Monday, April 29, 2013

Why I run? Hmmmm....

So, my friend Lacy emails me and says this: "I would totally love a guest post by you for UMR (  on why you run and mention what you accomplished as a runner in a year. I think you're such a powerful runner that other moms can pull inspiration from."

I don't know about all that as I can't imagine me being an inspiration to anyone.  I'm the one who draws my inspiration from other people!  But, I decided to go ahead and help my friend out with her website and here is what I came up with:

I have tried to answer the question, "Why do I run?" I do not have an answer. I have no idea why I run except to say that it's just a part of me to do so.  However, what I can explain is is how my running has evolved over the years.

I remember running as a small child and really just enjoyed the feeling of running. At age 7, I remember beating the boys in 2nd grade in our 100 yard dash. I was always physically active and growing up in Ohio we had to walk or run to and from school. We didn't have a car so walking or running was how we got to the store and back. So, pretty much everywhere I went I walked or ran.
It wasn't until my teen years after moving from Ohio to Georgia that I started to run for exercise. I joined the track team in my junior and senior years in high school and then joined the first cross-country team in my senior year. I ran the 1 mile and 2 mile event and was the 2nd best girl on my team. I was also the second best girl on my cross-country team. I fell in love with cross-country and enjoyed trail running more than I ever did on the roads.

I continued to run through college on and off but really became burnt out on it mostly from over training and the stress of competition from my track coach. He meant well, but it was too much pressure because I had always ran for enjoyment and now I was being pushed to run. Running for time became a new concept and one that has stuck with me for life. I just can't seem to shake it or the self-inflicted pressure I feel when I race. However, it's a good stress because it drives me to do my best and to stay motivated.

I took a break from running for several years in my mid 20's mostly because I incurred an Achilles tendon injury that hurt for 3 years. So,  I became a gym rat and participated in group exercise classes for 13 years.  I've tried everything except Cross-Fit and Zumba.

After the birth of my second child, and after nearly a year of exercise and trying to lose the weight, I just couldn't shake the last 10 pounds. I decided to take up running on a treadmill before my exercise class. I quickly lost the weight, signed up for a local 5k, and after 6 weeks of training, I ran the 5k in 25:32 minutes and won my age group. I've been running ever since and that was nearly 8 years ago.

I was lucky enough to break my elbow nearly 2 years ago when I fell of my bike. I couldn't continue to strength train so I began running more. I ran my first 10 mile training road run in July 2011, and it was so hard in mile 8, but I pushed through to get to mile 10. I always thought I'd like to try a 10k and so I did and won my age group there that same summer, but I still really liked the fast 5k's best.

Surprisingly my goals continued to change as I started to find local long distance runners to run with on occasion. I couldn't find anyone to run with me for 3-5 miles, but boy could I find some long distance runners!

I decided to sign up for a tough trail race in the local North Georgia mountains. It was the hardest run and race I ever ran because it was a 30k but ended up being one mile longer than advertised. I had never run 19.6 miles before. I thought that race in Nov. 2011 would kill me, but it didn't. I started seriously training on mountain trails in Jan 2012 and have been running trail marathon's and ultras ever since.

In 2012, I decided to take a race journey whereby I wanted to run and get a taste of different kinds of races.  I really just wanted to find my "niche" in the ultra world.  I ran a 12 hour trail race (38.65 miles winning first female), 24 hour race (1 mile flat loop for 70 miles placing 5th female), two 50k races, 2 trail marathon races, and a 50 mile trail race. 

So far, in 2013 I won first place overall in a 12 hour race and broke the course record running 50.7 miles over 7800 feet of elevation gain.  Then in March, I ran my first road marathon although 2/3 of this race was on back graveled roads, and 13 days later ran a 65 mile point to point race covering 31,000 feet of elevation change placing 8th female.

It's amazing to me,  that as a 42 year old wife, mother, and full-time working nurse,  that I have recently become stronger and faster. I never expected it. I am just thrilled to have had the opportunity to push myself farther and harder, running the trails I love, and that I once thought I could never do.  Somehow,  I just appreciate it more in a way that I never thought would happen for me. But, I'm so happy that I didn't give up and that I continue to try.  I know that if I can do this than anyone can.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Unexpected but Grateful Realization

I come to the realization that I have only gotten as far as I have with my training through the people I have met and had the privilege of running with.  I am well aware that without each of these amazing runners that I would not have come as far as I have in such a short period of time in preparation for this race.  I made a general post on Facebook the morning before the race expressing my gratitude for the people who took so much time out of their lives to run with me.  It was a general post as I'm sure they knew who they are, but really feel the need to take the time to thank each one of them for making me a better runner.

My generic Facebook post as written:  I'm truly grateful for my running friends who have met with me over the last 5 months to prepare for the GDR. These folks often woke up in the middle of the night and drove sometimes for hours. Ran hours with me in the dark, rain, snow, ice, wind gusts, and well below freezing temps. These folks ran tired, hungry and sometimes up to 10 hours in a day with me and then sometimes ran again with me the next day. They put up with me on my great days and my not so great days. You all have encouraged me in so many ways, and I hope I gave something back in return. Good luck to y'all tomorrow!

Jessica:  I just cannot say enough good things about this lady!  We started running together last summer and have even run a few of the same races.  She ran at least 70 trail miles with me between Dec and Feb. and another 20 miles since GDR.   I have tremendous admiration for her not only as a runner, but as a mother and friend!  She is tough as nails.   We have run together in the dark on an unknown trail together on our first run from Woody's Gapt to Neel's Gap and back.  One of the most adventurous fun runs ever for me.  I was truly inspired after this run to venture out and learn new trails. I have always wanted to do this, but it was Jessica's outlook on trail running that inspired me to go forth and actually do it.   I love Jessica's sense of adventureness and her fearlessness.  I'm so excited about our future running plans together.  I think the two of us together with our joint fearlessness might just be a dangerous combo! 

Sarah:  Is also a life long runner who has run numerous marathons and races over a 30 year period.  She won "The Jewel" 100k last April 2012!  I was lucky enough to meet her through a Mom's running group on Facebook when we both realized we had signed up for GDR.  We set a date last Nov and met in Dec to run.  She's a dedicated runner who routinely runs 70 to 80 miles per week but because she lives South of Atlanta doesn't have the opportunity to run mountain trails very much.  We met up to run at least 72 trail miles between Dec thru Feb.  This is one determined lady!  She always made me laugh because every time I met to run with her which was always in the dark still, she would always arrive up to an hour early to sleep in her car before our run!  So, then I'd have to knock on her window to wake her up to run!  One day she met with both Jake and I for a 30 mile run on the DRT.  She had a very rough start falling behind.  This was NOT like her at all!  This is a lady who does NOT stop.  If you run with Sarah and you stop, she keeps going..LOL  I love that about her!  Anyways,  after about 3 miles into this 30 miler she confides in Jake and I that she had fallen on a road run the day before hitting her neck and head!  She was really hurting and was not feeling this run.  I almost fell out realizing she showed up to run nearly 10,000 feet of elevation gain over 30 miles with neck and head pain!  What was even more surprising and impressive is that she says, "I am going to run 3 hours out and 3 hours back".  Ok, I just had to laugh.  I say, "Sarah, most people would not even show up after a fall like that let alone agree to run at least 6 hours on a tough route!".  Well, about 3 hours into this run Sarah catches her 2nd wind getting ahead of Jake and I whereby she saw 2 wild boars out on the DRT and Jake and I missed them.  Sarah not only gets her 6 hours but she finished this tough training run!  Talk about perseverance and determination.  I am in awe and have so much respect and admiration for this lady!  We still plan to run trails whenever she can get away, and I am so happy that even after GDR we still talk.

Jake:  An unexpected surprise and a gift.  I met him in December after finishing a 22 mile run on the DRT in the Vogel Parking lot.  I went into the store to get a coke.  I saw him in running gear and figured he was probably training for GDR.  So, I start a conversation with him and learn that he's a NC runner up here training and taking pictures.  I recognize his name from the FB GDR page.  He had gotten kind of lost running the Coosa loop alone and had just finished his run too.  I tell him the next time he comes up to run to let me know, and I'll give him a tour of the DRT!  LOL  Poor Jake, doesn't know that I am directionally challenged on roads (he later finds this out!), but I do know this course and these trails.  So, as it turns out he plans to run the next month and joins both Sarah and I for the notorious 30 mile run mentioned above.  Jake is highly intelligent and funny!  I have been lucky enough to have run 60 miles with Jake before GDR and 43 miles since.  We also figured out that we both ran Merrill's Mile last summer, but I don't think we talked with each other then!  I am grateful to Jake who spent so much time talking GDR strategy wiith me.  We both think in numbers and figured out mileages and time frames.  I am fascinated with his knowledge of bio- mechanics and the dynamics of running that I am so interested in. I can talk hours non-stop running with Jake and never be bored...wait I have talked non-stop running with Jake! LOL  I am just so grateful for all of his help and encouragement of me prior to this race and since.  I am equally grateful for his constant harassment of me, and I think he's truly the re-incarnated older brother that I secretly always wanted!  LOL  He keeps me laughing and apparently he has a good time laughing with me or at me.  On our last 30 mile run 10 days ago with Corinne he called our run "The Great Laugh-Athon"!  I couldn't have said it better myself.  I hope there will be plenty more Jake and Angela trail adventures for a very long time as I thrive on pure harassment! lol 

Cecilia:  This is a girl that I have wanted to meet ever since I first saw her July 4th, 2011 at the Dahlonega Firecracker 10k.  It was my first 10k race but also the first race I had ever seen that a woman won first place OVERALL.  In late July 2011,  I ran Suwanee Mtn. 3.5 mile trail race and Cecilia was there.  I spoke to her briefly there congratulating her on her win in Dahlonega.  We got hooked up finally on FB through Sean the RD for GDR this past Dec. because he knew both of us lived close to each other.  AS it turns out, Cecilia was running 24 hours Hostelity too and like me was running the 12 hour day race.  We chat on facebook some, but she was trying to recover from a knee injury and wasn't ready to meet up for runs just yet.  I was so focused in my race at Hostelity that I didn't get a chance to talk to her as much as I would have liked.  Mostly speaking to her before the race even started.  We finally meet my birthday weekend to run Lake Z after the 30 mile DRT run mentioned above.  I tell her I want to run 10 miles, but then that morning decide I want to run 12 miles to get my 42 miles in (my age) since it was my birthday run but ended up with over 13.  This typically happens when running with me!  She tries to tell me that we are at 10 miles, and I say let's run a few more!  I'm sure I ran at a snail's pace after having run 30 hard trail miles the day before and then having a late date night out with my husband and friends...LOL  But, Cecilia genuinely doesn't seem to mind.  We meet again for a Valentine's day run and she brings me Vegan Ginger chocolate!  Not only is she gorgeous, funny, highly creative and very smart, but she is also one of those rare people that I find that has a passion for running that probably matches my own.  I like her for so many reasons and there is just some kind of instant connection for me.  I am so lucky to have finally meet her!  She is a joy to run with and honestly, inspires me to do my very best every chance that I get to run with her.  I'm so excited about our future running plans and so happy to have found a local friend to run with when we can get our work schedules to cooperate! lol

Brad:  One of the first local ultra-trail runners I had the great pleasure in meeting on the DRT in Sept. 2011, carrying 2 jugs of water on his 50 mile weekend!  Brad is just an all-around bad ass who has no fear to attempt anything!  Brad has always been so gracious in providing me with answers to all of my stupid questions, so I don't go out and kill myself or do something stupid.  I remember emailing Brad a month prior to my first run at Amicalola asking him about water and directions and the safety of the trail.  It all seems so silly now, but all info that I needed at the time.  He is still a great resource when I need it and is always willing to help.  I will forever be grateful for him allowing me to tag along on a 30 mile run with him this past Jan. from Amicalola to the BMT and then the last 20 miles of the FS roads used on the GDR course.  Running this 20 mile section of FS roads was HUGE in my pre-race strategy.  I am so glad I did this.  I'm sure people thought it was crazy to "waste" a training day on FS roads but not me.  I saw the value in it and apparently Brad did too.  Not only that, but if I ever want to run a sub 7 hour 5500 feet of elevation gain, 30 mile training run, I know exactly where to go!  LOL 

John:  One of the most decent,  kind,  human beings , I have ever met and was so lucky to have run 26.25 miles with him on a 19 degree day in Feb. that I previously blogged about.  An incredible athlete and friend.  I am so hoping we can meet up for future runs in the near future!

Stephan:  The most memorable introduction I have ever encountered with a new trail runner when he rear ended me on the way to Amicalola for a 23 mile run in mid-Jan.!  It was also a very memorable run because I had just completed 50.7 miles just 5 days prior and ran my fastest 23 miler at Amicalola ever and then 3 days later ran another 25 miles with Jessi on the BMT.  I ran 98 trail miles over 8 days and 3 road miles during this time.  This is when I first new that something had changed in my running ability.  This was by far a record for the number of trail miles I had run in an 8 day period.

I cannot express how uniquely awesome my training experience was with each of these people in the months leading up to GDR.  I had thought all along that GDR would be my biggest achievement yet.  But, I realized that it wasn't the race that had become so important but rather the people with whom I trained with for so long.  I had such a great time, learned so much, improved so much that words really cannot truly convey the gratitude that I feel.  I realize through this experience that it's really not about racing so much for me anymore but really more about running.  Running is really what I love and having met so many great people to run with has really changed my focus and my goals.  I just want to run, and I really don't need a race to do that.  I am always in training mode and will continue to do what I love best...running difficult trails.  It's just that my focus has changed and will race just the races that I really want to do and helping my friends as much as they have helped me along the way. 

Last Weekend Before GDR--March 9th and 10th, 2013

I put the Asheville Marathon nightmare behind me, as I recover quickly, and focus all my energy into my upcoming 11 month goal race--The Georgia Death Race (GDR). 

I meet Jake at Vogel Park the Saturday before GDR (March 9th)  to start running at 4am.  His plan is to run over 30 miles.  My plan is to join him for about 10 miles and Deano is going to meet us at the top of Coosa by 6:00am and run a few miles with us and then turn back with me to finish out the Coosa Loop.  I want to run close to 20 miles and Deano wants to run about 15 miles.  Jake and I get to the top of Coosa just as the sun is starting to rise and with no sign of Deano, I text Deano to tell him we are pushing forward onto the DRT as I'm quite  sure he will catch up.  It's not long before we see a headlamp and Deano does catch up to us.  We start that very steep descent just past Coosa and once again my ITB and left knee will NOT cooperate with me.  I am in piercing pain.  I am completely pissed off and frustrated.  I tell the guys to run ahead.  I walk down this mountain and take motrin to see if that will help.  The guys are waiting at the bottom of the hill on me.  I ask them to not wait on me because of my knee.  I know I am fine on the ups and the somewhat runnable portions, but the steep descents are agony. 

Deano and I run out about 3 miles with Jake giving me 10.5 miles and then we decide to turn back.  We wish Jake well on his long run although both Deano and I think he's crazy to run this much one week before  On the way back, I tell Deano he is more than welcome to run ahead if he likes because I do not know how my knee is going to work on the steep downhills, and I don't want to hold him back.  But, he /is also having some knee pain and is not looking for a hard run, so we run together and have a great conversation.  About an hour later my knee pain is manageable, and I am running better on it.  Thank you, Motrin! 

We make it up Slaughter with ease.  I haven't run the Coosa loop since last July.  This seems easy!  But, also I have forgotten just how beautiful this run is!  We are about a mile from my car when all of a sudden out of nowhere and for no good reason, I sprain my ankle so badly that I actually scream.  I have never in my life screamed on a run.  I never screamed when I fell and broke my elbow nearly 2 years ago and that really hurt.  I hear a pop in my ankle, and I stop to walk only briefly and just decide it might be best to keep running.  I am so embarrassed to have screamed like that in front of Deano!  I can't believe I did that, but the pain in my ankle was so awful that it went up the side of my leg and down into my foot.  Luckily it happened on the last mile, and I was able to run it in to the car. 

When we finish the run it's not even 10am yet!  I love it!  Starting at 4am was just too much fun.  I go home and clean house and do chores and stay busy the rest of the evening until I finally drop into bed with my sore grossly swollen ankle at least 3 times it's normal size!  I felt great all day as far as my energy level is concerned and wondered why I don't always start at 4am?  lol  This makes me feel better about starting the race at 4am next week!

However, I also have a plan to meet Jake the very next morning at about 7am on Hwy 60 to run to the BMT helicopter field and touch the T-bar approx 10 miles out from the road and back.  We decide to run the 3 miles or so on the FS roads since neither of us have run these roads before and didn't realize we'd even need to run these roads instead of the BMT until Jake read the GDR handbook.  Sometime late that night or perhaps even early the next morning, I message Jake that I am not sure how I am going to run the next day on an injured ITB and now a newly sprained ankle injury.  I tell him that I will just run as far as I can and then turn around on my own.  He is pretty tired from having run well over 30 miles and is ok if I am not able to run the full 20 in the morning.

When I wake up the next morning, I am secretly hoping that Jake has messaged to bag this run!  LOL  My ankle is swollen and pretty sore, but I am able to bear weight on it.  But, I am also exhausted!  I am really really tired and although I want to run, I really don't want to at the same time!  However, I message Jake to tell him I'm up and on my way, and he is ready to go as well.

So, we head out on another really nice day!  We got lucky on a nice weekend where it's not really all that cold and not hot yet either.   WE are a pitiful sight the two of us.  Tired and sore from yesterday, and I only ran over 19 miles while Jake ran over 30!  We just run really slow.  We get to the T-bar on the BMT field 10 miles out just under 3 hours.  So, we know on race day, if we really suck, it's not going to take more than 3 hours to do these 10 miles!  LOL  There is no way on race day that it can possibly take this long to travel this section as it did today.  We turn around and it probably took us nearly 3 hours to get back.  Jake runs ahead on the downhills because I am still suffering down them but not as bad as the day before, and I am able to catch up on the other sections.  My ankle is sore and at times hurts, but so far, it's manageable.

Finally, on the last mile or two on the forest service roads, I fully realize just how tired I am.  Not only am I tired, but I am hungry.  I really do not want anymore training run food that I have with me.  Jake is also starving and he talks non-stop about all kinds of foods and the menu at McDonald's even. I do not even want to know what McDonald's has on their menu.  I really do not want to hear Jake talking about food even, but I really do not have the energy to tell him to shut up...LOL  So, I just ask now and then how much longer do you think we have to the car?  Do you hear cars yet on hwy 60?  How much longer is this going to take?  I must sound like my children who repeat these similar questions to me while I am driving the Mom mobile!  LOL  But, Jake just talks me through it and continues to talk about food and menus.  I message Jake a day or two later and told him just how annoying this whole conversation was when I was starving to death.  And, he laughs and says, "I told you one day I'd drive you crazy with my talking about food non-stop!"

Finally, the run is done, and I have run 40 miles in 2 days one week before GDR.  I am not one to taper as it doesn't really help me.  I'm really thankful and appreciative of such a hard run like this.  I realize I can run slow, injured, tired, and hungry.  I have learned to run in a miserable existence and state of being!  Between the Asheville Marathon 26 miles last Sunday and the 40 miles from this weekend, there is no way in hell that the GDR can be any worse for me! LOL  Yes, I am ready for GDR!  I joke with Jake on Day 2 about the irony of my poor left ITB and my poor left ankle and how thankful I am that it's all one side and at the very least I can just drag my left leg through the race and run on my right leg!  He just laughs at me and tells me that he'd rather split the difference between both legs.  Not me!  I'm glad to have one good leg left!    LOL 

So, with this thought, I am prepared to run my sub 18 hour goal if my injuries can hold out, and I am prepared to run 20 to 22 hours if they do not.  All of my training is done.  The only thing I need to do is get my 11 month old completion race finished!  My goal way back in October/ November was to run this race in 20 to 22 hours.  I only changed the goal to sub 18 hours approx 6-8 weeks before the race start, when I realized just how far I progressed in my training and having re-run sections of this course numerous times.  And, if the worst happens and I have to drag my left leg with me, I know I could walk this course in 28 hours. The only option I have is to finish no matter what happens.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ashevillle Marathon --March 3, 2013

I signed up for the Asheville Marathon in June 2012 within an hour of opening registration.  I had known for several days ahead of time that this marathon was only going to allow up to 1500 runners on the entire Biltmore Estate for it's first ever Marathon.  It's been so many years since Lee and I last visited the Biltmore Estate so when I explain how we can take the kids and how much fun it would be for us all to enjoy a weekend in Asheville next March, he was all for it.

I have never ran a half-marathon let alone a full marathon on roads before.  In fact, up until this time my longest road run ever was a solo 17 miles!  I really had no interest whatsoever in running long on roads.  But, this marathon really appealed to me because of the scenery.  However, last June I was already registered for 5 trail races in the fall, Hostelity in Jan, and GDR in March.  I knew I would not be training for a "road" marathon.  That's ok, this race was for fun!  I made my decision in Fall of 2011, to train for trail races, not road races.  Refer to my blog post Apples vs. Red bushes.

My family and I arrive in Asheville on Friday evening and we spend all day Saturday doing the tour stuff and just having fun.  But, it's terribly cold, windy, and at times snowy!  Although we are outside with the kids most of the day, we make the most of it and have a great time.

Sunday morning, we all get up and drive to the marathon site.  It's 21 degrees but the wind is terrible.  It's blowing snow sideways!  I am dressed in 2 thermal layers, ski mask, hat, and gloves, and of course, I have my hydration pack with water and snacks.  We arrive at the marathon site and there are "warming tents" for the runners and although they are protective from the wind it's not very warm but better than standing outside exposed.  I go ahead and tell Lee and the kids to go ahead and go.  They can watch the start from the car or get breakfast.  There is no reason for them to freeze to death with me, and they haven't had breakfast yet.  Thank goodness I sent them on because the race was delayed 15 minutes due to shuttle delays from the hotels to the race start.  This is not a big deal except that it's so cold out!  Even though, it's cold, snowing, windy, I am still excited and nervous to run.

The race starts and everything is fine except my stomach hurts, but I really do not pay attention to it as I am more worried about my ITB pain.  Even though, it's better from when I first injured it 3 weeks ago, it's not where I need it to be.  I try not to think about the ITB because this race is only about 1500 feet of elevation gain so even if there are steep descents it won't last long, and I'm prepared to walk downhill if need be.  But, running in the headwind after miles and miles is starting to be a challenge!  The windchill factor is 11 degrees and along the French Broad River the windchill is 6 to 8 degrees.  The wind is blowing at 18 to 25mph but later I read on facebook that they were as much as 35 mph!  This is by far the coldest day I have ever experienced running not because it's that cold but because the wind is so cold and blowing so hard!  My eyes water and it's the only skin I have exposed! 

My stomach pain is constant and cramping.  OH no!  At least there are porta potties which I have to stop twice to use with little relief from the cramping.  I can't believe I am running this race with a time goal of around 4:20 to 4:40 hours, and I actually have to stop to go to the bathroom.  I am the person who can run 8 hours without stopping, but it cannot be helped.  I just have to laugh at the situation although it's getting progressively harder to find humor as the miles go by, and I just want to get this race done! 

At around mile 9, I see my family cheering me on, and it does lift my spirits.  I leap frog with another runner until about mile 15 and then he falls behind.  I am basically trying to find everything and anything that can distract me from this miserable experience of my stomach, cold, wind, and my ITB.  My ITB has now become the least of my worries.  I just have to get this race done!  The scenery is beautiful, but honestly, it's just so hard to fully enjoy it.  The roads turn to gravel and carriage roads.  The gravel was more heavy than I expected to run on, and I'm thankful for my trail shoes and gaitors.  Nearly all of the runners that I saw were wearing road shoes.  I couldn't help but think how sore their feet must be!

At around mile 20, my stomach, glutes, hamstrings are in excruciating pain.  This is something I have never experienced.  To say that I am miserable is an understatement.  I am cold, and running in this headwind is exhausting.  Imagine trying to run against almost constant resistance and that resistance feels like an ice tunnel!  I cannot believe how badly I am hurting from the stomach down to my knees.  My entire mid-body is racked with pain.  All, I can think about is to keep moving, do not stop, only 6 more miles.  I am counting the miles as I continue to push through the wind. 

About mile 21, I come up on a runner who is in shorts and a shirt.  Yes, I see several people dressed this way today!  They are undoubtedly inexperienced or insane!  This poor runner looks to be in his early 20's.  He is stooped over and barely walking, and I fear that in my 2 thermal layers that he is in trouble.  There are plenty of aid stations on this course and so many runners coming towards me as we are on the outbound headed to the finish.  In my best MOM voice, I tell this poor runner, "YOU HAVE GOT TO KEEP MOVING".  This further reminds me that no matter what I must not stop because if I stop, I am going to lock up and will not be able to run.  I do not want to walk for fear of being out in this cold one second longer than necessary.

At about mile 24 or so, Lee is on the course and he is cheering me on and asking me if I am ok and that he will see me at the finish.  I'm thinking to myself that he is going to miss my finish that no way can he get to the finish before me!  It was until after the race that I realize he is driving to meet me at the finish and that I am on foot!  LOL  When I saw Lee at this point,  I really really wanted to stop and say "FUCK THIS RACE and take me HOME!".  But, at the same time, I am so close to the finish.  What is another 2 miles of misery?  Still, I refuse to stop and move forward running.

I finally get to the finish and there is so much applause and honestly the largest applause I have ever experienced.  The volunteers are throwing a blanket around me, and I saw Lee and our kids even before I finished.  Lee hugs me at the finish line, and I cannot let go.  I just hold onto him a long time, and I cannot even speak.  I want to cry so hard, but no tears will come, and no relief is in sight from my pain. My pain knows no boundaries.   Lee asks me if I am ok, and I try to tell him that I hurt.  I am cold, hungry, tired, and in the most physical pain I have ever experienced.  This is as bad as childbirth times two.   He takes me to the warming tent and signs me up for a massage and tries to give me food, and I slowly eat.  I tell him it was a beautiful course and really and truly it was.  I tell him about my poor stomach, the trips to the potty, the poor folks freezing out there. 

It's my turn for the massage and the nice guy massages my ass, ITB, and my hamstrings.  IT felt so good to get some kind of relief.  I ask him if I can take him home with me as I am so grateful for his help! LOL 

We stay briefly after the race but honestly I am shivering and shaking from the cold and so are the kids so we go back to the hotel where I take a hot shower and get dressed in warm clothes.  It takes me until late the next day to warm up. 

I think about my finishing time of 4:22 hours, and I'm simply amazed with myself.  I am so happy with my time, and I have no regrets.  I ran the best that I could under the circumstances.  I later learn that this was not a typical road marathon as it's considered quite hilly.  It's 3 times as hilly as the Atlanta Publix Marathon and the fact that 2/3rd's of the race was on gravel roads made it especially more difficult than the typical road marathon. 

Later that same night, Lee shows me an online article about this race where I read that several runners had to be taken to the hospital for mild hypothermia!  I am not surprised.  The banana that I took from a volunteer and ate while running was frozen.  The little dixie cups full of drinks were frozen.  Even my insulated water tube on my camelbak froze for a short period until I made myself take regular sips from it.

So, no this is not what I expected from my first "road" marathon, but I will never forget it either.  It makes for a good story and above all a good laugh!

**Video of Asheville Marathon overview:

GDR Training-- Jan thru March 2013

Just before the New Year, I had finished reading the most amazing book "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand.  I drew so much strength and inspiration from this book which was the catalyst for me to really focus my training for The Georgia Death Race.  Every fear I had since April 2012, when I first heard about the formation of this race, was relinquished after reading this book.  I knew, no matter what, that I would be a GDR finisher.

With my goals in mind, I continued forward in my training and really began to step it up a notch.  However, everything I had trained for had also just kind of fell in place at the same time.  I was running more trail miles on harder trails and recovering very quickly.  I was getting faster and stronger and losing 20 pounds since last June helped too.  I had the opportunity to run with other GDR runners who were much more experienced than myself and who inspired me so much to run my best.  I woke up everyday with GDR on my mind and everyday had a plan that would help me succeed.  I was driven to do what it took to be able to finish.  My primary goal for GDR was to be able to "complete" this race.  I was not looking to win or place in the top 3.  I am just not that fast or that strong.  I only want to do my very best.  I also want to finish strong and in a way that I can keep running in just a few days after GDR.  I just love to run and want to feel good during a run and after a run. 

I had so much fun training for this race!  I was lucky enough to meet so many people through training for this one race.  Since, I live relatively close I decided to learn and run as much of the course as I could.  It just all fell in place and to my surprise I had run all of the trail sections by early Feb. and all but 6 miles of the dreaded forest service roads for this course.  I knew this course in my sleep!  And, to my surprise other runners were emailing to ask me questions about this course.  IT was shocking that anyone would even ask me course directions!  I am directionally road challenged but somehow I am no longer trail challenged!  LOL  IT made me feel like a "real" ultra trail runner probably for the first time ever that people actually wanted my advice on what trails to run, where to start, how far was it from here to there, and how long do I think it will realistically take!  Wow! 

Six weeks before the race, I felt very ready for GDR and knew that completion would not be a problem.  My previous fears had turned into excitement for the race.  I could not wait to start.  I dismissed my previous time goal of 20 to 22 hour finish and replaced it with a sub 18 hour finish.  I even thought briefly that close to 17 hours might be attainable on a good day, but that might be an ambitious goal.  I had time goals for different sections of the course and knew how fast I should be able to run each section based on previous training runs.   So, for the remaining weeks till the race, I just re-ran sections of trails over and over again.  I was lucky enough that someone was always willing or able to run with me and also sacrificing much of their time and sleep as I start early.  The people who trained with me for this race will undoubtedly be friends for life.  I appreciate them so much!  And, of this writing we are still training together and keeping in touch for future runs.

Just when my confidence is at an all time high about my ability to finish this race is when I get injured about 5 weeks before the race.  I am running with John and we start at Skeenah Gap, go down the BMT a few miles come back up and head towards Vogel on the DRT.  It is 19 degrees at the start and at times windy and sunny, and at times, shady, windy, icy, and snowy.  I am running very well and strong, surprisingly strong given the really cold temperature.   We get to the top of Coosa, and I'm excited because we are just 7 miles away from the finish and running down Coosa is fun!  We have actually ran pretty fast for just over 19 miles, and I'm excited that I feel so great and the easiest part is yet to come! 

We start down Coosa and it's not long at all when my left knee hurts really bad on the steep descent.  I have no idea what's wrong but my knee physically will not run down the hill, but I keep trying.  I have run through a lot of pain with various other injuries or just plain soreness, but never have I had a body part just not willing to function properly while running.  This is something that I am physically not able to run through.  I tell John that something is wrong with my knee.  It's tolerable to walk or to stop and it's tolerable on flats or uphills, but the downhill is excruciating.  John encourages me to stop and take a break.  LOL He doesn't know me well.  I tell him, no, I can't stop..I'll just keep moving.  I am apologizing for slowing us down, but he's so nice telling me not to worry about it, but I am upset about this.  This happened out of nowhere as I never felt anything wrong and no sudden pain or anything until the descent.  We get down to an icy small waterfall, and I am so hesitant to cross because my leg/foot is not stable and I can't jump across it.  My fear is if I step on the icy rocks to cross that I will fall down the waterfall.  John crosses first and helps me over.  I am so worried about this knee pain and loss of function but also grateful that I am not running alone in the freezing cold and grateful that it happened on the last 7 miles and not in the middle of this hard training run.  We finish out this run at 26.25 miles and well over 9,000 feet of climbing for the day.

So, the next day I called my friend Laura asking her for advice as I have figured out it's my ITB.  The next 10 days or so I take it very easy and run very easy roads and resting my knee.  The pain at times is pretty bad especially in the mornings and at night and even while running.  I am worried about the Asheville Marathon in less than 3 weeks and even more worried about GDR in 5 weeks.   I get down on myself about it that I have trained so hard especially since last June to have raced all the races I wanted to race last fall and that I am so ready for GDR and then this happens!  But, then I just pull myself up by my boot straps and stubbornly decide that my goal all along was to just finish this race.  I can still climb, I can still run, I'll just have to walk the steep descents.  I won't finish GDR in the time that I know I can run it in, but I will finish it no matter what!  I didn't do all this for nothing! LOL 

Also, I know that even though I am now injured that really my training 5 weeks into this race is basically done.  There is not much more I can do to improve my race time and this is just a period of "maintaining" my training until race day.  I am really not going to lose much in terms of speed if I have to take it easy the next 5 weeks.

The hay is in the barn !  All, that's left is to race!