Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Out of the ashes

For years and years I've wanted a tattoo. I could just never really decide what I wanted. Once I started running I decided I wanted something running related. I picked out some designs I liked and kind of went back and forth on what exactly I wanted. I told myself after I finished my first ultra I would get one. Well, I finished the FlatRock 50k, but honestly, I kind of faked that one. It didn't feel real. I finished it, but I could have done better. I didn't train like I should have and my performance was awful. I didn't get the tattoo. I kept thinking about it and finally decided after I did my 50 mile I was doing it. I was happy with my training so I knew if I had a good race this was the time to do it.

Training for long races takes a lot of time. After accomplishing the goal of these races many people do different things. Many, including myself, write race reports. One friend has been working on a leg sleeve creating a lasting memory of his first marathon and ultras of each distance. After talking with him and my brother some I decided a tattoo to mark the accomplishment of my goal and the journey leading up to it was what I wanted to do. I was talking with Justin and telling him I wasn't sure what I wanted. He thought a minute, sent me a picture, and told me this, "During the course of your training your running and your mental aspect of training was not where it should've been and it was only accentuated by the negative response from a fellow runner. You were torn down and basically broken at the end of the Hawk when your friends picked you up, dusted you off, and helped you rise out of the ashes with a revitalized view of your goals and mission toward your 50, and your off-season training."

The idea of the phoenix tattoo was born. As soon as I saw the picture he sent I knew that's what I was getting. I had never found a design I liked and as soon as I saw this I just knew it was right. Like the phoenix, I felt like I had risen from the ashes to be reborn into a completely different runner and even person in the last 6 weeks before Prairie Spirit.

The first thing that happened that changed how I felt about running and myself was FlatRock. If you read my blog about that race you know that I finished with 52 seconds to spare, but could not have been happier. I learned that I need to just go out and do my own thing and find my own happy. It doesn't matter if I finish first (can't even type that without laughing out loud!) or last. Finishing is what matters and making myself happy is the most important thing I can do when running. Two weeks after FlatRock I paced and crewed at Heartland. Just seeing these amazing runners accomplishing their goals was awesome. I learned so much. Then in the middle of the night when all I wanted to do was curl up in a warm car and go to sleep after already being up for hours crewing and pacing, I started pacing again. I proved to myself that I could keep going even when I really just wanted to stop and sleep. It was so inspiring to see Adam dig deep and continue moving through significant pain and exhaustion. It showed me that I'm capable of so much more than I ever thought. I just need to push myself more and stop being such a wimp.

Two weeks after that I ran 50 miles. I've already told that story, so no need to tell it again. I couldn't have been happier with how that day turned out. I had completely changed my attitude about my running by then. I never got down on myself about how horrible I was and never asked myself why I was doing this. I knew why I was doing it. I knew I wasn't horrible. I finally had confidence. I think I had to be completely broken down like I was at Hawk so I could build myself back up (with the help of my friends) to become a better person. The phoenix is the perfect symbol of what happened to me. The old me died and a new, stronger me was born.

The symbolism of the phoenix can apply to many different life situations, not just running. I could go on and on about what it means to me, but this is a blog about my running, so I will leave it there. Thanks to Justin who helped me with the design and also with explaining the way I felt about it.

Pic. It's not 100% healed just yet

Monday, November 18, 2013

When the Kool-Aid runs dry...

...my friends start drinking bourbon, then people start listening to me, and phrases like "let's go jump off a cliff" get thrown around. It all started last week when Justin started a group facebook chat with him, Joell, Candi, Zach, Kodi, Reina, Eric and me. The thread is well over 2000 messages long as of right now. Sometime last week Candi asked me in the group conversation if I wanted to run on the FlatRock trail this weekend. Of course I said yes. Then Zach said he wanted in, even though he was doing a 12 hour race the day before. Reina asked if she could come and we said absolutely. Justin decided he'd come too. Joell couldn't make it because they didn't want to leave the girls with someone all day. Kodi might still be just a little bit scared of the rest of us, so she declined. Eric had other plans. Zach was running 12 hour Saturday, Candi was going to be at a wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday, I was planning on drinking a lot Saturday night, Justin is always crazy, and Reina seems up for anything. Oh my. It was a disaster waiting to happen!

We woke up Sunday morning to a message from Reina that she was sick and couldn't make it. That left 4 of us. Candi and Zach were going to be late, but I had already anticipated that because Candi is never on time! I got to the parking lot first and Justin pulled in a couple of minutes later. We were talking and he was asking me questions about another trail. We talked about it for a bit and I said "you know, there are bathrooms at each end and places to get water. Maybe we could run there." I'd say that's where the wheels started falling off of our "run." When Candi and Zach got there we filled them in and they were in. They all followed me to the overlook because that's where the trail starts. I think there was some discussion about having a beer before we started running, but no one did. Candi and I had to pee, so we went over to the restrooms and found them locked. We did the next best thing, which was squat against the building beside each other and pee. We got that taken care of and started running. Immediately Justin said he needed to pee and would catch up with us. 

We ran a short distance and had to go down a crevice. At the bottom I told Candi which way to go and we started running again. Soon she started screaming. There was a snake!! OMG. I hate snakes, Justin hates snakes. I don't think Candi likes them very much, but isn't afraid of looking at them the way Justin and I are. Zach decided to start playing with it. I screamed a lot and possibly threw Justin in front of me. 
Here is Zach holding the evil nastiness. Candi took the pic on Justin's phone because he couldn't look at it.

There was lots of craziness on the trail because no one but me had been on it and I was in the back. It's not marked well and the leaves were so thick they made it hard to see where to run. Candi became the first to donate some blood to the trail when she smacked her knee into a rock. We got off the trail a couple of times. We made it to where the blacktop that intersects the trail and I assured them the next part of the trail is easier to see. Yeah, I think I lied. We kept running and were just talking and laughing a lot. I think it was here that Zach asked Justin and I how our Kool-Aid joke started. We told our story. It's a joke that Justin and I started and it quickly caught on with the whole group. At some point I got poked with a stick or something and it was my turn to leave a little blood behind. Pretty soon we were at the end of the trail where the bathrooms are. These are the cleanest bathrooms that I have ever seen! Campground bathrooms that are clean and shiny and even smell good? What?! We spent a lot of time talking about that. Then I showed them another short trail that would lead us back to the longer one so we took that. Candi told a really funny (maybe not for her) story about a cat getting in her house when she was gone for the weekend. 

Somewhere along the way I blew a snot rocket and hit Justin with it. I had been drinking vodka the night before so we joked that I was blowing vodka rockets. We also talked about me sweating vodka and Zach asked if he could lick me. It was early enough in the run that I wasn't completely crazy, so I said no. Justin said I could probably just wring out my buff and they could drink it. Eeeewwww. On the way back I started feeling really pukey. Justin and I came up with a plan of how I was going to puke without getting it all over him. Thankfully I was able to hold it back. When we were almost back to the overlook I saw another snake. I started screaming and cussing and I think I tackled Justin a couple of times. Zach again tried to play with it. We heard voices and realized there was a family of hikers really close. Oops. I think I gave the kid an education his mom would rather he not have. 

We got back to the car and tried to figure out our next move. Again, we discussed whether or not it was time to start drinking. We all went with no because we were pretty sure that would be the end of the day. At that point everyone but me started stripping. Come on guys! This is a family friendly trail! Ok, maybe not with us on it! We ran down a huge blacktop hill to get to the mountain biking trail. We hadn't been on it long when Zach said "Hey, let's make our own trail up this hill." Oh.My.Lord. We went straight up. There was no trail and it was covered with leaves, so it was rough going. I'm pretty sure Zach was my number one enemy in life at that moment. When we got to the top Justin and Zach found a great big rock to climb. Sadly there were no photos because none of us had our phones. After that we saw where the trail that we had been on earlier was so we started making our way to it. There was a lot of climbing involved and it got a little scary a couple of times. 

We got back to the other trail and made our way to the crevice that we had already climbed a couple of times. As Zach and Candi were going up it Justin asked me "where does this purple trail go?" I said I didn't know, but I'd seen the end up by the road before and it looks like if you want to follow it you have to jump off a cliff. Justin said "Let's go!" I told Candi and she told Zach, who was already at the top "Come this way, we're going to jump off a cliff." Not one time did any of us question that idea. We just went. We finally got to a spot where we thought we should go up to where our cars were. More rock climbing. When we got to the top, Zach started sniffing for beer and led us back to the trail. What we did now is what Justin tells me is called fell running. I'm pretty sure it was just us running like fools through the woods with stuff smacking us in the face and scratching our legs. We got back to our cars and there were some handy benches to sit on. We finally started drinking the beer we had been talking about for 3 hours or so. Justin said he was going to go change. The next thing I know I hear his voice say "It's like changing in the open air showers at the beach." I looked over and he was standing in the trash can corral changing clothes and having a conversation with us. 

Some pics while we were sitting around. I said that I couldn't show one of the pics or people would know I run with half naked people. I'm going to be a rebel and go ahead and post it!

Notice the shoes beside Justin. He had brought his bike and planned to ride it after we left. Ha ha ha ha. Funny. He didn't. 

After we had been drinking for a while Justin decided we needed to go run some more, and this time with a phone, so we could take pictures of our antics. We started running down the trail and I told them that if we went back and took some of the road we could get on the end of the purple trail. We knew jumping off a cliff was a possibility, but we all decided we were ok with that. Justin was trying to decide where to put his phone and decided in his pants was the best option. I said something really funny that made everyone laugh and I'm not repeating on here. My parents sometimes read this blog! Anyway, we started running down the road. We got to some purple marks and realized they aren't really a trail, but are marks to tell people to keep out, private property. Crap!! We ran back and someone suggested that maybe we should slide down the giant drainage pipe we had seen earlier to get to the lower level of the trail. Again, no one thought this was a bad idea. It really probably was! 

Some pics from that adventure. I thought I was going to die. 

We ran a bit when Zach decided he should climb a really big rock wall. There is a better picture of this, but I'm using this one because someone (Justin?) decided that every time the suns rays made an appearance in one of our pictures it was Eric's spirit joining us, or something like that. We think he would have really enjoyed our run and hope he joins us on our next bout of foolishness.

We got back on the trail and ran a little bit before we came to a fallen tree. Zach and Justin decided to move it off the trail. Candi helped and I kindly offered to take a photo. Zach and Justin decided that they should lift it up and push it over so it would fall down the hill. It got caught on something and ended up breaking and came down and hit Zach in the face. He started to fall, but Justin grabbed him and hugged him (awwwww) and they stumbled a bit but didn't fall. It's a very good thing because Zach would have hit his head on a rock and it wouldn't have been good. 

We got back on the purple not really trail and decided to go back up. Some climbing pics.

We did some more crazy running through the trees and were back to the parking lot for a final time. More alcohol was consumed (not by me, I was so done) and we sat around talking forever. Some poor lady had brought a chair and a book and was trying to read. Needless to say, she was not at all impressed with us. I think we ruined her day. I had brought Apple Ale, Strawberry Ale and Strawberitas. Zach laughed at me early on and asked just how many girls I thought were going to be there. Ha! he drank three of my girly drinks I think! In fact, when it came to the last strawberita he raced Justin to my car where the cooler was. Justin was going to jump on Zach's back and fight him for it, but thankfully common sense prevailed and he didn't. We talked for a long time until we were all starving to death and we decided to head home. 

We didn't run our planned number of miles, but I think we're all happy with how the day turned out. It was a ton of fun. Hopefully next time the rest of our friends can join us and we'll have an even better time. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Prairie Spirit 50 mile

When I write reports from big races like this it's always hard to know where to start. I guess I should start with how I got here. In May I went for a little training run in the Flinthills with Jason. He told me he thought I could run the Heartland 50 mile. I think I probably laughed and said no way at first. Then I kept talking to him about it by email. I started thinking I'd probably do it. Then I found out Eric was going to have a fall Prairie Spirit that would be a 50k or a 50 mile. Woohoo! A flat course? Sign me up! I started mentioning to family and friends that I was thinking about doing 50 miles. The reception wasn't what I was hoping for. Most of them stared at me with a blank look. Some were really negative about it. I remember emailing Jason that I was kind of bummed. I thought people would be excited like they were when I did the other distances the first time. Not so. Jason assured me that's pretty normal and that it's unlikely people are going to get it. He told me something like "do this for yourself and don't worry about what anyone else thinks."

My training was so so. I could have done more, but considering I moved twice during the training I did ok. I did Lunar Trek, which was not a great race and almost kept me from signing up at all. I just wasn't sure I could do it. Then I did the Hawk marathon and just fell apart emotionally. I was really close to dropping out entirely. I have some pretty amazing friends though and they rallied around me. Joell, Justin, Candi and Zach weren't having any of my pity party. My friend Libby wrote a blog post once where she talked about foxhole friends. These are friends that kind of come out of nowhere and support you and have your back. You knew they existed, but they were kind of in the background. These four people have done more for my confidence and attitude than I can ever repay them for.

A few weeks before the race I found out I could have a pacer. Woohoo! Now to find someone. I asked Candi and she said yes, but, her son might have a football game she couldn't miss. She really wanted to do it but I needed a backup. I couldn't find anyone. Jason was going to be pacing his friend Megan, Justin was volunteering, Zach was going to volunteer if he could and Joell was running the 50k. Crap. Justin knew I really needed someone and was bummed that everyone else had other commitments so he went to work finding me someone. He sent me a message saying he had me a pacer and her name was Kodi Panzer. At first I think I asked who the heck that was, then a lightbulb came on. I asked if she had done Lunar Trek. He said yes. I said "OMG! I think I showered with her!" He told me that I had in fact. He knows this because his wife Joell was there too. It was a special running moment :) Kodi agreed to be the backup, but she wanted to run some even if Candi came, so I worked it out so they could share pacing duties. Candi's son ended up having a game, so she couldn't pace. My son Ryan stepped up though and wanted to do it. I thought that would be awesome, so I took him up on it before he could change his mind!

My crew person was Libby who is such a great friend and is always willing to support me in my crazy running adventures. I'm so lucky to have her!

Race day started with a 4 am wake up call. Not cool! Trying to wake Ryan up proved to be one of my bigger challenges of the day. That boy likes his sleep! He needed to be at the race at 5:15 though because he was headed to the Princeton aid station to hang out with Justin and help out until Libby got there. After they left I finished getting ready and talked to Reina. She is Joell's friend that I met briefly at FlatRock and have gotten to know a little on facebook. I'm so happy I got to visit with her more this weekend. She's so sweet! I also talked to Dennis Haig a little before the race. He's just an awesome ultrarunner and has run in every single FlatRock event since it's inception. He's a pretty badass dude! I told him I was worried about being last. He told me that he ran a 100 a few weeks ago and got a hoodie. On the back it says "Finisher" but nowhere does it tell his time or what place he was. I thought that was an awesome reminder that it doesn't matter where you finished. What matters is that you did.

All too soon it was time to line up. We did and suddenly it was go time! Everyone took off really fast. I didn't. I had a plan and I was sticking to it. I knew if I started too fast it could mean not finishing or doing a 20 mile death march. No thanks. Soon I was at the back, all alone. We had to do a short out and back and Eric was there to make sure no one cheated. I got a high 5 and made a joke about being number 1 (yeah, that was my bib number!) and being in last place. It was pretty funny. I started heading back to the start/finish area, still last. The first aid station was supposed to be unmanned but Jason was there along with Dennis and someone else. It was dark, I have no idea who it was. I handed Jason my headlamp since I knew daylight was coming and I didn't want it on any longer than I had to have it. I filled up my bottle. As I was doing that Dennis said, "Hey, did you see Jason's hoodie? It says finisher on the back. Do you see where it says his time?" Nope, I do not! Thanks again for the encouragement Dennis! I took off and Jason asked if I was eating. Yes. I am. He said to eat as much real food as I could. This seemed like a solid plan, so I ran back to the aid station and grabbed a cinammon roll. I ate it while I ran.

Now I had a long stretch to get to the first manned station where I'd see Libby and Ryan. I just took it a mile at a time. I was back and forth with another female runner and eventually got a bit ahead of her and she didn't pass me again for a while. I truthfully don't remember much about this section. I know my legs were already aching when there is no way they should have been so early on. Not enough taper maybe? I don't know. When I was getting close to Princeton Jason walked out and met me. It was nice seeing him. He asked what I needed and I said coke and food. I also needed to pee so I told Libby I needed my vaseline and ibuprofen and to use the bathroom. She couldn't find my vaseline in my bag so I grabbed it and took off for the bathroom. I peed then came back and they started giving me stuff. I can't remember all of what I had there, but it was a lot. Justin was manning this station and his adorable twins were there with him. It was so fun to see them. As I was leaving Jason asked if I was taking s-caps. I don't use s-caps, I use endurolytes, but same idea. I wasn't. I had forgotten to bring any. They got me fixed up and I took off.

Here's a pic right after the aid station. I was being a cheesy dork toward the camera. I am a total dork, so the moment was captured well.

The next stretch sucked. Not a lot more to say about it. Nothing was terrible, I just didn't feel very energetic. I think it was through here that the lady passed me again. I passed a guy though, which felt good. I never pass people in races! He was starting to cramp so I felt bad for him. That is no fun, especially early on.

Another pic along the course

When I got to Richmond Jason came out again. I was taking my arm sleeves off as I ran in. I was getting pretty hot. At this aid station Libby had laid out everything I might need. She was awesome! They offered me food and one of the things they offered was a soft taco. Heck yeah! I reapplied vaseline under my arms, drank coke, took some endurolytes and grabbed my taco. The best part of the volunteer handing me the taco was the look of  WTF? on Jason's face. The very awesome and kind aid station worker knew I was in a hurry so he rushed it out to me but it wasn't folded and I needed to take it to go. No time for just standing still to eat! Jason dug deep and went back to his days at McDonald's and folded it up for me. (just to be clear, this is in no way shape or form me criticizing the volunteer. He was very very good! I just wasn't clear on what I needed)  I took the taco and headed out. It tasted so good! That and the coke really breathed some new life into me. I cruised through the next 5 or so miles feeling great. Then I ran out of water. It was getting hot with the sun shining down on me and I drank a lot. I started to freak out because I thought maybe I had misunderstood and there wasn't an unmanned aid station on this stretch. If that was the case I had at least 4 more miles to go with no water. I sort of fell apart. I did pass another guy though. Woot! I finally got to the unmanned station. Hallelujah! By then though I was just cranky.I also caught up with the lady I had been playing cat and mouse with. She was in a lot of pain due to her IT band and wasn't sure she was finishing. I felt awful for her.

I did not love this next section to Garnett. When I got there and saw Libby and Kodi (yay for a pacer!) and Ryan I totally started crying. They were happy tears and definitely not the last tears I would shed that day.

Coming into Garnett with Libby

My awesome pacer Kodi!

My toes had started falling asleep and my left big toe felt really off and I thought maybe I was getting a blister.I went through the stupid process of taking off my gaiter, shoe and sock. Toe was fine, but I applied vaseline anyway. I ate some food, got my refilled water bottle, grabbed a Starbucks frappuccino, told Kodi I was ready and we took off. I walked a while drinking the frappuccino and then I was ready. My stomach was really really not thrilled. I had already thrown up a couple of times. I knew I needed to take it slow for a bit. Kodi let me walk a while, then she got me back to running. She told me hilarious stories about her dating life. We saw someone we thought I could pass, so that became my goal. I passed him! We kept going, I whined, Kodi told funny stories and kept me going. I thought I had a rock in my shoe at one point so we stopped to get it out. I shook everything out and put my shoe back on and started running again. I could still feel it. I thought maybe it was in my sock. Kodi thought I was probably getting a blister. Every step from then on felt like I was stepping on a rock. Yay! A few times I stopped and did some stretches Kodi showed me. It really really helped. During this stretch my stomach was really upset. We passed another guy and as I was passing I asked how he was. He said good and asked how I was. I said good and promptly vomited right in front of him. It was an epic moment! Kodi was laughing and asked if she could post it on facebook. I thought it was pretty hilarious too, so I said yes. She posted "we've got a puker but she's still running!"

We FINALLY got to Richmond. I don't remember a lot of this station. I peed, re-lubed everything, ate, drank, etc. I asked Ryan if he was going to be ready to pace me and he said yes. We took off for the final 6.5 miles that Kodi would be with me. I whined and moaned but ran when she suggested it. Well, mostly. I think it was through here that she started lying to me. Once she said "if you run just a little further you will be at the end of a mile and can walk. I said ok. Then I said "when you say a little further, you don't mean like a quarter of a mile or something do you?" She smiled and said "not quite that far." I don't know how far I ran, but it was way longer than I wanted to! I also stopped looking at my watch and just relied on her to keep me going at a decent pace. BTW, my decent pace at mile 35 isn't quite what it is at mile 5. Oh, how our standards get lower! A very funny thing about Kodi was that she was all messed up on the distance since she didn't start the race with me. I'd ask her how much further I had and she'd say something like 15 miles when it was more like 8. It was so funny. I was mostly just done during this section. Thinking I'd never run a race this long again. It was so hard. Not far before we got to Princeton I heard someone coming up behind me. It was the female runner I had been leap frogging with. She was feeling much better and had caught up and was passing me. Wow! I was a little bummed because this made me last place female (there were only 4 females in the race) but I was so incredibly happy for her that she was feeling that much better.

Right before we got to Princeton I looked ahead and saw Joell. I started crying. I said "Look! It's Joell!" I was so happy to see her! She ran the 50k and was amazing. Several times during the day when I wanted to give in and walk I thought of her. I would think that no way is Joell going to give in and walk several miles, I'm not either! She was a big source of motivation for me. I got to Princeton and hugged Joell and started getting ready. Libby told me to change into a dry shirt and I did. It felt so much better! I also tied a long sleeved shirt around my waist because I was getting cold. I ended up never using it. Justin told me it was time to take a shot with him. I said I couldn't because I was too nauseous. He told me he wouldn't be at the finish line though so if I was doing it now is the time. What the hell. Let's do it. We went in the tent and got our cups with bourbon. Someone handed Ryan the camera. He said "I'm taking the picture?" It was so funny. He said it with a tone of "what? You all get to drink and I have to man the camera?" That wasn't what he meant, but it's what it sounded like.

Libby handed me my bottle and I told her to please take out the gels and chews and stick something real in there. Yes, candy and cookies are real at that point. I could not eat one more gel or chew. Every time it hit my mouth I started gagging. They gave me some candy and cookies. Because at mile 42 candy and cookies are real food! Don't judge! Ryan and I took off and I told him I was going to walk for a minute and pointed to where I'd start running. As we were walking I asked him if he thought Rick and Adam would be at the finish and at that point I started sobbing. I was tired and I missed Rick and Adam and knew they weren't going to be there and was just sad. It's then Ryan looked at me with a completely straight face and told me something Justin told him to tell me when I was in a bad place. It was perfect. I laughed out loud. I can't tell you all what it is because it wouldn't be funny anyway if you don't know the whole story and it's a secret :) The delivery was probably what made it the best. It was a joke but he was so serious.  I started running. My plan was to run a half mile, then walk a tenth. It was obvious pretty quickly that was too far to run without a walk break. I ran a while and then started walking. I walked and walked. I walked 3/4 of a mile, which was my longest stretch of walking all day. I finally told Ryan I was walking too much and he couldn't let me. I was a little nervous that he wasn't going to be able to be mean and make me run, but he did it. 

I started doing 1/4 mile intervals. I'd run 1/4, walk 1/4. This was just what I needed! The first couple of intervals were just so so. I was moving slow, Ryan was pretending to run beside me even though he could have walked and kept up. I gave him my watch so I didn't have to know how far I had to go. I wanted to just run when he told me and walk when he told me. I asked him at one point if he thought I could still finish under 12 hours. He said it would be tough. I must have had a devastated look on my face because he said "Is that really your goal?" I said yes and he said "ok, lets go!" He started encouraging me more and trying to get me to go faster. He'd run a little faster and walk a little faster and tell me to try to keep up. He'd tell me if I could go just a tiny bit faster I could get under a certain pace. His competitive instincts kicked in and the kid was amazing! When we got to the last three miles he told me it's just a 5k. Anyone can run a 5k. He reminded me of my old 5k route in Elk City. Every 1/4 of a mile he'd tell me where I was along that old route. Then he started having me imagine running in different places. Just pretend I was somewhere I loved to be and picture running there. How did this child get so smart? 

When we were getting close to Ottawa I looked up and saw a sign from a truck stop on the edge of town. I was so excited! I think I yelled "LOOK!!! We're there!!!" I'm pretty sure it was LOUD. Ryan laughed and told me to keep going. We got to the edge of town and had to run on some blacktop under I-35. We came around that and onto a straightaway into Ottawa. Ryan had to pee so he went off into some trees. He kept encouraging me! It was funny. He was peeing and yelling "you've got this Mom! Keep running!" He also told me I got one more walk interval and then I was running it in. I was skeptical. We were running along and I saw someone up ahead. I started telling Ryan I could see where we turn off the trail toward the finish because I could see people. He didn't believe me. I think he thought I was hallucinating. I knew someone was up there though! I got closer and said "OMG! It's Jason! I told you I saw someone and I know who it is!" Ryan told me don't get my hopes up. He said when I got there and it wasn't Jason I was going to be disappointed so don't try to guess who it is. We got there and I was right! He yelled for me to go have my moment. I so did!

We turned toward the finish line and I feel like I picked up my pace but I probably didn't. I saw Eric and I gave him two thumbs up. I had told Ryan earlier that I really wanted him to cross the finish line with me. Typically pacers don't, but I don't care. He isn't just my pacer, he's my son. I wanted him to cross that finish line with me. We crossed the finish line in 11:48:58. Woohoo! 

Yes, yes I did throw my hands in the air in celebration! It was such an awesome moment. The early mornings, the many many miles, the blisters, chafing, puking, tears, etc during training were all for this. Was it worth it? Abso-freaking-lutely! Crossing the finish line of my first 50 mile race was always going to be awesome, but when I had Ryan by my side it was just so much better. 

There are a ton of pics of me at the finish line (really, it's embarrassing) so I won't include them all. I'll put a bunch on FB for those of you that are friends with me on there. Joell and the twins were there, as were Libby and Reina. Eric grabbed me and hugged me and then gave me my buckle. Woohoo! Missing was Kodi who had stayed at Princton drinking and helping out. She also got a tiny bit lost. Here is a picture of my face after she told me something really really funny that she said.

Another of us

Sadly I only have one pic of me with Libby and it's really far away and you can't really see us. So disappointing :( She was so amazing out there and helped me so much. I'm so so so so thankful to have her in my life!

To the Epic Ultras Brigade: Thank you! All of you are amazing and I can't thank you enough for giving so much of your time to help us out. Ryan, Libby and Kodi, you're the best team I could have asked for! Jason, I'm still not sure I want to thank you for talking me into this! I cursed you a lot. You should expect that at this point though. Thanks for helping crew me too! Justin, thanks for talking me into taking the shot and for so many other things I can't name them all. Joell, you're just the best. Seeing you at that last aid station helped me more than you'll ever know. Candi and Zach weren't there physically but they sure were in spirit. Kodi was reading me your comments and I knew you were behind me 100%! Rick, Ryan and Adam, thanks. Thank you for being patient while I was grumpy, tired and sore. Thank you for letting me run instead of spend time with you, thank you for maybe not understanding why I do this but supporting me anyway. 

I think it's time for a little break. Not sure what's next, but I'll let you know when I do!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pacing and Crewing at Heartland 100

I could also title this post: How I accidentally ran an ultra. We'll get to that though. First, how did I get here? Once upon a time (April 2013) I met this guy named Jason. He was friendly and possibly a little crazy. We hung out at an aid station together and he seemed pretty cool. He mentioned that he was going to be running the Heartland 100. I think I told him that sounded nuts, but good luck, and forgot about it. He also told me he'd be running the Storm the Dam marathon and that I should do it. I had just started running again post-hysterectomy, so I dismissed him. Oddly enough, ignoring things he tells me I should do has become the theme of our friendship! A couple of weeks (maybe?) after I met him I sent him a message on facebook because I knew his daughter was doing a half marathon and I wanted to tell her good luck. We started talking, and at some point he asked if I would be interested in pacing him at his 100. I said sure. It sounded fun, and so far away I didn't have to worry about it for a while. And so it began. He helped drag my butt through a marathon and several tough training runs. He provided encouragement and support to sign up for my first 50 mile race (OMG!). The day of the race dawned and as I was driving there, past El Dorado lake where we did the marathon together, I figured it was my turn to drag his butt through a few miserable miles on a dirt road!

Now, if only things had been that simple on race day! A few weeks before the race I was talking to Justin Chockley and he mentioned that if I wasn't doing anything else I could help his wife crew for him. I said I could before I paced Jason if he needed me to since Jason seemed to have a good crew and didn't need me. Joell wasn't going to be getting to the race until he was past the halfway point, so I thought I could crew for him before I paced as well. Joell and I communicated a lot before the race to decide when he would be at which aid station and how I could help him. Then I found out that he'd probably be running part of the race with Candi, so I decided I could help her out as well. You see where this is going with the craziness, right? The night before the race I went to the pre-race dinner with Candi and Joell told me that Adam Monaghan didn't have a crew and that he'd be with Justin and Candi and could probably use some help too. Crew 3 people? No problem!! I had seen Adam and knew who he was, but hadn't officially met him, so Joell introduced us. I also met his sweet wife (seriously, she's sooo nice) and his daughter.

Race morning came and I got up early to send Candi off. I felt like I was sending my baby off to her first day of kindergarten! She was nervous and I was nervous for her. I tried to go back to sleep but never slept well. I went to Adam's football game, but after getting updates I realized Justin was going faster than he anticipated and I didn't want to miss him, so I left. I got to the Teterville Rd station, which is mile 25 and went to grab Candi and Adam's drop bags to have their stuff ready. Adam's bag was nowhere to be seen. I thought I must have been mistaken about him having one there. I went to Jason's truck to hang out with his crew. Justin arrived and I jumped out to help him. I filled his hydration pack and waited while he ate some food, then walked out with him. I had some pretzel m&m's in my car and they sounded good and it was on his way out, so we went and got them. He was looking great right here!

Candi arrived and I was helping her, then Adam got there (I hadn't notice him coming in) and asked me if I'd seen his bag. I told him they didn't have one so I thought I misunderstood where his bags were. He said, no, he had one. Right then someone pulled up with a bunch of bags that had been forgotten. His was there! Yay. I got him what he needed and he took off with Candi.

I waited a bit longer and Jason came in. He was doing great! We got him fixed up (I did very little, his crew had it) and sent him off.

I then got in my car and went to Cassoday, where the start finish is. I had some time to wait because I was picking up Kristi Mayo and getting her to Matfield Green to pace Justin. When she got there we were getting her stuff in my car when Joell called me. She asked if either of us had any vaseline. Justin's feet were in rough shape and had blisters and he didn't have any. Neither of us did but we felt sure we could find someone that did. We got there and borrowed vaseline from Jason's crew. I saw Candi briefly but had a lot to get ready for Justin and had to get my stuff ready to pace and Sophia had her covered, so I didn't help much. Here she is looking fabulous at mile 42.5! This would be the last time I saw Candi until I was leaving the race.
On my way back to my car from getting vaseline from Jason's truck I saw Adam. He was looking a little more rough than he had earlier, but still ok. His wife had sent me pics of his daughter to show him as a pick me up, but it was in the car so I couldn't show him. I grabbed his drop bag, got what he needed and he changed his shirt and was out of there. I got back to my car and Kristi and I got everything ready and we waited for Justin. He came into the aid station not looking the best but we sat him down and fixed his feet. What does that mean you ask? We got his shoes off, rubbed vaseline all over his feet, put his shoes back on. Eeeewwww. Kristi decided she would pace him from there even though she was going to wait until he got back to Matfield Green from the turnaround. This meant a lot of miles for her. As Justin was leaving Jason rolled in. Crap! I was not ready. I got ready as fast as I could. My watch wouldn't work and was frozen up. Not cool. I forgot my headlamp, but Jason had one so someone stuck it in my pack. After we got things sorted we were off. Here we are right before pacing.
We took off and he was walking fast. His legs are about two feet longer than mine and he's a crazy fast walker, so I was having a little trouble keeping up! We stared running eventually. We'd run a little and walk a little. Walking all uphills, running down and doing what we could between. Ha. Between is a funny word. It's not like the hills ever ended. There is little between. When we were getting close to the unmanned aid station I ran ahead to fill Jason and John's bottles. John had been running with Jason all day. Unfortunately, he dropped when we got back to Matfield green. Onward and upward! Literally. Lots of upward! We kept going and were getting closer to the turnaround. Jason seemed to be getting a bit tired through here. Not far before the turnaround I saw Adam and I broke out my phone to show him the pics of his daughter. Seriously, is there anything sweeter in the world than seeing a man melt at the sight of his little girl? It was a cool moment in the race for me. I caught up to Jason and John. We realized they could make the turnaround in 12 hours, which was awesome. When we got to the turnaround they had fried foods!! Yummy. That seemed to breathe new life into the guys. I filled bottles, gave them vaseline, and whatever else they needed and we took off. This section kinda sucks because it's uphill for a long time. The guys did it though and did it well! Back at the top and it's flat-ish (ha!) to the unmanned water again. I didn't refill bottles this time because it had cooled considerably and they still had plenty. I used that as an opportunity to boss them around about drinking enough! We kept walking and running and it started to get dark. I gave Jason is headlamp, only it was the wrong one. Oops! Since it wasn't the one he'd be using all night and he wouldn't have to worry about readjusting, I wore it instead of him. We ran when he could, walked when he needed to. My legs were hurting a little because the power walking that I'm not used to. Still, I was having a ton of fun! I always enjoy running with Jason and this was no exception. We got back to Matfield Green and he sat down and we got him all ready to go out and kill the rest of the race!

I was freezing cold at this time and all I could think about was getting into my warm, dry clothes. I was walking along trying to call Joell because I knew she was there and I looked over and there she was! She had her friend Marcia there that was going to be helping her crew. I talked to them a few and we went to my car so they could use their flashlight to help me get my stuff and get changed. They stood kind of in front of me while I changed clothes on the side of the road. Gotta love ultra running! I was as quick as I could be and thankfully no one drove past. We got in our cars and I followed them to the town of Matfield Green where I would leave my car while we went out to Ridgeline to crew our people. We got there and waited. Candi was already gone because she's a speed demon! Adam came in and was having some tummy issues. We did what we could and sent him on. He didn't have a jacket so Joell gave him hers. It fit pretty well. I so wish I had taken a photo. Here he is with his soup. Besides the tummy and being cold, he was having some foot issues but didn't have spare socks. He kept going though!
Justin came into Ridgeline and got back out pretty fast. Got some food and refilled his pack and off he went.

Jason was in and out of this station pretty quick as well. I had a minute to tell him hi and I think I grabbed him a sandwich from the aid station. Or Joell did. Either way, he got one!

We got in the car and went to get our cars (mine and also Adam's pacers car were in Matfield Green so Marcia was getting it to the start/finish for him) and took them back to Cassoday to park. We then took the loooong trip back to Teterville. We got there and waited and Justin was the first one in. He said that he had passed Adam and he was really cold and that when he got there we needed to get him a heavier jacket. We fixed up Justin's feet again and talked to Kristi about whether or not she would continue. She had been out there a long time! She said she was good to go. They took off and Justin was looking good. He had really turned things around. I think a lot of that was due to Kristi. What a great person to jump in and run extra like that to help a friend!

When Adam came into Teterville he didn't look good. He said he was thinking about dropping. Oh no. Joell and I went to work trying to talk him out of it. I won't share all the details because that's Adam's story, not mine. I will say, because it explains some other stuff, that his pacer wasn't doing great at that point. I asked if he wanted me to start pacing him. He said no, if he continued he'd continue with the pacer he had. We talked him into continuing onto Lapland, which was around 9 miles. We told him we'd reevaluate when he got there. Oh yeah, and just so you all know how devoted I am to pacing, I put vaseline on his feet too. Eeewww. I also never washed my hands all day or night. And ate food. I might never get clean again. Joell found him some fresh socks and we were hoping that would perk him up. I don't know if it did, but he left the aid station without dropping. Yay!

While Adam was at the aid station Jason came in. He was also in a rough patch here, but was getting a new pacer, so hopefully just having a new person to talk to and spend time with would help! I never once thought he might quit, and he had quite a crew, so I told him good job and left him in capable hands while I helped Adam.

We continued onto Lapland to wait for the guys. We had a long wait. It was also freezing but Ken and Dana Childress were there and it's always fun to visit with them, so we stayed outside the car quite a bit. Justin got there and Kristi finally got to sit down. We got some warm pants on Justin. I wish I had a photo of him sitting in a chair with shorts on, with his pants around his thighs. It was priceless. Joell was going to be pacing him into the finish. I joked with her that they had all that uninterrupted time and they should just consider it a date! I was sad to see them go because I enjoy hanging out with Joell and I also had a feeling I might end up pacing Adam and that was going to mean not seeing Justin finish. I was incredibly happy for him though that his dream of running 100 miles was about to come true!

After Justin and Joell left we got in the car and Kristi gathered her clothes to change and then use the bathroom. She was more than ready for some sleep, but we wanted to wait for Adam and Jason to come in. At that time Candi called me. She finished her first 100 mile in 21:54 and was 2nd place female! Wow. There are no words for me to describe how amazing she is. As I hung up with her I saw two people coming into the aid station and thought it was Adam and his pacer. It was! He said he was so glad he hadn't quit. Woot! But, he wanted to know if I'd pace him to the finish. Absolutely! What's another 16-17 miles that I hadn't planned to run? Who cares that I don't really have my running clothes? I'll wear what I've got and just deal. Then I debated. Text my husband at 4 am and tell him I'd be pacing someone I don't really know through the middle of the country just so he knows what's going on? I decided on a big fat no. Why make him worry? I got some gels from Kristi and took the water bottle his other pacer had been carrying and off we went. I texted his wife to let her know what was going on. I had been texting her updates all day.

We started out and he said he might need a few miles to get into some kind of rhythm. We hadn't actually gone very far when he wanted to run a little. Yay! I was a little afraid we'd be walking all night. I was freezing cold and sleepy and I wasn't looking forward to a long slow death march. That is not what this was, thank goodness. I was often just a little ahead of him and I asked if that was ok or did he need me beside or behind him. I think he said something like "I'll let you know" and we never talked about it again, so I guess it was ok. I tried to get him to run every downhill. When we started running I would look ahead and see where I thought we'd be able to run to. I wouldn't tell him, but I knew if he was struggling I'd say "let's try to make it to that tree" or something similar. Every.Single.Time he exceeded my expectations. It was so cool. I was glad I didn't tell him where I thought he could make it. Actually, I think I did one time, because he seemed to be struggling a bit but he made it past where I suggested. So tough!

Really, there just isn't a lot to say. We trudged through the early morning darkness. He knew when the sun came up he'd feel better. Like I did with Jason, I would run ahead to fill his bottle when I could. Basically, it was just hours and hours of Adam listening to me talk because I didn't want him to fall asleep. I didn't want to fall asleep either for that matter. When we were getting close to the last manned aid station, battle creek, I ran ahead to get his bottle filled and some food for him and for me. They fixed him a cup of soup and we left the aid station eating it. When I got there they told me to sit down, take a break, etc. Heck no! We have a race to finish and no one is getting comfortable until it's over!

I asked him a lot of questions about races he'd done, what he still wants to do, etc. By the way, at mile 93 when you ask someone what else they want to do with running, what races they've dreamed of, etc, the answer is nothing. They don't ever want to run again! It was kind of a funny moment. While chatting I told Adam that I thought his wife seemed so sweet and nice and he told me about her and how much he loved her and their daughter. And they're having another baby in December! Yay! It was very nice to hear someone talk to nicely about their spouse. They seems like a great couple.

Continuing on, we could see the finish! There is a water tower and man, you can see that thing for miles! Kinda sucks! Still, you know it's coming. This was Adam's 10th 100 mile finish. I felt honored to have helped him get there. Honestly, the entire experience of this weekend was just amazing in ways I'll never be able to articulate. One of those things you just have to experience to understand I think, and then no two experiences are the same.

Adam with around 4 miles to go

We kept moving and I was doing my best to just remain positive and happy because if I started acting like I felt it wasn't going to do Adam any good. I hope I was successful in not being too whiny. The closer we got the more we ran. And ran and ran! Our run wasn't very fast, because, hello, 100 miles, but I think we ran well over half of the last 4 miles. Or I was dreaming. It's possible.

We crossed the finish line at 9:48 am, 27 hours and 48 minutes after he started. Well, he crossed this finish line. I did not. It was not my moment. I went into the tent and got him food and something to drink while he got his award. Marcia and Joell gathered all of his stuff and got it in his pacers vehicle. He had to get back to Wichita ASAP for a meeting. I texted his wife that he finished, then went and talked to Justin, Joell, Marcia and whoever else came in and out of the area where we were. I walked past Justin and said "just so you know, I'm a freaking badass!" He started laughing. He was on the phone with Zach Adams and told him what he said. Later Zach called me to tell me how much help I had been to so many people and how great that was, etc. It was so kind of him to do that and made me feel so good.

I went to change my shirt and then wait for Jason. He came in less than an hour later. He had finished his first 100! I was so proud of him. He had a bunch of family and friends at the finish line, which was great to see. I told him good job, but I was toast so I had to head home.

I'm so happy to have helped pace Jason and Adam and crew Justin and Candi (just a tiny bit on Candi). It's awesome to see people do something so huge and accomplish their goals. I left there so inspired. To see them go through a rough patch and dig deep and gut it out is indescribable. I know when I'm running my race in a few weeks. I'll remember them and how they gutted out the race and use it for inspiration.

So, that's how I accidentally ran over 31 miles. I had a nice easy 15 planned. I'm thrilled with how things turned out though. I learned a lot and I'm ready for my 50!

Prairie Spirit in two weeks!! Gulp.

Monday, September 30, 2013

FlatRock 50K Report

On Saturday I ran my 2nd FlatRock 50K. Eight more to go until I'm the Hall of Pain! This was such an awesome race that I don't really know where to start. I guess I'll start with the pre-race pasta dinner. I've raved about this before, so probably no need to again. I took both boys this year as Rick was busy and it seemed easiest. The cool thing about this year is that I knew people there! I got to chat with people and enjoy the nice weather instead of going there, eating, and going home. I left the dinner and went to Independence to drop off some stuff with my friend Jennifer. She had volunteered to crew for me again. I really felt bad because I knew it was going to be a long, wet day due to rain, but she seemed to want to do it. After dropping off my stuff we went to WalMart for some last minute snacks, then to my dad's house to spend the night. We visited for a bit and went to bed.

Saturday morning came way too fast and I was up getting ready. I went outside to get something and saw lightning and heard thunder. Wonderful! There was an 80% chance of rain, but something inside of me kept hoping they were wrong, or that it would only rain for a little while. Ha!! I laugh at myself now. After I got ready I talked to Rick a bit as he was running the 25K so didn't have to leave quite as early. He informed me he remembered almost nothing and asked if I had a few of the things he needed. The answer to that was a big fat no. Oops.

I got to the race and was gathering my stuff. I dropped my safety pins into some black hole so needed to go get some more. As I was walking up to the shelter I heard someone say my name. It was Zach Adams and he and Candi were getting their stuff ready. I was all mad because I lost my safety pins and I was worried about Rick not having water because he didn't bring a bottle or hydration pack. They both offered me several solutions but in my grumpy state I'm sure I was just rude to them. Finally Candi just handed me a bottle and told me to give it to Rick. I had planned to find Libby and give it to her to give to him. I couldn't find her though. I did find Carina, my friend Jason's daughter, and she was doing the 25K. I gave her the bottle to give to him and stopped worrying. Then my friend Joell had some extra safety pins, so all was well. Joell and I finished getting everything ready and went to the pre-race briefing. We realized we hadn't officially checked in, so we asked her husband Justin to do it for us. We went back to her car to put on bug spray and stuff. At that point it started pouring ran. Yay! Back to the shelter and we huddled under and umbrella with people and stood around talking. I visited with Ken and Dana Childress for a bit. I met Zach's friend Ryan who was nervous about his first 50K and in these conditions. I assured him he would be fine. It turns out Ryan and I got to know each other well as the day went on. More on that later!

We walked up the road to the start line and it was just pouring. After a bit we were off! I tried to keep up with Joell and her friend Reina as I was hoping to run with them quite a bit. They were really fast though so I slowed down and let them go. I knew the first hill was going to kill me and it did. It always takes me a while to get into a groove on this trail and Saturday was no different. I was doing my best to just take it easy as I had a long day ahead of me. My goal was to run as much as I could to the turnaround. I knew if I made it there in time I could walk back as I did that last year. I ran by myself for a while and then heard someone coming up behind me. To my delight it was Ken! I let him pass and then fell in behind him. We ran together through the first aid station. The miles with him just flew by. I felt great and was running a lot and enjoying my day. My primary goal for the race was to have fun. I was really having fun! He got ahead of me a mile or so before the second aid station. When I left there I was in front of a group, but they quickly passed me. At that point I realized I absolutely needed to make it to Oak Ridge by 10:00 or I wasn't making the turnaround cutoff. I sped up and made it there, but barely. Jennifer wasn't there so I asked Dana to tell her I was already gone when she showed up. As I was leaving I saw her get out of her car. Yay!! I was sooo happy to see her! I gave her a hug, got some gel and took off.

Here is a picture of me somewhere before Oak Ridge

I left Oak Ridge right behind a man and his grandson and in front of a couple of people that had passed me after the last station. I ran with the two guys for a bit and chatted with them but they pulled ahead. I powered on. I got to the tough section of this part of the course and was just crawling. I kept checking the time and knew I was in trouble. Still, I powered on. I passed someone moving really slow and he said he was in a lot of pain. I told him we were in danger of not meeting the cutoff and he told me he knew and seemed pretty upset. I still thought I could make it at that point. I kept going as fast as I could, but the mud was insane. It was just so thick and sloppy. I can normally power walk, but I couldn't even do that. With a little over a mile to go I knew I wasn't going to make it on time. I had also fallen a couple of times and was just upset at that point.  I saw Justin not long after that and I started to cry and said I wasn't going to make it. He then informed me that they had extended the cutoff and I was fine. WHAT?! Ok, that's not what I said. I can't repeat what I did say though. If you know Justin, ask him. He thinks it's funny, so he'll tell you! I had resigned myself to being pulled from the race and now I knew I had many more hours and miles of this crap.  I kept going and trying to hurry because at that point I knew I was going to finish. Not long after that I saw Ken coming back. He swears he didn't, but he had this look on his face of "oh, I'm so sorry you failed." Ok, I know he didn't, but that's what I thought at the time. I knew I couldn't talk to him or I would cry so I gave him a thumbs up and kept going. I saw Joell and she reassured me I was doing great and just keep moving.

I finally got to the turnaround and Jennifer was there to help. Tony Clark was in charge of the station and Fernando Martinez was there to help him. They did everything they could to help me (except pull me from the race, which I kind of wanted!) and were encouraging. Jennifer helped me change my shoes and socks. Seriously, how is it that I have such amazing friends? I'm not worthy of them. There were a few of us there and finally Tony and Fernando started scooting us out of there telling us we needed to hurry. I left at the same time as Ryan. He told me "I'd be happy if I didn't run another step of this race." It was then that I realized I had found my running soul mate! Ben and Heather joined us not long after. We were all chatting and feeling miserable together. I'm pretty sure I cussed a lot. That section by the river was unbelievable. I hope someone took a pic that I can steal. At some point I told them that I thought we should all stick it out together until the end. The agreed. We knew it was going to be rough and we'd be lucky to finish.

I was thrilled to see Oak Ridge and Jennifer again. I had to go to the bathroom REALLY bad at that point. I went off on my own and peed, then into the station to get some food. I told Dana that my pee was a freakish color and she looked worried. I assured her I was ok, but she told me just keep drinking. We both decided this was a great improvement upon last year when I didn't pee at all. I love how helpful Dana is and that she's not offended when I talk to her about stuff like this! She's truly one of the best aid station workers I've ever seen. I look forward to her aid station both times through.

We left Oak Ridge and I suggested we run a bit. I'm pretty sure my companions were then cursing me! We ran a bit until we got to a downhill. I was in the lead and was pushing as fast as I could to keep everyone moving. After a couple of miles it was obvious Heather was doing better than me, so I suggested she take the lead. She did and led us the rest of the way! A couple of times I pointed out the right was as I know the course really well. We hit the next station doing alright. Got some food and left. At this point I wasn't doing well. Everything hurt like hell and I wasn't sure I could finish. Ben got ahead of me and Ryan was a good bit behind. We spend some of the next few miles spread out but hanging in there. Ryan started not doing well during this section. I was really worried about him finishing. Ben, Heather and I stopped a few times to make sure he was behind us, but were doing our best to just power on. All of us knew that if we stopped for long we weren't going to make it.

Finally we were at the last aid station. We were there a minute when a lady came in followed by Fernando and his dog Miles. They were sweeping the course. The lady took off, leaving Fernando with us. Ryan told the three of us to go on, he'd be fine. After a bit of hesitation we took off. We knew we were cutting it close on time. We just kept moving. Relentless forward progress. For hours. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. And when you put that foot down, it slid and you had to pull yourself back up and take another step. The course was awful. After the rain stopped (it rained a good 5 hours) the mud thickened up. So now our shoes were caked with what felt like 10 pounds of mud. Within a mile or so Ryan and Fernando caught us. Fernando was a breath of fresh air and kept us moving. I'm so very thankful that he was there. I might have finished without him, but I might not have. He really cheered me up and was so positive and encouraging. He kept telling us we were inspiring him. All I could think was "oh sure! This fabulous runner is inspired by me, the slowest person out here!" It still encouraged me though and I kept going.

With a mile left of trail we knew we needed to really hustle. After we left the trail we still had a half mile or so of road to get to the finish line. I started running and ran for a while. Ben was behind me and said he was starting to cramp. I told him that we needed to run to a place that has a pretty steep downhill and then we could walk. He said ok and we did. Then we walked as fast as we possibly could until we came out of the woods. Here I am with Ben behind me coming down the last hill. This is my favorite race photo of all time I think.

Finally we hit the grass outside of the trail and I almost cried. What a tremendous relief. Still, we had maybe 9 minutes and at least half a mile to go. We ran until we got to the uphill, then marched up it. Then we took off. We all ran to the finish. When I was almost there Rick came out and started running with me. He said "I can't run because I've got nothing left, but GO!" Then I heard people screaming that I had a minute left. I took off as fast as I could. No freaking way was I failing now! I crossed the finish line with 52 seconds left. That's right. A finish time of 10:59:08. I couldn't be more proud. It's hard to explain why a really slow finish time like that makes me happy, so I won't try. Everything about this race was perfect. I gained a tremendous amount of confidence and learned what a difference a good attitude can make. Crossing that finish line with such a huge crowd cheering was amazing.
Some finish line pics

So many of my friends were there to tell me congrats and give me a hug or a high five.

I talked to a bunch of people, cleaned my feet, and talked some more. Justin came up and asked if I was doing a victory shot with everyone under the hand. Heck yeah I am!

Every time I complete this race I think it's the hardest thing I've ever done. It is too! The 25K was hard. Then I did the 50K and it was harder. Now I had to deal with rain and mud and it was harder! Please Eric, let's have good weather next year, k?

I'm thankful to so many people. Eric and his Epic Ultras Brigade. This race is so amazing. Thanks to all of you! Thanks to all the volunteers. Fernando coming in and running the last part of the race with us made all the difference in the world. I'm so glad I finally got to meet him and his lovely wife Karlee after following them all summer on daily mile. Dana is always awesome. Tony for kicking me out of the turnaround when I didn't want to go. Rick for putting up with me and loving me no matter what. And btw, he finished the 25K and was awesome! Jason, who listened to me obsess about running all summer and did some of my long runs with me. Libby and Jennifer for always being there for me and for both crewing for me this summer and going above and beyond. Jennifer, I've put in an order for your cookies! Candi, Zach, Justin and Joell: I don't know what to say to you guys. After Hawk when I was so down you all went to work lifting me back up. Every one of you sent me awesomely encouraging messages and listened to me whine and kept telling me I could do it. You made me believe I can do anything I want to do. Thank you all so very much! Heather, Ryan and Ben: Wow. You three rock! I can't thank you enough for sticking with me to the end. It was great to meet you and run (or walk!) with you. Can't wait to see you next year. No matter what you say, I know we'll all be back!

Despite how hard it was and how slow I was, this was the best race I've ever done. I'm so incredibly proud of myself and everyone else.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Finding my happy...

Lately I've just been unhappy with my running. Almost every run stresses me out in some way. Even if it's really good I question whether or not I should have actually gone that fast or that far. I have been questioning every aspect of my running. I lost all of my joy. I overthink it analyze it to death. I would say it's been a good three months since I was just happy.

The reasons why this happened don't really matter. What matters is that I figured out what they were and am working on fixing it. One thing I've decided is that I just want to be a lot more private about my runs. No more sharing every run with dailymile or facebook or my friends. Or really anyone. That doesn't mean I won't post about my runs sometimes. I can't help myself! I no longer want anyone else knowing every single detail of my runs though. When that starts happening I start relying too heavily on their opinion and that isn't good for me. My opinion is really the only one that matters when it comes to running.

I also (finally!) realized I need to find my confidence from within. I can't rely on anyone else or even a group of people to make me feel good about my running. I need to feel good about it without any input from anyone else. I don't know why this is so hard for me, but it is. I know that I've made giant leaps since coming back from my hysterectomy. I'm running more often than I ever have and running more miles. I'm much more consistent and make less excuses. However, I have this big group of ultra running friends that are all doing far more than I am. I started measuring myself against them and coming up pretty short. A friend of mine told me she wished I would just measure myself using a normal measuring stick. You know what? When I did I realized I'm pretty darn happy with what I'm doing. Could I do more? Of course. I skip too many long runs and take the easy way out too often and make too many excuses. I think whether they are willing to admit it or not, a lot of runners do this. People might like to think of themselves as better than others and pretend their excuses are more valid, but in the end, who cares? You either follow your training plan to the letter or you don't. The reasons why don't matter at all. And really, I've discovered that I don't need to make excuses. If I don't run when I was supposed to I don't need to tell anyone why. I decided not to run that day. I might have a very valid reason and I might just be lazy. Whatever. I'm no longer willing to let anyone else hold me accountable. I have to hold myself accountable. I'm the only one that gets to be disappointed by my running.

I'm going into Flatrock next weekend with no goal other than to finish and have fun. If it takes me 10 hours (that's the cutoff) to finish I don't really care. A finish is a victory. I'm not willing to pressure myself to do more than that because that's when I start freaking out mentally. If I'm off my desired pace just a little bit I deem myself a failure and then it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. I'm just going to do what I can on that day and be pleased with what happens. I'm not going to let myself cross another finish line feeling like a failure. When I finish I'm going to remind myself that I just completed a 50k on a course that most people would never dream of running one mile on, let alone 31. I will be happy and confident knowing that I did the best I could on that day.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hawk Marathon Report

A few weeks ago I decided that I needed a really long training run for Flatrock and Prairie Spirit and I knew people doing the Hawk marathon, so I decided to give it a shot. I ran it yesterday and I'm still not really sure if I made the right decision or not. Regardless, I did it! I also got 26.2 miles of single track on my legs which will hopefully help me at the end of this month.

Friday afternoon I drove up to Lawrence and had dinner with my friend Libby, then went to her house to spend the night. It was really fun to spend some time with her and I got to meet her husband and her super scary dog. It's a great dane and I think it's head comes up to my shoulder!

Saturday morning came way too fast! I got up at 5 am and started getting ready. We left at 6 and detoured to Dunkin Donuts so Libby could get coffee. I wanted some, but that would cause issues I really didn't want to deal with on a trail race. I had already taken care of that ;) We got to the race, found parking, sprayed bug spray, and headed to the start line. I saw my friend Justin there and talked to him for a little bit. I tried my best to talk him into jumping into the race at some point and running with me, but I guess he felt like pacing someone later in the night was more important. Geez. Running with me while I whine vs pacing someone to their first 100 mile finish. I can't imagine why he didn't pick me! Also at the beginning I saw Jason who was running with his friend Indika. I ended up running a lot of the beginning of the race with them.

Me striking a pose before the race

The race got started with little fanfare, as is typical at trail races. The first mile and a halfish I was with Jason and Indika. Then we went up a big hill and they ran while I walked. I could have ran it, but I knew I had a long day ahead of me and had no interest in burning out early. I ran by myself a bit, then caught back up with the group, which was Indika, Jason, Sarah, Eric, and two people whose names I didn't get. They were a couple (I assume) and she was pregnant. After a bit she had to stop for the bathroom so I was then following the other four.

A pic from early in the race (thanks Eric!)

I stayed with that group through the first aid station, then we all left together too. The next section was tricky! Big boulders along the shoreline. I knew I didn't want to fall through here.

Shortly after the aid station Eric and Sarah broke from the group. Not long after that I slowed down and Jason and Indika kept going. I was by myself most of the rest of the race. After the second aid station we did a little out and back on Bunker Hill. It's grassy and completely out in the open. Not a lot of fun! During this section I started walking with an older gentleman. I can't remember how many marathons he has ran, but I know this was his third one this month. It was really enjoyable to talk to him. He left the next aid station a little bit ahead of me, but was moving slow and I passed him. That was maybe halfway? I don't know. My watch was off and I get a little fuzzy on the details.

The section to the last aid station sucked. I got down on myself and I just kept thinking nasty, horrible thoughts about how much I suck. Why on earth do I do that to myself? I've got to stop. I'm my own worst enemy. I was sooo happy to see the last aid station. I got some food and drink and headed back out. Shortly after that I took this photo
I was feeling anything but happy, but I figured fake it til you make it! Knowing I only had 6 miles to go motivated me a little, but I was pretty darn tired. The trail was pretty rough and I haven't done a lot of  trails over the summer. I was definitely not prepared. During this section I was really up and down emotionally. I convinced myself that I'm not ready and never will be for Flatrock or for Prairie Spirit. I convinced myself that I was going to email Eric (race director for both races) and back out.

When I finally got to the finish line I was so happy, followed by feeling like crap. Libby tried to take my picture and I started crying and walked away. I wanted to just sit down and cry. I think I freaked her out a little :) I waved at her to follow me and she's so nice that she did. She was listening to me whine when Justin came over to tell me something. He talked to me a minute, then went back over to help. I finally calmed down a bit and Libby went to get me a cheeseburger. How awesome is she? Seriously, everyone needs a friend like her. She's the best. When she got back with my food she told me that Justin told her I had 5 more minutes to feel sorry for myself. I asked what he was going to do if I didn't stop and the answer was kick me in the head. It sounded like something he would say and made me smile.

I sat around feeling sorry for myself a bit longer and then went to change clothes. I talked to Justin a bit and told him I was thinking about dropping from Flatrock. He said something I probably shouldn't repeat on here, then told me again he was kicking me. On the way home I was messaging Justin's wife Joell and she was much nicer in her encouragement!

I got up early this morning and ran 10 miles. I thought if I could do 10 miles on a really hilly route the day after a tough trail marathon maybe I could reach my goals. It wasn't pretty, but I got it done! Then later I had a conversation with Justin and he gave me some great advice and I'm feeling a lot better. At this time, I have every intention of finishing Flatrock and Prairie Spirit! I need to stick to my training and stay mentally tough and I can do it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Long time, no post!

Wow! It's been nearly two months since I posted on here. I've sort of had some crazy stuff going on in my life and haven't had a lot of time to post. I moved! I now live in Eureka, KS. It has been so much fun to find new routes. I haven't been chased by any dogs! I run past buffalo sometimes. Gravel roads and hills have become my constant companions. I actually run in the dark, by myself out in the middle of the country and I'm not scared! See? Things have changed.

I've been running a lot, though of course not as much as I should. I can't seem to let go of my lazy, slacking ways. I have some big exciting races coming up. Saturday I'm running the Hawk Marathon in Lawrence. I'm especially excited about this because it means getting to spend some time with my awesome friend Libby. She's letting me stay at her house the night before the race, which is very sweet and will save me some money. On September 28 I will be taking on Flatrock again. Only 9 more finishes before I'm in the Hall of Pain! Why does that even appeal to me? I think it's a sickness. On October 12 I will be pacing at Heartland. The biggest race I have coming up is the Prairie Spirit Fall Classic 50 miler. Yes, you read that right! 50 miles. Besides my running friends, everyone else I know thinks I have lost my mind. Maybe I have. I don't know. I'm really excited about it.

My training plan is so crazy I mostly refuse to even look at it. If I do I open it really quickly to see what the next few runs are and then close it before I get a good look at the entire thing. If I were to actually follow the whole thing, and let's be honest, I won't, I might actually finish the 50 mile still able to walk. However, I won't, so I will probably be in so much pain someone will have to carry me to my car after I finish. And speaking of that, I really need to find someone to go to the race with me to drive me home.

Anyway, that's all I've got. I will update again after my marathon on Saturday!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lunar Trek 50K

Friday night I ran the Lunar Trek 50K. It was in Scandia, KS and started at 11:00 pm. I went into the race feeling well trained and full of confidence. I was sure I was going to totally rock it. Then a series of crappy things happened and it didn't work out like I planned.

I talked Rick into making the trip with me because it's over 4 hours away and I didn't want to go alone. We left when I got off work Friday and I think we got there at about 9:00 pm. Libby was already there and had picked up my packet. I talked to her for a few minutes and then Rick said he was going to do the 10k. We went in and signed him up and I changed into my race clothes. I chatted with Libby some more and got everything ready. Rick and Libby were going to crew for me so we went in to look at the crew map to try to figure out where they could meet me. The race director started talking about how muddy it was in sections and how the crew wouldn't be able to make it. I basically ignored what he was saying thinking it couldn't really be that bad. We went back out to the parking lot and were just hanging out talking. Justin and Joell Chockley got there and I finally got to meet them in person. I've been giving Justin crap for a few weeks about how he needed to have some gastrointestinal distress so Joell and I could beat him. When I told him I was running the 50K he volunteered Joell to run with me. Nice husband, right?

We talked a little more and took some pics. Here I am with Libby before the race. Sorry it's blurry. The lighting wasn't exactly ideal.

Right before 11:00 someone decided to walk around the high school because that's where the race was going to start. We got lined up right before it was time to go. We ran down a hill that was blacktop, then hit the dirt road. And by dirt I actually mean mud and sand. The road was pretty soft and not that easy to run on. I finally figured out there were parts of the road that were firmer and tried to stay on those. After a bit my friend Luke joined us and was going to run with us, at least for a while.We were chatting and doing well. A couple of times I thought I should stop and walk because I've been doing intervals on all of my long runs. I hated to ask Joell and Luke to stop though so I didn't. We hit the first aid station doing really well and kept running. We started walking some hills around this time. It had rained and was cooler than I thought it would be, but the humidity was really bad. Within a few miles I could squeeze sweat out of my skirt.

At mile 3ish (I can never remember) we hit mud. Thick, nasty mud. The kind that sticks to your shoes and starts wearing you down. I was already getting cranky because my legs were hurting more than I expected them to at that point and I really wanted to walk for more than a minute, but was running with people faster than me and was trying to keep up. It was stupid of me to do that and entirely my fault. I should have just spoken up and said I needed a little break. Oh well. We hit the 5 mile aid station and Joell and I shared a gatorade and I refilled my water bottle. When we took off we couldn't find Luke, but he caught up pretty quick. Not far past the aid station we started running down a pretty steep hill. It was muddy and we were sliding around. At the bottom of the hill we ran into a place that had standing water. Luke was in front and hit it first, so Joell and I had warning and went around it.

At maybe mile 6 or so I was done. My legs were hurting and my lower back was killing me. Joell and Luke had gotten ahead and Joell stopped and walked with me. Luke kept going. I told her I just needed to walk a while. I ended up walking most of the rest of the race. We walked as fast as we could and tried to run as many downhills as possible. I had to stop for a couple of bathroom breaks. About a mile or so from the turnaround we met Justin walking. He said he was done. He had twisted his ankle going down the steep muddy hill and was hurting. It sounded like he had walked as much as we had. We told him to walk back to the turnaround with us and he could catch a ride with Rick back to the high school. I felt bad because I had joked so much about something happening to him. I knew it wasn't my fault, but still. I know what it's like to drop out of a race. It sucks.

We got to the turnaround and Rick and Libby were there. They helped me change my socks and clean out my shoes because they were full of sand. It was also so humid that my socks were soaked. One of the volunteers filled my water bottle and got me some kind of granola bar which I tried to eat but it made me feel like puking. I also tried to drink some powerade but didn't want to hang around too long because I was afraid I wouldn't leave. After I was a little ways down the road I realized I forgot my fuel. Crap! I tried to flag Rick down but he didn't see me. That meant 15.5 miles with no fuel. Joell had some extra Gu and there were aid stations, so I thought I'd do fine, but it still sucked.

There's not a lot to say about the second half. I walked almost all of it and ran down some hills, but not all of them. I was disappointed in myself and felt bad that Joell was having to go so slow to stay with me. She was awesome. She stayed cheerful the whole time and stuck with me when I don't think anyone else would have. After the next to the last aid station we decided we need to run as much as we can because the more we run the faster we finish. Since more than anything else I wanted to be done, I was willing to start running more. At the last station 2 miles from the finish I was ready to just get it done. We started running as much as I possibly could. The last part of a race is up a hill to the high school. Who's freaking idea was that?! Rick and Libby were at the top of the hill cheering and taking pics. When I got to the top Libby started running with me. I was so thankful to be done that I started running faster.

Woohoo! The finish!!

I was ecstatically happy. It was slower than I wanted by about an hour, but we finished and we didn't finish last! It was so humid and so muddy and I was so not mentally tough in this race. I (again) learned some important lessons though. Lessons that will serve me well in the future.

They offered to let people use the showers in the locker room and I was nasty and miserable so I did it. I felt like I was back in high school and it is really not a good feeling! Add public showering to the list of things I never thought I'd do as a runner. Thankfully another runner had some shampoo so I was able to get my hair clean. Thank you mystery woman!

After I showered and got dressed I went back to the parking lot and loaded up my stuff. Rick was exhausted and ready to go home but I wanted to see Jason and Megan finish their 40 mile race, so I took my lawn chair to the finish line and waited. I visited with people and got to see a few finishers come across. That was cool. I saw Jason and Megan finish and talked to them a few minutes, then headed home. I slept a little on the way, but not much. We picked up the boys and came home and fell into bed. About that time my mind started racing and I couldn't go to sleep. I gave up and got up. I finally went to bed about 9:00 last night, completely worn out.

Now I'm ready to start getting serious about Flatrock. I can't wait!!

(Justin, if you're reading this, picture me sticking my tongue out at you and laughing! Sorry you didn't finish your race, but always remember I put in more miles than you. I'm never letting you forget.)