Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rails to Trails 25k 2015

Rails to Trails 25k. January 10, 2015. Savannah, GA

Friday night at 4 pm: A generous lady who didn't know me was sick, unable to run, and offered me her race number on Facebook for the event that started in just 16 hours. I was not very trained for this, having come off a hip injury and only having run 13 slow miles in the rain once in the past month.  After that water wonderland excursion, I became sick for a week. Healthy training plan, huh? Perseverance is fun! Woo!

So I naturally took the logical opportunity to NOT sit this race out. 

I packed my stuff and kinda slept. You know those kinda sleeps when you're so excited to run more miles than you are prepared for right? You look forward to the caffeine rush, friendly faces, and screamingly sore legs. 

The start was 32 "feels like 24" and consistently windy. Not a normal Savannah day. But still perfect for a thick-blooded, hockey-watching, once-northern-girl-now-embracing-southern-charm trail runner who likes for her nose to run as fast as her legs. 

Most locals who were actually awake were dressed up in parkas and UGG boots hanging by the fireside with furry hats and mittens on…indoors. Dreaming. Of. Flip flops. (That's kind of a direct quote.) All fuzz and fluff aside, we runners were outdoors with our big girl shorts and T-shirts on loving the wind burn. Dreaming of homemade  Burts' Bees-like products. 

A few runners had mentioned at check-in  that the clouds wrote out the letters G.O.D. I had already taken a picture of the sunrise, and later I looked at my picture and it turns out they were right!. It was surely a nice detail in the twilight sky as I prepared to run my race for which I was, in fact, unprepared. Heartwarming, really. I was thankful to have received the lady's race number for free, so I was going to give it my best shot in hopes that my hips would hold up and be pain-free.

The sun rose, the breeze (squared) blew, and there was hand sanitizer  hung snugly in the PortaJohns. Everything was perfect. Except, of course, for those little prickly things in the grass that got all over our socks and stab us in the calves when we least expected it.

After a patriotic rendition of our national anthem sung by a man with stronger lungs than most of us had legs, we cheered, and we were off. I already had met a friend at the starting line and it turned out that our paces were perfect together. This was her first race beyond 13.1 miles, so I was very excited for her future success, remembering the good old days when I turned crazy in relation to what "long distance" meant. 

I didn't know what my legs were going to do. I didn't know if they would feel great the whole time and make for a fast finish, or the more likely option that they would go out too fast, get tired, and have to slow down and walk a whole lot, making for an anti-climactic moment at the almost-packed-up-and-gone-home finish line. Energetically, my new friend and I chatted the whole time. It sure made time pass quickly. And don't you love those out-and-back races where you can see everyone at each turn? You see the crazy fast people and wonder how they do it and how they train and if they even have lives beyond running and ice baths. And then you see the outgoing people with smiles and encouragement always radiating from their faces. You see the introverts with their heads down, but you know they're smiling on the inside. And you see the slow folks, the most humble of the bunch, typically, but always with an important story to tell. 

I lived and survived on Clif Shot Blocks. And I was propelled by my speed-of-light snot rockets, having had plenty of nasal fuel in store due to the cold wind. Also, once my caffeine kicked in, my conversation and my pace both increased. My new partner was staying consistently strong, but I was just plain hyper and searching for a negative split to devour. The ultra runner inside of me decided that it was time to get crazy and time to get (more) sore. If I was going to finish this thing, I may as well go out with a bang. So, I added more caffeine to my typically uncaffeinated diet, and kept trucking. I passed people, and felt bad, because they were such nice, kind people. But my hyperness would have it no other way. I always told the runners good job, no matter how fast or slow they were workin' it. It's so refreshing to not run alone. 

My hips stayed strong and I felt great. I did not have a GPS device running; I was winging it. So old-school, huh? But I estimated my progress based on my time and mathematically-approximated distance. Thank heavens for the math degree!  Assuming that I was 2 miles from the finish, I took off while my partner was getting ready to refuel. I wished her the best, telling her that I would cheer for her at the finish line as she completed her longest run ever. I picked up the pace to a quick hobble. I galloped my way toward the finish, the wind at my stubborn front. I didn't let the wind bother me too much, I just stayed positive and leaned in like a calcium-deficient individual. 

The finish involved some people I had just met cheering for me. I had a strong finish thanks to the remaining strength in my legs and grit in my spirit. I didn't have anyone else watching, really. But there's gratification knowing that you just did something difficult and great.

A finger pointing to the sky ends all of my races. I cannot help but acknowledge the One who gives me strength and endurance. The One who would (and did)  endure anything for me. And the One whose name was written in the sky that day.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ultra Poem for Beginners

Running ultras can be very tough mentally.
And eating those race carbs can make your teeth less dentally.
But if you persevere and finish strong,
You will conquer that race that is long.
You might beat your toughest competitor:
That's yourself! And there's nothing bett-itter.

So run one this year
And pass out some Coke
Or get busy and run 12
Like it ain't no joke.

But try not to be a training binger.
If you run too much, you might get injured.
All in all, you should simply love the sport.
Even meeting the dudes who wear really short shorts.
So sign up today or start a fat one for free.
I hope I'll see you if you hope you'll see me.


Monday, June 30, 2014


So many to choose from!!!! :)
Although, there could always be more...!

Dahlgren 50k, King George VA in August.
8 Hour in Boonsboro, MD in September.
Uber Rock 50k in Winchester in September.
WC-50 (50k) in Charlotte.
Table Rock in NC.
WV Trilogy in October.

And maybe some $0-$7 marathons I'll conjure up for the VA Beach Area!! STAY TUNED!!! and STAY TRAINED!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

OAKS & JOKES 30 miler. June 21. $7.

Oaks & Jokes 30 miler - Jun 21

Join us on Saturday, June 21, 2014 at Oak Grove Lake Park  in Chesapeake, VA at 5:15am for a bunch of laps around a beautiful lake!     
This will be a super, low-key, laid back event, but there's no reason not to race!!! 
FINISHERS GET A STRETCHY BRACELET!! (You know those things that the kids are wearing these days!?!)

The course is FAAAAST,  FLAT, and on fine packed dirt. 
I hope that PRs are ABUNDANT!
It is a 1.5ish mile loop. (a tad over that)
21 milerERS------> 14
HALFERS --->     9

Finishers will write their names (F, L) and times (H:M:S) down at the end on the provided poster for historical (or hysterical) results. A stopwatch will be there ticking and tocking.
Run counter clockwise loops! (Optional small hill parallel to trail at 0.75 mile marker...I'm running it 20 times!! )
LIMIT: 50 Runners
CUTOFF: 7 hours
(or else email results)
WATER: Nope. Bring a half or full gallon for yourself. (Also, pack your nutrition.)

NOTE: I highly recommend a SHARPIE to keep tallies on your hand of your laps...this has proven to free up epic numbers of brain cells to focus on splits, nutrition, and nature!
It really is a beautiful park. I'm not one for zillions of laps, but I can manage it at ths park! there are POTTIES and tables and a shelter. Bring all your snacks and liquids!

DISTANCE SPLITS per lap: 1.53, 3.06, 4.59, 6.12, 7.65, 9.18, 10.71, 12.24, 13.77, 15.3, 16.83, 18.36, 19.89, 21.42, 22.95, 24.48, 26.01, 27.54, 29.07, 30.6)
But for easier math, round down to: 1.5, 3, 4.5, 6, 7.5, 9, 10.5, 12, 13.5, 15, 16.5, 18, 19.5, 21, 22.5, 24, 25.5, 27, 28.5, 30. :)

ALL participants in this fun race agree to the waiver, requiring them not to hold the city or race director legally responsible for any injury or problem whatsoever.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

SLUSH FACTORY: Holiday Lake 2014

The classic, crisp February trail for Holiday Lake 50k in the beautiful eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains was blanketed with whitish-gray remains of a foot of two day old snow. Everyone knew that they were in for some crazy times of hard work, slippery slopes, poor footing, frozen toes, and dozens of slushy memories. Runners scurried to the start with rain layers to keep the liquid out and hydration packs to keep the liquid in. We had a mutual understanding of the trial awaiting us, and therefore possessed mindsets that were a little less competitive than normal.

The first half-mile uphill on the road was predictable, people's eyes borrowing the brilliant beams of light from one another's headlamps and starting off quickly with excitement. Then we entered the slush factory, our shoes staying surprisingly unsoaked at first in the still-freezing 32-degree temps. Rain slid off our backs. We climbed short climbs and skied down rolling descents. I embraced every downhill, turning up chunks of snow without cautiously spending precious seconds worrying about slipping.

Our middle-pack group wound through turns like a caterpillar commuting up a snow-textured tree branch. We embraced the presence of runners surrounding us, knowing that their company meant that we were headed the right way and that time would pass steadily in this early first hour. The first of seven aid stations came and went as the elevation leveled out. The slosh continued to repel our feet from their central location, as we joked that our feet would slip a cumulative total of 3 additional miles over the course of the day. One step forward, a tenth of a step sideways. Repeat. At any rate, we were halfway to the halfway point of halfway.

We steadily and earnestly attempted to follow in the footsteps of the forerunners, but the elements were ordering our feet to march single file, like treading the road's famous white line at Badwater. Here and now, however, everything was white except for the line we were trying to balance on.  It was a beautiful mess. I could imaginatively look down at our path and create a mental chocolate chip ice cream sundae at any point during the first half of the race.

At the foreboding creek crossing, a group gathered. Things were not looking good. As we crossed the knee-deep frigid water, we saw a huddle of men carrying a lady who had fallen and broken her leg. They were willing to forget their previous goals in the pursuit of a greater one: carrying this runner for miles to help and safety. They had wrapped her leg with a splint of thick tree limbs tied down with the knotted shirts of runners who had passed by and shed a layer from their own healthy limbs. We prayed and ran, easily overlooking our own problems for the next four miles.

I opted to count aid stations instead of miles, simplifying my equation from the number 32 to a perfect 7. Mile 12 then became 16 and brought us to the halfway point and much pomp, excitement, and cowbells. I tried to remember to eat and drink as I happily greeted my family, telling them with a smile how awful my situation was. My husband held his phone, comically remarking that he would turn the videographed chronicles of Holiday Lake into a documentary of pain and suffering on the road to triumph. With all of the support, my spirits lifted higher than my feet had all day, and I trotted off with my caffeinated self. Soon, I would be greeted by another spectator shouting laughable encouragement. There were three of us ladies in single file, and the man energetically cheered on our mud-splattered feet by shouting, "Ladies! Beautiful! Graceful! Elegant Runners! Keep on going!" This struck me as hilarious. So I walked. And laughed.

Everything had gone wrong, but I was purely excited to be there, running, being encouraged and cheered for, pushing toward another challenging goal. My time was 45 minutes too slow already at the halfway mark, I missed the check-in, I had a head cold and scratchy throat which I kept naming "allergies," and I was in the wrong shoes since my toddler had hidden the right shoe of my token pair of running sneaks right before we left. So, I had Mr. Left, but where's Mr. Right when you need him? All I had were backups.

So, why did I make the best of it? Why did I admit, "It could be worse," when fellow runners complained about the drudgery? A lot of marvelous reasons, I suppose. Maybe it was the fact that it really could be worse: lightning in summer heat, hours of pouring cold rain, an insurmountable 8000 feet of climbing on steep ascents, jagged rocks taunting us from beneath the formless miry snow, or a solidly refrozen graveyard of real ice promising more injuries to its victim than today's spineless slush could have vowed. Maybe it was the joy of knowing that I had a garden of beautiful family members and friends praying and cheering me on from their own soil miles away. Maybe it was my handsome number one fan supporting me every slipping step of the way. And then maybe, just maybe, it was the recent inspiring memory of meeting two friendly wounded warriors with missing right legs just the week before my race. How dare I take for granted my abilities that I could gracefully display in an event that I chose to participate in? There truly were no reasons for thoughtless complaints.

The half time party had ended, sending me right back into the woods with cold feet again. I continued past the runners heading to their halfway glory with haste, wary of the possibility of slipping off the trail ledge into the half frozen lake. The second half had brought the debut of that day's display of sunshine, and rays of joy with it. But slush plus sun plus joy equals mud. So the trail had given way to a continuous creek of liquid dirt between its riverbanks of stagnant slush. Sixteen miles of splashing, coming up! The liquid last half could have been indicative of the status of the second stream crossing. I could have sworn it was 5 inches deeper that time. But I did not afford myself anxiety about the continued numbness preventing me from the destiny of my goal.

There had been dozens of learning moments in this ultra. But, when life gives you ice, make mental ice cream. (NOTE: One other benefit of snow is knowing who used which tree in the woods. Everyone gets a unique chance to shine that way.) The hard work was not overwhelming for the runners who had actually trained for the event. A few times, I even wanted to sing, "Walking in a Winter Wonderland." But I feared that my inability to sing would get me disqualified on charges of disturbing the peace.

One of the highlights of my life was the twenty minutes during this race that were spent on a gravel road that had recently been driven on for our profound enjoyment. During these moments, I felt guilty unless I ran hard on the delightfully firm, slushless surface. My feet even stopped worrying me; they warmed slightly, and I no longer feared that I would lose them to frostbite. But you quickly forget the good moments when pain and hunger strike.  I reached the slush puddles again and then felt frozen, then full and then hungry...full...hungry...hungryyy...then shaky at times and swore at one point that one neighboring smooth log perfectly resembled a resting dinosaur. My logic escaped me. I wondered if I would finish. But I had joked earlier that we participants were equivalent to fearless Winter Olympians on this day of great outdoor testing and post-solstice undertakings. So, I had to stay true to my prophesy by eating, running, and showing fortitude.

It was interesting how much my feet hurt and my leg muscles did not. This was foreshadowing for my lack of leg soreness in the days following the flexed footfest. I felt like a potentially strong warrior with my feet attached by dental floss. They flopped and dangled from my body, as I was forced to take tiny steps to achieve any stroke of efficiency and surety on the uncertain trail. The unfamiliar shoes and abundance of moisture led to some obese blisters on my swollen feet. I quieted my concern when others exclaimed concern of their own for the feet that they stopped feeling hours ago.

All in all, the event was remarkable. We had great support. Edifying beeps from friends' and spectators' cars boosted my spirits and echoed along with the caffeine in my veins. We had an easier second half, with the splattering mud at least providing a firm foundation beneath its opaque surface. And we had an understandable cutoff. It had all gotten gradually better, slushy problems melting away, as I had made some friends around me from various backgrounds and states.  We had cat-lovers, first-timers, girly-girls, city slickers, moms, dads, couples, old folks, young'uns, mismatchers, underdressers, and everything in between. We were all trudging through the same mud puddles. That made it great. That made it doable. I cannot imagine running this distance in these conditions if the fellow middle-packers were not as downright friendly as they were. It's always something about us humans suffering together while taking in the majesty of our vast natural surroundings that changes us. For the better. We see our weakness, but then become stronger as we run hard and run far.