Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Something Sad






Our cat Bob died today. For no apparent reason. He'd been totally fine, doing his usual fun and playful stuff, when, while I was in the shower, he apparently fell off the chair that he was sitting on and just died, right in front of Bill. He was only 4.

Bob was a great supporter of me while on the trainer and would have made a great navigator if we'd ever given him a compass.

Goodbye, Bob-o. You were fantastic.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The 1/2 Sauer, 1/2 Kraut 13.1: A Timeline

Sunday, June 26. Bright and early.

5:22 a.m. -- Alarm goes off. Hit snooze. Roll over and briefly think that there's something I have to get up for. Fall back to sleep.

5:29 -- Alarm goes off again. Remember that I have a race, and that I have to get three other people out of the house by 6. Freak out a bit, pull on my running clothes and hop downstairs to K-Cup the first of three pre-race cups of coffee.

5:33 -- Stare at fridge in a sleepy stare while coffee brews.

5:33:30 -- Hear Kate shuffling around upstairs. This is a small miracle because if there's anyone who hates mornings more than I do, it's Kate.

5:34 -- Make Kate a cup of coffee. See?


5:35-- Bill comes downstairs dressed and ready to go. Yay! Steve (Kate's husband) slept in his clothes so things were looking good for a 6 a.m. departure.

5:36 -- Bill decides he smells and takes a shower. Steve goes back to sleep.

5:38 -- Steve is awake! Bill is clean! Kate and I are fed! I have my second cup of coffee!

5:44 -- We all stand around and stare at each other. I have another cup of coffee.

6:07 -- We realize that we've been standing around staring at each other for a while so we decide to leave.

6:37: We get to the race site. We park 8 feet from the start line. With almost an hour to go before the scheduled gun time we stand around and take pictures.
This was Steve's first time seeing Kate run. Clearly, they are both
quite excited for their big day.
We met in preschool and look exactly the same as we did in 1980, I swear.


6:42 -- Realize the boys aren't as excited as we are about the race. See above for proof. At least Bill is faking a smile. Steve just looks like he wants to stab someone.

6:43-7:47 -- Do nothing other than realize that the race will be starting late. Finally the gun goes off (or someone just yells "go" and we all start running) about 17 minutes behind schedule.

7:53:40 -- Try to keep up with the girl in front of me. Hit the first mile marker at 6:40, a pace that I would be content to hold on a track. Knowing that I will crash, burn and then blaze bright enough to be seen from outer space if I try to stay with her I slow down quite a bit. She zooms away. But I am feeling nice.

7:53:31-- 8:28 -- I run. The course goes up and down a bit. I hate the ups more than I should.

8:29 -- The course zigs and zags through a small parking lot and field about 7 trillion times. I realize that there's a woman right behind me that is sort of flying and I know that she will pass me soon. Along one of the zigs I hear Kate cheering me on. I am starting to feel a bit gross so I shout a supportive "Grerrmpfhfaaaakk" in reply. I think about what a good friend I am. I am awesome.

8:35 -- The course had been along a paved bike path but now meanders onto actual trials. I love trails and I pick up the pace a bit. I pass a few dudes.

8:45 -- I am dumped back onto the paved path and am passed by the woman behind me within 800 meters. I don't care as much as I probably should. Mostly because I am happily surprised with my pace. I'd been aiming for about a 1:40 and realize I should be able to come in a bit under that if I don't shit the bed.

9:08 -- I hit the 11-mile aid station. "Only two miles left!" they tell me. I realize I am getting bitchy. "It's really two-point-one," I correct. "And that seems really far right now."

9:20 -- I haven't seen another runner in a while and the course is starting to feel long. Or I am just starting to feel tired. I contemplate slowing to a jog, then slowing to a walk. I peek over my shoulder every few strides. I see no ladies, no dudes. Am I off course? I don't want to be passed at the line just because I get lazy. I try to pick up the pace.

9:23 -- I see a friendly looking dude with a medal around his neck, sipping on a bottle of water with his feet in the creek, cheering me on. "Shit, dude, am I almost there?," I ask. "You are, I swear," the dude says and slaps me five. I decide to believe him. Because it is either that or I just flop in the creek and call it a year.

9:24 -- The finish. Tadaa. I stagger a tiny bit and then, instead of removing my chip, remove my entire shoe and hand it to the volunteer collecting chips. I snag a banana and some water and then realize I have one less shoe than I should. I find my smelly shoe which is nice.
Bill missed me crossing the finish line but got me
taking off my shoe.




9:31 -- Kate finishes in just under 1:45. (1:44:44 I think). I am impressed. Here's why -- Kate has several PhDs, got a 2400 on her SATs back in the day where the highest possible score was a 1600 and was published before she was old enough to drink. The only B (actually, she just emailed me to remind me it was actually a B+) she ever got in her life was in fourth grade gym. She thought her academic career was over. But she really sucked at kickball, a lot. Kate apparently got winded in high school marching band and also runs with an inhaler. The first time she ever ran more than a mile at a time was about a year ago and then she busts out a 1:45 in her second half marathon. Silly overachiever.

9:45 -- Results are posted. I am 33rd overall, 3rd for the ladies and 1st in my age group. Kate is 7th for the ladies and second in our age group. Hoorah. But before you go around thinking I am fast please be aware that this was a small local race. And that the Philly Olympic-distance tri was at the same time so that's where all the fasties were.


11:10 -- We go to the weird German club (what's with Philly-area races and their affiliation with German clubs) for free beers and/or bratwurst (racers got either two free beers, two free bratwurst or one of each, how fun).

11:22 -- Best race awards of all time. I got another one of these at the last race I did put on by the same company. So now I have two Bavarian thermometers/barometers.  How fantastic.

This guy rocked out hard on his accordion(s). Just like
every other race out there.

THE END




Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Am Apologizing for This Post In Advance

It isn't late enough to actually attempt to sleep before tomorrow's half-marathon. It's also too late to start drinking or do anything fun so Kate and I are sitting around doing nothing. Tomorrow will be her second 13.1.

Me: How are you feeling the night before your second half-marathon?
Kate: I hurt my back moving some hangers in my closet today. So there's that.
Kate's Husband, Steve: So we are at home and she was upstairs and I heard her yell, "AHHHHHAHAHAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" I asked her what happened. "I moved my hangers oddly," she said.
Me: Uh, who does that?

Me: If you develop raging diarrhea again like you did at your first half (last year's Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon) what's your plan?
Kate: You are asking me what my diarrhea plan is?
Me: Yes. Yes I am.
Kate: I would stop. Right there in the middle of the race.

Kate: Do I wear underwear with my running shorts?
Me: No.
Kate: Um, are you absolutely sure?
Me: Absolutely.

We need to just go to bed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lazy Bulletpoints

I have been so amazingly tired for the past week. I slept in like a pro over the weekend but, oddly, I am not allowed to show up at work at noon so the workweek has been not so fun. To go along with my sleepy state here's a lazy bulletpointed post, splattered with links, just for you.
  • Here's a tip: Do not ride your trainer for two hours and then go to your hockey game. I am hurting sort of a lot right now. The mosquito bite that I got on my forehead during the game isn't helping, either.
  • Happy travels and racing to Abby and the rest of Team Goals who will be racing for something like 84,866 straight hours in Costa Rica next week.When I think of Costa Rica I immediately think of vacation and beer but, also, not everyone is as lazy as I am.  
  • After this weekend's half marathon (that I haven't trained for at all), complete with a beer and a bratwurst at the finish line, I am not registered for another race until the Philly Marathon in November. This should change soon as I have my eye on a few races, but nothing definitive yet.
  • I had the worst run of all time on Saturday. Seriously, I don't think I've ever felt worse during a run in my life. I did about an hour on roads and, about 40 minutes in, felt like I was going to tip over. I actually had to walk. Not sure if it was the heat, dehydration, the fact that I was pushing the pace a bit in anticipation of the upcoming 13.1 (that. I've decided, will be a complete hot mess, but hopefully a fun hot mess) or what but I felt terrible.
  • I had a pile of maps in the middle of the family room. I was pretending like I was studying them in anticipation of potentially doing a race in the area the maps covered. We all know I can't actually navigate so what I actually did was unfold them, pretend to stare at them and then fold them back up. Bob liked the maps more than I did and spent about an hour splayed out on them. He also jumped into the bag I put them in and howled when I tried to get him out.
Animals are weird.

That is all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How I Trained for a 50k

The only reason I've stuck with blogging is that I love seeing what search terms lead people to my little corner of the Internet.
Some of the ones I dig include:
  • necessary nudity
  • necessary nudity in mud
  • "hooray for helmets"
  • nudity (18+) (seriously, this blog shows up for porn? Where have I gone wrong?)
  • i hate snakes
  • I want a brick wall in my shower
  • how to brick yurt
Seek and you shall find. Weirdos.
My favorites, though, are variations on a theme:
  • how to train for a 50k
  • 50k training plan
  • how to train for first 50k
Unfortunately the souls who came across my blog hoping for some 50k input probably stumbled across this useless post --> See? I didn't really know what I was doing, let alone if it would work.
The race ended up going a bit better than I anticipated, so here's how I trained just in case you want to know.
ALERT: I have done one 50k and didn't really know what I was doing. So please don't actually think that anything below comes from anyone with actual knowledge of running or the distance, okay?
About 90 percent of my training was done on trails that I am fortunate to live near. This turned out to be amazingly helpful on race day because the course was similar to what I trained on and gave me a bit of a confidence boost.
I decided that since I am Garminless and not much of a gadget person that my training would be done primarily by time instead of mileage. About 2 1/2 months out I started focusing more on running than mountain biking. I was at the tail end of training for a longer adventure race so this wasn't ideal but I didn't care.
For about six weeks I'd run between 7 and 9 hours a week. Usually a two-a-day on Monday, an hour on Tuesday, 90 minutes on Wednesday, another two-a-day on Thursday, an hour on Friday and then two to three hours on Saturday followed by an easy 30-minute run on Sunday.
As race day got closer I worked up to about 12 hours a week with long runs a minimum of three hours with a longest run of just over 5 hours. I didn't taper too much. I am sure there's a helpful science to the taper but I find myself eating too much and  getting too nervous when I seriously taper. The week before the race my long run was about 90 minutes and I did a few more hours over the course of the week.
One thing that I was picky about was gear. I used my race-day hydration pack (the Nathan Intensity vest) constantly, for every run. I even wore it to work. Except I didn't. I switched between two pairs of Cascadias and raced with the newer pair and I only ate and drank what I knew would be available to me on race day.
In summary, I ran a shit-ton and didn't try anything new on race day.
Real specific, right? Ha, I guess this post is just as useless as the last one after all.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Why the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House?

When I started to get semi-serious about running I promised myself I'd only run for me. No running clubs, no teams, no fundraising. Just me. If I happened to make a friend or two, or a husband (we went for an 8-miler on our second date) along the way, fine, but heading out for miles on the road or on the trails was something just for me.

No sharing. ALL FOR ME!

Except I lied to myself, apparently. A few months ago the social worker at the Ronald McDonald House on the grounds of the children's hospital kind enough to employ me called to say that the house had been chosen as an official charity for this year's 2011 Philadelphia Marathon.

Here's how the conversation went:
Me: Ok, thanks for sharing that.
Her: Well,I know that you run.
Me: Yes, I do.
Her: And I know that you've run marathons.
Me: Not, like, every day or anything.
Her: Want to join the team? You only have to raise $900** and it will be fun. And the fundraising is for this specific house, not all of them.
Me: You mean you don't have to share the money with any of the other houses?

My interest was piqued. My hospital (like I own it) serves all sorts of kids from all sorts of places and all sorts of socioeconomic backgrounds. The Ronald McDonald House, as you probably know already, houses families who have to come from a distance of at least 25 miles in order to have their child receive necessary medical care.

Some babies in my unit remain inpatients for a year, if not longer. The RMH asks for a fee of $15 a night per family but never turns away anyone who is unable to pay. Some families pay $10, some $5, some nothing--whatever they can afford. All are given a giant private room, bathroom, meals and a beautiful house with a small staff of professionals and volunteers equipped to familes through what is likely the hardest time of their life.

I work specifically in the NICU. The average length of stay in our unit is more than a month -- we've even had first birthday parties for kids who have been too sick to ever leave the hospital. The RMH gives familes the opportunity to be with their kid every day, to not have to worry about housing, or food. These expenses add up, even for families who were financially stable before welcoming a sick little one into their family.

Take one family, for example (I am sort of changing some of the stuff because I like my job and don't want to lose it in fear of violating HIPAA). Mom and Dad couldn't wait to welcome their first child into the family. His nursery was ready, pregnancy, labor and delivery were as boring as could be, apparently. But as soon as the little guy tried to take his first breath, well, he couldn't. He was scooped up and brought to the NICU where I work when he was just a few hours old.

His parents stayed behind, choosing to come to the NICU to meet their son for the first time together as soon as Mom was released. The Ronald McDonald House immediately made room for them and Mom and Dad were able to spend hours and hours every day with their little guy. Mom and Dad got to know us, we got to know them and their kid.

One morning I came to work and the first person I saw was Dad crying in the hallway. His son had just died after two months in the hospital. I spent most of the morning with him and Mom. All they kept saying was that they were glad they got to spend so much time with their son, thanks to the Ronald McDonald House. Mom and Dad had cut back drastically on their work hours in order to be at their baby's bedside. Dad soon began to worry how he was going to pay for his son's funeral.

The RMH paid for everything.  

If this was the only family the RMH ever helped, I'd still run as part of their team. In 2010 the house assisted more than 535 families, all coping with caring for a seriously ill or critically ill child.

So what the hell, I finally figured. If so many families are helped by the RMH, how can I not suck it up, raise a few bucks and run 26.2 miles to help ensure that this help remains available?

If I get less lazy than I currently am I hope to have families who have stayed at the house write guests posts about the help and support they received. I probably won't get any less lazy or any less creative though so I will probably just sporadically post the link to the fundraising page I will eventually create in case anyone has extra dollaz that they don't know what to do with.

** Everyone on the team had to pay $100 to join. The Philly Marathon has donated 25 entries to the RMH team with the caveat that team members pay the entry fee as a donation to the house. I dig this because I like to run ... why should other people's donations pay for something I'd be doing anyway? The money raised by the team goes directly to the RMH.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wheelsucker

Oh, century rides, why are you 100 miles long? Couldn't you be, like, 45 miles instead?

Last year I did the Iron Tour with a friend and some of his co-workers that I met the morning of the ride. Six of us started out together. It was 95 degrees by the 30-mile mark. By mile 40, three had dropped. One zoomed off into the distance and finished the whole thing in about two seconds. My buddy and I hung until mile 60 where he announced that he was done, plopped on a picnic table at a rest station and didn't pedal another stroke.

I felt okay enough to finish and was on my own for the last 40 miles. It poured, then hailed, then hailed and poured for most of those miles. It took me forever and ever to finish -- I think I was possibly the last person to finish the full century.

But the course, complete with quiet roads, lots of green and never-ending rolling hills, was fantastic, the rest stops had PB&J, cheese and sometimes wine and it costs next to nothing to do so I lured Bill back to Philly for the weekend by paying for his entry and we set out this morning for what turned out to be a beautiful and relatively uneventful 100 miles.

After the century course split from the other distances we were basically on our own, seeing only a few other riders along the way.

Before we started Bill had convinced me that I'd be dragging him along. The opposite, not surprisingly to me, turned out to be true. I sat on Bill's wheel for approximately 97 of the 101 miles we ended up riding. I think Bill surprised himself with how good he felt throughout the entire ride and I surprised myself by not getting dropped like a ton of something.

Plus, as Bill had to flee back to his summer home as soon as we were done, I managed to get my bike off my roof rack all by myself. I am a big girl now.

I am so excited to sleep right now. Hopefully I will be able to drag myself out of bed for an easy recovery run in the morning. And I finally took my SmartWool compression socks (courtesy of an awesome REI deal) out of the package and am currently compressing away. People swear by compressing the hell out of their legs (Do you? Does it work for you? Does the fact that a pair of these things costs approximately 7 billion dollars make any sense to you?). I am hoping there is something to this because I don't want to take more than a day or so recovering from today's ride.

Unrelated: I bought new road running and trail running shoes yesterday. I bought the same Cascadias that I've grown to love -- or so I thought. I bought them several sizes too large (I thought I knew what size I was) and didn't realize it until I got home and checked them against my current pair. And now they obviously have to go back. I hate shopping/stores/dealing with receipts/credit cards/cash registers so the fact that I have to return them makes me grumpy. Thanks for letting me share -- I feel better now.

That is all.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Aftermath and Cheering

After the race I attempted my first ice bath. Ginormous tubs were set up at the finish line and I decided to dive in. Or, gradually lower myself in. Holy moley, coldness! Excruciating, especially for all the parts of my person from the calf muscles down.The North Face people, while well-organized and gifted at coordinating endurance challenges, can't draw an ice bath to save their collective souls.

While, as an ice bath newbie, I am not exactly qualified to comment, I am pretty sure that there should be some water in the ice. I had to break through a layer of ice with my shoe just to get in. I lasted for literally 12 seconds before I was almost screaming in pain.

I felt like I was James Caan in Misery.
 
It was sort of the worst and I, after 12 seconds in an ice bath, have decided that they are over-rated and, like, chilly.
 
I chugged some chocolate milk (recovery nutrition I truly believe in) and tried to convince my Mom and Dad to take me out for food. But they thought I was stinky and made me take a shower back at the hotel before refueling me with noodles and curry. Here's a tip: curry is delicious, but your guts will probably hate it after running a race and continue to do so for some time.
 
The Mom and Dad fled back to their home and then I met up again with Genny so I could continue to stuff my face with more food.
 
She was running the half-marathon on Sunday morning so we crashed early and, for the second day in a row, I hopped out of bed before the sun did. I was excited that I hopped -- my legs actually felt totally fine. I thought I would be limping around for at least a few days so this was exciting to me.
 
I chugged a cup of coffee and a diet blue Mountain Dew -- Genny had cheered like a pro and I wanted to make sure that I had the energy to do the same.
 
We got to the start about an hour before the start. The morning was as gorgeous as the morning before and I was sort of jealous of those who had shown up to race.

I made Genny a sign. It was my own idea and I did it all myself.

Genny seemed happy to race but nervous that she hadn't trained enough. I've known her since the dawn of time and knew that she would finish happy. We hung out, stood around, stared at the grass and got our picture taken.
 
 
Just after 8 a.m., they were off, followed about an hour later by the 5k and 10k runners. The 13.1 course was an out-and back and I obviously wasn't going to outrun the runners so I had some time to hang out before Genny finished. I took a nap on a picnic table and woke to a dog the size of a small squirrel laying next to me.

Genny at the .00001-mile mark.
 
'He thinks you are my girlfriend," the dude holding the dog's leash said. "He gets anxious when she isn't around so he is just pretending that you are her."
 
Uh, pets are weird. Or, in this case, maybe the owner is weird.
 
I sampled some free wine and topped off the tank with some free chocolate milk. Before I knew it it was time to start looking for Genny. Her time goal was approaching and then, with two minute to spare, she came around the final turn, neck and neck with a guy who looked just as intent on crossing the line before her as she did of him. I knew she'd pull it off -- I played soccer with her for years and, well, I knew that no one gets in her way without risk of an ambulance ride.
 
 
Who ya got?

We ate some chips after she finished and I began the long, traffic-filled drive back home. I want to run 50ks every day. I had a great weekend and loved the race. Plus recovery has been going fine so I hope to finish the ride Bill and I are registered to do. I've spent a total of 14 miles on my road bike since a duathlon in March so a century in what looks like will be stormy weather might be interesting. There's an option to drop to the 75-mile route at about the 55-mile mark -- after that you either give up and buy a house to live in wherever you stop or you are on board for the full deal. Could be quite the time.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Me v. Red Shirt, Part II

Where was I? Somewhere in the woods around mile 10, I guess.

I ran and ran, and smiled and smiled. Suddenly, a crowd! The aid station at mile 12.4 was just ahead and it was packed. I heard someone yelling my name from far away. Genny! I told her I'd probably wear a grey shirt and orange shorts and she managed to spot me from about 100 yards away. I was impressed.

Maybe I should have used more energy to run and less to smile.

She had Gatorade! And, even more importantly, she had Skittles. Lots and lots of Skittles. I stuffed several dozen of them into my cheeks. So amazingly delicious! The rainbow of fruit flavors never tasted so good. Maybe Skittles will sponsor me.


I was like this hamster, only slightly taller and with less fur. And with Skittles instead of Cheerios.

And then, just ahead, stuffing his face almost as quickly as I was, was Red Shirt! I grabbed some peanut M&Ms and sprinted (ok, shuffled) off, figuring I'd put him behind me for good. He continued to scarf down snacks as I ran past.

The route took us to a slow, wide, gravel climb. We'd merged with the 50 milers by this point so I actually had people to attempt to pass and to run away from. After a steep descent we squeezed onto the narrowest of trails with a rock wall on one side and a drop into water on the other. This part was an out-and-back so we all channeled our inner mountain goats as we tiptoed through carefully in attempt to keep our own footing without smooshing runners on their way back off the trail. Most people were kind and there was more "excuse me please, thank you, you go ahead, have fun, top of the morning to you, don't fall, good job, hooray for you" than pushing and shoving. Nice!

A few meters later I found myself at the 15.1-mile aid station. I couldn't believe I was half-way done, right where the Mom and Dad were supposed to be. Uh oh. I checked my watch and realized that I was about 50 minutes ahead of schedule. I told them I'd be there at about the 3 1/2 hour mark and I was only about 2 hours and 40 minutes in. Hmm. Do I wait? What if I never see them again? What if they get here and think the course has eaten me alive and start to worry?

Then Red Shirt pulled into the aid station right next to me, gulped down some water and sprinted back the way we came. I hesitated for a moment and then took off after him.

This part of the course was my favorite. We worked our way almost all of the way back to the aid station where Genny was before veering off up a long, technical climb. The race directors apparently imported every rock in the East Coast to this part of the course. It was more of a scramble than a run and I chose my footing carefully as the route rose well above the river.

The view at the top probably was spectacular but I didn't get a chance to look around. People were everywhere. The entire population of the D.C. metro area apparently decided to spend the gorgeous Saturday morning at the top of this trail and I used up a bit of patience waiting for hikers, their cigarettes and their miniature pot-bellied pigs (ok, I only saw one pot-bellied pig, but isn't that one too many?) to move to the side to let runners through.

I worked my way up and over the climb and found myself back at the 12.4 mile mark that had magically morphed into the 19-mile mark. There was Genny! Holding more Skittles! Really, she's sort of the best. She told me that my parents had just left that spot, confused as to where I was and where they were supposed to find me. I chowed down on more glorious Skittles and some Pringles while she called my parents who were, fortunately, still in the parking lot. They hopped out of their car and ran over to the trail.

"You just ran 19 miles!" my Dad said.
"You sort of smell," said my Mom. "But you look happy! And you aren't bleeding like a lot of the other people going by, so you have that going for you. And you are going faster than you thought you would!"

I waved and told them I'd see them at the finish. It was right around the corner after all, wasn't it? Only 12 miles to go. Easy.

Except not so much. I realized that I essentially had a half-marathon to go and that suddenly seemed very, very far. And Red Shirt was so far ahead. And sweat was stinging my eyes. And the next aid station was 7 miles away. And I no longer had the fun part of Dog Days Are Over stuck in my head. Instead, on repeat, I had the part where she slowly wails like this: IIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiyeyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee nnnnayeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ooweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee yoweeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Terrible.

And I still had 11 miles to go. My hands started tingling. I looked at my fingers, swollen, red, shiny and disgusting. I flapped them around a bit like that was going to get the fluid out. I realized I looked ridiculous and started to giggle.

"My fingers look like Snausages," I thought, and started to laugh. Hard. So hard that tears came out. I couldn't see where I was going. "Oh my God, what if my fingers actually turn into Snausages?" I was clearly a bit dehydrated, my electrolytes were a bit off -- marathon brain was starting to kick in.

Somewhere in a part of my brain that should have remained covered in cobwebs there was this:


Snausages replaced Florence and The Machines in my head. Dear God. What's wrong with me? Snausages? I've never even had a dog.

I continued on and started to feel a bit better, fortunately. That was the only time I felt low during the entire race. About five people passed me, including two women. Marathoners started to pass me on their way out on the course. Fifty-milers started to pass me as they drove toward the finish, holding a pace that I'd be happy to keep on an on-road 13.1. But I felt fine and decided to pay attention to myself instead of the people passing me. And slowly I began to reel in people ahead of me. Not a ton of people but I passed more than passed me over the last 10k.

I walked a few steep climbs, ran the descents and the flats. I stared at my feet, glancing up only occasionally. And then, A SNAKE! A DAMN SNAKE. Not a big one -- maybe two feet long, skinny and green. "I don't want to ever see any more snakes ever again!," I yelled out loud to no one. Apparently snakes don't read my blog and therefore don't know that I hate them.

The trail zigged and zagged and I finally found myself at the aid station at mile 25.5. I ate and drank as much as I could as quickly as I could and was on my way, passing a few people in the process. I was mostly staring at my feet, making sure that I didn't trip over anything or, more importantly, step on a snake.

I'd glance up every so often to make sure I wasn't about to slam into a tree -- something red off in the distance. Red Shirt! There he was, about 100 yards ahead. And he was going nowhere. In fact, he was barfing into a bush while hopping around grabbing his calf with a cramp.

Hmm. What to do? Ok, I really gave it no thought whatsoever. "Man, that sucks!," I said. "The aid station is only about a quarter-mile behind, you should probably go back."

The place for me in hell gets more and more special every day. I ran on, glancing over my shoulder a few times to make sure Red Shirt wasn't sneaking up again. I could see him off in the distance but he never caught up.

Wahoo! Me: 1, Red Shirt: 0.

Skipped the last aid station with 2.5 miles left to go. For a second that seemed like an obscene amount of distance to cover. I slowed to a walk for a few steps and then realized I would rather run.

I checked my watch. Five hours 15 minutes with a bit more than two miles to go. I couldn't believe it. I'd been nervous about not meeting my goal of 7: 12. And I'd loved every step. I never hit the wall. I started to, but, thanks to Snausages, I manged to bust through it. I thought about how, in road marathons, miles 22 until 26 have always been basically unfun. 50ks, where have you been all my life?

My feet hit the flat paved trail leading to the finish line. A volunteer told me I had less than 400 meters to go. Really? I picked up the pace, smiling. A lot. I broke through a small cluster of trees and the crowd was yelling. My parents and Genny should really be Laker Girls or something -- they are pros at cheering.

Genny took a picture of my Mom taking my picture. Except
Mom managed to miss me, somehow, and took a picture
of the grass instead.




Notice Genny is actually near me and my Mom
is several feet away. Apparently I stunk. 



What's more awesome, my hairdo or my crooked race number?


I was going to crop out a lot of the grass and zoom
in on myself but then I realized my eyes are closed
and that my hat is weirdly balanced on the top of my head.

I ran across the line and looked around, grinning like a dork. 5:35:53, good enough for 12th female out of 105 and 63rd out of 332 overall. Fine by me.

I tend to exaggerate, a lot. But, sincerely, I think this might have been my favorite race ever. Possibly better than Boston, better than New York, as rewarding as 24-hour adventure races. The fact that it was well-organized and that the course was gorgeous didn't hurt either. Good race shirt, arm warmers ... the stuff given out cost as much as the entry fee. Well-stocked aid stations, a course so well-marked that even I didn't get lost. A very good introduction to the 50k distance, to say the least.

THE END
 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Quite Possibly My Favorite Racing Thing of All Time, Part I

I might sell my bikes, give away my adventure racing gear and throw out my road shoes -- I am thinking I might spend the rest of my racing life running 50k after 50k.

The North Face Endurance Challenge Washington D.C. 50k (fortunately the whole name wasn't on the race shirt ... would have taken up the whole thing) was sort of fantastic. I want to do it again immediately.

I've never been less stressed before a race, ever. I had to work a full day on Friday. And the day was sort of crazy. As I was running around the job attempting to help eliminate some of the crazy I kept thinking the following thought: "This time tomorrow I will be running 31 miles. All at once. Hopefully. And instead of getting ready I am dealing with (insert a crazy situation of your choice here)."

Finally it was time to go.

The ride to Northern Virginia took forever and ever. Traffic in that area is so amazingly terrible. If there was ever a World Championship of Tailgating I am absolutely certain that some bobo from NoVa would win. Anyway, I finally pulled into the hotel just as my Mom and Dad did. I think they were more nervous than I was. My lack of nervousness almost made me anxious. I packed up a small bag, mapped out where my parents would meet me along the course (at the 15.1 mile mark) and I slept like a lump.

We made our way to the 7 a.m. start about an hour early. There were six races over the course of the weekend (50 miles, 50k, marathon, marathon relay, 13.1, 10k and 5k) and the 50-miler wackadoos had started two hours earlier.

The morning was beautiful -- a bit on the cool side and the misty Potomac River made a sweet backdrop to the 332 runners preparing for the day ahead. Basically my own personal playlist of running favorites was being pumped through a sound system. What a great morning!

Then I made the mistake of looking around. The crowd was amazingly fit. Lots of muscles and little fat -- I felt lumpy and slow and I hadn't even made it to the start line yet. Great! Nerves started to kick in. What if I am last? What if I don't finish? What if I hate it? What am I doing? Do I have to pee again?

We were called to the start line right on time. And then it was time for Dean Karnazes to officially kick off the race. So not necessary. Just let us run. I am sort of not a fan -- a few years ago I only made it through the first few pages of his book before I began to gag a bit. But, the dude can absolutely run far quickly.

Feeling pensive, lumpy and slow.

The Machine and I listening to Dean Karnazes yammer.
Do you know he just finished running from L.A. to New York?
 I do because he mentioned it about 8 billion times.
 At least the guy seems to like his job.

I lined up toward the back of the pack figuring that if I DNFed it would be on my own terms, not because I was trampled out of the gate. We were suddenly off -- no start gun, no ready set go -- the crowd just started moving forward. Or maybe I was just too far in the back to hear what was happening. I waved at my Mom and Dad and the field trickled across the start line.
Play Where's Waldo with this picture. But instead of finding Waldo find Laurie.
The first mile or so was around a flat field and then onto a wide gravel trail. I was keeping a comfortable pace and slowly worked my way past a bunch of runners. The course turned left and after another mile or so the single track started. And so did some shoving and pushing. Grr. It wasn't terrible and I tried to stay out of the way but a few people were bloodied by falls before we were 30 minutes in.

Eventually the crowd began to thin out and I found myself in the company of only one other person. We talked a bit (it was her first 50k too) until she took off like she'd been shot out of a cocaine-fueled rocket. She ended up coming in 5th, I think. What an overachiever.

I was all alone in the woods and I was loving it. I slowly worked my way up the first climb -- it was short, but it was steep and lead to a screaming downhill. I let it run and hoped I wasn't beating up my legs too badly too early on. At the bottom I actually passed a few people and started to feel not entirely incompetent. I stuffed handfuls of chips and M&Ms into my face at the second aid station (I'd skipped the first) and continued on my way.

The time ticked by and I felt like I wasn't working amazingly hard but I didn't want to push it, either. I didn't want to STB in the first 10 miles and have a miserable time for the remaining 21. Gus, Shot Blocks and Stinger Waffles, Peanut M&Ms and water fueled my way. It got a bit hilly but, fortunately, reminded me of the terrain in Wissahickon Park. The hills were similar to those I'd trained on but with fewer rocks and roots most of the time. Hooray!

On my way down one hill footsteps came up behind me, fast. "Passing on your right!," the runner behind me yelled. We were on 2-foot-wide singletrack with a sort of serious drop off to the left. I didn't feel like falling off a cliff so I didn't move, I just picked up the pace. Plus who the hell passes on the right? Apparently the a-hole in a red shirt flicking sweat all over the place right behind me does.

The hill leveled off and I pulled over to let him pass. Red Shirt got in front of me and basically slowed to a walk. Sir, please know that I wanted to beat you with sticks at that point. We were dumped to on a flat fire road and I took off, hoping to never see him again, ever. Except I didn't push hard enough and he did the exact same thing on the next downhill. Instead of telling him he was being a weiner I decided to be passive-aggressive and vowed to myself that I would absolutely finish before him. Except just as I had that thought he decided to sprint away and I soon lost sight of him.

Well, shit. And then, actual shit. Horse poop everywhere. It was unavoidable and I was mostly amused and partially disgusted. That's when I got a song stuck in my head, a song that would stay there for the rest of the race. Thankfully, I liked the song -- Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machine. Most of the time what was stuck was the part that goes like this: "The horses are coming, so you better run."

Ok, Flo, I will. I picked up the pace a bit. A shoutout to the horse poop for triggering my race inspiration. I actually started to feel sort of great. I had no idea what mile I was at -- six, eight, ten? I had no idea what my pace was either. I just knew I wasn't even close to being done. Fine by me because, Red Shirt aside, I was loving my day so far.

The giant mug of red wine I decided to have with my dinner of Cheerios and mac & cheese (they weren't in the same bowl) and two days of waking up before 6 a.m. are knocking me out. Plus this post is already too long. Plus I have to go try and get my race shoes to stink less before the entire house smells like mud and feet and funk. So you will just have to come back for the exciting conclusion.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

All Done

That wasn't so bad. It was fun, in fact, and the course was beautiful. I did better than I thought I could and had more fun than I thought I would.

All the boring details to follow ...

Friday, June 3, 2011

I Should Be Sleeping Right Now

I need to find races that start at midnight -- I am terrible at going to bed early. It's about 11:15 right now and the 50k starts in 8 hours. I am wide awake. Twenty minutes ago I was tired but now that its actually time to sleep, not so much.

My Mom and Dad and my friend Genny who I have basically known since the dawn of time (or, the first day of 5th grade) are nice people and are thus coming to cheer me on and throw Pringles and Stinger Waffles in my general direction. Genny is doing the half that is part of the race series on Sunday so of course I am going to stick around and return the favor, so its two nights at the scenic Hampton Inn in Dulles, Virginia, for me.

Genny ran my first-ever half-marathon with me almost 10 years ago. The race was the Philadelphia Distance Run (which was unfortunately sold to the Rock and Roll franchise a year or two ago meaning that a fun local race that used to cost $40 is now a giant monstrosity that costs $110 and features a Poison cover band at the finish line). That race was the Sunday after September 11, 2001. More than a handful of runners who registered for the race died that Tuesday ands what I remember most about the start was that, instead of a starting gun, the mayor of the city read the names of those runners.

Anyway, we finished a bit under two hours and I loved every step. A few days later, inspired by Genny and prodded by Bill, I registered for the Philadelphia Marathon, my first.

And it only took me 9 1/2 years to up the distance again. I wonder how it is going to go. I have no idea how long it is going to take, what the crowd will be like, how I will hold up. I'd like to finish in less than 7:12, the average finishing time from last year, but I have no hard goals other than to, hopefully, cross the finish line.

I think my parents know what to expect even less than me -- three of the aid stations are crewed so I've packed a bit of stuff for my parents to haul around for me.

"Are you going to want to talk to us?" asked my Mom.
"Uh, I don't know," I responded.
"Will you just run by real fast and grab stuff?"
"No, I think I will probably stop and eat a bit, I guess. I really don't know."
"I don't know either."

My Mom, not a morning person, seemed a little less horrified about the prospect of waking up at 4:50 in the morning when I told her that I'd likely slow down enough to actually say hello and that I'd actually be easy to find as the distance is capped at about 300 runners. Not the usual "Where's Waldo" that my parents have become used to when spectating at some of the more massive road races I've done.

Ok, time to sleep now. Or time to watch "Say Yes To the Dress." I love hotels, they have cable. We get five stations at home.

That is all.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I HATE SNAKES

I love nature, I really do. Except for snakes.

I always thought I hated snakes but never really had an encounter with one to prove my theory. Until Monday. Bill and I went for a rather warm run in Yellow Creek State Park. The run started out fine for the first 12 seconds or so. Bill led the way and I was about 4 or 5 yards behind.

And then he yelled "Snake!" and jumped to the side. Before I even saw what he was talking about I apparently jumped in the air 88 billion times. "The less time I spend on the ground the less chance I have of actually touching the snake," I told myself as I jumped and jumped.

After I started jumping slightly less I remembered I had my iPod so we could time our run and also video any rogue snakes we stumbled upon.


video

Seriously, the thing was about five feet long. And scary. And it hated me and wanted to eat me, I just know it. I sort of wanted to punch it in the face but I try to be kind to nature and the snake was, after all, just being a snake. Hanging out, enjoying her Memorial Day, probably hustling down the trail to get to a barbeque, planning on having a few beers, maybe set off some fireworks.

But seriously, snake, please never come near me ever again.

Fortunately the rest of the running I did while visiting Bill in the boonies were uneventful and snake-free.




See? Snake-free and beautiful.