Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Stars Upon Thars And None Upon Ours…

Superior 100 brought to mind the Dr. Suess tale of the Star Belly Sneeches. Star Bellies thought they were better than those Sneeches without stars according to the children's story, and then one day those with none bought theirs so they could be equal to the Star Belly Sneeches. It starts an on again, off again sequence until no one can tell who is who anymore.

Superior 100 has created an elite club of finishers awarded the sought after black sweatshirt where each year the finishers earn a star patch to be placed on the arm of their single lifetime hooded sweatshirt. It's quite incredible to be able to say that one has finished this particular race. Unlike the stars in the Dr. Suess story, these stars are earned with sweat, perseverance, and sometimes blood. The director, John Storkamp, referred to the stars during the mandatory check-in meeting as a "sticker collection."

Clockwise from top: The elite star sweatshirt | Myself howling behind the 1st place finisher trophy at the mandatory meeting | One of my drop bags | On the bus with my coffee where Evie stepped on to take my picture like it was my first day of school. Which coincidently, Sawtooth did school me.
For some runners the sweatshirt/sticker collection really is a strong motivation as I heard throughout the race. Past club members were wearing their stars at the check-in meeting, and my run buddy and I felt like the outsiders…because we were outsiders! We had no stars and others who have ran this race several years had at least one star or a fews down their arm. They pretty much hung with past finishers that they have known through the years. We did briefly talk to one star wearer who was very friendly to us outsiders, but that ended as previous runners connected with their pack. I was glad to have Evie there to cut through the seriousness. I didn't see anyone else posing near the first place finisher award, but it was worth it for the photo of me howling like a wolf.

The day before the race, I had been all nerves the entire day even though we took a brief hike and played tourist around a small town. I felt like I was hopped up on caffeine and jittery. We had ran into some of the trail markers at dinner at our hotel. They didn't exactly give us a reassurance of making it through this race. Instead, we felt judged by the looks on their faces and disbelief that we were in this race. HMMM didn't I have a qualifying race already? Did I really need to prove myself just to be here? One guy called us "trolls" because we lived below the Mackinac bridge in Michigan. Yep, that is all he had to say to us. So I am just going to have to say it…I thought he was a prick. And come to find out he is a bit of a running celebrity in Minnesota. Bravo! Feel my sarcasm. While the other gentlemen had some insights to the race course including where the 2 feet of water was, John Horn had more words to share. I listened up to any advice he had to give. He's legendary having won the 100 and marathon distances in previous years and was going for the 50…which he did win the Grand Master's and take 3rd overall this year as well. Wow, just wow. He said, "This race is a character builder. That's for sure." His apprehension didn't settling me at all. I had never anticipated a race in this way before. 100 miles is a big deal, and Superior is a beast.

As the Director took a pole of past DNF runners coming back to finish this raise, it revieled a 7-10 person field of hands being raised. Some had multiple attempts at Superior 100 in the past, as I met one on the course who would finish it this year after two previous years of stopping half way and past mile 60. And why do they come back after such an ass kicking? I wish I had asked him his reason. And then asked what it felt like when he knew he was going to make it. I think that would be one of the most revealing and exciting insights of an ultra runner's mental strength.
Right before starting with the sun coming up. 

The Starting Line:
The starting line was completely different from the check-in meeting. People were very socialable and one mother approached me and said she wanted my name on her shirt because her daughter was running it and she was rooting for us women. What a cool way to support your daughter and female runners.

My mother was in Michigan hoping I wouldn't start, maybe get lost on my way to the start line, or at least drop out early. I'm just speaking the truth here and this is what I have dealt with all my life.

I spoke with several experience 100 miler finishers and a couple first time attempters like myself. It's all very exciting. I was glad I brought my own coffee, because the coffee that was suppose to be there had a coffee machine malfunction. So I think some people were hurting.

Note: For the first time ever there were no restroom lines for ladies. There are that few of us.

Starting out in the race I met a woman from Holland, Michigan. We cruised and chatted thru the first few miles until we hit the trail where I was immediately was aware of her trail skills that were superior to mine, and I fell back. I wasn't even going to try to keep up with that! She had finished this race before and her trail experience was evident. I was much more cautious on the loose plates of stone and running up and down large loose rocks. I watched the foot work of other runners and could tell that their shoes were sticking surprisingly well on the curved larger boulders on mountain tops.

Examples of the trail and views. Not all of these are mine as my mind was busy.  I wish I had photographed the triple "XXX" glowing signs at night that my headlamp would catch. "Don't go off that ledge!"
Much of the trail is running on top of mountain rock (climbing up and down uneven rocks—top to bottom, and up again). It's similar to running on asphalt in the comparison that there is no cushion and higher impact unlike a forest padded ground trail—very much unlike the Michigan trails I have ran on. One runner commented that he thought it was worse than asphalt and his knees were hurting. The curve of the rocks wreaked havoc on my ankles in one particular stretch, so much so that I removed the small heel gels in my shoes. That helped stop the rocking and pain. The other balance of the trail includes a lot of roots that are high enough that it was hard to run. I literally hugged trees in areas to stable myself. I did run on a lot of sections I normally would have never ran on to keep a better pace. I usually embrace the walk but found myself embracing the run where I could. It was really hard to find the "happy" in running on such a challenging course where my mind could not really check out. It's a the vary reason some people hate trail running—you can not check out without suffering the consequences. Put it this way, this trail is so technical that I didn't even consider turning on my headset until mile 35. It wasn't even a thought. It takes A LOT of concentration, and exertion to climb up and down larger rocks, boulders, fallen trees and walk the planks. Arg, captain! And then there's the slipper thick mud sections.

Not one of my photos but
illustrates one of  the many
hillside,  rocky trails down
 that need careful attention.
This trail was not only beautiful from the views of climbing mountain after mountain, but the sounds of water rushing over falls and down streams were like poetic music with the added clatter of runners on slate rocks, which sounded like running on broken plates as percussion. I missed a lot of the beauty in keeping my eyes on the trail. Although I had read about sections, experiencing it in the moment was surreal and never being on this trail before, I thought it just seemed more like one loooong trail with similar sections of constant obstacles. There were trees that had fallen over in the trail to be either crawled under or straddle over, and swampy areas with either slippery thick mud, water, or areas that actually had plank boards to cross. The planks were awesome until I found some wobbly ones some where between 11 pm and midnight.  I thought, "If I fall here, I'm going to REALLY be hurt on all those boulders below. Who would find me?"

Descending down the rocky sides was nothing that I could just run down. I purposely left space between myself and any other runner. One man with poles, fell behind me down a rock decent. I asked how he was and he assured me that me was okay. Although, he looked like a rag doll sprawled on the rocks.

On the trail, I met runner who had hired an elite coach to get thru this race. He said he had DNF-ed another race, but made it thru another 100 in June. But for this race, he hired a coach. Training food for thought.

L-R: Aid station equipped with a bowl of salt tabs |  Running along the slate plates | My husband crewing me at mile 20 and my run buddy Evie as well.  I was feeling nauseated at this time and that didn't go away.
I waited too long to wear the Calavera INKnBURN singlet this year. That shirt deserves a party!

It was at about 40+ miles and in the dark that I started to lose faith in making it thru the cut-offs. I made a few mistakes. I had been making the cutoffs, yes. And had read enough reports that I knew not to be going any faster than a 17 minute pace. My goal was to just finish this. I had some miles in the dark that were getting quite a bit slower and I didn't keep in mind that they take that into account thru the night. I then thought about the time goals I had set, which were based on an individual that knew this course. That became silly in that moment.  I was alone in the dark looking for the trail and reflectors. Although I enjoyed the dark running, the slower speed was playing games with my mind. So mistake number one, was that I lost my faith and did math on the course. Later the next day Robyn, a fellow INKnBURN Ambassador, point that out. "Never do math on the course." Uhg! She was right.

I also had a few physical things going on. I had been feeling nauseated since mile 20. I can't explain why to this day. But I will be experimenting more with using just Tailwind. I had to chew Pepto tabs from 20 miles on, which helped a little. The only thing that I could consume that went down well was Starbucks DoubleShot Coffee & Protein that was in my bag. If there had been warm food options that would have been appealing too. But each time I went to the aid stations there was no coffee, and all the promised hot food was gone. Right before I entered County Road 6, the last grilled cheese sandwiches were consumed. My crew had asked if there was hot food waiting and there was when they asked, but some took more than there share according to the workers right before I arrived. I wasn't the last person, so there really wasn't enough.

There was a frost advisory and I did not change my clothes before dark. I added layers but that wasn't enough. I should have changed at Tettegouche where my husband had met me. That was a HUGE mistake. I was soaked through and freezing every time I slowed or stopped at aid stations. There really should be a changing area or sheet hung. Women especially need to change. There's something that isn't talked about enough. Wearing a wet bra and underwear froze-me-out with the frosty temps. By the time I reached mile 51 at the Finland aid station, I just felt like I didn't want to go on between the burning in my legs, nausea, and feeling absolutely frozen. Hand warmers would have been a key item to pack in hindsight.

My legs were burning from the knees down. Not that I didn't expect pain, but I was going with the thought of do no harm the first 50 miles….well harm was happening anyways. I really couldn't tell if I was injured, causing injury or what. I knew I had trained for a 100 miler—but not this one! I met people in the dark on the trail pausing on the fallen trees or larger rocks—resting and just breathing. One guy moved as though he had hurt his arm badly as he shuffled along. The constant up and down stepping is nothing like running on a padded path or road running—different muscles in. I had not use the restroom all day. I couldn't tell if I had to go or not. At one point I thought, "Great, now I am peeing myself." I later found I had started my period.

The number one reason I stopped at Finland 51.2 miles (17 hours): I lost my "why".  I lost the ability to talk myself "IN" to going on and seeing how far I could go. The suffering for another 20+ miles and then getting thrown off the course, didn't feel worth it. I became reliant on seeing my husband which I wouldn't have seen for another 11 miles. That would have been hours away. Never having a crew before, the support was overwhelming, yet I needed them. Maybe it was just easier for me to stick my heels in and stop because it was him. He was in a bit of shock to hear me say, "I'm done"—words I have never said when it matters. He did everything he was suppose to do in pleading with me to keep going because I was still running and others were dragging and limping. I was frozen, and when he told me to sit in the heated vehicle, it was all over in my head and physically. It's all on me.

Several runners I conversed with along the course were strongly motivated by the thought of the sweatshirt. It wasn't motivation for me at all—not in conversation and not at the moment I dropped.  I let go of all the 4 a.m. wakeup calls I had all summer that said I could do this. I questioned whether I had enough baggage to overcome the suffering and if I wanted that baggage. And I felt for what ever reason that I had learned everything I could in the moment. I felt fulfilled in the moment. The worse part was I felt like I really let my crew down and anyone that had believed in me. Guilt. Never having a crew before I was overwhelmed by the assisted love. Even one of the Ragnar BAMRs I met in D.C. showed up, and I was touched. I was disappointed in not being able to run with her in the morning.
This was a butt kicker: the course and mental let down.

The next day I phone my kids and talked to my mother, and she was rejoicing that I DNF-ed. THAT annoyed me to no end. I thought, "Geese, if I had talked to her last night. I would have kept going!" Nothing motivates my like proving people wrong. I was pissed at myself. Cue cards for ALL next time!

Later that morning we went to meet Evie to support her on the course. She was running the 50 miler and we joked that between us we would have the course 100% covered, but she was already getting bumped at mile 26.7 Cramer Road. She wasn't making the cut-off. She was moving along, but on this course, you have to move faster. It was a kick in the teeth. She wanted to go on, but was swept. It's the just another reality of this race. She has finished many ultras, so it isn't like she isn't capable. While waiting I watched Robyn work the aid station and talk a man back into the 50 mile race that thought he had a broken rib. OMG, broken rib guy went on! I instantly wish she had been at Finland last night.

This DNF may be just the baggage I need to come back. It burns on long after the race is over. Superior has left a mountain of rock in my heart. I think every runner will get "their one that got away" experience. This ONE is mine. I knew going into this that if I could finish it, I could do anything. So the race and work goes on. Afterwards with the experience fresh in my head, another runner friend with more experience messaged me and told me she had DNFed one time and she came back to show that trail who was boss and that's what I would too. I told her, "not this race." But less than a week later, I knew she was right. I can't let go of that mountain that Superior left in my heart. Character building? Indeed. I'll be back—rock solid, amnesia and all.

Hiking views of Lake Superior and trail falls

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Eyes on the Prize

Back at North Country (wearing the hat we received) and ready to
take another hit in the a.m. Don't we look ready?
"Eyes, eyes, eyes," is the chant I kept repeating—sometimes out-loud—while running the North Country Marathon Run. This year I went down to 26.2 instead of the 50 mile Ultra in preparation for my first attempt at a 100 mile race. It's hard to write that without my heart-rate increasing with a panic. It's hard to sound completely sure as well, when yeah, I know, that is a really BIG number!

North Country Run was just too close in timing to run the 50 this year. I had followed my plan and I was not going to sabotage it. I had no other goal this year other than to:

walk the hills at a quick manageable pace,
 run when the trail would give it to me,
 stay comfortable,
 and above all … keep my eyes on the trail and try to avoid a threatening fall like last year's hematoma bamboozal

I kept my speed and tempo well in control and although it would have been nice to hit 5:10 at mile 25 like last year, I decided not to pace myself by time. The thought of "don't be a dick," entered my mind more than once. Meaning, don't push like I want to place while forgetting that this is a practice challenge for the race of my life—as it spans in the next month anyways. Nothing would matter if I hit the ground and can't run.

This was the first time I ran the marathon at North Country. I have complete the 50 twice and the half marathon once. This race felt different from the get-go. People were not as social as in the 50. I missed it within the first 2 miles. Maybe it's the speed that some people try to put out, but it's a trail so just chill.

I decided in the first mile to run by feel. 26.2 is still a marathon and in the woods on a trail, it's still a long voyage. I actually looked at my watch twice the entire race. Once to see why I was feeling "stuck" behind the conga line going too slow at 14 minute miles—which I passed to move on—and one other time to check the miles when a couple runners were talking about us being less than 8 miles from the finish, which I knew they had to be wrong. It was more like 10 plus! I really didn't want to think of numbers, but since they threw it out there, I was compelled to look. Numbers, numbers, numbers…

Within the first 4 miles my run buddy Evie hit the dirt. POOF! A reminder that this is a trippy ride. When I heard the action behind me I had flashbacks of last years' tumble. She hollered that she was alright. That would be her one and only fall that day. Although we started out together I lost her around the first aid station. I waited up and snacked practicing my ultra fueling—don't rush just fuel. When we set out again, I lost her beyond a bees' ground nest which stung me and the runners following. My shin was immediately hurting, and I thought of my son who was stung twice the previous week. I decided that if I was focusing on this pain then my IT band wouldn't be nagging me at all if it decided to be vocal—pretty much exactly what happened.

Further down, I stepped out of the conga line I was in to see how Evie was doing. My pace was feeling really good, but I wanted to make sure she wasn't in misery somewhere out there. She had settled in with the "party bus" led by a guy in a kilt who was blasting music thru the forest. She told me I didn't need to wait up. I ran with her to the next aid station and then kept my comfortable pace for the rest of the race.

When I broke away from other runners—that weren't talking anyways—I felt that familiar freedom I had the first time I ran the 50. I can't describe the joy I feel at these moments and the conversations in my head. And the conversations I have with God for that matter. "You know how much I need this. Just don't let me fall," I asked. Running is a spiritual event.

"Just don't excel," I told myself. "Eyes eyes, eyes on the trail … slow… control down the hills." I struck my foot around three times on roots, rocks and a very narrow path with moss. No falls, but again little reminders. Note: Narrow trails make the Hokas feel clumsy, but I wouldn't wear anything else for comfort.

I revisited locations I wiped-out last year after that giant hematoma impaired my leg. I recognized the changing forest sections I had ran through in previous years and felt reconnected with the fern forest, pines, hardwoods, and hills. In the last 11 miles, I was surprised I had so much juice left. I was cranking along and reeling runners in and saw some at aid stations who looked whipped. In the last 6, I continued to push thru at the same speed passing quite a few half marathoners and some marathoners as well. I actually felt like this wasn't fair. I have been training for a 100. Granted I had a long running week, no taper and needed 15 miles the next day, I still had a lot left in the tank this day.

One larger gentleman running in the half marathon stands out in my mind who was waiting at the top of a hill for his wife. As I cruised up to him he shouted, "You're awesome!" I replied, "YOU, are awesome!" That is the way it's suppose to be.

"Eyes, eyes. eyes." Keeping my vision on the trail. I thought for sure I would cry if I didn't fall this year. But instead, when I saw that last hill, I had a high. Down the hill and one last mile loop on a flatter trail. That was all I had to do now. And there was Dena and Brian waiting to cheer us on! People make the race! They would have their's tomorrow in another half marathon. What a journey they were in for!

I did excelerate in the final mini, mile loop. The only moment I would feel like my heart was pushing through my chest. "Come on Ultra, don't let go," I thought. Power to the head talk!

Final Score: 
Jill: 26.2
Falls: 0

Clockwise from top left: Showing the finisher medal because we are goofy | The age group award patch that also doubles as a beer tray | Evie checking the placements and she did excellent as well | The SWEET patch that now needs a special sweat shirt!
And to top it off, when I did check my time after retrieving a beer, catching up with Dena and Brian while cheering for more runners coming in—which we saw a lot of dirty knees and bodies from taking some spills on course—I learned that I had placed 2nd in my age group. 5:17 was worth 2nd place this year out of 12 contenders. It isn't lightening but it is the first placing I have ever had.

First time I ever age group placed. 2nd out of 12.
Kissing my reward patch and holding the enormous finisher medal.
My INKnBURN Flutter singlet must have given me some wings.
North Country is refreshed as my favorite race once more. It isn't the substantial array of goods you get to take home—that I am not even going to talk about. The after party can't even be compared to any other race I have ran. None could compete with it; burgers, veggie burgers, brats, rice, potatoes, corn, beer, dessert, and the list goes on…

The stand-out here is the trail beneath my feet where I get to relax and breath. It's the feeling I get at an over-stocked aid station (every 4 miles!) with friendly and helpful volunteers assisting runners. It's the camaraderie of trail runners (usually) and a race director listening and asking the mentor group and runners for their thoughts on improvements for the next year. It's welcoming.

The "people" blow this one out of the water and it feels like home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Dark Princess DNFs

One big cheer for 29.5miles and a DNF (as in Did NOT Finish)
with an IT band timing-out. The race is worth it,
however my IT band is not. 
Flash Back—The Only Way to DNF
In April this year my run buddy and I ran a 50k trail ultra called the Traverse City Trail Running Festival as part of our training. Yes, a training run of 31+ miles a month before a marathon. Just couldn't resist the urge. We have ran this race before (in tutus) inwhich the trail was hit with snow and ice storms prior to the race—and I referred it 33 Levels of Hell. This year, was the first time it was actually on the intended course of 2 out and backs. The course has changed every year. But this year, no snow or ice—yippee!

We were 2 of 7 runners participating in this race. I'm not sure what happened this year with the lack of participation, but the snowfall of years past may have frozen some out. Plus, it isn't easy to train in Michigan thru winter. There did seem to be more participants in the 25k that was also going on than in years past.

Naturally, people assumed we are not in the 50k when we show up in tutus. Yes, we are serious runners. Please take me serious—no, not really. However, people do show some love for the tutus out there on the course. We left feeling obligated to wear them every year, ha! I just hope there is another year. It was wonderful to run on trail, in the sun and they even had a few snacks. Of course we brought our own—grilled cheese please.
Checking in as the Dark Princesses.
I love me some INKnBURN.

The race was going well it seemed until just about every runner in the 25k and 50k got lost on the way back. Later, we were told that bicyclists had moved the signs, and so following the leader and misplaced signs were our undoing for this race with added miles.

We met a couple of runners from downstate that kept getting off course regardless. It was downright comical. I am sure if their Garmins hadn't stopped they would have been at 37+miles. When I found out that the 54 year old woman had done 100 mile races (yes plural "races"), I picked her brain for some golden nuggets and to hear about her experiences. She has got to be the most seasoned ultra runner I have ever met. (Chocolate covered coffee beans—check.) Hope to meet up with her again.

So how and why did I DNF? My IT band was not ready for the last 8 miles at the turn around point which would have put us well over a 50k anyways. It was darn right fiesty in the last 6 miles to finish, so I dropped. The extra miles seemed pointless and it just wasn't worth injury for my greater goals. My inner voice had spoken—don't be dangerous today. Yes, I DNFed with 29.5 miles at our finish, in a tutu, and I have no regrets to this day. With a marathon in the next month and not wanting to rehab an IT band AGAIN it was the right choice. My running buddy said she didn't care about a medal either and we walked back together. One of the race directors even offered to us that we could walk out and back to complete just the full 50k. But, my IT band screamed back, "NO WAY dark princess! This is not your Run or Die day!" I listened. It's got to be worth it.

We really did have a blast. We received some great loot and microbrewery beer just being in the 50k. Heck, we even got special bottled beer and stayed around talking to the Directors and crew waiting for the final two to come in. They still made us feel like rockstars. This has got to be the best ways to DNF eva!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Gutting It Out

I had to Run or Die with that awesome
INKnBURN singlet, and it had to be tutufied!  
Perfect day with temps, no wind, no asthma BUT just didn't go as planned. This storyline is old and tired just reading this line back to myself. But it happens. It happens to the elite and to the plain Jills like myself…

Two days before I started hacking up flem — a gift from my son who coughed all over me earlier in the week. I felt I could deal with the hacking and thought that this would be the only obstacle in the race and might effect my asthma. That would be the worst case scenario, right? But I was wrong.

Murphy's law was at my door and kicking me in the gut, stomach and chest. The morning of the race, I woke with an ache in my GI area. I ignored it thinking it might be nerves and didn't take anything out of the ordinary. Usually I would have taken MAP before a long race but the ache stayed all morning, so I refrained. I didn't want any excuses.

I started off strong and right on course. I kept looking at my pace to make sure I was in there. Keep it under 9, that is all I had to do and considering last year's 9:00 in the beginning of the race, I knew I could at least bring it down to 8:50. After a while I didn't want to look at my watch so I locked on to a guy in a blue shirt as my pacer, and I ran by feel. This was working well and my feet just kept turning. The gut pain however, persisted and I told myself that I would get use to it and could ignore it. Just get to the next mile and maybe it will be gone.

The nauseation had started in around mile 5. Maybe I could just puke and be done with it  at mile 13, I thought. It might be that day. "Girl in tutu pukes!"

Again, I ignored it. Then, a side stitch feeling pain beneath my chest. Again, ignored it. I GUed every 4-5 miles. When I reached the turn just under 1:58, I was still on course but instead of my usual feeling of, "Great! Lets take it home!" I had more of a, "Oh crap, this is getting worse" alarm in my head. By mile 14 I was cramping in my gut significantly more. It became a SHARP pain and I stopped GUing and tried to drink more. I couldn't get enough water it seemed. I didn't know if the GU was contributing to this more or possibly the Gatorade. I literally came to a halt on the side of the road a few times not even able to move because of the sharp pain. Around 3-4 times I was thinking I might faint today. I looked for the grass and my vision was blurry around the edges.

Looking back at the splits I can see that at Mile 16 I still had a fighting chance to break 4:00 but without any fuel since mile 12 and all the gut pain, I was SCREWED. I wish I could have pulled myself out of this, but my feet would not turn over fast enough by mile 20. I didn't really understand it at the time, since I was more obsessed with sharp pain than my feet and lack of fuel. A full half of a marathon without fuel is a disaster for most people. I felt disappointed and a desire to quit. Wow, never have been here before.

I have never wanted to drop so badly because of just feeling so cruddy. I don't know how I talked myself into moving forward beside not being a quitter. The rest of the race became some walking, running and haulting when the gut serged. I had these lovely thoughts of :
"Why the hell do I even care about time?"
"Why the hell am I doing this?"
"What will happen WHEN you feel just like this in the 100?"
"I hate road races!"

I kept thinking my run buddy was going to come up on me and that she would get annoyed with all my stopping and walking, and I wouldn't want her to throw her race away if she was trying to PR. So I just kept going and thought I could get the last 8, 5 or 3 miles with her. Maybe even finish together if I just kept going.

Finished in 4:36 (10:28 average pace with a maximum of 6:40)

Splits miles 1-15:
8:56 / 8:46 / 8:50 / 8:38 / 8:45 / 8:46 / 8:54 / 8:56 / 8:54 / 9:12 / 8:56 / 9:10 / 9:08 / 9:44 / 9:24 /

Mile 16 with seizing pain and no GU since mile 12:
10:13 / 10:40 / 10:50 /12:44 / 12:50 / 12:34 /14:29 /12:50 / 11:57
12:34 /

Mile 26: I walked with Karen. I just didn't care anymore.

This Girl on the Run was tutufied!
So maybe this 26.2 sucked—a lot! But I got a few things that went right enough. I pulled myself together with a shower and 10 minute nap, and came back to run another 5k with my daughter for Girls on the Run that night. That's right. If I can get it together and take another hit in the gut, anyone can finish a marathon—anyone.

She had a great time and when she wanted to walk a bit, guess what, I let her.

Although, I am sorry to share TMI here, I was dehydrated from the brown color of my urine. Which may have been another issue to this race disappointment as well.

Cute shoe cookies I made the night before Bayshore
for my buddy's wedding
Wedding Day Bliss—
the day after 30 miles 
I also made more than 80 shoe cookies for my run buddy's wedding the day before the race. She had a running themed "Save the Date" card with some family joining in on the races. A large group was there at the end to welcome her across. She deserved the best of days. And those cookies were so much fun. I think I have a new hobby!!

I took most of following week off from running but jumped back in by the weekend with double digit miles back to back—because this is how I ultra. I am still piecing together what might have occurred in my gut and I am disappointed in that timing. I felt a  sadness over it. I am even crazy enough to consider pushing it in two weeks at Charlevoix. But I will NOT. Because what ever path I take, and however that story ends, I know I am being prepared for some mass suffering come September. This is what I have prayed for and trusted in. What ever it takes to finish the 100, let it be in my path. That is the real target for 2015—38 hours of celebration.

How blessed am I, that I get to gut-out and rock-out really cool goals like Superior 100. Give me strength, knowledge, ability and focused drive.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Burn of Taper Madness

Two weeks until the Bayshore Marathon and I am in taper madness which include thoughts like :

OMG why am I running so sloooow? Shouldn't I be running faster right now? I was going faster last week, wasn't I? 

Why didn't I do any speed work? 

Pace? What pace?

How the hell am I going to PR?

Where's the mental toughness I need? I lost it. Where did it go? Will it show up for the race? Maybe I don't really care anymore.

Go down in miles? I feel fine. What's a couple more miles or one less rest day?

Crap, I might gain weight before the race. That's two seconds slower per mile. I need to pick up some miles.

Damn. Should have done more Yasso 800s. Next time.

What is wrong with my breathing?

And you want to run 100 miles??? What the hell are you thinking?

What if it's windy and rainy?

Embrace the suck, fool. Embrace the suck.

Why did I make another peanut butter pie. That is two in a week …  just stop it!

And the only thing that is true for sure, is that I am out of time. I need to let my muscles rebuild to see the magic that is the taper. Think about 1-0-0 after this marathon.

With 5 months of training, changing my diet and losing 15 lbs (that's right and 10 more to go before Superior 100), I NEED to see results. I NEED that perfect day:
no GI track issues
 mid-50s to 70 degree temps
 no rain
 no asthma
 pure mental toughness
 no aches
 keep the pace, keep the pace

Feeling sluggish, anxious, and getting freaked out almost daily … what's a girl to do except throw on the most awesome pair of capris that just arrived, and then take some pictures because they rock that much!! They make me rock! They'll make you rock!

I'm just going to go on the record as the woman with genetically gifted calves LOL … at 16 inches around there will be no false hopes of getting smaller. That's right, be jealous of my calf size boys. In fact, I HATED the stirrup pants and fitted pants look of the 80s. Someone—a stupid boy—once told me I shouldn't wear them because they didn't look good. All the other girls looked like pixies and that was never going to be me. And another boy told me I was built like a guy because of my calves. Yep, see the burn coming on here?

Finally, a capri that really does fit all sizes. This is what a woman really needs. A capri from INKnBURN called RYU with a dragon head that says to me, "Girl, you're huge! Well ALRIGHT! How far can you fly?"

When I saw these a month ago on pre-order, I was hoping for the capri of my dreams. They are, and more. The RYU Capri is athletic wear that looks like dark blue denim and fits more like an elastic tight material, but goes on easily. They are sized 0-12. But bare in mind since they do limited runs, they are GONE when they sell out. I can even wear underwear with no lines showing. They truly nailed this badass design. (No, I don't think I can write a post without saying badass.)

I don't want to call out the other brands I have tried with false promises of no lines, but there are plenty with a suck-tion I refuse to embrace.

As my taper madness continues for the next two weeks and the crazies keep flying, I am going to throw the dragon on now and then just to feel like the rock star I should.

And with relentless faith, I'll find my focused drive.

Incase you NEED to make that Peanut Butter Pie, I compared two of them and liked this one the best from the The Pioneer Woman.

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!