Monday, May 27, 2013

Not Lost.... just adding miles

When I started running trails, I had this intense fear of getting lost in the woods. I had visions of me huddled into a ball gnawing on tree bark for food for weeks on end while search parties scoured Southern Indiana for me. I found a six mile loop trail and stuck to it like glue, because I'm a total control freak. And, a total control freak always wants to know EXACTLY where she's going, EXACTLY what turns to takes, and I wanted to appear to have complete control over ALL situations at ALL times. Easy living, right????

My husband on the other hand loves to go out with a loose game plan, an old map, and see what happens. I do not understand how we have been married for 10 years. I guess opposites attract?

BUT this year I have carefully stepped out of my comfort zone and started getting to know some new trails. Often on my own! I've always had a fairly decent internal compass and I love maps. So, I threw caution to the wind (not really, I had multiple maps, GPS enabled cell phone that was always with me, plenty of water, and always extra food) and started to explore some new trails. I gained so much confidence and fell in love with so many new areas. Everything was magic.

and then
A group of friends and I set out to run a local trail race course. The smaller group of faster runners took off ahead of the second group, the weather was perfect and we had lovely company. These were trails I had run on and explored quite a bit in my recent training round. So, with map in hand, we felt sure that we were prepared for an easy 9 mile run in the woods.
and then
We got to a key turn on the route. I pulled out the map and said confidently..."oh we take this trail here, it's so obvious. Let's go!" Apparently I said it confidently enough to convince everyone.... oops. As the 9 mile mark passed, we realized that while we should be done, we were not only not done... we were not even close to the turn off we needed to be close to being done. And that's when I put it together.... The trail we were on is a "newer" trail. The map that we had was an older map. So when I looked at the map, I thought, oh the trail to the farthest left is the one we need. I didn't realize that the map I was picturing in my head was the new map, the map I was looking at didn't have the new trail on it. Total fail.
We were far too deeply committed to the wrong trail to turn back, so we moved forward. I started to realize that for the first time I had zero food, zero cellphone, and a single map that didn't even have all the trails on it. Crap. I was feeling like a real dip and was SO ready to have this run be over. Thankfully, I was running with some of the best people I know. We had all just surrendered to the run and whatever it was going to be and kept moving forward.
We finally got to a point where we could hear our friends in the parking lot and start hooting and shouting like fools. My friend in the lead saw a cut through on our left and said, "you guys want to take a short cut?" The obvious answer was OH MY GOD YES, WE'VE BEEN TAKING LONG CUTS THIS ENTIRE RUN!!! The short cut had us running through a field of knee high grasses to get to the car and our friends that had been waiting for us. Finally back at the cars we had snacks and tick checks and laughed at what an adventure it all was.
My husband told me, "you weren't lost, you were just in the wrong place". I guess so. I think I was most grateful to have only added three miles rather than five and I was grateful to have been with my friends.

Next time... phone, snacks, and an understanding of when my map was made. Check.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rules Are Made to Be Broken.... or something

I had an amazing race last week! First 50k! Whoo Hoo! I was overusing exclamation points and feeling like a million bucks! And then it was done. First the race was done, then the weekend was done, and then the next thing I know, I'm back to work wanting to talk about nothing but running and remembering that no one else is as into running as me. I'm feeling like Superman the day after the big world saving weekend (see post here).

After the race I was spent. And I couldn't dream of doing it again. But within hours I started thinking... well maybe. If my foot hadn't bothered me, could I have done it better? If I had started heart rate training sooner, would it have helped? And then the definitive statement:

I know I could do it better.
I'm not terribly competitive when it comes to other people. I'm not a person that really thinks about "reeling people in" and passing them during a race. Mainly because I'm so slow it rarely happens. When it does happen I mainly think, wow I probably paced myself better than they did. But I am competitive with myself. Obviously I like to challenge myself (or I would have stopped with my first predawn solo 5k in my neighborhood). I love a challenge. Through the years I have also found that I love to see what else I can do with the same idea (same race, different training or same distance, different course).
I do have a few rules. A main rule being...

Why do I have this rule? Because obviously it's been a problem in the past. I'm 100% guilty of coming off a high from an amazing race and wanting to keep that buzz. Kind of like a drug addict? Yikes... moving on.... But I have been guilty of immediately seeking out a way to recreate the power and magic of a successful race day. A sane person would say that each race needs to be run on it's own. Sure, a sane person would say that.

I'm sure you can see where this is heading...yep. A friend I trained with for this race mentioned another 50k. In September. And it looks awesome or horrible. Or both. I kept telling her that I didn't want to jump into signing up, because only a crazy person would do that.

Oops.... stick me in the only a crazy person would do that category. I'm signed up. It's going to be a long summer.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dances With Dirt 50k Gnawbone... So that's what a 50k feels like?

Last year, a friend and I ran the half marathon at Dances with Dirt in Gnawbone Indiana. It was AWESOME! We tromped our way through a great race and got to cheer in all of  our friends. A magic running day. So, on this magic running day we hatched a plan....

We're gonna run the 50k here next year.
And that was that. For a year I told everyone. I said it so many times it became less scary. I trained for it, managed a huge flair up of Plantar Fasciitis during it, and as it got closer and close, I still couldn't believe that it was actually going to happen.
Race day!
I never sleep well on race day. But thankfully the night before this race, I slept like a baby. Our race start time was 6:15, so we got to the venue at about 5:50. Enough time to apply some glide, tie my shoes, hit the port-o-lets, hug my friends and get to the starting line.
And we were off! Our friend that had done TONS of training with me took off at lightening speed. We knew she would and were thrilled to see her take off. But we found that as the race wore on, we wished we had planned to carry radios or some sort of signaling device to know that she was having a good race!

I had my heart rate monitor on and I was so nervous and wound up that the alarm for my heart rate wouldn't stop going off! Some woman behind us said, "what's with all that beeping?" I told her it was the miles clicking off on my Garmin, we ARE killing it! This is funny to think about, but even funnier because we were slogging up a muddy, mucky horse crap covered trail at a whopping 18 minutes per mile. No miles were clicking off, trust me.
We finally got off the half marathon course and that's when I felt like this was really happening. I had spent quite a bit of time training on the race course, so I had a really good feel for what the first 18 miles were going to be like. And from every race report I read, I knew that in the last 13 miles, things got ugly.
So the first 18 were really good. Saw a friend working an aid station at mile 10. We felt strong and were comfortable on the trails, we at least knew them a little. I was fighting nausea every time I ate or took an electrolyte pill. So, that wasn't fun. I tend to have occasional nausea problems when I run, but I found myself dreading my next gel. So by the time I was due for a third gel, I ate half a Lara Bar instead and it went over much better with the guts. I backed off on salt pills for a while to try to let my guts settle down a bit.
At mile 18 there was a great aid station with music. A group of 3 that we had been chasing were there and we got to say hello and wish them well. We had heard them off and on all morning, but with the constant switch backs and tree foliage, we couldn't tell if they were in front of us or behind us, but we COULD tell that they were a lively bunch and having a BLAST. As the lovely fella at the aid station filled up my Camelbak he said, "there was a gal that came through here not too long ago and her hands were so swollen I had to help her open hers!" I immediately knew it was our running partner that had zoomed ahead! She gets some serious hand swell and always has problems opening her Camelbak. Yeah! It was like we knew she was doing ok. Then one of the volunteers says, " 3 miles to the next aid station, and then 10 more miles and you're done!" I told him that I loved all of those words and then ran at him and hugged him. What a sweet guy. He didn't even flinch. Just gave me a hug and laughed. The volunteers at this race are amazing. A-MAZ-ING!
Running Running Running and Running.... then we got to the much talked about bushwacking. Being slow pays off because the fasties had matted down the trail for us rather nicely. But it was lots of climbing over trees, sliding down muddy hills, crawling under a tree at one point. I don't know how many times I thought to myself
Well this is just stupid.
And just as we were climbing a huge hill... I see someone coming up behind us, fast! It turns out our friend Ben was having an AMAZING day and was now lapping us (the 50 mile course does two laps of the 50k course). This is the guy that's constantly trying to convince me to run farther and farther. The hill (maybe it was a mountain) that we were climbing was so steep that even he had to walk a bit so we got to chat with him a bit and send him on his way (when I say he had an amazing day, for once I'm not exaggerating. A course record! I like to think that it was all because he ran into my friend and I with 12 miles to go).
There was a really dumb part where you got to a wall of mud that was straight up and you had to... go up it. Seriously? For that moment the race turned in to an upper body workout where you grabbed through mud trying to find roots to hold and haul yourself up. Kind of fun, but kind of this is stupid. My friend was waiting for me to get up and I told her, "don't grab that shrub, its got briars". The gal climbing up behind us did not hear that warning... we heard her shouting as we trudged up the rest of the hill/wall of mud.
We also knew there was a giant staircase we would have to deal with. But by the time we got to it, it seemed so easy compared to the muddy hills we had been dealing with. Onward! There was some awful road running mixed in that felt extra miserable. It NEVER seemed to end. But, we were able to gain a bit of speed.
Then the goal was just GET TO THE SKI SLOPE! You see, in this race, you run down an unused ski slope. It's not as fun as it sounds, but we knew if we could get there, we'd be a mile away from the finish. We got to the ski slope, shimmied down the mud slide at the top by holding onto a tree and then started the painful trot down. At one point I ran through a small briar bush because I couldn't stand the idea of the one extra step out of my way to get around it. We then got to tromp through a freezing cold creek that felt amazing on my giant swollen sausage feet.
Ben was waiting for us at the top of the creek (he had plenty of time to claim his victory, change clothes and probably eat 7 meals). He ran us in for a bit and then we were hit with the wall of sound/cheering that can only come from the best running group and group of friends ever! Some of these people had finished their races HOURS before we rolled in. And some had been volunteering since 5! I cannot express how fortunate I am to have such wonderful people in my life. We got our medals and miracle of miracles I got an age group award!!! Now to be fair my, my age group had 3 finishers in it. BUT! For a gal that is always the back of the pack. An age group award is a pretty sweet bit of icing on the first ultramarathon cake....
Man, that race was stupid. It was awesome. It was magic. And it was awful. I'm so happy I did it!
And what makes it extra cool? Having my awesome husband to get me beers, all my friends that finished their races 735 hours before I got done wait around to cheer, and a year later...
 Now I've done a 50k. That's pretty cool. Will I do another? I can only assume that the my constant reference to this race as my FIRST 50k will probably provide the answer.

Oh my lord. DO THIS RACE!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Dental Work.... Seriously?

I've had two fillings in my life, ever. And I hated it. But it was 10+ years ago. No problems since. Every time I go to the dentist these days, it' all,"everything looks good!" and "there's a spot back here that we will keep an eye on, but everything else looks great!" So, I don't mind the dentist much....
And then my race was a week away...
My back tooth had been a little sensitive lately, but I clench my jaw and grind my teeth when I'm stressed out, and I suppose this race has been stressing my out a tad. I figured this tooth was just tired of being ground to dust by my other teeth. In my head, once the race was done, everything would be fine. WRONG!
A few days ago I took a chug of my coffee and WHAMMO pain in that darn tooth. This wasn't the tired of grinding my teeth pain I was pretending it might be. So I called the dentist and casually asked if they could see me. I thought that maybe my filling had fallen out. Surely that was it. WRONG!
I got to the dentist, they took x-rays, poked at my tooth with various tools that caused minor to major pain. End result: a cracked tooth! A cracked tooth? How does that even happen? Then the doc tells me I need a crown and "hopefully" that will fix it (if not I get a root canal... barf). My first question...
I have a 50k to run a week from Saturday, will this effect my race?
Yes, I have a problem. He tells me we can put the crown on and if it DOESN'T solve the problem, I can just eat soft food on the left side of my mouth and then it's root canal city... after the race. In my head I'm thinking, really I'm going to be eating soft food only the week before the race (because of course I assume that it won't work)? But what are you going to do, huh?
I got the stupid crown put on. It was highly traumatic. I even ran 10 miles the next day. So far it seems to have done the job... who knows? Keeping things interesting while going into the home stretch of race week? That's what I do!