Saturday, December 10, 2011

Run at the Rock

Well, redemption day finally arrived.  A tad melodramatic, perhaps (okay - definitely), but this is probably the most amped up I've been for a race in a while.  This really isn't saying a whole lot as I still got the better part of a decent night's sleep and was chatting with people on the starting line until 1 minute before the gun, but I had been thinking about the race for the past couple weeks, and had been legitimately concerned about the health of my newly temperamental and angry hamstring for the past week. I even adjusted my final "speed" workout backward one day to give the hammy a little more time (but still wanting to tune up the one fast twitch muscle fiber I possess in case I should need him - I call him Zach).  Yup - I actually THOUGHT about the race beforehand and executed a reasonable and logical workout plan in the week leading up to the race.  I'll admit that a little more activation of my sympathetic nervous system before a race might be beneficial, but this tends to backfire on me big time (for a brief run-down, see this previous post), so this level of preparation was really pushing the envelope of my running karma.  Also, I have to compensate for Ronnie, who has enough weird nervous energy and pre-race crazy for both of us (why do you put on clothes you're not going to run in only to change into - yes change, not strip down to - your running clothes when we get to the race?).  I feel that by my being more low key about things, we have the right amount of energy if you average us... which would be awesome if we were entering a 3-legged race.  Or maybe that would be terrible?  Regardless, we competed individually at this particular race, so it's a moot point.

Back to the story at hand, though (sort of). We loaded into the car and arrived at the surprisingly frigid Cedarock park (yes, that's right... Cedarock... we have a multi-year conversation going about whether it's Cedar Ock or Ceda Rock because we can't allow Cedarock to be one word...yes, our marriage is based on nonsense like this).
This just can't be one word
Facebook had alerted us to the fact that we would be seeing some friends here, and it didn't take long for us to spy friend #1 all decked out in her Canadian best maple leaf hat and mittens (I wish I had a picture to post here - Canadia would be proud, Kim!!). We then proceeded to pick up our numbers and powder blue sweatshirts and speed walked back to the car to huddle for warmth between bouts of warming up and trips to the bathroom line (at least we knew we were hydrated!)

Arriving at the starting line, we were greeted by a sea of orange and blue BCTC singlets and a number of other friends out to enjoy a challenging course on a lovely day. As the race director counted down the minutes to the start, those of us who had no business on the front line inserted ourselves somewhere in the middle of the pack and we were off! As I bid my faster friends adieu and trotted off down the road toward the woods, I heard the unmistakable sound of jingle bells and looked back to find that I was being chased by a 6'2" elf with surprising foot speed. For a minute I felt like I did in my first marathon when a marine carrying a 4' American flag blew by my bonking self at mile 18, but as he darted around the 10 people ahead of me as well, it became abundantly clear Santa had given him a good dose of mad running skillz for early Christmas and I moved my thoughts back to my original "starting the race" plan (try not to do anything stupid).

These are some of my friends... I am much farther back....
... closer to this guy
I had a vague recollection of my PR on the course being somewhere in the 2:05 range, so my goal was to be as close to 2:00 as possible (who doesn't love a nebulous and thus highly achievable goal?). As I
checked my watch at the few mile markers I saw, though, it appeared I would be going through the halfway point around ~62 or 63 min, which was puzzling because I felt like I was moving along pretty well. Fortunately, I was able to drop a sub 6 min 7th mile to get back on track, going through the 7-mile mark a little under 61 minutes (or perhaps that mile was a little short? ...hard to say...okay, not really...that last mile was more than a little short). The second loop was a slightly stickier, gooier version of the first loop, but with more new friends, including new friend Mandi, who is also running the Uwharrie 40 and looking at a summer 100. I think I may have conned her into accompanying me on some Umstead runs between now and then... fingers crossed that she wasn't just trying to get me to stop talking.

As I made my way up the final hill toward the finish, I glanced at the clock at the finish line to find it hovering around the 2:04 mark, meaning I may or may not have PR'd on the course. So much for instant
gratification. As our merry band reconvened, we made our way to the food tent and scoped out the finishers list to find that our friends had a very productive day, with David Roche setting both the
7- and 14-mile course records (encumbered by a shirt, even!!), and many others netting overall and age group awards. I know it's kind of jerky to say, but it's nice to have a bunch of friends around cheering each other on as everyone picks up their awards. Mandi and I ended up finishing 1-2 in our age group to join the merry band of Run at the Rock giant mug award owners (someday, we'll all have to get together for giant coffees!)
this picture does not do justice to the giant-ness
of these mugs
For those who care, I matched my previous PR on the course. To the second. I was initially a little irritated at this, but two voices of reason pointed out the following: 1) I would be REALLY irritated if I
had been 1 second slower than my previous PR, so I should look at the glass as half full, and 2) I was in pretty solid running shape when I set that PR, so I should take this as a positive sign of progress. So
I say thank you to my two voices of reason, and I do feel less irritated, but that doesn't mean I'm not still thinking of all the spots where I could have gutted out a few more seconds. That's healthy as long as it's motivational, right?

So, to sum up, it was a lovely day for a run, a good course, and I feel more or less redeemed. The only downside to the day was Mandi may have sacrificed a pinky finger to the trail gods in an attempt to test gravity and get a close-up look at the terrain as she made her way down a muddy hill :(.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Skinny Turkey Half Marathon

After the Shut-in disappointment, I was pretty determined to redeem myself at Run At the Rock, so I trained really hard (for the whole 4 weeks between the two) with an eye to realistic pacing and some pseudo tempo runs (run one of my "long runs" each weekend a little shorter and with fast people).  It seemed like a decent strategy, but I still wasn't super confident in my ability to pace myself with any level of intelligence.  SO I decided I should do a tempo run with known mile markers just to check in. The Godiva Thursday run would have been ideal in this regard, but alas, this little revelation occurred the weekend of Nov 19... you know... the weekend before a certain pesky eating holiday that meant no Godiva run.

Inexplicably, my mind drifted to something my running enabler friend Doug had mentioned during the week prior about a Thanksgiving half marathon in Extreme North Raleigh.  I had initially rejected the idea as silly because the course involved two (different) out-and-backs on ROADS and Extreme North Raleigh is FAR.  But alas, it would probably be the best way to get a feel for how hard I should go out (effort-wise, not time-wise) at Run at the Rock, so I went ahead and signed up with the goal of finishing out my regular training week and running 8:15s for the first 10 miles and seeing how things went from there.

My regular training week ended up being a little harder than normal thanks to a second hard-ish long run Sunday (to try out my awesome-tastic new hydration vest) and a more intense than expected speedwork session Weds morning (who put those two giant hills in that second 2k?), so I was feeling a little sluggish and beat down Thurs morning, and I was definitely apprehensive about my ability to even maintain 8:15s.

Luckily, the first two miles are downhill, so maintaining 8:15s was SUUUPER easy... also, so was maintaining 7:45s... heh.  heh.  uh oh.

Fortunately, I was able to rein myself in to a couple of miles in the 8 min range and didn't feel too much worse for the wear.  The next couple miles involved some hills (including ascending the mile 2 hill) and some disgruntled gentlemen who weren't super excited about being passed by a girl.  The second half(ish) of the race wound through a nice older Wakefield neighborhood with some good rolling hills and then wandered up a straight road I never caught the name of only to turn around in front of some old gas station/store and come back to the start/finish (where we would need to re-ascend the mile 1 descent).  In the back of my mind, I kept track of all the downhills on the way out so I would know what I would have to contend with on the way back (did I mention there were two giant hills in the second 2k of the workout the morning before?  I was beginning to think this might come back to haunt me as the hill counter kept ticking upward).  I figured the leaders would be coming back at me about the time I hit 8 miles (their 10), so I was a bit gratified when I breezed by the 8 mile mark with no leaders in sight.  About half a mile later, I saw a familiar wiggly gait coming up the road toward me following the lead bike and went to high-five my lovely husband, Ronnie, who was apparently winning the race!  This was almost a beautiful moment except instead of the expected "good job!" or "love you!" I heard "Are you okay?" escape his lips.

Ummm. Hunh?  I think so... So then there were a few moments of deep self-examination upon which I concluded that a) I was fine, b) Ronnie was probably delusional from being in the lead, and c) this was definitely going to get mentioned a BUNCH of times in the coming weeks!

The rest of the race went pretty smoothly - I made it up all the hills (though I did feel the legs a little bit toward the end) and did not do anything heroic and stupid that would jeopardize my ability to obtain sweet sweet redemption the following weekend.  The only slightly disappointing bit was I missed my "stretch" goal of feeling good and finishing under 1:45 by 2 seconds.  TWO. SECONDS.  Sigh.

Also, I would find out the next day that I may have slightly strained my hamstring with the combo of back-to-back hard-ish runs and launching off at 7:40 pace on a cold morning with no warm-up.  You'd think I'd learn at some point, but... well... no - you wouldn't think that at all.

Monday, November 07, 2011


SO.  Once again, I was lured into signing up for the Shut-in Ridge Trail Run with the promise of a lovely weekend in Asheville in early November (which sounds absolutely outstanding when one is sweltering in Durham in August).  I wasn't sure at the time how ready I would be given that I had really just started running again after my body made it absolutely clear that I should NEVER sign up for a road marathon again (for the full story see and ).  That, however, would not deter me, as due to various injuries and/or hard races run just weeks before, I have turned this race into a nice hike on more than one occasion before (like 3 out of the 5 times I've signed up).  A lovely hike in Asheville in early November is also very nice (actually, probably nicer than the grueling grind up Mt. Pisgah that comes with "racing").  That being said, training this early fall had been going well, and I was feeling pretty good about my running, so I entered the weekend thinking a PR was plausible (note foreshadowing here - with a sense of foreboding).  I tried to temper my high hopes with the realism that I hadn't raced a step since the road/toe incident above, and I thus had no real idea where I was fitness-wise aside from making through 8x"hundreds of doom" on the track and some random back-to-back long runs that felt surprisingly good.  I was not terribly successful in this tempering.  I'll admit I had some pretty lofty visions going into the starting line.  I also had a touch of caffeine-induced mania/invincibility, as I also discovered in the past couple months how much awesomer one feels running after a nice coffee filled with sugar and french vanilla.
Don't I look invincible here?

In hindsight, this may not have been the ideal venue to test how well that coffee effect transfers to races.  Now lest you think this is going to unravel into a story about GI distress and "roughing it" in the truest sense of the phrase, let me assure you it is not.  Instead, it will be a story about discovering one's own mortality at inopportune times.  So let me set the stage for you:  for those unfamiliar with the race, Shut-in is a lovely 18-mile jaunt up Mt. Pisgah with something on the order of 6000 feet of elevation gain (and 3000 of elevation loss).  Also, the aid stations only have water.  Lots of people combat this by having crews to bring them goodies, take their clothes, talk nice to them, etc., but unfortunately, my most likely crew candidate tends to be about an hour ahead of me on the trail, so as a couple, we have learned to be self-sufficient on trail. This is usually not a problem, as I'm no stranger to the 20+ mile long run with nothing but Gu, water, and the occasional deer to cheer me on, but at the ~9.5 mile mark on Saturday, I sure could have used a coffee refill.  But I digress. 

Still feeling bionic
Let's talk about the first half of the race first, because let me tell you: it was AWESOME.  I felt light, lithe, and lively (I don't know if that's exactly true, but I liked the alliteration, so I'm keeping it).  Alliteration, aside, I did feel something bordering on invincibility, which was great fun and led me to stupidly scamper up the first couple of hills ahead of my much smarter buddy, Nancy.  The invincibility continued for the next several miles, and I actually continued to feel pretty darned awesome through the nice flat area leading up to the 9.5-mile aid station. During this stretch, I also found a very nice lady to run/talk with, and we chatted about common running acquaintances and what it was like for her to be raising two children while living on a small college campus (the short story - it's awesome).  Unfortunately, as we chatted and marveled about the weather and the views, I think we sped up a wee bit, and about a mile short of the aid station, I started to get that nagging "um...I'm getting a little tired..." feeling. If I was smart, I would have let the nice lady go and downshifted just a wee bit to keep the energy outflow in check.  Unfortunately, "smart" is not something I'm often called with respect to running, and I was socially invested with this woman, so I pushed on, reasoning that I would stop at the aid station, collect myself, and bid her adieu as I throttled back on the wee climb that is Ferrin Knob (about 800 vertical feet over ~1 mile). 

This is what I felt like... a sad, powered off robot
...made from cardboard boxes.
Unfortunately, it turns out that my new friend was also socially invested and wanted to climb with me, so I probably (or obviously, depending on your perspective) didn't throttle back as much as I should have... and by this point, all traces of coffee-induced superhumanity had worn off, so I was feeling like movie robots sound when someone unplugs them.  Thankfully, I think my new friend sensed the imminent unraveling (or perhaps she actually heard the wheels fall off as they bounced down the mountain?) and moved on ahead as I dragged myself up to the crest of the hill and more or less spilled down the other side.  During this time, the smarter friend Nancy from earlier in the story caught me and scooted on by, reminding me that she is really just an excellent runner and climber, and also much much smarter than me. Fortunately, she's also a lovely human being and did not actually call me a dumbass out loud as she passed by. The other positive thing I can say here is I did succeed in taking it easy through this section, and did find a second wind after the next aid station, meaning I was able to catch back up to and hang in there in Nancy's general proximity for the next 5 or so miles. The only other interesting note during the grind that was this section was that I tripped at one point and very nearly fell off the mountain (one leg went over the edge of a rather cliff-like dropoff, but thankfully, the rest of me fell toward the mountain and I lived to run another day). 

Unfortunately, one more challenge remained, and my earlier dip into energy reserves meant I didn't have much in the tank for the final 2 miles, which involve another 1000-foot gain over ~1.5 miles and then a lovely, quad-busting descent down leaf-covered rocks the size of medium-sized rottweilers.  From previous hiking years, I knew going in that you could pretty much walk the entire section in 42 minutes.  This was both comforting and soul-crushing as I pulled out of the last aid station, but I soldiered on with four-inch strides for the next 40-ish minutes (see??  I ran enough to finish TWO WHOLE MINUTES faster than I would have if I had just walked the whole thing!). 

Remember I *didn't* walk the whole thing...

All in all, I'm not terribly happy with my time, and I'm definitely not happy with my strategy/pacing, but it was a lovely weekend to be out and about in Asheville, and at least I have some idea where I am fitness-wise (oh THAT's what tempo runs are all about...).  Up next: Run at the Rock, where I seem to excel in years where there is ankle-deep mud (fingers crossed).  Until then, happy trails, all!

2011 Godiva Shut-in Runners

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Return to the motherland...or "how to hurt yourself with what are, at first glance, really great ideas" Part II

Okay, it wasn't actually blizzarding in Steamboat - it was blizzarding on Rabbit Ears pass getting into Steamboat.  Steamboat looked much more pleasant.

It turns out that was only the beginning of the pleasantness.  In true motherland fashion, it was roughly 75 and sunny every day we were there.  We ran on beautiful trails, up mountains, around waterfalls, through unicorn nests, etc. for an entire week.  It really was an incredible week, as we were able to spend it with an assortment of our best friends from a variety of stages of our lives, but as gushing isn't funny, I'll leave that segment of the trip at that.  On the funny side, we were inspired by Josh and Becca, who are fancy and buy art when they go on vacation so they have something to commemorate the trip, and bought a moose carved out of a log by some guy with a chainsaw... because we're klassy like that.

pretend this is a moose.  and not holding a welcome sign.
yes, i'm too lazy to go upstairs and take a picture of the real moose.
and also too lazy to use capital letters.
On packet pickup day, we walked to the 'expo' venue and picked up our stuff.  We also met the Honey Stinger guy, who was to become our new best friend.  We ran into him approximately 14 times over the next 48 hours and will be working with him for the Umstead marathon next year. So if nothing else positive came from this whole trip, the marathon got a gel sponsor.  We also figured out that the bus pickup on race morning was about 3 blocks from our house and the race finish was about 1.5 blocks.  Talk about random dumb luck (okay - Steamboat's not that big, but seriously - 1.5 blocks??? That's some serious serendipity there.)  Once we had our packets, we scoped out the rest of the expo, which consisted of our Honey Stinger friend, some guy peddling some sort of oxygenated water (??), a new recovery drink, and a tent outside from a local running store.  The water guy warrants additional mention because was all sorts of happy to talk your ear off and had a table full of his fancy water, but I'll be darned if I saw him give away a single sample.  He seemed weirdly protective of his stash.  Or maybe didn't want to give the whole field an advantage???  If you listened to him, you would be convinced that you would pretty much sprout wings and fly to the finish of the race if you drank his miracle water, which, as far as I could tell, was filtered a million ways and then had oxygen bubbled through it.

So race day finally arrived and our house full of assorted friends began to ready ourselves for what looked on the published course profile as a run off a cliff.  This included a 300-mile bus ride to a lovely little outpost in southern Idaho, where some weirdo was maniacally peeing on a wagon wheel while holding a thermometer.
This actually isn't even the start - I have no idea why they
have this in my official race photo set
At about 7:15, we were instructed to put all our drop bags on a bus, which then cruelly drove off down the road, leaving us half naked in the cold morning air, waiting to initiate the destruction of our quads. (did I mention we were to be running off a cliff??)

As we made our way through the early miles of the race, I realized two things: 1) I was not in marathon shape and was relying on inborn talent that did not exist, and 2) the apparent cliff in the race profile had masked some not entirely insignificant uphills.  Regardless, I was making not entirely embarrassing progress through about mile 15 when the somewhat annoying 'something's not quite right' feeling in my left foot turned into what felt like a cherry bomb exploding in the vicinity of my second toe inside my shoe.  I stopped momentarily to determine if I had stepped funny and just fired off a weird nerve impulse or if I had done something dramatic, convinced myself it must have been the former, and loped off down the road, a little slower than before, but still making forward progress.

forward progress...sort of

When I reached the aid station at mile 17-ish, I stopped for some stinger chews and gatorade, and as I tried to start off again, it became abundantly clear that this was not going to be a possibility.  I literally could not run, and even walking was causing intense pain in the region of the toe that I was pretty sure at this point had actually exploded in my shoe.  So there I sat, 100 yards from the aid station, wondering if I was actually going to have to settle for my very first DNF.  The very strong argument against such a thing was "You CAN'T DNF.  YOU brought all these people here.  How much of a tool would you be if you didn't finish???"  The possibility was just too much to bear.

my new slower pace allowed me to
fully enjoy the scenery
So I sat down by the side of the road and took off my left shoe to assess the situation more fully.  I found that my toe was already turning a different color and my foot was a different size and shape than it was when I started (the downside).  The upside, however, was that it didn't hurt nearly as much now that my evil shoe was out of the picture.  So there I was on the side of the road, performing some quick calculations to determine whether I had time to walk the last 9 miles in before the cutoff.  After determining that I did if I kept myself under ~18 min miles, I headed onward, barefoot, aiming to reassess at the next aid station (which was 2.5 miles down the road).  I met a number of very nice individuals this way, including a bike monitor who checked up on me periodically for the next 4 miles and a police officer who drove by twice, trying to convince me I should just take a ride back to the finish.

you can tell I'm excited because you can see
my belly button
Unfortunately, something about the way I walk and the status of the pavement caused me to develop ~2 inch blisters on the backs of both heels after about two miles, and I was forced to put my shoes back on.  Luckily, the fresh air had done my toe some good, and it was content to hang out inside the shoe as long as I didn't try to run anymore.  So that's how I finished out the race.  Clipping off 15-minute miles, taking in the scenery (which, to be fair, was quite lovely, and I probably would not have enjoyed as much had I been attempting to race back into town).  Luckily, my friends fared much better, with Ronnie running a solid 3:06, Jim close behind at 3:11, Becca taking 2nd female overall, and everyone else turning in reasonable performances.  Except maybe Josh, who also apparently had some special moments of his own out on the course, but now has empirical evidence that you do need to train for more than 7 days if you want to run a good marathon.

So all in all, toe-sposion aside, I would call it a successful trip - we learned some things, we had some good times, and I can now cross Colorado off my states list if I ever decide to get into that sort of thing.

...for those who are interested, we never did figure out exactly what was up with my toe (after ruling out a clear break and determining the course of treatment would be pretty much the same regardless, we decided to forego additional imaging), but I got to spend 2 weeks in a super sexy surgical shoe, and avoided horsefly season at Umstead almost entirely with the minor caveat that I then got to spend most of July learning how to run again.  Oh.  And I am taking this as a sign that my body had totally rejected roads as a running option.  No big loss there.
I'm pretty sure this guy beat me

Return to the motherland...or "how to hurt yourself with what are, at first glance, really great ideas" Part I

Let me just preface this story by saying it's all Doug's fault.  Doug is generally my default scapegoat as a result of a particularly insidious combination of years of misguided race selection and uncanny powers of persuasion (or perhaps just really malleable friends?). In this particular instance, however, I have documented proof that it really is Doug's fault - if not completely, at least mostly. Without him, none of this would have happened.

So the story begins sometime late last year with an IM from Doug saying something to the effect of "would it be stupid of me to do this?" followed by a link to the Steamboat Marathon.  "Probably." Was my reply.  This is generally my automatic reply to such queries.  However, I followed the link and noticed that the race date was June 5, which, after a quick cross-check to confirm the date of Memorial day this year, placed it slightly less than one week after my annual pilgrimage to Colorado for my favorite race in the whole world (and that's saying a lot given my feelings about Uwharrie), the Bolder Boulder.  So now that I've actually typed those words, I have to pause and pay homage the the holy grail of 10Ks.  Okay, I paid so much homage, it turned into a separate post. Back to the task at hand.

Don't these people look happy and injury-free?

So anyway, as I am always looking for an excuse to spend more time in CO and the race website had pretty mountain pictures on it, the wheels started a-turnin' in my head. The quest then began to convince Ronnie that we should a) honeymoon in CO, and b) that it would be awesome if Doug came with.  For those who don't know us that well, this may seem super weird, but for those who do, you know that Doug is an integral part of our running adventures, and that NOT having Doug along would be even weirder. To ease the confusion of who was going to sleep where (Doug and Ronnie have probably shared a tent more times than Ronnie and I have), we suggested Doug bring his girlfried Erin.  We also invited ~10 other people to share the week with us so we could rent an unnecessarily large house in downtown Steamboat.

Hooray for off-season rates!

 I had been planning to only run the half marathon because I was a little dubious about my ability to bounce back from Boston and then train effectively in the weeks leading up to the wedding, but somewhere along the way, Jim managed to convince me that I should run the full because "what if the pretty part is at the top?" So I did what anyone would do - registered for the full and then convinced everyone else to also register for the full.  Peer pressure has an awesome snowball effect - we even managed to convince Becca, who had no intention of running period, let alone running a full marathon, to run the full. So now we had a plan.  All we had to do at that point was get married and train.

As is usually the case in my life, I found that I was a little overcommitted with the above plan, so I downgraded to 'get married and rely on inborn talent and a penchant for doing stupid running-related things'.  Joining me in the second half of that plan was our friend Josh, who was trying out the new 7-day marathon training program in the week leading up to the race (you start with a 10k and work your way up to the marathon 7 days later).

Once we had the married part out of the way, a good chunk of the crew assembled in CO for phase one of our trip: the Bolder Boulder.  Because we were of varying abilities (and had varying levels of qualifying times available ... oh and a distinct lack of organization), we were pretty much all in different waves.  Ronnie and I had initially planned to run in our wedding clothes (and he was going to drop back to my wave), but alas, it was about 50 degrees the morning of the race, and I deemed it a tad chilly for my wedding dress.  The minute I bailed on the formalwear, he bailed on me in favor of running with Jim (makes a girl wonder what happens if she gets fat??).  So I was left alone in Wave C with just my thoughts and some guy dressed up as a banana.

slip n' slide induced race number attachment failure
My strategy this year was 'you're running a marathon in 6 days - try not to break anything', which seemed vaguely attainable, though I have blown out an achilles tendon at this race, so not entirely in the bag.  One thing contributing positively to the goal is they changed the course this year (don't get me started on how this messed with my flow), removing the .75 mile downhill that used to start the race.  The downside: you lose the .75 mile downhill and now start at the lowest point on the course.  The upside: you do not lead out with a 6:00 mile (while this may seem reasonable to some of you, this is totally unsustainable for me - yes, I know from personal experience).  The other downside: I apparently have some sort of muscle memory of there being two miles of uphill in the first half, which I was now burning through in miles 1 and 2 instead of 2 and 3.  Thus, when I got to mile 3, my body was much dismayed despite my feeling that I was running at a totally reasonable pace.  Fortunately, I spied an improvised slip n' slide to my right, which brought my body and soul back into balance, and made my clothes and shoes very heavy.

 Just as that was resolving itself, I spied ANOTHER slip n' slide.  "Wow!"  I thought to myself, "I have a golden opportunity here to set a Bolder Boulder slip n' slide PR!" (a speed PR was WAY out of the question).  So I did.  And ripped my number.  Which I then had to hold with my hand as I was finishing so they would let me make the turn into the stadium and finish.  Totally worth it, though.

Then we left Boulder to make our way to Steamboat Springs.   ...where it was blizzarding.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Bolder Boulder - why Memorial Day really IS my favorite holiday

Seriously.  If you haven't run this race, you need to.  Not because the course is particularly inspiring (you do get 6 miles of Flatirons views and a nice little tour of Boulder, but I've run far more scenic courses), not for the challenge (it is a net uphill now, but it's nothing that compares to most of the hills we run every week at Umstead), not because you hate oxygen (though it IS a crutch), and not because you think you might win (you won't). You should run this race because the whole experience of the race is something you won't get anywhere else.  There are bands along the course, ranging from people you might actually see at a legit music venue to some random family band (not quite the Partridge Family), there are belly dancers, there are more people in tutus than you would expect, there are multiple opportunities to stop for a beer, there are runners and spectators in costume, there are people holding signs to make you laugh (my favorite was during a drought year that read "Are you all sweaty yet?  If so, please roll around on my lawn - it needs water"), and most importantly, there are SLIP N' SLIDES!  
The epitome of Bolder Boulder-ness: a girl in a tutu epic failing at  the slip n' slide

The whole town really stops what they are doing the morning of Memorial Day (the roads are all closed for the race anyway), and comes out to watch 50,000 plus people run through the streets of Boulder. The energy is nothing short of amazing.

That's just the beginning, though.  Once you finish, you can line up for a 15-minute massage from students at the Boulder School for Massage Therapy (I've never been disappointed), grab your lunch bag, which generally contains one or more varieties of granola, a selection of new health food-y snacks (some of which look, and taste, suspiciously like something you raked up during leaf season in your yard), a random piece of fruit, some soymilk, and something that approximates a dessert.  and beer...well, beer-ish (Michelob Ultra).  You can get your very own Michelob Ultra and drink it before 8AM, which is a nice throwback to the ol' college days (note to readers: I'm pretty sure this is rhetoric as I don't think I ever actually drank beer before 8AM in college...possibly because I would never have been awake at that hour... but I digress).  ...Or you can do like me and skip the beer and opt, instead, for two Sierra Mists.  I don't know why I do this.  I don't actually like Sierra Mist that much, but I guess I feel like I should get two cans of something for my efforts.  Regardless of the reason, I do this every year.

Once you have retrieved your lunch, you can do like half the participants and meet your friends "at the buffalo".  Anyone familiar with campus knows this is a stupid idea - everyone meets at the buffalo.  It's the most obvious landmark in the area of Folsom field. It, however, and your friends, will be obscured by the other 20,000 people who decided to 'meet at the buffalo'.

This is the buffalo - you will not be able to see it on race day through the throngs of people.
You know where you can meet your friends, though?  At the mailboxes across from the buffalo.  Or at the atomic clock across from the buffalo.  Just sayin'.  If you want to meet MY friends, we all collect in section 107 sometime after hitting the expo to watch the Memorial Day festivities and the elite race.

Ah yes, the expo.  The Bolder Boulder expo is truly something to behold.  There are two must sees at the BB expo: 1) the Dryer's/Häagen-Dazs booth - they always have something yummy and full-sized they are giving away, and 2) whoever is giving away bags - you will need this bag to carry all the other crap you absolutely must have (but will never use) at the expo.  There are also a variety of other booths giving away things like soup, breakfast burritos, sports drinks, dairy and non-dairy milk, race info, vegan dog treats (it IS Boulder, after all), etc.  There are also opportunities to buy things like the Bolder Boulder line of clothing proclaiming that "Sea Level is for Sissies", which always makes me laugh.

Once you have expo'd your heart out, you travel back into the stadium to watch the rest of the finishers.  Highlights include the Marines, who assemble and do a bunch of push-ups before they finish, a handful of people dressed up as Waldo (Where's Waldo?), and a variety of other nutters in costume.  In 2001, the Stanley Cup ran the Bolder Boulder (yes, I saw it - it's shiny and dented).

The final events of the day come in ever-changing order, but consist of three can't-miss events: the Memorial Day Tribute (complete with skydivers!!!), the men's elite race (complete with Kenyans and Ethiopians), and the women's elite race (also complete with Kenyans and Ethiopians).  The elite races in the past couple of years have drawn such greats as Meb Keflezighi, Adam Goucher, Dathan Ritzenhein, the Torres brothers, Alan Culpepper, Ryan Hall, Deena Kastor, Elva Dryer, Uta Pippig, Magdalena Lewy Boulet, Sarah Slattery, and others that I can't remember offhand.  With advances in technology, you don't even have to fashion some elaborate plan to run crazy across Boulder to catch them at a couple of locations.  Yes, you can now sit comfortably in the stadium, drink your 'beer' (if you didn't get to it before 8), eat your sticks and leaves, and watch these folks cover the same course you did in half the time!!  If you find this upsetting, a) you are doing it wrong, but b) you can take solace in the fact that THEY did not get a beer and a popsicle before 8AM, so at least you have that going for you....

The Memorial Day tribute is also truly magical, with skydivers coming in to the fight songs of each branch of the military, culminating in the final skydiver coming in with the American flag to the tune "Proud To Be An American" and a fighter jet flyover. Say what you want about our country, it's hard not to be patriotic when you're honoring our vets in such fashion.

After the conclusion of the festivities, you make your way back through the streets of Boulder, perhaps on the Boulder Creek path, to whatever the rest of the day holds for you, feeling, if nothing else, like you've accomplished something for the day, and looking forward to doing it all again next year.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

We got married... a month and a half ago...

I am so behind on this writing thing... So yes, Ronnie and I are married.  It ended up being a fantastic day with a little bit of adventure thrown in for good measure.

Adventure #1: The unexpected closure of THREE LANES of I-40 the morning of the wedding.  I say this was unexpected, but this is not entirely true.  In fact, one of the wedding guests absolutely expected this because he is the PR director for the NC Dept. of Transportation.  ...and the widening of I-40 is one of his projects.  So HE, of course, knew to leave early for the event and showed up with plenty of time to spare.  HE, of course, did not share his information with us, so most of our guests were not as well prepared.  Ah well - weddings never start on time, anyway, do they?  Luckily, our friend Deb had thoughtfully provided the BEST wedding favor ever - FLYSWATTERS (just in case horsefly season started early in the park this year).  SO the people who were on time were able to entertain themselves by beating on each other with flyswatters until the rest of the guests (including our families) arrived.

Adventure #2: Don't use your GPS to get to Umstead.  As the guests continued to trickle in, we received a call from our friends who had travelled something like 3000 miles from Seattle to attend our shindig.  They had GPS-ed themselves to the other side of the park despite the instructions posted on the website and the ones we had provided verbally the night before.  They had figured out that there wasn't time to drive around (see Adventure #1 above), so they were trying to run through the park to get there.  Unfortunately, they were still 3.5 miles out.  We made the executive decision that we probably shouldn't hold up a 2 min ceremony (no kidding - 2 min) for 30 more minutes and risk a mutiny as the buffet was consumed by other park patrons, so we went ahead with the intention of meeting said friends on our way out for the post-nuptials run.

Adventure #3: How does one start a wedding??  As we had exactly zero plans for how to get the actual ceremony started (or who would walk in where and when), we hastily threw something together and knew it was time to walk when our friend Heiko started playing the processional music: an instrumental version of "The Final Countdown" by Europe.  So we walked in, had a wedding, and then milled around for a bit trying to figure out how to get to the next phase.
Luckily, our friend Shawn helped with that, giving us souvenirs that would allow people to find us as we trotted down the hill toward the trail.
Upon returning from our little jaunt around the park, we discovered that the non-running guests had grown tired of waiting for us and had, for the most part, left, taking many of the awesome looking strawberries with them in their bellies.  Fortunately, they left enough shrimp n' grits and killer breakfast sammiches to keep us happy, and we knew we would be seeing them again at the reception, so all was well.

This brought us to Adventure #4: will 80-100 people actually fit in our yard?  The answer was yes - they fit beautifully. did the tent (*whew*).  So we had a lovely afternoon with some amazing food (bleu cheese deviled eggs?  Sure I'll have another...or 4 more) and an absolutely lovely mixture of friends and family getting to know each other.  Who knew that my sister would have the same music tastes as our friend Jim?

..and so ended our wedding day... a most fantastic day for us, with many thanks and much love to all who were able to attend.

Including Leonard, who oversaw much of the reception.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Boston - part IV (post-race)

I found Shawn stretching just past the finish line, so I grabbed him and we shuffled with the other cattle toward the finisher’s medals and food and whatnot.  This was easily the most unpleasant part of the race for me.  As I felt increasingly crammed in, I became increasingly irritated, to the point where I stepped out of the line to just breathe and not be around people for a minute (most heartfelt apologies to Shawn for the crankiness).

We shuffled slowly past the medal people, the space blanket people, the random nasty Gatorade recovery drink people, the bagel people, and into the throng of stinky runners trying to get their drop bags off the buses.  This took approximately 16 hours as far as I can tell.  Luckily, it was not a problem because the Harris family was also having trouble getting to the designated meeting spot due to ALL THE FRICKING PEOPLE AROUND!  When we finally did reunite, we determined it probably just made the most sense for Ronnie and I to just take the T directly to the airport and enjoy the ‘ho bath’ facilities in the terminal.  So we walked to a T station that looked slightly less crowded and parted ways with Shawn and Mina, setting our course toward a reunion of other members of the Durm crew.  I pity the other people on the flight, as there were at least 20 of us who had run that day, and I’m pretty sure a good number of us had not showered after the fact.

A couple of weeks after the race, the official pictures were posted and our official finisher’s certificates arrived.  I was super amused to discover that, despite running together for 19 miles, there are NO pictures of Shawn and I together.  Shawn also astutely noted that he finished in the bottom 40-50% of finishers overall, for his age group, and for his gender.  I checked my certificate and discovered I had done pretty much the same, and immediately pronounced us the bottom of the cream of the crop.  …which, I guess, isn’t that bad when you think about it…

And so ends my Boston experience.  It was kinda fun, but probably not worth the hassle.  Shout outs to Jason, though, for being the first NC finisher, and Ken, for probably getting more black toenails than anyone else on the course.  …and to the other Karen running near me for a good 5 miles – your fans became my fans, which was kinda fun J

Boston - part III (THE race)

The start was pretty uneventful – Shawn came back to my corral, and we started with a girl wearing a Grinnell shirt – I swear I am to be haunted by that stupid school forever…  We staunchly refused to run until we hit the starting line, so Shawn and I power walked up the hill to the start, discussing our pacing strategy (he wanted negative splits, I wanted something in the 8:20-8:40 range… these were likely to be mutually exclusive goals).   And then we were off!

The first several miles of the race were pretty uneventful: my pacing strategy won out, but we were running pretty comfortably and I was enjoying the sights of all the little MA towns.  One very sad note, though, is I ended up ditching my pink lost and found shirt about 2 miles in.  I thought about tying it around my waist, but determined that would be really annoying for 24 miles, and reasoned that it was a found shirt anyway, so this would just be a continuation of the circle of life.  That being said, I miss that shirt.  A lot.  It was a great shirt.

Around mile 7 we saw Shawn’s family for the first time.  Shawn was so excited, he literally shoved me out of the way to go high-five them.  Yes, that’s right – I’m putting that out there in public.  Luckily, I wasn’t injured and was able to also nab a few high fives in the process.  I also high-fived about 800 little kids over the course of the race because a) it was kinda fun, and b) it distracted me from the fact that the course has approximately no turns.  Shawn distracted himself by running wildly back and forth across the road looking for soft surfaces to run on (“Do you think it’s okay to run behind all the spectators if there’s a worn path in the grass?” “Um. Maybe? ..but it seems kinda weird”)

Around mile 9 some guy stepped up to the curb and yelled “Who wants a Fig Newton?”  I realized at that moment that I ABSOLUTELY wanted a Fig Newton.  In fact, there was nothing I wanted more than a Fig Newton.  …except maybe for that licorice that kid is handing out over there…  So I grabbed both and trotted along with my Fig Newton and my licorice, wishing there was a race photographer to document how seriously I was taking this endeavor.

Somewhere in the 11-ish range, we came upon Leigh Ann, who was recovering from an injury earlier in the spring.  We picked her up and headed toward the shrieking up ahead.  What they say is true: it is absolutely the most amazing noise, and you will probably never hear something like it again.  Running through the aisle formed by girls holding signs saying “Kiss me, I’m xxxx”, was truly awesome.  We ran along high-fiving the girls as upper-middle-aged men dodged in to grab kisses and then back out looking immensely pleased with themselves.  It occurred to me at that point, that based on qualifying times, we were running mostly with upper-middle-aged men and young women, which was an interesting combination as we faced this section of the race.  Suddenly, I spotted a girl holding a sign saying “Kiss me, I’m from Boulder, CO!”  “That’s my girl!” I thought, so I dodged over, planted a kiss on her cheek, and dodged back out feeling immensely pleased with myself.

The stretch between Wellesley and Newton was pretty uneventful.  Leigh Ann dropped back and I think we got to turn somewhere (or maybe the road just bent?), but otherwise, we mostly just chugged along, making our way to the hills.  In all honesty, the hills really aren’t that big, but as noted many times before, they do come at a time that just makes them kind of a pain in the ass.  Also, I really feel like the first hill was worse than the famed Heartbreak hill, but maybe that’s just me, and maybe it’s because I wasn’t expecting that first one.  …and maybe it’s because I stopped to refill my water bottle in the middle and sent Shawn ahead, so I was a) a little bit rested, and b) probably a little bit of a slacker.  Regardless, I made it through the hills without incident, though I did walk the water bottle aid station not so much because I was tired, but more because I was sick of running with the exact same stride in the exact same direction.  Walking was a nice change of pace (HA!  Get it???   pace???).  The back side of Heartbreak was amusing, as apparently nobody told half the pack that the finish was not at mile 22.  People literally went sprinting by me down the hill.   I suppose its possible that they had all saved up for a 5-mile kick, but the carnage I saw walking/sitting/stretching by the side of the road miles 23-26 leads me to believe this was not the case.  I hit mile 23 and thought “Gosh – if you had run here as fast as you did at Des Moines, you would be almost done.”  Stupid slacking.  Though, to be fair, I don’t know that I was really in the same shape as I had been in October – like I said previously, the mileage was there, but the speed was lacking.

So I motored into Boston, noting the guy in the singlet who was already on the train BACK OUT OF TOWN, and consoling myself by noting that he had probably been in the first wave, which had a 20 minute head start on me (yeah – THAT’S the reason…).

The finish was uneventful – I caught the girl I had decided in Newton shouldn’t beat me, so that was good, and I cruised in 5 min under my arbitrarily set goal time of 4 hrs, so I felt reasonably good about the affair.  Then clusterf*ck #2.

Boston - part II (pre-race)

Okay, so now that I’m on a plane heading for the next adventure, I will finally address Boston.  It’s been on my mind lately because last weekend I had the chance to see a whole bunch of people that I may not have run across in the last month, so the question “How was Boston?” came up several times.  My answer varied in the specifics, but the gist was always the same: it was fine – I’m glad I did it, I think I generally had fun, but I can’t say that I have any burning desire to go back and do it again.  I mean, if a bunch of people were going and wanted to spend a couple days in Boston, I could probably be talked into it, but I won’t be leading that brigade.

In my esteemed opinion, Boston can best be described as two clusterf*cks with a  longass straight run in the middle.  There are no points in the whole ordeal, aside from maybe the expo, that are designed to handle 27,000 people.  None.  This is not to say that the folks running the show don’t do a good job with what they have, but they can only do so much with tiny New England towns and a downtown area that was constructed before the era of big cars (read: the finish area is bounded on all sides by tiny narrow roads).

As noted previously, we escaped much of clusterf*ck A by staying with Shawn’s amazingly generous brother and sister-in-law, who got up and drove us to Hopkington so we could avoid the pre-dawn bus ride from the city and the 3-hour wait in the field/parking lot up the hill from the start. I was particularly pleased with my ensemble: brooks hat, original green horsefly umstead shirt, pink long-sleeved zippy lost and found shirt, black half tights, and awesome rainbow leg warmers created by cutting the feet off awesome rainbow socks from Target.  …and a garbage bag…because it was really windy and we had to part with our warmups quite a while before the race actually started.

Shawn and I located our drop bag buses and made our way down to the start area, hoping to get in a quick pee before taking off.  Predictably, we were not the only ones to have this grand idea, so the portajohn lines were suuuppper long.  Luckily, there was an open lot next to the portajohns, and even more luckily, the masses had organized themselves into a ‘his’ section to the right, and a ‘hers’ section toward the left, so we did our bidness and met back up at the street.  Unfortunately, as I was making my way back to the road, I ran across someone who had missed the his vs. hers memo and a got an eyeful of the ‘shaking out’ part of the procedure.  So now I have that in my arsenal of experiences.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Boston interlude

I'll finish my Boston writeup some time when I'm not supposed to be grading papers... I promise.  I, however, wanted to note to the world that I picked up my wedding dress today.  It's lovely.  It's white...with a hint of blue...  Who's my designer, you ask?  Nike.  Really.  I'm actually quite angry with Nike right now over their crap customer service policy re: items purchased at a race expo that turn out to have semi-major flaws, but alas, they had the *perfect* dress, and as we all know, when a girl finds her perfect dress in a catalog, the only proper thing to do is order it, sight unseen, in two sizes.  You can do that when your wedding dress is an off-the-rack tennis dress.  Score one for the nontraditionalists.

After receiving an email this morning from Jason "David's Bridal" Page, and a follow up from the lovely Kim "why is my husband answering the phone at our store 'David's Bridal'" Page, I ventured over to Bull City after hauling our catering point-man over to Umstead to check out the wedding brunch site.  I'll get back to the dress in a second, but I wanted to throw this out there as well: I imagine people in catering have a lot going on right now with graduations galore coming up, but the following conversation was not super confidence-building (noting that it was not the owner of the business I was talking to, but our assigned event point-man):
"You're having the wedding at your house?"
"No - the reception is at the house"
"With brunch?"
"No - the wedding and brunch are here at the park"
"In the afternoon?"
"No - at 8:30AM"
"Oh....*puzzled look*"
Now I know that they probably don't do many 8:30AM weddings, and they probably also don't do many weddings that are followed by brunch AND an afterparty, and I'm sure they'll look over the plans again somewhere closer to the date, but I still have visions of Victor and our lovely brunch sitting at the house while we all die of starvation, and a pile of turkey breast arriving at Umstead sometime Sunday for the horseflies (don't even get me started on wedding day horsefly fears) to eat.  Regardless, take away previous point awarded to the nontraditionalists :(

ANYWAY, back to the dress.  I arrived at Bull City and found Jason and George looking just a wee bit bored and searching for entertainment.  Apparently 4PM on a Thursday is not a big time at the store (note to anyone looking for extra super customer service)?  Their faces positively lit up upon my arrival (I may be exaggerating a bit here... but they did seem a little happier to see me than normal).  I'd like to think it was because they were excited about spending a few minutes with me, but I think George was really looking forward to mocking my ordering of a tennis dress from a running store and Jason was still secretly uber-excited about finding the perfect blue to go with Ronnie's vest and wanted to see it in its full glory.  I was slightly less excited as I was secretly wondering if either dress would fit, as I seem to have ventured into some sizing void by dropping 5 lbs to get down to fighting weight (and find my abs again).  Luckily, when I pulled out the dresses, I found the medium was... pretty good... a little loose up top, but nothing a little tailoring wouldn't fix... not sure if the tailor people are up for an integrated sports bra, but was to be a problem for another day.  The small was... um... scandalous.  As Jason put it (not having seen the disaster as I did not wear it out of the dressing room), "it took the wedding from family-friendly to NC 17".  There was really nothing left to the imagination.  At all.  AND it was white. So that helped.

So medium it was.  As an added bonus, the fine folks at Nike had sent a wind jacket in place of Ronnie's shirt, so I scored a new jacket ... and Ronnie may be going shirtless.  C'est la vie.  At least his vest will match the dress....though without a shirt, he looks kind of like a stripper in the bowtie, vest, and tails, so perhaps I should have gone with the small to maintain the theme?  ...but I digress...

So I took my medium dress home and pondered what to do about the ineffectual (and oddly bulky and visible from the outside) integrated bra.  ...and then I did what any normal bride-to-be would do: I cut up my wedding dress.  Take THAT ineffectual bra!  So now that I've gotten rid of the weird, bulky, ill-fitting, ineffectual bra, the dress actually lies much better...though it is now completely lacking in support and a little see-through (still a good match for shirtless Ronnie and the NC17 wedding... which is what I will name my band if I ever start one).  So my next mission is clear: find a bra that will accommodate the asymmetrical neckline of my now customized wedding dress... and plastic wine glasses...we need plastic wine glasses.

Until next time, my pretties...

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Boston Marathon - check! Pre-gaming

I'd feel like a bit of a jerk if I wrote up a 3-part post about trying to qualify for Boston and then didn't write anything ABOUT Boston... goes...

As soon as I got through Uwharrie, Boston began to loom on the horizon, so I forced myself through recovery (involves a lot of the inner football coach saying, "you are NOT tired - KEEP RUNNING!  You can slow down if you MUST, but KEEP RUNNING!") and began ramping up to the gold standard 20+ mile runs again.  From the second I registered, I had been waffling about whether to TRY at Boston or not... On the one hand, I wanted to justify my place there, but on the other, I didn't want to hate the whole experience and miss out on things like kissing the Wellesley girls and high-fiving 800 little kids.  It was pretty much going to come down to a game day decision, but I figured I should probably try to train for the former possibility because it certainly couldn't hurt the latter.

It turns out TRY was the operative word in "try to train" above.  While I got all my long runs in, no problem, the track workouts were lacking due to a particularly insidious combination of work commitments, social commitments, and obnoxious weather in the 2 mos leading up to the race.  That, coupled with an absolutely horrendous sleep schedule the week prior pointed me to the "enjoy the experience" side of things.

SO we arrived in Boston the day before the race, realizing, of course, that we had forgotten the little cards that said "if you don't have this with you, you can't pick up your packet".  We suspected this was not actually the case, and that they were just trying to gently encourage people to remember them, but we were still a little apprehensive as we lined up to get into packet pickup.  Fortunately, our suspicions were right and the nice lady in the 'problems' booth printed us new ones.  We then picked up our packets and headed to the expo to try out all the next big things.  Here are my reviews:
Pom blueberry juice - awesome
Power bar nuggets - awesome
Weird pink Gatorade recovery beverage - decent
Cherry extract drink - wow.  that sure does taste like cherry... really... a lot
Fage Yogurt - yup - tastes like yogurt.. thank you!
Weird fruity herby water - surprisingly awesome... though it made me have to pee REALLLY bad
Anything given away at the GNC booth - DUDE - people really drink/eat this stuff???? That's just crazy.

Then we proceeded to Acton, MA, where Shawn's family awaited us so we could go candle pin bowling.  It turns out I'm even worse at candle pin bowling than I am at regular bowling.  ...unless I go two-hands-between-the-legs-granny-style, in which case, I rule!  If there had just been 3 more frames, I'm pretty sure I would have caught and passed Ronnie, who was trying to emulate the pros and becoming progressively worse.

Our final pre-marathon stop was Shawn's brother's house, where we ate dinner, rummaged through our freebie bags, and found proofreading errors in the official Boston Marathon Race guide before going to bed where a giant black cat stationed herself just above my head to stare at me for the better part of the night.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Uwharrie 40 miler

This is an exceptionally difficult blog post for me.  This is strange because if you've ever talked to me, you know that I love this race.  LOVE.  If I could make big puffy heart letters here, I would.  That being said, I generally do my best writing when I have some sort of dramatic inspiration (see examples A, B-1, B-2, and B-3).  This year at Uwharrie was decidedly the opposite of dramatic.  I had the vague goal of completing the mission in under 9:00 and not doing anything stupid (aside from signing up to run 40 miles in the forest in February).  I had no idea if either of these things was possible (#2 seeming highly unlikely), but it's good to have goals.  I also set the "totally attainable" goal of a PR (not counting last year's weather-shortened, flattened course PR, which was totally NOT attainable on the full course), and the "I'll be really annoyed with myself if I don't attain" goal of finishing (Dream Small).

Trying to learn from previous mistakes, the pathway to achieving goal #1 involved not going out too fast.  Let's make that sub-goal A.  So I walked up the big hill at the start and forbade myself to run anything with an incline greater than 1% until at least the turnaround.  I also made myself run slowly between walking bouts just to be sure I would have plenty of energy left for the second half. SO I crested the first hill and began jogging down the hill when off to my left, a bush moved and, upon second glance, I realized it was one of the Army guys that race director Kim had mentioned might be wandering around the forest doing exercises.  THEN I realized that there was a whole line of them off to my left.  I chuckled at my inadvertent confirmation that camouflage REALLY DOES WORK and ran past, thanking them and realizing that I really meant thank you on two vastly different levels - thank you for moving off the trail as we passed by, and thank you for dedicating your life (or some sizeable portion thereof) to making sure I can do this safely year after year.  I spent a minute waxing poetic about this, but my train of thought was quickly derailed shortly thereafter by giant mud puddle #1... which was followed closely by giant mud puddle #2.  In the interest if brevity (ha!), I'll say that I was wildly successful with sub-goal A.  So much so that I realized at mile 14 that I was on pace to hit the turnaround somewhere around 4:40.... if you do the math, that pretty well eliminates my contention for Goal #1 (negative splits are HIGHLY unlikely on this course as 1, it's uphill on the way back, and 2, as noted in a comment on another blog, the hills are WAY bigger and steeper on the way back).  Soooo I started breaking the sub-goal A rules a little early and began to run some uphills beginning at mile 16 (no - I did not run THE uphill at mile 16), and pulled into the turnaround somewhere in the 4:35 range, feeling unnaturally good and still laughing from the most awesome trail encounter ever with my friend and eventual 40-mile female winner, Shannon.

I left the turnaround with two new goals: run as close to even splits as possible and keep my socks from drying out the whole rest of the race.  I deemed both goals to be highly attainable (especially given the vague nature of the first goal) and happily splashed my way back to the start with two little coach angels on my shoulder: my buddy Jay, with whom I ran 34 of 40 miles last year, who was constantly reminding me to run a little faster than I wanted to on the downhills, and that weird coach voice from Des Moines, reminding me that I would never make anything close to even splits if I didn't run some more of the uphills.  The awesome thing was the coach voice was much less belligerent this time, and even gave me a high five when I made it to the 38-mile aid station faster than expected (outwardly, I may have given myself a self-five, which may have looked crazy, but it was really just because the coach voice doesn't have arms).

Anyway, the last two miles were great - until I got to the top of the big hill and then remembered that I had a half mile of steep downhills through rock fields before the final descent.  As I picked my way through what seemed to be giant pieces of broken glass accented by razor blades, I harkened back to something I had said 5 hours before about the ridge between 16 and 17 being my least favorite part of the race and amended my statement.  I dislike the ridge between 16 and 17... I intensely dislike the rocks at mile 39.  I even told them so.  Yes, out loud.  What?  I self-fived myself 1.5 miles back - this should not be surprising.  I also (silently) apologized to the ridge for misclassifying it.

Then I turned and ran down the last hill to finish feeling probably better than I had the previous 2 years and with a 10-minute PR on the full course.  So yes - I achieved goals 2 and 3, and return goals 1 and 2 (my feet were soaked for 9 whole hours!), but I still have not conquered that sub-9 uwharrie, so it looks like I'll be back at it again next year...

So in the end, there was no real drama, no awesomely cynical compositions in my head - just a really pleasant day splashing through the forest and successful achievement of most of my goals for the day.  How uninteresting!

That being said, it was a truly lovely day, and I have much appreciation for all the people who helped make it thus - Kim and Jason, all the fantastic volunteers, everyone I saw on the course, and Shannon "the multitasker" Johnstone.

Oh - and I made a mental note to remember the ridiculous songs that went through my head during the course of the run.  I've forgotten many, but here's a small taste so you can see what I mean:
Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns and Roses
The Llama Song - youtube??
Raise Your Glass - Pink
Some nursery rhyme tune - I never did figure out what it was...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Week 1 without our fearless leader....

On Monday, Ken and Jim, unsure how long to wait for other members of the group, left Brixx at 6:05; Karen, Doug, and Ronnie arrived at 6:08.  Monday run fail.  (we did successfully reconvene and eat dinner without major incident).

Weds at the track.  Unable to generate our own workouts, we have decided to just do what we did this week last year.  Jim informed us today that we would thus be doing 1 mile - 2 mile - 1 mile on the track with 200 m rest between.  Jim then informed us that he would not be there (and nor would Ronnie).  Ken, Doug, Brian, and Karen completed the workout without incident (except for the part where that's a HORRIBLE workout).  On the cooldown, though, Ken and Doug were almost hit by a car and then Doug called early butter, almost running us into a bus.

This does not bode well for the upcoming months....