What happened to March…?

It’s recently been brought to my attention that my posts have been lacking…not just once, but twice in the last 2 weeks. All right already. I had no idea my updates were in such high demand!

But seriously…it’s been since the beginning of March, and I’ve been busy nearly every weekend. So here’s the short of it…no time for the long version.
20140422-215152.jpg
March 9th was the Race Director’s Race for Forget the PR at Mohican. I ran the 50k option with my friend Amy, and her husband Scott. I love Mohican, and only slightly less after this weekend…kidding! Recent snow and ice had caused some of the trails to be closed this early in the season…no Little Lyons Falls, and no hand over hand climb.

Whomp, whomp.

The sadist awesome Race Director Rob Powell had a better plan for us. We would run two 25k loops, and ascend Big Ass Hill twice. Thanks Rob! My first BA Hill experience, and I’d get to do it twice in one day. What a blessing. He’s so thoughtful, isn’t he?

The additional 4 inches of snow that fell overnight actually prevented the trails from getting too muddy…on the first loop anyway. It was cold, so we kept moving the best we could. Amy was training for Umstead (her first 100mi…congrats by the way!) so we kept the pace slow and easy. I didn’t mind at all. Most of my training had been on the treadmill, and I was still having nightmares about my last run at Mohican (remember the hulk hand?). No falling allowed!
Plus, Amy knew the course…and although getting lost in the woods is appealing to me, this was not the day for it. We followed the footprints for the most part, until the snow had melted and we were on our own, save a few flags. We only had one issue…the snow covered a creek bed on loop one, and it looked completely different on loop two. But we made it! All 50k and the three of us earned this sweet buckle. (Congrats to Scott on his impromptu first 50k!)

20140422-184512.jpg
My Skora Forms worked out just fine in both the snow and mud…but I barely had the time to dust them off before my next event:
Seamus O’Possum 30km Footrace at Delaware State Park. Stay tuned!

Advertisements

Momma was wrong…always Run With Scissors!

I knew when I signed up for this race, it was only 5 weeks after North Coast. I knew that meant I didn’t have time to train specifically for a trail double marathon. I knew I’d have to rely on the base I had built, and just keep my fingers crossed that I didn’t get hurt. I’d have to go out on a limb. I’d need faith. I asked friends, and they all assured me it would be ok. I wasn’t looking to race the double, only finish. I could do that. Oh my…what have I done?

Run With Scissors, hosted in part by Medina County Road Runners, had made some changes to their course and events this year. And though I hadn’t run in years past, I heard only positive comments from long-time participants. In 2013, the event offered half marathon, full marathon, and double marathon options to runners, all contained within the trails of Hinckley Reservation, a Cleveland MetroPark just West of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. 20131103-182717.jpg

The course itself was 13.1 miles, and runners would complete 1, 2, or 4 loops respectively. Each participant is given a pair of scissors to carry while running, fulfilling that childhood dream that your mother forbid.

Why scissors? Books were strategically placed in remote areas of the course and you had to cut a page from the book to prove you ran a section. At each aid station you’d turn the page in, grab some snacks, and move to the next section.
20131102-210822.jpg

Held the last weekend in October, costumes are encouraged, and foliage is at it’s peak in Ohio. All proceeds from the event go to charity…the event literally starts with nothing every year. As with the other Ohio trail and ultra races I’ve participated in, the volunteers were top notch and aid stations were well stocked Run with Scissors was no exception! It is only because people travel far and wide to volunteer that the race happens at all. The race energy was fantastic, and I hope to make it a regular part of my schedule.

So here’s my recap:

I woke up on Saturday and I didn’t want to run. I thought it was just the anxiety hitting me, but it was more than that. This was supposed to be a fun race. I had signed up for two reasons. First, my friend Mark had highly recommended it. Second, I wanted a backup race in case North Coast went badly. But it didn’t. So there was no pressure at all. Maybe I need a little pressure. I don’t know…

I decided to ride up with my friends, always knowing I didn’t have to start. Or I could run the half and call it. Same thing with the marathon. You see, at this race you can drop to a lower distance after the event starts. But start the next loop and you have to finish it, or take the DNF. So that became my plan. Run one loop…or two, and decide. Realize I knew the whole time that once I started, I would finish all four loops. Anything short of leaving in an ambulance and I would finish.

We picked up our packets on Saturday afternoon on the way to a friend’s house where we spent the night. The most important item in that bag? Scissors! Thank goodness they were safety scissors, because I have a propensity for tripping! (Amazingly, I only tripped once, and didn’t fall…just caught my toe on some air!)

I slept well, to my surprise, and got to the race start without incident (Thanks Chad and Mike!). After a quick safety brief…and “pep talk”…we were off. It was pitch black at 6am, and I was happy to have a few others around me for the start. I met Christen that morning, but quickly lost track of her. And that wasn’t the only thing I lost! Within the first two miles, I lost the trail. Twice. It was awesome! No really. It was. I was with a group of 4 or 5, and we missed a major turn in the dark. Sometime during the first wave of folks, an arrow was likely bumped and landed face down. That meant reflectors weren’t…well…reflecting. I knew something was wrong when we ended up in the same place a mile later. Luckily the trail we did take looped us back on the course. It could have been much worse! We picked up some bonus mileage here, but the group I was with was in good spirits, and we laughed it off.

There were two aid stations on the course (4.5ish and 8.5ish) plus the start/finish area at 13.1…ish. It was already starting to lighten up when we reached the first aid station, and I was happy to see familiar faces (Thanks Dan, Steve, Angela, and Anne!). At this point I caught up with Amy (she had done some bonus mileage as well!) and I was happy for the company. We pushed through the aid station quickly, and kept going.

Up until this point, I had no idea where we were. This trail was all new to me, but I did know there was a large lake we had to circle coming up, and then “the Ledges”…whatever that meant. The lake was gorgeous…nice fairly flat trail, a refreshing change from the up and down of the first section. The Ledges came just after the second aid station, and I didn’t know what to expect. We hiked up a tough hill, and then traversed the rocky section that covered the next few miles.20131103-181958.jpg Although there were small runnable sections, most was not. So we ate, and walked until we hit the grass and road sections. I didn’t like them now, but later (in the dark) I would really appreciate the sure footing.

The final trail section wasn’t too technical, just some small gravel, and the third water crossing. Yes…12 crossings for the double folks! Amy and I made it back to cabin, shed our headlamps and started loop 2. I guess I’m in for at least the full!

Loop 2 was exciting. We got to see the first section in daylight, and crossed paths with the marathoners and later the half marathoners. Occasionally people would ask us as they passed “Full or half?” and we could shout “Double!” in response. I’ll admit, it felt pretty awesome to say!

When we got to the lake, we noticed the paddle boats resting up against the bank. We tried to convince a few others in our group to cross the lake rather than circling it, and they “promised” we would on the next loop. In an effort to NOT be banned from Hinckley, and possible incarceration, we decided against it. But it didn’t mean we didn’t consider it every loop after that. It’s good enough for Western States, right?

The highlight of this loop is possibly my favorite moment of the race. When we reached the road section towards the end of the loop, it was really warming up. We slowed down to an easy jog, and I took advantage of the stable surface to remove my long sleeve top, leaving only a tank. Out of nowhere, Amy and I hear a man’s voice “beat boxing” a risqué tune. You know the one… I turn to find, who else, but Jay Smithberger encouraging me. Oh Jay…you so made my day. Thank you and congrats on another fantastic performance.

Amy and I planned to change socks and shoes after that loop , which worked out great since I landed with two feet in the creek a mile from the cabin. With a marathon complete, we had a big decision…we’d have to complete two more laps to the next distance. We’re doing it!

The start of loop 3 wasn’t that exciting. I felt great, and talked Amy’s ear off as much as possible. She probably hates me by now. (Note: I saw her today, one week later, and she hugged me…so I guess we’re good!) Around mile 34, we started laughing. At everything. I call these the “silly miles.” It’s kind of like being punch drunk, after staying up all night…yeah. And it couldn’t come at a worse time…the Ledges.
First we saw this (avert your eyes if you’re offended by…whatever this is):20131103-182608.jpg I swear we didn’t do it, but come on…that is funny.

Then there was this one crevice you had to jump across, or fall 50ft…possibly to your death! Ok…probably not death. Maybe just maimed at the bottom of the cliff. Amy “joked” about falling, and I offered to shoot a movie of it with my phone. When she got stuck she could amputate her own arm to survive with the only sort-of-sharp item we had…safety scissors! I was low on battery life though…so she’d have to make it quick! See? Silly.

And the last loop. We picked up headlamps again, and switched to warm hats and gloves. I didn’t want to be out past dark, but I was glad to have a buddy. I still felt great, and was ready to rock that last loop out. Roy shoved us on and warned us we had to finish or take the DNF. Got it chief!

Shortly before getting to aid station 1, my legs started to tighten up. Amy needed to walk more, and I needed to run, but I had no plans to leave her. We had gotten this far together, and I was having a great time. I took the short out and back section before the aid station to really stretch my legs…and I ran hard, for the first time all day. It. Felt. Great! I made the turn back expecting to see Amy, but I didn’t. I was worried. She had stopped on the way out and called it a day. I was crushed. I can’t explain the emotional roller coaster that a race this long can be anyway. But this had me reeling. I could do it without her…but I didn’t want to. And I cried. I let myself take a 2 minute tantrum, and then I had to go. It was getting dark. It was just me. Have I mentioned that I’m both afraid of heights and the dark? How about heights IN the dark? EEK!

A short while later, I passed Kaitlyn on an out and back I knew she was the only runner behind me…everyone else had finished or dropped. I told her it was just the two of us now, and she was still positive and smiling. During the last 9 miles I both wanted her to catch me, and keep her at bay. I didn’t mind being the last finisher, but it motivated me to keep going. With daylight fading, I ran the next section as hard as I could. My stride really opened up, and I felt like I was flying. Around the lake, grabbed a page and tore into the aid station. They were expecting me…but not yet. They refilled my water, and I left. I had to get over the ledges before dark. I took a second to enjoy a gorgeous sunset though the trees. If I hadn’t run with Amy, I might have missed this entirely. Thanks girl!
20131103-181946.jpg
I leapt over the crevice one last time and made it down off the rocks. I got to the field and road section and didn’t need my light with the open sky. A car pulled up behind me and I panicked…but it was the local police just checking on me. Yup…still running hard. Almost there.

I had to use my lamp for the last woods section…luckily it was fairly straight and wide. It seemed like it took forever, though it was probably a mile to the creek, and another mile to the cabin. I was scared, and refused to look into the woods…I didn’t want to know about all the eyes watching me. Finally I hear the road! The cabin! There was Roy, loading cones into the pickup at the end of the driveway. I turned in and he followed me up, honking his horn to let them know I had arrived. I did it. And that last loop was indeed my fastest all day!

20131103-181910.jpg
Of the 66 (I think) people registered for the double, 43 finished. That included 8 women. The other women on that list include some fantastic runners: multiple 100M finishers, women I look up to, and aspire to be. And how funny…this race doesn’t give AG awards, and seeing as how the 1st place woman came from my AG, that would make me the 1st place Woman 39&under. Not bad for “not racing.” I’ll (not) take that! 20131103-181932.jpg

An All Day Affair – The North Coast 24hr Endurance Run

Warning: This is going to be long. 24 hours takes quite a few words. Excuse the rambling. Here’s how I remember it: 

The journey started long before Saturday morning on September 21st, but you can read about that in prior posts.

I slept better than expected…a good 6 hours solid, plus another 2 hours resting, before my alarm went off at 4:30am. It was raining, and had been for hours. I didn’t bother checking the weather. It didn’t matter. I started the coffee and Andrea picked me up at 5:30. Off to Cleveland! We chatted through the drive and I tried to stay calm. It was going to be a long day…plenty of time to meet my goals. I kept reminding myself…just another long run.

Edgewater Park is located on the shore of Lake Erie, just west of Cleveland, Ohio. The 0.9 mile paved loop passes a beach area, rocky shore, a small marina at Whiskey Island, some train tracks, a grassy park, and back to the beach. The large pavilion located there housed the timing mat and Aid Station, with nearby bathrooms and (cold) showers. We arrived about 8am…I checked in, picked up my shirt and ankle chip. And there was Barry with coffee and 2 cans of Pringles for me. So sweet! He was running the race too, and we had met through the Facebook group for the event. Thanks Pops!

We set up the canopy we borrowed from Kate in Tent City, a tenth of a mile stretch along the west edge of the course, and I quickly pointed out how my stuff was organized: clothes, warmer clothes, socks, shoes, first aid, food. It was simple enough, but I wanted my crew to be able to find these things when I couldn’t remember my name later in the evening. We’d use the provided aid as much as possible…that’s what I paid for, right? (As it turns out, I barely touched our supplies save a few handfuls of Pringles and 2 bottles of Ensure!) It was still raining, so we left most of the gear in the car for the time being.

Andrea had a stack of cards for me…a few messages from friends, and a slew of the most awesome notes from her husband, and fellow runner, Goat. Best idea ever! I’d get more notes…as long as I kept going. I got the first one, from Goat’s coworker, as I put on my shoes.

goodluck

It means “Good Luck at the start of a journey.” I got goosebumps. It’s time.

If you’ve never seen the start of an ultra, you might be surprised. Until someone says “Go!” you might not even know you’re at a race. It’s pretty casual. This was no exception. The RD intentionally starts the race before the mat. Since the course is shy of a mile, runners need to complete exactly 111 laps to achieve 100 miles…and this makes up the difference. So runners make their way up the slight grade to the starting point, complete with ponchos and umbrellas. I’m still not sure how one runs with an umbrella. I quickly found Kelly…in her poncho…and turned around just in time for the start. Go.

nc24 start

We headed off together toward the mat. Beep. Beep. We’d hear that for a good while…every time we crossed the timing mat. Beep. Beep. One for each of us. Every time but one…I’ll get to that. Just to the right was a screen which would display our name, the number of laps, and the total distance (less the starting add-on). I thought this would get old, but it was great to see the numbers climb, especially when my watch died after 7 hours.

I only wore my watch for two reasons: first to time my run/walk intervals, and second to make sure I wasn’t running too fast. I took about two walk breaks per lap…one at the hill just beyond Tent City, and one on the long stretch along the south side of the loop. With few exceptions, I’d continue these breaks throughout. As far as speed, I stuck to a 12:30-13min pace including the walk breaks.

Beep. Beep. Still raining. Andrea had checked the weather and told us it would let up around 11am. And it did…almost exactly…but not before it got worse.

nc24 rain

Kelly was having foot issues, so we split up as she headed to the on-site podiatrist and I kept going. I had made a deal with myself…no music for the first 2 hours. Andrea remembered and was willing to fetch my iPod. I was alone at this point, and ready for a little distraction.

Beep. 20 miles. I stopped by the tent to update everyone back home. I got another card from Goat…I think this was the limerick that didn’t rhyme at the end. Or maybe the stick figure drawing of me running, proving why he was NOT an illustrator! I love that guy!

Beep. I finally met up with Kelly again…it felt like forever. Andrea kept me updated on her, but since she was just ahead, and we were running similar paces, I couldn’t catch her. We agreed to do a few more laps, putting us close to 50k, and change shoes. Most of the puddles were gone now, and I was ready for dry socks.

Beep. Beep. 50k. Time for another update. Close to 7 hours in at this point and feeling fine. I was eating and drinking regularly. Not even the slightest twinge. A quick tire change and we were off. We caught up to Jason on this lap, and the three of us chatted away.

Beep. Beep. B… Uh…three right? Screen check. Jason…Amanda…no Kelly. Jason made a joke about Kelly losing her chip and we look down. It’s gone! That’s when she realizes she didn’t put it back on after changing her socks! This is a mistake you only make once. We found it at the tent, completed another loop, and the timer thankfully advanced her a lap. From that point on…bib and chip check every time I left the tent!

My friends Stuart and Tory arrived shortly after. I thought I might need extra help getting through the night, and I didn’t want all that to fall on one person’s shoulders. Andrea had already done enough, between driving and checking on my every hour or so. So far, I was being rather responsible…eating and drinking before she asked. The three if them struggled to sit up our main tent in the already howling wind. I laughed about this for a few laps. Or maybe that’s the delirium setting in…I’m smiling, so that’s good. After setting up the tent, Tory was ready to accompany me for some miles. The one “hill” on the course was positioned perfectly…running right into the wind. We powered through.

nc24 tent city

Beep. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t worried about the first 50 miles (Goal #1). I didn’t really think about how long it would take, and knew as long as I was done by midnight, I’d have plenty of time to reach 100k (Goal #2). I had run my first 50miler back in June in 13:27. The sun was setting, and we were getting close to 50, but I didn’t have a working watch at this point and I wasn’t paying attention to the time.

Beep. 56 laps. 50.5 miles. Tory and I made our way back to the tent and picked up Andrea and Stuart. We ran to where the estimated 51 mile mark would be, and celebrated the mileage PR before grabbing food at the Aid Station and taking a break. On the way back I crunched the numbers in my head. 50 miles in…11:27? A 2hour PR? No way. My crew confirmed my math. Yup. 2 hours. I was shocked. And happy. And way ahead of schedule! Beep.

Here’s where my memory gets a little fuzzy. I’m happy to report I didn’t ever feel dizzy or nauseous (save one gagging incident…as the night gets later, I learned to stop moving while eating.). I kept my wits about me, and never felt like a zombie (Thanks ENERGYbits!). I didn’t feel tired, and forced myself to eat often enough. 

Follow the plan: Eat. I grabbed a cup of salty rice, and a vegan bean roll up. It didn’t have the same appeal as 2 hours prior. I hoped that second order of pizza was on the way soon. I needed to change clothes but there was no way I was going in the tent. Too tempting. I changed into clean dry clothes right there. I wasn’t planning on switching to my last pair of shoes until after 100k, but my feet were ready for more room. I still needed more calories, so I drank an Ensure. That did it. Time to warm up. And I needed my jacket for the wind now!

Beep. 55 miles. Beep. 60 miles. So close, but I needed to sit for a second.

That’s when Stuart let me in on a little secret. He asked if I had seen Angela’s post on Facebook. Uh…maybe he didn’t notice…I’m running here! No, I haven’t been on Facebook! My friend had offered to buy me a beer for every mile past 100k. I didn’t believe him. I made him show me the post. Bring it on!

Disclaimer: I am not condoning using alcohol as a motivator for exercise. I am perfectly fine with bargaining, however. Beer sounded horrible at that moment. It was more about the challenge for me…then. I’m completely enjoying the beer during my recovery time! 

I got up and took off before Stuart had the chance to join me! 3 laps to 100k!

Beep. I stopped to update everyone. Stuart made a game of updating Angela every time I ticked off another mile to let her know how many beers she owed me. It was funny at first, but then we got caught up in the stories he had planned to tell me.

nc24 stuart

Stuart had volunteered for the 2-5am shift. Good ultra-Sherpa. I’m sure I had mentioned this was going to be the hardest time for me. By 2am, it’s been dark for a while, and sunrise is a long way off. Luckily the full moon was a few days prior, and combined with the clouds it was pretty bright. I never asked him to carry anything, and he certainly wasn’t pacing me. It was more like “Follow me around and talk my ear off.” I was thankful. Someone’s tent was robbed earlier, and I didn’t want to be alone. It was around this time that I saw how few people were still on the course. Even Tent City was pretty quiet. Some people had left, some were sleeping, and some of us were slowly circling the loop. A few people were still lapping me on a regular basis…Harvey and Greg. Jill and Lecia. Machines. But that’s when I realized all the people I hadn’t seen in a long time. I hoped they were all right.

Beep. We walked most of these miles. Stuart’s stories were hysterical. These people he knows are real winners…of Darwin Awards. Or they should be. I had to stop a few times because I was laughing so hard. My abs hurt so badly, and the laughing didn’t help. It was totally worth it!

Beep. As we passed the aid station, volunteers would yell out new options they had…especially hot ones. “Hot chicken noodle soup!” Hot soup sounded good, but as many of you know, I’m a vegetarian, and chicken broth could destroy the good thing I had going. Not worth the risk. I had no GI issues, and I wasn’t taking any chances.

Beep. “Cheese sandwich.” I hadn’t had cheese yet, and it made me nervous. The she said “HOT!” and I turned right around. The BEST grilled cheese ever. Probably not, but it hit the spot.

At 5am, I could tell Stuart needed a break. I sat for a few minutes too, knowing I had plenty of time. I yawned for the first time. All my goals were met…every step was gravy from here on out. I asked if 80 miles was a possibility. We thought I could do it.  I wasn’t really tired, just needed a new distraction. And maybe another sip of Coke.  I flipped on my iPod, grabbed an Ensure, and drank it slowly on the next lap.

Beep. Time and miles ticked by. I saw Kelly occasionally, and she looked strong despite complaints about her blistered feet. Mine hurt too, but it was a nerve issue. This path was paved, but not like the tar-covered Olentangy Trail back home. This was rock and cement dust. Hard. Yikes. The grass along the path was “off-limits,” but I longed for the soft ground.

nc24 tory

Beep. It’s light now and the sun is almost up. Tory was awake and I was thankful to watch the sunrise with her. For the first time since noon on Saturday I was hungry. Hunger is a good sign! I was tired of forcing food when everything sounded terrible. The volunteers were making breakfast…egg sandwiches and I wanted one! All they had left was ham, and although I appreciated the offer, pulling the ham off a sandwich wouldn’t work for me. They were making more, and I agreed to stop by on my next lap. I waited for Tory to use the bathroom, and the volunteer noticed I was still there. She called me over, and put a whole egg and cheese sandwich wrapped in paper towel in my hands. It was still steaming. “Now get moving!” I could have kissed her! I tried not to inhale it.

Beep. I wanted to run at the end, but I didn’t know if I had anything left. At 8am, I ditched the pants. It was still cold, and the wind and spray from the lake was freezing! But it kept me awake and moving. Finishing in my sweat pants was NOT an option. We started running short bursts to get my legs moving again. It was tough. Gradually the segments were longer, but it took a lot of effort. I told Tory I was going to get my marker and walk it out. I had met all my goals for the race…and I was going to do the whole 24 hours! It wasn’t worth hurting myself.

20130923-144230.jpg

Beep. With 15 minutes to go, a volunteer put the block in my hand that would serve to mark my position when time was up. I walked up the hill, and thought “Screw it!” I took off running. I ran with everything I had left. I wonder what my crew was thinking when I came around the corner so soon.

nc24 laps

Beep. I said “Thought I’d log one more lap before I put this down.” They cheered. Five minutes left…I felt like I was flying at this point. Of course, most people still on the course are walking, so comparatively, I was. Except for the leaders, who whipped past me like I was standing still. I found out later I ran my last full lap at a 10:00 pace, and the last .62 sub-9:00. 23 hours and 45 minutes into the race and I could run? No way! Certainly the fastest I’d been all day…and night…and the last year! Isn’t adrenaline awesome. I didn’t feel pressure until the last 15 minutes. That’s when this became a race for me!

The alarm sounded, I placed my block and walked away…but not before I called Stuart over to take my finish picture!

nc24 finish

My crew broke down the camp site while I tried to choke down some breakfast, but for the first time, I felt lethargic. I listened while they announced the top 3, and then we had to go…before I couldn’t walk to the car. The drive home was uncomfortable, and I could barely comprehend what I had just done. By the time we got home 2.5 hours later, I had no choice but to stumble into the house, take a hot shower and curl up on the couch. And sleep.

Here’s my results:

83.542 miles completed

34/115 Starters

9/46 Women

4/18 Women 0-39 AG

Number of beers earned: 22 (we rounded up!)

A total of 8,516.47 miles were completed by all participants around the 0.9mi loop at  North Coast this fall. That’s a pretty awesome number!

nc24 bling

So the big question: Will I run a 24 hour race again? 

Yes! No doubt. I already have my eye on one next spring.

And the bigger question: Am I ready to start thinking about training for a 100 miler?

Surprise! Didn’t expect that!

I wanted to post to say I made it…all 24hrs…and I’m recovering. I’m waiting for final results from the race. I completed 92 laps for 82.9mi, but there’s a bit extra they have to add for the partial lap at the end. In the meantime, here’s a list of things I didn’t expect to see/happen during the North Coast 24hr Endurance Run:

  • Race Director Dan shoveling sand off the course
  • Participants running with umbrellas
  • A groundhog
  • The night to be so long…and bright
  • A participant doing a handstand on the course
  • Vegan pizza, burritos, hot dogs and burgers! Yeah!
  • So much deal-making with myself, and the offer of beers-for-miles via Facebook to be so tempting…and motivating
  • The smallest hill to look like a mountain after 40+ laps (the headwind didn’t help!)
  • A cheese sandwich cooked on a camp stove to taste SO GOOD at 3am!
  • Needing so little of what I brought, but better safe than sorry!
  • Fireworks!
  • Harvey Lewis run an amazing 150mi, and still take time to talk to most of the race participants
  • Wind surfing on Lake Erie
  • A man running in a flowery skirt, from start to finish
  • TWO wedding parties, both with bridesmaids in purple
  • The urge to run after 23hrs and 45min and sprint the finish
  • So many people stumbling along through the night, when others would have given up!
  • A shop that sold both worms and ice cream…gross!
  • And lastly…that I would make it to 50 miles so quickly (for me)!

20130923-144230.jpg
Like I said…full recap is coming! Ill be adding to this list as I recall more!

Dawg Gone Long Run

Dawg gone that was a long run!
20130702-100145.jpg
Early on Saturday morning, just after 3:30am, I started my trip south…first to meet one of two companion runners for the day, then on to Caesar’s Creek State Park, located about a 90 minute drive southwest of Columbus, OH. He was driving, and thank goodness! I’d managed a 3 solid hours of sleep the night before. Pretty normal for me prior to a big race. And this was big. My first 50 miler!
I’ll admit the Dawg Gone Long Run (DGLR), hosted by ORRRC, wasn’t in my original race plan for the year. I HAD planned on pacing during the Mohican Trail 100 two weeks prior. When my runner decided to drop to the 50mi distance, thereby eliminating the need for a pacer, I was out of a job. And yes, I likely could have picked up another runner to pace, but my lack of experience made me more nervous. Add in the hand injury from a few weeks prior, and I didn’t know how much help I could really be to a stranger. In the end, I chose to volunteer all day (and night…and the next morning) at the Covered Bridge Aid Station, and learned some invaluable lessons from that experience. I was also able to see many folks I know press on, dig deep, and finish a great race…one I’ll be adding to my schedule for the future.
So here I was, fully prepared to run 50 miles (or so I thought), without a race in sight. My next big event occurs in September, and is a completely different monster. A friend suggested DGLR, and it seemed perfect: timing, terrain, and distance all fit the bill. I stalled as long as possible to register, but I finally I pulled the trigger. 50 miles. I couldn’t get my head around the distance.

The race:
Caesar’s Creek is a great place to run. The course was just shy of 17mi of single track, the self-proclaimed “best single track in Ohio.” The trail was normally very runnable, save a few hills and the nauseating stairs (running down stairs at varying depths throws off your equilibrium). There were a few road sections, mainly to cross over the Lake, and a couple boat launch access roads. The last 6 miles of the loop were the most technical with roots and a few short but steep climbs, but the rest was mainly smooth, rolling hills. There was one true creek around mile 1.5 of the loop, which we crossed three times. On the first loop you barely got your feet wet as there are flat rocks you could use to cross. By loop 2, it was ankle deep. On loop three, I was wet to mid calf. But by then I didn’t care. I contemplated sitting in the creek for a minute, but feared I wouldn’t stand up. A valid concern after nearly 35 miles.
20130702-100550.jpg
There were two manned Aid Stations: the first was located at approximately mile 9, and the start/finish area served as the second. They were stocked with typical trail/ultra foods including PB&J, cookies, pretzels, pickles, watermelon, oranges, plus water and gatorade. Sadly, not a banana nor a potato in sight (good thing i brought my own). Three unmanned water stations filled in the gaps: mile 3, 6, and 14.5. The race crew was wonderful at keeping these jugs full of water and ICE! What a lift you can get from a few sips of ice-cold water.

My plan:
I need a plan? Remember this was my first 50 mile run. The longest single run I had completed recently was a 50k (~31mi). The longest ever was last September, and that wasn’t much further (60k or ~37mi). I didn’t know what would happen after that!

I had two friends agree to run along with me which was a life saver. First off, they did all the driving. Don agreed to drive down and run the first loop before heading back to Columbus. Doug would meet us there, run the 2nd and 3rd, then drive us home. What a blessing! Pre-race I was a bundle of nerves. Post-race my legs were twitching and my brain was fuzzy. They didn’t so much keep me to a pace, but rather provided companionship for what would otherwise be a long, lonely day. In fact, I carried my iPod the entire 50 miles, but never turned it on. A true testament to great friends. I was in charge of the pace, and carried my own fuel and water always…save twice asking Doug to “hold my banana” so I could get situated. Thanks buddy! 🙂
20130702-100300.jpg
The second part of the plan involved the miles themselves. There was no way I could comprehend running 50 miles. Now 10 miles? That I could handle. So I ran five 10milers. And celebrated each one at completion.
We also celebrated a few other milestones along the way:
Don’s trail Half Mary.
My longest single run time-on-feet at 8:30
My longest single run distance at 38mi
Doug’s longest single run distance at 32mi

And the plan mostly worked. Sure…I had a few dark miles…mostly in the 40s, but I expected that. Doug listened, or was just ignoring my grumbling. Either way, he didn’t acknowledge or address it, and let me have the time to work through it. The rain that started during loop 2 only added to the already soaked trail from the deluge they had the night before. On loop 3, we choose to “embrace the mud” as trying to avoid it was even more treacherous. It slowed the pace, but we moved onward. We said goodbye to a few tough hills and the nauseating stairs. I was excited to not run them again…that day anyway. I saved enough energy to run the last grassy area towards the finish. Doug ran ahead to get my picture. And I cried. All the way to the finish line.
20130702-100055.jpg

The race director this year was fantastic. I had emailed Julie Blair prior to the race to let her know this was my first 50miler, and that I’d likely be close to the recommended pace and finish last. She was more than encouraging. After each loop, she was there cheering for me. She was excited when I made the loose cutoff to start loop 3. Her voice was the one I heard cheering “You did it!” And “Smile!” as I ran to the finish. Thank you Julie! You made me feel so special!
20130702-095940.jpg
A note on nutrition.
After feeling like I couldn’t eat during my last 50k, I needed a better plan. And it was going to include forcing myself to eat. I ate my ENERGYbits after each 10 mile segment which worked out perfectly. I was just starting to feel my energy wane at that point. Amrita bars, PB&J, pretzels, and a banana rounded out my food for the day. I couldn’t touch the watermelon…I may never again after a few (possibly unrelated) horror stories I heard about food poisoning. I also drank 4L water just from my pack, and a cup of water at each Aid Station. By mile 30, the hunger feeling was gone. I felt only nausea. And it seems, for me anyway, that’s what hunger feels like after running that far. So I ate and drank through it. And it passed.

Just one negative comment…
I was slightly disappointed at the amount of trash discarded on the trail (outside of the Aid Station areas) that was obviously from the race: gel packets, paper cups, and a potato chip bag. I felt bad enough leaving my cup at the first unmanned water stop since the crew hadn’t left a trash bag (a task remedied by the second loop). But not to worry. Race or not, my team picked them up and threw them out for you. I’d like to assume it accidentally fell out of your pocket. We’ll go with that.

All in all, a wonderfully trying day. I’m relieved it’s over, and I’m excited looking forward to my next event. It’s now Day 3 post-race, and I can say with confidence that I was ready. I have little-to-no muscle soreness. No walking down stairs backwards for this girl! No ravenous hunger. No energy drain. I’m feeling refreshed and happy.

DC Does it Right

Wow. Just wow.
I expect this will take several posts, I’ll do a full race recap sometime tomorrow time willing. I just want to leave you with some overall first impressions, and then I’ll get down to the details.

First, I should point out that I haven’t been to Washington, DC in a long time. It might as well been never since I didn’t remember anything about the city that I couldn’t recall from pictures. It’s been that long.
20130501-080520.jpg
I headed to DC this past weekend for the Inaugural Nike Women’s Half Marathon. Yes, Nike is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the half and full in San Francisco this year. I’m usually nervous to attend the first year if any event, and try to keep in mind that there’s a good chance for some snafus.

Nope.
Nothing life-altering anyway.

DC is a great place for a race. With a city so spread out, it’s easy to find 13.1 picturesque miles to run. I’m fairly certain that, if they do add the full in the coming years, they won’t have much trouble doubling those views.

But there are other aspects of DC that make it appealing.

Inexpensive public transportation. Once you get the hang of it, the metro is pretty easy to maneuver. And all the employees we met were friendly and helpful. You can take a cab, but you don’t need to. And don’t drive. It’s not worth it.

Lots of green. Parks and more parks. For a city, DC has a lot of green spaces. And they’re clean.
20130501-080317.jpg
Free activities. You don’t have to pay a lot to see the sights. Several museums were free, and you can find tours of the older, less popular buildings that don’t charge. My favorite tour of the city was done on foot…our impromptu shakeout run covered 4.5 miles of the National Mall, complete with stops for photos…and a workout? Sold. At no charge of course.
20130501-080414.jpg
Sure. You can pay plenty during a weekend in the nation’s capital. Shoot…the food alone can bankrupt you. But you don’t HAVE to spend money to have a good time.

Enough about the city…race report coming up!

Preview the Playin’ Possum 50k

As I alluded to yesterday, I’d like to talk about the next ultra on my schedule.
20130417-072651.jpg
The Playin’ Possum 50k will be held on Saturday, May 18, 2013 at Delaware State Park, located in Delaware, Ohio. This will be the first year for the event…and the first of its kind in the area.

Sure…you can find a couple of “Fat Ass” (FA) runs around Central Ohio, and a local running store offered a 50k option on a trail series they hosted a few months ago. (A FA is a free, no frills event, generally without support, shirts, medals, finish lines or publicity. You hear about the event via word of mouth…or Facebook…show up, and run. It’s fun. Or crazy. Likely both.) I participated in both of these in the last 6 months, and they were fun in their own way. But in order to find a true “ultra,” you’d have to travel to Mohican or Hocking Hills. Although those places are beautiful, they are quite a drive for most of us from Columbus. Out of that need, the Possum race was born.

Directed by Mark Carroll and Chad Heald, two great (and experienced) guys, the course traverses varied terrain: grass-covered levy walls, dirt and gravel roads, single track, and hopefully, a trip across the damn dam.
20130417-072830.jpg20130417-072626.jpg

The race is open to everyone. It’s just fine if you’ve never done anything like this. In fact, it’s strongly encouraged. There will be some very experienced folks out for the inaugural event. But with more than a third of the field as first-time ultramarathoners, the passel is more than excited to show a few runners what an ultra is all about. They want you to fall in love with ultra…like they did…like I did…and come back for more!

First, and maybe most important, there are cookies…and chips…and candy…and all manner of junk food that most people would not associate with “running.” At the official training run last week…they had these peanut butter chocolate chip cookies that were amazing…I digress.

Not food motivated? Have you seen these views? Sure…it’s a little muddy now. By May, it’s going to be gorgeous…and maybe still a little muddy. You’re not afraid of a little dirt are you?

20130417-072714.jpg20130417-072731.jpg

Alright. Let’s get serious for a moment.

For me, it’s about the people. Building a great community of trail and ultrarunners in the Columbus area.

Remember those people I talked about yesterday?

20130417-072613.jpg

Here’s your chance to meet them. Run with them. And raise a glass…of Coke (No alcohol in the park please.)!

There are still two Official Training Runs before race day. They are open to everyone…even if you haven’t taken the plunge yet. And I mean that quite literally…I was lucky enough to find a few places with knee-deep water last week!

Join us this Sunday, April 21st at 8am. We’ll be running about 10 miles of the course, including the single track portion! You can find out all the details on the community Facebook page. The final training run will be on May 5th, and will cover about 30k of the course, weather and construction permitting. We are in Ohio…and even the Dam isn’t safe from the orange barrel. There will be some aid provided at the training runs (water and snacks), but please bring anything you might need including your own hydration bottle or pack. No paper cups in the woods!

Don’t have Facebook? Send me a message and I’ll make sure you get all the details.

And don’t forget to follow Playin Possum 50k on Twitter as well.

What? You’re still not registered?

The Playin’ Possum 50k is over 75% sold out…if you’re considering joining us, register soon. Registration will close on May 15th, but the race could easily sell out before that date. Remember that all proceeds go to the Special Olympics. You’ll still get a shirt, and they’re promising a unique item in place of a finisher’s medal. I’m curious enough…are you?

Don’t miss out on this one!

Photos in this post are used with permission from Stuart Kirk and the Possum Races website.