Saturday, December 20, 2014

And now for something completely different....

Back in 2011 I started getting group personal training at a gym. I was kind of broken as a runner and a human. A couple punches in the gut had me feeling miserable most days and I told my husband, "this is expensive, but I think it will help me feel like I'm moving forward in SOME way. And I need to feel that way." So, we found the money and I started a great relationship with a gym I love. I also found out that I had zillions of running muscle imbalances and enjoyed weightlifting. Who knew?

I did know I was burnt out on running and hurting. Running had turned into a never ending series of training for this and gotta hit this mileage and suddenly my hobby had started to feel like a job. At a time that I wasn't enjoying a lot of things in my life, the thing I was supposed to love doing wasn't even fun....My trainer at the gym was also a runner and she said, stick to half marathons for a bit so we can get you healthy and enjoying running again. So I did. When it got close to fall, I told her I was thinking maybe a full. She told me to wait for it. I took the year and didn't sign up for anything longer than a half marathon. Less stress, more running with friends and running for fun. I started to like running again and remembering how fun it was. And in 2012 I did three full marathons in 5 months and felt stronger than ever.

 Flash forward to 2014

2014 was a big year for me. I did my first 50 miler, attempted my second 50 miler, got in a few 50ks, and lots of good running along the way. But as November rolled in, I took a step back and realized I was 10 pounds heavier than I wanted to be… and I was tired. I was just sick and tired of always thinking I have a number to hit. Always looking at weekly mileage. Always running numbers. I was tired of the pressure from BIG race plans, tired of the “schedule”, and tired of that feeling that I HAD to go run for one reason or another. I think I was/am just a bit burnt out.
So, when I DNF’d at Tunnel Hill, I decided I would get excited about getting back to running for fun again. Running when I felt like it, not when a piece of paper or a looming race tells me I should. Just the thought of that felt nice. 

I also decided to get strong. I stormed into my gym one morning and told my trainers, "Guys, I want to be a weight lifter!" My current trainers who are not runners were thrilled to hear the plan and I realized I was really excited about it too. It gave me something new to focus on and it turned running back into something that I did because I love to do it. Running is a reward.

My thoughts for post Tunnel Hill running were to aim for 20 miles a week. My mileage for 50 mile training tended to hover around 40-50 miles a week. This was a BIG change. The first couple weeks I really felt like thirty would be better and then felt like a failure for not hitting the mark. But then I noticed my Achilles that was bugging me for a month or two was starting to feel better.... All the little things that I had accepted as normal after a year of lots of running were improving. THAT'S when 20 miles or less started to sound good for REAL.

My plan for the next few months? Get strong by lifting heavy things. I'll still be running, but I'll be running when it's fun. You know, "funning".


Monday, November 17, 2014

Tunnel Hill 50 Miler... First DNF!

Back in March I did my first 50 miler.... it didn't go according to plan. I try really hard to never say never, but I was close to saying it on that one. Then this fall I was grateful I didn't. I had gotten my gut issues in check and I was feeling pretty confident. Confident enough to sign up for another 50 miler! Especially when one that fit my bill appeared. It was flat, less than 4 hour drive, and a bit more scenic than the never ending hallway in Kansas. So, I signed up!

My goal was, no stress. Train in a way that's fun. Just because the course is flat doesn't mean that all the training runs have to be on flat boring stuff. And I had a nice summer of running.

Then I rolled my ankle and landed in a walking boot for a week. But when my ankle felt ok, I figured... why not give the race a try? What's the worst that could happen?

Well, fall is tricky in Indiana. It could be 80 degrees or it could be sub zero. My race weekend got the arctic blast. I prefer cooler temps, so this wasn't a terrible thing. But it's been so warm here I wasn't quite sure what to even wear!

On race day my husband would be meeting me at a few spots along the way with a friend, so it was a nice way to break up the race. Race day morning came and I was off! The sun was out and the trail was beautiful. I tried to take it easy and settle my head into what was about to happen. I couldn't think about 50 to go. I was just thinking aid station to aid station. And before the first aid station.... I rolled my bad ankle. Yep. Flat trail, not much crap on it.... this girl rolls an ankle. I think it was on one of these stupid thingies. I hate them.
It hurt and it scared my quite a bit. But I could still run on it, so I figured I'd take it one aid station at a time. No need to panic just yet. My plantar fasciitis in that foot was also flaring up. Ive dealt with Plantar Fasciitis for so long, it has become a very familiar pain. Like a crappy annoying cousin. I knew that as long as it didn't get worse... I would be fine. And sometimes it even gets better! So again, back to one aid station at a time.

The miles started to roll by and I was happy with how great my guts felt, how strong my legs were and that the sun was shining. Before we hit 10 miles I even got to pass by a goat farm! My husband has an off and on dream of us owning goats. We don't even manage our dogs well, so this isn't really an option. But I definitely yelped out GOATS when I saw them and thought about how I'm going to brag to him about the goats when I see him.

The first turn around was at a lovely nature center thingy that had indoor toilets! This is a huge luxury in a race and I took full advantage. After the pit stop I made sure they caught my number and headed out to see my husband for the first time at mile 16ish. I was losing interest in the race a nit, kind of blah, when I ran into a fella that I knew through friends but had never actually met in person.I ran up to him, introduced myself and then we immediately hugged each other. It was just the pick me up I needed to get my head in the right place and get things moving.

 A few miles later, I got to see my husband! He helped me refill my hydration pack. He seemed like he was having a decent day and I was feeling ok, so I didn't mention the ankle roll and I was off again. I would see him in ten more miles.

The break with my husband had slowed down my blistering pace (kidding, I've never had a blistering pace), so I did some walking. While walking I tried not to think too much about how far I had to go and how long it would take me, so I put on my ipod and started running. The running wasn't fast, but it calmed me down. With my nerves settled, I enjoyed a few nice miles of run/walking. Then my foot started to hurt.

The plantar facitiis pain had eased up but never really gone away, but this new pain was on the top of my foot. So I had the equivalent of a sandwich of pain on my left foot. I stopped and loosened my laces, assuming that would help. Top of the foot pain is not a new thing for me. In fact, I started lacing my shoes like this a while ago to help.

It flares up occasionally, but typically loosening my shoelaces does the trick. So, with my loosened laces I was off again. Running still felt great on my legs, but the looser shoelaces weren't helping the pain. Every time my foot came down it hurt. I was getting pissed off, then upset, then frustrated. Then I said to myself, "this sucks, what can you do to change it?"

I stopped again... I loosened more ...I rearranged the laces stop again.... puffed the tongue of the shoe up so that it was barely touching the top of my foot... still no help. I did some deep breathing, certain that I could breathe away the pain. I re laced my shoe again, no help. I even untied the shoe completely and tried to figure out if I could walk with it like that. No luck. And then I thought...

Is DNFing a thing that I do?

When I did my first 50 miler I definitely fantasized about DNFing, because I wanted to be done. But in reality, my body felt ok-ish even if my guts hated me. I knew I wouldn't DNF that race. But that was then. On the day of the Tunnel Hill 50 miler I was limping down a trail with an unlaced shoe wincing every time my foot hit the ground.... at mile 22... This was a new thing.

And I'm not a good walker. To say I'm a casual walker is a huge understatement. I'm a 22-23 minute mile walker. I stroll. Add an occasional limp? Definitely not zoom.

So I got kind of sad, there wasn't anyone around me at the time, which was probably a good thing. Those strangers can be so darn uplifting and encouraging and frankly, I needed to have a conversation with myself that I hadn't ever considered having before:

I'll just commit to the next aid station (that's a thing I've heard people say in this type of situation). But the aid stations were 5 miles apart. It's not like could make up my mind every two miles or so.

Is this an injury? Or is this a reason to be done with this race early? Sheesh... that was a tough one. It hurt, but running hurts. But I was unlacing my shoes and considering hobbling 26 miles on unlaced shoes... I mean, that's not a normal hurt? Is it? Is a 50 mile race worth it if you end up in the ER? Is that an overly dramatic sentence?And then an important question

Am I really prepared to walk/limp for 26 miles?

Oof. That sounded terrible.

I texted my husband and said that my foot hurts, grab some of the old Asics out of the trunk of my car for when I see you. Was it really going to help? I don't know. But it was the last shot I had.

I then had some lovely people stop and chat as they sped along the trail. One girl encouraged me to try some ibuprofen and see if that helps (masking pain in a situation like a 50 mile race has never seemed like a good idea for me). Then there was this lovely couple that walked with me for a bit. They were saying we could all take a break at the 26 mile aid station and then go back out. I mean we had 30 HOURS to finish the race, what's the hurry. But as they sped away at a comfortable walk for them, I knew what my answer was.

The answer was, it just wasn't my day. It sucks, but that's just what it is. Because the thing is, I LOVE running. And I love races. But I'm not going to let some macho BS attitude make me finish a race crippled and miserable and hating running. Where would that leave me?

So, I texted my husband and said that I didn't think new shoes were going to help. And then I hobbled along. I did try to run a few more times juuuuuust to make sure. But it wasn't working.

When I finally got to my husband he had that terrified locked up look he gets when he doesn't know what to say or how to act. I told him it was ok, he didn't need to be scared. Then I said:

I think I'm done, is that lame?

Everyone agreed that if it's not working, then it's not working. So I was done. And that's that.

Did I question my decision? Yeah, quite a bit. Until I realized that it hurt too much to wear a sock or have a bedsheet resting on my foot the entire night after I got back to the hotel room. And that was ending at 26 miles. Just think of how much worse it could have been.

It sucks that it didn't work out. My guts felt great, my legs felt great, my brain was behaving for the most part. But, running is supposed to be fun. Sure, it's not always rainbows and unicorns. And part of the reason I like distance running is because you do have find the new levels of "working through" stuff. But if it HURTS and it SUCKS, being intelligent enough to call it is important too. I guess I can do smart stuff every now and then. I feel like I got to see another part of being a long distance runner. The part where you love running enough to know that being able to run is more important than one race.

What's next? I dunno? The good thing is, I don't hate running. And my foot is already feeling oodles better.

Another 50 miler? Tunnel Hill next year? We'll see. I mean... I didn't even get to run through the tunnel. But right now, I'm just happy to be training for nothing and running. That sounds lovely.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

And then everything changes... Or does it?

If you’re following my current bad idea storyline, you’ll know that I recently did a road full marathon and was priming myself for a tough trail full the next week. This was by far one of the silliest plans I have come up with to date, but why not, right?

And then....

On the Tuesday night before the trail full marathon I was going to a local trail to meet a friend for a six mile run. I had about zero interest in running all day, so when she mentioned joining me I was thrilled! When I got to the trail I saw her text saying she had been called back to work. She was pissed, I was disappointed, but I figured, hey I'm already here, let's knock out some miles and get on with things. It started out beautiful, but I quickly realized that the lovely fall leaves had started to fall in a big way which means POTENTIAL DEATHTRAP to those of us weak ankle types. So I tried to keep my steps quick and my knees high. Three ankle rolls on my right side later, I was ready to be done. They were thankfully all manageable rolls, but enough for me to realize that it wasn't my day. The sun was setting, I was alone in the woods, hadn't grabbed my cellphone, and all the tiny woodland creatures preparing for winter sounded like potential ax murderers hunting me down.... So, off I went. All the while trying to figure out the quickest and safest way to have this run be finished. 

And then I got the screaming curse words ankle roll on my left side. It was a doozy. I stopped and screamed and cussed. But realizing I was still alone in the woods, a mile away from the trailhead, and racing a setting sun… I started moving forward again. I was able to run for a bit, but once I took that first walk break, running was no longer an option. Ankle rolling pain is typically an achy pain. The pain in my ankle was a stabbing pain that was on the inside of my ankle…. Which made no sense for an inward ankle roll (pain is typically on the outside). I got back to the car, locked the doors (to keep out the ax murderer squirrels) and thanked my lucky stars that I survived such a series of poor choices.

The next day…..

My ankle still felt terrible. 

So, I did the grown up thing and called a doc. I’m not a big “let’s wait and see” type. If it hurts, and the pain is different than a standard ankle roll, why would I mess around? The good news is that the x-rays came back showing no breaks in the big bones (yeah) and the ligaments and tendons looked ok (yeah). The bad news was that there was a slllliiiiiiggggghhhhtttt chance that there is a tiny bone that doesn’t x-ray well that might be broken. And I got the boot.

The boot allowed me to walk without looking like a hunchback, so that was good. Then I asked the questions I was afraid to ask.

Me: Sooo….. no trail marathon on Saturday, huh? 

Doc: NO! 
Me: How’s about this 50 mile race I’m supposed to do on the 15th of November? Is that out too?

Doc: Not necessarily.

The rules of the game were explained to me this way.
1.      Wear the boot when it hurts.
2.      When it doesn’t hurt, walk without the boot… if walking without the boot doesn’t hurt.
3.      If walking without the boot doesn’t hurt, try running without the boot, BUT ONLY ON FLAT SURFACES! (that means roads)
4.      If I can run without pain, then the 50 miler is on

When a doc makes rules, I follow them. It’s that simple. Because what’s the point of going to a doc if you’re  going to ignore what they say and do what you want to anyway? Right?

The weird thing is that when I left the office I expected to be really sad and stressed about missing the marathon, messing up training, and possibly missing this fifty miler I have been training for. But… I wasn’t. No lying. The words I kept thing were:

It’s just stupid running and it’s just a couple of races. There are races all the time.

It’s not like the doc said I was to remain immobile for the next three years! It’s just running. In fact, I got kind of excited that I could get my car worked on Saturday morning since I couldn’t do a long run. The part that stressed me out the most was telling other people because I didn’t want to deal with THEM freaking out and acting like it’s a big deal. It isn’t. It’s just stupid running!

Where am I at now? Well, a week after the “incident” I had been walking without pain and without boot for about three days and was able to knock out 6 miles without foot pain! I’m still generous with icing my foot. But I feel like I’m out of the woods. And the fifty seems to be back on the table. 

What’s my training plan? Welp, there’s no point in trying to make up for lost time. I’m going to play out the taper the way I had planned and pay close attention to how my foot deals with a few 10ish mile runs. I would consider myself cautiously optimistic, but not unrealistic. If I go out for a 10-12 mile run and it hurts, I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t just so I can do a stupid race. I’ve watched that scene play out with other runners and it rarely ends well.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Indianapolis Marathon...a training run

I’m so tired of training for my next 50 miler that I did something so stupid…. 

I signed up for a full marathon as a training run.

But wait! There’s more!

I signed up for another full marathon the very next weekend as a training run….

It all made so much sense in my head when I wrote it out on paper. I mean, that’s the mileage that I needed anyway, what’s the difference? And frankly, I’m SO TIRED of running the same places I always run. So, when you think about that it’s actually a good idea, right?

Well, I don't know that it was a good idea, but the wheels are in motion, so I'm determined to see how it works out. In fact, the first marathon is DONE! This past weekend I ran the Indianapolis Marathon. I ran this race last year and despite crappy weather at the start, I had a really nice time. 

This weekend was an immediate improvement over last year because the rain looked like it would hold off for at least the first half to three quarters of the race. I drove up on my own early in the morning and parked right in front of my friends that were doing the half. After packet pick up, we all hit the port a pots and chatted until the start. 

And then we were off!

The race was... a race. I ran too fast in the beginning, I hated everything in the middle, I couldn't wait to get done at the end, and I realized how much a road marathon HURTS! Oh my lord! I haven't run that far on roads in a while and it beat the living snot out of me. 

So, I thought about this blog post on the drive home. What was I gonna write about? How was this race any different than other races? Well, training runs are where you figure stuff out for race day, right? So here's some stuff I figured out during the race.

1) Every race has at least one super awesome moment. If it happens late in the race, you're just lucky, cause you probably need it then. If it happens early in the race, take that moment, shove it in your pocket, and pull it back out when you hate running the MOST of all. 

During this race I was about 6ish miles in and on a tiny out and back when a woman I don't know that was heading my direction said, "hey, I read your blog". I completely locked up because well frankly, I'm always a bit surprised that anyone reads my blog, not to mention people I don't know. But I had the most gigantic grin on my face that flew me through the next mile or two. And later in the race, when I felt like crap, I thought about it again and got the same dumb (and potentially scary looking at that point) grin on my face. Once again, it carried me through another mile or two. Also, if that person is indeed reading this blog, what I SHOULD have said was, "OH MY GOD THANK YOU! HAVE A GREAT RACE!". Instead, I locked up like a 13 year old getting asked to slow dance for the first time. So. Freaking. Smooth.

2)  I hate mile markers. I wear a Garmin when I run, so I'm painfully aware of what mile I am on at all times for the most part. But there's something about those glaring mile markers at road races that drive me absolutely insane. Is it because I'm looking at my Garmin and know exactly how much "off" they are from my Garmin? Is it the clock that's always underneath them that doesn't actually reflect MY start time? I have no idea. But, I can't handle them. 

3) Watch the leaves fall, cause oh my god NATURE!!!! Indiana is smack dab in the middle of a jaw droppingly gorgeous Autumn. And this race ran through a park that was BEAUTIFUL with fall leaves. I caught myself watching a leaf or two just fall down and I forgot I was in a race at all, just for a second. Running races can be fun. But looking around and enjoying your ability to run races is pretty amazing.

4) If someone calling you a name under their breathe motivates them.... Let them do it. I was back and forth with a guy for a bit and I'm preeettttttyyyy sure I heard him say something under his breath about not letting that b*$&% pass him. At first I was offended... But then I just smiled and thought, if that's what keeps you going, have at it. These races are not easy, you have to play every card you have in the deck.

5) Towards the end of the race, I was hurting and tired and generally over everything. My walk breaks were getting longer, and I was getting pissed at myself because the walking just seemed to take too long. I started to run just to pick up the pace a little and I found this "gear" that I could get into and just keep going. It hurt, but walking hurt too, so I just kept going. It's nice to remember that I have that gear, because that's one I might need to use during my 50 miler.

So what's the verdict? Oh man that race hurt. But I learned some good stuff! And that's what training runs are for, right? Now it's time to rest up for marathon #2 this weekend. We'll see if this still seems like a good idea then....

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Not Yo Momma's 50k... It's a training run...

I get lots of stupid ideas when I start to plan a race season. This Fall my stupid idea was to train for my second 50 miler in November. And if that wasn't stupid enough... I thought..

Hey, here's this 50k that falls into a good place in my training schedule. I could use it as a training run.

I told my husband about it and he found that it fit right into his schedule too.  But here's the thing. He's training for a very hilly 50 miler in November and I'm training for a very flat 50 miler in November. When my husband called me and said, "man, did you see the elevation on this thing?" I might have panicked a little bit, but I played it cool. I mean... what's a little elevation gonna hurt? It's just a training run. Right? RIGHT? We have hills here. I'll run them... sometimes.

The closer the race got the more nervous I was. I hadn't tackled a really hilly ultra in a few years and I had no idea what the terrain would be like. And we were camping. I grew up camping and I like it, but it does add another layer to the planning and the stress.

By Friday we were on the road and I was committed to doing this. Because if I didn't get thirty miles in during this race I would have to run thirty miles where I live and frankly, I liked the idea of having my longest run be somewhere different.We were almost to the state park when I realized that we had forgotten pillows. Meh, we were tough, we could handle not having pillows, we'll just wad up some clothes, it'll be fine (it wasn't. apparently I'm the kind of diva that really likes a pillow).

Soon enough, camp was set, we had our bib numbers and we decided to scope out the course a little since it ran right behind our campsite. The surface was nice and there were a few hills right off the bat, but we kept saying it didn't seem that bad. Then we got to the top of a little hill and saw THE hill. Sugarloaf Mountain...

We both looked at it and immediately realized that it didn't have kind switchbacks. This bad boy went straight UP. Crap. Welp, no more kidding myself, this race is obviously going to kick my ass.

We ate dinner, packed our race gear, and met a nice fella that was doing the 100k at the race and shared our campsite. My game plan adjusted itself to:

Remember it's a training run, try to be smart, try to finish close to 10 hours.

Ten hours!?!?! Yep. We had heard elevation rumors of 5,000-6,000 feet and the winners were still taking just under 6 hours. So, for a slow runner 10 hours was a reasonable assumption. And that hill...that trail went straight up! Was the whole course going to be like that? Oh my puke.

Race day started early. We got to see the 100 milers and 100k runners get going for their 5:30 start. There are not many things that are cooler than a dark start to a 100 mile race. So much nervous energy and then... just a bunch of bobbing headlamps heading into the woods to start an adventure.

We got ready and headed to the starting area for announcements and then waited for things to get going. In the starting corral I met lots of nice folks and we chatted about different races, what they knew about this one, where they were from. Good stuff. AND..... GO!

So happy to get things going, we were off. When we got to Sugarloaf Mountain, I took a deep breath and headed up, and up, and up. The lack of switchbacks was AMAZING! But what do you do? You keep going up. I would glance away from my feet a few times to look up and there always seemed to look like MORE UP! Finally, there appeared to be a break in the up and I saw a sign.
 If you look closely, I believe my Garmin is actually reading 480 feet in one mile. WHAT!?!?!? And I've got this sign saying I'm not done yet? Thankfully, there wasn't too much more up before I got to go down. But down wasn't any better! I skittered down the trail and then all of the sudden, the trail seemed to disappear. You know that part when you're riding a roller coaster and you get to the very top of the first hill and you can't see anything below you? Well, that's what happened on the trail. As I got closer I saw it. Straight back down the mountain, NO SWITCHBACKS!!!! At which point I said

I said this a few more times during this first loop (I had to do two loops).

I navigated down the trail by diving from tree to tree and catching myself. It was more than a little terrifying and I couldn't help but wonder what it might have been like in the dark for the groups that went out before us. WOW.

After I got down Sugarloaf, there were a few more runnable sections, but my intention for this race was to really try to keep it in the training run realm, therefore I was doing my best to keep a low heart rate. Which meant walking and more walking. Miles one to four had me thinking that maybe I was going to need that entire 20 hour cutoff. The first four miles just felt relentless. I couldn't find a groove and felt like all I was doing was walking. 

Around the four mile aid station I started to see other runners on their way back (loop course with a little crossover in the middle). It was so nice to see people and get lots of smiles and encouragement. It was then that I saw our campsite neighbor and he asked how I was doing. I slightly screamed:


He told me that the worst part was over. I wanted to believe him, but I couldn't get my hopes up. The good news is that before I knew it I was running. Comfortably and finally ticking off some miles at a "decent" pace. I couldn't help but think about doing that first four miles again on my second loop, but it was so comforting to know that I had this section as a reward. That section changed the whole race for me. I was finally able to look around and appreciate how gorgeous the course actually was!

Soon enough, I was assaulted with another hill that was severely lacking in switchbacks. I yelled at it, and then started up. I did see a sign up ahead, but I was sure it was just another smarty smartpants sign about not being the top. Finally, I got close enough to the sign to read it. It said:

Pick up a rock

(I didn't take a picture because I couldn't breathe. And I was afraid that if I moved my forward leaning position too much, I may just fall backwards all the way down the hill)

Did I pick up a rock? You bet I did! Why? Weeeelllllll, I'm not going to lie, there was a small part of me that was hoping that if I brought that rock back for my loop count I would be rewarded with an easier or shorter second loop maybe? Wishful thinking.

BUT, when I did get to the top of the hill I was greeted by a giant stack of rocks and this sign.
I added my rock to Jesse's Big Ass Rock Pile and kept going up, where I saw this:
I had to take a picture of it because part of me wondered if it actually existed or if I was just imagining it. Totally real. A bit more running on some BEAUTIFUL switchbacks. Beautiful because OMG look at this gorgeous nature!

Also beautiful because OMG I FREAKING LOVE SWITCHBACKS!!!!

After the first loop, things felt easier (except that first four miles). I got to see my husband on his way to the finish and I could see he was totally enjoying himself (and bringing in a 3rd place finish!)! My second loop wasn't much slower than the first which I consider a win. AND my guts did GREAT! I mean my guts behaved better than they ever have in a race this long! Using Tailwind has completely changed the game for me! I was exhausted but the whole race felt like a total WIN!

I can't say enough about what a fun weekend my husband and I had at this race. The race director was great, aid stations were full of wonderful volunteers and tasty food, camping was cheap and convenient, and the other participants were a blast!

I am in awe of anyone that completed any of the distances that weekend because that course does not disappoint!


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tummy Problems.... Solved?

How is July almost done and I've written nothing? I didn't mean to let that happen! But it turns out that vacations and summer craziness has slowed down the blogging. Time to get back to business!

I've had a bit of a eureka moment lately. I've found a few things that I think I love and they are WORKING.... for now.

When I did my first 50k in 2013 I spent the majority of the 9 hours on the trail feeling nauseous. During the entire race I ate two gels, a Lara Bar, and a couple of orange slices. Is that enough fuel for 31 miles? No. But my tummy felt awful.

The first thing I came across that helped ward off the nausea was Vespa! I won't take the time to try to explain what it is (frankly I'm still not clear on all of it), but you can read about it here:

People ask me how I know it works, and my answer is.... I dunno. I know that I don't always train with it, but when I do REALLY long training runs or race, I do use it and those runs seem to turn out better. The first time I used it, I had zero nausea until the very end of the race which was a HUGE difference for me. Could it all be in my head? Sure, but who cares! After a few races on Vespa I started to believe that maybe I could run long distances without feeling barfy. Sadly, I never really knew that was an option.

The second thing I came across were Gin-Gins. They're a fairly strong gummy ginger candy. Ginger is well known for tummy soothing and inflammation reducing and I like the taste of it. How could I go wrong?!?!?! I remember the first time I ate one during a long run and was thrilled that it was soothing to my stomach. Now, I don't run anything longer than 10 miles without them.

Hoping that I don't jinx myself, I think that my third product could be a game changer for me. When I ran my first 50 miler this Spring my stomach was a WRECK from minute one. The race took me thirteenish hours to complete so that's a LOT of miles feeling sick. I think there were quite a few factors that led to an extra bad gut day. I started dehydrated, then I over hydrated, then it got hot, then I didn't want to eat, I was a nervous wreck... As if 50 miles of forward movement isn't hard enough, doing it while feeling like you're going to puke is a whole lot of NOT FUN.

When the race was over I realized I HAD to do something different. I've heard of the product Tailwind for years while listening to Trail Runner Nation podcasts. They sang the praises of it over and over again, but I was too skeptical to try it. However, after such a spectacular gut fail at my 50 miler, I thought, maybe it's worth a shot. I've never had a problem drinking, but I always lose interest in eating. Why not drink my calories?

I ordered some smaller sizes to give it a try and HOLY CRAP!!!!! First of all, it doesn't taste like a giant chemical factory. It tastes.... good. Now, if I add too much mix, the taste is not as good, but whoa. I've never tasted a running drink that was so yum. I took it out on a few longer runs with no problems, but I was still eating a little. And my runs weren't any longer than 18ish miles.

Then came Hawthorne Half Day. I didn't have much of game plan for the race, but I was ready to try Tailwind on its own (with Vespa and gin-gins). I ran a 50k that day sipping Tailwind as my only real nutrition. AND IT WORKED!!!!!! I hit no "wall", I had no nausea, and I wasn't hungry.

I still carry a Lara Bar and a baby food or two with me in case I get hungry for actual food, but I'm completely sold on this stuff. In fact, I'm so sold on it that I signed up for another 50 miler. Because, I wonder how a 50 mile race would feel when I wasn't pukey the entire time? I hope to find out!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Crewing Mohican 100 miler

Last year I crewed for a friend that ran her first 100 miler at Burning River. It was an amazing experience and it made me fall in love with my sport all over again.

This year, another good friend decided it was time to try his hand at the 100 mile distance. He asked a few people in my running group if they would be willing to help and I signed on. My husband signed on for some pacing duties as well. It was going to be a family affair!

Crewing and pacing seem easy compared to running 100 miles. However as we got closer to the race I started to get stressed about time off work, kenneling dogs, and the added stress of camping! I grew up camping, but my husband has never been willing to camp. It took a friend running 100 miles to him to finally agree to it. But, to be honest, we both had our doubts about the sensibility of this plan. Whatever concerns I had were thrown aside when I realized that a good friend is going to do something that's really difficult. If me being there was going to help him.... OF COURSE I WAS GOING TO DO IT! So, Friday morning we were off!

Our team of five arrived at the campsite in the early afternoon... in the rain. I was nervous about this being my husband and I's first camping experience, and oh joy, now it's raining! We waited for the rain to lighten up a bit then set up our tents as quickly as possible. Soon after the tents were up, the rain stopped. That gave us a nice break for our runner to give us a tour of his gear, nutrition plan, and address any other questions we might have about "the packet".

What is "the packet" you say? Our runner was so organized that during our team meeting the Wednesday before race day we were provided with a packet that included maps, time estimates, and detailed instructions for things he would need or might want each time we saw him. We went over the packet on Wednesday, with the main lesson being CHRIS (our runner) WANTS ICE! He was very worried about heat and humidity during the race (and who could blame him, it's late June in Ohio).

After weathering one more storm which included lightening and thunder, 3 of us headed to the prerace meeting. I wanted to go because aside from our runner I was the only person in the team of five that had attended a 100 mile race. That and the fact that I'm a complete control freak and was terrified to screw up Chris' race. The meeting was pretty uneventful and after a bit more chatting at the campground we headed to bed for some fitful sleep.
Race day came early...but Chris, myself, and one other crew member were wide awake and ready to get to the starting line. We let the pacers sleep in. We parked the car and headed over to the park to start the race. Only to find out that we were in the wrong place.... A bit more walking and we eventually found our way to the ACTUAL starting line. Is getting lost before the race starts a bad omen? We hoped not. After a typical uneventful GO by the race director, the runners were OFF.
Arielle and I set out right away to find the first aid station. We knew we had a few hours before we would see Chris again, but we wanted to figure out where we needed to be, then we would try to catch a quick nap. We drove to the next aid station at around 3 miles per hour trying to figure out what road to turn on. Thank god there was no traffic at 5:10 in the morning.
Eventually we did locate the Pleasant Hill Dam crew access point it was my favorite crew access due to the close quarters and beautiful location.
The close quarters  allowed for chatting between crews that were all nervously waiting to see their runners pop out of the woods. This is where we met our crew friends that we would see off and on all day. The lead pack was coming through expecting an aid station, but this was only a crew access point. Someone said it was another mile to the aid station and we all agreed blindly. We told every runner that came through that the aid station was just a mile away. I still have no idea if that was true...
This crew access point was also where we started to pay attention to the runners as they went by. I found out at the last 100 miler I crewed for that it's good to find out who is running near your runner so that you know your runner is coming. What's the easiest way to keep track of the runners? Give them names!

-Visor/shampoo model - this guy wore a visor all day and night. About halfway through the day we realized he had been running for 8-9 hours and his hair didn't look gross at all. So his name switched halfway through the day from Visor to Shampoo Model
-Fake Chris one and Fake Chris two - Chris started the race with a red shirt on and there were two guys that were 30-40 ahead of him that had on red shirts too. We thought it was him EVERY TIME we saw them coming. I even thought it was him after he changed into a blue shirt, but hey a gal gets tired and her brain stops working so well.
-Brunette double braids (pretty self explanatory)
-Blonde double braids (yep, it's not rocket science)
-Bayshore guy (This guy wore not one but TWO Bayshore Marathon shirts, it was helpful to us that he kept the theme going even when he changed shirts)
-Super dad with awesome kids - This dad was a great runner and his wife was a SAINT. Because, she wasn't just crewing for him, she was toting two of the cutest kids to the aid stations as well. And the kids were FANTASTIC! At one aid station they were helping to crew for dad and told him that they brought him snacks, asked him how he was doing, and then asked him if there had been "any barfing going on?" This family was pretty cool to watch. I wasn't just in awe of the 100 mile runner, I was amazed that it was a family affair.
-Movie star guy - This guy had someone filming him and interviewing him when we saw him at the starting line. And he was super sweet and appreciative every time we saw him. He seemed like he was having the time of his life.
-Long sleeve shirt - He wore a long sleeve shirt the whole day. Even his girlfriend that was crewing for him couldn't believe hadn't changed at any point. But he was near our runner's pace all day so it was nice of him to not change clothes for our sake.
-Guy that looks like he shouldn't be doing as well as he is - Just looking at this guy, you would think he was struggling. But this guy was SOLID all day. This is one of the things I love about ultra running. You never know who's going to be running near you, or kicking your butt. This guy had a great attitude too. And he ran a strong race.
-The most delightful woman ever - This woman came into every aid station with a smile on her face and just so dang grateful we were all there. At one crew station she came through and it was like she was hosting a party! She said hi to everyone and headed to get some water. It was the coolest thing ever. EVERYONE at the crew station offered her water or whatever she needed!

Did I mention that we had NO cell phone service? I grew up with no cell phone, so this shouldn't be a "thing" I get stressed about. But I had a whole slew of people at home that I had told I would send race updates to.... oops. Occasionally we would get one bar and frantically try to send something out. But for me it would typically just end with me receiving a 26 hour old text from someone. At one point I said, "Dang, if Chris thinks running 100 miles is hard, he should try sending a freaking tweet out here".

Chris had us making him this gel concoction all day and night. Every time we would see him we would take out his empty bottles and we would give him full bottles. What was in the bottles? Half a scoop of EFS powder (I still have no idea what that is), put in a splash of water to mix, then squeeze in two huma gels (always laugh if they make fart noises), then top off with water and shake some more. You know what it looks like when you do this out of the trunk of a car?
Mobile. Meth. Lab.

Thank god we didn't have to explain this to any friendly police officers. Sometimes we would take a bottle and it would be half full and we had been given STRICT instructions not to mix flavors (although we really felt confident that we could come up with some winning combos). Well they all LOOK the same... so we would end up smelling and tasting if they were fine wine to try to figure out what flavor to add. They were the farthest thing from fine wine, but it certainly added to the mobile meth lab ambiance that we had created.

One of the other aid stations we spent some time at was the Fire tower. To get there you had to park at a closed(?) juvenile detention center and walk up a winding road with no shoulder to speak of. YEAH! I wish I had a picture of this place because it was a little unnerving, but just picture the prison from the TV show Walking Dead and you get the idea. Oh, and then picture us mixing those damn bottles in the parking lot. Nothing creepy going on here, Officer, no sir. This aid station was ESPECIALLY creepy at 3 in the morning with no light to speak of and just Arielle and I hoping we wouldn't get murdered. Ahhhh... precious memories.

Sleep is not really a luxury we could afford (although I completely lied to our runner and told him Arielle and I had been resting and we were GREAT when he asked) We did send our final pacer Miranda to bed for a bit of a nap before she picked Chris up for his last fourteen miles. In FACT I might have sounded like the mother of a toddler as I told her, "you HAVE to go to bed now". At least I didn't call her young lady. I feel like that would have been crossing the line. Arielle and I did decide that we had one shot for an hour or hour and a half nap right as the sun was setting, so we went to a parking lot and closed our eyes for some much needed "rest". Instead I laid there for a little over an hour trying not to move (if Arielle was actually sleeping I didn't want to wake her up) and thinking of all the things I couldn't forget the next time we saw our runner. The sun had finally set and Arielle shot up and asked, "WHAT ARE ALL THOSE LIGHTS?" It was lightening bugs or it could have been a tiny laser show. I guess we were both a little on edge.

After our last crew stop with Chris, Arielle, my husband and I headed back to the tents for a quick nap while Chris finished this thing up. I collapsed in the tent and actually fell asleep for about half an hour only to wake up in SHEER TERROR! I was convinced that we had missed his finish or that I should be doing something else. After looking at my watch a thousand times and doing the math over and over, I finally fell back asleep for another hour. After that, it was useless. We got some quick showers and headed to the finish line.

Finish lines of ultra marathons are fairly underwhelming. After 20+ hours runners can get pretty spread out, so the finish lines are typically little groups of people, anxiously waiting or congratulating "their" runner. No blaring sound system, no space blankets, just some tired folks hanging out.

We fit right in.

The finish line for this race was especially cool because we got to see all our "friends" that we had been watching all day. And at that point, we were so tired and mildly delirious, we were congratulating people and hugging strangers. And that's pretty freaking awesome. I was congratulating one runner as he was sitting on a picnic table with his feet up. Someone was taking a picture of the bottoms of his feet with a phone because I can only assume that the runner couldn't bend his legs enough to see them himself. Three quarters of his foot was ONE BLISTER... ON BOTH FEET! Seriously, someone needs to film a PSA on why NOT to run hundred mile races, and use footage of that guy's feet. YIKES!

Our runner crossed the finish line looking great and I definitely got teary when I hugged him. We got him some food, made a stranger stand in the rain to take a picture of us and said goodbye to our crew and runner friends we had met through the weekend. It almost felt like leaving summer camp (I never went to summer camp, but I can imagine that's what it's like).

It's an amazing and exhausting experience to be a part of these races. They are filled with delightful people AND the saints that lug their crap around. It's hard to imagine that we do this for "fun", but when you spend the weekend around all the fools, it kind of makes sense.

Read Chris' race report here!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hawthorn Half Day

You know how everyone has those friends that have a habit of talking you into things you would normally not be interested in at all? Well, last year my friends that have a habit of talking me into all sorts of silly things were talking up this fantastic race that they did. And before I knew it, I wanted to do the race too, because they made it sound AMAZING! That race was Hawthorn Half Day. And I ran it last weekend. And my friends were right, it was fantastic!

The race is like this:

-3.1 mile loop

-12 hours to run it as many times as you can or would like to

-set up “home base” right by the start/finish line… which means all your own snacks and liquids every 3.1 mile loop!

-at 11.5 hours the course changes to half mile loops. Any finished loop is counted for total mileage.

Simple enough, right?

My day started early with my ride picking me up just before 5 in the morning for the one hour-ish drive. I spent the drive creating and questioning and recreating and reassessing a semblance of a game plan. My only real thought was…. It is a cool morning, get in as many miles as you can before it gets hot (highs were looking to be in the mid 80s). I had a fantasy of 50 miles, but my reality was that I knew my body wasn’t really ready for it. But hey, if things went well, maybe? My real goal was to find out how this whole timed race thing works and have a great experience. I definitely aced the real goal! Here are some of the highlights.

Thanks to a team of four runners from my running group we had a shade tent, oodles of coolers, tons of snacks, first aid, chairs to rest in, and two crew members to cheer us on and help with refills!

Miles 3 to 15 were AMAZING! I felt relaxed and was able to run with my friends off and on, chatting and getting to know the course. It was a cool morning for June and there was even a bit of a cross breeze that made the sections with no shade more bearable. My pace was right about where I wanted it to be, things were looking good!

Somewhere on the next loops things got not so good… not BAD, I just had to manage some pretty bad side stiches that slowed me to a slow walk for about a mile until I could get my electrolytes, liquid, and breathing evened out. However, during that time I started to get tired… my questionable training was starting to rear it’s head, so I started to really think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my day.

I knew that four more loops would get me to a 50k. But I had to have this bizarre conversation with myself that involved convincing myself that a 50k it a respectable distance… What a dumb thing to have to convince yourself of, right? What kind of moron has to say, “you know, it’s really ok to be done at 31 miles. 31 miles is a good effort for a day”. It shows how warped my reality has become. I had wanted to get past the marathon distance in the race which 31 miles would accomplish. That’s good! But it was becoming clear that my body was not interested in the full 12 hours. My feet were swelling, which is normal, but they were starting to hurt more than usual. I’m not sure why it was so excessive, but the idea of being on them for the full 12 even at a walk seemed awful. So, I let go of the twelve hour goal and made a deal with my swollen feet that I would only ask them for a 50k and then we would all call it a day.

I had asked my friend Debbie what her goal was and it took her a while to admit it… she wanted to do a 50k. Now, let’s be clear, Debbie had never run beyond the half marathon distance. And I’ve talked to her quite a few times about running a full marathon and she ALWAYS said no. In fact, she has told me time and time again that there is NO WAY she would do a full marathon. But at some point along the course… she admitted it. She’s been a consistent runner for a few years now and had been averaging 30ish mile training weeks even though her long runs weren’t ridiculously long. So I said, “Let’s do it”!

Our friend Christy had to take a break to rest up a muscle pain, so Debbie and I took off on two more slow loops to get to the 50k mark for both of us. We walked a lot, told jokes and stories and said hi to anyone along the way that would stop to walk with us. BUT, we were both going to get to the 50k distance, which started to feel really awesome.

At one point Debbie started talking about how she loved a part of the course, then she loved the race, then she loved EVERYTHING! I told her she was wasted on Ultra-endorphins. But we were both happy at how the day was unfolding and happy to have good company to share it with.

We crossed the mat for the last time of the day and turned in our timing chips. To me it seemed a bit anticlimactic to end the race early, but I felt good about my effort and knew I had made a good choice for the day. AND I knew that if Christy was feeling better and I still had my chip on me, she would make me suffer through the last few hours! She clocked a phenomenal 34 miles before calling it a day and agreed that if I hadn’t given up my chip she would have had me back out on the course.

I took my shoes off, cheered for runners as they passed, snacked, and shared war stories with the crew members and friends.

With a half hour left we all headed over to cheer for the final half mile loops. It was terribly exciting! Who knew that at the end of a 12 hour race these people would have so much left in them? I stood with friends and cheered for people I knew, people I had just met, and people that I spent the day giving well wishes to as they passed me. We yelled for people to do ONE MORE LOOP! It was a wonderful way to wrap up the day.

Final thoughts?

This was a wonderful race. It was well organized and filled with lovely people. I’ll definitely be back. What would my goal be for coming back? Maybe that 50 miles or maybe to go for the full twelve hours. Or maybe my goal will be to just have another lovely day surrounded by fun people that enjoy doing something I love to do too.

I got to run and walk with someone that made the AMAZING jump from a half marathoner to Ultra Marathoner in ONE day! That’s something special to see.

I got to spend a day with people I adore and meet lots of great new people that spent a whole day supporting friends and strangers alike.

FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, MY NUTRITION WORKED! This is such a big deal for me I’m going to write an entire post on it soon.

Maybe my Ultra-endorphins are still kicked in, but I loved this race and the people that made it a fantastic day. Yep, I think I love EVERYTHING…

Run this race: