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.
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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!)

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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!

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Dawg Gone Long Run

Dawg gone that was a long run!
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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.
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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! ūüôā
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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.
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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!
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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.

Preview the Playin’ Possum 50k

As I alluded to yesterday, I’d like to talk about the next ultra on my schedule.
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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.
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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?

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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?

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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.

Beyond the Marathon

I am horrified by the events which occurred in Boston yesterday. My thoughts and prayers are with those that were killed and injured in the explosions and their families. Please know this was written before the tragic events occurred, and is, in no way, meant to be offensive or insensitive. I share it because, through writing, I grow as a person. And, without sharing my words, they are left meaningless. I haven’t forgotten. But the worst thing we can all do is give up…and let evil win. Yesterday I prayed for Boston, and the rest of our world. That won’t stop because it’s a new day. I’m not moving on, I’m just moving forward.
Relentless forward momentum.

I’ll admit it. I didn’t watch any of the Boston Marathon. I didn’t check the updates. I didn’t look at the elite finish times. I briefly looked at a few pictures posted by friend on Facebook, but even then, it was just to admire the happy faces if friends, and to wish them good luck.

It really doesn’t interest me. Not anymore. I’ve heard a few people say that recently, but I could hear the hesitation in their voice…they think it’s unattainable for them (and maybe it is), so they express disinterest as a defense mechanism. They don’t want to talk about it. They feel like a loser because they can’t or won’t do the work required to BQ.

That’s not me. Not at all. I don’t want to run Boston. It doesn’t hold my interest. I want something bigger.

Bigger? What’s bigger than Boston?

Now before you go jumping down my throat that Boston is the most important event for the running world, let me agree, with one very specific clarification.

The Boston Marathon is the most elite marathon in the world.

Marathon.

And that’s why it doesn’t interest me.

What’s my bigger goal? Western States 100. Yup. I said it.
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That’s a bit far off. I’m nowhere near reaching that goal…especially as I sit here icing my knee from a spill I took Sunday on a trail run. The good news is I have plenty of time.

Now I promised to talk about a race I have coming up, and I will. Tomorrow’s blog will be all about the Playin’ Possum 50k, and why you should be running with us. The course is diverse…a little something for everyone. At least 1/3 of the field are first-time ultra runners and the others have plenty of experience to spread around. And all the proceeds will be donated to the Special Olympics.

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I do want to take a moment to talk about the wonderful people I’ve met while training for this event. I have run with the race directors and the passel (a group of possum…go figure) on several occasions, both as a large organized training run, and a more casual midweek run. Shoot…the race director showed up to a Saturday morning training run I scheduled with friends, just because he knew we would be there.

I have found this community to be so much more passionate and compassionate than any group of people I have ever met. I wish you could meet them. I have never felt more welcome and appreciated, and that was before I brought them all pie for a post-run treat. They have taken a special piece of my heart, and I look forward to the next time I get to run with any one of them. Every time.

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Check back tomorrow for more information regarding the race, where you can sign up before it sells out, and how you can join us for the next training run open to the public.

What a Weekend!

Wow. Where to start?

Remember all that snow we got last week? Gone! With temps in the 60s, it didn’t stand a chance. And that meant fantastic running weather.

I was happy to take the morning on Friday and meet a dear friend for a run and breakfast meeting. The miles passed quickly in the bright sunshine, and we were on to planning for the Dash for Donation. We manage Team Superman in memory of the man who saved my friend’s life. Although we never met before his tragic passing, he is our (super) hero. Thanks Rob, for without your sacrifice I wouldn’t have Fred. Love you both!

Here’s a shot of some of our team from last year. We’re expecting twice as many this year. If you live near Columbus, OH, and want to join us, please let me know. We run in capes…it’s serious fun!

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So planning went well, and I had the rest of the morning to myself. That’s right! No kids!

After a few errands, that were considerably faster without dragging at least two kids, I fully enjoyed my overdose of Vitamin D.

Plans for a trail run and drinks consumed Saturday, and Sunday brought my first real rest day in at least a month. I did take a walk to the park with the kids and spent 2 hours on the swings. I need to do that more! They’re not just for kids…try it!

I spent more time this weekend writing than anything else. And though writing for money work would have been great, the therapeutic regurgitation was just what I needed. I really hope there’s nothing profound in there…it’s not likely I’ll be able to read half of it. But I got out what I needed to, and re-organized some headspace. What a¬†relief. It was looking like a disaster had struck in there!

And today brought the rain. That leaves only one thing left to do…splash around barefoot in some puddles.

IMG_1793I wonder what’s in store for tomorrow…

Rock and Roots Trail Series Race #1

I added a few new tricks to my repertoire last year. One of the most effective, and definitely the most fun, was trail running. And I’m not talking about that asphalt path with the water fountains along the side. I’m referring to the mud-up-to-your-ankles, tripped-over-a-root-and-got-this-sweet-bruise, lost-in-the-woods-for-hours kind of trail running. Fun stuff. At least once every other week, I’d head out to one of three multipurpose trails. I’m pretty lucky to have a few mountain bike trails and a bridle trail fairly close to my house.

The first race in a 2-part series put on by Rock and Roots Trail Runners, a group established by Fleet Feet Columbus, took place yesterday despite the cold temps. At least the race wrapped before the freezing cold wind moved in!

If you signed up for the series, you got an additional package:

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A hooded sweatshirt, Swiftwick socks, Nathan handheld bottle, and some Clif fuel products. This was in addition to the event shirt for each race.

I’ll admit, I thought the sweatshirt was a little lame, that was until I finished the 10K I registered for, and was waiting on a friend to finish her 20K.

Did I mention it was freezing cold?

It was at that moment I remembered the sweatshirt was in my car. Perfect!

The unique part about this race series is the ability to choose from several distances, in this case 10k up to 50k, and the course had an 8hr open time, allowing a 15:27 pace for the 50k. Even more tempting was the “Double 50” belt buckle for doing both 50Ks, set a month apart. Completing the Goofy just a week prior, and some wise words from a few caring friends, brought me back to reality. If I want to run the rest of this year, I need to take some recovery time. 10K on trails would be enough. Besides, I have nothing to prove.

The race took place at the Alum Creek Phase I Mountain Bike trail, commonly called P1. It’s the easiest of the 3 available trails, but still includes a few challenges. The switchbacks are not as steep as P2 or the bridle trail, and the bridges are much wider. There is also a longer “boardwalk” section, and usually a river crossing, although a brand new bridge over the stream took that danger away (my least favorite part of P1 is getting my feet wet). A great course for beginners that allows for faster running for those more experienced.

Temps were in the low 20s, and the wind brought it into the teens. The ground was pretty frozen on the first 10K lap, and I was thankful that was all I was doing. I’m sure the course got pretty sloppy for the 50K-ers.

The race field was capped at 200, a necessity when most of the course is single track. It was quickly obvious many people had never run on these trails or any real trail before. And although I don’t claim to be an expert at trail running anything, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Single track means it’s tough to pass. The best thing to do is call out “on your left” or “passing”, and find a safe place to go around. Try to avoid that section were the cliff drops off on the right…you can spook a newbie trail runner pretty easily, and the last thing you want to do is send them tumbling down the hill.
  • No elbows, and no pushing. This isn’t a track meet.
  • A trail race environment is nothing like a road race. Pace is irrelevant. People wear GPS watches to capture elevation data…not their fastest mile on record.
  • Relax. The race is more about a finish than a finish time. Look around. Enjoy the scenery.
  • Candy, cookies, soda and potato chips are not junk food. We call that fuel. Eat up!
  • A trail run is like a road run and a core workout together. Expect to be tired, body and mind. Constant scanning for obstacles can be exhausting, and your stride will be altered.
  • You will fall eventually. And it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Walking up a big hill is smart, not a sign of weakness. The longer the run, the more you will walk.

537363_10151351267217500_1921972919_nI thought the race was great! I hadn’t been to this trail in month or so because I was nervous about falling so close to Goofy and injuring myself. Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll be back out there more. I didn’t fall either…which means my days are numbered! I did hear a few complaints that the trail was too crowded…mostly by people that aren’t familiar with this type of event. They will either learn and get over it, or not come back. Trail running isn’t for everyone.

The morning finished with fresh pizza from Mikey’s Late Night Slice PizzAssault Truck and a Tulip Poplar to take home and plant! I can’t wait for Race #2. Maybe I’ll do a few more loops…

Tomorrow’s news: “It’s what you do to me…”