Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lofty Goals

I started grad school in August 2008, soon after running my second ultramarathon.  Little did I know, the next year and a half would be a running rollercoaster, with more downs than ups.  When I wasn't swamped with school, I was often sick and never managed to get in regular runs, much less stick to any sort of training plan.  I DNF'd at the Rock Creek 50k in October '08 with some serious IT band pain.  In February '09, I managed to PR at the Psycho Wyco 50k, but in April I drug myself to some unspectacular finishes in both the Rockin' K Marathon and the Free State 40 miler.

Without any thought to this thing called the "end of the semester," I continued on thinking I still had time to train for my first 50, which was to be the Mt. Hood PCT 50 in July.  You'd think I could get some training in between May and July, but my grad school advisor informed me that I would be presenting [results I didn't have yet] at a conference in July.  So instead of training, I spent most of my time getting yelled at (his normal volume level) by my advisor.  By the time PCT rolled around I was lucky if I could run 5 miles.  I let Coleen have my registration, and I decided to crew for Nick and our other friends instead of running.  It was pretty depressing to go and not participate, but I wouldn't miss helping out my friends for anything.

More recent history
In the fall I started thinking about a renewed attempt at a 50.  I would finish up coursework in December leaving my only task in the spring to finish up my thesis.  Summer seemed to fit well with this schedule.  With no classes, I would have enough time to train in the spring and be ready by summer.  I quickly selected the Headlands 50 which boasts gorgeous views along the Pacific Coast outside San Francisco.  You might ask why I didn't pick something local, and my answer would be, nobody wants to run 50mi in Kansas in the summer.  This is probably the reason there aren't any (that I know of).  The Kansas City Trail Nerds host a 50k in July. Later in July, Lunar Trek, a night race which benefits the Pike Valley cross country team, ranges from 10k to 100k but does not include 50mi.  As you can see, nobody wants to run very far in the Kansas summer, except maybe when it's pitch black.

About a week ago
Still riding a high from a good performance at the 2010 Rockin' K hosted by the Kansas Ultrarunners Society (KUS), thoughts of the Hawk 50 danced in my head.  Friends said maybe I should have run the 50 instead of the marathon at Rockin' K.  I'd been eagerly looking forward to manning the Beach Aid Station with Nick at the Hawk 50, but thoughts of attempting the 50 kept sneaking in.  I'd been urging my friend and fellow runner, Sarah Henning, to run it, because she's pretty much a stud and is totally ready for it.  She wasn't sure she could meet the cut off time and remained undecided.  Several things came to mind.
  1. Maybe she would do it if she had someone to run with the whole time.
  2. Maybe I would do it if I had someone to run with the whole time.
  3. What could be more awesome than running my first 50 with the support of my running family close at hand?
So I asked Sarah what she thought of my hare-brained idea.  She liked it.  I was pretty excited, and Nick gave his blessing to run instead of doing the aid station. 

I signed up for the Hawk 50, and in a flurry of eagerness, signed up for the Heartland 50 a few days later urged on by talk that it was nearly full already.  Ultrarunners are a bunch of snake oil salesmen, huh?  So as it stands the plan is, 1) Hawk 50, 2) Headlands 50 and 3) Heartland 50.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A History with Horseshoes

On my commute into work this morning, my mind wandered from topic to topic as it often does.  I contemplated washing my filthy Honda Civic.  Once I visualized the shiny surfaces, I pictured the countless little scratches that would be uncovered by the act.  The thought thread led me to images of Nick's dirty, scratchy, truck.  I recalled providing one of those scratches one very windy day in 2009. 

A gust of wind, bent on carrying away the horseshoe hanging from my hand by a piece of twine, succeeded in its mission.  Eventually it was thwarted by a mighty defender, in the form of Nick's truck door.  My first reaction of course, was to recover the small metal plate engraved with the message "KUS Rockin K Trail Marathon Finisher", which in perceiving the brawn of the door forsook its adhesive bond to the horseshoe and dropped to the ground.  I was pleased that the metal plate took well to being readhered to the horseshoe and turned my attention back to the door, where I noticed a fresh scratch.  Oopsy! 

My mind flashed to a memory of another horseshoe.  A horseshoe which read "KUS Rockin K Trail Marathon Womens Third Overall".  A horseshoe which fell from my hand upon unloading numerous bags and parcels from my arms.  The metal plate was lying on the floor a small distance from the horseshoe it had once been attached to.  The two were happy to be reattached, but the plate suffered a bent corner in the fall.

My goodness, I thought.  100% of my awards from Rockin' K have either caused or received damage.  Perhaps it's a sign.  Maybe a sign that the Rockin' K gods aren't pleased with my performance.  Maybe I should try for first place.  Or maybe the Rockin' K gods want me to run the 50 next time.  I'll have to try something!  Or maybe I should just stop being uncoordinated.  Who knows?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rockin' K Trail Marathon

I spent the first half hour of the race cursing the cold morning and wanting nothing more than to return to the shelter at the start line to wait until the temperature went up.  Alas, the breezy wide open plain was MUCH cooler than the hill where we awaited the start of the race.  I hadn't given a thought to wearing gloves.  Following Coleen's example, I pulled my Moeben sleeves down around my hands to form makeshift mittens.  My fingers still stung and I alternated my water bottle between hands until the fire in my digits died down.  (Hurray for alliteration!)

I stayed on Coleen's heels for several miles.  She was setting a great pace, plus, she's the most kick butt female ultra runner I know, so I figured I couldn't go wrong.  The girls (Debbie, Deb, Julie and Kristen)  caught up with us when we took a walk break to eat at the unmanned water station, and I decided to take off at this point.  For better or worse, I had lots of energy to burn from not running all week, and just felt like letting loose the inner beast.  So I kept a brisk pace, for me, until I got to the main aid station at mile 13.  I passed a few folks, got passed by a few, and before long I was at the aid station, listening to shouts of encouragement.

As I shed the jacket tied around my waist, Phil Sheridan filled up my water bottle and Nick replaced my supply of salt caps which I unintentionally destroyed in a water crossing.  Lesson learned.  Don't put salt caps in a skirt pocket if you're going through waist high water crossings.  Nick fed me a salt cap, shoved my salt holder in my Moeben sleeve pocket and gave me a packet of Honey Stinger chews (which I shoved down my sports bra for lack of a better place).

Fatigue started to set in as I ran the gentle slopes which characterized the beginning of the Big Bluff Loop.  I guzzled water waiting for the salt cap to help curb my fatigue.  Doubts surfaced that I had been overzealous when I broke away from my pack of girls, but I didn't spend too much time worrying.  After all, even in my fatigue, I still felt better than at the beginning of the race in '09.  I cursed the painfully steep hills of the middle section of the loop, but before I knew it I was past them.  It seemed much easier than last year.  Keyword "easier" not "easy".

I crammed some pretzels and banana into my mouth at my last stop at the manned aid station, grabbed another pack of Honey Stingers and headed out for the last leg of my trek.  My previous state of fatigue transitioned to soreness in my ankles and knees.  I slogged on, but with a little less pep in my step.  Before I knew it the energizer bunny, otherwise known as Coleen, caught up with me.  I cursed her steady speediness!  I'm pretty used to getting my butt kicked by Coleen, but I thought maybe I could stay ahead of her since she was running twice as far as me.  Alas, I was wrong.  Perhaps if I had stayed with her and not taken off like a jack rabbit, things would have ended differently, but I still had fun!

Before I knew it, Coleen was far off in the distance.  I gathered all my gumption and decided to pick up the pace - not to catch Coleen, but to get to the finish line as quickly as I could.  Hearing a shout of encouragement from Tony Clark on his way out on his second loop might have helped a little.  It's always nice when the faster-than-snot guys take the time to cheer for the slower-than-slugs folks.

I knew I was getting close when I got to the sandy section, followed by the big water crossing.  Seeing Dick Ross on the other side of a waist high crossing put a smile on my face as I came ever closer to the finish line.  When I finally reached the road to the finish line, I started to fly.  Quick finishes are my specialty.  No matter how slow I've been the rest of the race, or how sore I am, I always sprint to the finish.  It probably looks silly for such a long slow race, but I like to do it anyway.

I was pleased to see that the race clock read 5 hours and 38 minutes, a full hour faster than my '09 time.  Ok, to be accurate, it was only 58 minutes faster.  After pacing around outside by the finish line for a few minutes, I sauntered inside the shelter to check out the food selection.  I ran into the most wonderful race co-director, Stacy Sheridan, who graced me with a fabulous hug.  When she handed me a horseshoe that read "Third Overall", I think I shrieked something like, "What?!!!!!  Are you serious?!!!!!!"  I immediately followed my shouting fit by giving Stacy a big bear hug.  I then rushed out of the shelter yelling that I had to show Nick my "major award".  I must say that I was ungraciously boastful of my award for the rest of the day, simply because I never expected in a million years to receive it.

The next several hours Nick and I spent our time at the Big Bluff Aid Station, cheering and crewing for our 50-miler friends.  They were the true studs.  I barely had the motivation to complete a single loop, but those brave souls went out for another!  Maybe some day I will be as brave as Coleen, Debbie, Deb, Rick and Tony, but I doubt it!

I can't thank Nick enough for being my crew.  He got me in and out of the aid stations lickety split.  I know it was hard for him to NOT run the race.  I've been there, and it sucks to watch all your friends having fun, puking and being delirious without you.  I love him for being there for me.  Of course, I also have to thank Phil and Stacy Sheridan for taking care of me, and all of my wonderful friends for encouraging me.