Party - before the party with crew.
March 9th I ran the annual Graveyard 100
and I couldn’t have been more excited about returning - - this time for the 100k distance. I had to promise my coach this would only be a training run with the goals of landing nutrition, training and just putting myself in the race atmosphere to get better acquainted with that“nervous feeling.” My initial shock came quick arriving on the east coast, IT WAS BLOODY COLD! I really didn’t expect the cold to be that much of an issue since I lived there before but apparently the warm Texas winter took its toll on me. Race morning the crew arrived safe and sound. I had asked my friends Rachel and Brian if they would meet me for another round at Graveyard. They were my pacers from last year’s race and we worked so well together I was excited when they said yes. My good ol’running buddy, Jon, also offered to crew and as a last minute addition, our friend Frank asked if he could ride with the crew and watch the race so we happily added him to the mix. At the start, we went over last minute details and enjoyed time chit-chatting. The crew was completely making me laugh and I could tell I was in store for some fun times.
Gun start and I was off and running…Since the race started at 3pm it meant we would only have about 2.5 hours of daylight. Translation: Sun to keep us warm. With my last minute outfit change I knew I would be roasting the first ten miles but it also meant the last 50-miles I would be warm. Good call too! My Rogue
30k long sleeve addition was perfect for the cold race. I really enjoyed the 10-mile turnaround point because we could wave hi to everybody - a nice little boost to see so many smiling faces. The 100-mile runners that I got to see looked a little more tired. They were hitting the halfway point by that time. The Graveyard course is setup as a point-to-point but due to tidal flooding on the highway further south, Brandon the Race Director, had no choice but to change the course to an out-and-back. A call that later proved to be the right one because the road closed again later that evening and didn’t reopen until the following day. I have to say that Brandon and the race team of family and volunteers did an absolute outstanding job from start to finish. The way they handled communication with the ever-changing weather and road closures was phenomenal especially because they were literally making all of these changes as the 100-mile race had already started on top of getting ready to handle the 100k runners!
17 miles in I picked up my first pacer, Pro-Triathlete Rachel Jastrebsky
. This is Rachel’s first year racing pro and I couldn’t be more excited for her. Her husband would be pacing me during the later miles. Last year this time they were engaged while both training for Kona. They literally got married and the next day flew to Kona to compete in the Ironman World Championships!
Chillaxing before the start with Rachel.
Heading north I had to battle a nasty headwind for a while so I asked Rachel to help me keep my pace slower so I could get rest a while in a lower HR zone. She was too funny because every time I sped things up I’d hear, “Brenda, you’re speeding it up buckaroo!” Somewhere in the 30-something miles the crew asked if I needed anything because it would be 8 miles before I got to see them again. I decided a bathroom stop was in order, except there wasn’t one. They said they would drive further down the road to find one. As Rachel and I came up on a restaurant the crew was waiting. They had received permission from Awful Arthurs Restaurant
to let me use their bathroom (THANK YOU!!!). By this point I’m guessing it was just about dinner time because the place was hopping. All sweaty and looking like a ninja with my balaclava on, I ran through the restaurant and found the bathroom. When I exited the bathroom I heard, “There’s the runner!” and all of a sudden as I was running back through the restaurant the place erupted with applause and cheering! How exciting and funny! Everyone was so incredibly kind and it gave me such a big energy boost.
Back on the road, it was completely dark and we knew we were coming up on water crossings. The crew asked beforehand if I would want to change socks and shoes if my feet got wet and knowing I use to run through the water in trail races I decided I would do the same and not worry about changing out. Ummm…yeah right. The second my feet went underwater they felt like ice
blocks. Every step felt as if my feet were going to shatter from being so cold. We kept running in the water and I told Rachel to have the crew ready and waiting with dry socks and shoes. I was wearing my all time favorite DryMax Maximum Protection Socks
so even with the amount of sand and debris in the water I wasn’t worried about blisters, but while my socks held up their side of the bargain, I couldn’t hold up mine. The water was too frigid and since this was a training run it made sense to just
take extra time to change. In a matter of about a minute the crew had propped me up on the back of the vehicle and like a Nascar tire change I had two people taking off wet shoes and socks and two people putting on the dry stuff and had me back on the road. Between the bathroom ovation and Nascar change out, I found myself on a runners high pushing the pace. Thankfully Rachel reminded me to slow the pace down and get into the correct HR Zone.
Crewing handing off the calories.
After the turn toward Duck and Corolla, Rachel passed me over to Jon. It wasn’t the original plan but Rachel had foot issues earlier that week so she decided it was best to run a little less and let Jon pick up the miles. Jon and I got to catch up on everything and I finally confided that my legs were no longer the flat land running legs I once had living in Virginia. The flat road
was killing them. We laughed because we use to pride ourselves on being flatlanders. Further down the road though, the bike path we were on had a few teeny raises. Jon called them hills, I called them raises. Regardless though, it was heavenly just to change muscle groups for a few seconds (I hardly recognize myself writing this)! After a while, Jon switched me over to Brian for the final 18.
Last year when Brian paced me I was in bad shape and hallucinating. This year Brian kept commenting on how talkative I was, my pace was good and we even joked that I was doing simple math. We got to catch up on his training, talked about how cool it was that we were all together again and then BAM. Stomach pain. Roughly 15 miles from the finish I started feeling terribly nauseous. I finally had to tell Brian I needed some quiet time to just stay within myself and focus. My balaclava was completely covering my mouth and the thought of tossing cookies caused me to pull the mask below my chin - just in case. When we finally got to the crew Brian got some Tums, Aleve and a Coke. I decided to layer everything so down the Tums went first. With 10 miles to go I got the Aleve down and then drank a full Coke. Everything started kicking in quick because with four miles to go my pace was picking up. The only big problem was I’d lost my eyesight to the cold. For the last 10 miles I was only able to make out the white line in the road and could see bright lights but wasn’t able to distinguish if they were street lights, car lights or runner headlights. It was all so frustrating because I felt great and wanted to run a little faster but felt disoriented not being able to see. Brian did such a great job helping me navigate to the final turnaround point. The crew waited for us there and cheered us on. We turned around with two miles to go and at the last minute I yelled to them asking how close the next runner was. All of a sudden I hear the vehicle screech to a halt and Jon yelling out the window, “Dontworryaboutit!” and they all started roaring with laughter and took off. Tough love. I had asked them a couple times after the halfway point where the next runner was and every time I asked tey came back with, “What HR zone are you in?” or “Just keep yourself comfortable, this is a training run.” I’m glad they stuck to their guns and didn’t let my competitiveness and derail the purpose of me being there.
The final two miles went by quick. I kept freaking out thinking a car was going to hit us but Brian kept reassuring me the lights coming toward us were runners, not cars. At the finish line I could hear the crew yelling with excitement as I ran through the chute finishing in 8:58:04 as the 100k Overall Male/Female winner. There’s no way it could have gone that smoothly without Rachel, Brian, Jon and Frank. Altogether they worked as a well oiled machine getting me to the finish line.
100k Done and done.
Race Director Brandon, and the super crew!
We took a couple of pictures and finally decided it was time to eat. Off we went to find food at 1am. . . . after two restaurant stops of being turned away because the kitchen was closed, we found ourselves feasting at 7-11. Nachos, taquitos and who knows what else. They filled me in on their Crew Highlights for the day. So on that note, Crew Highlights -
1. Crazy lady at Aid Station 3: “GDMF!!! Tell Daddy, Momma’s here and SHE’S PISSED!!”
2. Renaming the Expedition crew vehicle to Sexpedition (See pic below)
3. Nascar style sock and shoe change
4. Jon: “I’m in the mood to throw pancakes at runners.” Rachel “Well they’d probably appreciate the
5. “Umm..I think we just ate all of our runners’food…whoops.”
6. 7-11 Gourmet dinner at 1am
Finally, HUGE thanks to the crew, Rachel, Brian, Jon and Frank! Also, super thanks to friends Tom and Amy for hosting all of us! Big shout out and thank you to DryMax
and Rogue Running
for their support!! And of course, the two people on the planet that I love taking orders from – my husband Russ and Coach Amanda
Congratulations to all of the Graveyard 100 runners especially Valmir Nunes
who won the 100-mile race overall/male in 13:48:34 and Connie Gardner
who ran 15:33:12 winning 100-mile 1stFemale Overall!! WOW!
Three days and counting….for a long day of training at the Graveyard 100k. Before signing up I checked in with Coach Amanda to make sure it was coach approved. Initially - no, but after agreeing to only do it as a training run I found myself booking tickets and planning the trip East. Why oh why do I do this to myself!?!? It seemed like a great idea in January and ok-ok, it's still a great idea but it's suppose to be a TRAINING RUN and I'm a nervous wreck three days out. Ugh! In some respects, this is exactly what I was anticipating. Since I usually only do one or two big races a year I've noticed that come (A) RACE day my nerves get so bad that it's hard to think straight. I think it's also a directly related to all the stomach issues I've had at every
So the thinking was this: Implement a couple training races into the schedule and use them as practice for dealing with jitters, stomach issues, landing nutrition, and getting some in good miles. Makes perfect sense….but I still don't like the jitters!
Does this happen to anyone else??
To deal with such jitters, I've devised a little plan. A checklist between now and 3pm Saturday. I'll be checking things off like, landing daily nutrition, staying hydrated, packing, early flight check-in, picking up rental car, etc. It's amazing how such little tasks can feel insurmountable in the days leading up to travel.
"Patience grasshopper” Another reason I've got ants in my pants - I want to race! But know I'm not ready. I feel like a Pillsbury biscuit in the oven. Through the glass door the biscuit looks golden and ready but if you open the door too soon you'll see that the biscuit is still not fully ready. That's me – a biscuit warming up but not quite ready. Hmmm...I must be hungry…
Jitters or not, I am also excited too. Going back to this race where I did so well last year puts me in a positive frame of mind
to get the work done that is needed to land my goals this year. More on that later, but a little hint: I'm racing across the pond!!
Also causing mass excitement is that some of the best ultrarunners are going to be lining up for the 100-mile race! Names like Valmir Nunes, Connie Gardner, Anita Fromm, and [almost] Mike Morton who had bad luck with a fracture (get well soon Mike!!!). All of these people are perfectly capable of easily breaking my course record. And that folks is what is so exciting about competition! Records are meant to be broken. So best wishes for everyone in the field. Hope you have a picture perfect race!! How about running an extra 38-miles for me? Kidding.
Hope to post some pictures, the course is beautiful!
Forget about Fat Tuesday, Carnival and Valentine’s Day – this Sunday marks the final race of the Austin Distance Challenge – let’s celebrate commitment! When I signed up for the challenge I had just moved to Texas and was going through a bout of nostalgia thinking back to when I did the Austin Series in 1997. Back then the series had five races: Sundown Classic, Decker Challenge, Coffee Exchange 15k, 3M Half Marathon and the Austin Motorola Marathon. The current series has six with a series finisher’s jacket still the coveted prize. It seemed like a great idea to do the series again and upgrade the jacket.
At first I didn’t think much about signing up but as each race snuck up on me it’s taken an act of congress to keep those dates free and clear. It’s not that I’m living the life of riley or anything but the bulk of the series happens around the same time of year when I take off from running and enjoy the holidays. Ok-ok….confession…the series happens right around when I’m utterly burned out, exhausted and can’t possibly think about running out my front door let alone in any race. Does this happen to you? In light of this, I had to confront this distance challenge stuff from a different perspective. I had to teach myself to LET GO. Something very difficult for an obsessive-typeA-ultrarunner person like myself. I wanted to try letting go of the details and letting go of not running as fast as possible or negative splitting, just enjoying the race, the people, the city.
Here’s what my normal timeline looks like for a race:
Sign up > Train > Obsess > Train > Obsess > Train > Obsessobsessobsess > Race > Obsess about outcome.
Definition of obsess (for me): Map out every single inch of course, elevation, parking, schedule of events, my race outfit, crewing area, pacer points, historical weather data, history of race, food / drink available, and any other nitty gritty detail I can get my hands on.
So in order to get through my usual end of the year burnout rest period I opted for this approach:
Sign up > Race > enjoy the holidays > Race > enjoy my birthday > Race> enjoy NYE! > Race >recover from said festivities
> Race > sleep as much as possible and wait for marathon day to arrive > Race 2/17.
Guess what? I learned a lot from the experience and more importantly, had a blast at each race while still maintaining a relatively decent level of fitness during off-season (with minimal running)! Some lessons on learning to LET GO:
1. I can still make it on-time to the race whether I look up the address one night before or ten months before.
2. Letting go actually helped run more relaxed. (Hmmmm…what a concept)
3. The less I obsessed about the perfect pre-race dinner, the less stomach issues on race day (GASP).
4. I slept better the night before (even if my husband snored like a chainsaw).
5. Pacers are wonderful tools enabling me to tune out and just run freely (read: not look at Garmin every 5 seconds).
6. Whatever I threw on the morning of ended up being the perfect outfit (especially when it has ROGUE TEAM on it). :)
7. I found some terrific breakfast places after every race in different parts of the city.
Of course, there were a few downsides to this passive approach like looking clueless on race day trying to find the start line, forgetting to charge iPod/Garmin, and worrying my coach that I’d get hurt (sorry coach). Regardless though, having taken this back seat approach gave me the mental running break I needed while keeping me on target to hit spring race goals. I met some really cool people along the way, and even managed to pick up a little age-group hardware at the Rogue 30k. Oh and I can’t forget about the super awesome race shirts. That alone was reason enough not to miss! How about you? Did you do the series, and if so, what’s been your approach?
So here’s to this Sunday - the last “Let Go” race before I have to start hitting training with a lot more focus. I guess Saturday I’ll check to see where the race starts. :)
I'd been flying high living in Texas until Labor Day weekend when I realized - for the first time in 11 years I was about to break my Rock n Roll Half Marathon
Shortly after I moved to Virginia Beach Elite Racing announced the first ever 2001 Rock N Roll Half over Labor Day weekend; there was only one other RnR race which was the full marathon [I think] in San Diego. In those years, a half marathon wasn't an inconceivable distance but it was still going to make me work hard. Initially I planned to keep the streak for ten years but when the 11th year came up and I still lived walking distance from the race I went for it announcing "I will keep the steak alive until I move away."
We moved in June.
It was tough going into Labor Day weekend missing out on such a fun race that's been part of my life for just over a decade. Memories of being a pacer, some years running it for fun, other years racing it and trying to better my time. Here's a few more to share….
The first year, 2001, I survived it. Running a 2:35:46 and as a result, hobbling for days but feeling proud of my accomplishment. I'd been on a running hiatus for over a year and this was my comeback race.
In 2002 I volunteered to be the 2:22 pacer. What a blast! This was my first time pacing and it meant a lot to have people counting on me to get them to the finish line. I decorated a 2:22 sign number with streamers and glitter so the runners could spot me on the course and stay with me. Along the way, I remember some of them getting tired so I passed around the 2:22 sign for one of them to hold for a while and told them it was the "2:22 energy stick". As each person held the magical energy stick it was interesting to see how they came alive. The finish line was the best part. Several 2:22 runners gave me hugs and told me their story and what it took to get to the finish line. We were all in tears. They were thankful for me helping them; I was thankful to be part of their special day.
I went back in 2003 as the 2:30 pacer. The excitement of pacing was too much to give up.
In 2005, I was dating my future husband; we had just brought home our precious little angel, a yellow lab named Lance. So it went that Russ and Lance crisscrossed the course cheering me on. Lance was so tiny that Russ carried him around in a messenger bag. I even created a miniature laminated race number for Lance and pinned it on his collar. Runners all around thought he was actually registered. 2005 also marked the first time I ever broke the 2:00 barrier with a 1:58:12 and it was my last RnR VB with my maiden name.
In 2006 my new fiancé and I ran together. We wore bride and groom hats, and along the way various runners came up to us giving us marital advice, others yelled, "Don't do it!! Run-Run!!" and yet others heckled us because that year I ran injured and had a horrible race. We actually kept bickering during the race because my groom was pushing the pace when I couldn't run any faster.
Then there was 2007 where we ran as Mr. and Mrs. A year into marriage the honeymoon wore off and our competitive juices came out. We decided to race each other. While I can't remember what the wager was, I remember the end result: Russ collapsed on the boardwalk, got back up and finished only to pass out again at the finish line getting rushed off to the ER for hypernatremia. I too fell on the boardwalk from pain I'd never felt before but managed to get back up and finish. Standing at the finish line [thinking I'd won the bet] I got "the call" from the emergency room. My flight or fight response kicked in and by the time I reached the hospital my calf turned black. I had partially torn my soleus and hamstring. 2007 was the last year Russ and I ever raced each other, for obvious reasons. Oh..and he won.
In 2008 mile 8.2 marked 100-miles of RnR running. Race promoters announced there would be a special 100-mile streaker celebration at mile 8.2 - BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! I was ticked to the point that I wrote a letter to the race complaining of the false promotion. They wrote back with an apology and explanation that left a lot to be desired...little did I know revenge from my complaining would come a year later...
Guess who was the Official RNR Covergirl in 2009?! (Payback from my 2008 complaint?) My face was plastered on every local and national RnR advertisement - Runner's World Magazine, Running Times, Blue Ridge Outdoors Mag, banners with my face hung on every light post along the boardwalk and ceiling of the expo. I graced the VIP neck passes and the cover of the Official Race magazine. My saving grace from all this? Really good air brushing. Doh!
2010 brought TEN years of Rock and Rolling. Streakers were given really pretty medals to commemorate our dedication to the race on top of the usual finish line bling. Double bling!
Considering all of the previous years and the stories that go with each, it's tough to think that 2011 could top the others. In some ways it's the most significant. I had just finished running Badwater
, and was still nursing a bum hip. With no speed work training, I managed a 1:41 PR with super pacer Brian Jastrebsky. It was the year I finally broke Russ' PR time from 2007. I would now own the fastest RnR time at Casa Carawan
Aside from the PR, Russ and I were fortunate enough to open our home to host Marshall Ulrich
who was promoting his book, Running on Empty
. Marshall gave me a few words of encouragement
to help focus on running a PR but also shared so many wonderful stories about his Badwater crossings, seven summits and his transcontinental run. Though I didn’t know it at the time, it's fitting that 2011 was my last RnR VB. What I learned from Marshall that weekend was the importance of embracing each chapter in our life, endings and beginnings.
The RnR was always my low pressure race for the year. Sure I sometimes tried to run a PR but in general, the race weekend meant the end of summer and a welcoming of fall. Over the years it was an opportunity for me to enjoy a big local race and then party at the concert on the beach that evening. Where I worked, a group of us had formed making annual event out of going to pick up our race packets and grabbing lunch together to talk about our time predictions.
Our move to Texas marks a new chapter and saying so long to the RnR streak. Recently I stumbled across an announcement for the First Annual Dare to Ascend Trail race
. Feeling out of sorts with missing RnR, I signed up for the half marathon. Heck, why not. The plan is to enjoy the atmosphere of a new race, and cross the finish line to receive a First Annual D2A Half Marathon finisher medal. Who knows, maybe I'll keep this streak for ten years. . .
I’ve been remiss in posting, but for good reason! It’s been a complete whirlwind since May. Within the span of a month, I landed a new job in Texas, flew back to VA to pack up the husband, dog and house, moved to Texas, started new job, rented out VA house, found new house in Texas and well, here I am. There’s nothing quite like packing several major life changes into a month and apparently it’s landed me the nickname, Texas Tornado, compliments of my good friend Rebecca. Ha!
After all of that though, things are calming back down and I’m Googling for directions less and less. I’m absolutely in love with the Austin area and cannot fathom ever moving. Being born and raised a Texan it’s good to be back home! Talk about terrific timing too – less than 24-hours in our new city and we got to hear Scott Jurek
speak at a book signing!!! He’s such an inspiration and wealth of knowledge. He was promoting his new book Eat & Run
. Read it – you won’t regret it! The area where we live now has an abundance of trails and long stretches of road with rolling hills everywhere. The hills are new to me in terms of daily training but I can already see a vast improvement making me a more well rounded runner since I had flat land running all but perfected. Oh and let me not forget the FABULOUS HEAT!! Seriously, I can’t get enough of it. A week into living here we had a five day stretch of +105 degrees. One day it was 111. Glorious really. The neighbors must think I’m a nut for heading out each night at 5:30pm dressed in white long sleeves. If they only knew…. I still haven’t caught up with any running groups yet nor have I made my way down to Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake as I knew it before). Austin has an endless number of running stores too. I especially like Rogue Running
which happens to be conveniently located next door to the grocery store. Sure Dearest Husband, of course I can pick up dinner…and some new Newton shoes and a running skirt and..
Less than a month living here and my favorite running gals Sarah and Rebecca conned me into doing the Orange Leaf Half Marathon
. A small race with about 400 people I managed to land 5th female overall and ran a PR of about 43 seconds. Not too shabby considering running was at an all time minimum the last few months due to job searching and relocating. I also got to sport my new race kit from Team Aquaphor
. I love their stuff! No more chaffing around my heart rate strap. Maybe I’ll be able to sport a cute summer top because of it! And of course now that I’m full on living in Texas heat I love my DryMax Maximum Protection socks
even more. They actually have a similar style targeted more toward heat
which works fantastic. I just happen to be partial to the Max Pro socks because 1. They’ve NEVER failed me and 2. The thickness of the sock is perfect. Oh DryMax, how do I love thee, let me count thy ways..
I have had to make some serious adjustments to hydration and electrolyte intake from the higher temperatures and started using Elete Electrolytes Add-In
. I love it! Aside from it the ingredients being completely natural, what I love most is the liquid factor. For so long I’ve battled it out opening capsules and dumping the electrolyte powder into my mouth – robbing me of precious time. Worst yet after so many hours of powder dumping my mouth fills with sores. Bleh. No more issues with Elete. While they do have tablets available, I’ve been using the liquid form. The bottle comes in the size of eye drops. It’s teeny tiny and very concentrated so a little goes a long way. All I do is dump a capful into my water and get going. The bottle fits nicely in my skirt pocket and unlike electrolyte pills, it doesn’t matter if the bottle gets wet. YES!!! If you’re not happy with what you’re using, check this stuff out.
So before I get entirely long winded, I’ll summarize the last two months in a Top Ten format of all the best that’s happened.
10. Austin has a full size Ikea, Crate & Barrel, and more shopping than I could ever imagine.
9. Whole Foods is headquartered in Austin. <3
8. The best BBQ ever, and a skip over to Smitty’s
7. More trails then I’ll ever know what to do with.
6. LONG stretches of very hilly, rolling hills and flat areas for running.
5. Hotter than hell, and I love it.
4. Commute to work is 12 minutes, with traffic.
3. Our new home has an awesome sprinkler system and yard is completely landscaped (i.e., more time for running)
2. Less than an hour drive to my parents, Coach, and the super running peeps.
1. Living in TEXAS
More tales from the big state coming soon!
Out on the course.
Picking up some hardware.
Girls and boots!
Did you hear the exciting news? This weekend was the North Coast 24-hour race in Cleveland, Ohio. It's a 24-hour championship qualifier. The field was stacked with very strong runners, Connie Gardner, Debra Horn, Sabrina Moran, to name a few of the women's field. After 24-hours of running in apparently some very windy conditions, we have a new American record!! Sabrina Moran stayed on track for an unbelievable 147.90 mile performance breaking the former American record by about two miles. The win couldn't have gone to a better person too. If you don't know anything about Sabrina, you can follow her blog
. She kicked off 2012 running strong at Rocky Raccoon taking first place female overall in 17hours and change. It's May and seems she's done it again!! Best part - - she's a fellow DryMax Socks athlete so of course we know her feet were completely taken care of. This is why ultrarunning is such a terrific sport!!
Have a wonderful week, be safe and run strong out there!
Yes, I’m still alive and kicking. Graveyard 100
recovery went well and originally I’d planned on making it to Umstead 100
until my darling husband wrecked in a bike crash dislocating both shoulders a week before Umstead. For two weeks straight my poor hubby was stuck in arm slings and not allowed to do anything but watch Jerry Springer. Ack! Something like that definitely puts things into perspective in terms of priorities and importance. Luckily he’s well on the way to recovery and is doing well in physical therapy. His PT, Diane Haupt
, is also the magic hands that keep my legs healthy A.R.T. throughout the year so we’re confident he’ll bounce back soon (he’s already sneaking in bike rides).
Fast forward to last Saturday which was the Inaugural Full Bloom trail 50k & Half Marathon
, a race I created and directed consuming my time around the clock. The race was really successful – and I rank successful by the fact that no one died, got hauled off by EMS and everyone had big exhausted smiles on their face at the finish. By Sunday it felt like I’d run another ultra, minus the stomach issues. Ha!
Life is finally quieting down a bit bringing me to this morning where I finally got to pick up a magazine for the first time in months and read! Runner’s World Trail special came out with a new issue and you have to read it!! There are two articles in there that specifically need your attention. The first one page 37, “You’ve Been Chicked!” and the second page 67, “The Mother Load.” Both articles are incredibly inspiring because they point to the success of women ultrarunners. I especially liked the first article seeing that at Full Bloom this weekend, the second finisher overall was a woman (and a mom). She was behind a couple guys for a while but ultimately chicked them. Hehehe…sorry fellows! What’s fantastic about these articles is that women are turning heads in this sport and in some cases beating out the men. Now look – I’m not a man hater or anything, Kilian has my undivided attention. But it’s nice that woman are finally getting more and more recognition for their performances AND appreciation for the inner strength it takes to juggle family and careers as athletes. I personally don’t have children (in the human sense that is, I’m a dog mommy) but there are a lot of sacrifices that woman go through on and off the trail/road that deserve praise. I hope these articles help inspire other women out there feeling overwhelmed by life to go for it. Don’t let the ease of listing out reasons hold you back. Earlier this year I tweeted, “Less talking, more doing”. It’s my 2012 mantra to remind me that I need not find excuses of why I can’t, but rather focus on finding ways to say, I did. So, my personal thanks to all of the lovely ladies covered in these articles for their inspiration. Thanks to Jamie Donaldson who has been and always will be my ultrarunning hero. And my coach extraordinaire Amanda McIntosh
- a super-mom and ultra endurance athlete. Well done ladies!
Less talking, more doing.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of…errr…no, not quite.. I came, I conquered….nope. Far from it. Hmmm….I ran far, had a bunch of highs and lows, terrible stomach issues, and now I ache really bad with peeling sunburn on my face. Yea, I’d say that sums it up nicely.
Saturday I toed the line to the Graveyard 100
, a new race that begins in Corolla, North Carolina and travels south ending in Hatteras, North Carolina. It wasn’t on the race schedule since I was signed up to run Umstead 100 in three weeks but the more I thought about it the more appealing it seemed so I went for it. Fair warning, this is a really long post with some TMI’s here and there.
After my burnout/DNF at Javelina Jundred last year training started a little slow. My Coach Amanda McIntosh
and I decided it was best to take a break from hard training which was great timing for a two week vacation in Italy with my super hubby. Lots of cheese, meats, breads, wine and the like all over Italy may have been just what the doctor ordered since I hadn’t really taken a break from running in three years. Amanda and I met in January, discussed potential race goals, tactics, etc., and from there, we went to work. I can’t say enough great things about Amanda, her training approach is all based on heart rate training which in my opinion is the only way to train. And I love that she’s so incredibly calm about all of it. Her guidance is immeasurable.
Fast forward to race day. The start of the race was weird actually. After the national anthem and count down we were off and running. I knew I wanted to beat my PR and probably would but by how much was the big question. Amanda and I never talked about potential finish times. We have in the past but it hasn’t worked out and for some reason this time we left it off the list of things to discuss. Instead, during my final conversation with her on Thursday she suggested I run comfortably, not over do anything and focus on nutrition, breathing and remaining calm. Within the first mile I knew I was the front female which threw me for a loop considering I had just told my husband not to expect any leading from me. I battled with what to do. Slow down? Walk? Keep running? The agony. Finally, I remembered Amanda saying, “just run comfortably” so I took an easy breath and ran.
It was so beautiful as the sky lit up. I saw deer up in the sand dunes making me think of my husband who loves hunting… The course is really gorgeous. Through Corolla and Duck there are beautiful live oak trees which surprised me the first time I saw them since we’re right on the oceanfront. Each town is very charming with little shops, café’s and piers. As we made our way down the road it was also nice to see how polite the drivers were with us on the road. Brandon, the Race Director gave us a choice to run on bike path or against traffic on the road. For the most part, I ran the road using the bike path a few times to change things up a bit.
The Graveyard 100 is a point-to-point race which allows runners to decide on using a crew or running un-crewed. The only difference between the two meant that un-crewed runners could have drop bags at all of the aid stations. My husband was crewing me and later in the day Rachel and Brian would arrive to help crew and pace, more on these superheroes later..
Somewhere after the first marathon I noticed my fingers started swelling and my stomach started blowing up. At the next water stop I mentioned it to Russ and kept going. He got on the phone with Amanda to discuss. By the next water stop Russ yelled, “Amanda says for you to take more electrolytes.” Ok done. Unfortunately it was the beginning of a really long stretch of stomach issues. I’d been using Fizz and gels throughout training and it all worked perfectly but on race day the stomach wasn’t having any part. The fizziness kept making me burp up vomit and I was so nervous about getting it on my clothes and having to smell it for hours that my only recourse was to swallow it and then drink a bunch of water to get rid of the acid taste. It wasn’t the best option but smelling vomit is always the worst. It’s a never ending chain effect if you know what I mean. Not knowing how long this would last, stopping to change clothes wasn’t an option both because it’s time consuming and frankly it would ruin my black widow outfit with neon Newton’s look (Hey! Fashion before form…ok..kidding). I kept running trying to scan my Brain for what I’d packed in the car. Seems I’d pack tons of Fizz, gels, three bottles of fruit juice, two bottles of chocolate milk and an avocado. Houston, we have a problem.
At the next water stop I asked for the fruit juice and what a nice reprieve in taste! Chugging down the entire 16oz bottle I kept going. Inside though I knew we would have to make adjustments soon with nutrition because running 100-miles on juice didn’t seem like a good idea. (Ultimately, the crew bought more juice and that's what I ran the race on).
Somewhere in the late 40’s my stomach bloating subsided and fingers started getting back to their normal boney size but then came the bout of diarrhea. Sigh…for the next 20-30 something miles I’d have to stop and use the bathroom frequently. Probably the only thing that went according to plan was that I’ve yet to have a race where I didn’t have stomach issues. It’s getting kind of comical. A couple times in training I had stomach issues and after getting through the run would come home excited because I had “trained” with stomach problems. Probably not the ideal but if you can’t beat it, join it and that’s what we did. Our goal for the race was to expect stomach issues and learn how to manage them as best as possible.
I think it was in Kitty Hawk when I came up on two people standing on a driveway cheering. At first glance I didn’t recognize them but as I got closer I saw it was Brian and Rachel, my pacers. Happy days were here again!! All of the stomach issues had me in a low and seeing them lifted me up high. I ran over to say hi and gave them hugs before they sent me packing down the road. For the next bunch of miles the smiles and hugs left me floating again. Brian paced me at the Rock N Roll Half last year when I ran a new PR so he already had experience running me into the ground. Rachel and I had done a couple training runs together and her triathlon experiences she shared keep inspiring me to reach for my own dreams too. These two are incredibly awesome and inspiring athletes. Last year Brian ranked 10th in his division at Ironman Kona, turned around and raced at Ironman Florida winning his age group and another Kona slot. Rachel also raced Ironman Florida and not only won her age group landing her a Kona slot but clocked the fastest female amateur course record by five minutes! To top off their stellar year, they got engaged on the IM FL awards stage, getting married soon and are living happily ever after. How’s that for a perfect fairytale!
Perhaps one of my biggest changes in training and racing has been attending the Newton Natural Running Coach Clinic
at Running Etc.
back in November. Doug Bertram, Director of Field Marketing at Newton Running gave an excellent presentation on natural running causing quiet a stir within me. His presentation blew me away and I hung on every word. The clinic filled in all of the blanks that I had-had for so long. I left the clinic that day and started practicing what I learned over and over again obsessively. What an incredible difference it’s made in my running. In a nutshell, I feel like I’m floating when I run and have to attribute the improvement to having better form. On Saturday, I thought a lot about Doug and his presentation. I could hear his voice about cadence, “ One-two-three one-two-three one-two-three” and how he described the segway feeling of falling forward. In the later stages of the race I went into form mode because Doug told us when we get tired, focusing on form is critical to not wasting valuable energy. He had even told us that when he stops during his own races he takes a moment to “fall forward” before starting back up just so it gets him back into proper form. It works!!
Moving further down the road we had a quick out and back at one of the lighthouses where I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t take a moment to look up at the lighthouse. I’d been so focused on running form, cadence and feeling better that the moment past by. Just before the 50-mile mark was the Bonner Bridge, a 2.5 mile bridge that spans over Oregon Inlet which was formed from a hurricane years ago. The slight incline and decline of the bridge was a much needed reprieve from the flat. I planned on walking up the bridge but the wind tossed me around like a ping-pong ball so instead I let Doug pop back into my head and practiced leaning into the hill, keeping good cadence and being patient. One-two-three-one-two-three.
Just after the bridge was the 50-mile mark and also time to pick up my first pacer Rachel. Woot-woot! Rachel updated me on everything and pep talked me. We were still running a good clip by that point but as the road turned direction the wind became cross wind blowing sand at us. Still though, this section was really pretty with sand dunes and sections where we could see the ocean. I was still sick at this point so Rachel was great about reminding me to drink juice at regular intervals. The other nice part was seeing the Rodanthe house from the movie, Nights in Rodanthe
. After that though, the scenery became very redundant and mind numbing for a while which is part of the difficulty of the course. Sometimes I felt like I was going crazy inside because of the never ending feeling of the road. Holding rational thoughts became difficult. Rachel said around the 60-mile mark I asked her how many miles I had left. She said she thought I was kidding not realizing that I wasn’t kidding and how incredibly horrible at math I become once the delirium sets in.
Check out the sand blowing across the road. Relentless.
Moment of happiness.
Rodanthe House on left!
During one of my stomach / bathroom episodes I decided while “taking a seat” how nice it would feel to lay down in the van and put my feet up for a few minutes so I walked over to the crew and told them I wanted five minutes of rest and legs up. Russ and I locked eyes. He had this look of horror that said, “I don’t agree with this, haven’t had a chance to talk to Amanda about it but I’m not going to fight you either” LOL..They cleared some space and for five minutes I enjoyed the little leg massage from Russ - - and then he gave me a warning - - get back out and start running or he would never let me have another break again. Hahaha! Truth is that little break did help my stomach feel better. The terrible cramps went away, at least for a while.
Just past the 62 mile mark (I think that’s when) I was passed and thrown into second place. I wish I knew his name but he was moving at such a good pace too that after a while we lost sight of him. Sunset finally hit changing the scenery once again. When you run South down Highway 12 the Atlantic Ocean is on your left and the Sound is on the right. At sunset, the sky is brilliant orange and the reflections coming off the Sound are impressive. All sorts of wildlife come out. Temperatures started dropping quick so we stopped at one of the water stops to change pacers, put on reflective gear, lights and gloves. Brian would pace me to the end from this point forward. Not sure how we got confused but in the 80-something miles we thought the next stop would be an aid station. Leading up to it, we talked about how wonderful a little chicken broth would be to warm me up and hopefully settle my stomach. I turned on some tunes to keep me going and focused on chicken broth. To my horror, the next stop was a water stop not an aid station. No!! I was so sad, luckily Brian talked me through the disappointment and kept me on pace.
Brian pacing. Me enjoying the sunset scenery.
Finally we reach civilization leaving the sand dune monotony behind us. Russ and Rachel cheered us on as we passed by telling us the chicken broth was just up ahead. I had to stop and walk a little bit and ended up having a hallucination that I was about to fall into a canyon. I let out a scream and Brian asked what was wrong. Standing frozen, I told him about the canyon. We shined our lights on the road and by pure luck saw green arrows telling us to turn left! We would have completely missed that turn of the race course had I not hallucinated. Whew! It was the second out and back to another lighthouse. The race director had warned us of this lighthouse telling us it would feel like forever before we reached it. As we made our way Brian decided to take off and get to the aid station before me so he could get everything ready. He made me promise I wouldn’t walk until I got there so I promised and made sure to run. Just as I was turning the corner to hit the aid station the lead guy was leaving. We were close!! I cheered him on knowing he was running an amazing race for his first 100-miler ever
!! Yes, you read that right, first 100-miler. At the aid station I *finally* got the chicken broth and it was so good and warm. They pulled up a chair for me to sit and enjoy it. The volunteers there (actually at all of the aid stations) were amazing and on top of things. One guy asked if my feet needed any attention which made me laugh a bit. I sat there telling him about how I don’t get blisters anymore because I wear DryMax Maximum Protection socks
and despite feeling all of the sand in my shoes I was certain there were no blisters. He may have thought I was hallucinating because I got a strange stare. So I told him about running Badwater
wearing only one pair of DryMax socks and Newtons. He seemed shocked and intrigued. Half a cup of chicken broth and it was time to go. I thought I still had 20-miles left but as we got ready to leave they told us we had half a marathon left. That didn’t seem right to me so I asked Brian what 87.6 from 100 was - - again the math confusion... Brian confirmed we had 13.1 miles left. YES!! We left and kept running, about a mile past that aid station we spotted the leader and passed him. He had slowed substantially and didn’t look very good but we knew his crew was close by so we kept going.
Just before I fell into "the canyon."
One more water stop came with 10k left. The stop was a gingerbread bakery. Mmm-mmm! They were kind enough to let me use their bathroom and as I walked out managed to spot several pastries in the glass case. What a tease! My sweet husband went back in and picked up a chocolate chip cookie for the finish. That last 10k felt like eternity. The race director drove up beside us and said all we had to do was go over one last bridge, slight turn to the left and straight ahead was the finish line. And then he said he would be giving me the Champion buckle. Holy cow…my face feels hot just writing this and thinking about it. I was in the overall lead for the entire race, and about to break my 19:56 PR by over three hours!! Brian said he was going to leave me with two miles to go so I could run in for the finish but that didn’t work for me. I knew how far I’d come throughout the day and how much the three of them had all worked to get me to this point that I asked if they could drive up to the finish, park and finish with me together. We did. That moment belonged to the four of us. Brandon stood there holding the Champion buckle and the four of us, with a black sky full of bright stars, came through in 16:33.
Brian, Russ, Me, and Rachel. Happy at the finish.
A whopper of a buckle. Wow.
Now about that chocolate chip cookie...
Post race: Sand between toes, stinky but no chips in my pedi and no blisters. :)
As always, there are so many people to thank that I’m going to reserve that for a separate post altogether to give them the thanks and recognition they deserve.
For now, it hasn’t sunk in yet. If I weren’t hobbling around with terrible sunburn on my face to remind me, this would all feel like a dream.
Didn't think the day would come but it always does. Months of training and finally the moment we all work toward. We'll see what happens tomorrow. Good weather in the forecast, support crew is ready, and all I have to do is show up and enjoy a day of running. It's an early season 100-miler so I'm looking for a great day to stretch out the legs, do a little reflecting, and keep tabs on some of my friends that are running their first 100. I'm so excited for them!!
If you know me, then you know my love for history and this race albeit new comes with tons of history along the course we're running. The area is the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" because of all the sunken ships. Weather here can get a little crazy, mostly winds and rain. I know from experience. A few years ago I was offshore fishing with my husband [bf back then] and the weather went from gorgeous to stormy within minutes. We were on a 23ft center console and I remember the charter boats radioing out to the rest of us telling us to stay put so they could keep watch in case someone capsized. I went into overdrive asking each person on the boat if they could swim in case we had a MOB. The first time we ever wore lifejackets on that boat too. Luckily we made it without problems but the memory stuck with me.
While I won't have to deal with white caps tomorrow, there is 100 miles to contend with and no matter what 100 miles is a 100 miles.
Our trip began by arriving into Rome and taking the speed train to Florence, a first time visit to the famous renaissance city. Arriving late afternoon we had enough time to walk around the main historic area and find a place for dinner. It didn’t take long for us to find La Cantinetta
, a cute little osteria (tavern) off the main strip. 24 hours of traveling and we were parched and hungry. I can’t describe the feeling of our first dining experience in Florence. Unreal. Everything Russ and I love right in front of us: cheeses, hams, salamis, bread, delicious spreads and red wine. We had arrived. Some pics…
Not knowing what to expect while in Florence I had one goal in mind – and surprisingly it wasn’t to see Michelangelo’s David
, but rather to visit the great Italian sculptor himself inside Santa Croce basilica. Located in Piazza de Santa Croce, few blocks from the Arno River, Santa Croce
notably houses the “who’s who” of Italian greats. Tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, family to Napoleon Bonaparte, Alighieri and Vasari are a few of the more than 200 housed within the walls of Santa Croce. “Mildy” gothic compared to the main cathedral in Florence, Santa Croce’s five centuries have allowed for drastic renovations. Sadly many of the frescoes were covered up so as not to distract from the main prayer. Over time some frescoes within certain chapels have been restored. Most interesting are the floors of the church, marble tombs cover the floors. Some are heavily ornate, others with a simple one or two words. Either way at times I did feel weird about walking on tombs. Our time there was lengthy self-guiding for about three hours. The details of each chapel and tomb was impressive and incredibly meaningful picking out the most significant part of their life.
Post Santa Croce, we decided it was time to commence my 35th birthday celebration by ducking into Note Di Vino
wine bar. Spotted on our way to Santa Croce it enticed us in holding us prisoner to more wonderful breads, meats and cheeses. This time we tried panettone and their specialty, dense fig and nut pastry. Heavenly! Oh and the wine was great too - - one of the things we love about Italy is the exemption of wine lists. Ok they exist but let’s face it Italy and wine are synonymous therefore why bother rustling around with a wine list when all it takes is ordering the local table wine because ultimately you’re taste buds will be treated to that areas best.
Later that day our new friend at the hotel front desk suggested we try Antica Trattoria “da Tito”
(1913) a local restaurant completely off the beaten path. We jumped at it. Anytime we’re privy to the local dining scene it’s worth it for the experience. Walking in to Tito, in Italian I requested a table for two. The gentleman asked if we had a reservation and when I said no, we were gently scolded and escorted to a table. Dinner in Italy doesn’t typically begin until 7pm so it was surprising that the restaurant was filling up so quickly that early. There was another couple sitting beside us and given the map sticking out of her purse we knew they weren’t local but apparently they had enough sense to order the steak. Probably about 2.5lbs of perfectly cooked meat set on communal plate the waiter had to roll a separate mini table over just to house the plate! It was enormous and we couldn’t help but stare at the size. Having already ordered our food Russ and I were starting to regret our selection. The food ended up wonderful, service couldn’t get any better either. Post cappuccino our waiter brought over a chilled bottle of lemoncello (we didn’t order this) with three shot glasses. He served each of us a shot and walked away. Not wanting to be rude (when in Rome…) we slowly and cautiously sipped until the shot glasses were emptied which was about when another waiter came by filling us back up and this time filling a shot for himself. He gave a quick toast and the three of us downed the lemoncello. Yikes..Russ and I couldn’t help but exchange loaded smiles full of laughter over what was occurring. And again – a third waiter came by repeating the process. Sigh…after he walked away we hid the shot glasses and begged for the bill. I suspect that bottle is frequently emptied by the locals there that were boisterously enjoying themselves. I suppose the lemoncello is the culprit for what followed…
Walking out of Tito we turned the wrong direction without realizing it. Arm in arm taking in the Tuscan evening sky we were happy to enjoy the moment of walking down the crooked cobbled streets. I pointed out how safe this beautiful city felt and how much of it we had walked without carrying a sense of apprehension. WHAM. Not but ten minutes after I said that a few feet across the street from us was a group of young guys in a fight. After one loud yelp the group scattered different directions. Not knowing what took place we sped up. Russ glanced over and saw one of the guys lift his shirt to look at a bleeding stab wound. Ugh…so much for that safe feeling though it happens every where. The moment was so alarming that we found ourselves popping into a little local place which ended up being a gem of a spot, Mostodolce
. Here, local drink beer, grab a snack and scream during soccer games. We ended the celebratory day with dessert. Happiness is Florence.
Ahhh Venice…how do I begin? Not the first time I’d been to this interesting city on water and I was open to bypassing it on the trip except Russ hadn’t been so it made sense to go and do the romantic gondola ride together. Arriving by train into Venice seems hectic to me. There’s this rush from the station to the vaporetto (boat equivalent of city bus) that feels like I should be wearing track spikes. Get your elbows ready too because you’ll need them to push your way onto the boat. Last time I was in Venice it was a quick little tour and the entire time I couldn’t wait to leave because it felt claustrophobic. This visit was no different. The streets are narrow dark and uneven which is okay except finding your away around even with three maps is still confusing. Luckily our hotel was a stone’s throw from the Rialto and St. Mark’s Square which is really the highlight of the city. Our first evening we strolled around the infamous square enjoying the Christmas décor, architecture and popular tourist photo ops of a photographer placing food on your shoulders and head so that pigeon’s swarm you all the while smiling like nothing is going on for the camera. We were ok to just watching. Making our way over to the gondola’s we opted for the hour long sunset ride. The air was warmer considering how far north we were but by dark temperatures drop quickly. Regardless it was exactly like the movies except I couldn’t stop asking our gondolier questions – How long did it take him to learn? (7 years), how long has he been a gondolier? (18 years), how does one decide to up and steer gondola’s? (you almost have to be born into it) and so on. I can’t for the life of me remember his name (Pierre? Pietre? Darn it.) but he was really nice and informative throughout the hour pointing out various buildings and giving us gossip and history behind them. Coming around the final stretch to park the gondola we were very fortunate to witness an incredible sunset. The moment alone was worth going.
My favorite part about Venice are the centuries-old masks. Elaborately decorated in all sorts of colors, materials, and gilding they’re so fun. Come to find out that some masks were created with a purpose in mind. The Half mask with long beak is considered the Medico Della Peste
(The Plague Doctor’s mask…although translated it’s Doctor of the Pestilence). Doctor’s wore this mask to cover their face from the stench of death during the plague. Some masks have clear lenses to protect the doctors eye even. Another mask is the Moretta, a oval shaped mask decorated with black velvet. This mask has a small bit inside near the mouth where the ladies would hold the mask by the bit with their teeth. It’s been said that young woman wore these masks - - and presumably to keep them from talking would be my guess. Ha!