Race Week!

Is it Spring yet? Nope! It snowed this past weekend (AGAIN!), and I’m thoroughly over Winter.
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I’ve spent countless hours on the treadmill over the last two months, and it’s about time for an update now that I’m headed into race season. Race season? THAT’S going to be ugly! This winter has been rough for much of the country, and Ohio was no exception. I used to not-so-lovingly call that torture device in my basement a dreadmill. No more! I love that thing. Without it, I’d be in trouble! My job is also keeping me pretty busy and active. So much to be thankful for!

As you may (or may not) recall, I’m keeping a paper log this year. No fancy online records, though I have been using my watch or phone to record some of these. I’ve really cut down on how much I talk about running online as well, save an occasional post when I think it might motivate others and myself! It’s been long enough…so here it comes…stop reading now if you don’t care, or don’t want to know just how boring my life really is. 20140303-191258.jpg
By the numbers (for the nerds):
January 2014
Running: 130.44mi
Walking: 65.3mi
Total: 195.74mi

February 2014
Running: 134.66mi
Walking: 63mi
Total: 197.66mi

To some, that might not look like much. To others, it’s a lot! I wasn’t sure either way, so I looked up the numbers for January and February 2013. 137.96 and 108.97 respectively, running and walking combined. Sounds good!

This weekend I’m running my first “race” of 2014. A 50k at Mohican. It’s not a timed race, so I’m not nervous at all. Maybe I should be? Nah!

On April 12th, I will have the pleasure of volunteering at a great race…Forget the PR 25k & 50k. You can find the link on my Need a place to race? page. 20140303-191457.jpg
As a favor to his volunteers, the RD holds a Volunteers’ Race before the event, so we can all run the course, earn our shirts and get a buckle. It helps him out as well…to point out any potential issues the trail may have encountered over the harsh winter. Plus, we get lost so on race day you won’t have to! Isn’t that nice!

I plan to run that day with another friend I’ve really missed seeing this winter. I don’t think we’ve run together at all since October. Good thing we’ll have a lot of time to catch up.

I only have one concern: Big Ass Hill…x2! Where is the setting on the treadmill for this? 20140303-191504.jpg

Oh well…Sunday is fast approaching, and there’s nothing I can do about it now. Happy trails!

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.
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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!
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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!

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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