Sunday, November 18, 2012

My first 50 miler: Mountain Masochist 2012

     When I originally started this post, I had about 3 paragraphs explaining, describing, moping about how under-trained I was for this race and how I just haven't been into it lately. But does any of that really matter? No. I RAN 50 MILES FOR THE FIRST TIME!
This was, by far, the hardest most invigorating thing I have ever done/accomplished in my life. This race put my heart, sole, and guts onto a platter for me to see. I love what I saw. Physical endurance brings something out of me; it brings ME out.
     When I started this race, I thought, for the first time, that I may not finish. There were cut-off times for each aid station and those times were in my mind the whole race. It did, however, help me focus on getting to each aid station and not the whole 50 miles. The start was cold and dark at 6:30 and we needed our head lamps for the first 45 minutes. At the 2 mile mark, we crossed the first creek and I got pretty wet. My feet felt like clubs when we got out and took a bit to thaw out. I was wearing a long sleeved shirt, bright green/blue leopard print spandex shorts, and some calf length half wool socks. Those socks are awesome and I've worn them for all of my ultras. I got some hot spots but no blisters.
     We had already tackled a bit of climbing when the sun started coming up and the view was amazingly beautiful. At about mile 18, my legs were already starting to feel tired which wasn't a good sign. I had tweaked something in my left calf while doing 38 miles during a 24 hour run at the end of September. I could feel that too. I kept pushing on. There were lots of rolling hills but I actually did a pretty good job of run/walking them.
     I took in a couple of GUs and started taking S!Caps at 2 hours and took one every hour. At the halfway point, our drop bags awaited us along with a big crowd and the buses that had driven us from our hotel to the start.I grabbed my bag and sat down to stretch. I was feeling pretty done already and contemplated stopping. I took off my socks and shook some pebbles out, put them back on, grabbed an apricot Cliff bar (my fav) and started up the first really big hill. When I got to the top, I could start to see the snow that Sandy had left. We came upon a part they called "the loop." You had to run (hike) up a mountain, find a checkpoint punch (like in adventure racing) to punch your bib number, and then turn around and go back down. This is where the snow started. Snow is such a dirty word to me now. I've never run in snow, especially after already running marathon distance. The path through the snow was barely as wide as my stride so I had to look down and be careful the whole time. I ended up walking a lot of it because it had become hard-packed and slick. This portion really got to me and I was really over it when we finally got out. After some hot soup, we hit a nice runnable section for a while. I hit "the wall" and recovered about 3 different times; it's a weird feeling to go through it some many times in one run.
     Other than briefly chatting with runners I was playing leap frog with, I didn't run with or talk to anyone the whole time. That was pretty hard too. Sometimes you just need a little push or convo from a fellow runner to break the monotony. I had cried and cursed a LOT already. I did find, that if I got made while I was running, it made me push even harder.
     We eventually hit ANOTHER snow section around mile 40 something. It was all a blur from there so I don't recall certain things. I think we ran about 5 miles in that last snow section. Simply terrible. My running form was gone, everything ached, and I stopped eating. With 4 miles to go, the sun was setting and it got REALLY cold. I was doing a shuffle and couldn't stop shivering. Everyone was passing by asking me if I was OK, which was really annoying at that point. I obviously didn't look OK. I knew I needed to start running but my body wouldn't go. I was getting light headed and actually thought I was getting hypothermia and might pass out. I was afraid I wasn't going to finish.
     The she came. A girl ran past me and stopped and asked if I wanted her to run with me. She said she would walk if I wanted and would hold my water bottle. I was trying to speak to her but couldn't get sentences to form. Tears had already been streaming down my face and I was a blubbering idiot. I finally got my legs running and never stopped; I couldn't. Debbie, my running angel, kept talking to me and encouraging me to keep going. The original 12 hour cut-off time had been extended 30 minutes due to everyone having trouble navigating the snow. She kept telling me that I was close and still might make the 12 hour time. She talked and talked and we ran and ran and I cried and cried. The last almost 2 miles were straight downhill; this was reallllly painful but I just hammered it out. The last half mile was on a paved road and you could hear the cheers at the finish line. That is when I knew I had done it. I was already starting to cry (more) and all I could think about was the hug, from my man, that I had waiting on me at the finish line. With a quarter mile left, I tried picking up the pace. A yard from the finish line, that little tweak in my leg....popped. I had to limp the rest of the way in. I couldn't believe it happened when it did because a couple miles earlier and I wouldn't have been able to finish.
     It was already dark when I crossed the finish line at 12:09! I immediately got a hug from David Horton, the race director and one of my heroes. The next hug was the one I'd waited the whole race for. I crashed into his arms and cried and said I couldn't believe what I'd just done. It was such an overwhelming feeling and one I'll never forget. 
     I got my finishers shirt and hobbled over towards a nearby general store to get warm. As we were going in, standing outside was none other than Charlie Engle, who then gave me a big hug! He and W had talked for like half an hour before. Charlie had been at some of the aid stations and apparently saw me and said that I looked good out there. It was so cool to meet him. He has a bad rep right now but I admire the hell out of him.
     The whole experience was amazing and even though I was in Suckville the whole time, would never trade it for anything. Five days after the race, most of the soreness was gone but my feet and ankles were still pretty bruised. Now almost 2 weeks after the race, my leg doesn't hurt much unless I try to run on it so I'll just give it a little time. I've had some pain in my right foot, arch mostly, but that is getting better also. My spirits are good and I'm still smiling about my accomplishment.
     Not being able to run right now makes me want to run REALLY bad! This race stoked the fire inside me that felt as if it were burning out. I knew I could do anything I put my mind to but I got so much more than I expected.

I didn't take a single picture the entire weekend and there were no race pics so I had to borrow some (Thanks guys!):

Photo: A nice shot I found from last weekend's race

What's next?
     I recently signed up for the Leatherwood Mountains Ultra Run (50K option) that will be in April. It's an inaugural race and should be pretty good. I'm sure I'll run something else before that but I'm not really thinking about it just yet.

Happy running, friends!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Uwharrie Mountain Run 40 miler

I love running and everything about it but racing is what solidifies it for me. It brings out my competitive spirit full force! For me, ultras are in a different category. I don't go into them hoping to place well; I just want to be able to finish. When I toe the line, I'm more calm and begin to think about the hours that lie ahead. Ten years ago, I would have told you that you were crazy if you thought I'd ever run for more than two hours straight.

If you're a reader of my blogs, you know I like to push myself and I don't believe there are any limits to my abilities. I don't think anyone has limits but some will never try to realize that.

After missing a shuttle to the start of the race, my DBF and I luckily hitched a ride with someone's crew. The race was to start at 7:00 but didn't until about 7:20 which means we wouldn't need headlamps.

 The first mile was uphill and had to be walked because of the congestion of runners. After a couple miles, I was able to open it up a bit or as much as I could considering the hills. 

Trail description (out 20 and back):
- completely single track and completely covered in leaves about 97% of the way
- looked like an animal path through the woods; if not marked with white spray paint, it was easy to get lost
- under the leaves were rocks and roots almost the whole way
- lots of logs and streams to cross/hop over; you literally had to walk and balance on some rocks to keep from falling in

 Aid stations:
- well managed and stocked with everything
- I consumed: Mountain Dew and Coke (lifesaver!), PB&J's, potato chips, salt caps, hot soup. Of my own supply: chocolate GU and Sport Beans
- They also had: M&Ms, trail mix, cookies, and probably lots more that I can't remember

When I'm running single track, I zone out. I feel that I have to in order not to fall on my face every step. I don't think about anything but putting one foot in front of the other and then, towards the end, about being finished. Somehow I only stumbled a couple times and didn't fall or twist my ankle any. I met a few nice people along the run that I played leap frog with. I didn't talk much because I like to conserve my energy. It rained off an on about the whole day but I never got drenched. I don't think the temp got out of the 40's but it was manageable even with only shorts, a t-shirt*, and arm warmers on.

*I got my family and friends to sign my t-shirt!

Took from Erin's car

At every aid station, there were people cheering us in which really boosted my moral. At the halfway point, there were two guys playing a harmonica and  singing "The Uwharrie Blues." They were AWESOME and I gave them high fives on the way back.

My amazing BFF Erin came out and I saw her at the 29, 32 and finish. It was so good to see her and she helped me when I really needed it. I passed the 50K mark only 10 minutes slower than my North Face 50K time back in October, so I was stoked. I felt really good....almost too good. Well, a few miles later, it started to hurt. I was walking a lot, getting really sluggish, and could run uphill better than the downhills at that point. I was getting passed by people I had passed a while back.

About the 50K point

It had been raining off and on all day but I didn't get too cold until the end. When I crested the top of the last hill we actually started running through fog; it was eerie. The last mile was a steep downhill covered in big loose rocks. It was a f__ing nightmare. I was so fed up with all of the rocks, so I got mad, cried, and dug deep to finally cross the finish line. My time was 9:09. Good enough for me! I finished! DBF smoked me by a couple hours but he is a super hero anyway : ) They haven't posted the official pictures yet so all of these were taken by Erin. The pics of the trail were borrowed from a friend's FB page.

I was able to hobble around the first couple days but decending any stairs was PAINFUL. Getting out of bed felt like a chore and I had to hang on to things to get myself down on my toilet! Ibuprofen has been a good friend.

I always wind up getting blisters on my big toes during long runs and both got them this time; one being a blood blister. Also, the big and index toes on my left foot always take a beating. I lost the index toenail last year after an adventure race but this time I think I'm losing both. Owwie! They are very sore and look/feel bruised. Other than that, I'm like brand new again!

That's only dirt on my legs. My family thought it was bruises! 

After taking my toenail polish off, this is what I saw : (

What's next?

Shamrock Whale Challenge in March, and a 24 hour run coming up in September where I'd like to get at least 50 miles. Then, I'd like to do Mountain Masochist 50 miler in November. Registration opens in May for that so I have some time.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Time to slay this beast

   When I signed up for my race a few months ago, it seemed so far away. Now...IT'S HERE! I'll be running 40 miles on Saturday and this will be my longest distance so far.

What: Uwharrie Mountain Run - 8, 20, and 40 mile distances
Where: Ophir, NC
When: Feb 4th

Running the Uwharrie Trail is a true adventure that requires intense concentration. The national forest terrain is hilly and the trail is treacherous. Fallen leaves conceal rocks, roots, sticks, and holes. Expect to trip and fall at least once during the day. If you turn an ankle, keep moving. Dutchman’s Creek flows along part of the trail and runners will enjoy numerous stream crossings, which may mean wet feet if you aren’t careful.

   The course is out 20 and back with aid stations every 3 miles. I'll only carry one hand-held water bottle, some GUs, Sport Beans and probably a couple mini Clif bars. We can have a drop bag which we can access at the half-way point. I'm staying the night close to the race and bringing my own pasta dinner so as not to upset the bello. The race starts at 7:00 so I'll be getting up pretty early to eat some pita with PB and honey and probably some oatmeal.

   I did a lot of last minute training but I'm ready to slay this beast. And I say slay because this isn't a stroll around the house in your underwear. Stuff is about to get real. I've taken it REALLY easy this week and now I'm just antsy. The weather websites have been back and forth on whether or not it's going to rain that day and if it's going to be a high in the 50's or 60's. Right now it looks like this:

I'm STOKED and just ready to hit the trails! RR to follow....

"Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up." ~ Dean Karnazes


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

3 weeks before raceday

   Do any of you ever actually feel like you are prepared for a race? I never feel like I've done enough for a race but it's not something I dwell on. I, personally, would rather be slightly undertrained than overtrained when it comes to racing. I don't really have a training strategy. I run when I want to and it's never more than 3 times a week; this seems to be working for me so I'm sticking with it.

   I did my longest training run, preparing for this race, on Saturday. My favorite man and I went out to Umstead SP about 8:15 that morning. It was still in the 20's and I was FREEZING! I had on tights, a thin long-sleeved shirt, and gloves hoping that I'd be warm enough. As soon as I started, I couldn't feel my fingers. I was double fisting water bottles and my thin Walmart gloves just weren't cutting it. I knew I'd warm up quick but it just didn't seem quick enough.

   After 2 miles, I could finally feel my fingers and I was cruising along. The first 9 miles were on single-track trail and I was loving the scenary. I'd never run that portion of the park before and didn't realize how pretty it was. I didn't know exactly where I was going so I'd have to stop at every trail intersection to look at the map; luckily they had one at every intersection but I had a paper copy just in case.

   With the single track and stopping every little bit, it took me 1:50 to do 10 miles! Also with it being so cold, I hadn't even gone through one full water bottle. About mile 10, I hit the gravel road portion of the park and would be running that the rest of the way. I took walk breaks periodically and felt pretty tight when I finished at 20 miles. When I finished and was lying on my back with my feet up, all I could think was, In a few weeks you're gonna have to do that twice!

   The next day, I did an additional 10 miles at the park for a two day total of 30. My legs were dead, the cold and wind kicked my butt but I still finished. I did some hot yoga on Monday which really helped me get stretched out and dealt with some of the soreness.

Distance: 20 miles
Route: Umstead SP
Shoes: Brooks Cascadia
Before the run- Blueberry muffin oatmeal and half a pita w/PB
During- 3 water bottles (1 filled half with grape Gatorade), 1 GU, 1 pack of sport beans and 1 mini Cliff bar
After- double tall soy latte, big can of soup, and a smoothie
Result- No GI issues before or after (I think my GI issues the weekend prior was due to the V8 juice in one of my bottles; won't be doing that again). I didn't take in as much food as I probably should have during the run but I'm trying to get my body use to not eating as much during. I usually take salt caps on long runs like these but I did fine without any. I'll probably use some for the 40 though.

"Endurance never sleeps." ~ Karno


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday 16 miler

   It was another gorgeous day here in North Carolina and I took advantage of it. I headed out at 10:00 to run a 16 mile loop; all on road. When I rolled out of bed this morning, I was a little tight/sore from hiking about 3 hours yesterday at Raven Rock State Park. It was beautiful and my BFF, Erin, came with me and we had a picnic of my homemade tuna salad/pita, mango, blueberries and almonds.

   The temperature, when I started, was a lovely 57° and I was in shorty shorts and a t-shirt. It really hasn't felt like January/winter but I'M LOVING IT!! No complaints here! I hadn't charged my Garmin and I didn't know what pace I was running, so I just went with what felt good. I met Erin at the halfway point and she ran the last half with me. I always love being able to do my longer runs with her. We are always able to chat and it makes the miles seem to breeze by. This run gave us some great hills and was a great workout.

   Sometimes after long runs, my stomach bothers me. It doesn't always happen but today is one of those days. I just finished the run about 45 mins ago and haven't been able to eat anything yet. I did mix up a Carnation Instant Breakfast packet (chocolate) with some 1% milk and was able to down that.

   I'm feeling more prepared now for the Uwharrie 40 coming up in less than a month. Next weekend I'm going to try to get 30 miles out of Saturday and Sunday; maybe 20/10 or 22/8.

Have a great week folks!

Distance: 16 miles
Route: St. Mere drop zone loop
Shoes: Brooks Ghost 3 (purple)
   Breakfast- waffle and Chai spiced oatmeal w/milk and cofffee
   During the run- 1 GU, 1 pack of Sport Beans, 2 water bottles (one with    
   diluted V8 cran/blackberry juice...don't think that was a good move; just 
   trying it out)
   Result: Upset tummy after


Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's a new year!

2011 was a stressful yet productive year that ended very well for me. I had a wonderful year of running and adventure racing, which I've already recap'd, and I can't wait to see what happens in 2012.
I ended 2011 with a 12 mile run at Umstead State Park. The weather was phenomenal and I ran in shorty shorts and a tank-top! Who would have thought it'd be that warm here at the end of the year? The run was great and refreshing with a stream crossing (x2). Today I got in a few shake out miles with my buddy Erin just to start the new year off right. I don't do resolutions but I do want to start keeping my training log again. I did good last year through August but then slacked off.
I've had some great changes recently and some more coming up. I can't wait to see where they go next year. There is a lot to look forward to and a lot of life to live. I'm thankful I get to wake up everyday to all the things and people I have in my life. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to enjoy the great outdoors and I plan to take advantage of that every chance I get. I uncovered a lot of my potential in 2011 but I know there is lots more just itching to show itself! Let's do this!

Happy New Year!