Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mystery Mountain Marathon- October 14, 2012


This is my 4th race that I signed up for that is at least marathon distance or longer in the last 3 months.  I initially worried that I had signed up for too many races in a short span of time but have found that I am doing great with these distances and my recovery time is faster.  In fact, I am loving it!

I really wanted to run this particular race last year, but I really wasn't in enough running shape to run it.  I'm glad I waited to run it this year because I am REALLY ready.  My initial goal for this race was to use it as a training run for DRT 50k since that is the race I am aiming to finish within the time frame allotted. 

I so blindly signed up for this race not knowing the first thing about it.  It's not till about a week before the race that I hear the race buzz about how hard this race is.  What???  I didn't know this was going to be a hard race. Normally, I only want to sign up if it's tough, but I just didn't think this one was going to be for whatever  I see race elevation profiles on FB that just freak me out because I know there is an 8 hour cut off for this race.  I didn't see it as a problem, but now I am worried.  Then I realize I ran H9 in 6:51 hours.  I ran the first 25 miles of The Jewel 50 mile in 6:25 hours.  So, I just settle in knowing this is going to be hard and hope for 6:30 hours based on my previous times and knowing that I am getting stronger on these runs.  Then two days before the race, I realize my next race DRT 50k isn't for 5 weeks yet.  So, I ditch my training race plan and decide to really race this  It's so on.

Lee and I drive early to the race site with the kids.  It's breezy and cool but humid feeling.  I like this weather.  There are a ton of people at this race.  My largest longest race yet!  WOOHOO!  I love the energy of a bigger race.  So fun!  And, talking with a few people that I actually know is awesome.

Now, I can tell you in great boring detail how beautiful this race is.  And, I can tell you about running around the lake and up and around the mountain trails, the scenic views and even waterfalls.  It felt like the first 11 miles were just all up hill.  I enjoyed my flight down the ton of steps and thankful that I have spent 4 years running up and down flights of stairs at work everyday.  I actually passed some runners going down the  

What I really want to write about is finding that competitive spirit that I buried over a year ago when I was terribly humbled at the DRT first training run.  When I decided to pursue trail and ultra running, I knew I was no good and not good enough, but alas I am stubborn and persistent.  It took me months to completely change the way I think about running and get over my slow trail times in comparison to my road times. 

Somewhere in mile 11 or 12, I descend down this steep mother of  a hill that never ends.  After awhile, my quads feel like they are nearly trashed in a way they haven't felt in a very long time.  I think back to my run with Kia 3 miles up Brasstown Bald road and 3 miles down and we repeat.  I am so thankful for that training day even though people thought this was useless and WTF was I doing that for?  LOL I knew that the constant downhill training was good for me and probably not what most people practice.  When I finish that never ending downhill, I feel a strain in my left hip flexor.  Well, crap...I got 14 more miles so not much I can really do about it.  It hurts for the next 1.5 hours and then either it goes away, or I have completely dismissed it.

Once I am off the downhill, there is a stretch of running that I like.  I just run and run.  I only stop at aid stations if I really need something and when I stop, I make it very short.  Maybe one to two minutes max.  Along about mile 14, I start passing a few folks...and as I make my way forward I keep passing people who are often times walking.  My mind drifts back to my high school days and my road race days where I mentally visualize myself passing people when I see them ahead of me.  So, whenever I see someone I just try to pick it up.  I do not know how long I can maintain my pace, but figure I should just try for as long as I can hold out.

I get to mile 20ish and there is Conti's Climb that Franco told me about on a training run the week prior.  This is no  It's hard, and amazingly enough, I pass two people on this climb.  I was so glad to be done with this one.  I run further and hit another climb and I say probably too loud "FUCK"!  LOL  But, who cares in the woods, anyways?

I get to the last 4-5 miles and I'm determined to run this as hard as I can.  After all, I only have 4 to 5 miles left.  I can do that in my sleep.  I am still passing people in my final stretches toward the finish line.  I glance at my watch and notice that my time is 5:53 hours...but I am thinking I am too far away to get under 6 hours.  I already know from last years times that a 6 hour finish would be awesome especially for me.  I run around the lake and the finish is so close! 

I finish at 6:00:13 hours.  My family is there waiting and Mitchell runs along side of me.  I ran so hard that I am tired.  I was so glad to be done with this race.  I ran so hard the entire time.  I ran my PR for a trail marathon.  I far exceeded my expectations.  I only ran this hard because it was such a big race.  I found a mental motivation that I haven't had in a long time...mainly competition.  It was fun!  I was the 11th female finisher.  I thought that was pretty good, but I am just even happier to have run the crap out of this race.

DRT 50k, Next!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Georgia Jewel 50 miles--September 22, 2012

This is the first of two races that I have been training for up until this point.  It's funny how things can change in just 4 short months.  I went from doubting myself when I signed up for this race wondering if I could actually be capable of running 50 miles in just 4 months to feeling pretty confident that I will finish this race.  Not a cockiness by no means, but just a confidence that I would get it done.  I was just determined to train hard for it no matter what.  I really wanted to try a 50 mile trail race at least once! 

Two days before the race, I do not sleep good.  My excitement for this race suddenly turns to fear and anxiety after I get around to reading the course description.  Yes, I sign up for a race that I know is going to be tough nearly 5 months in advance, and yes, I wait till 2 nights before the race to actually read the course description.  Historically, I run better going in blind.  It's better if I do not know all the details.  But, my fear is not the mileage or how long it's going to actually take me to run 50 mountain trail miles.  My fear is that I will get lost, run off course, or miss a part of the course.  I have done that on 2 races this year, and quite frankly, it makes me mad.  I really really want this to be my race and don't want to screw it up.  I want to know where I stand.  I print out the course description and the graph of the aid stations and pack it in my camelbak.  I freak out for a little while and then just get calm about it.  I know what to do and finally I decide to not allow my fears to become a reality, so I just chill about it. 

Lee and I drive to Dalton the night before the race, and I get in the bed, but I cannot sleep because I am excited and nervous.  I finally fall asleep around 11pm or so only to be awakened by other hotel guests at 3am.  They are moving stuff out of their room and talking so loud.  I think what the heck?  Don't they know it's 3am and people are sleeping?  Now, I am wide awake and since I can't sleep I try to listen to their conversation.  LOL  I really can't hear them, but wonder if they are 100 milers getting ready to run by 4am.  They finally leave after 3:30am.  I try to doze off but at 4:30am, I just decide to get up before the alarm goes off at 5:45am and let Lee sleep a little longer.

I get to my phone and realize it's not operating!  Lee tries desperately to fix it as it won't sync to his Itunes after I tried uploading the new IOS update.  UGHH!  I do not run without my phone.  I can't text Lee with updates of where I am at, and there goes my camera!  I am so bummed, but I can't think about it now.  I've got 50 miles to run, but first I have to get to the race.

Lee drops me off at the check in to park the car.  I get checked in and my race number and walk my bag to  my car, and Lee has made me a peanut butter bagel.  I'm thankful to Margaret who gave me this pointer of buying breakfast the night before because there is no place to get breakfast this early in the morning!  I would have never thought to do that as I take it for granted that someplace would be open.  My milk and peanut butter wheat bagel is so tasty.

Lee and I walk back to the start of the race, and I talk with a few runners that I have known from other races and of course, Brad and Candy are there.  It's always good to see them.  Brad has been at every ultra race that I have signed up for thus far.  I haven't run many ultras, but it's just nice to be at a point where I actually know some folks or at least know of them through facebook.  Before I know it, I am listening to race instructions on where to go.  It's pretty dark, but I have a great headlamp, so I'm not worried about it as my plan is to follow the crowd till we head into the woods. 

The race starts at 5:58am according to my Garmin, and I wave a final goodbye to Lee.  I am guessing there are probably close to a 100 runners between the 35 mile and 50 mile race.  We head out of the parking lot onto the road.  And, Lee emerges from the woods and takes my hand as I run.  I tell him, I will see him later, and Candy tells Lee, "She's got this, Lee!" The road soon turns into a steady steep uphill which reminds me of the tennis court hill at Yahoola, so I got this.  Candy says she is going to walk up the hill, but I just keep running up.  I figure it's a good warmup for me but several people are walking also as they don't want to "burn out their legs".  It's interesting to listen to, but I know to listen to myself.  I learned this from my Ranger Run 15k!  LOL  I also run a lot of long paved hills, so in reality, I am not at all bothered by this hill. 

We make a left into the woods, and boy, is it dark!  A girl lets me in front of her because I have the better headlamp according to her.  I just laugh, and tell her that maybe true but she may be faster than me.  She doesn't want to pass me because she wants to be able to see.  Another female runner also comments on my headlamp stating that I have the best headlamp out here!  It's so funny to me that my $7.95 headlamp shipped free from China is causing people to follow me on a trail to nowhere!  LOL  I can't wait to tell Lee about this. 

It's not long before the trail gets rocky.  This is the section of trail that I have heard the most about and my priority over this trail is to be careful in the dark while moving as quickly as I can.  It's not too much of a concern though now that I am actually here because I am in a crowd running single file.  It takes a good 5 miles before it thins out, but I've been able to keep a fairly steady pace but once it thins out, I am able to run at my pace. 


I run with various runners along the way and actually have some great running conversations while I am trying to find my forever pace.  I am running really well, not too fast, but at a steady pace that I feel like I can run at for a very long way.  There are some climbs but nothing too crazy, and I actually scramble up them pretty quickly.  Basically, I am having a good run.  Before I know it, I am at the 9 mile mark.  I am 1/5th of the way done! 

I get to the 17 mile aid station in about 4 hours.  I'm really surprised with my time.  I use the porta potty here, take some Tylenol, get some aid station food, and re-fill my water pack.  I spend probably too much time here, but I know the next water station is around mile 21 and then the next food station is mile 25. 

I head in the direction where I saw other runners going to.  I came up on another runner and we walk together in that direction.  We don't see any markers so we back track a tad and then  I see them across the street.  So, now we are back on the trail, and I am so happy with myself that I easily corrected myself.  It's also the only time I got slightly off course.  This is GREAT!  I am really quite pleased with how well marked this course is.

It's not long when this trail gets tough.  The climbs are hard, but I try to run as much as I can and hike the ups.  It's just this guy and I and he tells me this is his first ultra!  I am floored as he picked a hard 50 miles to do today!  Not only that, he's from an area that is completely flat!  He has trained for this by doing squats and weights and running flat!  He hasn't run technical trails.  I'm not sure if I am super impressed that he took on such a challenge or feel sorry for him because this race is getting harder all of a sudden.  I offer to let him pass me but he says no.  Finally, on a climb he tells me to go ahead as he stops and stretches.  I never saw him again.

In the next few miles, I am on a ridge,  running and it's on a slight downhill.  I love ridge running!  I am still feeling good, except nature is calling, and I really really need to go to the bathroom.  I am in a section of trail where it's completely open and I'm starting to worry that the 50 milers will be passing soon on their way back, and I really need to use the bathroom soon.  I am worried that the guy I passed a few miles ago is going to run up on me.  Finally, my stomach cramps so bad that I actually stop to double over and hold my abdomen.  I run again but wonder if I can make it to the bathroom that's coming up in the next few miles.  Finally, I decide that I cannot.  So, I climb up a hill and squat right by a log.  Anyone passing will likely see me up on the hill, but at least I'll see them first!  LOL  I take off my pack and pull out the toilet paper that I am sure to pack for every run but have never had to use up to this point.  I squat and use the bathroom as quickly as I can and run back the hill.  I feel so much better!  I should have done this sooner!  My first poo in the woods!

I come up on the 21 mile water station, and I fill my back pack with just enough water to get me through to the 25 mile station.  I do not want to carry too much water at a time.  It's not long before 2 runners pass me, and I recognize one of the guys as the volunteer who was at Merrill's Mile for about 30 hours.  I had heard at MM that he was successful running a 100 mile race on his 5th attempt.  That's perseverance!  These are the last 2 folks to pass me for the rest of the race.

I run past a little pond and it's in open sun.  It's really hot coming out of the shaded woods into open sun.  Fortunately, I am not out here long, and I have to cross the street to go down a service road.  It's not long before I see the first 50 mile lady on her return trip!  I cheer her on and keep moving.  Then I see John M. whom I met at MM and I encourage him as he's making some good time.  The service road turns back onto a trail.

Oh Mama...this is pretty much all uphill and climbs as I make my way toward the 25 mile aid station.  Then I hear two men talking behind me as we are climbing up.  The first thing I notice is their accents as it's very southern but not the Georgia southern that I am familiar with.  I ask these men where they are from and sure enough they are from Mississippi.  I do not ever recall meeting someone from Mississippi before.

Randy and Charles are training partners and have drove up the day before with 3 female friends who are all running the 35 mile race.  These guys along with many other 50 milers out here today are using this race as a training run for Pinhoti 100 miler.  Unfortunately, something is wrong with Charles' calf muscle and he is really struggling and pretty upset about it because he is in so much pain.  I ask these fellas if they want to pass me but they decline and say they are just fine.  As we climb higher and higher, the views are just incredible from John's Mountain.

I am getting pretty hungry at this point, but I want to hold out to eat something at the 25 mile station as I imagine that there must be really good food at the half way turn around point.  I have visions of sub sandwiches and cheeseburgers dancing in my head!  LOL  I'm really wanting something cold to drink.  I mean ice cold.  I see many returning runners as I get closer and closer to the 25 mile aid station.  One female runner says, "you're almost there and it's a great aid station"!  I know she must be confirming my thoughts of all the wonderful food that must be awaiting ME!  I even share this info with Randy and Charles as we continue to climb.

Finally, after the last brutal climb we are greeted at the top by volunteers Mitchell P. and Brandon Y.  Oh my, people I know and what a treat to see them at the top of this beautiful place with a view.  I am saddened and disappointed that Jessica isn't there as she went to fetch more water as they were running out.  Brandon kindly takes my camelbak and fills it up completely for me!  Mitchell is kind enough to let me borrow is phone to text Lee.  I tell him that I made it 6:25 hours and going to get a bite to eat and head back and feel free to update FB if he wants.   I am mildly disappointed that there is not any major food that I built myself up for...argghhh.  Instead it's the usual race fare.  However, I am surprised when Mitchell offers me a Red Bull!  OH HELL YEAH...something ice cold and good and I guzzle it down.  I wait here longer than I should to see if Jessica returns, but it's not long before I realize I must start heading back.  The Mississippi guys have already started back.  But, OH,  my it's beautiful up here!

I run down the hills and come upon Charles who I can see is visibly struggling.  I feel so badly for him because I know there is no way he can make it back.  Not only that, he should not.  I ask him if he's ok, and he says he is in so much pain with his calf that he couldn't even swim with it if he tried.  I know this is not good.  I run ahead and catch up to Randy who is waiting on his friend and training partner.  I kindly tell Randy that his friend is in a lot of pain.  I suggest that maybe Charles should stop because he still has time to recover and heal in time for Pinhoti.  Randy feels so bad for Charles because this has never happened to his friend before.  He also agrees that no way can Charles finish the race in his current state.  Randy tells me to run on.  As he says this, I start running after my brief chat, and I tell Randy, "I'm sure you'll catch up again."

It's not too long before Randy catches up to me and says that he talked with Charles and that he agreed that he has to turn back at the 25 mile aid station.  We both have a brief chuckle that poor Charles has to turn around and go back up that climb to get to the 25 mile station!  Randy says he should have stayed there.  Poor guy!

Randy and I chit chat along the way, and I tell him he is free to pass anytime, and he explains that he and Charles goal was to get the time on their feet.  He is not concerned with time as this is a training run for him for Pinhoti. He has completed Pinhoti 2 or 3 times already and really didn't want to do the race but his friend wanted to.  He said he only signed up because Charles wanted him to!  LOL  As it turns out, this is Randy's 114th race.  He has been running ultras since 1999!  I am super impressed.

Randy also tells me that I am more than welcome to run on if I want to go faster.  I tell him this is my fast and my "forever pace".  I tell him that I won't be moving any faster than this at this point...LOL  So, we just settle into some nice conversation off and on.  We take turns pacing.  I am following Randy and he is walking really fast.  I am in a slow a jog just to keep up even on the uphills.  LOL  I tell him that I have never seen a human walk so fast!  He tells me he can walk a 13 min mile.  Shoot, I know people who run a 13 minute mile! 

Randy and I talk so much about our races, running, race strategy and our families.  He is such a wealth of information.  I am learning so much, and I'm literally hanging off of his every word.  He also shares his weaknesses on long races primarily if he gets over heated or his stomach.  So far, my weaknesses are different only because I am so new.  He is such a good kind person.  I think several times how lucky I am to have run into him and his friend earlier in this race.  We never agree to run together the entire race, but neither of us run ahead either.  He asks me, "do you know what we are doing, we are doing RFP, you know what that means?"  And, I reply, "no".  He says, "it's Relentless Forward Progress".  I do not know why, but this strikes a chord in me, and I hang onto it for the remainder of the race.  I repeat it often on the journey back and Randy does too.  RFP, Relentless Forward means so much and everything at the same time.

We have been running alone for miles.  We come up and pass a runner and ask if he is ok as he is just walking, and he says he is ok.  I ask Randy if he thinks we will see other runners.  He says, we will likely see one or two more people on the way back.  We run into Brad and Candy on the side of the trail as Brad isn't feeling well at all.  I feel so bad for him!  I give them both a gel, and we offer to help if we can, but we are just 2.5 miles away from the 34 mile Snake Creek Gap aid station and Candy says Brad can walk that back.  So, Randy and I move forward.  They quickly catch up to us at the 34 mile station where unfortunately Brad DNF's. 

Randy and I quickly re-fuel at the aid station, and I have my ham roll up on pita bread and tell Randy that I am ready to go when he is as I am going to walk or run while I eat this.  We move on.  We are not running long when I jump over a huge black snake, and I yell "Snake!" to give Randy a warning!  I say, "I think that's a good snake maybe a black King snake".  But, I am not hanging around to check it out.  I don't hear Randy so I stop and turn around and just like a typical man he is trying to move it off the trail.  He says, "it's about 5 feet long!".  I tell him I am not hanging around to find out!  LOL  We are running for a few miles now and Candy passes us without Brad but really she was already ahead of us minus her pit stops with Brad.  She is making good progress, and we wish her a good run.

We get to the 40 mile aid station and there is coconut milk!  I eat a bit and Randy is ready to move on quickly.  We get our eats and go.  As I'm leaving I see Joe who I ran with at H9 sitting in a chair.  He is a really good runner, but he's not looking so hot.  His friend Tommy and pacer for this race is there with him.  I figure he is resting a bit and will be on his way.  But, I later see in the ultrasignup results he didn't make it in.  I am saddened to see that he was not able to finish.

Randy stops on a few occasions and squats to stretch and when he does I follow suit.  I found this helps my left hip/thigh pain so much, but I know my knee will pay for it later...but right now it feels good and relieves the pressure.  This pain is chronic but another lesson I learn from Randy.  I am grateful for this stretch that I never do.  Who knew a simple squat would relieve it?  Randy gets a calf cramp and has to stop to walk.  He tells me to go ahead.  I am quick to tell him that we have less than 10 miles and have run together for hours and no way will I run ahead of him now.  He just laughs and thankfully his cramp is short lived.

At some point, I get lightheaded and I tell Randy.  He asks me if I know what's causing it.  I tell him I think it's my blood sugar as it drops occasionally.  I pull a snack out and eat.  I feel better in the next 15 minutes and then I am trying to remember to snack more frequently to stay ahead of it.  I realize I have eaten very little considering how hard I am working.  RFP.

Randy is full of positive encouragement and reinforcement of what we are accomplishing.  He is simply an amazing person and runner.  I tell him that I feel like I have a pacer.  He says, "no, I feel like I have a pacer".  He makes me feel like I am helping him as much as he is helping me.  That's just not possible. 

Randy and I pass 9 runners in all on the way back who are all having GI upset or just simply more tired than we are.  Randy and I are both surprised.  As we are running, we decide to count how many people we pass just for something to do.  He also has math equations and math strategies for finishing a race.  I just have to laugh as I am the same way, and naively thought that I am the only person who does this crap.  However, he has a math equation that he tells me a few times throughout the race and finally he asks me to figure out his equation and I tell him that I do not understand his math in this instance...LOL  We both just laugh.

We are both happy to be at the 45 mile water station.  There is only one aid station left and that is at the finish.  I tell Randy that I am going to be so happy to finish that 50 mile finish line.  He is too as his poor friends have been waiting hours on him.  They are driving back to Mississippi tonight for 6 hours!!  We make our way through the never ending beautiful rock garden.  I am so happy happy happy to KNOW that I am going to finish this race in daylight.  I worried this morning that I would finish in the dark.  I did not want to cross these rocks again in the dark.  Randy told me many hours ago that I would not finish in the dark! 

We are starting our 2 mile downhill to the finish.  We are both so happy.  Randy naturally runs ahead.  I find that my downhill speed is what I knew it would be when I started up this hill over 13 hours ago, it's slow.  I never thought I'd finish a downhill race at around a 11-12 min/mile, but I'm proud of it as I am in my final miles, and I am running as fast as I can at this point.  Randy stops to walk till I am able to catch up.  I do not expect him to wait on me, but he does.  We enter the parking lot, and we cross the finish line together. 

Don Gibson the co-race director asks me what I thought of the course as soon as I cross the finish line at 13:44 hours.  I tell him, "It was an amazing course, beautiful, and the best race I ever ran!".  I loved this course.  I was never lost.  I can't even be upset that I wanted real food and it was the usual race fare.  I am thankful to Randy for all of his positive encouragement and once again learn so much about myself and will never ever forget the things I learned from Randy.  I'm still amazed at his kindness.

Candy is taking pictures of Randy and I.  Candy hands me a beer and oh my it's cold!  I borrow Candy's phone to text Lee, and he arrives shortly.  He is so upset to have missed my finish but really it's ok.   I am so very happy to see him now.  He is so proud of me, and it makes my heart swell to know he is so happy for me.

And, for the first time ever, I feel like I am no longer running away... but rather towards something..what it is I do not know, but what I do know is that I don't have to know. I am again so thankful for this journey that I am on.