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!

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

My Food Journey…The Middle Miles

Great. You’re still here. Let’s continue.

So I’m a vegetarian. This was pretty easy for me…and I kept it up for five years. Granted, at the start, I wasn’t the best at it…I did what most people do: I subbed meaty things for fake meaty things and ate the same way I always did.

Note: I understand that many people become vegetarian or vegan because of the cruel way animals raised for food are treated. I understand and respect that position. This didn’t play into my initial decision at all. Sure…I love animals. Sure I wish they could all be treated nicely. I didn’t stop eating them because they weren’t though. Over the years, my opinion of this has changed. I’m still not an activist, and I don’t ever plan on becoming one. But I am more sympathetic to the animal rights cause. Maybe it’s because I’ve just been more exposed to the facts and people who are more involved. I’m not sure. It is true that those people you surround yourself will influence you.

As you read in my last post, I started running again. First that 5k, and then a Half Marathon later that year with Team and Training. 20131028-150122.jpg
I was satisfied at that distance…for a time. I ran the half a few more times, and in 2011, I toed the line at my first marathon…crazy. 20131028-150307.jpg
I was still eating my mostly healthy vegetarian diet, which included eggs, milk, and cheese. Occasionally I’d crave a good meatball like my Grandma used to make, but most of the time I didn’t miss meat. Not even bacon.

My weight hovered around 150 lbs…my Army weight. I had just trained for and ran a successful marathon. Maybe this was my “natural weight.” Where I should be. I was in the best shape of my life (so far), but I wanted more. Becoming a vegetarian was never about losing weight for me…it still isn’t. Honestly, neither was running. I just wanted to feel good. To be my best “me.” And I wasn’t…not yet.

I ran another marathon in the spring of 2012, though I had a nagging injury. If the race didn’t include a trip to see my parents in Utah and the fundraising for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, I might not have done it all. But I did. The race brought it’s own challenges, but I didn’t feel any better. And I knew the problem was still my diet…but I was in denial.

It was soon after that I found ultra. None of my friends at the time were doing anything like this. (Oddly enough, most of my friends now are! Surround yourself with greatness, right?) And that’s when healthy eating really started making an impact. You mean I don’t have to count calories? Or suck down those nasty gel things? I can eat real food while I’m running? No way! Trust me…it’s true.

In 2012, in addition to 2 marathons and countless shorter races, I ran my first trail race…a 60K ultramarathon. I had no idea what I was doing.

All I knew was this: Keep drinking water, keep eating, keep going!

That was my whole plan. And it worked. I left that race, one of only a few finishers and with a First Place AG award. What? A month later I ran the Columbus Marathon for a second time, with a 27min PR. Hmm…maybe there’s something to the healthy eating thing after all. 20131028-153144.jpg
What changed? I started reading food labels. Granted, in the beginning this was time consuming. I quickly learned which products were worth buying, and which things I was better off making myself. I experimented with making my own bread, tomato sauce and salsa. And then I started buying more things that didn’t come with labels…namely a lot of fresh produce. Whole foods. That was the key. I didn’t own a scale (I still don’t), but my clothes started feeling looser. I went to the store where I always get my jeans. Instead of the size 8s I always bought, I could comfortably fit in a size 4. A 4? I didn’t wear a 4 in high school! I took my son to the doctor shortly after that, and stepped on their scale. 135lbs. I was shocked. I wasn’t trying to lose weight. It was a natural result of treating my body well. I could get used to this!

To finish out the season, I took on the Goofy Challenge in January of this year. You can read about in an earlier post. I ran both the half and full marathon while eating real food, and felt fantastic after each. 20131028-151801.jpg
So is that the end of the story? Not exactly. I still wanted more. I read about many vegan athletes and wondered about how much influence their diet had on their performance. Then I quickly dismissed the thought. I’m Italian. I LOVE cheese. I can do without eggs and milk, but cheese? That would be torture. Or would it? I guess you’ll have to wait and see…

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!

Ramblings on the eve of Race Day

‘s here. The race is tomorrow. If you recall, the Fall rendition of the NorthCoast 24hr Endurance Run is to be my goal race…for the year. That’s a lot of pressure, mainly enforced by myself.

Here’s how the rest of the taper went…
Taper Week 2: 42 miles. I had planned on 40…but I’m not the exact-type as running goes. I took Monday, Tuesday, and Friday off. My foot was bothering me…first one before I ran, then the other afterward. They’d switch back and forth. I rested and iced…no relief. I stretched…no relief. I ran…no relief! I couldn’t pinpoint the pain, nor could I find a spot that hurt with pressure. My feet hurt just as much with pressure as without.

Yup…you guessed it. THIS is taper madness. There is NOTHING wrong with my foot. Neither of them. Stupid brain!

I ran 15 miles with some friends on Saturday who were running their 20 miler as a part of marathon training. Two of them had never run this far, and I was glad to talk their ear off for a few hours. On Sunday, I woke up early to pace the Fall Scioto Miles 15k with the Fleet Feet Pace Team. I wasn’t originally on the schedule due to the proximity to race day, but when I found out that a friend (Laurie) would be pacing the 2:15 finish (that’s a 14:29/mi pace), I knew the walking would be good for me. And 9miles walking without foot pain was great for my head!

Race Week: I debated taking the whole week off. I had lunchtime drinks with a friend (Thanks Ang!), and skipped my regular Monday workout in favor of rest. On Tuesday I ran 3 easy TM miles. Wednesday was my planned “dress rehearsal.” I woke up at the planned time, got dressed, made breakfast, then sat for 3 hours to simulate driving time. I read a book, knit, and watched the sunrise. Wonderful! At 9am, I ran for an hour: super easy to start, and worked up to my “race pace” towards the end. I practiced my intervals. I felt great…like I could run forever. A good feeling, since on Saturday I would be. I met friends that night for my Regular workout, and they accommodated my need to shuffle the run. Two days of rest…and here we are.

20130920-125944.jpgIt

I’m packed. I have enough clothes to wear for a week…in every possible climate. Who packs tanks/shorts AND a jackets/tights for the same event? I do. And a rain poncho, winter hat/gloves, and three pairs of shoes. Maybe four…I’m not sure yet. Everything is charging. My crew is ready (I hope!). I drank half of my coffee this morning before the shaking started. Then I wanted to throw up. I think I might cry (again). Floods of emotion. It’s difficult to explain.

Here’s the link for live race updates:
http://www.northcoast24.org

Unfortunately you’ll need flash in order to view it, so all you mobile users will need an app to view it. Don’t buy it, just switch to a desktop or laptop. I’ll wait….

I’ll also try to tweet some updates at milestone intervals using the hashtag #NC24.

Taper Week 1

Oddly enough, the madness hasn’t taken over. Not yet. Perhaps because I don’t know what I’m in for. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I know I can finish this race…one loop is all it takes to avoid the DNS/DNF. But more than likely, it’s the 56 miles that I ran this week…during taper? What? That’s insane.

A year ago, 55 miles would have been a peak training week for a marathon. Heck…I wouldn’t have run past 50.

Two years ago, I was in the midst of training for my first marathon, and my longest run was 18 miles.

I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since the big training run at the lake. I should probably fill you in:
20130909-133124.jpg
Suffice it to say, it went well. I joined a fellow runner who is training for the same race. He had started at 5am with two mutual friends, but i couldn’t get out there so early. At 7am, I met the three of them, and we circled the lake once before they left. A little fast for my warm-up lap…they were cruising close to 9:00 pace.

Then it was the two of us for the next two hours. The pace was still fast for me (closer to 10s), and at least once I asked him to leave me and go ahead. He offered to slow down, but that rarely works…the more we talked, the faster we ran. I really didn’t mind.

I knew this would tire my legs faster, but I didn’t have a real mileage or time goal for the day. I packed enough food to be out there through the afternoon, but after that I was winging it. Tiring my legs from the start would give me an idea of what the later hours of the race might feel like. And that seemed like an experience worth checking out.

I had offered to run a “virtual” half with a twitter friend, so made sure to check my watch (and the time) around that distance. 13.1mi in 2:18. Definitely faster than I’ll be on race day. I sent her a quick tweet to mark the milestone, and kept going. I tried not to look at my watch. At all. We were joined by friends throughout the morning and afternoon, which made the time pass quickly.

I passed the marathon mark with Doug, and shortly after, the 50K distance with Andrea. Then my watch died. An expected event, so I had quickly done some math to estimate how many more laps until 40mi. I wasn’t sure I could run that far, but I liked that it was a round number. With about 3 loops to go, I dropped to a walk. I would make it, but this wasn’t a race, and I had already proved to myself this was doable. There was no point in hurting myself, or pushing any harder.

So I finished 40.22 miles, in 1.2mi loops in 8.5hrs. That includes aid stops. Not too shabby. The trail is mostly packed sand and pea gravel, but don’t let that fool you. It’s hard. Harder than asphalt. And I took a beating. That’s the trail…on the right:
20130909-133203.jpg
Just over a week ago, I headed out with friends to run what I thought would be a 50K…my last long run. Turns out Mother Nature had other plans…and blasted us with heat and humidity. Everyone that came out put in their very best, and made smart decisions regarding when to call it a day. The trails looked great. And I’m happy that we all enjoyed time together on a holiday weekend. We’ll do that again…maybe when it’s not so hot.
20130909-135141.jpg
And then I started the taper. I feel healthy. I’m mentally ready. The only thing I’m stressed about is that other people are involved, and I don’t trust easily. I like to be the one giving…I don’t like to ask for help.But I can’t do this without them. Sure…I have to do the hard stuff (running is hard!), but taking care of a tired and cranky adult all night certainly cannot be fun. It’s a sacrifice. This is where running becomes a team sport. And I’m going to have to get over it.

If you’ve read this far, and plan on being there for the race…even to stop by and say hello…or you’re in the Cleveland area, would you let me know? I’d love to look forward to friendly faces.

NC24 Training Update

I didn’t forget. I’m still here. I’m even still writing. It’s just a different genre than this blog allows, and you don’t want to read it. Trust me.

Most important of all, I’m still training. The big day is less than 6 weeks away. Eek! I’m not ready! And I’m scared. Somebody hold me! I logged just over 60 miles last week, 30 of which occurred between Friday night and Sunday morning. I feel good. Strong. Healthy. But is it enough?

I’ve been avoiding writing about it, just because I can’t believe I’m doing this. And although I usually go into a race with a little “unknown,” this is ALL unknown. Time to do something about that.
20130813-132817.jpg
I’ve done a few night runs, the second of which was terrifying…mostly because I was alone and a random truck was following me (that’s what my likely-delusional brain told me anyway!). I don’t have to worry about those factors, so I think I’ll stick to daylight and the dreadmill, unless I can talk someone into running with me at night a few more times. Pretty please?

I need a good long loop run. I’ve put in a few 2-3 hour runs on the track, but I’ll admit it’s a challenge to run loops alone any longer than that. I don’t need to talk, just listen. And my iPod is only going to carry me for 10 hrs. Yikes!

Luckily, today I discovered another local who is running the race. And he’s planning a 12hr run this Saturday! No…I won’t be running for 12hrs. I should mention he’s A LOT more experienced than I am, but even so, that’s not something I feel I need during training to reach my race goals. The good news is I can show up, run a few hours with him! Not only will it be great for me to get that long loop run under my belt, but he’s actually looking forward to having someone to run with! Wait until he sees my pace…he might change his mind.

He’s already picked out a location…a packed dirt path…just about a mile in length. It will keep us away from the regular running crowds and the cyclists on the bike path, but still close enough to the car so I can have my “aid station” set up. I don’t really have a plan for this run…just going to see what happens. And how long I can go. I have four hours solo on my schedule, but with aid and the right pace, I might push that out a bit. And it means I’ll have the perfect day to test out some nutrition options.

Locals: If you want to join me for any of this, send me a message on FB/twitter/text and I’ll give you the details!