Friday, April 27, 2012

Post Hostelity- Jan/Feb 2012

Thirty Eight point Thirty Five miles is hard on a body.

That night I come home shower and get in the bed.  It feels so good to lay down and the day's events keep replaying in my head.  I am aching all over but fall asleep.  Throughout the night I am only dozing because every move is heavy and hurts and awakens me.  I do not sleep well.  At 2:30am, I am wide awake, and I am starving.  It is a hunger I have not known in awhile.  My stomach is a burning pit.   I am now remembering the cheeseburger that Willy offered me twice after the race and now I'm wishing it was here for me to eat!  I am also remembering the can of beer that Tyler was trying to get me to drink, and I left behind.  I end up getting a small snack and returning to bed.

The next day, I am dozing on and off throughout the day.  I am exhausted.  I can only get up for short periods and do a few things and then I am needing to rest.  I am drinking as much fluid as I can and I am also eating frequently every few hours because I am starving. My family is so proud of me and Mitchell is so sweet as throughout the day he is trying to help me.  He often says, "Mommy, don't get up, I'll do it, you just ran 38 miles!"  I do end up making myself go outside for a walk with our friend Russell.  He is laughing at my pace and stride.  I am making painful noises up and down the rolling hills in front of my house.  I also end up walking a good bit on Sunday and Monday.  Everyday I am feeling better.  Then on Tuesday, I run a slow 5 miles.  I was surprised that I even got through it.  I was determined to stay on my marathon schedule.

I continue running and I am feeling surprisingly well everyday for the next 10 days except for a sharp pain in the front of my left calf along my shin and muscle.  This is a new pain for me that I started to feel on my last 3 runs and it's getting progressively worse.  My ITB on my left hip is worsened.  My sciatica on my left leg is acting up and my plantar fascitis is even feeling worse.  I can now hear the crepitus in my knees that I could only feel before.  I am really over my entire left leg and joked to myself that I would be better off with 2 right legs!  I know what I can run through and also know what I can't or shouldn't run through.  It is late January and as I think back it's been a good 9 to 10 months since I've had a break.  I know that if I keep running on my left leg that I am going to be out of running later in the season when it's warmer and that's when I really pick up my running.  I love to run in the spring and summer!  So, I decide to take some time off to heal.   Better to heal now while it's crappy weather than to be out longer in the months ahead when I really want to run.

Paul and I are emailing pretty regularly.  I am really down about my leg and my "little pain".  I ran 150 miles in January and that was with taking the last week off.  It was my highest mileage in a month to date.  I really appreciated Paul's support and encouragement during this time.  It was so hard NOT to run, but I knew that if I didn't let it heal properly I would have been out alot longer.  For the first time in my solo running world, I am understanding and appreciating the value of a training partner.  I am also enjoying having someone to talk to about an upcoming race in April.  The Jewel 50k.  This will be a first 50k race for both Paul and I.   Paul and I both are on the same page about this race.  It is supposed to be an easier course or at least easier than DRT and Hostelity but we both agree that 31 miles is 31 miles no matter how you slice it, and it will be hard.  We already know we will train for it and not take it for granted.  Afterall, this is ultra-running and if it were easy than everyone would do it!

I start running again in 12 days.  I do an easy run and it still hurts but maybe it's a little better?  I think this is wishful thinking.  Paul and I have planned a trail run for the next week and we want to go about 20 miles if we are feeling good.  Paul is concerned if I'll be able to go or not as I've only run once in 18 days, but I tell him I'm good.  I am still exercising and walking a good bit.  It is getting slowly better, and I'm still icing it nearly everyday and motrin is my best friend.  I really want to get back into running!

I meet Paul on a very cold Saturday morning Feb 11th, and we starting running around 7:15am.  Not only is it cold, but it's snowing in the mountains.  It's also very windy with wind gusts up to 35 miles per hour.  The wind is really howling up in the trees, and I wonder if I'll be taken out by a flying   I wear 3 layers of clothes and a ski mask, and I am warm as long as I don't stop.  Our plan is try to make it to Three Forks, but we aren't dead set on it.   We run all the way to Springer Mountain before we see the first hiker.  There are not many people out today like there was on New Year's Day!  The snow is really beautiful and I stop and open the oven door to journal in the log book.  It is really too cold to stop and quickly we get cold.  I eat my PB&J quickly and my camelbak tubing is frozen, but I am able to get a little bit of water from it.

We run past Springer Mountain and are surprised how rocky it is for the next mile almost.  Not only is it rocky but it's covered in snow and slick.  We pretty much have to walk quickly over it.  We get down to the parking lot and there are vehichles parked and people getting out to start their hikes.  We are confused as to where we go next.  We see a tree in the distance with a "white blaze" but are not sure if we follow those are look for the blue blazes.  Paul and I read some of the info. posted on the trail bilboards but then decide to ask some hikers and they inform us to follow the white blazes.  The white blazes are the start of the AT.  Oh duh, now I remember reading about that! 
This section of the trail is just beautiful.  It's easier to run and there are some nice water crossings and a few wooden foot paths to cross.  We make it about 3 miles past Springer and end up down a side trail to where there is a sign stating "shelter and privy".  It's really cool to see the pulley wires up ahead to store food away from animals and bears.  Paul asks me what a privy is, and I burst out laughing.  It's so funny to me, and I think that Paul must be a city guy.  I go check out the "privy" to see what it's like just for future reference.  No way, am I going to go pee out here as cold as it is!  I go in the privy and it's basically a toliet seat over a 5lb bucket!  There are sealed off buckets sitting to the side of it.  I am surprised and wonder who comes all the way down here to take care of that! 

Paul and I wonder back onto the main course, but because we are both directionally challenged we are unsure of which way to go.  If we go down to the right and follow that blaze it's downhill but we just came downhill and look to our left and it's uphill, so we figure that is the way back.  My tubing is frozen and we are 10-11 miles out, so we decide it's best in this weather just to turn back now and head back.  We will make it to Three Forks another day.   We are seeing hikers that we passed earlier on Springer so we know we are headed in the right direction.

We make it back to Springer Mountain and there is another trail runner, and he is writing in the journal.  He is Asian and Paul strikes up a conversation with him.  There are also 2 brothers on Springer and I am talking to them.  We all decide to take pictures of each other on our cameras.  The brothers tell me that they found a shortcut from the internet with very good direcctions to Springer Mountain and they only hiked one mile in.  I give him my email address, and he emails me the directions in the days to come.  I want to bring Lee and the kids up here with me sometime soon to see this!  We actually can see the views this time!

We head back towards Amicalola Falls, and we are really really cold.  We nearly froze to death with the wind and the cold taking pictures!  The Asian runner is behind us, and  I regret that I never caught his name.  Paul later tells me some of the races he has run in and that he is super "fast".  I offer to let him pass us on the single track, but he says he is fine.  He runs behind us for a few miles and then I just step off to the side and he runs right past us, and we never saw him again.

On the way back my tubing has completly frozen.  I have to take my camelback off at least twice to open it up and drink from the bladder.  Paul has either ran out of water or his tubing is frozen so I share my water.  We keep running. and eventually make it back.

Including our few little pit stops it takes us 7 hours and about 21 or so miles.  It was a slow run although we worked so hard.  We just had so many obstacles to overcome that day and had to take it slower over the snowy rocks.  My leg still hurt but not as bad and not nearly as bad as it does when I run the roads.

This was by far the worst cold weather windy snowy day I have ever ran in my entire life, but I am so glad I did it. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

12 Hours HosteLITY--Jan 14, 2012

First Ultra--First Female

My Hostelity race, in a word, was an accident.

This is my first timed running event.  I sleep well, wake up and eat a good breakfast.  I have no stress or worries of it being a "race".  I am excited to just go have fun and get in a good training run.  It's about 26 degrees and sunny.  I can't ask for any better weather for a January day.  I'm still congested from my cold, but feel much better.

I arrive at the Hiker Hostel and catch up chatting with Josh in the driveway.  I go in and check in with Leigh, and I pretty much talk to her up until the start of the race.  She's asking me how long I will stay, and now I'm thinking I may stay about 7 hours or until I reach my goal.  I tell her I'd like to stay the entire 12 hours as long as I'm feeling good, but I am doubting that will happen!  It's more of a "wish" than anything.  I tell her that Lee has encouraged me to stay, but I just don't know that I can actually run for 12 hours.  That's a long time!

Willy starts the race and takes us around, and we all follow him like lambs to slaughter.  It is is a nice short .65 mile loop, but sweet it is not.  We start on the back porch of the Hostel, go up a small  hill around the chicken coop and go on a slight downhill, then switchback on an uphill, run that level, and switch back again to the upper level.  It sort of flattens out uphill, then come down a steep hill, then back up a steep hill and around to the back deck of the hostel again.  Basically, it's just one big uphill with a mean downhill on the other side of it followed by a very mean uphill.  This is going to be interesting looping around here and getting in my 20 miles..ha! 

My main concern going into this race is repeating loops.  I hate feeling like a rat in a cage.  That was the main thing that annoyed me about running on a track in high school and still does when I find myself running intervals on a track.  It's annoying montonous work.  I am always glad when it's done but getting there can be a mental struggle.  I wasn't sure how I was going to keep myself mentally entertained for that long, but I was about to figure that out on the run.

I was surprised at how fast the loops are going in the beginning.  They kind of go by in a blur, and I'm just enjoying being there.  The volunteers are awesome as most of them are runners too.  Brad and Jenn are there, and it's always good to see them.  Everytime I loop around, Josh, Leigh, Willy, and volunteers are cheering us on.  It's very motivating and kept me going throughout my run.

I realize early on that this loop is crazy.  While I'm climbing the switchbacks it reminds me of Dante's Inferno because the switchbacks look like levels and there are three of them.   I can see runners on each level.  It looks different every loop as I may be in the middle, top, or bottom of this circle of hell.  On one of my laps across the deck I told them that they must have had Dante's Inferno in mind when creating this trail.  And, we all crack up!  It was really funny but also I was serious!

The trail is frozen and with the sun shining it looks like little ice crystals on the ground.  Then the ground is wet, and I smile to myself because I know what's going to happen, and I know the next few hours are about to be fun, and I think about how it's going to change the course of this whole race.  It's been raining most of the week and it's been cold at night.  The ground is frozen but the sun is waking it up.  Each lap the ground gets progressively more soft and more wet as it's warming up.  The high is supposed to be about 43 degrees today. 

Sure enough, the course turns to MUD.  It slows everyone down on the layers of hell.  Going down the first level turns into a bit of a mudslide.  AT one point, I am behind a runner, and someone is behind me.  I feel like I am skiing downhill, and it's fun, and I am laughing.  I tell the runner behind me do not get too close because if one of us falls, it's going to be like dominos.  I'm regretting wearing my brand new Nike bright yellow insulated hoodie that I got for Christmas.  I don't look back , so I don't know who is behind me.  My number one rule of trail running is to "not look back, ever" unless I am at a complete stop.  The fastest way for me to fall is not to watch where I am going.  I never look  So, whoever is behind me is sliding too.  But, we all made it without a fall.  The backside of the loop is still frozen as the sun hasn't hit that side of the trail yet, but I know as the day wears on the sun will end up back there too.

Willy starts blowing leaves onto the course.  This does help to provide traction, and it must take him a few hours.  So, for a few hours I hear the leaf blower going.  It's loud, but it's also distracting in a good way.  It gives me something to think about and something to watch everytime I see the leaf blower blowing leaves on to the course.  After about 2 hours, for some reason this course is feeling easier.  The hills are not so bad, and I stop for the first time briefly to eat.  I am starving already!  I eat PB&J and grab a few snacks and drink ALOT.  I'm also wearing my camelbak and that's a good thing as I don't have to stop just for a drink of water. 

It's quickly lunch time already, and I'm still making loops noticing that there are some really good runners out here.  I feel slow.  I notice that at least 3 women runners whenever I see them on the loop they are passing me.  They are running up these hills, and I am hiking and running parts of them.  These are some strong women!  I am glad that this is not a race, and I am glad that I am here to meet my personal goal.  I stop to get something to drink and grab a slice of pizza and walk with it.  I'm walking and eating my pizza, and it is good, but I am still hungry.  So, I run around the loop and get more to drink and grab another slice and walk with it.  Now, I feel better and keep going. 

Along the way I talk with a few runners, mostly chit chatting as they pass me  I am not intimidated in the least bit.  In fact, I feel honored to have the chance to run the same race with some really accomplished ultra runners.  Paul and I throughout the day would chit chat off and on but for the most part we are running seperately and running our own race. 

Sometime before 2pm when I cross the start/finish line on the deck, Leigh tells me that so far I am the first female and third overall.  I immediately respond, "NO WAY".  I am in complete shock.  How can I be first female when everyone is passing me?  I have no concept of the loops and how many I've run or how many loops anyone else has ran.  They have a white erase board that they update every hour, but I am not paying attention because I keep running past it.  The volunteers are still cheering me on, but I just don't get how I could possibly be in first for the females. 

Just a tad after 2pm, I take my 2nd pee break of the day.  While I am sitting on the toliet, I text Lee.  I quickly tell him that I am first female, and should I stay?  He says, "yes, stay".  Then quickly adds, "how do you feel?"  And, I respond, "good".  And, again he says, "stay, the kids and I will come by after Mitchell's basketball game".  I know that's going to be around 5pm.  I am not sure how I am feeling about staying at this point. Physically, I feel good.  I'm already going to miss Mitchell's game.  I am unsure what to do, and I am torn.  I don't want to spend the entire Saturday away from Lee and the kids just so that I can run. 

The next few hours, I am excitedly pissed.   I am really angry that I am first because now if I go home, I will never know if I could have won or how far I could go.  I was not supposed to stay all day.  I don't even know if I can even run for 12 hours.  I am excited and proud to know that so far at this point, I am winning.  I eventually realize that if I go home, it's my race to lose.  My competitiveness gets the best of me because I now don't want to lose just because I went home.  If I lose it's because someone else is better and they deserve it and not because I simply went home.  It really fuels my run for the next few hours.  Everytime I cross the deck, there are words of encouragement and they laugh at my response whenever they tell me that I am still first.  Because I am still in a state of shock.  I don't understand how this could possibly be happening when runners are still passing me when I see them.

Sometime, in my happy pissed off stage of the race,  Margaret passes me, and she asks me how I am doing or feeling.  And, I tell her that surprisingly I feel pretty good.  She says that today she's not feeling great and that she took a long break around lunch time.  I feel badly that she isn't feeling well, but I don't ask for details, and I hope she feels better.   I did notice that the crowd thinned out around lunch time, and I do remember seeing some people sitting by the fire pit.  But, I thought like me that everyone took brief food or potty breaks.  I just had no concept of my loops or time.  After Margaret tells me of her break, that's when I realize that a lot of people must be taking extended breaks.  I figured out about halfway or so through the race that most everyone took long breaks.  Where the fuck have I been?  LOL  I just had to laugh at myself.  I was so focused on getting my miles in for the day and going home eventually that I honestly did not pay attention to what anyone else was doing.  The 24 hour folks were pacing themselves and the 12 hour folks were doing the same.  I guess because I was probably the only female that had intentions of leaving early I just kept going early on and didn't take breaks other than to eat/drink.

Lee and the kids arrive around 5pm ish.  I am so happy to see them that I don't even think that the word happy is big enough for how I feel.  Lee and Mitchell are so proud of me.  Mitchell cannot even believe that I am winning and says several times, "Mommy, you are winning!".  Megan is still young and doesn't realize or even really care that I am winning.  She just wants to see her Mommy.  I stop briefly to visit with them, but Lee tells me not to stop and get out there and run! LOL It's funny, and I keep going as he says they'll be there when I loop around.  I loop around and Lee and Leigh are sitting next to each other talking away.  Lee see's my shoes caked in mud, and he says, "you are going to have to throw those away when you get home".  I tell him, "no way! I can shake the mud off of these shoes!".  Leigh laughs, and says, "we haven't told her yet that the winner gets new trail shoes".  I'm like, what??? NEW TRAIL SHOES?  I am just now finding this out??  LOL  Ok, it's GAME ON.  It's the first time all day that I decided that I really want to win.  No way, am I leaving here without my SHOES!  ahahaha!  Lee tells me again...get out there and run!

It's about this time that Megan says, "Mommy, I want you to play with me."  The little piece of my hear that is left, the part that isn't all black and pointy, just melts.  I tell Megan that I want to play with you too, but right now I really can't as I have to run.  She says, but "Mommy, I want you to stay with me".  And, I take her hands in mine and tell her that I really really want to stay with her too, but Daddy is here as I try to explain to her that I am in a race.  She doesn't care that I am in a race and doesn't realize that I am ahead so far.  All she cares about is wanting her Mommy.  I feel so bad, and I'm really torn what to do.  But, then Megan turns around and walks towards Lee, and I turn around and run.  It was so hard, and it really broke my heart and made me really question of why I am still here running. 

The next lap around all is well and Lee and the kids are getting ready to leave as he has to get them dinner.  They meet me at the top of the "Chasm of Fear" hill near the parking lot.  Lee says, "Angela,  you only have 4 more hours".  I can see how excited he is for me.  I say, "I know, I got this".  I stop to hug the kids goodbye and then Lee.  I hug Lee so hard, that I hear him gasp and laughs a little as I stumble into him and step on his feet with my muddy shoes.  I apologize as I didn't realize I was so heavy and got his shoes all muddy.  But, in that hug I think I just absorbed all of his warmth and energy.  He is always so warm, and I love that about him.  I cannot explain how much this visit meant to me and how much it boosted my spirit to help me get out of my angry period.  I no longer felt guilty about missing my day with them because I knew they fully supported me.  I asked Lee to try and come back at the finish because I was a little worried about driving home, but I was not sure if he could come back with the kids that late or not.  I couldn't think about the drive though right now.  I had to run!

This was the first time all day, that I really really believed that I am going to make it the entire 12 hours. It dawns on me at that moment in time, that I am actually going to be on my feet moving for 12 hours. I stop thinking about the 8 hours I have already run, and start thinking about the next 4 hours. Four hours is nothing to run. It's just a long run. I can do this in my sleep.  I am thrilled.  All, I have to do is keep one foot in front of the other.  All, I have to do is keep moving.  All, I have to do is run part of every lap and hike the hills.  Running is all I have to do.  Nothing else, just running. 

Sometime after my family leaves, I feel hungry.  I am really hungry.  I think I eat a piece of pizza on the run again, loop back around, and eat the most yummiest grilled cheese sandwhich that Brad made on the outdoor grill.  I stop to eat it briefly.  One of the volunteers, Phillip is standing there and he tells me to keep moving! LOL  I'm looking at him like, "you gotta me kidding me?" I am hungry!  LOL  Nothing can stand in the way of me and food at this moment when I am this hungry.  But, he doesn't know that, but I appreciated his encouragement and his concern.  He told me that he has run many of these races and if I stop too long that I will "lock up" and won't be able to move.  I don't know what he's talking about but what I do know is that I don't know what I don't know.  I've learned that much from DRT training runs and the race itself.  So, I do what he tells me too because I know he knows what he is talking about even if I don't fully understand.  I keep running.

At some point, Tyler texts and asks how I am doing.  I think it's the 2nd or 3rd time he's texted to check on me that day.  I think I had just passed the 50k point or I was quickly getting ready to pass that point.  Funny thing is that I just now realize in my race that I don't know when I made it to the 20 mile "goal" and I don't remember the 26.2 miles ...if I feel good marathon goal.  And, now here I am at 31 miles there abouts.  I text him back that I am winning, and I can't stop..but I think I used some language as to be funny not in an angry sort of way.  It's getting dark now, and I have to pull out my headlamp.  Tyler says that he'll be there soon.  That's nice..I'm going to have a visit.  I am wondering if he is going to run a lap with me?

My mind is tired and it's getting dark.  Surprisingly, my body doesn't feel tired.  I really feel good or at least better than how I expected to feel.  I don't know how am I supposed to feel at this point.  All, I know is that I gotta keep running, and so I do.  It's dark and there isn't hardly anyone out here.  The volunteers are hanging glow sticks out in the trees and it looks like Halloween.  I come up on the flat section and see the whole city of Dahlonega lit up.  I never realized that Dahlonega has city lights!  It was so beautiful to see that view with the mountains in the background as the sunset and then it got dark.  I eventually pull out my headlamp in my camelbak and put it on.

Tyler shows up, but he has Dave, Sue, and Matthew with him!  I am so surprised to see all of them!  I give them all a hug.  This was very motivating as it was a complete surprise to see more friends with Tyler.  They are all smiles and clean.  I feel like grimey and my hair must be a mess!  It's night time, and I have no idea what time it is.  I talk to them between loops and probably was the longest amount of time I stopped all day.  Tyler is giving me M&M's to eat and he and Dave are trying to make me eat.  I am not hungry.  I do not want to eat.  Why are they giving me food?  I just have to run.  That's all I have to do.  Tyler tells me to run another loop and when I get back he'll have chicken broth for me.  Ok, I don't want it but if he is going to make it then I'll drink it after I run.

Sue meets me on the trail by the chicken coop.  The chickens have gone to sleep.  She tells me something she has read on facebook and she is worried or mad about it.  She tells me to give me motivation to finish this thing out and it does.  I think about it the entire time I run the loop and thinking how it doesn't make sense and how could that happen.  It is fuel for the run that I am going to finish.

I loop around for the chicken broth and Tyler hands it to me with a big smile on is face like he just made me steak dinner.  I take a big gulp and it tastes like complete shit.  It's so salty that it burns all the way down.  I guess the look on my face must have said it all and he says, 'it's too salty?  I'm like Yes!  It's awful..  He dilutes it down, and I drink it.  I don't want to though.  Dave and Tyler are telling me that Willy says I am not eating or not eating enough.  Really?  I am not eating?  I last remember those yummy grill cheese when food still tasted good, and I was hungry and Phillip telling me not to stop too long.  And, I think, well, maybe it has been awhile.  I remember Tyler asking me how I am feeling.  And, I don't know.  I think I am numb except my big toe nail hurts really bad, and I know it's a blister forming.  He says, I know you gotta hurt like hell.  It's at this point, I realize I am massaging my knee's but that is old pain and nothing new.  I tell him my big toe hurts.  I cannot tell if anything else hurts or not.  My mind is tired.  Shortly, after this they all say goodbye and leave.  It was so good to see them!  I don't have much longer to go maybe an hour or so?  I am not sure as I don't know what time it is. 

I am running in the dark on a loop and Margaret and I end up together.  She's asking me how many loops have I run.  I am not sure, but I think I am around 54.  She says she's at 50 and this is her last loop.  I think there is just an hour left of the race.  I have another hour in me.  I can run 7 miles in an hour, an hour is nothing, I am not going to stop now.  We have a nice talk on the trail and I ask her where she lives and where she runs and I mention to her that we should meet for a run sometime.  I know from FB that she is an awesome ultra runner.  I know that she is way faster than myself and a much much more experienced ultra runner.  I am just beginning.  It would be amazing for me to have a chance to run with her sometime, and I store that in my brain.  I am not sure if Margaret is going to stop, but I think she must just have a 50k as her goal for the day.  I am amazed that she probably spent half the day  running off and on while it's taken me all day of virtually not stopping all day to reach this point.  I know her race experience was totally different than my own.  And, I know she could have easily won today but has chosen not to for whatever reason.  And, I think if she would have chosen to win this early on.  I would have reached my 20 miles or 26.2 miles and went home and been happy with what I have done.

I go to the bathroom for the 4th and final time all day.  I am surprised to see so many runners in the lower level eating Chinese!  The thought grosses me out.  I love Chinese, but right now I still don't want any food as I think about the hot salty water I drank.  I quickly use the bathroom and go out and run. 

It's the last hour of the race.  I am in the dark and alone as there is hardly anyone out here.  I am trying to calculate how many more laps I can get in that last hour, but the numbers are once again falling out of my head, and I cannot keep up with the math.  I wonder how I am going to feel when I cross the finish line.  I am trying to imagine that moment when my foot crosses the line one last time, and my eyes almost burn with the thought of it.  I wonder damn, and I'm going to be happy or am I gonna cry like a baby?  The thought is almost overwhelming as I begin to realize I am going to actually finish.  I cannot believe that I am doing this and that I will have done it.  I never knew how much I had in me, and I am so happy that I didn't sign up for the 24 hour race!  LOL  I am proud of me.

It's now about 8:40pm I think, and I stop to drink briefly.  I am, for the first time, feeling physically tired.  Mentally, I have been tired but strong at the same time.  Tired in the sense that I don't think I could think things out clearly but strong in the sense that my mind was pushing my body further and further and beyond what I knew I could do.  It makes no sense how to explain this but this is just the way it was. 

While I am getting a drink, I contemplate for the first time to just stop.  This is close enough.  I have only seconds to think about this when Phillip (who is this guy anyways? LOL) comes up to me and says, "you got three more laps, you can do it".  I say, "I can't", and as soon as the words escape my mouth...I instantly regret it as I hear my Dad's voice say, "Can't never did anything".  I cannot believe I have run for 11 hrs and 40 minutes and I have 3 laps to go and 20 more minutes, and I am angry for saying "I can't".  It's completly ridiculous.  So, I say, "3 more laps"...It's just 3 more laps. I start running.  On this lap, I find new energy as I am disappointed that I thought I cannot do 3 laps.  I've already done over 50 laps...3 laps is nothing.  I come around and Phillip says, "you've done that lap, fast!"...LOL  It felt fast cause I was mad at myself and so I say, "just 2 more laps"..and when I come around again, I say ONE MORE LAP! 

I am coming down the Chasm of Fear and this downhill as been reeking havoc on my quads for hours now.  Every step down this hill is an owie.  I hear Mitchell's voice, come on Mommy!  I can hear Mitchell and Megan at the top of the uphill and they are telling me to hurry.  I am trying.  I reach the top of the hill and there is my sweet family.  Lee is smiling ear to ear and he is also so excited for me.  They are so excited and I am so happy to see them.  I see Willy near the finish and I sprint to cross that finish line and I'm surprised that I have any kick in me left.  I am so happy to have finished this thing with only a few minutes to spare.  There is no time for another lap, I am done and I am happy and I am smiling.  I have earned first female, and still 3rd place overall.  I am told that I ran 59 laps and ran 38.35 miles.  I am thinking Damn...a few more laps I could have had 40 miles.  There is always some reason to not feel good enough.  I think back throughout the day, and I do not know how I could have squeezed in a few more laps.  Today it is enough.

And, I will run another day.

Friday, April 20, 2012

January 2012- Two Weeks Before Hostelity

In the first two weeks of January, I ran at least 50 miles in the rain.  Most of the time, I did not start running in the rain as I just ended up in the rain.  I remember the Sunday before Hostelity race,  I ran 17 miles alone in the rain.  It started pouring in mile 7, and I was debating on turning around and going home, but I was in the rare downhill at that moment, and I wanted to enjoy the little break.  In the next 2 to 3 miles, it did let up somewhat but by that time I was already soaken wet, so I figured I may as well finish it!  I wanted to run 18 miles that day, but by mile 17 I had a choice to make.  I could either turn right and hit this big huge hill, or I could go straight to my house.  I had already run for 3 hours and 5 minutes straight without stopping, I'm ahead of my own training schedule, and my legs carried me home.

I wake up on Monday, and I have a sore throat and the sniffles.  It is minor, but OH great..I haven't been sick in forever..and I mean it's been a long time..and days before the race, I have a cold!  Tuesday, I feel worse, and opt to miss my run and rest up before my race on Saturday.  Wednesday, I have chills and fever all day at work, and my lungs are burning.  I take Tylenol and pretend this isn't happening. 

Out of the blue this week, Tyler emails me.  I haven't heard from him since a few days past DRT race.  It's good to hear from him, and I tell him about my STET 12 ATHON challenge.  We set a date to run our 12 mile Night Hawk challenge at 5am on Thursday morning.  We start at 5am so that we can finish before daylight which scores us an extra 4 points.   This is 2 days before my 12 hour Hostelity race.  I am not worried about tapering at all for this race because I am only using the race as a training run.  I will have 29 miles in for the week before the race even starts.

Tyler comes over promptly at 5am.  I am outside warming up, and I feel worse than shit warmed over.  My lungs are full of junk and they are burning.  I am snotty.  My breathing is not good.  And, guess what?  It's raining and drizzly.  But, I gotta get this 12 mile challenge done no matter what because it's the first 12 athon of the year.  It's January 12, 2012, and I only have 12 miles to run!

We take off running, and I giggle when Tyler mentions that he doesn't remember the hills in my neighbohood being so hard.  He is right.  These hills are hard, but I have grown to enjoy them.  We go down a deserted road that I never run by myself.  It's a gradual uphill mostly for about 4 miles.  Oddly on the way back, it also feels uphill.  We eventually come up these 2 major hills that I don't like so much about a mile from my house, and I just have to stop and walk because of my lungs.  I cannot believe I have to stop and walk my neighborhood as this is a first for me, and I mention that to Tyler.  I think he is just trying to make me feel better because he says, "If I don't stop, bad things will happen".  I thought it was funny, but it did make me feel better about it. 

We briefly talk about Hostelity as he has run the trail there, and he tells me about it.  I wish that he was running the race there with Paul and I as I think it will be a fun race.  I should point out here that I think all races are  I'm starting to worry about my 6 hour goal with the shape that I am in with this stupid cold.  I go into work that morning, and my body yet again is racked with fever and chills.  Tylenol is my friend.

Amazingly enough, by Friday, my cold is better.  I think the 12 mile run the day before actually helped me cough alot of crap out of my lungs and got the junk out.  So, I'm feeling a little better about my 12 hrs of Hostelity the next morning.  My training plan calls for an 18 mile run, but I am already ahead of my own training plan, so I have decided that my goal should be 20 miles which would be my longest run to date.  IF I feel good at 20 miles, I'll push for 26.2 miles as I have never run a marathon distance before.  But, really, I am just happy to run 20 miles. 

On Friday, that little voice says...I wish I could run for 12 hours; however, I know that I cannot.  I tell Lee that my plan is to stay and run 6 to 7 hours if I feel good.  He tells me that if I feel good and if I'm having fun to stay the 12 hours.  I'm so wishing that I could run for 12 hours...but I know that I cannot.  He tells me not to worry as he and the kids will be fine, and to stay if I want to.  I appreciate his support more than words can say as it means so much.. 

But, I already know...that I cannot...

November/December 2011

In the days following my DRT 30k race, I find my confidence completely shattered.  My running spirit is broken.  I re-hash all the errors of my race, and I like Scarlett O'Hara vow to never feel that way again.  Bobby's words ring in my head, "it does get easier" and with that note I pick myself up by my bootstraps and move forward by starting over from scratch.

I research races to see what's out there in the coming months.  I already know that I'll participate in 24 hrs Hostelity race, and I've signed up for the 12 hr portion.  I know that I cannot run for 12 hours, but it's my friends first race---Josh and Leigh and their friend Willy is the RD, so I want to support it.  Willy tells me that I can just run whatever portion I want to and that not everyone comes out and runs for 12 hours.  So, I make a mental note to run for 6 hours.  I do not put much thought into the Hostelity race because it's going to be a training run for another race that I have planned for the end of February.

I do some research on the internet and find a marathon training schedule that I like.  I tweak it a bit to suit me, and it's a 4 day a week schedule.  This is a schedule that will work for me in the winter months as the days are shortnened.  I can run 2 days during the week by headlamp and then weekends in daylight.  I make a training calendar and surprisingly, I stick with it.  It's my first attempt at running on a schedule. I start on it the week after Thanksgiving. 

I recover rather quickly after DRT race.  I am not as sore or beat up feeling as the two prior training runs.  The first two weeks of my training schedule are hard as I recover and build up my mileage again.  On the 3rd week, I feel like I have my running legs back just in time for the 12/10/11 Reindeer Run 10k.  I have no ambitions of a win on this road race.  It's only my 2nd 10k ever.  I sleep well the night before as my only goal is to have fun.  I get up and actually eat a good breakfast and off I go.  I even considered riding my bike to the race as it's only about 5 or 6 miles from my house.  But, I have food donations that I cannot carry on my bike, so I drive.

It's a cold morning but actually good weather for a race.  There is no wind or rain.  I do my 1/4 to 1/2 mile warm up, and think DAMN, I feel good.  I never know how I am going to feel until my feet actually hit the pavement.  I am surprised that my competitive spirit has creeped up on me out of no where.  It is GAME ON...and I laugh to myself. 

The race starts, and I'm mentally having to tell myself to slow down.  I am historically bad for fast starts.  I am booking along at a 7:30 pace which I know is too fast for a 10k, but I feel good and try to slow down.  The first two miles of the race, I am progressively passing people.  I make a right hand turn at the 10k portion of the race and the other runners are making a left for the 5k.  In the distance, I see a young guy running and then we hit the hills.  I LOVE HILLS...and I am happy.  I did not know this race had real HILLS.  I see the young guy ahead as we approach the 3 mile mark and it's all uphill, and I can tell by the way he is running that he is struggling up the hill.  I eventually pass him.  Soon, the 10k runners are looping around, and I count the runners that are ahead of me.  There are only 4 and they are all guys.  I am surprised to learn that I am the first female.  I eventually loop around, and a young lady starts cheering me on from the other side as she also realizes that I am first female!  I am stunned as this rarely happens in road races.  I hollar, "THANK YOU" to her and it's very motivating to have a female runner cheer me on!  I estimate that the next female runner is 45 seconds to a minute behind me.  I know that if I can maintain my pace up these hills, I am good to go.  Somewhere close to the 6 mile mark there is another loop, and I see the next female behind me, she's still a good minute behind me.  It's at this point, I realize I am going to win first female overall in this race.  I finish at 52:57 minutes on a challenging road course.  I am thrilled.  I haven't won first female overall since I was 18 years old at a 5k.  I am even more thrilled because my first 10k on July 4th in Dahlonega was at a time of 55:03 on an equally challenging course.  I have cut over 2 minutes off my 10k time!  This was an unexpected gift and helped to partially restore my confidence level again.  I continue on with my training schedule.

In the meantime, I am planning to get through the holidays and then start a monthly long trail run in the mountains.  I ask Tyler about joining me, and he says he'd like that.  But, then I don't hear back from him.  I share my plans with Paul about running a mountain trail once a month, and he is in.  Dave sprained his ankle 4 times on DRT and is taking time off.  So, I decided to research the Amicalola Falls area.  I ask my friend Leigh about it, and I shoot Brad some emails with questions that I have.  I know they are both very familiar with the area that I want to run.  Amicalola is only 15-20 min drive from my house, so I want to be prepared and not go in completly blind.

Paul and I set a date to run Jan. 1st, New Year's Day.  I am wanting to run about 16 miles and Paul is wanting to run around 20 miles...LOL So, we decide to run on how we feel that day.  We do not know the difficulty of the Approach trail to Springer Mountain, but we are both happy to run.  Paul meets me at my house and off we go to Amicalola Falls.  It is funny to me that Paul is also directionally challenged, but I am not too worried about it because I know we will figure it out.

We start on the trail and it's been raining, and it's muddy in places.  It's completly gray and overcast outside.  But, it's a nice day in the high 40's or low 50's.  We are running along and we are talking the whole way.  This is the most I have ever heard him talk.  We are also running past hikers about every 20 minutes.  There were a lot of people there that day!

We know that Springer Mountain is about 7 or so miles out.  As we climb higher into the mountains, it's foggy and the wind is really blowing.  We run over some really big rocks and end up at a campground where it looks like 2 families are camping and there dogs are fighting.  We ask them where Springer Mountain is, and they inform us that we just passed it.  Paul and I are confused as we didn't pass a mountain?  So, we go back out and try to remember where we came from.  Finally, we make it back to Springer Mountain after a few detours.  We get to Springer Mountain and it's just a pile of rocks.  It's really foggy and the wind is just blowing the fog right past us.  There is supposed to be some nice views, but we cannot see them too well.  I notice an "oven door" on the rock, and I want to open it, but Paul says he's kind of scared to, and I'm hungry and wanting to eat my PB&J sandwhich really quick before I get too cold.  We start running again back towards the park talking the whole way.  We end up running in the rain.  Thank goodness I wore my insulated hoodie jacket, and I put my hood on.

We make it back to the park, and we are close to 17 miles.  We both agree to run around the Amicalola park area to get to 18 miles as it's a good compromise between my 16 mile goal and his 20 mile goal.  We finish 18 miles in 5:31 hours!  I thought that was good for getting turned around a few times and running in the rain.  Paul and I agree to keep meeting at least once a month for a long trail run.  We both enjoyed the challenge of running this trail and plan to run further in the future.  I am excited to not have chased off a potential running partner and to found someone who enjoys talking running and strategies non-stop for once in my life.  More importantly, we are both about the same running pace, and we have similar running goals.

Our next race is 24 hours Hostelity, and it is two weeks away.  Our strategies are similar in that we both want to run about 6 hours or our first timed event!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Duncan Ridge Trail 30k 2011

The DRT 30k is finally here, and I can hardly sleep.   I think I have been awake most of the night and literally counting down every hour.  I know that I am going to need my sleep, but I cannot no matter how hard I try.  I get out of the bed and turn the alarm off before it starts yapping.  No point in waking anyone else on an early Saturday morning.  Today, I am running my farther distance ever 18.6 miles on a trail.  I am excited and secretly scared because Coosa Bald hates me.  I try to eat some breakfast but my stomach is mostly full of butterflies, and I make myself eat.

I arrive at the race and stand around with Leigh, Gayle, Alan, Tyler, Dave, and Paul.  It's helping to listen to everyone talk to get my mind off my own nervousness and this is where I first meet Willy.   It's dark and soons turns to daylight.  The runners line up to start the race.  Leigh and I are standing next to each other.  It has started, and I jokingly say to her that I am in no rush and to let this crowd thin out as we both laugh.  Leigh says she has nothing to prove.  I will be happy just to experience the race and to finish.

However, I do not heed my own advice.  My adrenaline is high, and I start burning it up after about a half mile.  Before, I know it I am at the first aid station about 3 miles out.  I run right past it and start climbing Coosa Bald.  Shortly into the climb, Tyler climbs past me, and then shortly after Paul does.  Paul asks me if I am ok, and I reply yes..and to go on.  I always want to see my friends do well. 

My climb is not going well.  I am pushing and moving forward as hard as I can, but not fast enough.  Slowly but surely more runners are passing me, sometimes in two's or three's and sometimes in groups. They are offering words of encouragment as they pass, and they are hiking up this mountain like it's just a bump in the road.  I pull out a chocolate covered pretzel and decide to eat on the uphill and drink some water.  A runner named Rob walks just past me and tells me that I am smart to eat on the uphill to maintain my blood sugar.  I just agree and keep moving forward. I have a stomach cramp in my left upper abdomen.  I have never experienced stomach cramps before on a run.  It hurts.  I am nearing the top, and I hear bells.  I know it's Brad behind me, and I allow him to pass and we chit chat on the way up Coosa.  I also meet Tia who has chosen this as her first 50k, and we laugh as I tell her better her than me!

Good grief, I am at the top, and I begin to run to try and regain some time, but Coosa has taken the life out of my legs and I am wobbly, but I can run through it.  I am trying to block out my stomach cramp that is persisting.  I reach the bottom of the hill to the 2nd aid station.  I see Alan and Gayle and ask them about my stomach cramp to see if they know what this is?  Somehow, I think if I know what this is then it'll be ok.  Gayle gets me a cup of gatorade and I eat a piece of banana.  My strategy is to haul ass down the service road.

It's a struggle to go fast on this road, although I try.  A guy catches up to me while I am walking and he walks.  We are chit chatting and I learn that he has turned from the 50k point to finish out the 30k.  He explains that he has injured his knee on Coosa Bald and is disappointed to not do the 50k today.  I feel so badly for him and imagine how I would feel at this point.  He runs 40 miles as a regular training run, and I'm truly impressed.  He takes off running again.  I run as far as I can before I am forced to stop and walk.  I eventually catch back up to Injured Knee, and we chit chat again for a tad.  He talks about how he will rest over Thanksgiving.  He takes off again.  I catch up again.  Finally, on the 3rd time I run up to him I tell him we are playing "tortise and the hare" and we both crack up!   We make it to the 3rd aid station, and he runs ahead on the trail.

It's mile 11 and I am now on my own.  I am starting to hurt.  My feet hurt.  This little loop back to Coosa is hard, but I keep moving.  I eventually make it to Coosa, and I'm on the downhill.  I am happy to be running alone.  I am hurting in a way that I haven't hurt.  Every step I take feels like I am tearing tendons, bone, muscle, and connective tissue in my feet.  My stomach cramp that went away on the service road has now returned.  I pull out my PB&J sandwhich and eat it on yet another uphill. Finally, after about 20 minutes, my stomach pain subsides.  Now, it's my feet and the side of my knee.  My knee pain is chronic, and it's a pain that I am used to. 

It's mile 14, and I have under 5 miles to go.  I do not tell myself that I have already run 14 miles.  I tell myself that I only have 5 to go.  I can do 5 miles in my sleep, so I know I got this.  This is what I tell myself in my head to avoid the pain that I am trying not to feel.  My feet are being pulverized into dust, I know.  I'm doing math equations and calculating in my mind, but I am so tired that I am losing track of all the numbers.  I am suddently wishing it was 12 hours earlier when I couldn't sleep in my bed.

I am grateful and thankful for all of my solo runs and realize that all of my solo runs have just been good training for this moment in my life.  I am thinking about how much easier this would be to run with someone else to distract me from this pain,  I know I can take the pain because I know where to go in times of trouble.  I go to my happy place in my head, but right now it's hard to find it.  I keep trying.  Along about mile 16, my back spasms and the pain is awful.  It catches my breath, and I stop to stretch and silently berate myself that I need more core work and make a mental note of this.  I have less than 3 miles to go...I can do this in my sleep.

Mile 17 and I'm thinking to just keep one foot in front of the other.  If I just do that, I will get there.  The faster I can run, the faster I will finish and see my husband and kids.  I miss them.  It's Saturday, and here I am and they are at Mitchell's basketball game.  My calves are cramping and this is another first for me.  I pull out my electrolyte gummies as I run and begin to chew them one by one.  They sure do taste good.  My feet feel like I am beating them, and I imagine that they are bloodied hamburger.  My calves stop cramping and as I approach mile 18, I realize that this race is longer than it's supposed to be.  I start saying bad words over and over as I realize that this fucking race is going to be 20 miles and not the 18.6.  I am not .6 miles away and near the finish.  I have awhile to go.  DAMN!  And, then I start laughing and how ironic this is.  I'm always wanting to run longer and now here's my chance!  A good reminder to becareful for what I ask for.   I am seeing hikers and ask them how much further and each one says not much further.  I keep going. 

Finally, I hit the pavement, so I know it's not far.  I follow the arrows and I see Theresa with her clipboard, and she tells me my Mom is at the finish line.  I am confused.  My Mom?  Why is she here?  I cannot think.  I just run.  My feet feel even worse on the pavement, and I try to land softly as I try to run faster.  It's time for this run to end.  Sure enough, I cross the finish line and my Mom is there!  I cannot believe it, and I smile!  I am so surprised to see her that I kind of forget that I am finishing this thing finally.  I ran my longest distance and it turns out to be 19.6 miles! My hardest race, and I am finished!  My time is 5:34 hours.  I wanted to finish around 5 hours, but I didn't count on the extra mile, and didn't count on the physcial problems I incurred. 

I have finished and I am not sure what to do, so I stretch some and eventually just sit.   I talk to my Mom for a few minutes, but I don't think I could do a good job of talking.  I remember telling her it was hard.  I remember telling her it's cold and it's ok to go home.  She had been waiting on me for an  hour outside.  She stays awhile and then goes.  I need to get my bearings, eat, and drink, before I drive home. Dave finished about 9 minutes after me. Paul finishes about 9 minutes ahead of me and Tyler about 45 minutes.  I am so proud of Tyler's speedy finish, and I wonder if it was as equally hard for him as it was for me, but then I remember he is nearly 22 and is probably just fine!  Not an old lady like me! LOL  I want to see the first 50k finisher.  I was just so thankful that I was not lapped by a 50k runner!

I make it home, and I'm sitting on the chair across from Lee in the living room.  I do not share the depth of my pain that I experienced on my run, but I tell him about the race.  It was awesome.  I enjoyed it.  He asks me if I will do it again next year....

And, I say in a quiet voice...I don't know....and Lee grins in his quiet way that I love....

Monday, April 16, 2012

Apples vs. Red Bushes

It takes me 5 days to get over being mad at myself about the DRT training run.  I am easing back into my runs and trying to work the pain out over the next week.  I am now back on track mind and body.  The DRT training run is now like childbirth.  It's over, and I'm ready to do it again.

I am signed up for 2 more races before the next DRT training run in late October 2011. The first race is the Ellijay Apple Festival 5k race.  My oldest, best, running friend Tommy whom I've known for 25 years is running it.  He runs it every year in like 17 min or less.  He was an awesome runner and person in high school, and he still is.  We are like peas and carrots in our running world.

Tommy is dying for an overall win but has been beaten straight by a Canadian runner for what I think is 7 years straight by seconds.  He's been bugging me for years to run this race with him.  I've only started racing consistently since this summer because Lee no longer works weekends after 20 years.  Lee has told me to run every weekend race that I want to.  So, this year I make it a priority to run the Apple Festival race with Tommy.  I told him to pick one race to do together, and I know he will pick this one.  And, he does.   The race was fun.  I was so hoping I could see him win this one as I'm sure he did too but yet again he places 2nd overall.  But, wait..he's only 3weeks older than me which means he will win the Master's award!  Guess what?  I win the Master's award too!  So, we both win our very first Master's award at the same race! We have now graduated from being highschool teammates to Master's winners!  Oh Gawwdd!  Who would have thought??

Ironically enough, Tommy and I discover that we both have also signed up for the Running Scared 13k in Ellijay.  It is an evening race.  Tommy places first overall with a crazy time of around 43 minutes.  I run it in 1:05 and ran my fastest 10k ever on this race 51:48, but it was mostly flat.  I place 2nd overall, and claim my 2nd master's win this month!  I lost by a minute.  I congratulate the winner as I think it's awesome that she has won. 

That night, Lee and I come home, meet up with some friends and play Texas hold 'em till about 3am.  I am sipping on Bailey's on ice all evening.  I get to sleep about 3:30am.  I know I have to be up and ready to run 15 miles in less than 4 hours, which is my longest run to date.  Tyler is aiming to run about 10 miles, so this means I have to run 5 miles before he gets here.  So, I am awake at 6:30am and start my 15 mile run at 7:20am. Tyler later joins me to finish out the last 10 miles.  By the time he gets here, I have just about run off my slight hangover.  After running 23 miles in less than 12 hours, I vow to never drink and run again. Another lesson learned.  I don't know if I could have gotten through it without Tyler's encouragement.  It took me 2hrs and 40min.  I felt slow.

The DRT training run #2 approaches, and I am feeling better mentally about it.  This is to be yet another 15 mile out and back run but now we are going to run the 2nd portion of the race.  Yay!  I get to test run the trail that I won't be running on race day.  The 30k racers and I will make a left onto the Forrest Service road for about 3 miles before we turn back into the trail and go back down Coosa Bald.  The 50k racers will continue right onto the trail.  This is where the 30k and 50k racers split off.  So, although I am not running the 50k, I get to see what they have to do.  Bobby says this 2nd portion is not easy, but it's easier than Coosa.

We show up in late October on a cold morning.  It's in the low 30's.  This time there are runners there who was not there at the first run.  I think there are maybe 8 of us.  I am the only girl (boohoo).  It's just me, Tyler, and Paul from our first training run.  Paul and I have been emailing running stuff since the first DRT training run.  This guy is probably the most determined ambitiously consistent runner I have come across in a long time and maybe ever.  He says he is slow, but if he is truly slow then he is by far the slowest hardest working person I have ever met.  I admire that.  This time the three of us decide to stick together.  Bobby has tape and is marking the course ahead of us as we run so that no one is lost.  He is also carrying a machete in his back pack in case he needs to clear some trails. 

I digress from just how cold it was that morning.  It's the coldest morning of the season to date.  The wind is blowing.  I am regretting not wearing my tights under my running pants.  However, I do have my camelbak full of water, peanut butter cookies, and PB&J sandwhich!  Tyler doesn't have gloves and borrows a pair from Taz who has an extra pair.  There is ice on the ground and the rain has frozen on the leaves in the trees as well as the ground.  It is cold cold cold and that wind is not making it any easier.

We take 2 vehicles and drive the 3 miles down the service road.  I am checking the road out as I'll need to run this road on race day.  Bobby gives us his cell number in case we get lost, but hopefully that won't be happening because he'll mark the trail with tape.  We all laugh about the last time we all got lost and glad we can laugh about it now.

We start running, and man, do I feel good.  I am downright happy to be there.  It's gorgeous and gray.  I am warm.  The first 5 miles fly by and all the runners meet up at the 5 mile spot briefly.  We take off again.  We are hitting some major hills and running across a ridge.  It's just beautiful.

This is my first real experience of running on leaves.  They all have just finished falling, so they are a ton of new leaves.   I do not like running on it so much.  I can't see the rocks under the leaves and with the ice they are slick. Not only can I not see the rocks, I can't see the roots, or the uneven terrain.  This would be nightmare for runners with weak ankles, and I'm thankful I have no ankle issues. 

The sun is starting to come out.  We come upon this one area where the views are absolutely gorgeous.  The sun is hitting the mountains and all the different colors are just so pretty.  There are not many leaves left, but there are enough and it's colorfully yellow and brown mostly.  It's at this point, that something changes within me, and I am feeling inspired by so much beauty, and I regret ever thinking about quitting.  This is what I want to do.  It comes to me just like that, in that single moment, watching that view, I am running, and I am happy. 

I had been struggling mentally since the last DRT run about my road races.  I have realized that I cannot be a speed demon on the short runs and a long distance trail runner at the same time.  I cannot train for both.  I must choose, and I have not know which road to travel.  Suddenly looking at this view,  somehow I know and my mental anguish is over.  I have chosen.

Along this run, I eat.  It's the first time I've ever done that.  It's not so hard.  My girl scout peanut butter cookies are the bomb!  I share them with Tyler and Paul.  We make it to the turn around point.  My hands are so frozen at this point even with gloves on that I cannot get the cap off on my pack and Tyler helps me refill it.  We get a little behind the pack and Paul is waiting on us.  Paul has kept up with Tyler and I the entire time.  Paul has fallen once or twice, and I have already fallen at least once on the way out.  I have never even fallen before, and here I end up falling at least 2 or 3 times again on the way back.  It makes me laugh!  I cannot believe I am falling! 

Tyler has shared some of his candy corns with me.  It's not chocolate, but I'll take it.  I don't even like candy corns, but on the way back, they are good.  I can't believe he has thought to bring Halloween candy, and I laugh so much still when I think about that!  Paul thinks Tyler should mark the trail with candy corns!  It is warming up on the way back and the sun is melting the ice on the leaves and trees and the ice is blowing and landing on us and the ground.  I am trying to watch the falling ice but shield my eyes for fear of getting stabbed in the eye with flying ice!  The wind is still blowing.

I do not know how Paul put up with Tyler and I being so obnoxious as we laughed and joked so much about how were were NOT going to do the 30k but do the 50k instead.  We plotted on how we wouldn't tell Dave till we got to the turning point and then make him run the 50k with  Dave did not join us for this training run because he had the Savannah half-marathon the following weekend.  Anyways,  by around mile 12 or so, Tyler and I have changed our minds.  This was now becoming hard!  I told Tyler to just run ahead, but he would not.  I was feeling tired, and for the first time, just starting to feel a bit cranky, and then Tyler handed me more candy corn, and that made me laugh.  It really did work to pick me up! 

The 3 of us at different points took turns in pacing.  I remember on the way back while I was pacing and  seeing the red tape ahead and then when we ran upon it, it was not red tape afterall.  It was a bush!  I did that at least 3 times.  Boy, was I embarassed as I realized my mind was tired.  I thought I was seeing red tape, but it was red bushes instead.  This was the first time my mind has ever gotten this tired on a run before.  This was also my longest run to date somewhere around 5 1/2 hours at the finish and just over 15 miles.  No way, could I do the 50k on race day. 

To get through those last few miles, Tyler and I tried to make up Army type songs.  We pretended that pizza and beer was at the finish and the faster we run the sooner we will finish to get our pizza and beer.  I am not lying when I say we were being such silly fools...I'm thankful that Paul has never mentioned it.  I do not remember him saying much, but I do remember him sticking with us the entire time. 

Finally, the run is over.  I am worn out.  I am sore, and I hurt.  My feet had been killing me for 3 miles.  However, I do not feel as bad as I did last month on the first DRT run.   I am still inspired to do this race and to pursue trail running.  I am so inspired that I come home and tell Lee all about it.  I am home and later that day when I've rested, I text Tommy and tell him all about my day.  I tell him about everything I saw, and how I want to do it again.  He says he wants to run it with me someday. 

I am still waiting on that day....

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Along about August 2011, my friend Sue emails me about a race that she thinks is right up my alley.  It's the Duncan Ridge Trail 30k/50k (DRT) in the North GA mountains.  She knows me well and knows how much I love trail running.  Although, I mostly run on pavement because of conveinence it is the trails that I love.  She also knows me well enough to know that I love a challenge.  This race boasts that it's one of the hardest trails in the Southeast.  Now, I am really interested.  I have never ran anything that was too hard.  In all my years of running, I always ran...I never stopped.  I hate stopping.  I have slowly ran and barely shuffled, but up until this point I have never stopped mid-run to walk.  So, I know I can do this. 

The DRT also boasts of an elevation gain of more than 8000 ft.  I have no idea what this means, but it sounds like great fun to me.  In actuality, the 50k portion of this race is more like 10,000 ft. of elevation gain.  Elevation gain is the number of feet one climbs.  But, in terms of numbers I do not know at this point what I am getting into.  All, I saw was the "HARDEST TRAIL IN THE SOUTHEAST", and I was sold!  My only concern was the distance.  I had to do the math and figured out that a 30k is 18.6 miles and a 50k is 31 miles.  Ok, so up until this point I have increased my mileage to about 13.1 miles.  I have now progressed from getting tired in mile 8 to getting tired in mile 11.  I am making progress with the long run.  So, by November surely, I can do 18.6 miles without too much of a problem, right?  So, after stewing it over for about 2 weeks, I sign up for the 30k on

When I hear about the DRT race, I start talking about it with Dave and Tyler who also decide to do it.  I'm starting to read facebook posts from another Ultra runner.  Up until this summer, I had never even heard of ultra running.  I was so consumed in my own running world that I never paid attention to what anyone else was doing.  I was primarily a solo runner.  Not by choice, it's just the way it was. 

The race director (RD) for DRT sends out a FB invite for a training run in Sept.  So, I reply that 4 of us will be coming.  Dave, Tyler, Mitch, and I.  This was to be around a 15 mile training out and back run.  We run about 7-8 miles out and then turn around and come back.  There would be a water drop at mile 8.  It sounds simple enough.  The RD says it'll take about 3 1/2 to 4 hours depending on how fast you are.  I thought that's really a long time for just 15 miles, but I'm excited.

The week before the training run, Lee orders me a camelback that I wanted from  It's supposed to be here before my run.  This backpack holds 100 oz of water.   Up until this point, I have never drank a drop or eaten a thing on any run in my entire life.  My longest run was 2 hours and small change.  I never felt the need for water let alone food on a run.  I eat and drink after I run not during.  I will be just fine because there is water at mile 8.

Stupid is as Stupid does....and my backpack doesn't show up before the training run.  Oh well.  I'll just take a protien bar and pack a lunch.  Dave will carry my protein bar for

So, the morning of the training run we show up at Dave's house and all pile into his van for the 45 min drive to Vogel State Park.  We show up at the run and there are about 5 other runners there.  Cool!  There is one other female besides me....Jenn.  Yay!  I am not the only girl!

We meet Bobby the RD of the race and coordinator of the training run.  I have never signed up for a race that included training runs prior to the race so to me this was so exciting to be able to preview a race course.  Bobby tells us that the course is not yet marked and talks about where to go at certain points on the course.  He talks about following the blue blazes.   What the hell are blue blazes?  I have no clue what he is talking about.  I'm just going to run on the trail.

So, the 9 of us take off running and the first 3 miles are so pretty.  It's really rocky and rooty in places, and it's a little rougher than the trails I've run on, but it's fine.  We all meet up at a road and Bobby gives us some more directions on what to expect.  He talks about Coosa Bald, and it's an uphill climb for 4 to 5 miles.  Cool, my longest hill yet! 

As I start the climb, I quickly realize, that this is no hill.  It's a mountain.  For the first time in my running life ever, I am forced to stop and walk.  Every spare section that I can run, I try but my heart is in my ears, and I can literally hear every heartbeat like I have never heard it before.  I am breathing like a 90 year old man with lung disease.   WTF? is happening here?  I am in great shape.  I have already run 25 miles this week before I even started this run.  This is taking forever!  I feel like the slowest runner/walker/hiker on the planet. 

All of a sudden, as I'm climbing Coosa, I see Mitch running down the trail towards me, and I scoot to the side as I'm climbing up.  He says, something to the effect, "I hate this fucking trail, my quads are killing me!"   I'm thinkinig, Holy Shit...did he actually run to the 8 mile water spot and came back already?  Man, I really suck!  Except that I am just a tad bit ahead of Dave so I don't suck too terribly bad,  and I have no clue where Tyler is.  The trail was overgrown in sections, and it was hard to know what was woods and what was trail.  We get to the top of Coosa and Dave and Tyler have caught up to me.  I am hitting a low point because my blood sugar drops, and I am thirstier than a dog in the desert.  This is a thirst I have never experienced in my life.  I know the water drop is just a mile ahead.  I grab my protein bar from Dave's pack and drink some of his water.  Oh God, I am not too happy right now.  I am outright feeling just a tad cranky.

We get to the half way point and my GPS reads about 8.3 miles.  It has taken me about 2.5 hours to get here.  WTF?  Not only is that the longest 8.3 miles of my was by far the hardest physical thing I have ever done in my entire 40 years on this planet outside of childbirth times two.  Bobby and a few other runners were at the water stop.  I drank and drank and drank.  I was never so happy to see a little Debbie in my life.  I was starving!  I haven't eaten a little debbie in years!  This was the best food I have ever eaten.  Oh Lord, I gotta go back now?  I am in trail hell.

So, a few of the runners take off minutes before me including Dave.  I cannot keep up because somehow the DRT is just uphill both ways, and I'm exhausted, and at this point, I don't give a  flying fuck where I am at in the pack.  I just keep moving forward.  I run every chance I can and just walk the uphills.  I come to a road and figure out the blue blazes are those blue painted rectangles on the trees.  DUHHH...It is now that I begin to realize that I am NOW the biggest dumass on the planet.  I'm supposed to follow the blue blazes which means I have to look at the trees for directions.  Cool, I am on an adventure run by myself in the mountains.  I can do this. 

So, I follow the blue blazes.  I come to a road which was Wolf Pen Gap.  I don't remember seeing that big sign, but I go forward.  I cross the road and off I go onto what I think is another trail.  Actually, it didn't look any different to me.  Should I mention that my biggest #1 weakness in my life is that I am directionally challenged?  Lee swears I'll be lost in an elevator when I am 70 years old.  Here, I digress. 

So, I am running down this trail, and I come across these big rocks that look like they are in a swamp.  UT OH....Houston there is a problem.  Now, I know I am not that blonde...but I really don't remember running over this crap??  So, I back tracked to the road.  I see some cyclists, and I ask them where am I?  LOL  They responded, "Blood Mountain".  Oh really?  I mean specifically where am I at in relation to Vogel Park?  They are not sure where Vogel Park is.  OH GREAT...lost runner meets directionally challenged cyclists.  The one cyclists pulls out his GPS and was of no help.  But, they were super nice guys and tried.   I call Tyler as I know he and a new guy Paul were running behind me.  I know that Dave must be miles ahead.  It's at this point that I realize I am going to let my whole group down because they are going to be waiting hours on me.  I figured they must all be close to the finish now, and they are waiting.  Tyler tells me to stay where I am at so that I do not get lost any further.  Which was probably good advice, but I know the Blood Mountain main road, so I can't be too far from Vogel.  I don't want to wait around.  I am a Runner not a waiter. 

Another group of cyclists, ride up and they think Vogel is to the left and they are pretty sure but not 100%.  To the left is downhill.  Sounds good to me, and it's on a road.  I can do this.  I start running on this curvy mountain highway.  I shout to some other cyclists, "Is this the way to Vogel Park".  They said, yes keep going you are almost there.  Shew...I think I ran those last 3 miles under or about 8 min per mile.  I was hauling ass.  I was over this run.  I was pissed. 

As I'm running the road, an older lady in a car pulls over and asks if I need help.  Man, I must really look awful.  I'm hot, I've been running for hours, I'm thirsty and I'm hungry.  I tell her no thank you, I am just running to Vogel Park like it's something I do everyday.  She says OK it's not much further and she drives away.  But, WOW, what a nice thing for her to do to offer me help.  The last thing I am going to do is "ride" my way back!  I've come this far, I can go the rest.

I get to Vogel parking lot, and I see Mitch at the visitor center.  No one has been that happy to see me in a long time...LOL  He gives me a hug and says, "Your the first person I've seen!".  I'm like WHAT???  I just knew I'd be the last person in, and they'd all be pissed waiting around on me.  I just knew I'd never live this run down if that happened even if it were in my own mind! 

Mitch and I vented our frustrations about the trail.  I was already sore and knew that the days ahead where going to be BAD.  In my frustration with myself and at that moment, I was ready to allow my $35 race entry fee be a donation.  This was not for me.  I am not a hiker, I am a runner.  I bit off more than I can chew.  People actually like this?   It made me feel out of shape, slow, and a terrible failure.  For the first time in my life, I wanted to quit.  But, this little voice says, "you are not a quitter".  You are tired.

Slowly one by one we started seeing other runners come in from our group.  Bobby comes back and says he is glad to see me as he ran back to check on us and he ran into Paul and Tyler.  He knew that I was ahead of them so he asked them if they saw me and they were like "NO".  That was so nice that Bobby tried to find me.  AS it turns out, I followed the blue blazes onto another trail that led up to the road.  I'm not sure if I vented my frustration to him about how hard this was or if he sensed it.  Either way, I'll always remember what he said, "It does get easier".  Sometimes, it's just the simplest words that can steer me in a different direction.  Now, when I'm at a low point in my long trail runs I remember those words, and I remember that going forward nothing will ever be as hard as this day was.

So, where the heck was Dave?  Where was Tyler and Paul?   An hour passes,  and I get a text from Dave that he is lost.  He is on the  I told him to ask for directions.  He eventually makes it back.  More time passes and Tyler calls to say he and Paul are on road and can we pick them up?  Thank GOD!  I'm ready to go home.  This was the first real conversation I had with our new trail friend Paul.  We became facebook friends.  Turns out he had just started running last May!  I was pretty impressed that he came so far in such a short time.  At this point, I am still thinking no way in HELL am I doing this race.  I ask the guys and Mitch firmly says he will never do this trail again.  Dave, Tyler, and Paul say they are all going to do it.  Ughh...I wanted them to say NO...let it be easy for me to cut my losses. But, I still had that nagging little voice....."YOU are NOT a quitter"...Ughhh, I hate that voice.  Let me quit one time...

I was so sore after this run.  I haven't been this sore since Gold Rush 5k in 2006, and this was far worse.  I gained 11 pounds of water weight in the 3 days following and barely urinated at all for 3 days.  I no longer had ankles and the swelling extended up to my knees.  I woke up with really puffy eyes and looked scary.  I felt and looked worse than shit.  I realized I was in mild renal failure from dehydration.  I realized I am dumb.  I know nothing about long distance running, trail running, let alone ultra running.  Worst of all....I am a nurse who spent 14 years in critical care, and I can't even take care of myself?  And...I am NOT going to a doctor to tell me how dumb I am unless I become short of breath from pulmonary edema.  I knew it would resolve and to keep drinking as much as I can to flush out my kidneys.  Finally 3 days later...I piss like a race horse...I was so it was a scary 3 days of my life as I imagined everything that could happen.  I could end up in pulmonary edema...I could end up on dialysis....I am a could I ever have done this to myself and to my familly?  HOW dumb am I?  I am thankful that my worst fears never came to light.

And, I've done a lot of dumb shit in my life...but running without water was by far the dumbest...

Friday, April 13, 2012

In the Long Run

July 2011, I get a call from my friend Dave who asks me if I want to join him, Tyler and a marathon runner named Mitch for a 10 mile long run every Saturday.  Apparently Mitch was in training for the Chicago marathon and wanted some company for the last 10 miles of his run.  Dave didn't have to ask me twice!  I haven't participated in a group training run since high school.

Up until this time, my longest run was about 9 miles when I was about 17 years old.  And, my longest run over the summer was just over 8 miles.  I knew when Dave called that I could run 10 miles and maybe even further.  My problem was that I just really didn't want to run that long of a distance.  I never had a desire to ever run a half marathon, let alone a marathon!  THOSE people were crazy!  How would I keep myself entertained for that freaking long?  At the same time, I had a deep respect and was in awe of people who do run marathons.  It just wasn't for me.  I didn't doubt my ability to do so, I just lacked the desire.  I was perfectly good right where I was at.

As it turned out, that first 10 mile run it was just Dave, Mitch, and I.  We started at Yahoola Park at about 6:30am'ish.  Mitch had already ran several miles before we even arrived in the dark.  How bad ass was that?  I warmed up, tried to do some pushups on my almost healed elbow,  while I waited on Dave to show up. So, Mitch and I are introduced and off we go for the long run.

I run in my usual pace and within a mile or so, Dave is telling me to slow down.  He is trying to tell me that I am running too fast for a long run.  No one has ever told me that I am TOO fast, of course, no one ever ran with me either at my pace.  I literally had no concept of why I needed to slow down.  I felt like I was slowing down as I knew I had to last the 10 miles.  No way, was I gonna let 2 guys leave me in their dust!  Not, that they would have, but the idea of it fueled my run.

Sure enough in mile 8, I get tired.  We are running the roads and hills in Dahlonega towards the end of July, and I'm getting hot.  That last major hill was a climb, and I never stopped running, but I was loosing steam.  Hills are my weakness.  Mitch runs behind me or along side of me and just talks me through it.  For that, I am forever grateful.  I can't ever recall a time before when someone actually helped me through a bad spot on my run.   As I reach the top of this hill, I gain my momentum again and start running faster.  I wanted to get this shit done!

At the end of this run, I was exhausted in a way I had not felt in a very long time, and I was hooked.  I thrive on challenge.  I was excited.  I wanted more. I continued to run the 10 miles with them for weeks or perhaps months.  Within 2 to 3 weeks, I notice that my mid-week runs are getting stronger and faster.  Ten miles with the "guys" is feeling easier and better.  And, by God, I want to run farther.  Never, thought I'd hear those words come ouf of my mouth!

And, so I did....

Demon in Heat

To understand how far I've progressed in my running,  is to know where I've been.

I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio with two younger brothers.  Most of the time, my family did not own a car.  So, we walked or ran everywhere we went including back and forth to school.  It was our normal.  We literally walked everywhere we went.

I remember when running became something special to me when I was about 7 years old in 2nd grade.  We had a100 yd dash and other running challenges in PE.  I was not first, but I did quite well beating nearly all the boys in my class and that's all it took!  I found something that only I could do and it was awesome.  It set me apart somehow and it became "my thing".  All throughout school, I LOVED the competition of running against my classmates.

I moved to GA in 1985, when I was 14.  I still ran periodically but walked a lot still.  We had a 4 week session in PE where all we did was run on the track.  I spent the entire time running by myself.  It was just for me, and I loved it.  I remember passing 3 girls walking and they were talking about me, but I couldn't hear what they were saying, but they sure did jump a mile when I passed them!  They were embarassed probably because we were friends, but I didn't care what they said.  I ran for me.  I'm sure they thought I was a show off or something, but really I wasn't and never have been really.  I am just a girl who loves to run.

In my last 2 years of high school I joined the track team and then in my senior year was on the first cross-country team for my high school.  I really enjoyed the competition.  I am highly competitive.  Always have been and hope I always will be, even if it's just with myself.  Which 99% of the time it is!  In track, I was the 2nd best long distance female on my team.  This was good for me to NOT be the best because it made me work harder, and I did my best.  Running in a competitive environment taught me early on that there is always someone faster. 

I grew tired of running on a track after 2 years and became "spoiled" by cross country running.  I loved it.  This is where I needed to be... out in the open.  I'm not a hamster in a cage!  Running in circles seems pointless although it's good speed training and you will sometimes find me on the track still...but it is not my love.  I love being able to run free.

I ran periodically through my 20's.  I was really burned out from "track" and competitive training, but I also became very busy with my life.  I met my husband, finished college, and started my career as a nurse.  Worked alot, travelled alot, and had a great time with Lee in my 20's.  I joined the local aerobics class and later a gym.

In my 30's, we settled down to have 2 children...Mitchell and Megan.    I planned  my workouts around my family life to stay in shape.  I was basically a gym rat for about 13 years.

In 2006, two years after my daughter was born, I still had some unwanted weight despite my workouts.  I had 30 minutes to kill at the gym after I dropped Mitchell off at school before my group fitness class started.  So, I decided to start running, yet again, on the treadmill before class started.  It was hard to start over again.  IT was VERY hard.   Even though, I was in good physical condition, I was not in running condition.  That is a different beast.  But, I stuck with it.  I trained really hard for 6-8 weeks before a local 5k race.  It had been years since I had actually raced.  So, now I had a goal that I was excited about.  I did some outside runs, but quite honestly at the time I hated HILLS.  Don't laugh.  I ran a lot of intervals on the treadmill, I did some hill intervals on the treadmill.  Before I knew it, my 30 minute struggle on the treadmill turned into 4 speedy miles.  I would nail 4 miles then go workout for an hour.  I was a treadmill machine!

Gold Rush 5k 2006.  It's freezing cold outside, and I'm in shorts.  The first mile was uphill.  I hate HILLS.  However, I finished in 25:34 and won first in my age group.  I was 35 years old.  I was in complete shock that I won my age group.  I was so sore after this run that I could barely move for 4 days!  I hadn't been this sore in years.  I'm sure my freezing muscles had alot to do with that.  But, running outside is much harder than running on a treadmill!  Running REAL hills is harder than my piddly uphill sessions on the treadmill. 

Fast forward to 2009..I am still on the dreadmill with the few rare outside runs and still at the gym.  Lee, the kids, and I move ten miles away to another county.  I live in a much bigger subdvision with paved golf trails and roads.  I see this as a huge playground.  In Feb. 2010, it's time for me to renew my gym membership, but I am now working more and have less time to go to the gym.  I decide to run outside and do P90x on my own.  I know what to do...I just never had the self-motivation to do it before now.

I quickly learned that running in my neighborhood is hard.  IT has HILLS.  I hated the Hills. I said bad words for 4 months on every hill I climbed.  I cussed every hill in this neighborhood.  However, I continued as I was not only determined, but really re-discovered my love of running.  This time around I really appreciated what running meant to me.  When I was younger, I just took it for granted and then something funny happened.  I began to love the hills.  I was finding harder and harder hills to climb.  I was slowing building my distance.  Three to 4 miles was typically good for me before I started the "real" workout.  I gradually got up to 5 miles.  I stayed at the 5 mile mark for a good while with an occasional 7-8  mile push.  July 2010, my knees began to hurt,  mainly my left knee had severe tendon pain, but also both knee caps were not happy.  I stopped running for 3 weeks in an effort to heal, and I backed down with my mileage for about 9 months when the pain finally started to subside.  In hindsight, I should have taken more time off.  It taught me to stop sooner and heal faster.   So, in March 2011 I began to build again with my mileage.    It was kind of like starting over again.

It was just over a year ago, when I had recovered from my knee pain.  I remember my first 10k training run last Spring and my longest distance since I started to really run more.  I was climbing a tough hill in the very last stretch of my run.  I remember that run being so hard.  I remember I felt like I could cry as it was so painful and such a struggle.  I cannot ever remember crying from physical pain in my life.  I'm sure I have in childhood, but I don't remember crying as an adult from pain.  Although,  I have cried from sheer exhaustion.

One morning in May 2011, I went for a 5 mile run and came home to meet Lee as we planned to ride 30 miles on our bikes.  In mile 11, my chain popped while down shifting and I couldn't release my feet quick enough from the straps to plant them on the ground.  I fell and broke my elbow.  That was by far the worst painful injury I ever had.  So, I did what any good runner would do...I took a 4-5 day break and ran.  I could barely use my left hand and arm, so I just ran harder, faster, and longer.  I couldn't lift weights or do much of anything else.  I tried one handed me that was not pretty!  So, I ran all last summer and really that became my focus.

Last summer, I ran in several 5k's.  I placed or won my age group in nearly every single race.  I ran my first 10k and won my age group in that race.  The only good thing about turning 40 last year was that I now qualified for the Master's award!  I was breaking my own records and was now faster in longer distance than I was in high school.  My one mile time was only 30 seconds slower than my high school track time.  I am not really impressed all that much except I never thought I'd actually get better with age.  Now, I know that I am really NOT that fast.  I just run a lot more than most women my age and probably more than the average gal in general.  But, I also know how to compete.  On race day,  it was game on, or at least, that's how I felt at the time.

My whole point in sharing this lengthy and probably boring story is that my entire running life focus has been on running hard and fast.  I ran like a demon in heat everytime I went outside.  Running outside made me a better runner.  I liked the shorter distances of 3-6 miles where I could go out and kill it in an almost all out sprint.  But, after doing several races which were all different and fun, I realized something.  The only real challenge was just running against myself.  I discovered that I didn't have much competition in local North GA races or much of a challenge.  I wanted to run with serious runners and enter more serious competitions.  But, I just didn't know how to find them.  I also was wanting to get off the road and pavement.

This was all about to change, but I just didn't know it....yet...!