile before the half-way point aid station, I started slowing down big time. The shuffle run was gone and I was simply walking. It was 3am when I reached it. An hour and a half to do the first 4 miles. I reasoned to myself that I only had to go one mile an hour and I would make it back to the finish line. I was still thinking, well if I can make it back by 5 am that gives me two hours to get to the halfway point. Maybe I can at least do 68 miles. Ha – maybe I was getting a little delusional by then. The rain began again as I started climbing the hill. The jacket came back on. The hill was even more slippery, and by the time I reached the top I realized I was done for the night. A runner came up behind me. He was one of the front runners and he said he was on his twelfth loop. He was hoping to make the big 100. I was pleased for him. At this point, on the steeper ascents and descents I really was down to a one mile per hour pace. One foot in front of the other, just keep moving forward. I was afraid one wrong step and down I would go. I tried to make up for it on the flatter sections. I began singing out loud to stay awake and keep myself from focusing on the pain. The legs hurt. The feet hurt, my shoulders and back hurt. I had a coughing spell and leaked a little urine. It burned on the legs. (I told you the last loop was going to be gory). I hit the wall. I started crying - I’m not sure why. Was it because I hurt, or because I knew that it was over and 64 miles was my limit. Or was it for joy that I had achieved the 64 miles at all. I don’t know. I just know that I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other and soon I could stop, I could say I had done it. I had achieved a dream that at times I thought impossible. I had tested the limits of my body and my endurance and had passed the test. I was okay, I would survive. I had met and exceeded my goals. One step at a time. As I drew nearer to the finish area, I passed and was passed by runners coming in and out. I saw Farouk; he had one more loop in him. Several runners asked if I was okay. I put on my best smiley face and said yes, I think I can make it. As I traveled down the last hill, I saw my husband walking toward me. He had gotten worried and was about to go look for me. I think he really wanted to carry me to the finish line when he saw my pained expression. I told him he was supposed to tell me how wonderful I looked, that’s what crew members do, but I know it hurt him to see me in pain. So I let him hold my hand as we climbed that last hill. Then I turned and walked down alone to the finish line for the last time. It was 5:30am. I raised my hands in victory! I had done it.
The race director and volunteers were wonderful. While I couldn’t eat a lot of the food due to my gluten sensitivity there was plenty there for everyone. The runners looked out for each other and encouraged one another. I don’t know how many times I heard “You’re looking good.” I tried to return the favor. I got lots of high fives at the end. By the time it was over, we all hurt, but we were still smiling knowing we had accomplished something tremendous, whether it was the first or the fiftieth ultra we had run. I was pleased to meet Bill Sullivan who tried his hardest to get to 50 miles, and Farouk who gave me a high five at the end and when I said I couldn’t keep up with him, he told me it was just a matter of experience. Or Mike Huff who runs to raise money for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. I felt privileged to be part of such a group.
My motto still stands. It’s what I live by:
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
PS – I run for Teens Opposing Poverty. This is my first race in the TOP Challenge Racing Series. Anyone can join the series, you don’t have to fundraise to be a part. And if you want to fund raise but not run you can do that too! Check out these websites:
www.teensopposingpoverty.org – the ministry website
http://www.topchallengetraining.blogspot.com/ - details on the race series
http://www.active.com/donate/topchallenge - sign up to join the challenge or donate funds
http://www.active.com/donate/topchallenge/susu - sponsor me using this website address.
I’m hoping to do a 10 hour endurance run at the end of the month. I need sponsors! Consider sponsoring me at $1/mile or per hour!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
1. Sign up as a fundraiser at http://www.active.com/donate/topchallenge
This is the site where you will collect donations and establish your goals. You will be entered into the series as soon as you are listed as a fundraiser on the Active Site. (No donation is necessary to sign up). Fundraising materials will be sent to you to help you raise support.
2. Sign up and run races between May 1, 2009 and December 31, 2009. For each mile run, you will be awarded 1 point. You can run any race in the world and have it count as long as the results can be verified via the internet. Miles from the running part of a triathlon will also count. In addition, you will be awarded points for placing in the race:
1st overall or 1st Masters - 10pts
2nd overall - 9pts
3rd overall - 8pts
1st in age group - 7pts
2nd in age group - 6pts
3rd in age group - 5pts
Deadlast! - 4pts
3. For each $1 raised for Teens Opposing Poverty, you will also be awarded 1 point. Your goal would be ideally to have someone sponsor you at $1/mile for every race you run. For example, suppose you are running in a local 5k. Get a friend or coworker to sponsor you at a $1 per mile or $3 for the race. It doesn't seem like much but it will add up in the long run. The more people who sponsor you, the more points you will receive.
5k - $3 sponsorship
10k - $6 sponsorship
1/2 marathon - $13 sponsorship
Marathon - $26 sponsorship
4. Weekly, e-mail me your race results at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will update the list with the number of points you have earned to date. Challenge Updates will be available on this site as soon as I'm able to post them. Just remember some races take several days before they post results on the web and all races must be verified.
5. When your donation level reaches $30 you will be awarded a TOP Challenge T-shirt. Wear it at your races to raise awareness of the challenge.
6. Prizes, certificates and medals will be presented to all finishers who have achieved a minimum of 100 points in the series. Awards will be given to the points leaders, as well as other incentives based on fundraising levels achieved.
7. Special awards will be given to anyone who collects more points than SuSu Jennings, the TOP Challenge Team Leader, who will start the series with a 24hr run.
8. You may participate from anywhere in the world. Even if you are not racing you can accumulate points through fundraising.
9. For supporters who do not want to donate via active.com they may mail a check to:
Teens Opposing Poverty, 136 Poston Lane, Bluemont, VA 20135
Make sure they note that it is for the TOP Challenge Race Series, and who they are sponsoring.
10. You can join anytime before December 31st. Just send me a list of races run to get your points.
Together we can join teenagers in opposing poverty and make a difference in the world.
Check out the website: www.teensopposingpoverty.org
Sunday, February 8, 2009
As the week got closer to race day, I developed a minor problem. First, it started as a tickle in my throat and a dry cough. As the week progressed, the cough became more consistent and congested. I was a little concerned, and Thursday went to the health food store to see what they could give me to help. On Friday, I drank tea, supped on chicken soup and took my herbal remedies. The cough was still there, but seemed manageable. Oh well, the race was on, no matter what. Friday night I drove to my sister in law’s house to spend the night. They lived within a half hour of the race site. We had a nice visit and then it was off to bed. I woke up every couple of hours. At one point I thought the clock said 7:20 and I panicked since the race started at 7:30. But then I realized it was still dark outside, so it couldn’t be that late. I ended up getting up 5 minutes before the alarm went off. Methodically, I got dressed for the race, rubbed BodyGlide all over my body, and made sure my drop bags were ready. I had one for food and drinks, and one for clothes and my racing gear. When I arrived at the race site, it was probably in the 20s. I was freezing and stayed in my car as long as possible. The cough was still there, but I ignored it. The race consisted of 2 loops, one was 4.7 miles, the other 8 miles. You started on the one loop and if you wanted to do the longer loop you turned left instead of right. The loops were on trails throughout the state park. Each time you finished a loop, you would cross over the mat and yell out your number and whether you did the long or short loop. We started the race and within a quarter mile were climbing up a fairly steep hill. I knew that on future loops this would be a walking hill. Finally we reached the top and entered into the woods. The trails are shared with horses and the ground was rough and lumpy from frozen horse tracks. I didn’t know which was worse, hard lumpy ground or soft muddy ground. I would get to experience both this day as the temperature would climb into the sixties. Everyone was bunched up on this first part but most people turned left to do the long loop, so I turned right and did the short loop. There was only one guy up ahead of me. Another guy was right behind me, but he must have been content to let me set the pace, because he never passed me. I was feeling pretty good, but knew I was probably going a little fast. When I got to the end of the loop, I had finished it in 47 minutes. My original goal was just to run the short loop. But now that I was ahead of schedule I decided to do the long loop. I think this was my first mistake. I took 2 minutes to refuel, strip a layer of clothing and head back out. On this loop, I never saw another runner. I thought that was pretty weird. The long loop had more rolling hills. It also ran under some power lines and had a roller coaster affect, short steep climbs and descents. I really didn’t like it at all. But when I finished this loop I was at just over 2 hrs for almost 13 miles! Too fast, I kept telling myself. And that long loop took a lot out of me, so I decided to stay on the short loop the rest of the way. I can’t quite remember what my next loop time was, but at the end, I remember taking a long break, making sure to eat more and going to the bathroom. I left for my next loop at 3hrs 30 minute. I hit 20 miles right around the 4 hour mark. This was right where I wanted to be. However, I was getting tired and began to slow considerably, taking many more walking breaks. On the next loop I had some GI issues and took a little detour into the woods. The amazing thing was on most of the loops I ran many miles with no one around. Occasionally I would pass someone or be passed. Some people were running the loops backwards so you would meet them on the way. There were probably close to 100 people out there running, but I don’t know where they were! I hit the marathon mark at 5hrs 30 minutes and finished the loop and 27 miles at about 5hrs 45 minutes. Okay that meant I had a little over 2 hrs to do another loop. If I did the long loop of 8 miles I could hit 35 miles! If I did the short loop I would get my 50K miles. So I had a real dilemma. By this time, I was walking a lot. I didn’t know if I could finish the 8 mile loop in two hours. That was a 4mph pace, but when I was walking my pace was dropping down to 3 mph. If I didn’t finish the loop I would not get credit for any of the miles and would go home with 27 official miles. (What I didn’t know at the time is that if I finished the loop in the time period I would have been vying for third place – would that have made a difference in my decision? I don’t know). The other factor is I really didn’t like that 8 mile loop. And the trail had gotten muddy and slippery. But I knew I could finish the 4.7 mile loop, I could stroll it at 2.5mph and finish it! So when I came to the intersection, I stood there in a moment of indecision and finally took the short loop. The funny thing was as soon as I made my decision I got a second wind. I almost turned around to do the long loop. But I stuck with my plan and finished the loop with 47 minutes to spare. That meant that I would have had 47 minutes to do the extra 3.3 miles. I think it would have been close! I did my first loop in 47 minutes, but I knew I couldn’t do a last loop in 47 minutes so I called it a day. Many of the runners, came with the plan of doing the 50k and stopping. Some of them finished an hour or more ahead of me and didn’t even stay for the awards ceremony. But I enjoyed hanging around and talking to some of the runners. I knew I was an Ultra Newbie by the conversations. One lady said “Well, I did a marathon last week, and I have another one next week, so I only did 50k. You know you got to take care of your body, not push it too hard.” She was also preparing to do the National Marathon on March 21 and the Shamrock Marathon on March 22. There were several of them planning to do that. Another guy said he had a training run of 10-15 miles scheduled for Sunday, although at least he was thinking of canceling out. I said I ran an average of 70-80 miles a week and the response was, “Well, that’s a good start.” The guy winner ran over 50 miles in 8 hrs! Unbelievable. He was one I saw quite a lot, as he passed me by. It was a humbling, awesome experience. God has been so good to me in these last two years, as I have been transformed from the inside out. There is a place of inner resolve and determination I never knew I had. I pulled from this throughout the day, and even now am reflecting on my next goal, how much farther can I go, how much harder can I push.
Last night was a bit rough. The cough has gotten worse and I ended up getting up and drinking tea in the middle of the night, and reading a book. My body is achy and tired – not the sore legs achy, but the flu achy. I did a five mile recovery walk/jog today and felt good while out there but now I’m wrapped in a blanket and sipping chicken broth. But, I’ll recover. Besides, if I can run 31.5 miles in 7 hrs being sick, just think what I can do if I’m totally healthy!