Thursday, December 23, 2010

Back At It

With a packed ultra schedule coming up -- 1 in January, 2 in February, 1 in March and 1 in April -- I realized it was time to get back in training mode.  I've been having fun sleeping in on weekends and doing my little 10 milers, but that's not gonna cut it for 3 Days of Syllamo.  And I can honestly say that I'm ready to get back into the long runs again.  I don't know that I'm mentally ready for the back-to-back long run weekends, in which I spend half of my time running and the other half eating and napping, but I have a while before I have to do that again.

So with that in mind, I decided last weekend was THE weekend.  The weekend to start back up.  I made plans with my friend Sarah to meet up Sunday morning for a 20-miler at Clinton Lake.  I've spent a lot of time at the smooth, fast River Trails lately.  Far too much time actually.  The advantages of running the River Trails are:
  1. Fairly non-technical.  You can keep a decent pace and get your run knocked out quickly.  In contrast, Clinton Lake is quite technical with lots of rocks, roots and hills.
  2. Close to home.  Clinton Lake is about 7 miles away, so it's kind of a waste to drive out there for a short run.
  3. Good drainage at the river.  The trails at the lake can get very muddy, especially in the spring time.  Last year was especially challenging, due to the large amount of snow we got in the winter.  Recently however, the Kansas Trails Council added a great deal of armoring to the normally soggy sections and it has helped a ton!
The disadvantages of running at the river:
  1. Non-technical.  I know I already referred to this as an advantage but can get a little boring when you're not challenged much.  In addition, very few trail races are on trails this smooth.  My reflexes and ankle strength seem to have deteriorated a bit due to my months-long hiatus from the lake.
  2. Short on length.  A full loop of the river trail is only 9 miles.  Loops get boring.  A full loop at the lake is 23 miles.  And the scenery is constantly changing.
So all things considered, I decided it was time to get back to the hills, rocks and roots of Clinton Lake.  As far as I can remember, my last long run at the lake was back in May when I ran the Inaugural Hawk 50.  Wondering why it's been so long?  Well for one, remember when I mentioned the trail could be a little soggy?  Here's a water crossing at the race, which is normally calf high on me.

Anyway, the trail was soggy for a LONG time.  Like, until July.  I should also tell you that I hate summer and I also hate spider webs.  So running on a trail that would extend my run time by 30% or more wasn't very tempting.  Nor was the prospect of breaking through hundreds of spider webs on this less-traveled trail.  I'm pretty good at coming up with lists of excuses, huh?

Well it was the perfect time to get back to the lake!  It was in the mid-30's for our run.  My favorite temps for running.  And the trail was nice and dry.  We started out at 7am and after the first mile we had both warmed up quite a bit.  So I stopped to take off my jacket and my brand new glove/mittens, bungied them into my Nathan pack and put on my thin liner gloves.  I'm getting pretty good at having the right gear on hand at all times.  The quirks of a runner I guess.  I actually keep headlamps in my purse all the time.  What kind of odd things do you keep in YOUR purse?

The rest of the run was just wonderful.  I probably wasted a lot of time stopping to look at things, but I was just having too much fun.  It felt like I was on vacation!  I would look down and see some cool bird feathers with bright orange accents and point them out to Sarah.  I'm sure by the fifth time I pointed out bird feathers she was thinking, "Enough already!"  All along the way, I stayed fueled with the energy balls Sarah made at home.  They are sooo good.  Made with dates, figs, and apricots.  I think there was some yummy coconut in there too which provided a nice texture.  We were a little nervous at times, because we kept hearing what sounded like gun shots.  And to my knowledge hunting is not allowed in the park, so I can only assume someone was hunting on nearby public land.  I was wishing I had worn a bright orange shirt instead of my all-black ninja-esque getup.  At least I wasn't wearing a white fluffy tail.  The good news is, we never got shot! 

On our way back to the trail head we spotted a big bird, which I thought might be a hawk, because I'm not good at identifying birds.  I commented that I wish our friend Kristi was there to tell us what it was and to identify all the feathers we kept seeing.  Not a minute later, we came across Mike Goodwin (president of the Kansas Trails Council) hiking the trail.  We greeted him and he asked if we had seen the baby eagle fly by.  Well that answered our question in a timely manner.  We saw a baby eagle!  Pretty big for a baby!  I asked him about the next trail maintenance day and he said it would be sometime after the new year.  I forget what it would involve.  Something about a water crossing maybe??  Anyway, sounds like a fun project for January!

We did a bit more walking toward the end, but I didn't feel totally exhausted or unbearably sore.  We finished up in about 4 hours and 45 minutes, which I was pleased with--taking into account eating breaks, staring-at-birds-and-feathers breaks and the challenging nature of the trail.  I mean, if I'm really bookin' it, I can maintain a 5mph pace for about 10 miles out there.  And I don't think of myself as a slow runner.  This trail just takes it out of you.

After the run, I grabbed a Jimmy John's sammy, went home, ate, showered, planned on doing stuff around the house, but ended up just conking out.  The effects of the long run hit me like a sledge hammer.  I didn't mind.  I got in a great nap, anyway!  I did not envy Sarah, who went home, took a shower, then had company over to bake cookies all afternoon.  Zzzzzz.  I don't know how she does it all, AND wrangles a 2 year old.

Well, I can definitely say that I was excited about my first weekend back at distance training.  Ask me what I think about it in a couple months when I'm doing back-to-backs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My First Race

Don't let the title confuse you.  The topic of this entry is not "the first race I ever ran".  That was probably the Parkville Turkey Trail Trot 5k in 2002, and I was really slow.  I'm talking about...drum roll please...the first race I will ever DIRECT!  A very exciting milestone.

So how did I come across my first race directing opportunity?  It was a weekend.  Sunny I think.  Maybe 40 degrees.  I was running on the Lawrence River Trails.  I had turned around early.  My initial plan was to do two, 9-mile loops.  Then my revised plan was to do one, 9-mile loop.  Then my double revised plan was to do 5 miles.  If I recall correctly, the reasons included chafing and wanting to spend time with my boyfriend.

So on my trek of shame back to the trail head, I started thinking about how we (the Lawrence Trail Hawks) don't have any races on the river trails.  To date, they've all been at Clinton Lake State Park.  In my quest for branching out, I began brainstorming when such a race would be.  And based on the dates of the other races we already host and the fact that I hate the summer, I decided on early spring.  Then I thought about what the name and distance of the race would be.  It's all a blur to me now, which order I decided on what.  But the result was...the Pi-Day River Rotation (πr²) Half Marathon.  The reasons being, 1) Pi Day is in March, which fit my time frame, 2) Pi Day is nerdy and I like that, 3) the title can be abbreviated πr², which is the area of a circle (more nerdy), 4) it's a loop course with alternating counter clockwise and clockwise directions and 5) we don't have a half marathon yet.

So now I should probably back up and tell you what Pi Day is in case you haven't heard of it.  Pi Day is a holiday held to celebrate the mathematical constant π, 3.1415… It is held on March 14th (3/14). Get it? π (sometimes written pi) is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any circle’s circumference to its diameter in Euclidean space. -source

Also, Pi Day is generally celebrated by eating pie and other round foods.  So even if one was totally unappreciative of the clever name and not nerdy at all, he or she would still be lured in by pie (and running).  Unless you're Sarah, and you don't like pie.  Weirdo.  If you were Sarah, you'd still have to come, because you're my friend.  So there.

In conclusion, because I came up with the idea I have to direct it!  That's the way it goes 'round here.  So here are the details!  It's March 19th at 8am.  Sorry, couldn't actually swing Pi Day.  It's a Monday.  But you could still celebrate by running around in circles if you want.  Online registration will be open soon, but if you like writing checks and mailing things and not paying extra fees, you can register RIGHT NOW!  So check it out!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Running Family

Since it's the holiday season, I've been getting all soft and sappy feeling.  So I thought I'd take advantage and write a bit about the importance and awesomeness of my vast running family.  If I had to guess, I would say I'm friends with 100+ trail and ultra runners in the Kansas/Missouri area.  And if you have any experience with the trail/ultra community you'll know that any of those people would probably donate an arm and part of a leg to help out a fellow runner.

I'm always amazed when I think about how very different many of my running friends are in terms of political views, religious beliefs, everything!  But it never stops us from loving each other to death.  We all share a few things.  1) Loving the outdoors.  2) Need for a challenge, test or struggle.  Builds character!  We've all been in a race and thought, "Gosh, this is the hardest thing EVER.  I hurt like hell, why am I doing this?"  And after the race you're still thinking, "I'm never doing THAT again."  And a few days to a few weeks later you're saying, "When's the next race?  I wanna sign up!"  3) Friendliness.  If you meet someone at a trail race, the next tme you see them, you're on hugging terms.  The third time you see them, you're old friends, practically BFFs.  Unless it's Stacy Sheridan or Debbie Webster you're talking about.  They'll hug you the moment they meet you!

So to my running family, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, you can always take those few days away from work to reflect on all the special people in your life and remind them that you love 'em all!

Love you dearly ,


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cold Weather Running

So if you didn't know yet, I like to run when it's cold!  But I do have my sweet spots.  Tuesday night got pretty chilly - upper 20's and windy.  My hands were pretty cold at the end.  I ended up running with my water bottle tucked under my arm for a while.  Last night was just lovely.  I think it was upper 20s or low 30s, but no wind.  If it's light I'm pretty comfy with low to mid 20's.  If it's dark, my sweet spot is low 30's.  If I had a limit I would say it's somewhere around zero. 

The legs start getting super stiff down around zero. I suppose one could throw enough layers on to run at lower temps but then the weight and bulkiness of your clothes starts hampering motion, and it's just not as much fun. Although...running with extra weight would probably be a great workout, I run because I like to feel free and light! Not because I like to feel like I'm carrying around a small child.

My coldest run, most painful run?  Well, coldest-FEELING.  It was 9 degrees, not taking into account wind chill, and it WAS windy.  Also, it was night.  Nick and I ran along the levee for 1 mile to the trailhead, did the 4 mile loop, then headed back on the levee.  I never warmed up.  My legs burned the whole time.  In all fairness to the winter weather, I was wearing extremely lightweight tights.  I think Nick and I can both agree that this was our most painful run.  He has his own reasons.  Maybe having something to do with the fact that he had to stop for a bathroom break??  He loves telling the story.  Just ask him.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What's New?

So it's been about a month since Heartland and my current attitude towards running has changed a lot since then.  I wouldn't characterize it as good or bad.  This is just my current state of mind.  After several months of training for Heartland and ultimately completing it, I'm just burnt out on "training".  At least 100 mile training.  Don't get me wrong.  I still love running and I always have.  But towards the end of my training for Heartland, it was definitely starting to feel more like work than fun.  Maybe this is because I'm sort of obsessive about planning.  I was ALWAYS thinking about the next run.  How far do I need to go?  Where should I run?  When should I run?  Who will run with me?  What if it's too hot?  What about the spider webs?  Do I need to split my runs up?  This is just how I am.  A planner.  And a bit of an obsessor.  You can ask my boyfriend, Nick.  I'm always talking to him about plans, for everything.  He flies by the seat of his pants.  I like to know exactly what I'll be doing for the next two weeks.  Anyway, you can imagine that my own personality was a bit of a hassle for me while training for my first 100 miler.  Who knows?  Maybe it will be easier the more 100's I run, but for now I'm content with just running.

Ok, maybe JUST running is an understatement.  I think runners always have goals.  Right now I'm enjoying my shorter runs.  I'm enjoying the cooler weather (I totally SUCK at running in the heat).  I'm enjoying getting home on weeknights at a decent time and being able to make dinner and eat it before 9pm (usually).  I'm enjoying sleeping in at least one day on the weekend.  I'm enjoying spending more time with my boyfriend.  Along with the pure pleasure of the shorter cooler runs, comes the enjoyment of faster runs!  When I was training for Heartland, I was purely training for distance.  I was also training in the heat, so even if I wanted to do a short, fast run, I couldn't.  So right now, I'm focusing on increasing my speed, doing more hill training, and hopefully starting to work on my core.  I'd really like to do some faster 50k's.  And maybe in the spring or early summer I'll try another 100 miler.  Something not on gravel and not in the mountains. Perhaps Kettle Moraine.

So finally, I guess I'll document what I've been up to and what I want to be up to more.  Here are some shots of Ogg Rd hill.  I used to run it more often but it's been a while since we've gotten together for hill repeats.  Well since I was early for meeting up with Coleen on Tuesday, I decided to do one Ogg Rd trip.  It's about a half mile long on the steepest side.  The pics are a little blurry, because I was taking them and running at the same time.

Ok, this is the easy part.  It's a hill but it ain't the worst thing in the world.  You can see at the bend farther down the road it starts to get a little steeper.

Going around the beeennnnnd...getting steeeper.

I'm around the bend.  It's officially STEEP!  But wait, there's another bend coming up!

You mean it gets steeper?!  Yessss!!!  This is the hardest section.  And there's Jim Megerson driving past me and probably laughing to himself.  There's one more turn and a short jaunt past that is the official top.   Then you run down the other (easy) side of the hill and you can get back to the Marina where we all meet to run the trails.  Wooo!  The End.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Heartland 100

The first 8 miles flew by.  We were mesmerized by the beautiful sunrise, we talked, we were fresh, and there was a day (and night) full of opportunity ahead of us!
At Battle Creek I grabbed a couple snacks, said hi to our friends James and Stacey who were working the aid station and headed on out to the hilliest section of the course.  I had fun walking the steep hills and jogging back down the other sides.  All the while I was thinking, this is going to be pretty difficult on the way back.  Debbie and Coleen were super stud walkers.  They didn't even look like they were trying but they floated up the hills like ultra angels.  I was feeling good when we approached Lapland and was delighted to see Nick for the first time.  I put on some sunscreen, ate some food and we were off.  It was a pretty short stop compared to those later in the race.

It started getting pretty warm on our trek to the 25-mile mark.  Lee and I ran and walked together as our paces seemed to be evenly matched, while Debbie and Coleen hung together farther ahead.  I thought about trying to go faster and keep up, but I felt like the pace I was going was exactly the right speed so I stuck with it, listening to my Shuffle and plodding along.  As the temps increased, I realized my shoes were starting to feel tight.  I decided to wait until I got to Teterville to loosen them.  I have no idea why.  I had just about all the time in the world!  Along the way, I also noticed that the ball of my left foot was starting to feel sore and some of my toes were starting to hurt.  Gah, it was a bit early in the race for foot problems, I thought.

I was getting ready to leave the aid station after Nick filled up my water and I ate some food, when Nick asked if I needed anything else.  I said, "Ehhhh. My feet kinda hurt and I think I have blisters, but I'll just wait until I get to the next aid station to worry about it."  He said we should take care of them before I went on.  So he put some moleskin and tape around a couple toes and I was off.  As soon as I started running, I could feel that my shoes were still laced too tightly for my swelling feet.  I continued running, trying to ignore the pain in my restricted feet.  Again, I have no idea why I didn't stop immediately.  It's not as if I was close to the finish line.  So after 15 or 20 minutes I finally stopped and loosened my laces.  I think I did this a few times, until they were as loose as they could get while maintaining a double knot.

This section was pretty tough on the feet.  Lots of big gravel and hills.  But before I knew it I had reached Texaco Hill.  It was a tent nestled in a valley between two hills.  I remember hearing from Stacy Sheridan that this windy section of the course was notorious for destroying aid station tents.  It was windy but I suspect these conditions were a bit tame compared to years past.  Anyway, the wind made the heat a little more bearable.  I didn't stay long.  Just got some fruit and headed up the hill.

I spent a lot of time skipping past songs on the Shuffle, as I had unintentionally allowed it to fill any remaining space with random songs from my massive library.  This was a bit frustrating, as there were maybe 1 in 4 songs that I actually wanted to listen to.  But I finally hit the jackpot and Madonna's "Like A Prayer" came on, so I started belting it out and Coleen joined me in singing the chorus.  This was a high point.  I managed to stay close to the girls during this portion.  Sometimes I would jog ahead if they were walking, then I'd walk and they would pass, but we stayed relatively close together.  We also played leapfrog with a few other runners, many of whom we would see off and on for the rest of the race.

Well, the Ridgeline aid station couldn't come at a better time.  It was just coming into view as I sucked down the last drops of my water.  In retrospect, I should have filled up my pack at Texaco Hill given the heat.  Ah well, I made it in one piece to Ridgeline, handed my pack off to Nick to refill and I went to grab some food from the tent.  I sat around while Nick went to the car to fetch my bandana so he could fill it with ice and wrap it around my neck.  Thank goodness I brought one!  That ice was a life saver.  Sarah and Justin Henning arrived while I was sitting around and Sarah already started putting herself to work by applying some extra sunscreen to my arms and shoulders.  It was great to see them!  They got a babysitter for their son Nate and drove out to crew and pace me.  Well after I got all sunblocked and fed, and spent a good amount of time complaining about my feet and how I was hot, I took off with Debbie and Coleen.

The gravel was starting to take a toll on all of us.  After sitting down at the aid station, we hobbled along for a few minutes until our feet said we could run again.  I think I stayed closed to the girls for a while, but I recall by the time we got to Matfield Green they had a good lead on me.  Nick grabbed my pack from me while I made the trek up the hill and turned the corner into the aid station.  He had chairs set up on the side of the road so I sat down and probably complained about being hot.  Sarah and Justin were there of course, and Sarah was excited to get going.  I had Nick take care of my feet again while I was there.  By this point, I had blisters on most of my toes and had a big one on the ball of my left foot.  I put on some new socks and Sarah and I headed out.

I think it was close to 4 when we left Matfield Green (42.5mi) and I was looking forward to the sun starting to let up a little.  I wasn't particularly looking forward to the 15 miles we would travel without seeing the crew though.  It didn't turn out being so bad though.  The temps started dropping a little and before we knew it we were at Lone Tree, the 50 mile mark!!!  I felt pretty good at this point, but Debbie and Coleen were both feeling pretty sick, so we stopped for a while.  I certainly didn't have anything to complain about.  I just got to sit a little longer.  Ahhhhh sitting.  They had a hearty offering of food at the turnaround: hamburgers and fettucine alfredo.  Since I didn't want to feel like Coleen and Debbie, I stuck with pringles and bananas.

A few minutes after leaving Lone Tree, I started feeling a little queasy.  I guess it was contagious.  I think Coleen gave me a ginger chew.  As I thought of things I would need, I would tell Sarah just to reinforce my memory and to have a backup in case I forgot.  But she had her handy dandy phone with her, so she just went ahead and texted the boys back at Matfield Green to let them know what we needed.  I was definitely starting to slow down at this point.  My feet were starting to hurt more, but I still ran most of the flat parts, unless they were very long.  So I spent a lot of the time running between yellow road markers.  They seemed to mark every hill.  There was probably something about yellow markers and hills in the KS driver's manual that I never read.  Hey, at least I know what a stop sign looks like.

I finally broke down and took some ibuprofen a couple miles out from Matfield Green and before I knew it, I was running like a champ.  Felt like I was doing 10 minute miles, although it was probably much slower.  All the while I thought to myself, I should probably be running a little slower even if it feels good right now.  My feet are going to be even more angry when this wears off and they realize what I did while they were drugged.  We got to the aid station just in the nick of time, also in the Nick of time.  The sun was just about completely gone when we got there and we needed headlamps.  I donned my leopard print Moeben sleeves once again and we took off for Ridgeline. 

I don't remember anything too exciting from this section except that I was definitely violating Coleen's "aid station to aid station" rule, in which you only thing of the next aid station.  I was glad that we would see the crew again after only 6 miles, but I knew that after we left Ridgeline we wouldn't see them again for 11 miles.  Bad Laurie was thinking ahead.

Once we got to Ridgeline, I downed some 5 Hour Energy, ughhhh.  I'm not even sure why it comes in flavors.  They're all gross.  But I have to admit, it's pretty effective.  You know it's true, coming from a girl who would sleep 14 hrs a day if you let her.  I think I also had some of those "Prairie Power Pellets" or whatever they're called.  Basically a beans and weanies type thing.  And there's even a veggie version.  I'm not a vegetarian, but meat or dairy and running are just not a good combo for me.  The pellets were delicious, but I couldn't finish.  Also, there was something kind of meaty textured in there.  Perhaps it was tofu?  Anyway, it was delicious.

I wasn't looking forward to the run to Teterville.  This was the most technical part of the course.  The gravel was inescapable.  It was pretty much impossible to find a clear spot to run on and the gravel was big.  Also, it would be 11 miles before I saw my crew again.  While there was a manned aid station 5 miles into the run (Texaco Hill), crew didn't have access and it was tough going that long without seeing Nick.  I managed to survive though, with Sarah's company.  I noticed that one road we traveled, was dotted with a rather large amount of cow dung.  When I heard a gasp come from Sarah and saw her stop suddenly, I assumed she had almost stepped in a cow pie.  When I stopped and looked around I realized we were surrounded.  By cattle.  It was spoooooky.

If you're used to seeing cattle from the highway, you ain't seen nothin'.  Standing feet away from them, I became aware of just how HUGE they are.  Their green eyes stared "menacingly" at us.  Ok, maybe they weren't menacing, but they WERE huge, and they could have been menacing if they wanted to be.  As a matter of fact, one had HORNS!  HORNS!  It was quite an experience.  So much of an experience that I wanted to take a picture.  But Sarah pointed out that it might be a bad idea to irritate a giant creature with horns by exposing it to flash photography.  I recognized her logic and we walked on.

Sarah and I walked for the first hour on our way out of the Teterville aid station. None of the sugary energy foods I had were sitting well in my stomach, so Justin grabbed a storage bag full of crackers and pretzels for me to munch on between aid stations. These didn't make me feel sick, but I had to drink a ton of water to get them down my dry mouth and throat. So I was taking bathroom breaks approximately...all the time. I finally decided this walking 8 miles between aid stations was for the birds, so I took some ibuprofen and worked on doing a bit of jogging to make the time pass more quickly. We could still see Coleen, Debbie and crew in the distance from time to time when they turned around.

Sarah had offered to continue on with me to Battle Creek, another 8ish miles from Lapland, but after much consideration, I decided the best thing in my darkest hour was to be with my man, Nick. I wanted the comfort of his company for emotional reasons, but I also knew he would make me do what was necessary to finish. And I didn't want Sarah to have to deal with crabosaurus rex.
So Nick and I set out from Lapland after I downed a second 5 hour energy. I plodded along as Nick went back to get some ibuprofen which I forgot to ask him to refill when I was sitting at the aid station. Nick was successful in getting me to run a bit from time to time, until we got to the seriously hilly section. I couldn't run up or down the steep hills. Occasionally there would be a short flat section between hills which Nick could prod me to jog along for a bit, but the valleys between hills were about 15 degrees cooler than the peaks and everything started to stiffen up. Eventually, "I'll try" turned in to a flat out "No". I knew the Battle Creek aid station was over one of those hills, but I couldn't remember how many hills I had to climb, so I kept saying, "Is it THIS one???"

At one point, Nick said, "Did you hear that," to which I replied "What?" He said he thought it was the sound of a generator. I told him he was full of crap and that we were never getting to the aid station. Well it turned out it WAS a generator and we had finally reached the last hill before the aid station. I was tired but happy to see James Barker and Stacey Amos walking toward us. I think James handed me a cup of broth, which I thought was just swell! We walked by his van, which was running, and I stood next to it for a few seconds, enjoying the heat. I finally sat down at a chair in the aid station and James brought over two warm blankets from the car and covered me. What a saint! Stacey quizzed me on what I wanted to eat. It took me a while to decide but I finally settled on some watermelon and a pbj. I downed the rest of the broth, ate a few pieces of watermelon, and moved on to the most heavenly pbj I've ever eaten.

My spirits were high leaving the last manned aid station. I was finally able to eat a decent amount of food without feeling sick, the sun was rising, and Nick gave me some ibuprofen. We had also reached a pretty flat part of the course. I was confident I'd be able to do a good amount of running once the drugs kicked in. Well, long story short, the drugs never kicked in. Nick gave me more ibuprofen and still, no help. So, you could perhaps imagine that I was pretty cranky when I realized I was going to have to SLOWLY walk the last 8 miles of the race. This wasn't the exciting, uplifting finish I had envisioned. Sure I thought I'd be in pain, but I always thought I'd be able to push through it at the end of the race.

Well, I was pretty much a pain in the butt for the last 6 miles of the race. Every few minutes Nick would say something nice like, "I'm so proud of you" or "You're awesome," and my responses ranged from, "Thanks sweetie" to silence or a grunt of acknowledgement. At one point a car drove by and a gentleman yelled out, "Less than 4 miles left," to which my response was loud cursing. I was walking a 20-25 minute mile. I didn't understand why someone thought telling me there were 4 miles left would make me feel better. My second meltdown came when I had to use the prairie facilities (ie go on the side of the road), which happened about every 15 minutes it seemed. There was a group of guys and car behind me and I waited for them to pass. Nick told me to just go, but I was being stubborn. Who knew I would have any decency left after 26 hours of being outdoors? Well for some reason the car was going about 0.25 miles per hour, so of course I started cursing loudly again. Nick, the sweetheart, waved the car on so I could go in peace.

The rest of the time I spent with my eyes, welling with tears of frustration, focused on the ground in front of me. Even though I knew I had plenty of time to finish the race well before the 30-hr cutoff, I couldn't help being disappointed in myself for walking the last 20 miles.  I saw a big burgundy truck off in the distance and asked Nick if he thought it was Tony.  It was.  He was on the phone with the folks at the finish line and told them I was about 2.5 miles out.  He told me everyone was waiting for me at the finish line, not in a "Get your ass moving kind of way" but in an encouraging kind of way.  So I kept trudging along.

Finally, FINALLY, we made it to the paved road that leads to the finish line.  Nick told me earlier that I needed to run this section.  I told him I didn't know if I would be able to.  He said, "You will.  When you get there, you'll see."  Well when I turned the corner to get on the road and saw everyone at the finish line I started running.  And once I started running I knew I wouldn't stop.  I cried because everything hurt.  I cried because I had never been so relieved to be done with something.  And I cried because there were so many people standing there cheering for me.

I really had every advantage in finishing this race.  So many of my friends were there volunteering, running or race directing.  I had an awesome crew!  My brother came out Saturday night.  My parents came out to watch me finish.  I couldn't imagine ever doing anything like this on my own.  So thank you Nick, Sarah and Justin for being an awesome crew.  Thank you Coleen and Debbie for running with me and hanging around in aid stations, waiting for me, when you could have been out kicking my arse.  Thanks to everyone in Debbie's crew who were a bunch of great cheerleaders: Kristen, Deb, Julie, Glenda, Mike.  Thanks to Coleen's crew for being there and giving me ginger!: Christy and Dave. Thanks to my brother Pete who came out Saturday night even though he was running a half marathon in the morning.  Thanks to my parents for coming out and getting to the finish line early, even though I was 8 miles away from the finish line then.  :)  Thanks to all the volunteers who helped me: James, Stacey, Gary, Steve.  Also to any volunteers I didn't meet, whether I stopped in the aid station or not, I know you were helping my crew!  Thanks to anyone who gave me a hug or an encouraging word: Stacy S., Angel, Tony.  Thanks to the race directors: Randy, Tony and Kyle.  Thanks to the photographer: Dick Ross!  Thanks thanks thanks.  Everyone was awesome.  If I saw you, thank you!  Unless you're that guy who told me there were 4 miles left.  Oh, ok, thank you too, well-intentioned man in the car.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Last Long Run

My dear friend Sarah was a sweetheart and accompanied me on my 30 mile run on Saturday.  I have to say, she's been a life saver.  She's put in a LOT of miles with me.  And as I've told her before, I couldn't have reached this point in my training alone.  I owe her big time.  She's also pacing me at Heartland.  I'm not sure how I'll ever pay her back!

Well here are a few shots from our run.  We started at 5:30 on the levee.  This shot was about 5 miles in, after we had turned off on Alexander Rd.  Beautiful sunrise!

After we ran 12 on the levee and road, we did a couple 9 mi loops on the river trails.  I love this section of the trail.  The skinny trees remind me of the aspens in Colorado.  I had some knee pain for this first loop, but it ended up clearing up for the last loop.  I guess you know you're an ultra runner if it takes you 20 miles to warm up. Hahaha.

A whiskey bottle.  I call this section of the trail, the Whiskey Mile.  I normally pick up trash on the trail, but this is more like a landmark to me than trash, so I left it.  Plus, I didn't have anywhere to hold a whiskey bottle.

Twisted Metal Graveyard.  We're not really sure what's up with this section of the trail.  I like to imagine that some tornado came through 40 years ago and left all this here but I really have no ideas.  I think they're old car frames.

Finally done!  I'm not a big fan of this shot.  The light is showing off my wrinkles!  I had to include it anyway.  We finished.  And then we got Chipotle.  Awesome day.

Chillin' out with Tuk and Roxy, literally.  Icing my knees

Friday, August 20, 2010

Deep Thoughts By Laurie

I have nothing overly insightful or exciting with respect to my training runs lately so I'll just breeze through a quick recap.  Last weekend was full of ups and downs. 

Friday Coleen hosted the Lawrence Trail Hawks' Sweaty Ass Run.  The course was a 3.5mi loop and you could do as many loops as you wanted.  For free.  All night.  The thunderstorms that rolled through were more of a blessing than a curse as it had been over 100 degrees for a week.  We got held up a little when the rain was extremely heavy or the lightning got so close it made us scream like little girls, but the cool temps were welcome.  I even felt a little chilly at times!  I totally crashed half way through the 5th loop.  One second I was fine, the next I wanted to lie down on the ground and go to sleep.  I learned a lesson here, to be shared later.  I tried to quit after 5 loops but everyone was nagging me to go back out so I did one more.  I needed the sleepy training for Heartland anyway.  Glad I did it.  Oh did I mention the Prairie Center is AWESOME?  It's full of stuffed animals native to KS.  I mean real stuffed ANIMALS.  Here's a shot of me getting friendly with a beaver. 

There was also a surprise in the freezer!

Saturday afternoon Sarah and I hit the Lawrence River Trails for 10 miles.  Thinking it would be a gorgeous day after the cool temps Friday night, we started running at 3pm.  We were wrong.  It was awful.  It was extremely hot and humid.  We probably could have speed walked faster than we were running.

Sunday we met up again.  This time at 8am.  It was pefect with the exception of the first couple miles being pretty webby.  It was cool again.  The 10 miles went by much faster in both the relative "feeling" and actual sense.

Monday was the normal group run at the river.  Nick set a good pace and we had a great time.  We even had a few new faces!

Tuesday was a special treat.  I ran the Shawnee Mission Park trails with two good friends, Coleen and James.  I've really missed these trails!  I'd forgotten how technical they are.  The rocks really kept me on my toes.  Literally.  After we did a 6mi loop, we did three hill repeats at Ogg Rd.  I've missed these too, even though they're brutal. 

Wednesday I just needed to relax at home.  It was a long day at work, plus my knee was a little sore so I thought a day off was in order.

Now for the truly deep thoughts.  I was trying to collect a mental library of lessons learned and advice I would give myself for running Heartland in October.  As I've never run 100 miles before, I pretty much just thought of normal ultra running advice.  I imagine that this advice is just that much more important to follow for 100 miles.  In a 50k or 50 miler maybe you can get away with making some mistakes but if I'm going to finish 100 miles I need to be on top of my game physically and mentally.  So here goes:
  1. Think about NOW. Thinking too far into the future will lead to despair!  This behavior can take you down a bad road, even if you're physically feeling fine.  It will lead you down a worse road if you're not feeling fine.  A smart woman named Coleen once told me, just think about getting to the next aid station.  Good advice, I say.  This is as far ahead as you should look.
  2. Do not focus on a point in the distance.  This is similar to 1 and is important for wide open expanses.  Things look closer than they really are when you're running out in the plains.  Focusing on some structure off in the distance will lead to disapointment and frustration, just like 1.
  3. Constant stream of calories.  Stay on top of eating.  Frequent, small amounts work best.  I know I said don't live in the future, but if you wait until you are HUNGRY to eat, it's too late.  Things will get worse before they get better if you start eating when you're tummy is grumbling.
  4. Number 3 also goes for caffeine.  If you wait until you want to just lie down on the ground and nod off to take in some wake-up juice, it'll take a while to bounce back.  So far, Coke is my fav.  A couple ounces every 5 miles seemed to do the trick at Lunar Trek.  (Like I said, I totally crashed at the Sweaty Ass because I didn't caffeinate properly.)
  5. Go into the race KNOWING you are going to finish. There is no room for negotiation unless you are hauled off in an ambulance.  This is also courtesy of Coleen!
So these are my self help tips.  Most of them are means of avoiding mental breakdown, which I think will be my biggest challenge.  I welcome more tips from you all!

Well I must say, I'm really lucky to have such a large group of friends to support me in these new adventures.  Coleen "Little Big Hawk" will be running with me from the start although I might make her leave me behind if she's feeling too good!  Pacers are allowed for the last 40 miles and I have a few recruits to keep me company on the way.  Sarah "Scoop Hawk" has agreed to come out and run as far as she can with me.  I've also recruited Levi "Smilin' Hawk" to fill in some miles depending on how Sarah's IT band is feeling.  Darn those IT bands.  They can be a real pain, literally.  And finally, my man Nick "Colo Hawk" will be there crewing for me and might run the last 5-10mi with me.  It's nice to cross the finish line with a loved one.  I'm also sure I'll see loads of other great friends at the aid stations: the Clarks, the Amoses, the Sheridans, Mr. Gary Henry.  The list goes on.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm Still Alive

I figured since it's been a while, I should update my "followers". Hahaha. My followers consist of about 5 people all of whom pretty much know what's going on in my life already. So really this is just a journal entry to remind future me how I'm a pathetic writer.

Here's the deal.  I finished my first 50 miler in May.  Then I decided I would sign up for a 100 miler in October.  Then finishing my thesis took a lot longer than I expected, so I didn't run much in June or July.  Now I'm done with my thesis and defense (just need to get some paperwork signed).  Now I have time to run!  I'm a little worried that I'm cutting it too close on the 100 miler training. 

I did manage to run a 50k a few weeks ago - Lunar Trek Night Race.  I got a PR by almost an hour and a half, which is nice!  And I came in first place.  Also nice, even though there were only 3 women finishers.  I'll take it.  But I haven't done long runs for the past couple weekends.  Booo.  So the next few weeks will be important for me.  I've got Coleen's Sweaty Ass this weekend.  As many loops as I can or want to run on Friday night.  My plan is to run 30-40 miles.  This will be a great opportunity as it's always easier to do the long runs with friends. 

My normal long running buddy, Coleen, has unfortunately started a job where she has to work on the weekends! Not cool, Coleen. Screw health insurance, your life should be all about running with me!  Of course, there's always running at night, which is ideal in this heat.  But I suppose she needs to sleep at night to get up for that 7am job.  So really, I just need to stop being a pansy, stop drinking vodka tonics after work on Friday and get out on the trail.

Blah blah blah. Run run run.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hot and Humid

Yesterday morning Gary Henry and I met up with Lawrence Mountain Bike Club members to do some maintenance on the river trails.  Art King, president of the club, was our fearless leader.   We also met Lisa, Jeff, and Chad.

Gary and I managed to lop 2 miles of the west end of the trail in about 3 hours while the others worked on repairs to the east end, a section that's notorious for being soggy.  Gary snapped this photo of me trying to manhandle a pesky branch.

It got pretty steamy by the time we were wrapping up but a very small but sweet mountain biker made it all worth it.  Urged on by his father, a young boy of three or four came pedaling by on the tiniest bike I've ever seen and said, "Thank you for cleawing the twail."  What a sweetheart!

Sunday I woke up at 4:30 and after a 15-minute long internal argument, I kicked myself out of bed and got out to the levee for an early morning run.  It's been scorching hot around here lately and I wanted to get my miles in early.  I was also feeling wimpy about spider webs...which is why I chose the levee.

I was pretty miserable the first few miles.  Even though it was early, the humidity was killer.  But eventually my hair became drenched in sweat which kept my neck nice and cool(er).  I decided to keep my run to 10 miles, because I didn't want to be stuck on the levee when the clouds cleared and the sun came out.

I sprinted across the railroad tracks before this lovely train came through.  The sprinting was actually unnecessary.  I had time to take my hydration pack off, get out my phone and start taking pictures before the gates went down.

This is actually a picture with the KU campus in the background.  Unfortunately, like your sideview mirror, images are larger than they appear in this photo.  Anyway, the blip in the center of the photo is Fraser Hall, the highest point in Lawrence (I'm pretty sure).  Oh and of course, beautiful crops and a big ol' sprinkler make every picture better!

Corn.  I like the lines of the crop and the wavy pattern in the clouds.  What can I say?  I like patterns.  Could have something to do with me being an engineer.

When I finished my run, I was distraught to find my car key missing from my pocket.  If you know me, you know I'm "key challenged".  I'm constantly losing them and/or locking them inside the things they open.  Aaaahhhhh!  Then I glanced up and saw this.  My key resting on the trunk of my car.  My next thought was, thank goodness!  My next thought was, I'm an idiot!  I can't believe someone didn't steal my car!  My next thought was thank goodness!  The end.

Almost the end.  Sarah Henning and I put in another 5 miles on the river trails later.  It was slow and steady in the early evening heat.  My ice-filled bandana was a life saver!  So was the great company.  Did I mention Sarah brought me chocolate snickerdoodles?  I have the most awesome friends.  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

One of those days?

Today was one of those days when things just don't go right for you, with respect to running anyway.  It was a pretty steam day, heat index of 100+.  I was looking forward to the run all day, even though I knew it was going to be hot.  I just imagined myself relishing the heat.  I knew it would slow me down, but I didn't think it would hinder me much.  That's right.  Even after running for 7 years, I'm still an idiot some days.

I planned on running a 5.5 mile loop solo, followed by a 4.5 mile loop with the group.  I brought my Nathan hydration pack because I didn't think a bottle would be enough at these temps.  That was one good decision I made.  After the first mile, I felt just fabulous at my slow but steady pace.  I scoffed at the heat as it clearly had no effect on me.

As I continued on, the spider webs became thicker.  I started running into big webs.  The big strong webs are the creepiest because there's usually a correspondingly large spider attached to them.  When I unknowingly run into a big web I let out a little scream.  When I see a spider hanging off me, I screeeeeam and dance around until I'm certain it's gone.  Truth be told, spiders want to get away from people as quickly as they can, so they're probably long gone by the time I'm done screaming.  But the sticky webs don't part so easily, so the creepy crawly feeling remains.

Well the web density was increasing and my legs were starting to get heavy and wobbly.  Not far from the 2 mile mark, I decided to turn back.  I was kicking myself as soon as I made the decision.  Before I knew it, I came across a young gentleman running back toward mile marker 2.  I didn't know him, but quickly decided to use him for my own ends!  Yes, I let him clear the trail of webs for me.  And I'm not ashamed.  Guys like that sort of stuff anyway, right?

I decided to continue on to 2.5 and turn back, staying on white the whole time.  I didn't know how far my trail sweep was going so I figured an out-and-back as opposed to a loop would be the best plan.  I also decided I was going to skip the second loop.  Despite taking an S!Cap at mile 2 and drinking lots of water, I was still feeling exhausted and started getting chills.  I figured 5 was good for today, especially since my training has been, well, nonexistent lately.

Before the 5 mile runs I did on Saturday and Sunday, I hadn't run in 2.5 weeks.  Damn thesis!  I finally said enough is enough and had to move my focus from running to getting out of grad school, which meant I had to cancel my plans to compete in the Headlands 50 Miler.  Ah well.  I'll live to race another day.  Once I'm done with school I can do whatever the heck I want!

So, today was "one of those days".  But more frequently than not, "one of those days" has more to do with "one of those weeks" or "one of those months".  Yeah, it was hot, but I can't help but think that my pitiful month of running has more to do with today's crappiness than the heat index.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Great Plains

Today, I ventured away from my comfort zone of the wooded trails, to do some training on the flatter than a pancake levee trail.  We've had a lot of rain lately and I'm trying to be better about "leaving no trace".  That includes trash AND giant footprints.  Ok, I don't really have giant feet, but running or cycling in the mud can cause damage to trails.  Beside that, I thought it would be good training for the Heartland Spirit of the Prairie 100 in October.

So I ran what I think is 10 miles.  When I ran out of levee to run at 3.75 miles, I turned on a dirt road to make up the rest of the distance then head back.  Luckily, it was overcast with a slight breeze most of the time, although I raced the sun back for the last few miles.  Here are a few shots.
Crossed the railroad tracks to decide which way to go. Ended up going back across the railroad tracks and running down the dirt road pictured here.  Didn't see any vehicles while I was on it.  

Was amused to find that at some point I had crossed into another county! The sign reads "LV County Maintenance Ends".  LV stands for Leavenworth county. Yes, the Leavenworth county that contains THE infamous Leavenworth.  For the record, I live and started running in Douglas county.

The gravel on the dirt road was pretty large.  I assume this will be representative of what I'll be running on at Heartland.  I have a lot of training ahead of me to toughen up my feet, not to mention my mind.  I practiced looking down at the ground in front of me while I ran.  The risk of looking ahead of you is that you'll pick out a point in the distance to focus on.  That's a bad idea in wide open spaces.  You don't realize how far away things are.

The view of the corn crops on the levee.  The levee trail is bordered by the river (duh) on the south and farmland on the north.  I'm starting to appreciate the beauty of the plains more and more.  Yes, mountains and oceans are awesome, but the midwest has its own unique beauty too.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Stretched Thin

So I have this thing.  I like to be there for people: my friends, my boyfriend, my family, the community and sometimes even myself.  And sometimes, like this weekend, things come to a head and I just can't do it all.  When that happens I have a difficult time deciding what to do and who comes first. 

Before the Trail Hawks prez, Gary Henry, left on vacation, I assured him I would lead the Saturday long runs.  Gary's a friend of mine and the Trail Hawks are my running family.  I take my commitments seriously. 

I noticed the other day that another friend, Willie Lambert, was having a race in Topeka this Saturday.  I planned on attending a couple months ago but the date snuck up on me.  Willie is a great asset to the running community.  He has an awesome running store in Topeka, puts on great races, and hosted an aid station at the Hawk 50 race in May.  I want to support him.

Mike Goodwin of the Kansas Trails Council announced the other day that he'll be leading a work day at Clinton Lake's North Shore trails on Saturday.  Helping maintain the trails is extremely important to me.  I utilize them a lot and definitely feel like I need to give back by helping out.

My boyfriend has some serious back problems right now and has been unable to run for a month.  Even his ability to walk is seriously challenged.  This is extremely frustrating to him.  Like me, running is and has been a very important part of his life.  Heck, we met at a race.  I've had my share of experience watching from the sidelines.  When Nick and I first met, he was running his first ultra.  I was on my 2nd.  Soon after, I started grad school, and my training went to crap, while 6 months later Nick was running his first 100.  I was always the one crewing and cheering on my friends, and if I was lucky, doing a little pacing.  So I understand when Nick tells me that it's difficult for him to watch me go off running all the time while he sits at home.  I've been racking my brain to think of something fun we can do together.  But both of us being athletic types, it's hard to conjure up things that we would love to do, that he can do.  I want so badly to do something to make him feel better, but I just don't know what to do.

My dad turns 58 on Flag Day and Father's Day is next weekend.  We usually celebrate the two events at the same time.  Lucky dad!  So we're getting together to celebrate on Sunday.

Nick's mom is going to be in town for the next couple weeks.  She's staying with her cousin in KC for the first week, but I feel like we should do something with her since she's sort of in town.  I'm sure the last time we saw her wasn't one of her better days.  It was mother's day.  Nick was puking, threw out his back and was laid up in the back of her truck.  Meanwhile, Nick's mom, aunt, sister, brother and I waited outside a restaurant for 2 hours for a table so we could celebrate the day with some yummy brunch.  I forgot to mention I was puking too.  Then she drove us around while Nick and I bickered about whether or not we should be flying home that day.  She's a saint and is going to stay with us for a week while Nick recovers from his surgery.  You couldn't ask for a better person to take care of you.

Me?  Well, I'm training for Headlands 50, which is coming up on July 17th.  I signed up for that a long time ago, so I gotta make it happen.  I need a few more weeks of really solid training before I taper.  I really don't know how that's going to happen this weekend.  I also changed my registration for the Heartland 50, coming up in October, to the 100.  I have a lot of training ahead, which makes me feel like I'm being selfish, considering Nick's condition.  But the 100 training won't start until after Headlands and hopefully he'll be well on the mend from his surgery (next Friday) by then.

Soo my tentative plan so far is as much as I can tonight, show up for trail maintenance tomorrow, go home and spend time with my sweetie and maybe do something helpful like mow the lawn, and if I have time maybe run some more.  Run Sunday morning, go to massage, go to parents.  The rest of the gaps I'm sure will be filled in.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Long Day

I completed my first long run since the Hawk 50 yesterday.  I was to meet Levi and Nicole.  Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication and Nicole thought we were supposed to meet at the River Trail.  I should have made it clear that we were back at the lake after letting the trail dry out for a couple weeks after the race.  Boo me!

Well Levi and I ran together to Land's End (6.5mi) where he turned back to finish a 10 mile loop.  He had to get back home for some reason...I think his mother in-law was visiting.  I'm a good listener.  Maybe.     

We saw some interesting wildlife.  First we ran into a possum carrying around its babies.  If there's anything that can make a possum seem slightly less creepy, it's seeing one carry around her young.  Awwww.  Actually, it took a few moments to realize the bumps attached to the creature's back were babies.  At first glance it looked sort of like something you'd see lurking around outside the nuclear power plant in the Simpson's.  

I wouldn't have noticed the next little treasure but Levi caught my attention when he said something like "Whoa!" or "Ahhhh".  I turned back and asked him what was up.  He claimed I just ran over a snake but I hadn't noticed it.  When I went back to see what there was to see, there was indeed a baby snake.  Levi said it was a rattlesnake and I asked if we had rattlesnakes in Kansas.  He said he thought so, and it WAS shaking its little tail at us.  It looked pretty peeved.  We usually see copperheads and black snakes on the trail.  I'm not sure what the actual name for the black snakes is...maybe it actually is black snake.  I have no idea.  Long story short, we have lots of snakes and a good portion of them are poisonous.

I decided to stop for water at 9.5mi.  I walked up the stairs to the campground and the place was crawling with folks.  It wasn't much of a surprise with the half Iron Man going on the next day at the park.  The folks walking around were fit and many were wearing bike shorts.  Go figure.  With my pack full, I headed back to the trail to get to my 10 mile turn around.

I wanted to do an out and back on the white trail to avoid the muddier blue trail.  The blue trail is closer to the lake, hence lower on the slope to the shore.  It's always wetter than the white.  I also didn't want to find out by trial and error whether the shoulder deep water crossing on blue had gone all the way down over the past two weeks.  I needed to be done with my run by 12:30 so I could get ready to volunteer for Iron Man packet pickup at 1.

I started getting clumsy on the trip back.  A lot of things were happening.  It was getting hotter, I was getting tired, but I was trying to keep my speed up to get done with my run in time.  So I started kicking rocks.  It was frustrating.  I hit my toe HARD on a rock.  My first reaction was "ouch, but not big deal". My second reaction, about a second later, was "Oh crap!  That's the toe with the nail I messed up at the race!"  I told myself to calm down and started walking.  After a little walking and running I surmised that I didn't do any more damage to the toenail but I was pretty sure the end of my toe was bleeding.  There really wasn't anything I could do about it 9 miles from the trailhead so I kept going.  I had to change my running style a little.  I usually run on the front of my feet (not my heels) but I couldn't do it with my left foot.  

The pain faded a little over the next half hour or so, but the heat just kept increasing.  I kept myself cool by splashing water on my bandana and wiping my face and neck with it.  I did that until I felt like my water was getting low enough that I needed the rest of it for drinking.  I was pretty worried about the time I was making but I didn't pull out my phone to check it until I crossed the marina road about 2 miles out from the trailhead.  It was only 11:30.  I had plenty of time.  Knowing how much time I had, I slacked a bit on the last mile and did more walking than I should have.

I'd really like to get to the point where I can do my long runs (at least the 20 milers) at a 12 minute per mile pace at Clinton Lake, but I wasn't disappointed with 13.  I cleaned myself up in the water spigot at the picnic shelter since I didn't have time to drive home and back before our volunteer gig.  My toe looked pretty fabulous.  The top was bloody and on the inside I had a giant blister.  It's been a couple years since I've had a blister that big.  I didn't get any blisters running the 50, so it was pretty comical that I got one running 20 miles.

Eventually folks started showing up to meet for volunteer duty.  Nick brought me a sandwich since I didn't have time to go home and the 15ish of us drove into the park and headed to campground 3.  I've never volunteered at a BIG race and soon realized that packet pickup was much more complicated than packet stuffing.  Everybody has their unique little problems.  It didn't help that I was working the team and pro packet pickup which was located right next to the "Solutions" table, i.e. where people with problems go.  The cool thing was that I got to give packets to the pros.  I had no idea who any of them were, but I'm not a triathlete.  There was a lady from Australia wearing an awesome running skirt.  It was white and covered in rainbow-colored skulls.  I also handed a packet to bib number 1.  I know in road races that usually means the person has won before.  He asked me to trim the sharp edges off his wrist bracelet, which would have seemed pain-in-the-ass-y coming from a lot of people, but he asked nicely so I was happy to oblige.

I was definitely ready to get out of the sweltering heat by the end of our shift at 5.  I was happy to help our group earn a much needed $500, but I won't say it was fun.  I much prefer small, low-key events.  But I would do it again next year to help out the group.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hawk 50 Report

After Nick woke up at 4am to pack up his aid station supplies and head out to Clinton Lake, I couldn't fall back asleep.  I laid in bed for a while thinking about going back to sleep but in the end decided to get dressed and just go out there.  Upon my arrival at 5:20, co-RD Coleen Voeks chastised me for being there so early and told me to go sit down.  I did more roaming around and chatting with people than sitting, but Coleen was too busy to abuse me further.

After a while I decided to get my gear out of the car and change into my running shoes.  Not long after, as I reached into the pocket of my Melanzana, hoodie to retrieve my phone, I noticed that my key was no longer present.  I scoured the grounds around the shelter, retracing every step I made.  I looked through my car, thinking I had dropped it on the floor.  It was nowhere to be found.  I would normally be much more concerned about the key, but I was more nervous about the race than how I was going to get home.  I figured it would turn up somewhere.

I felt eager and nervous as I set out on the trail.  I navigated pretty easily through the muddy mile.  It warmed up quickly, and I removed my leopard print Moeben sleeves.  The gentleman running behind me, who I discovered was Shane, voiced his surprise upon realizing that I was not covered in tattoos.  Shane and I stuck together, averaging about a 12 minute/mile pace.  We hit our first aid station, Land's End, at 6.5mi.  Land's End is a small clearing where the white, blue and red trails intersect: a perfect place for Christy Craig's Irish-themed station, complete with a real life Irishman, Mr. David Higgins.  There were many other wonderful people there, including Renee Babin, Levi Bowles, Kristin Whitehair, and Beth Hilt.

I felt fresh going through this aid station so I grabbed a few bites to eat then Shane and I took off.  After mile 8 or so, the white trail gets pretty hilly so I started doing some walking.  I had more than 40mi to go and running every hill in the beginning would not pay off.  Around the time I reached Bunker Hill, a one mile out and back, I started thinking, "I am not ready for this."  I was starting to feel hot and tired.  I was starting to feel under trained, or more specifically, over-tapered.  It was too early in the race for me to feel tired!  Shane had gone on at the West Park Road aid station while I stopped for food and socializing.

I did the opposite of Coleen's most important piece of advice: to get from aid station to aid station, one at a time.  But all I could think about was the long road ahead and trying to figure out why the heck I was so tired only 11 miles into the race.  How could I possibly make it?  I dragged myself up and down Bunker Hill and through the Cactus Ridge section, alternating between running and walking.  I was getting clumsy, tripping on every available rock and root.  I didn't know what to do.  I had been taking salt, eating, drinking water.  I was beyond frustrated as I trotted into the Beach aid station headed up by my sweetie, Nick Lang with assistance from Erik Voeks, Colinda Thompson, Jeff Triplet and Elizabeth Hodges.  I really have to apologize for being so crabby when I went through.  I didn't stop long, but I think I managed a "thank you" or at least a "goodbye" before I left.

I gritted my teeth and set off to my next destination, another trip to Land's End.  Before reaching there, the course ran along the most technical part of the North Shore Trails, the red shoreline trail.  As the name suggests, it runs right up along the shoreline of the lake.  It's mostly made up of very large rocks, so it's challenging to run on when it's wet.  And wet it was.  We had received several days of rain leading up to the race, and the word was that there was a section of shoreline trail covered in 18" of water.  I wasn't particularly concerned until I reached the section of flooded trail.

Waves from the lake crashed up against the jagged rocks and I couldn't see the bottom.  As I said, the trail can be rather difficult to maneuver over even when you can see it.  I waited as a few waves passed and cautiously stepped in to what turned out to be waist deep water.  I attempted to gingerly walk a straight path across the maybe 20-ft flooded section.  I realized quickly I wouldn't be able to cut straight across as a wave approached and threatened to knock me off balance.  I sidled over to the rock ledge and huddled close to it as I made my way across.

I finally made it back to Land's End where my good friends took care of me.  Christy was such a big help the whole time.  She always told me I was doing awesome, even when I felt like crap and didn't believe her.  It made me feel better anyway.  Again, I was thinking about the rest of the race and didn't know if I could finish, but I decided I'd take it one aid station at a time.  Besides, I figured I should at least complete the second smaller loop so I could finish the marathon distance.

About a mile out from Land's End I reached the infamous BIG water crossing.  It's normally calf deep, but with the recent rain it was reportedly chest-high on the RD.  This meant it was above my shoulders.  Luckily, Gary and Tony strung a guide rope the night before to be an aid.  There was also a volunteer posted at the opposite side of the crossing to make sure everyone got through ok.  He warned me where the big log was under the water so I didn't nail my shins on it.

I was tired running the last few miles of the first loop.  This section is always pretty muddy, but I managed to keep running through most of it.  I passed a few guys who asked if they could tie a rope to me and hitch a ride.  I was pretty amused.

Literally about a tenth of a mile before you get to start/finish you have to turn off the blue trail and run a one mile out and back to a hill called Sander's Mound.  Wonderful views, but I hate running it.  I should mention that wiith the exception of trail and ultra running, I'm kind of an outdoors novice, so when I went through that deep water crossing, it didn't occur to me to remove my Nathan vest which contained my S!Caps and Honey Stinger Chews.  I did have a few unopened packages of chews as it turned out, but no salt. 

So when I got back to the start/finish aid station Julie took care of me.  She grabbed a few S!Caps from Greg Burger's drop bag for me.  Thanks Greg!  I really should have left a drop bag at the start/finish.  I did not foresee these issues, but in ultra running you have to plan for anything.

As I set out on the second and most dreaded loop, I felt a little sick to my stomach (both literally and figuratively).  The second loop was only 3 miles, which is sort of frustrating in the middle of a 50 mile race.  You feel like you're getting nowhere.  This section also happens to be the muddiest part of the course.  It was pretty disheartening.  As I passed the 1-mile mark and ran the short section of trail by the road, which is the one location on the course where white and blue trails are coincident, I stopped to ask Tammy and Kristin (who were directing runner traffic) if they had any food.  Tammy was awesome and gave me some of her apples.  As if it wasn't rough enough for them to hang out on the course all day by themselves, they gave me their own food!  I managed to get down a piece or two but my stomach wasn't liking it.  I walked for a while to let it settle down. 

I moved very slowly through this whole section.  When I got out to the road to turn back to complete the short loop, Amy Oglesbee offered me everything she could think of.  She had a mini aid station in the back of her car!  I think she probably had the worst gig of the whole day.  She was parked out on that road the whole time, by HERSELF.  I couldn't have done it.  I can definitely say that I'd rather be running 50 miles than sitting there all day.  Well, I bummed some ginger candy off Amy and eventually parted ways and headed back to the start/finish.  At least I didn't have to run Sander's Mound this time.

My stomach was feeling better by the time I got back to the start/finish aid station.  I walked over to my car to get some ibuprofen from my purse.  Turns out what I had in my purse was S!Caps not ibuprofen.  Well now I wouldn't run out of salt for sure but I still had no pain relief.  I would have to wait another 18 miles to get to my bag at Nick's beach aid station for relief.  Sooo, I kept going, after telling Julie that I didn't feel like going.  I should have picked up Nick's iPod Shuffle while I was grabbing stuff from my car, but I forgot.  Again.  I would have to finish the race with no distraction.

I just kept going going going for the next 6.5 miles until I made it back to the Land's End aid station.  I was pretty mentally fragile at this point.  I had convinced myself that there was no way I was going to finish under cut off, and to save the volunteers some time I should drop out.  I actually dropped down into a tornado-sheltering-like position and cried.  I told Christy I was feeling very lonely on the trail.  The field of runners was spread out, and thinned out since many people had dropped.  Christy said I couldn't quit.  I was the first female and only 3 guys were ahead of me.  Before I could argue, Renee said she was already dressed to run and they had me back on the trail.

It was wonderful having Renee along.  Even when we weren't talking, it was nice to hear her foot steps behind me and know that I wasn't lost in an alternate universe where I was the only person alive.  I was going pretty slow at this point.  I took a lot of walk breaks.  At one point, Renee informed me that we had traveled 3 miles in 50 minutes.  This wasn't the kind of stat I really wanted to hear, bless her heart, but at least it put things in perspective for me.  After banging my left toe on what it felt like was the 100th rock and still feeling lingering pain after 10 minutes, I realized this toe was not coming out unscathed.

I started counting aid stations to the finish.  Once we made it through West Park Rd, I only had 2 aid stations left.  I was looking forward to getting back to the beach where I could change into my New Balance WR790's which had more toe room than the WT100's I was wearing.  I was so glad to see Nick again.  I told him I needed to change my shoes and I needed ibuprofen and he had me sit right down and his chair and he worked my mud-caked shoes off my feet.  It immediately dawned on me that my toe problem wasn't really caused by my ultra lightweight shoes but was more due to me forgetting to cut my toenails the night before!  Ahhhhh.  I can't believe I forgot.  It was on my mental checklist, but I didn't write it down.  I only wrote down items I needed to pack, not things I needed to do.

Anyway, seeing Nick really lifted my spirits, and the fresh shoes and drugs helped my feet and legs.  I felt brand new leaving that aid station.  Well, as brand new as you can feel after 40-something miles and a messed up toenail.  I think I was back to a 12 minute per mile pace to my last visit to Land's End.  I was so excited to be visiting my last aid station!  I was prepared to run the rest of the way by myself, because Renee had already exceeded her longest distance run keeping me company.  But Levi was ready to pick up buddy duty.

Levi kept telling me that I was looking strong, not like someone running the last 5 miles of a 50 mile race.  This made me feel good.  Again, I didn't know if it was true or not, but the words were nice anyway!  I have the best running friends.  When we came to the big water crossing, we found Gary Henry (RD) on lifeguard duty.  Levi took my salt and food to keep it from getting wet since he's a lot taller than me and it was easier for him to keep his balance while walking through the water.  I was gripping the guide rope with both hands.  Gary was snapping shots while I crossed and forgot to warn me of the location of the giant log under the water.  I'm sure he captured an excellent shot of me cursing when I wacked my shin on it.  But I wouldn't hold a small shin-wacking grudge against my good friend, Gar.  I bet the picture was totally worth it.

Once we crossed, Gary told me I had about 3 miles to go.  I was totally psyched.  I tried to keep a good pace and run as much as I could, but we were getting back into the mucky section.  I had to walk a little now and then.  When we reached the road I saw that Debbie Webster was keeping Amy company.  Thank goodness for Amy!  Now, Debbie is my trail mom, so when I saw her for the first time since the start of the race, just 2 miles from the finish, we exchanged a good misty-eyed hug. 

Levi and I got back on our way and before we knew it we were on our way down (then up) to Sander's Mound.  For some reason, even though I was a mile from finishing, I was totally unmotivated to push myself up this hill.  Finally, on our way back up the trail Levi put down his foot and told me to run.  Yes sir!

When I got out of the trees and saw the finish line I was so excited, until I saw that they had strung pink flags around the open field where the finish line was.  So what would be a very short direct trip to the finish was stretched out into a big roundabout circle to the finish line.  I wanted to strangle the person who decided to do this (probably Mr. Henry).  I might have actually cursed (something along the lines of "Are you f-ing kidding me?!") when I saw what I had to do, but I was so happy when I crossed the finish line I forgot all about strangling people! 

Nick was waiting at the finish line for me, and I think I must have hugged him for a solid minute.  Tony Clark congratulated me on being 4th overall and 1st female.  Even though only 9 people ended up finishing the race, I'm still pretty proud of my finish.  I was pretty psyched to have finished under the official cut-off in 12 hours and 47 minutes.  I really wanted to finish in 12 hours but considering the conditions, I was overjoyed with my sub 13 time.  I should mention that I didn't cry when I finished as I expected, but I think it was because Debbie "Trail Mom" Webster and co-RD Coleen Voeks weren't there.  They are probably the two most influential women in my life: Debbie for being the sweetest person I know, and Coleen for being the toughest, most badass chick I know.

So here goes my list of Thank You's: Gary Henry, Coleen Voeks, Kristin Tirabassi, Tammy Lupton, Christy Craig, Renee Babin, Levi Bowles, Beth Hilt, Kristin Whitehair, Darin Schneidewind, Willie Lambert, MK Thompson, Nick Lang, Erik Voeks, Jeff Triplet, Elizabeth Hodges, Colinda Thompson, Darcy Schneidewind, Julie Toft, Vicki Holmes, Tony Clark, James Barker, Karen Henry, Amy Oglesbee, Karen Collier, and I think I'm forgetting a million other people. 

Mac McSpadden, who had just completed her first marathon a few hours earlier actually helped clean the mud off me when I finished!  Double duty for her. 

Liz and Felix Smith left me a wonderful post race gift complete with socks, foot cream and silly putty!  All post race essentials. 

Sarah Henning was an excellent 50 mile training buddy, even before we decided to run the 50.  I know she was bummed about not being able to run the race, but I know I'll get another chance to kick some butt with her.  Also, she gives great post race hugs!

I love you Trail Hawks, friends, trail runners, ultra runners, Lawrencians.  What a great community to be a part of.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gals Gone Muddy

Today, instead of our normally scheduled Gals' Gallop on the Lawrence River Trail we gathered at Clinton Lake to mark and de-jungle 3.5mi of the Hawk 50 course.  The trail was soupy but at least it wasn't pouring tonight.  We just had some sprinkles.  It was a good thing we had enough girls to split up into two groups and attack different forks of the trail, because even so, we finished just before dark.  We had a lopper, trash picker upper, pink flagger and pink ribboner in each group.  I was so impressed with the turn out, even though the weather wasn't great and we didn't actually get to run.  These girls are awesome to spend their time helping out with the race.

Pictured left to right: Kristin Tirabassi, Karen Collier, Sarah Henning, Christy (didn't catch last name), Colinda Thompson, Christine Metz, Nicole (also forgot to get last name), Tammy Lupton, and run leader/Trail Hawks VP Coleen Voeks.