Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Georgia Jewel 50k--April 7, 2012

My First 50k Race
Officially, this is my first 50k race that I have signed up for.  I have not raced since 12 hrs. Hostelity  in Jan.  To say that I am excited is a bit of an understatement.  I feel that I am as ready as I can be as I have trained hard since late Feb. and I am glad that I gave my little injuries time to heal.

I tend to set goals for every race that I run.  It's a mental challenge, but I find it helpful.  My main goal of this race is to feel good at the end.  Or as good as one can feel at the end of 31 miles!  But, I want to feel as if I have something left at the end, even if it's just a little.  I do not want to feel broken.  I have felt that way many times at the end of a long hard run, and I've had enough of that.  I want to feel strong and that's what I've been training for.  It's also a major reason why I haven't raced in 3 months.  I wanted to spend the time training and getting stronger with these long runs.

My other main goal is to finish under 8 hours.  I am not stuck on 8 hours, but having a time frame helps me to set a pace that I can hopefully stick with.  I have no idea what this course is going to be like.  I've read the course description, but it really doesn't make any sense to me.  The only thing that makes sense is the 1400 feet of elevation gain per 15 mile lap, aid station every 5 miles because that means food,  and "several water crossings".

For whatever reason, I completly dismiss the 1400 feet of elevation gain.  I simply do not believe that a 50k ultra race can be this flat in Dalton, GA.  I can run the one mile loop in front of my house for 16 miles and that is 2000 feet of elevation gain.  There are 2 small hills and a gradual uphill climb for 1/2 mile or so.  Basically, to me it's flat.  I can run 16 miles on this road around 2:45 hours.  No way, do I expect to finish this course in under 6 hours.  So, I may not understand course descriptions, and yes, I am directionally challenged, but I do know and understand math!  The math doesn't add up for me.  So, I dismiss it.  Both Paul and Margaret have told me this is going to be a hard course and to not underestimate it.  So, I go into this race with no expectations but to run my best, feel good, and try to get under 8 hours if I can.  I am just happy to run!

Now, I will back track and say that I am not stuck on 8 hours.  There is no pressure on me to run it under 8 hours, I would just like to.   Margaret has advised me that every course is different and there are so many factors to consider that it's difficult to put a "time" on a course, but she also says she thinks I can do it when I ask her opinion.

The day before this race my friend Russell texts and asks me what is my goal to finish this race.  I find this really funny as probably very few people know that I actually set a personal time goal before every race.  So, I text back 8 hours.  He replies, if I can get under 8 hours that he will buy me drinks!  I ask him if 7:59 counts?  He says, "Yes!".  So,, it's GAME ON, and I feel pressure, but it's also motivating!  I have someone expecting me to do it under 8 hours!  And, now I HAVE to do it in 7:59 or less!  LOL  I know it's mind over matter.  My mind is much stronger than my body, so I keep telling myself, "I got this!". 

Lee has booked us a hotel in Dalton the night before the race.   It's Spring Break, and we are all excited to get out for a few days.  Lee and the kids have plans to tour around Dalton while I am running.  No way, do I expect Lee and the kids to hang out at the race site for 7:59 hours (LOL).   Megan informs me that they are going to have much more fun than I am because they will get to do "fun stuff" and I'll just be "running".  I laugh so hard at this!  Of course, this is what "normal" people think! 

I try really hard to sleep well the night before, and I sleep as well as can be expected for "me".  I wake up and the nerves have hit.  I am scared.  I am always scared before a race.  I feel like I am up on stage at the start up line.  I have always felt this way since my track days.  I know that I am the only one putting pressure on myself.  No one else cares how I do but me!  I am my only competition  LOL However, I also know this will pass once I start running as it always does and then I can relax into my run and just enjoy "being".

The race starts just as daylight begins.  I love this time of the morning.  Paul and I agree to at least start the race together and also agree that if one of us feels like going ahead or faster that is ok too!  Afterall it is a race, and I am not out to beat my friends.  I am only out to do my best, and I'm always excited to see my friends do their best. 

Not long into the race, there are some tough hills in a cow pasture and then on some roads that remind me of the forrest service roads in the mountains.  They are rough rocky roads.  I am not the least bit bothered by it.  I run what I can and hike as fast as I can on the uphills.  But, there are also some downhills too.  Paul and I are a few miles into the race where we see "Taz" pass by us.  This guy is super fast, and he won the Ft. Yargo marathon in late Feb.   Paul and I know that something has happened because no way where Paul and I are ahead of him.  That is laughable to even think that we could even remotely be ahead of him.  We have so far followed all of the course markings and have been running in a "pack".  Did we miss something?  It doesn't seem possible.  We make it back to the house and it's supposed to be 5 miles, but both Paul and I got 4 miles.  Now, it's always possible that the course is off a bit as that can happen in ultras and I'm told that ultras are often off in elevation gain and mileage. 

Paul and I agree to not stop at the aid station at the 5 mile mark as we will hit the next one in 5 more miles.  I am already feeling a hot spot on the bottom of my foot, and I don't know if it's from the water crossings or the new trail shoes that I just got from my Hostelity winnings.  Other than that, these shoes feel great so far.  Paul and I have been griping about the course markings as it's not very easy to follow.  It is particularly difficult in the wooded sections.  There is no defined trail.  We are running on private property pastures, roads, and woods!

It's not long before we saw Bobby and a pack behind him passing us.  What?  Paul and I are really confused and then shortly after that we saw Tyler.  What?  Tyler passed us a few miles ago.  What the heck?   Before we even get this far, I had to tell about 10 runners they were going the wrong way.  They missed the "orange flags" that I happened to see as I make a right toward the flags.  All those runners had to back track.  Sometimes it pays to be a "slower" runner!  LOL  It's about this time that I realize that I must really pay attention and try not to simply follow other runners as we are still in a pack.  I realize that something weird is going on with us seeing runners pass us who were already ahead of us. 

I get through the woods, and I have somehow gotten ahead of Paul, and I don't even see him.  I am running in a pasture in a circle.  I follow the white arrow.  There are 3 other runners about 200 meters behind me.  I keep running and then I see the white arrow again and run just beyond that.  The other 3 runners have stopped and they are at the white arrow.  I realize that I am running in a circle and since the 3 are standing there discussing which way to go, I call out to them and ask if I need to come back.  We are all standing still in our spots and finally they motion for me to come back.  I run about 200 meters to catch up and tada...there is an orange marker down in the woods and Paul is there.  We decide to try and stick together to get through this.  The other 3 runners get ahead and Paul and I are cussing.  We are MAD!  Turns out Paul went down a wrong path shortly and ended up with a pack of dogs!

Paul and I are both on the same page about how this course is marked, and happy we are NOT.  I don't care how hard this trail is, I just want to know where the hell I am going.   Having a well marked course is about the only thing I really "need" during a race.  As mad as I am, I begin to think that Paul is even more angry than I am.   We really rant and rave about the stupid course markings, but then decide this is an "adventure race" and just decide to treat it as such. I basically tell myself to calm down, it's a beautiful day, and I am running! Anyday that I can run is a GOOD day. I remind myself to enjoy my day and enjoy my run. It's going to BE OK. I am going to finish...eventually!  Giving up is not an option.
As we follow the white arrows up a hill towards the 2nd aid station, we see Tyler running toward us behind two young girls.  The girls look as if they may be sisters and they are bickering with each other.  I tell Tyler that he is running against the arrows as the arrows point up, but I don't think he hears me as he keeps running behind the girls.  Paul and I start laughing as I jokingly tell Paul he is chasing the 2 young bunnies!   We laugh several times about this.  Why would he pay attention to what an ole gal like me has to say when he's out chasing bunnies?!  Ha!   In all fairness, he does say something back, but I couldn't hear him.  Once again I question whether WE are going the right way, but heck we followed the arrows up this hill and they were painted on the ground.  But, weird that we would even see Tyler again as he has now passed us twice.

We get to the 2nd aid station shortly after that, and I immediately ask if we are going the right way, and they assure us that we are and that we are doing well.  I feel relieved to know that we've made it and our GPS reads just over 9 miles so I know we are on track.  I am hungry and the little hummus sandwhiches are the bomb!  I am drinking electrolytes, and basically stuffing my face.  Paul eats little.  I try to get him to eat, but I don't think he is eating enough.  We thank the volunteers and off we go.

We make it up the gravel road to the water tower and the mountain scenes are just gorgeous from this hill.  Then we hit the grassy area and this area is easier to follow as it's marked pretty well.  We pass by a pond with a water mill, that is just gorgeous.  I regret that I didn't stop to take a picture!  The grassy sections are very runnable which I like, but I prefer to run trails myself.  We pass through another water crossing and then soon hit the pavement back to the house.  I see Gayle and she tells me that she has heard that a girl has broken her ankle.  I feel so bad for this girl and can't even imagine that happening on a race!  But, this also happened to a lady last year when Lee and I ran Warrior Dash!  I am hungry again although I just ate 5 miles  I am eating and drinking a lot.  Paul isn't so much, so I am reminding him again to eat.  Again, I don't think he is eating enough.   Shortly after, we take off again.  One loop down one more to go!  We are at about the 3 1/2 hrs mark...!  I am so excited as I realize I am half way through, and I have a good shot at coming in under 8 hours!  I am also excited because I feel good for just having run this far.

We start back up the pasture hills and this time it's harder.  We go back up the gravel roads and then soon we are going up a hill that neither of us remember.  We are following all the markers and arrows, but we don't remember this?  This hill is STEEP.  It's possibly the steepest hill I have ever encountered.  Paul is several feet behind me.  At one point, my feet slip on the gravel, and I almost have to touch the ground as it feels like I need to crawl up this mountain!  The rocks are sliding behind me, and I apologize to Paul who is down below in case they hit him.  It's a rock slide!  We get to the top of the hill as luckily it's not that long, and it's taped off.. and we have to go around it.   I know for sure that we missed this little loop on the first lap, and it pisses me off.   Now, I know why the faster runners were passing us...they actually made this little loop whereas we skipped it the first time around!  I also know that a lot of other runners did too because we were running in a pack early on within the first 5 miles or so.

This is a pic of the elevation profile of that hill that I borrowed from a post on Facebook:

Then it's a downhill from there, and we are back on the pasture and back at the house.  Gayle helps us fill both of our back packs with water and this time we do not linger for long at the aid station.  I tell Gayle that was a tough 5 miles!  She said that Tyler said the same thing.  I'm sure everyone thought that.  The next 10 miles are a breeze compared to those 5 miles!  However, I am still feeling good and all I'm thinking about is I've only got 10 more miles!  If I hurry, I might can make it in 8 hours, but I'm gonna have to pick it up.  I lost some time on that 5 mile loop.

Once we get off the paved road and back on pasture land, we notice that the gate is now roped off!  There are painted arrows there now that wasn't there the first time around.  Paul and I figured the course was re-marked since we were last here which is a good thing.   This is a good sign that this lap will go smoother plus we have already run it once!  But, I am hesitant to go through the gate because it's roped off.  Paul tells me to go...but I hesitate longer than I should and finally I go.  We eventually run up to another gate and I am totally confused as to where to go and Paul is too.  Luckily, there were farmers down below who tell us to crawl through the gate.  They had to rope the gates off because their cows were getting out!  That sure does make a race course confusing!  We just crawl through it and keep going.

I think we run a ways further and at some point Paul falls behind and then catches up again and then falls behind again.  I meet a runner named "Mark" in the woods.  He is running the 100k portion.  He is chattering and talking and really I can't even understand much of what he is saying.  Most of the time, I don't even think he was talking to me.  But, at the same time, I'm kind of glad I'm not in the woods by myself.  This portion is hard for me to navigate as there is no trail!  But, there are plenty of BRIARS and BARBED wire.  I think with all the cuts on my legs that I will be permanently scarred from this race. 

At some point, Mark runs ahead, and I am ok with that!  LOL  Another runner catches up to me and we are chit chatting, but I am also really starting to pick up my pace as I'm estimating I've got 7 or 8 miles to go.  I immediately recognize him because he is so tall and kind of looks like my Dad.  My Dad is also very tall.  Although I do not tell him this.  What I do tell him is that I remember him from my DRT 30 k race as he passed me while climbing Coosa Bald!  I was eating my chocolate covered pretzel on the uphill, and he told me I was very smart to eat on the uphill during that race to keep my blood sugar up.  When I recounted this story to him, I know he didn't remember me, as I didn't expect him to.  Instead he tells me a very funny story about his race at DRT.  I laughed so hard!

So, I share with him my time goal of 7:59 because if I do then Russell is going to buy me drinks!  We laugh about this as well, and he thinks I am going to cut it close, but he thinks I have a real good shot.  Before, I know it we make it to the 2nd aid station.  Rob grabs a slice of pizza and moves on course.  I stop to drink more, and I am stunned to see Mark and Tyler both sitting at the aid station.  I am not really sure why they are sitting except they are both signed up for the 100k, so I figure maybe they are going to catch the next lap together.  I only have 5 more miles to go! I really can't afford the time to stop and talk or even ask questions, I quickly grab a slice of pizza and start running.  I pass Rob while eating my pizza as I run and eat simultaneously.  I run as far as I can up the water tower hill before I stop and walk.  I pass the woman in the pack of 3 that I saw on the first loop which was roughly 18 miles ago?  I am really surprised that I am at a point where I am passing people, but I feel really good and feel that I am making some great time at this point in the race.  In my own mind, I am hauling ass, and it feels good.

I make it up all the way to the water tower and Rob has caught back up to me.  We resume our nice little conversation as I explain how I am really new to ultra running and talk about my sweet family.  I have run my first 30k (not an ultra but my first long race), my first 12 hour race, and today my first 50k.  He says he is really surprised at my progress in such a short period of time.  I am really surprised too because it was just last summer that I said I would NEVER run a marathon!  Well, technically I have never run a marathon or even a half marathon race before! LOL  At one point, Rob wishes me luck and says I am making good time and should make it under my 8 hour goal.  I think he means for me to run ahead, and I do but then he catches up again.  He says that we have less than a mile.  I am really surprised that I am so close.

When we hit the pavement I know I am close, but then I see my van or what looks like my van.  And, I think that Lee and the kids are waiting to see me finish my last stretch.  But then the van pulls away and there is Mitchell standing on the side of the road.  He starts running with me!  He says, "Mom, pick up the pace or you are not going to make it under 8 hours!"  He starts pacing me to the finish!  I am so excited and surprised to see him.  What a great idea to have him finish this race with me!  It was truly the highlight of my day!  He kept me laughing and smiling to the finish!

I finish the race in 7:53 hours!!!  I'm thrilled and excited because 8 was just a number and Russell has to buy me drinks!  With my excitement, I am also disapponted that I missed that steep hill loop on the first lap.  I surely would have done it had the course been marked better.  I wouldn't even mention it except that a lot of other people missed it too.  That is my only major gripe about this course.  To the race directors credit, it was marked better the 2nd time around, and I had no problems except for the roped off gates.  This event was the inagural event and usually there are snags in first events.  I guess this was it for this one.  I heard multiple runners gripe about the course itself along the race because the race described was not what we were running.  Apparently, the course was much more difficult than what was described.  I honestly did not even pay much attention to the race description.  I only had run 2 prior "ultra races" and they were both so hard.  This was my easiest ultra to date, and it was a tough run or at least those first 5 miles were.

What I am most proud of is how I felt at the end of the race.  I really really wanted to run one more lap.  If my family wasn't waiting on me and time was not an issue (we had errands to run after this not to mention the drive home).  I would have asked if I could run just one more lap for fun.  I don't know if a race director would permit this, but I would have loved to have gone again! 

In the next few days, I am really focused on how good I felt at the end of this run.  How I really wanted to go one more was only 15 more miles....In the back of my mind I have known for quite some time that I am going to run "The GA Jewel" in Sept.  They have 3 races...35 miles, 50 miles, and 100 miles.  My plan was to run the 35 miles, but after this gets me thinking about the 50 miles...I am really really thinking hard on it.

So, I ask Lee...what do you think about me doing 50 miles in Sept?

I email Paul to bounce it off of him..."so, I am thinking of doing 50 miles at "The Jewel"....

I stew some more and two weeks later I decide that "Poor Decisions really do make for better stories" (DUMASS theme), and I sign up for my first 50 mile race, along with my first 24 hour race, and DRT 50 k (NOT 30k), and while I am at I may as well run my first 15K Ranger run in a week or so!

Now, that's my idea of a shopping SPREE!

March Training Run- Part 2

Two days after running 20 miles on the mountain trails with Paul, I am running with Margaret!  I am absolutely thrilled that she has agreed to meet with me for a run!  She is an experienced ultra runner and has run several ultra races including some 100 mile races and in several states.  I am extremely humbled that she would even agree to run with a "newbie" such as myself.   I am also a little nervous about my speed in comparison to hers because I never want to slow anyone else down, but also I am excited as I know I'll get a great run in today and will enjoy trying hard to keep up.

It doesn't take long to realize that I am breathing hard.  I cannot stand that it takes me 2-4 miles for that heavy breathing to quit.  It's not bothersome as I don't think it hinders my ability to run.  I just don't like the sound as it makes me think I am out of shape!  However, I notice as we are climbing some hills that I cannot even hear Margaret breathing and worry a bit that I am holding her back.  She assures me that she is not worried about pace and that she needs to get some climbs in.  I am also surprised at myself that I feel as good as I do for having run as much as I have in the last 10 days including 2 long trail runs prior to today.  I'm really feeling pushed to run as much as I can in March to make up for the training time I lost in Feb. due to my minor injury and little pains.

Running with Margaret was very good for me.  She shared a lot of her running stories and experiences as well as her training.  I was truly impressed and in awe!  I asked her as many burning questions that I could think of and truly felt privileged that she was so willing to answer my questions which really helped a lot!  She really gave me some great advice!

When we get up to Springer Mountain there are some hikers sitting there.  It's also very buggy, and I am being eaten alive!  I eat my PB&J and Margaret has a snack.  A hiker is showing me a map of the BMT.  He makes some sort of comment about us "jogging".  I cringe as I do not like being called a jogger.  I am a runner!  However, I am not about to correct him, but I have a feeling that his comment is probably not going to set well with Margaret!  LOL  I am laughing to myself about this because in my mind, only NON-runners will call running "jogging".  Sure enough, Margaret corrects the poor hiker and informs him that this is called "trail running"! 

We run down hill and Margaret is pacing.  She is hopping across those rocks like they are nothing!  My downhill pace is not that much better than my uphill pace..LOL  I am too cautious on the downhill.  My upper body works really hard to "hold me back" on the downhill.  I need to learn to just let go. 

We run to the Hike Inn, and she is kind enough to show me around the place.  The Hike Inn is fabulous!  They accept donations for their yummy treats!  I just eat my own snack there because wouldn't you know that I left my spare cash on the kitchen counter top and my sweet husband thought it was community property and took my cash that morning!  Ha!  Anyways, even though I KNEW I'd be back, I didn't feel right about accepting their snacks without a donation.  We hang out at the Hike Inn briefly and resume our run.

The leaves are not fully bloomed and it's getting hot, but I am ok because I am cold natured and prefer heat over cold.   However, Margaret says she is pretty hot because she hasn't had a chance to acclimate to the heat.  The winter turned to Spring, and it got hot fast and far above normal average temperatures for this time of year .  I can relate to how she must feel because I go through this every winter.  When the humidity and heat die down, I really suffer in the winter both mentally and physically.  It takes me a long time to adjust to the cold.  Once I am dressed in a few layers and have run the first 1/2 mile, than I am ok.  But, GEEZ do I hate running bundled up!

Before I know it, the run has ended.  We ran 16.3 miles under 4.5 hours, and that's my fastest average pace to date for this trail.  I feel really good and wish that we could have gone farther.   But, I am always wishing to run farther when the run has ended!  When I get into my car, I am surprised to see that the thermometer says 80 degrees!  I make a mental note that this is just good training for my upcoming Jewel 50k race as it will likely be hot that day too.

It was a great run, and I so enjoyed Margaret's company and her time to drive up to run with me.  It was truly a thrill for me to have this opportunity, and I am happy that she says she will run again with me sometime!  YAY!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

March Training Run- Part I

March 18th, Paul and I set out for our monthly Amicalola Falls run.  This is the best weather day we've had up there so far.  Paul isn't sure how far he can go because he just did The Stroll 12 hour race at Central Park a week or so before this training run, and he is having foot pain after running 32 miles on pavement!  I don't know how he ran 32 miles on pavement as I can't imagine myself ever wanting to do that especially in a  But, I am not worried about how far Paul can go because I know he's going to push himself as far and as hard as he can.  That's why I like running with him because we share that common trait.  We may not be fast, but we don't stop, and we go further than we think we can.

This training run is very good for me in terms of talking running and our upcoming race "The Jewel 50k".  I really enjoy talking running strategies, running, and more running with Paul.  We both repeat the same ol' stuff and neither of us cares as I can listen and talk about running all day long.  We hash and re-hash, and I'm sure most people would run away from us if they were listening.  We also say bad words and at times lots of bad words and somehow this makes me feel better and keeps my mind off how hard this is!  Just call me POTTY MOUTH.  hehehe 

Along the way, Paul is telling me his Central Park Stroll race story.  It's the funniest thing I have ever heard of on a run.  It's pretty hard to be laughing really hard and running at the same time.  It's even funnier when we re-hash it the 2nd and 3rd time...I'm cracking up now thinking about it!  Yes, I am easily entertained, but it really is funny!

On the way up to Springer Mountain, Paul says he's not sure he can go beyond Springer today on his foot.  I tell him that's fine as I am just happy to be there running, and I am happy with any distance that he may be able to go that day.  I'd much prefer to run trails with someone than to do it alone.

I am really feeling pretty well and my little injury in my leg has healed after 7 weeks.  I have probably bored Paul to death with my woes and frustrations about my leg.  I reallly thought it was going to take 2 or 3 weeks for it to heal, but it takes 7 instead.  Geez!  I was mostly bummed because of my reduced mileage in February and now having to play catch up in March, 4-6 weeks before "The Jewel".  But, I've been running well for about 2 weeks or so now, and I am feeling pretty well and getting stronger again.

We get to Springer Mtn. and Paul says he can go further with his foot.  I knew he would as we are too much alike in this regard...ha!  It's a wonder we don't kill each other running..hahaha  We run another 3 miles and then he says it's time to turn back.  That is ok with me as I know we will get to Three Forks and to Long Creek Falls another day.  That is my goal, but it's not going to be today, and it's ok.  I am happy for whatever mileage we can get in.  On the way back to Springer we pass a female solo trail runner who is running towards Three Forks and says to us, "Now, that's what I like to see!"  I know what she means as I am always happy to see other trail runners out there especially female ones! 

Shortly, after we cross the FS road there is a guide counting his hikers in his group, and laughs as he accidentally counts us in his group and then realizes we are not in his group!  DARN, I just pulled out my sandwhich as it's about a mile uphill on rocks, and I thought I'd eat my PB&J while hiking the uphill.  But, we get caught in this group of hikers and here I am running uphill on rocks eating my PB&J at the same time to get past this large group of hikers.  That's a first for me!  It was fun and challenging.

We are making our way closer to Amicalola and we are about 5 miles away and off to the right is a very strange scene as I am running in front of Paul.  There is a bald man who must weigh at least 350 pounds and he is standing there in what looks like a hole and his back pack is up on a rock.  He is just standing there and our eyes meet for a few seconds, and I look away to focus on the trail.  I do not say anything to Paul as I got this really strange creepy vibe.  I rarely ever get creepy vibes from people, but this guy was ax murderer scary.

I'm not about to say one word to Paul about it for fear that he thinks that I am some kind of weird-o for thinking that.  Just when we get out of ear shot from Big Scary Guy, Paul says, "did you see that guy? He's really scary!"  He then tells me that as I was passing that this guy was staring me down which creeps me out further.   Paul used to compete in Judo and then proceeds to tell me that when he saw this guy he was wondering if he could get his arm around Big Scary Guy's  neck (if he had to) and then decides that he probably couldn't because his neck is so big!  I told Paul that he could stay and do his Judo, but my plan was to keep running! hahaha  I also told Paul that in all seriousness that this guy was really scary, and I was creeped out and that I'm glad that he said something about it because I wasn't about to admit that I was creeped out about him.  It was good to know that I wasn't making stuff up in my head!  I don't hear that little "warning voice" too often, but when I do, I know to listen.  It was just good to know that I wasn't off base.

The last 4 miles of this run were brutal.  My feet were really hurting from my stupid shoes, and Paul's foot was hurting.  When we got to the 4 mile mark, Paul was saying it wasn't much further and by mile was getting old as we kept saying "not much further"...I was ready to get this shit done! 

And, so we did...we got 20 miles done.  The end is always best and not so bad.  It was our slowest run to date, but I am not worried as I get to run this same trail with Margaret in 2 days!  YAY!

DRT Re-Visited

Bobby posts on FB that he is doing a DRT 50k training run on March 10th and is inviting whoever may want to go to run any distance that they might want to run.  Hmmm I am definitely interested as this is one month away from "The Jewel 50k" that I have signed up for. I know it will be a great training run for me and I opt to do just the first half.  I just have to be home by 2:30pm as Lee and I have dinner plans with friends and then we are going to the Human Body Exhibit in Atlanta.  So, I sign up and go with excitement and dread because I know that Coosa Bald hates me.

I arrive at Vogel Park and there are 7 of us.  And, I am so happy to see that 4 of us are females!  Theresa recognizes me from DRT and Hostelity, and I am surprised that she mentions and compliments me on my race at Hostelity.  I am almost embarassed about it.  It's funny that I don't mind talking about my running with people that I know well, but when it's brought up to me it just feels different. It was very unexpected, I suppose.  But, we start off running and Bobby is going to mark key areas on the trail with pink tape.  I have to laugh as I think he is marking it for the girls!  I don't care as I am just tickled pink that he is marking it, and I don't have one worry about getting lost.

The pack of us are quickly dispersed.  I am towards the bottom third of us runners which is typical for me.  I am not fast in ultra-running, and I'm ok with that.  I am just happy to be here.  It's a beautiful sunny day and it's in the 50's.  I quickly realize as it warms up that I am completly over-dressed in my 2 layers.  UGHHH it really slows me down, and I debate several times to stop and take some clothes off , but I don't want to stop, so I don't.

The trail looks different this time.  I have not been here since the DRT race in Nov.  There are a lot of trees down.  A tornado passed through a week or so before, and I wonder if that's why there are so many trees down.  I pass a water crossing that I do not remember crossing on the trail and there is a beautiful waterfall.  I stop and take a few pictures, but they do not turn out so well.  I realize that maybe when I ran this in the fall there wasn't that much water because we had a pretty dry summer.  It is really pretty out here!  It's really a much different trail than Amicalola. 

It seems that Bobby has marked the trail in just the correct spots!  I find my way easily following the pink tape.  The trail is not easier to run, but it is easier for me to navigate than it was in the past.  I can only chalk this up to more trail experience than when I first started out. 

I make my way up Coosa Bald.  This is a mountain that I cannot run but must hike instead.  There are tiny parts that I try to run, but mostly it's hiking.  I am convinced that Coosa hates me.  This is still hard, but perhaps harder because I am not going into it blind, so I know it's never going to end.  I am thinking about my DRT 30k race and remembering how I was feeling on that day as I climb.  It's not much better today..haha  Finally, I get to the top.  I think this climb is about 4 miles or so long.  I am so happy to be at the top and the snack drop off is ahead, and it's mostly downhill to the snacks.  I start running again and it feels good.  I will run faster for food anyday!  Thanks to Bobby for the yummy peach-tea gels and cookie!  YUM YUM. 

I don't stay long at the snack bar (haha), but rather take the snacks with me and start back because the hill I just ran down, I now have to climb back up it.  This hill, I think, is worse than Coosa almost.  I don't know why, but I don't like this hill.  I'm going up and up and up and then I see Theresa coming down!  YAY!  I stop and talk to her too long...perhaps 20 minutes..but it was a nice chat.  She was pulling off her pack and had a bag of medicinals.  What a smart idea!  This gal had everything...Excedrine, Ibuprofen, Tylenol..all in a little baggie.  I just had to laugh as I'm thinking, "why have I never thought of this?"  She shares her motrin with me.  We discover that we are both running "The Jewel 50k" next month!  And, later that day we friend each other on FB.  She is also new to ultra running, and I am just excited to meet another female who is also new.  I'm just bummed that we live so far away from each other as it would be fun to meet up for some runs.

Theresa makes her way down hill as I tell her she probably has about a 3/4 mile or so to go.  I resume my climb up this little mountain in the opposite direction.  I struggle up it and then start to descend down Coosa.  Woohoo!  This is like a roller coaster and the downhill is fun.  I am still slow on downhills.  Heck, I am slow uphill and downhill, but I keep trying.  It's really warming up now, and I am pretty hot, but I really don't want to take the time to remove layers, so I just suffer.  It's good summer training, right?  Or at least that's what I tell myself.  Funny, that I am too lazy to stop and remove layers, but I'll run all day long!  Oxymoron if I ever heard one! 

Finally, I am on the last 3 mile stretch of this run and my feet really hurt.  I know it's my stupid Saucony's as my feet always hurt between mile 10-13 in these shoes and today is no different.  I make another mental note to order my FREE trail shoes from Salomon!  Thank you Hostelity and Salomon once again!

I make it back to the park and get to my car just in time to make it home for my evening plans.  I didn't run it any faster than my previous training runs there, but I am so happy that I don't feel as beat up as I have previously.  Bobby's words from the first DRT training run ring in my ears, "it does get easier".  It didn't feel any easier to me this day, but I felt better.  In fact, I was able to wear high heels on my evening out!

I really had to squeeze this run into my day, but I was so happy that I was able to do it.  I know it's going to help me in my upcoming race at The Jewel!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

First Solo Trail Run

I was incidentally off from work on a Friday, Feb. 24th.  This was a ME day as Lee would be at work and the kids would be at school.  So, despite threats of thunder storms and rain, I head off to Amicalola Falls for my first solo run.  I am really excited and nervous.  I know the route well since I have run it twice already, but also nervous to do it alone.  It's a humid cloudy day and my favorite weather to run in!  I am lucky enough to shed my layers and just be comfortable as it's about 60 degree's or so. 

I get to the falls and start running.  I realize that I am seeing and hearing things that I never saw or heard before.  When I run with other folks I tend to talk running, running strategies, and more running and also spend time listening to what my running friend(s) may have to say.  It's a great distraction from the hard work I am putting into my run.  And, it passes the time more quickly.  But, today it is different.  It's me and the outdoors and boy does it all look and sound different!

It's very cloudy and sometimes dark, and it's windy again.  The wind is higher in the trees and not always blowing on me, but it's loud as the tree's are swaying when I look up.  There are times when the trees are creaking so loud that I wonder if one is going to fall today while I am out there.  I hear all kinds of birds, but I don't see any birds.  The sun shines briefly but then it's gone.  It's eerie in sections.  I run downhill across this section that looks dark.  The dirt is dark, the trees are dark and the clouds are dark.  It reminds me of a spooky haunted house scene that I've scene in nearly every horror movie I have ever watched.  It's just eerie.  It makes me run faster through this section before I get too creeped out.

I am climbing uphill and the sun pokes out again (yess!).  Something about the sun just makes me feel better, and I am enjoying the uphill even more.  But, then it sprinkles and rains a bit and passes quickly.  I am trying to save my PB&J to eat on top of Springer Mountain, but I am hungry now, so I pull it out and eat it while climbing the uphill.  I make it to Springer in 2hrs 5 min.  This is a record for me!  YEAH!  I am feeling pretty good.  The little injury in my leg hurts off and on, but it's getting better and everytime my left hip tightens up and hurts I stop and stretch it, but I am actually feeling pretty good despite my little pains.  The brief stretches are helping.

I am excited to descend from Springer.  It's downhill for awhile.  I try to practice my downhill running.  I can always feel myself holding back and being cautious, so I work on this yet again.  I run for about 2 miles and finally see a couple hiking!  I ran for over 9 miles before I saw the first people!  It's funny that running solo as a female I am aware of my surroundings and my fear is "bad people" because I read and hear the horror stories of what can happen to solo female runners.  But, I am actually happy to see people in this moment because today I have been worried about animals!  What if I saw a bear, coyote, snake,  or a rabid animal?  What would I do?  The stuff I think about while running! 

I continue to run and darn the haunted section still looks haunted except now it's even darker.  I worry for a bit that I am really going to get caught in the storm that the weather predicted.  But, now I have to climb uphill through this section, and I try to run as much as I can just to pass the scariness.  But, I get past it and come across more hikers.  As I am making my wake back to Amicalola, I am really feeling good about my run.  I come across a hiker sitting on a log right there on the trail.  He hears me coming and he gets up.  He says, "Are you running this whole thing?".  I said, "Just 15 miles today".  He says, "God Bless you"!  I thought it was funny.  And, then before I know it, I am finished.  It's ended in 4 hours 8 minutes.  I can't believe it.  I know this would be slow for a lot of ultra runners, but it's fast for me, and I am happy with it.  I am thankful that my little injuries are healing and that I am beginning to feel better.  I am thinking about the DRT 50k and for the first time EVER I begin to really believe that I can do it this year. 

Paul posts on my FB page and wants to know how I did this run so fast!  I say it's because I didn't talk the whole way, and it's true.  I always run faster when I run by myself.  Solo runs are good for my running on so many levels.  I'd much prefer to run trails with friends for safety reasons, and it's more fun as I do enjoy company.  But, I am glad that when I couldn't find someone to run with me this day that I went anyways.  I would definitely do it again when the opportunity arises.