Wednesday, April 1, 2015

To Run With the Wolves at Superior 100

My 1979 teapot.
Growing up my mother would tell me to save new things, nice things or items worth something for good. Everything seemed to be worth something since we didn't have much, so the same theme just got played over and over again. "Save them for your kids one day," she would say. What she meant was to put precious things on a shelf or in a drawer and not use them—ever. To protect them from damage or looking shabby—don't touch and certainly don't play with them.

On my 6th birthday, I received a hand-made tea set from my father, who I would see about once a year. It was one of the nicest things I had ever gotten at the time. I put it on my dresser and "saved it for good" like my mother said. The cups and teapot held pins and buttons from time to time, and it would become dusty. I cleaned it,  but I never played with it because I might break it. One day my shelf fell and a cup and the handle of the teapot broke. I glued it back together, and still it sat on a shelf or in a drawer being saved for good—saved for somebody else since I out grew it. It became "stuff" to collect more dust for someone else.

This "save it" theme that went on through the years has bothered me more the older I get because items,  things, and stuff are worthless if there is no connection to a life. It can even be a symbol of regret with the would of, should of, could of attached to it.

My children were recently playing tea party and saying how tiny their pot was. So I pulled out my 35 year old teapot and gave it to them. Not to look at and not touch, but to engage and fill with what ever memories they want to flow. My son asked me if he could have it when I die. I laughed out loud. I felt like it was a sign that the moment was worthy to keep. I said it could be broken by then—so not to upset his sister. He said he only wanted it if it wasn't broken. While my daughter chimed in that she wanted it either way. At last, this vessel had reached its deserving destination and wasn't just stuff.

It made me think. Just like the teapot, my body is a vessel. It's cracked in places with a permanent bruise on my right knee that sags, but still, what am I saving if for? I use this vessel to LIVE in this life. I fill it with hope, dreams and virtuous moments. Sure I want to live a long life and not have a body in need of surgeries from over-use, but what if a shelf crashes down on me, metaphorically speaking, and I can't be glued together—ever. I will be wishing I used the "stuff" God gave me.

So when people ask me why I want to run 100 miles and have in their mind that it's just destruction of the body, this is the reason I won't put myself on a shelf or in a drawer. I am not saving this vessel for someone else to show me what living looks like.
I desire to run with the two legged wolves. The human pack that migrates 100+ miles each year on the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota in September, The trail parallels the north shore of Lake Superior. It's a point-to-point race that has been on my radar for several months and quite possibly a year since I first read about it. I was too much of a scaredy cat to seriously consider it about a year ago. It's a process.

In 2013 my first 50 miler at North Country Run in Michigan ignited my love for the trail journey and qualified me for the Superior 100 (because there is a qualification time). My 2014 hematoma knee bang-up, which I just kept running on for 25 miles, answered the question I was seeking that day in an unexpected way. Do I have the heart, strength, ability and courage to take on 100 miles? 



Laughing as I write this—three out of four is good enough. Ability is my weakness. So that is where I will train the most—in the dark, going over roots and rugged terrain, and some mud running.

Fears set in: I am a genetically average runner with an average ability. I hurt—my ass hurts just sitting in this chair too long—training is hard, and there are days that it feels like an endless struggle. It does not come easy for me. I may come in completely last place or even DNF! I am a pup to ultra running compared to the majority of this pack and the times they have set on other courses. I already checked out some stats on that. But the call is howling at me.

My adventure includes 100+ miles which is deemed as one of the toughest courses in the world and considered to be one of the "most challenging, scenic and prestigious in the country"…let's stop right there. I'm SOLD! It's all about the experience. Running loops are not for me. I know I have said this before.

It's a race so difficult that the time to complete it is 38hours and I could possibly be yanked off the course early if I fall behind.
Rugged, Relentless and Remote. Have I scared the hell out of any reader yet?

Q: Am I scared?
A: Of Course!

Q: Is this a goal which quickens my pulse and makes me a little sick thinking about the reality of being in the dark with wild animals, alone and with lots of tripping hazards?
A: Gulp! Yes.

Q: Do I fear I may DNF for the first time?
A: Yes.

Q: What scares me more?
A: Not dreaming. Not doing it. Not believing. One empty pot.

Over the next 5 months my vessel will be filling with what I believe my edge is to complete this:

I am Faithful. 

I am Fierce.

I am Relentless. 

I am Grit. 

I am an Ultra Runner.

I've got the right STUFF.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

BadAss Eye-Candy

I crave the struggle, the play by play experience, and mental challenge of distance running. It's the calm and control, spiritual resilience, while holding on to the blazing desire deep within the miles to "finish this God forsaken course" tucked into great beauty and scenery that makes me come back for more. It's a complete package deal.

If you have flipped through my pages, it becomes obvious that all of the details matter to me from the gear and nutrition I carry and the course I run, right down to the colors, graphics and details I wear. I like to change things up depending on the spirit of the event. It has become mental as well as functional.

Pictured with the Run or Die theme
of the skeleton holding the water bottles.
I was sad to see them discontinued, but not for long…
It's important to me to feel the energy and have security (of not chaffing!) on race day. So much is already unpredictable. INKnBURN quickly became my favorite event wear a couple years ago. The singlet, which ten years ago I never thought I would go sleeveless, is my pick for perfect fit in a warmer event and training run. I am referencing warmer here, because I also participate in Michigan winter running with is full-on snow and ice. The singlet is loose and long enough at the waist for comfort throughout an entire sweaty day. And it fits my curves like I am a woman—because I AM A WOMAN and I don't want to wear a box or tent! I have never experienced any chaffing issues, nor have I had one fall apart. I like the light weight for summer, but I am still protected when wearing my Camelbak from any extra rubbing around the neck and chest.



I am in Color L-O-V-E!


There is no doubt that INKnBURN creates BADASS eye-candy. In my search for a new great race shirt, I was happy when it was announced that they were going to release all new designs on a limited run so that once a design was sold out, they would create new releases. You snooze you loose.

When I saw the new black Run or Die long sleeve tech shirt, I knew great things were coming and wanted it so badly in a singlet—and a long sleeve. Just look at it!

And then they went and did it…in raging fast red. Last year, a friend said that people run faster in red shoes. I am  hoping that it true in red shirts as well. Check out the the Run or Die Singlet and shorts. (You will have to set up an account to view these items online. Don't worry, it won't cost you a thing to look.) The attention to detail between the imprint and construction always impresses me. Notice how the shorts have the peek-a-boo skeleton in the back.  

Never a disappointment. Keep it coming!


Friday, December 26, 2014

Time vs Moment

As I focus on the new year I have to also reflect on the past, and that some moments are more about the people I shared them with and being in the now, than the time on my Garmin. Unquestionably, tutufying some races in the Tough Girl Tutu or Princess Doodle Beans tutu at North Country and a turkey trot became a highlight.

To the non-runner, pace, splits and time are just words that make their eyes glass over or make them look for the nearest exit to the conversation. I love to talk about running, but I honestly try to talk about anything else to not bore people. If it was just about a clock ticking I think most people would quit since that carrot just isn't a worthwhile draw time after time. Where is the long term joy in that? My body just can't take the intensity of "racing" each race when I may have 2 races in one month during the summer months. I am truly average and normal.

Charlevoix Half Marathon

One such race was the Charlevoix half-marathon in Michigan, which my run buddy and I celebrated her 35th year and a new age group. We ran with my friend Lisa that I have known since high school. We were cheerleaders back in the day, and Lisa even ran some x-country—she had some mammothly strong, amazing, cut legs back then that I desired to have. Heck, I'm still working on it!

This was her first half-marathon and something she had been working up to. Yes I pushed a little for her to sign-up. I pushed a little for her training. When it comes to running and people going for an accomplishment, I want them to have it. So yes, I am pushy. I am glad she did it, and was pleased (over the moon) I could be there in her moment. Her running friend had bowed out and we figured it would be much more enjoyable to run together and do what Evie and I do on every training run…talk about anything that pops into our heads. It's a great strategy for someone running their first race with no time goal. There is a PR set no matter how you look at it. The miles will tick by with ease for the most part. I did cost her a couple minutes taking pictures on the rock shore in Charlevoix. But a race along the bay deserves a pause.

National Cherry Festival Inaugural Half-Marathon

When the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan announce an inaugural half-marathon this last summer, I knew I had to be a part of it! I may have been one of the first to register—I was that excited. It was my goal to hit a PR and everything aligned for me, until I approached the starting line. My iPod Nano that I had just purchased a couple weeks prior was having issues and on this day would not sync with my JayBird Bluebuds. I was in for a ride of complete misery. 

I am so driven by music when I actually race for time, that I depend on it to make me forget the pain, extreme suffering and the all around SUCK I am putting myself through. I have even read where one athlete called listening to music a bit of a cheat. It's a huge motivator for me. I had to depend on the voice in my head and silently sing to myself. I came in one minute from my personal record and placed 8th out of 35 in my age bracket (in the top 23%). I am looking forward to meeting that course again next year with a working sound system.

And for the record, my new Nano stinks! I have never had 30 hours of play on it. It has to be charged after 6 or less. After Apple checked it out, they claimed nothing was wrong with it. I am looking for a better music device. 

Lesson Learned: Bring a second set of head phones and don't trust an Apple tech that this device really works as promised.



BONUS! We found our favorite
 photo angle for taking selfies!

Another fun visual, I discovered that Evie and I are about .30 in on the video link below. I can't believe I even found this!

Festival of Races Video link


Traverse City Turkey Trot

Why a tutu?

1. Ultra distance running is a masculine sport, and the tutu brings out my fierce femininity (I am not saying that I am going to run in it every time).

2. 26.2 is no joke.

3. 13.1 still … no joke.

4. People respond to the tutu in a positive encouraging way (so far at least).

5. When there is more than one on the course, we are united.

6. I feel like I have to be a badass to pull this off.

7. The thought of a puffy tutu running through a trail makes me laugh…falling in one is even more laughable.

8. It's a reminder that life is too short not to embrace living.

9. Without it I don't think I could have gotten my daughter excited to run in a 20 degree Turkey Trot.

10. Because girls just want to have fun… and some boys too.

The view leaving our driveway to head to the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day—20 degrees. 

My baby and I after the Turkey Trot. She just may be a sprinter. She loved mile one and not so much of mile two and three. But that last .45 of the race, she sprinted  to the finish with a joyous smile and flexing. When she turned to find me right before the last 0.1,  I was right next her and just said "Go. Go, Go, GO!"  And she did. That's my girl.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Race Worth the Trip … If You Can Get Back Up

North Country Run 2014 … How I met Sally

I recently read that if you go out 30 seconds too fast in pace during an ultra, that it can cost you a half hour of finish time later. I can vouch that if you fall at mile 25 on "just the right spot of your knee"—according to the medic—after hitting your goal at 5:11, it can cost you 1.5 to 2 extra hours over the next 25 miles.

This year North Country Run was full of light hearted jabs, from the humor or two shirts, a sweat shirt (which at first glance looked like it read "Idiot runner in the woods"), the medal (I don't recall posing for that, but I could have!), and Evie and my own fun to "tutufy" this Ultra and bring a little femininity flare to a male  dominated sport with a 2 to 1 ratio this year.

Yet the humor was lost on my knee that swelled on that second loop to the size of a full head after tripping on a root on mile 25—I kid you not! Dena, our new run buddy, named it Sally after I said we should draw a face on it. And I have awarded Sally the title of Worst All Time Pacer. Infact, Sally is a nag and stayed with me for two weeks after.

I am sure there are many people who would ask why I didn't stop. And I have even heard some unsolicited negative comments about quitting this sport all together, along with "what are you going to do when you are 70?" All from non-runners, so I am not surprised. I have quickly responded that it isn't the running that will get you, its the falling. Let's get that right on today's quiz. And what will I do when I am 70? Hopefully,  I live to be 70 and am running, hiking and still active in my existance.

I asked myself the same question about taking a DNF during the race, and with each fall—which I am going to admit that there were 6 total—I heard the same inner voice say, "Get Up!" Stopping after training for months for this event seemed out of the question. I can't imagine quitting. Quitting at what felt like an "ouch" fall at 25 miles would have been just ridiculous, lazy and not any kind of example I want to set for my kids. I am not saying that I wouldn't take a DNF if I felt a muscle tear or broken bone. That just isn't what it felt like. My quads felt great with little stress for the miles, and my lungs were strong deep into the last 5 miles. But this This was what I worked hard to achieve—for this feeling of strength and to test if I wanted to seriously consider a 100 mile ultra. My goal was to come in at 10 -11 hours and feel good at the end. Sure there was some serging pain time to time, but more when I wasn't running. And I had some special breathing going on to deal with that. shhh shhh whoooo shhh shh whoooo…

As the bulge grew from softball to human head size with 14 miles left … my footing got tougher and speed became a big issue. My doctor later informed me that with so much fluid (blood) in the area of the knee, it shuts down the outer leg muscles above the knee. Really?! I can't guess to when this really started. Too bad that excuse won't fly for this performance. I did Superman it to begin with. He also ended up draining it after the swelling didn't go down enough for a couple weeks and I just needed to get back to training. The condition is called prepatellar bursitis. Basically, a hematoma.

Down hill became more of an obstacle adventure with the last 7 miles where I could no longer rely on my leg to catch me if I stumbled, which I did. Falling on it two more times during that last 14 miles gave me a surge of pain—that I relived 24/7 in the two weeks that followed.

It's Mental 

Unlike last year, this North Country was hotter and 97% humidity. Another obstacle since this has been a mild summer with cool temps and low humidity. I hardly listened to any music and was not in the same mindset as last year. Thinking about my swelling knee sucked some joy away. Every race is different, but this was a leap into unexpected territory.

I am grateful to have picked up a run buddy, actually two for the first 4 miles of the second loop of 25, until one dropped back to run with Evie. Karen and Theresa showed up to pace and partner us thru this. It was truly a mental race where my mind needed to be distracted from my knee. I couldn't of had a better run partner then Karen—the most BADASS runner I know, and who ran Boston with a fractured leg a few years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that her being there wasn't meant to be.

I believe people are motivated in different ways, and I really didn't need a pity running partner. We talked about many things, but not once about stopping. Even though I feel I do very well as a solo runner plugged into a headset, I was relieved in the last 10 miles when she said she was sticking with me to the end. Why not depend a little more on a support system if it is there? I wasn't looking forward to turning on tunes and going it alone in the dark woods and thinking about Sally. I was frustrated that my knee was not cooperating and I was going to blow past last year's time. But this rag doll, was in it to finish it by this point.

A few volunteers in the last couple aid stations wore shock faces with the horror that drew more attention with the tutu. Karen told them I wasn't aloud to look at it. We laughed and kept moving. Laughter—the key to get through most situations when you are framing your imperfections in a tutu.

While on the course Karen asked me what my husband was going to say when he saw me cross. I thought he may ask me why I didn't stop. A question I have no simple answer to. What is the meaning? He actually did not say a thing! Maybe he just knows me well enough. Why ask why?


When Finishing Turns into Winning

As I finished the race and crossed the line at a disappointing 12:02, and the race director asked how I felt from his microphone, all I could say was "Medic!" Not "terrific," or "amazing" … just "MEDIC!" Yeah, it hurt. I won't admit to most people on the spot how much, but pulling that sock off and getting wrapped with ice made me feel like a cry baby even though I wasn't crying.

One of the biggest surprises was that my body felt under used and challenged. I felt recovered sitting in the sideline chair and ate a burger with my kids around me. No GI issues at all which I usually have if I have pushed. Huh. And that 12:02 finish just blew it by 2 minutes to qualify for some 100 milers. That is one crap-wich. I will save getting too overly upset about for another time. Somewhere along the course finishing became the goal—which is all part of learning to be more flexible in expectations as a runner. I have to be prepared to change the plan.

While on the trail in the first 25 miles I had several conversations with other runners. It was one of the most enjoyable 25 race miles I have ever had. I told one that two years ago I fell in love with this race. I just didn't know how literal this day would take it to extreme. It's still my #1 race for a quality, aided course, with amazing volunteers, and nearly flawlessly put on—those roots could use some painting—gasp! HA!

North Country lost a little magic for me this day because I can't undo that fall. In reflection, I won't quit—can't quit— don't know how. 100 miles … you better believe I am looking right at you with my gimpy leg on the mend, and with Sally just a crazy knee stalking memory. Believe it!

The Right Medical Attention and Support

Ironically, through this crazy event I found a great doctor that gets my focused run commitment without looking at me like I NEED to be committed. And you just might have guessed that he is a runner too. I was dreading to retell the one line tale I have had to repeat every time someone has asked. But when I said it to my new doctor: "I ran a 50 mile trail race and tripped at mile 25, and proceeded to finish," something totally unexpected happened…he first congratulated me on finishing! He laughed when I explained the flight of the fall and landing. I can not stress enough how wonderful it is to find a doctor that I feel actually gets it, and supports my lifestyle because he has experience. He assured me that I would be ready to run a marathon in October, and that he had seen the same injury in football players and hockey players.

Two weeks later he drained my knee and said to "amp it up." I am now back to around 40 miles a week. Still tired from the 50, but I am hopeful that the speed will come again and I can continue to break my own records. Whew!



Friday, May 30, 2014

Fierce Relentless Faith

On course and loving the pace.
AMAZING…beaming sun, cool bay breeze, pure gratitude, and giving the bird to mile 20 and beyond, because there was no surrender when I was hot on the heels of hitting my mark at the TCTC Bayshore Marathon. Delivering it in a tutu was just gift wrapping. 

I would have never thought just 4 years ago at my first marathon with a painful 5:04 and a mind monkey circus, that I would one day execute 26.2 miles with such a strong finish and solid state of mind for the entire course. My goal was 4:06 and I finished at 4:08. (Strangely my overall pace was exactly on goal of  9:28 per mile from another calculator, but I didn't realize that when they say run as fast as you can in the last 4 miles, they mean FASTER than 9:28.) That two minute port-a-potty break was mandatory at mile 19. It is just the way it goes—literally.

Fierce Relentless Faith, just like
the tattoo reads
As is, this is a 16 minute Personal Record (PR)! Hill Repeats and months of hard work finally rewarded me after what felt like a disaster of a half marathon just two months ago. My fueling started three days before with white rice to build glycogen storage and contributed to a well rested and ready for take-off engine. (As rested as I could be waking up at 2 a.m. I am getting use to this little sleep inconvenience the night before a race. ) If I sleep well the previous night, I am still going to be alright as I have been learning with each event.

As I placed my tattoo on that morning, I thought about what it meant. Yes, I am fierce. And my faith would be with me in gratitude and strength what ever may happen. I thought about the red matching Fellow Flowers we wore to honor Evie's mom who hadn't been feeling well that week. Yes, Red had their meaning of strength and today it would be fierce as well. These are the symbols I wanted to take with me on this journey when i was alone in my head.

Waiting at the start line among 2700 runners, we chatted with a male runner who hadn't run in months because of a sore back but decided he was going for it since he already had the race paid for and room reserved. We later wonder how HE might be feeling after the race. I didn't see him when I turned around at the half way mark, so I wonder if he dropped. I can't imagine what 26 miles feels like without training for it.

Prerace self talk and prayer: Give us strength to be the best we can be today. Thank you for this amazing day to run in.

Off we go, and I didn't hear the guns to start in this mob as we slowly shuffle to and across the start line.

Our first few miles were a little faster than planned, and I liked it. I was breathing easily. I felt in control and I reasoned if I could push a little speed and slice some padding in, that we would be okay if we slowed later or if I had to jump into a restroom. Plan for the unexpected, seriously. I even brought some TP. All was going well and the small town crowds and some other runners made fun comments and cheers for the tutus. I am telling you, wear a tutu for a good time. It should be in a pamphlet or on a bumper sticker somewhere.

My run buddy, Evie wasn't enjoying the pace so much by mile 6. She lagged behind after a couple aid stations and we began seeing the half marathon runners that were bussed to their start line coming our way. My husband was one of them and putting it all out there for the first time alone. I am so proud of his finish with an 11 minute PR at 1:48. He slapped my time half marathon PR by five and a half minutes.

I saw my childhood best friend cruising along in his first marathon. He had reached the turnaround and was heading back to his three and a half hour finish—ZOOM. A quick high- five in passing gave me a little jolt of speed.

I high-fived and low-fived children lined up with their hands stuck out in rows. We could easily five 3-5 in a row. It reminded me of bike wheels hitting a playing card as a kid, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. Volunteers were a-plenty and friendly with fun cheers for the tutu. More jolts of energy absorbed from each station.

Mile 11 self talk: You are going to have to work for this.

I had lost my run buddy at about mile 8 and didn't see her again until I was coming back after 13.5 miles. I hollered "Yeah, you are in there!" She said "Just go, go, go!" Completely on my own now, I continued to run strong and count on the GU Roctane every 4 miles. One rule I have—DON'T miss a dose. Poor fueling will kill the race.

Mile 15 self talk: Breath easy. In through your nose and out through your mouth.

At about mile 16 I reflected on how amazing it would be to share this race with my daughter. I look forward to the day she is ready. Running alongside glistening water with her would have sweeten the experience and made it perfection. Several times throughout the race I opened my hand and gave gratitude.

Mile 17 self talk: Fierce. Keep going and get off this course as fast as possible.

I had started to have a little cramping for a nature call and it would go away and come back with urgency. Mile 19, I had to make a port-a-potty stop. It was a choice of run in the woods later or go now. It knocked mile 19 up 2 minutes. I  did surprisingly well making up the time.

Mile 20 self talk flying a mental bird: F%^@ this last 6 miles! This isn't pain. Pain is running another 25 miles up and down hills. 6 more miles...turn it over.

At mile 20 a male runner ran next to me right after an aid station and yelled "Come on Tutu!" I don't know if he was trying to challenge me or encourage me. I hollered back while walked, "I'm GUing!" I quickly got on his heels. A little annoyed I thought, "You Sir, may just be my new best friend." But at last, our friendship ended as I kept pace and lost him.

Mile 22 self talk: Ear phones staying on from this point until the last mile. "Fierce focus. Turn it over."

Golden last mile self talk: Yippee! Enjoy, don't slow down. Don't you surrender!

I was amazed once more by some of the people seemingly keeping pace that started walking on this last mile. All this hard work, crashing. I saw one woman struggling and she started walking and got next to her and said, "Golden last mile. Don't surrender now." I don't know if she started running again or if that helped at all.

On the last stretch Karen, an amazing running coach and runner, jumped out and ran with me to the track just like last year. So glad she did. It quicken my step and made me smile in the moment. She said, "You're right on target. You surprised me! You're early." I immediately thought of Sarah Shea saying similar words at Ragnar last year. Love it. I am 41, not done and want to keep surprising people.

4:08 Finish (9:28 overall pace). Boom. Smashed last year's 4:24. 

Feeling great at the finish, I waited for my run buddy—pacing a bit to keep my legs moving. She was about 24 minutes behind but had a recored time for her 13.1 first half. Good with that, she had changed her race plan to coaching people in and enjoying the run. That's who she is. Time doesn't always matter as much as the time spent with others. I am quite proud of her doing her.

Celebrating after with some pizza and waiting around town for three hours
before picking up little girls from a birthday party, because THAT is how moms roll.
Although, I could write a small post on the surprisingly best restrooms around Traverse City after a
Marathon PR because that is the price I payed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Inspired Bird

Doing a marathon feels like giving the middle finger to anything that's ever made me feel scared or vulnerable. 
~ Nancy Barlow  

Thank you Nancy for nailing my feelings exactly. That perfectly describes my race day mindset. The bird (a.k.a. the finger) takes flight this Saturday for another 26.2. I am going for a PR and just put together a fast paced collection of tunes to turn my feet over. I am counting on all the hill repeats (50-80 a week) that I used in lieu of some speed work to pay-off. It makes me a little nervous and taper stir crazy, but come race day I know I have to believe to succeed. 

After being completely sick of my music for the past year, I stumbled upon a great new album a couple days ago from Beckah Shae: Champion. Finally some fast pace, positive, and faith supported tunes to keep my feet and heart on fire. The album is loaded to inspire—I'm going to say it—a champion performance! This album is so new there aren't many videos to connect to it. Turbo Style isn't even my favorite song, but dang it just might be a theme song for my blog.




Will it be a Run or Die kind of day? I have wanted to just let it fly and race in a sports bra for a while. It's part of embracing my freedom and exceptance that I am exactly what God wants me to be and shall I say it—worthy. As well as giving the bird to judgement from others. (Let me use my telepathy and send this message: Hey you know who you are and I'm giving you the bird Saturday for 4 hours.) Being such a cold Winter and Spring, this sports bra might be ridiculously chilly alone for this weekend. Plus, I am still testing this it since it isn't my usual bounce proof vest. But so far, no chafing or riding up in the last 10 miler. When I do finally race a bra alone (which I need to work on some other options today), I think it has to be this little Run or Die number pictured at the left. Yes, that's me and my tutu. I don't think my body is there yet (says the judgmental bitch on my shoulder), but then it beckons the question I have to ask myself immediately, "Just when are YOU going to be good enough?"
It's the constant mental battle for especially women. I have physically come a long way from 9 years ago and running only the past 5, yet can beat the hell out of myself within 10 seconds. 10 seconds is all it takes to say something empowering and useful or something shattering to one's self that may take longer to recoup from. Be kind, but push. I know just what to say to bring me down, or push another workout. I know where I respond well, but can go too far like any normal person. You got me, I am too hard on myself. Maybe there should be a new 10 second rule. Say something positive right now... go. I think it's okay to be a little negative or stressed sometimes, if it is to ignite one's self or another to dig deeper. Not everyone responds well to that pressure though. It's the point that one surrenders sobbingly or starts shoving mass amounts of cake in their mouth that it's gone way too far. Regardless, I have 26.2 to pull off a PR. I'm stir crazy on a taper and this leads into a quote that cracks me up to near tears...
Sometimes I feel like giving up, and then I remember I have a lot of motherfuckers to prove wrong.
Truth. Off to find my focused drive to let the bird fly for 26.2!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

33 Levels of Hell



This by far was one of the most hellacious races that either Evie Ultra and I have ever ran. It was a mental exhaustion. But in reflection … I can't stop laughing. 

The Traverse City Trail Running Festival of 2014
I won't put lipstick on it or sugar coat this race in any way, but I will wear a tutu. A white virginal, puffy tutu in my first 50k. I admitted that I am one crazy mother runner, but this 50k was ridiculous! Let's make it clear that being an endurance athlete means, you gotta ENDURE baby.

10 loop course instead of the intended course we signed up for (Hello, we are living in the Ground Hog Day the Movie, there's no getting out now. Besides, everyone likes to count to 10, correct?)

•  95% of the trail made of 100% packed ice with lumps of slippery crystal snow for horrible footing (Think you found a safe spot? Think again.)

•  Rain in the last 7 miles in case it wasn't slippery enough (Even a young man with screws on his shoes said he was slipping.)

• 33 miles instead of 31 (Because 31 just isn't enough and runners always want more.)

I am sure this wouldn't have been quite so bad footing wise if I hadn't left the YakTracs out of my drop bag. That's what happens when mom is sidetracked packing and getting an 8 year old ready for a slumber party. My run buddy and I hadn't realized the course was packed ice due to the late Michigan thaw, the course mainly being a x-country ski trail that had packed down ice, and the fact that we don't live right next to the trail to know any better. This priority of traction issues was lost on us. Most of the surrounding woods outside of the course had hardly any snow left. A warning from the race directors would have been nice. Being such an over packer, I still can't believe I didn't drop those tracs in. But onward!

The one aid station had gatorade, water, Quaker granola bars and gels. I like a little more substance when running long. We were aware of what would not be there ahead of time, and had packed grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade peanut butter cookie, granola bars and coconut water in my drop bag. Food—now THAT I remembered to bring. Why don't more races have fresh cookies? It's so much more personal with fresh cookies. Look to the cookie!

We were in pretty good spirits thru most of the race—counting down laps as we went by the aid stations. People waiting for their loved ones were cheering and smiling. There were no passes (or kills) made by us on this day. Okay, we passed one walker in a shorter distance and that doesn't count. Ice shuffling is exhausting and we covered little ground at a time. Quite a few heavy breathers and people actually racing this thing passed us. One man just kept chanting, "We're crazy...We're all crazy...We're crazy..." And I was thinking, "Yes, I agree with you. Please don't die and slow down."

After our 5th lap (25k done and feeling good) we reflected on running this event a year ago and how hard the 25k seemed then (partially because I ran it with bronchitis, duh). It was after this race that I started hill repeats to prepare for the 50-miler last year. Running a 50k a year ago seemed so beyond my ability. One full year of change—physically and mentally—has completely shifted my perspective. I was even dreaming more about a 100 miler—until this dam 50k. I am going to need a breather to dream again.

At about mile 24 my knees were feeling some pain (a lot), and IT band stiffness from this hard ice tap dance of a run. My spirits got a little low thinking of an injury and I was feeling a little delirious from lack of something. We discussed what stopping would mean and I just could not come to grips with a DNF. Evie said she didn't care either way. I know it's silly, but I couldn't let go. With just two more loops left, there was no way this BAMR was going to let this course beat her. After another gel set in, I was feeling better and continued to run on edges of soft ground where I could. Maybe all that zig-zagging was also getting to me.

During that last loop of hysteria laughter and a few sailor language exchanges, Evie stated I better not bring this one up to run again next year. The answer would be "no way." Well, she blocked out all that pain and suffering a couple days later and talked about next year...Muhaaaaaa. I don't know if anything could quite compare to this lesson of mental toughness. This one will resonate as the winner of the Gold Medal of Nightmares award for some time. I don't think I want another day like this, but then again I am glad I made it through it. I am ready for some sun, warmer temps and some soft earth to run on. I can't consider another ice run for a really long time … unless there are cookies at the end.

A met a woman name Denise, who is running only new races this year. I thought that sounded like an excellent idea.

Two-Too-licious:
When wearing a white Tough Girl Tutu, there is one main rule that sticks to my brain: You can't quit!! From funny looks to comments, these tutus were fun and helped keep a smile on our faces and those of other runners. It seems to makes one more approachable. It is obviously not a state of total seriousness. One goal I kept in mind, was to finish this challenge with a smile on my face. If it isn't fun, why am I doing this? Just two friends embracing the struggle through a really long run with the value in just finishing it. If I could pass any advice on for an adventure like this, it would be to run with a good buddy, and you can run through hell on ice (which sounds like a great drink for this race's after party).
8 hours later (last and we don't care): THE END! Being 2 of 4 women in this icy 50k,
we were glad to be done, have a beer in this warming cabin like area, and share some cookies on the way home.