Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dances With Dirt Hell 50k-ish

Back in May I ran my first 50k in Gnawbone, Indiana. It was crazy fun and I quickly broke my cardinal rule of never signing up for a race when you’re still on a high from your most recent race. I not only signed up for the Dances With Dirt 50k in Hell, Michigan… I signed my husband up too. What a nice thing to do for your spouse, right? That’s what I thought!

So, here we were four months later driving to Hell, Michigan. I was trained, in good shape, surrounded by friends (that came to run AND came to cheer) and I was ready for adventure. This race did not disappoint!

Race day started normally enough. People showered; got themselves race ready and we exited our room right on time. Win! We were greeted by Sleeping Party Boy. While we were laying out all our goodies for race day the night before I had heard some noise outside our room, I would have to assume that this guy might have had a little too much fun at the party. He was passed out on a chair in a lounge area still wearing his shiny suit vest and dress pants. His friends were even thoughtful enough to throw a blanket over him. Good or bad race day omen? I have no idea. But at the very least it was a funny way to get the day started.

After a 35 minute drive on curvy unlit roads, we arrived at the start. As the parking attendant flagged our car in, he told us “the port-o-potties were knocked over last night…. So do what you gotta do”. We had no idea what that meant but we were thankful our car was directed towards a parking spot that was 30 feet away from a port-a-potty that was not knocked over. We “did what we had to do” and relaxed in the car for a bit. At about 5 minutes til start we headed towards the starting line to hear the speakers saying the race would start in ONE MINUTE! Yikes! Quick warm up run to the starting line and then we were off!

The race started at 6:15 which meant DARK. We all started out with headlamps. Had I practiced with my headlamp? Nope, not at all. I wear one in the winter so, I figured it will only be an hour or so, what could go wrong? Oh, I know… I freaking HATE WEARING A HEADLAMP! Ugh, mine is uncomfortable and makes my head hot and it kept sliding all over the place. And then I tried to tighten it and the buckle came undone. Oh for pete’s sake. This was not working the way I planned. Aside from wanting to throw my headlamp into the abyss and counting the seconds until it was light enough to pack it away…. I did notice that it was kind of cool to be running in the dark with only little reflective lights to show you the way. Well, it was cool until I thought, “oh my god, there’s no one behind me. I’m already the very last person in the race and it’s dark and I hate this 75 pound headlamp and THIS IS THE DUMBEST THING I’VE EVER DONE!” To be fair, about two miles into every race I run, I almost always wonder why I do this crap because it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. This is a pretty standard thought process for me, headlamp or not.

Dawn finally broke and I was able to stow my stupid headlamp and settle in. The cool thing was that I had already stumbled through almost five miles before daylight even happened. The not cool thing was the cool but humid weather that the previous night’s rain had brought and the hot headlamp sweats I was having were causing me to burn though my salt pills at lightning speed to try to avoid cramping. When the sun was finally up I grabbed another salt pill and saw that I was already down to four. CRAP! I decided on a rationing plan hoping that the humidity would drop a bit (it did) and my body would level out (it did). My stash was also refilled when my husband (who had taken a wrong turn due to some missing flags) came up from behind me! He’s a faster runner than me so it was a surreal moment when I heard him shouting my name from behind. Thankfully his head was in a good place and he was enjoying himself. AND thankfully he had not used a million salt pills in the first nine miles of the race so we traded salt pills and he zipped ahead with the other “got lost boys”.

It might have been somewhere around this point that I was trotting down the trail and noticed a one person camouflaged dome tent on my right. And it was that point that I realized I was not close to any other runners. And it was that point that I sped up…. A lot.

Two of our friends and their adorable pup Toby had come to the race for cheering and general merriment and we had no idea where they would be on the course. This adds a whole new level of fun. Every dog bark had me wondering…. Is that Toby? Nope, just some dog that wants to eat my face off as I tromp through the woods…Is that Toby? Nope, just some unseen death dog out to get me. When I finally did see my friends and Toby I, of course kept my cool and started screaming Toby’s name at the top of my lungs. Always keeping my cool…..but not at all…..

 I left friends and pup and started on what would be a big loop. Follow the blue flags up and the pink flags back.... got it. On the way out I saw my friend that was running the race and shouted things to him. He looked strong and was smiling, so that was encouraging. I settled in to a groove and got moving, following the pink flags. Eventually I caught up with another runner. As I eventually passed her I asked if she was ok and she said yes. The funny thing is.... this is something that happened a few times. As a lifelong back of the packer, I just assume that if I am passing someone, they are having some kind of catastrophic breakdown. Or maybe, I've just become a stronger runner and am not used to giving myself any credit. Anywho...

I knew there was a big hill coming up that was refered to as the stripper pole. I had seen a You Tube video of it and it was not encouraging. As I was running with a gal, I found out she had run the race last year. I then proceeded to ask her, "is this the stripper pole" on a steep incline. Nope, she said I would know when I saw it. I did. I believe I stopped in my tracks and said, "holy sh!t". I yelled back to her that yeah, I get it now.
And up we went. Hands on the ground, bent over, in a bear crawl. It was hilarious and painful and was only made more hilarious by listening to other people curse as they saw the hill. A guy came up behind me and I told him to feel free to zip on ahead if he wanted to. He assured me that there will be NO ZIPPING! After what seemed like 475 years we FINALLY got to the top of that stupid hill and the guy behind me screams F!CK ME! And the gal behind him says, "no thanks, I'm too tired". It was really funny when I thought they were running together. Even funnier when I realized they weren't.

At some point after that we hit our first water crossing which felt amazing. I took my time and enjoyed it. Too my right, there was a guy sitting in the water cooling off. A gal next to me told him, "you know there's a chemical in the water that turns blue when you pee in it". He shouted back, " I ALREADY DID". These people are great. Nobody is taking this too seriously which means 100% more FUN!

The first water crossing was chump change compared to the hike down the river. I had a fella in front of me that allowed me to see where the water got deep and various hazards to avoid.

When we came to our exit point we were greeted by Satan as we climbed up the hill and out of the water. Seriously? This is fantastic!
I sat down on a conveniently located bench to shake the rocks out of my shoes. After shaking out my left shoe, I got bored with the project grabbed an orange slice and went along my merry way. As I was running out of the aid station I noticed the giant party/ music/ hearse convention going on. It was WONDERFUL! There were people everywhere and frankly, I was half interested in staying there to hang out. Instead, I headed up the road with the Friday the 13th music playing in the background.

Around mile 20ish I started having a heated discussion with myself:
     Why would I ever want to run a 50 mile race? That's the dumbest idea ever.
     Sure, my legs feel fine, but my feet HURT!
                And then... the question that always pops up around mile 20

     I wonder what Hokas feel like?

Yep, Hokas. When I'm running a 4 mile run Hokas look like weird Kiss style platform shoes that I would never consider in a million years....
But at mile 20ish? They look like magical pillows that would be my secret weapon against the weaknesses of my silly feet. Have I ever tried a pair on? No, but this is not the first Hoka related fantasy that I have had at some mileage after 20.

I crossed a road and realized I was heading back to the start.... wait a minute. I'm gonna be really short on mileage. Wait, there's all my friends! Why is Steph running at me? Oh my lord she's holding a giant fat head of me! That's the most horrifying/awesome thing I've ever seen! Honestly, friends that come to the race just to cheer for you are great. Friends that come to the race and make giant fat heads of you are friends that you keep FOREVER!

As I ran past my friends laughing about the giant heads I asked them where I go. They said, “just follow the flags”! And the flags took me right to the finish line… My Garmin said I was short on mileage, but it the flags lead you into the shoot…. I guess you’re DONE! When I crossed the finish line I was told that I was fourth in my age group and I got a pint glass for my MAJOR AWARD (which I promptly filled with beer).

It ended up being a great race for me for quite a few reasons. I haven’t run a trail race of the marathon distance or longer on my own and that ended up being quite an experiment. Without anyone to push my pace or cry to, I had to depend on myself and made of conversations with other people in my head to keep things moving forward. Sure, that might look crazy when I type it out, but it made total sense during the race. I’m in better shape and could tell that I have improved from when I started slogging around with heart rate training. WIN!

The distance wasn’t what I had expected, which was initially disappointing. But then I thought more about it. Why did I sign up for this race?

To challenge myself: I did that

To have an adventure: I did that

To spend a weekend in Michigan with some of my favorite people: I did that

Who needs a couple of extra miles when you have a whole boatload of awesome and a giant fat head of yourself? Total WIN!

Run this race!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

This Taper is Gonna Be TOTALLY Different

Every time I taper for a big race I convince myself that it’s going to be different. I mean, after months of training, who isn’t ready for a little resting up before the big day? Yeah Resting!!! And I always think that this time I’m going to ace the taper. No freak outs, no weird dreams, and no freak outs. Let’s do this thing!

As you might have guessed…. I am absolutely NOT acing this taper. Oops. My race is next Saturday. A 50k. And here are some of the ways I’m losing my mind…..

I’m reacting even more irrationally than normal. I can be pretty high strung but during a taper I always find myself freaking out over the tiniest things. Something that may have slightly annoyed me two weeks ago turns me into a rage filled super hulk. AND it typically has to happen a few times before I realize that maybe it’s the taper crazies?

The dreams! Oh my lord the dreams. My typical taper dreams are filled with anxiety. Being late for a race, going the wrong way at the race, interrupting the opening ceremonies that involve an elaborate blessing by Buddhist monks… you know the usual. So I’ve had a few general stress dreams and a real doozy of a rage dream just the other night. I dreamt that I signed up for a race that was extremely pricey. When I arrived at packet pickup, they gave me a COTTON shirt and socks and I completely freaked out like a lunatic. Yep, I’m having nightmares…. About cotton shirts.

 And did I mention that my husband and I decided to switch cable companies? That’s great news because we’lre going to be saving a TON! But…. Maybe we should have waited for the taper to be done. Because we haven’t had ANY TV for a few days and we won’t have it for a total of a week and a half of taper. What have I discovered in this time?

 I miss watching dumb useless crap on TV.


When I’m not watching dumb useless crap on TV, I actually recognize that I’m getting sleepy and go to bed instead of staying awake to finish watching stupid crap! I’m getting oodles of sleep! So I suppose that’s good.

 I have also learned that when I’m not holding stress in my jaw (remember how I cracked a tooth during my last taper?), I hold it ALL in my neck and shoulders!
I’ve been in OODLES of pain! But at least I’m not at the dentist
So obviously I have yet to master the taper. My husband on the other hand is sitting pretty during his taper and wondering what all the fuss is about. Of course this make me freak out.....


Monday, September 2, 2013

The Students Are Back! I love it /hate it!


It’s not really Fall according to the calendar. But I live in Bloomington, Indiana and according to Indiana University… it’s Fall! Fall semester, that is.

I love/ hate the students coming back to town, let me tell you all about it!

-I LOVE quiet summer running where I don’t have to weave through crowds of people at bus stops that seem to be less than a block apart. Seriously kids, are you so lazy that you need a bus stop every half a block apart on the same road? Back in my day we WALKED to class! And do you really need to sprawl your crap out all over the sidewalks so that you can sit down because standing at the bus stop is simply too tiring? 

-I HATE how old these kids make me feel. I’m not old, logically I get that. But when you live in a town that perpetually has an influx of 18 year olds moving in, you feel old quickly. Take for instance the statements I just wrote, “back in my day we WALKED to class”. Really? I sound like I’m 75 years old! And I catch myself saying stuff like that ALL the time. You’ll read plenty of it as this post progresses. 
-I LOVE starting my runs as the IU Marching Band is practicing!!! There’s something about a good old fashioned marching band that just makes me smile. I love it! And lots of my Tuesday runs start right by their practice area. Just a few days ago I started a run/slog in 94 degree weather, the drummers were practicing and I couldn’t stop smiling. Even in the oven-like conditions I had a little pep in my step.

-I HATE kids wearing headphones/ texting/ reading while walking. SERIOUSLY! What is wrong with you kids? Have a little awareness of your surroundings! Just yesterday I watched three girls walk directly into oncoming traffic while texting. On the rare occasion when I run with headphones I only use one ear bud. You need to know if someone is coming up behind you, if a tree is going to fall on you, or if a rhinoceros is coming at you so that you can change your pace/route accordingly.

-I LOVE listening in on undergrad conversations! Oh my lord, talk about fake problems! I’ve heard them gripe about tanning, complain about “doing work” in classes, discuss hair and outfit problems. I mean seriously, if you need a reason not to wear headphones, this is it! Sure, they might think I’m crazy as I literally laugh out loud at them, but I’m having a blast hearing about their fake problems. This does not make me upset about being old, it makes me oh so very very grateful to be beyond that time in my life.

-I HATE the way those kids drive! What are they doing? Can they read signs? And where did they get these cars from?!?! No young twenty something needs to be driving a sporty BMW convertible. Get a sensible car or WALK for crap’s sake (oh my lord I’m a hundred years old).

-I LOVE observing the fashion choices. I’m not a zippy dresser at ALL. Most days, I just try to get out the door looking like I got dressed with my eyes open rather than closed. But man these kids today! I constantly find myself saying to people I’m with (or myself), really? Is that a thing? Like, why did you spend a boatload of money on a t-shirt that looks like it is 20 years old and is so thin that you have to wear another shirt under it? And honestly, who is walking around a campus (or waiting at the bus stop) in shoes like this?

Come on kid, you’re like 19 years old! Put on some tennis shoes and relax! You’ll have plenty of years to tighten / shorten your Achilles tendons and calves with those ridiculous high heels! 

So what am I reminded of every year when the students come back? I’m reminded of how much I love this town and those students are a big part of why this town is here. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have a lovely campus to run through.  Oh, and I wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for them either.  In other words… GO HOOSIERS! And welcome to Fall semester!