Tuesday, November 29, 2016

North County Run 2016: The Prelude to an Epic Adventure

Still the biggest medal in all the land. It finally stopped raining
and here I am smiling through the pain and shivering.
There is a time for everything and sometimes everything needs to happen simultaneously. 
The North Country 50 mile Trail Run 2016 was my time to prepare, suffer and dig deep. Practice for the big game. It left me cautious for what was coming next. This is the short tale of North Country 2016.

This race was one of the toughest, darkest races for me including asthma, pain, and torrential rains that produced grey screens like wax paper inhibiting my vision and washing out the trails. At one point I was yelling, "This it Ultra!" through the woods. I ran through flowing creek-like paths hiding the roots and rocks beneath. There was no other way but to run through it. Sounds extremely safe, right? Aid station #5 was referred to as Lake #5 on the second loop. It was a mess, and I kept imagining the fall I might take with my face submerged in water and mud.

Aid Station #5 referred to as Lake #5. When I stood in front of this table
to get something to eat, I was up to my ankles in water, and another runner
thought I should step out of his way as if I was in a shallow spot. I think
I replied something like, "We are all in the same lake."

The race started with a delay due to thunder and lightening which protocol is that the start time shifts
30-minutes after each lightening sighting or strike in the sky. But once the race starts, you are on your own. I suffered an unusually bad breathing issue within the first 14 miles which I felt miserable and unable to catch my breath efficiently. I worked my lungs so hard that they hurt for a week after. I felt like I attempted 100 miles! My doctor then prescribed Singular which helps block allergens from the lungs and I have been on it ever since. So far so good. Whew!

I would have dropped this race like many did after the first 25 miles if not for a few things: 1) I didn't want to be quitter. It pissed me off thinking of that word, 2) I needed that damn thing to qualify for Grindstone100. My last true 50 was just over the 2 year span requirement and 3) Evie caught me at mile 25 changing my sobbing shoes for 10 miles of dryness. I kept telling her she saved my ass. I just followed her feet with my asthma thick lungs for the next 25 miles while trying to assist another runner with his upset stomach and misery. Ginger? Pepto? Tums?

I finally hit a DEEP mental dark spot with 8 miles to go and walked away from the Lake #5 Aid Station for a moment alone. There was a pain cave in my chest and mind and I had enough of being soaked. It was just about then that our male runner mate we had picked up (guy with stomach issues) started talking in detail about his diareah from the pre-race dinner the night before. And on cue, I forgot about my mental misery and will never think about cream sauce the same way again.

I doubted if I even belonged in GrindStone100 for most of the race due to the breathing issue that I just couldn't figure out, and an IT band strain that was creeping in by mile 20. I tried to stop thinking about it, but I couldn't. I kept pushing with the thought that there is nothing I can do about Grindstone, but I can do something about this race in the now. It was during this race that I found my mantra: "We Go."

In a storm, with breathing issues, in mental darkness, through creek trails, with IT band pain for 25 miles, with a guy talking about diareah... "We Go"

We finished with hardly anybody waiting out this full day of storms at the finish line. It finally had stopped raining! I had placed 4th in my age bracket (at least 5 had dropped behind me due to the stormy day) and I received a small award while lying on a table getting stretched out by the physical therapist. When he was done, my IT band felt new and better than the other leg! Where does this man work?!

Evie looking at the little boy right next to me blowing the airhorn.
The rain stopped but not the torture.
Evie and I grabbed a beer and some food and shivered over to a picnic table to eat and cheer for any runner who may be coming through. If they were out there as long as we were, they darn right deserve some cheers!!! Unfortunately, some little boy went rogue and had an airhorn he kept firing off near us and what ever parental units he had, weren't claiming him. That sucked. We didn't stay too long and shivered on back to our car shortly after our ears couldn't take anymore.

I continued to ponder, "What the hell and I thinking going to Grindstone100?" This was one crazy 50mile training run.
How does this race apply to GrindStone100?
Because this race was the prelude for what was coming. It scared the hell out of me with doubts and physical challenges. I am grateful that it did. And I was even more grateful that day to chase Evie's feet through flowing water to get the hell out of there before dark.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Spirit Arrow?

Spiritual energy formed into the shape of an arrow that is capable of injuring and/or killing spiritual beings.

I am three weeks out from Grindstone 100,  and if I haven't doubted myself enough I had a freak accident three days ago. 

I was on my last double day of 20 miles with my run buddy, Evie, and jumped into the roadside woods for a pee break at mile 10. It happens, and what are you going to do about it? I heard a car drive up and Evie was talking friendily to whoever. I was waiting for the car to leave and couldn't tell who it was, and decide to just move on with it and come out. She was talking to a Law Officer! That's right I walked out and was greeted by sheriff deputy, who gave me a loud speaker greeting with Evie chuckling.

I was about 5 feet from the road, walking through the tall weeds and grass—when I felt it. A sharp stabbing pain in the front inside of my shin and my leg got a little stuck. I saw a sage green color of a tube and thought I stupidly hit on some sort of wire. I looked down again and saw some blood. By the time I reached the vehicle and said hello I could feel more stinging and pain and when I looked down I saw a longer and deeper cut than what I had thought was there. More blood was coming out now and I knew I needed stitches. 

I hobble over to the gravel side of the road dialing my husband with one hand and covering my leg with the over. He was on his way and the officer got out his medical kit, offered me a seat in the back of his car, and taped and bandaged me while I waited for my husband. Evie blotted blood from my shoes which I now refer to as "my bloody shoes. Oh bloody hell!" The officer and her assured me that this was nothing. It would be 5 stitches and a ugly scar.

The weapon of mass destruction's tip size
in relation to my thumb. It's a full arrow.
The officer then went looking for the weapon of mass destruction and I stood up pointing and hobbling to where I came through and we were just about on it when we found it...an arrow with a rusty tip meant to tear through an animal was sticking straight up pointing to the sky with its sage green shaft pushed into the ground. He stated that there was no way I could have ever seen that. That made me feel a little less stupid. He said that he had never seen a single arrow left like that before. That makes two if us!

On the plus side that I am really reaching for now,
I had a great ER doctor that stitched my leg with 5 stitches on top—spread for drainage—with two more layers of stitching below. This wound was deep and I probably got lucky I was told, as it could have cut through my calf if the arrow was more slanted. The doctor was also a trail runner and he understood what I needed and said although he would tell me to rest it, he knew I would push it. Yup, I had the right doctor for the job. I was in and out of the ER in less than 2 hours. That's amazing!  

I am currently recovering wearing a compression sock over my bandage. I haven't run in three days. This is truly a forced taper like I have NEVER done. And that means yes, I am still in for Grindstone 100. The other BAMR running Grindstone 100 reeled me in yesterday the we were discussing the last long runs and that the 20 miler I had on schedule would be extremely high and wear any runner out too much before a race. So the joke is, maybe that is what I have been doing wrong!

I am sore. I am hobbling around right now, but I have to have faith that not even a Spirit Arrow is going to take me down. I wouldn't be that "Special Kind of Crazy Hall of Fame" BAMR if I flaked out now after every other sacrifice I have made. Just like when I run repeats, it's time to recover on the downhill…recover, recover, recover…

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Kettle Moraine, WI: Oh My QUAD!

The shirt I really should own!
I can't help but to feel disappointed at making it 77 miles and dropping due to the time cut-off to the next aid station and back and some blown out quads. And at the same time, I know when I am beat, and I have a new sense of what matters to me in these challenges. There will always be that unknowing sense of where I will end up and what will happen on the course. That's part of the appeal in the adventure for me and I think most ultra runners as well. I am not in it to win it. Amazingly enough, that has never happened. I am in it to do the best I can with what is dealt and it's going to be a ROUGH challenge. I expect it.

By mile 77, my quads were shot and there was no way I could make the splits happen without out-of-control descending down rocks. Every step down screamed and I was taking the downward slopes and rocky steps straight legged at this point. I still had the power climbing ability—probably thanks to the Jacob's Ladder training. But the stepping down reached beyond my pain threshold and continuing on and trying to catch myself through the rockiest part would have become dangerous and like having no brakes in a getaway car. I just want to remind myself of the reality of that as I write this. The "in hindsight" we do after a race plays tricks and amnesia alters the severity of what was reality in these experiences.

Although Evie, my BFF pacer, didn't want me to know the cut-offs and still go thru the next section regardless, my other pacer, Gina, pointed out that I couldn't even bend my legs which became extremely laughable in my mind. Literally running down hill and rocks with pencil legs. I knew that the crazy needed to be pushed no further. One hematoma with a longer recovery has been enough for this runner's life time. And the thought of crashing down? I think I might have fainted from the pain that could have caused, because these brakes called "quad"s were completely stripped, close to none existent—GONE.
Sunset from our cabin the night before and me making avocado sandwiches the morning of the race.

THE START and the Nitty Gritty

The day started off with me very calm. There was nothing else I could have done in that moment and maybe being my second 100 miler, I have already learned to just chill. We woke up in the smelly mothball cottage (the smell was enough to make me run to the start line!) on a near by lake that was just 8 minutes from the start. The closeness and lake view was the best part. I booked it on VRBO which actually was everything I expected besides the surprise disclaimer when we got there of, "Don't take long showers" or flush the toilet often. I believe the manager's exact words were, "If it's yellow let it mellow. If It's brown, flush it down." Uuuu, yuck.

Upon awakening, I made avocado sandwiches with low glycemic bread while Evie made the grilled cheese sandwiches. The final items were packed in my over stuffed packs with pickle juice, date samoa balls, GUs, VESPA, coconut water, Tailwind, coconut coffee shots, Starbuck protein coffees, ginger candle, Pepto tabs, vinegar and salt chips, chocolate, socks, clothing, bandages and a couple safety pins—prepare for everything and anything. That is ultra. My crew, of Evie and my husband, were meeting me about every other aid station where they were permitted and assisting me with my bags. I was welcoming the help this time. It's a hard lesson to learn.

The night before we tried to pick up my bib and I was told we were 2 minutes too late even though our phones said it wasn't 7:00. Apparently there is a strict cut-off for obtaining a bib and it's at the discretion of one person's watch. It didn't feel very welcoming at all. But trying to stay positive we tucked out tail between out legs and moved on down the road.
Left to Right:
Bib pick up: Picking up my bib the morning of the race since I was told I couldn't pick it up 2 minutes after 7:00 pm the night before. Our phones showed it wasn't 7:00 yet but apparently packet pick up is on race time to who ever works the station. These cut-offs are serious! Don't mess with them!
Bag drop: My husband and pacer Evie at the start. These bags are over the bag drop size described in the manual. Note for next time to ignore stated size in manual.
First 10k into the race: a happy moment eating oranges and fueling.

Insert Mantra: First 50 miles, do no harm

They sent us off in a mob of 100k and 100m runners down a wide two-track surrounded by some of the tallest and greenest trees I had been by. I felt a little like a hobbit. I didn't know who was in the 100m vs 100k without asking. I started out easy—real easy. While other people raced down the hills, I pulled back. About 20+ miles in, right before entering the meadows another runner was feeling sick, so I gave him my Pepto. I was feeling great. I was sorry it was covered in GU gel, but individually wrapped and safe. ICK!

I enjoyed the conversations about running with several runners. It's always a running interview. Come to find out, Pat and I had the same training plan from Relentless Forward Progress. He is in his 50s and has completed a few 100s. I felt like we were paced well, but after mile 31 things became more challenging and I got a little nauseated in the woods. I lost him and Steve. Pat was obviously stronger than me. I am not sure why the nausea happened yet again—the whole nauseation thing blows my mind since I don't get sick training.  I have also never seen so many other ill people on the side of the trail taking a time out. I ended up fighting in and out of this state for the rest of the race, but more so in the heat of the day. It was 80s with high humidity of 90% or more. Not a good mix. I ended up placing ice in my hat, shirt, and light neck gaiter from INKnBURN. The ginger candy seems to really help calm my sick feeling, but then I needed to GU and was sick all over again. GU...how I hate you. I think we need to separate.

Side note: As noted by my pacer, Evie, this race was easy to navigate through as a crew member. They had no problem finding the stations and they even allow the pacers access to food and drink at the stations.

I began really looking forward to when I would run with Evie and by mile 44 I had lost my banked 30 minutes. IT WAS HOT IN THE MEADOW coming back in the sun. I hiked the heck out of much of the meadow at under a 15 minute mile pace up and down the mowed path. It's a very runable part,but damn the sun was beating us down now. I started having to use the porta potty more. And the fun just kept on rolling. I had two blisters that needed popping and duct tape was the best remedy after the blister pads failed to stick well with my sweat—I did pack everything.

Insert Mantra: I can take it.

I picked Evie up a little behind schedule and we were off on the trail. I can't tell you how great it is to have a pacer pointing out the rocks, tree roots and bumps as the sun goes down. The trail is not really that technical but every little bit of assistance helps as the heavy forest made it seem a lot darker than it was, and the sun started going down.

Insert Mantra: I can take it.

We kept on going and about mile 55 I really noticed my quads aching on the steps downward. It was painful! Fast speed forward and we were at the Nordic Trail Head—the start and finish for mile 63. I saw the Director and asked him about cutoffs. I didn't know what time it was since my watch failed hours before, but I knew I was off. We were under the cut off by 31 minutes and had to hustle now to get back out! This was awful news. Beat the clock was on! I changed clothes remembering the freezing issue I went thru at Superior and we headed back out. The Director hollered, "100 miler going back out!" and the crowd cheered and blinking lights and sirens when off. They do know how to make it exciting.

Although we were running, we went back to a speed walk and Evie made calls on the trail to tell my husband and next pacer, Gina, where we were and to find out how much time we had.We saw two head lamps ahead and one looked like he was aiding the other just by the way they were huddled and not moving. They started running as we approached and as we were next to them, Evie asked if the one that had the movement of a non-pacer—slow and weak—if he was running the 100 mile. His response was, "Bite me!" Apparently the hours of "good job," "keep it up," "great work," "way to go," from other runners had broken him.

I was looking right at him at this point, feeling disbelief from his answer and seeing someone in pretty bad shape. His pacer was very chatty and Evie and him went ahead of us running in conversation. As we went up a small hill I noticed the runner had disappeared and I called to his pacer that if he was with that guy, he had lost him back there somewhere. He quickly thanks me and headed back to find him.

We approached Bluff where I picked up Gina, my old college roommate, who had been waiting too long—which I am truly sorry about—but she was in great spirits and we set off to try to get through the next couple of aid stations in 3:40. I knew it would be hard to do as I wasn't moving well. The forest rockiness was more than I could keep up with at night and in the pace we needed. Just keep moving…I began really doubting making it and even getting to Rice Lake and then I thought if I had to continue just to see the sun come up I would. I was at a point of just enjoying her company.

She was really taken back by how cheery and happy people are in an ultra. Yes we paid to suffer, and we embraced it to an extreme point.Well, most of us anyways…I wondered if "Bite me" man dropped.

Side note: It wasn't so great when headlamps were coming in fast at us with the 38 mile fun run going on. Trying to not get knocked over on a single track trail, at night, after a full day of running was the last obstacle I wanted to deal with. 

Evie, myself and Gina at the end of my voyage at mile 77.
It's going to be okay. I am so grateful that these two were there.

THE FINISH, but not my end…

Gina and I talked the entire time. We heard the birds awaken before the sun was up and saw a Luna moth fly in front of our headlamps and land near us on the trail. It was way cool. The frogs croaked and owls hooted thru the early a.m. We were now so far behind that the sun was coming up as we
headed in to HWY12. At roughly 22hours and 30 minutes I was 77 miles in and out of time to to get to Rice Lake and back.The aid station leader was unbelievable. He was energetic and wasted no time to tell me how great I had done just to reach his station.
Mantra burned. My quads can not take it.

To my husband's relief, he didn't have to rush me through 11 miles of rockiness. He said he didn't know how he would have done that anyways. His eyes were bloodshot from being up 26 hours and he wasn't feeling well. He didn't look well either. It takes a lot to crew and stay awake too—physically, mentally and emotionally. He did great. But let's take a moment and laugh now at the fact that I WAS THE ONE RUNNING THE ENTIRE TIME.

100k buckle if you make the cut-off. The Kettle Moraine recognizes the
effort while other races do not and the runner gets NOTHING.
When I approached the Co-Race Director, Tim Yanacheck at the start line to claim my buckle instead of the kettle, my husband commented to him that he personally had never had an all-nighter even in college...that was just funny to watch him say that looking like a pale ghost with bloodshot eyes—and I wish I had it on video. Again, here are all these ultras up all night and running huge distances, feeling as alive as they can in the moment. That's ultra living.

Tim proudly and sensitively handed me the 100k belt buckle and said, "I know this isn't the metal you wanted. I'm sorry." I felt he truly was sincere empathized for all of us who did not have the finishing race we worked for—all 46% of us that registered for 100m and fell short for what ever reason. I love the fact that this race is so different that they want you to walk away feeling like a winner for putting it all out there.

A friend of mine told me that not everyone can finish 100 miler. I am not sure that's true but began pondering it that day because amnesia had not set in yet. So much has to come together at once just like hitting a PR or barely squeaking in to Boston as some do—not this girl, but some do.

My dear man who encourages and has my
back and ass in this cra cra adventure called ultra
even though all-nighters are NOT his thing.
I could really beat myself up over this one—and you know I will—because I know where the bottom fell out and where I felt the weakest points and I certainly thought I could finish it...Oh my QUADS! I had dropped hill repeats and strength training—as in squats—from my training to focus on mileage and climbing. That was a mistake for a 100 mile trail run. I need it all! Trekking Poles may have saved some quad strength as well. And as Gina suggested when I picked yer up on the trail, "Can you stretch?" "OUCH!!! It was far too late. I should have tried that sooner.

I walked away really enjoying this particular race and I have thoughts to come back. The course is all trail like I expected it to be and they really did have all the aid stations packed with all the items they promised. The volunteers were A-MAZING! 77 miles isn't 100 but it's far more than where I dared to dream 7 years ago. I left it all out there with what I had on that day with my body blowing up before my mind.

So here I go again…making this average Jill train like a bat shit crazy mother runner, because amnesia set in a day later. It's called Resilience as well and it's the best thing I got.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Numbers that MATTER

10, 6, 10, 20, 2 = this week's mileage heading into a true taper
2500, 1500, 1500, 2000 =  this week's ladder steps on Jacob's Ladder
5 - 6 = the hours of sleep I get nightly
4:00 = the hour I wake up to get my training in
7:00 = the time I get home to be there when my kids wake up and fix their lunches
9:00 = the time I need to be somewhere to volunteer for another race
2 = number of children Spring concerts to attend
40 = the hours I have to work in a week
3 = the soccer games I need to get my kids to
5 = the practices I need to get my kids to
4 = the number of drop bags I need to put together
3 = the number of pacers I have coming to support me
1 = the number of pre-races left (half marathon Memorial weekend)
1 = the number of child races to attend
16 = the number of days I have left until I leave to take on the Kettle Moraine 100
1= the first panic attack I just gave myself making this list

Numbers that Don't Matter:
Whatever the scale says I weigh. Fuck that shit!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Shifting Gears in 2016

Since Superior—which I will just keep referring to as the mountain of rock in my heart—I have been focusing on what I need to do to make my 100 mile conquest a reality. It's been a lot of mental mojo as well as making dietary changes to show up in the best shape possible. Extra weight, although not the only issue, is an issue over the course of 100 miles. I am the detour and road block in my own plan. I have read more written lately on the endless calories available to burn in fat already stored on our bodies if we change the way our bodies burn fuel. I have read more about elites having a high fat and high protein diet as of late. And so my journey has begun to get out of my own damn way.

Dialing My Plan with -12.5 lbs and Counting

So after allowing myself a good wallow with my pals Hershey, Reese's, Mallo Cup, KitKat, and cup cake for the rest of the month of September and into part of October, I knew I was ready to clean up my act and start again. I cut processed sugar and brought my carbs down to under 40 grams a day starting the week before Halloween. It was either going to be the best or worst sabotaging idea ever. It turned out to be the best. I did not partake in any of the candy loot my kids hauled home. I repeat, I had NONE. I was tired the first two weeks on training runs, but then I started to feel the clarity found deep into the miles of a race and walking away from carbs became very easy. I have tracked everything with the free version of the MyFitnessPal app. I aim for 120 to 150 grams of protein a day and follow a calorie deficit diet of 1,200 calories. If I gain calories through fitness, I log it in the app and eat it.
To reach the grams of protein I need, I have an optional protein shake called Trutein. It's a high quality whey, casein and egg white protein and doesn't taste like metal like many other protein shakes. I enjoy the Peanut Butter Marshmallow Cookie and Smores the most.  I can't say my running speed it there yet in changing my nutrition, but there is a clarity. It took me months to unload the 14 pound haul of candy between the kids in the form of cookies and brownies scattered to friends and family.

All of which I continued to not eat. I have become that jerk that shows up at gatherings, only eating specific foods. I eat out at Mexican restaurants and don't eat a single chip. I know… who does that? Certainly not this girl before. Everyone else benefits from having my french fries, rice, beans and potatoes, And guess what, it's been worth it! I actually saw a lot of hoopla on the internet promoting people to just enjoy the festivities with food. But I disagree. My goals mean more than the two months of gorging to find the jaded friend named Disappointment waiting on January 1. Happiness is far from the cookie table for this woman. I did allow myself three special treats during the holidays; I had a pumpkin bar at Thanksgiving that wasn't too sugary and was very enjoyable. I made a black forest cake that was to die for at Christmas. I had a piece of that, duh! And I did have a butter popcorn meal while watching the new Star Wars movie—because that's what makes me happy at a movie theatre that I attend less than once every couple years.

I seem to have made up for my not eating all the other stuff through the rest of 2015, with baking it for everyone else. For their weight gain, I apologize. By mid-December I was down 11.5 pounds. And have added another 2 pound loss since. For the first time ever (ever is just 7 years in this runner's life), I do not have to re-lose the same 10 pounds before the Bayshore marathon in May. In fact, I am below the weight I usually am for the marathon. This year I am running the half marathon the week before I head to Wisconsin to kill that Kettle Moraine 100. And by "kill," I mean survive with a solid, healthy finish where my mind isn't completely blown, and I feel like I have a little more to give in the end. Yeah, that's the dream.

Geared-In Training

Jacob's Ladder is there to make
my heartrate zip. Just try it out for three minutes.
You will survive.
A couple weeks ago I explored the Jacob's Ladder. I need to be in peak cardio fitness and lift my legs more. I saw the Jacob's Ladder on a Facebook page a year ago and have been wanting to try one out since. I found one at out local YMCA. My heartrate flew to 170 quickly. It's total body engagement climbing a ladder like a fireman. It goes as fast you you make it go since there is no motor except the operator.

As a comparison, when I run hill repeats in the snow my rate is 160. Probably lower because I am taking more time on foot placement. I will be spending more time Jacob's Ladder to work on endurance and lifting my legs, as well as including more snow hill repeats which were exuberating. I need to work on my footwork skills and concentration of landing. That's a fact. I set my timer on my camera as I ran them and started to play beat the clock to the bottom as well as take a few up hill images. By taking images of myself running, I can see my lack of control with my left arm that crosses over way too much, which is wasted energy. It's an issue I am working on correcting. I have to consciously pull my right arm back and forth, like I am going to reach in my back pocket. It helps me correct the left. I am sure deep in a race, I will probably think "screw it, just run."

A little game of beat the clock (or timer) during winter hill repeats in Steampunk INKnBURN attire which seemed appropriate to get my butt in gear or shifting gears on a winter hill in Michigan.
One of the exciting parts about taking my "getting my butt in gear" photos is that I ended up with one gem. It has appeared on the INKnBURN website as a rotating photo, FB home page and Instagram. Hill repeats in the winter in Michigan is currently seen all over the world. With all the beautiful worldly photos they have to pick from, this is an honor to represent the brand in this way and illustrate that I am on my way in 2016 to believe it, live it and for crying out loud—finish it!!
The INKnBURN website page where my winter hill repeats in Michigan made the rotating home page.

And with that, I suggest a new song for anyone's play list. I dedicate this to hill repeats: Sia: Unstoppable