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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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

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…

Learning to Fall

The last four weeks have been a struggle. Not just with running…with life. I want to write about so many topics, but I’ll stick to my running and recovery for now.

After North Coast, I didn’t want to run. At all. I was told this was normal…part of the healing process after an ultra. After all, I did it. I met all of my goals for the race and got a huge distance PR…way more than I was expecting. It was OK to take some time off. And that’s where the problem came in. I didn’t leave any.
In a week’s time, I’m running the double marathon at Run With Scissors, a trail course through Hinckley Reservation in Northeast Ohio. I know nothing about the course except for the reports of others, and a few Garmin maps. This should be terrifying interesting. 20131019-125040.jpg
A quick recap…
Week 1: Hardly any running. I managed about 10 miles of walking and a little biking. I was all but convinced my foot was broken. Running on the road for 83.5 miles can do some damage. I iced and massaged, but there was no real swelling. A nagging tightness when I rested…but I could walk without pain. I thought if I could just get my foot to crack, I’d feel better. I paced a 4mi race on Friday night without incident.

Week 2: Time to put in a little mileage. More foot stretches. Finally my foot loosened up enough. Crack! So much better. As it turns out, my Cuboid was slightly dislocated, and it likely popped back in on it’s own. I gave the foot some support with tape and compression for a few days while continuing the stretching exercises. I logged about 30 miles this week.

Week 3: Peak Week? Already? Not good. I’m not ready. I put in as many treadmill miles as I could stand. My “long run” was 25 miles…on a treadmill…over two days. It was the only way I could stand the dread. I wasn’t able to get to any trails this week, and worried I wouldn’t be ready. I knew I didn’t have to run a crazy amount of miles. The race is close, and I’m not going to make that many gains at this point. Maintenance. I just have to maintain cardio fitness, put enough stress on the legs to trigger muscle memory. No time for DOMS, boys and girls.

Week 4: Here we are. Motivation is at an all-time low. I have no goals for this race other than “finish.” I don’t care if I’m dead-last, but I’m fairly certain I won’t be. I ran 15 trail miles on Thursday, and that was a big confidence boost. I left the trail feeling positive and refreshed. Not too tired, and no DOMS on Friday. Perfect. Most of Friday was consumed with the Columbus Marathon Expo, and I did a fair amount of walking around Downtown and the event itself. This week my sleep cycle is pretty much non-existent. I’m not sure the last time I got a good 8 hours…or 6 for that matter. It’s been a while. I should be sleeping right now, but my brain is in this hyper-vigilant mode. It’s not a good place for me. I can’t relax. I feel stressed and paranoid all the time. Maybe I just need to run…

The race is next Sunday. 52.4 miles of trails for which I’m not sure I’m ready. I’ll finish. I recently met a gal who is running her first 50+ race, and it seems we have a similar pace and race plan. I’ll do what I can to encourage her, and that will get me through the race. Now I know why people stack events so close together…there’s no time to fall. You’re always racing. Of course, there’s a danger in there as well…the dreaded injury. I think if you play it smart you can keep it up for a while, but eventually you have to take time for rest and recovery.

This will be my last official race of the year. I have a few other long runs planned…a miles for years run around my birthday, and a FA50k in December that I won’t miss. But really, this is it. It makes me feel uneasy without something on the books. Sure…I have race ideas for the spring. But nothing official…yet.

Maybe it’s my time.

Time to learn how to fall.

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.

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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?

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:
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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:
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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.
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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.