Well it's about time the calendar flipped to May!! I'm so excited about this next adventure because I get to combine my two greatest passions: Ultra road running and Italy!!!
On May 17th at noon local time (5am Texas time) I toe the line to the Nove Colli race. This is a 125-mile road race that starts in Cesenatico, Italy. Cesenatico is a little coastal town off the Adriatic Sea. That being said, the race is anything but flat. Nove Colli literally means, Nine Hills, and that is what the course will give us. Nine climbs with nine time cutoffs. And two pasta parties to refuel while we run. Heart be still... I cannot describe what is going through my mind. I've been waiting three years to do this race! Equally exciting is that my super coach Amanda McIntosh is coming with me to crew and pace - -girls gone wild. Kidding. Completing the Carawan Caravan is Antonio Jacopo a local Italian ultrarunner who has graciously volunteered to help crew and pace. I met Antonio through my friend, Carmelo, who I met in the middle of running Spartathlon. (I love how ultrarunning not only opens the doors to new places but also puts amazing people in your path along the way.) I cannot wait to practice my Italian with Antonio along the miles. :)
Following Nove Colli, Amanda and I will head over to Firenze where I'll have six days to rest, recover and get ready for round two: the 42nd edition of del passatore 100k on May 24th. Ok-ok...I get that this is a lot of miles but if I'm flying all the way over to Europe I might as well go full monty. The hard part for this race (aside from trashed legs from Nove Colli) will be the 3pm start time (8am Texas time). Oh and there's a 10-mile, 2300ft+ climb right smack in the middle of the race. I'm not really sure what will happen to me at this race, but I'm going to go do it anyway. The course is all road, point-to-point, starting in the heart of Firenze and ending in Faenza. In a nutshell, it runs straight through Tuscany! Yum-yum-yummy!
Suffice it to say, I'll be racking up some serious mileage on my Newton shoes!! In tow I'm bringing my go-to Gravity pair but also including the new Distance III because there's potential for rain at both races. The new five lug soles are nice and grippy on the road!
So there you have it, my spring ultrarunning adventure. Rest assured in between races there will be plenty of caloric gluttony involved, but not of the liquid variety....I'll have to wait until the flight back to enjoy a little Italian wine. :)
Huge shout out to my Newton Running Elite teammates - they will all be together for Boulder Boulder weekend and I'm sorry to miss meeting all of them and hanging out. Good luck!! I'm sending SG with a surprise for all of you!!
Below is a flyover of the first race with a caveat - - Nove Colli originated from a cycling race. So the flyover is the bike course and NOT EXACTLY the run course. I've been told the difference is in the start and finish locations but in general this is very close.
Wish me luck! Ciao!!
I was recently contacted by Justin and Rachel Speer from Operation:Ultra to participate in a podcast and talk about the Keys100 race. This is my first podcast so I was a bit nervous, but they were really neat to talk to and I love that they're also ultrarunners which made for an easy conversation. Runners talking about running - is there anything better?
Bob Becker, Race Director of the Keys100 also spent some time with them to talk about his fabulous race down in the Florida Keys. If you're on the hunt for a super stellar, and very well organized road ultra - you have arrived at your destination. Keys100 delivers on everything it promises ++. 2014 has a fantastic line up of ultrarunners which is sure to bring new course records.
You can listen to the podcast here.
March 1st summed up my early spring "trilogy" of races. I rang in the new year this January, with the flu, I found myself plagued with cabin fever as well. It's amazing what the flu can do to a runner. The amount of time spent in bed feeling like death has taken over certainly paves a path for dreaming, plotting and planning because what else are you going to do with that much down time.
And so I embarked on getting back into training knowing February/March would provide three race-style weekends of testing nutrition, gear, and most importantly providing the social aspect that I'd been missing. I tend to be a bit reclusive during peak training so on shoulder seasons it's fun being surrounded by lots of runners. Scratch that. What I REALLY wanted was to be fully immersed in race weekend excitement - the expos, the crowds, getting there early for parking, the post race finish line chute and hello - finishline bling. You get the idea. All the while I also had a job to do which was meeting several goals so I devised a point system:
1. Do what Coach Amanda said. (25 pts)
2. Test and/or land breakfast and race nutrition. (25 pts)
3. Keep it light and fun. (25 pts)
4. Practice balance by indulging a little post race.
The trilogy kicked off February 16th with the Austin Marathon. I was proud of myself for getting up early enough to eat breakfast. Usually I opt for sleep instead and then pay the price as I'm shoving stuff down at the last second. It was also Valentine's day weekend so I stayed up late Friday with my Valentine which wasn't crazy or anything but I'd had a stomach bug all week and it was zapping my energy. Stomach bug + late night out = not a good mix. Saturday took half a day to get me up and out to the expo for packet pickup. Not what I had in mind but not much I could do either. Race morning just as I arrived I got sick again leaving me thankful because in theory there was nothing left to get rid of. (hey-hey! glass full!) We took off running and very quickly I found my groove. Compared to last year where the hills were kicking my butt, this year the course felt heavenly. I read as many signs as I could along the way, joked around with runners and in general felt grateful to be out there. The race went by in a flash! Unfortunately the last three miles I flew blind because my watch died. Note to self: charge watch! Coach Amanda had given me a few extra miles afterward so I had to guess based on number of city blocks but the real silver lining was that I realized that in my hazy flu fog I paid extra to have two breakfast tacos waiting for me at the finish line!! Oh happy days!! Post cool down, I hunted down my tacos and treated myself to a little greasy indulgence.
1. 23 pts (2 point deduction for not charging watch and therefore running blind
2. 25 pts had breakfast and good calories evenly through run
3. 25 pts Yes and yes! Even on hills.
4. 25 pts two greasy tacos.
TOTAL: 98 pts
Part two was the Cowtown 50k in Fort Worth Texas, February 23rd. A special day for me because I got to debut in my Newton Running Elite team uniform….but I also didn't know that was going to happen until about 72 hours prior and leading up to the
weekend where I was envisioning a repeat of Austin Marathon. Race morning was bright and early for breakfast (yay!) and off to the race site. My final instructions from Coach Amanda: "run how you feel." And final instructions from NRE boss, "just go out there and have fun and btw the course record is within reach". Ummm…..check-check and duly noted. We made our way up to the starting area with a few seconds to spare before gun time. Heading out of the gate I met the 3:25 pace group peeps where I settled in. What a fun group and non-stop chit chat. I also noticed that the guys in this group had much more colorful outfits
then the ladies. Oh, and what I also learned was that a lot of the men purposely hung out in this pace group because it's apparently defined as "one of the popular women pace groups" due in part by BQ times. So I wondered, is this like animal kingdom attraction where the most colorful birds are males and the less colorful birds are females? Is this why the men are dressed like a box of crayons today?
Hmmm...by this point I think we were just passing the half marathon distance and one of the guys pointed out to me that the 3rd place ultra girl was in front of me. So an interesting feature to this 50k is that the top 3 men and women are followed by lead cyclists. The group decided I needed to move on and pass her but it also meant leaving them. Part of me liked the automatic pacing and was enjoying the groups humor but ultimately I went on to pass the 3rd place and 2nd place gals leaving me now in 2nd. My cyclist escort was really cool and was kind enough to put up with my various Rocky movie impersonations...
"Eyeofthetiger! Eyeofthetiger!" and "You SEE! You SEE! He's Not Machine, He's a Man!" Yep, he was a very good sport along the way. Eventually we came up on the gal that was in first and I watched her from afar for a long while. My cyclist looked at her and looked at me staying silent. I finally told him that we would get there when we get there but there was no sense in rushing. Along the way, I took a quick diagnostic check:
Heart rate? What coach said.
Running Form? Good.
Happy and having fun? Check and check.
I passed her and finished up with a course record and win. Even more spectacular was that another NRE teammmate, Scott Weitecha, won part of the big cash purse prize for the marathon race!! No cash in the 50k distance but I did get the absolute coolest black felt Stetson (just in time for the Austin Rodeo in March!!).
1. 25 pts. I ran how I felt.
2. 22 pts. Breakfast and nutrition went well but at the finish line I had a dire need for salt. 4-5 mini pickle juice bottles later, I felt normal.
2. 25 pts. Had a blast
3. 23 pts. Enjoyed a mini ice cream and cookie at the finish but opted for sushi dinner versus something nice and greasy. And I had an opportunity to eat a Dunkin Donut which I passed up for fruit and chocolate milk. Grrrr..
TOTAL: 95 pts.
Finishing up the trilogy I flew east to Deerfield Beach, Florida for the Palm 100k. This is a low key event but nevertheless it's 100k so one must still respect the distance. What made this weekend particularly exciting was getting to hang out with some all around cool ultra peeps like Brad "Peacock" Lombardi (my crew) and Dave Krupski... (whoIbeatbyfourteenminutesatthekeys100lastyear). Sorry Dave, I couldn't resist muahaha.. Moving right along…
Race morning: slept in and didn't land breakfast. Grrr. . . Weather wise, we couldn't have asked for better weather. It was fabulous. At the last second I almost had a little crisis when Garmin didn't sync but Brad figured out how to fix it. Whew!
We did a little count down to gun time and were off. The course is 16-miles out and back on asphalt path and sidewalks, twice. As we made our way down, the sun and clouds looked amazing resting on the shoreline. The day begged for long miles. Dave ran the 50k which was one out and back. Plus his wave started 15 minutes behind so it would be a bit before we would get to run together but we got in a couple of good miles. He went on to place 3rd which is terrific considering that the weekend before he ran 110! I couldn't believe how fast the miles clicked by. By the second out and back I put my mixology hat on and tried
mixing different nutrition just to see what would happen. On training races although I get nervous and still treat it like a race I do find it's a great opportunity to try different stuff to see what works and what doesn't. The other part is when it doesn't work, it opens up an opportunity to figure out how to fix the problem in a race format. For this race, I played with nutrition....and it backfired. By the 40-mile mark my stomach was doing backflips. The tough part of this race is that there are no designated
porta-potties. Runners have to go off the course and ask store vendors for permission to use the bathroom. That's a tough thing to do when the course is already over a mile long. Adding bathroom stops in just makes it longer and there are no guarantees that the businesses will let you use the bathrooms. I got lucky that the sign reading, "Bathrooms not for public use" didn't apply to
me that day as the store manager was gracious enough to give me access. In and out in 3 minutes (according to Brad), I started feeling better on the final stretch. My final goal for the day was to practice good form. It gave me something to busy the mind.
With roughly 8 miles to go Brad came on the course to let me know the men's course record. We did some calculating but knowing how Amanda wanted me to run that day, I wasn't sure if I'd break the course record for the men. Fortunately we had a reprieve. When we calculated paces it was based on a 6am start, but the race started at 6:15 giving me wiggle room to come through and break both the men and women course records and first place overall. GREAT day!
25 pts I ran exactly how Amanda wanted.
20 pts. Sleeping in versus eating breakfast was a dumb idea. But thumbs up on testing and getting stomach back on track, quickly.
24 pts. Except for briefly feeling ill, felt very happy to run over four hours. Yay!
25 pts. Overindulged with Brad at the nearby restaurant and had no regrets.
Total: 94 pts
Overall Trilogy Scoring: 96 I'll take it, plus the extra work I need to get done.
Austin Marathon: Newton Gravity Shoe
Cowtown 50k: Newton Elite Shoe
Palm 100k: Newton 4-lug Distance
DryMax Maximum Protection Socks
Ice scarf at Palm 100k.
Stay tuned..the A Race is coming soon!
Well I have some very exciting news to share. It's been out for a week or two but I needed some time to build up courage to write about it. Many of you know, I’ve been a true diehard fan of Newton Running shoes since fall 2010 when Coach Amanda and my friend Frank sold me on every aspect of the shoe. Slowly over months I found myself the proud of owner of, at times, 14 pairs *BIG SMILE*. So over the holidays I had an opportunity to run with a local fellow, Stephen Gartside, who is part of the Newton Running family. Stephen and I met up for the first time on a 20-miler - - because you know -- there’s no better way to meet someone then on a 20-miler run in the middle of winter at o’dark thirty in the morning. He arrived covered in Newton from head to toe. I felt jealous. I wore Newton shoes but that was the extent of my personal Newton running attire. At a very speedy clip we took off running and the man talked my ear off the entire way! It was wonderful. I didn’t have to do anything but run while he talked and talked, all about Newton too. This led into several more long runs and more chats about Newton. The end result? I officially made it on the Newton Running Elite Team!!
I’m really so excited and humbled about this opportunity for so many reasons but the biggest reason is how much their shoes mean to me as an ultrarunner. By now I’ve spent thousands of miles running in Newtons and look forward to thousands more, preferrably on the road. :)
Being on the team does scare the hell out of me though - - my teammates are WICKED FAST. And by fast I mean, I need a calculator to figure out what they're talking about! Luckily, they accepted me as, thatgirlthatrunsreallyfar. So on that note, not much will change. I’m still on a mission to seek out 100+ mile distances of asphalt pounding.
Wait, there is one change. My running clothes will be much more colorful than the usual all-white or all-black I typically sport. Sigh...I failed the color wheel lesson in art class, this will take some adjustment. :)
Stay tuned. . . 2014 adventures are just getting started.
Spartathlon left me speechless. Russ, my husband extraordinaire, super coach Amanda McIntosh and I arrived the Sunday before the race. This being my first international race, I had no idea what to expect in terms of jet lag, hydration levels, etc. Sure, I’ve travelled to Europe before but when it’s for vacation I’m not exactly thinking about sleep - or water for that matter.
The start of the race was quick. We arrived by bus to the Acropolis where in all its glory this magnificent historical place was lit
up brightly. Everyone was busy taking pictures and getting ready. We took a few moments to get pictures in as well. I could feel myself half asleep but also on a high from what we were about to embark on. There’s always this thought that
crosses my mind before a big race, What did you get yourself into this time and are you sure you want to do this?
Once the race officials put up the race start banner it became even more real that our journey was about to begin. I’d seen the race banner a million times in pictures always in awe of the runners lined up behind it. Now I was one of them. A couple of times I found myself gasping for air. Is this for real? How did I get so lucky?
As long as I could see Russ and Amanda close by I felt safe, warm and fuzzy. As soon as the gun went off though, this wave of
realization came over me. I felt alone. For the next 153-miles I would have no pacers, no music , no comfort zone. For the first 50-miles I wouldn’t even get my crew. Buck up cowgirl – BUCK UP!
We ran down the cobbles from the Acropolis into a city that was just beginning to wake up. Rush hour traffic was stirring on certain streets. Within the first mile or so I was following along nicely until one of the front runners realized
we had already gotten off course. Oh boy.. Quickly the group did a slight u-turn and the next thing I knew we
were hopping over bushes and a wire fence to get back on track. A mile further down the road we played chicken with a train that was coming. Ok-ok…we didn’t play chicken. Actually we just stood there half laughing because what else are
you going to do when you’re four miles into a 153-mile race and there’s a train blocking the road. And finally we were off and running again hitting our stride. Down the road I was fortunate to find a pack of lively Brits. Oh thank heavens…. These guys were fantastically funny. They were joking and having fun along the way telling me about the race and giving me some tidbits
about what to expect. The first climb isn’t really a climb but rather a long incline. It’s a dangerous incline because you don’t really feel that you’re working hard but not slowing the pace and being mindful of it could cost you later. One of the runners along the route was power walking up the incline in almost a doomsayer’s style yelling out to the rest of us, “All runners who pass
me running will not finish the race!!” Hmmm…was he right? Should I walk? Who is he? I kept running, but I did slow it down a bit. I lost the Brits eventually. Like a group of girls, they all peeled off together for a quick wee break leaving me running alone. Gee thanks guys. Hahahaha!
Athens was good to us. Despite taking up their roads they mostly waved and cheered. We weaved through traffic at times getting close to the cars and it was great hearing, “Bravo-BRAVO!!” Here we are causing them to be late for work and they’re cheering us on. Awesome! Gee boss, I’m late because there were 300+ runners in front of my car and I just couldn’t drive any faster.
The course rolls along the coastline for many miles but to say it’s the most breathtaking part of the race is tough because the entire race is breathtaking, for different reasons. As we winded along the roads making our way to the coastline we passed a series of refineries where I’d read in race reports how bad the smell would be. It wasn’t bad. I actually, and purposely, took deep
breaths in throughout the race so that the smells should be part of the memory. In corporate all the senses when traveling!
When I travel I don’t want to be a tourist. I want to experience a new city as if I lived there every day. It was fun running by and seeing people go into work with their uniforms as if nothing was going on around them. The refineries shadowed us from their enormous dimensions. I was interested to know how industrial the city is. From pictures all you ever get to see is clear blue
water and white stucco houses. There is so much more to be explored and taken in!
Along the coastline I felt safe again. Earlier in the week we had driven this section of the course to see the first couple of climbs. Amanda and I ran some stretches together so getting back to that section felt like they were with me giving me energy and love. The road was quiet enough to hear the water crashing on the shore down below us and the wind started picking up so we had a nice coastal breeze. Aid stations are very well done. The volunteers treat you like family. Just as we were on a mission to hit checkpoints cutoffs, they are on a mission to take care of our every need. It was at Checkpoint 13 where I met Norway. He
was wearing a running tank top with big letters reading NORWAY so it was an easy tag. We stopped there together to grab some drink. The day was warming up and so were we. Time for an ice scarf. Norway handed me a bunch of ice. Seriously?
How much nicer can a person get? This level of kindness ended up being the theme for the entire race. We continued on running together where he told me that this was his second attempt. The previous year he didn’t finish and was back to try again. Yet
another theme of the race. How little did I know that a TON of runners have attempted Spartathlon only to not finish. I couldn’t figure it out though. These are some of the world’s toughest ultrarunners. How is it possible? How little did I know…
Finally at a certain point during the second marathon I saw them at last – MY CREW!!! YIPPEEE!! In Spartathlon, crews are not allowed to assist their runner until after Checkpoint 22 (mile 50-ish). They were on the way to Checkpoint 22 but stopping to take pictures. Oh happy days!!! I’d been running strong since the start without any issues and was excited to yell the news to the them, NO STOMACH ISSUES, I’M FEELING AWESOME!!! Their response: Keep running!!
Arriving into Checkpoint 22 was a huge high. This particular checkpoint is probably the most critical because runners have 9 hours and 30 minutes to get there. After 9:30, runners get pulled off the course and sent packing on the death bus. What makes it hard is 9:30 for 50-miles under normal circumstances is reasonable but add another 102 miles to the equation along with
a bunch of unknowns and it’s a recipe for disaster. Runners must be very mindful to not waste time but also not burn up the legs.
I arrived to Checkpoint 22 feeling terrific. It was my first time to talk to Russ and Amanda and report how I was feeling and get real calories in. Up to this point I’d only used aid station drinks but nothing really substantial. In preparation for the race and from other race reports I knew ice was a scarce commodity and not knowing what foods would be available we decided to transport a large cooler with provisions on the plane. Russ and Amanda had the cooler loaded with ice and my drink of choice for the race: Orgain Nutritional Shakes. Downing a shake was positively a wonderful moment. I could feel the nutrition tough at work inside. It’s high in potassium, healthy carbs and protein – something I never dabbled with in other races. Before heading back
out the crew wrapped another fully loaded ice scarf around my neck handed me an ice cold Powerade for road.
The next 50 miles flew by just like the first 50. No stomach issues, no lows. I cried along the course from pure elation running
through my body. How did I get so lucky!?!? Is this for real?? Running up-up and up climbs and winding down-down-down into the valleys, I met and chatted with fellow runners along the way from all over the world, Italy, Germany, Norway Argentina, Sweden, Brazil. This race is a melting pot and despite our language barriers we all had one thing in common – our love for running. We cheered each other on, waved hello, smiled, and laugh together. This is heaven, right?
On the sidelines was something that I knew existed at this race, but never expected to touch me so deeply. Children. I’d been told about the children that would be out on the course but this was unchartered. As I made my way down the road, groups of children lined up with their little hands stretched out to get slapped. Wanting to absorb the race fully, I got close up and slap
their hands laughing with them and yelling. Heart rate: ZONE 4. They would scream so loud and cheer for us the excitement drove my heartrate off the charts. Coming through the smaller villages was definitively THE BEST PART of the race – the children would wait for us and run beside us through their town huffing and puffing. I mean, these are teenagers all the way down to teeny weeny little ones. Some on their bikes, most of them running. In their best English they would ask, “Where you from?” and I responded, “America.” Well that would just set them off. I could hear them yelling to the others AMERICA-AMERICA!!
Some of the kids would touch my arms and hug me. Simply – PRECIOUS!! You could see the fire burning in their eyes. A desire and future goal of running Spartathlon was igniting inside them. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted them to stay with me. Their energy, their innocence, their bright eyes gave me strength that lasted for miles and miles.
Leaving the last village before the mountain stage it was dark and getting cold. I was almost at the 100 mile mark and shocking the hell out of myself with how well I was running. By that point I was in second place toggling with Antje Krause from Germany. Ugh…it was an awkward moment that I’d never experienced before. I left the aid station without saying a word and
feeling uncomfortable. Should I have said something? Hello at least? Just before I got too far from the aid
station I decided to turn back and yell out to her, COME ON! She did. We ran together struggling to have a conversation because of our language barrier but we managed to exchange our names and countries. She asked if I had qualified to
get in through a 24-hour race and I answered back that Badwater had been my qualifier. At first I wondered if yelling back to your competition to come run together is what you should do in competition or not. As I sit here writing this
I smile with no regrets – We are runners first, competitors second. At the end of the day we’ve all trained as hard as humanly possible and running together here and there doesn’t change the outcome of a race. What kind of day you’re
dealt is really the determining factor. Antje and I ran together for a while but I needed to stop for a bathroom break which meant parting ways. She went on and I never saw her again during the race.
Climbing the switchbacks took a toll on me. They’re not steep but the darkness and shadows toyed with my mind. I was getting sleepy and starting to feel edgy from being so close to the cliffs. Usually I would have a pacer to be my eyes and help me through this. Not this time.
Arriving to the base of the offroad section I met up with Russ and Amanda and dealt them the news that I needed sleep. I was struggling to keep a straight thought in my head and falling asleep running. It was very windy and cold and we went back and forth over it being a bad idea. They were worried my legs would seize up from the cold. Finally by virtue of crawling onto one of the mats and laying down I got 15 minutes of sleep. It’s amazing how rejuvenating minutes of sleep can provide. They walked me to the base of the trail and wish me well. All I wanted to do was run back and hug them but it was time to face my
demons. Up to this part I’d run strong, happy and effortless. Now a mountain stood before me both literally and figuratively. Going up was tricky. Russ, Amanda and I had practiced this part in daylight a few days earlier so I sort of had an idea of what to expect but at night with terrible eyesight, and bad height vertigo I lost all sorts of time on the mountain. Thankfully I had banked
a ton of time beforehand. Yeah!
Off the mountain and coming back into the valley I was glad to be back on road and ditch the trail shoes. I was so sleepy again and starting to hallucinate. At one point running with James from Britain, we spotted lights down the road and commented that the lights had to be the next checkpoint and we could see people there…..it ended up being a graveyard. Ummm…yeah…these people can’t help us. We ran on.
The cold was starting to sink into my bones leaving me shaking uncontrollably. Given the previous year’s record heat temperatures I had heat trained with little concern about cold. This was my [almost] fatal mistake. Somewhere on the course I arrived to a checkpoint and sat down in a chair. I couldn’t think anymore. The aid station volunteers were shining their lights in
my eyes and asking how they could help. All I could do was shiver…
“GET UP – WHAT ARE YOU DOING – WHAT HAPPENED?!?!?!” That’s what I woke up to as I found myself in a random car still at that same checkpoint. My crew had been looking for me for over two hours and were pulling me out one of the aid station
volunteer cars and shoving me down the road. We have no idea how long I was there. I was utterly disoriented, cold and clueless of what was going on. Russ and Amanda said it took an hour to finally unfold myself. Apparently I had a scowl on my face, hands shoved up deep inside my armpits and was shivering down the road for a long time. Once daylight broke things picked up again. I ran with other runners again and kept moving forward with help from the crew. Lesson learned: if 100 degrees feels
comfortable and pleasant, piled on serious winter clothes for anything less than 60 degrees or suffer the consequences!
Coming down the main avenue in Sparta was remarkable. Hundreds of people cheered from restaurants, balconies, and the streets. Each block closer added more children by my side. A car slowly passed by handing me an ice cold bottle of water. The kids were yelling and screaming with excitement. All I could do was cry uncontrollably. I’d lost all sense of composure. Here I was
153-miles later having been loved and taken care of by a race and a country so devoted to the history of running. People from around the world united together for the sole purpose of seeing us finish and realizing a dream that was a long
time in the making.
Approaching the final steps up to King Leonidas stood Russ and Amanda smiling and waiting for me. I had waited for such a long time to finally grab their hands and go to the finish - together. We walked up to King Leonidas hand-in-hand with so much emotion, exhaustion, adrenaline running through us. There’s an old saying,“Only the spoon that stirs the pot knows how hot the soup really is.” This was OUR finish for so many reasons.
At the finish it is customary to kiss the feet of King Leonidas. I kissed them twice. Once as a nod to tradition,
and a second kiss as a promise to return to this beautiful race and country that stole my heart.
Our trip across the pond was thankfully uneventful. Delta did a terrific job stuffing us with food. It feels like I've done nothing but eat for 24 hours. Arriving into Athens was amazing. I loved flying over Italy and seeing the sunrise cast burning orange shadows on the mountains and water. Finding the hotel was a different story and not quite as peaceful. GPS, even when in English, is not universal! But we made it, only to be told we couldn't check in yet. Sigh...the chairs at the rooftop pool make terrific beds. :) Oh, and it's a bit chilly here!
First thing this morning I received the following text..."The task ahead of you is never greater than the strength within you." Unknown
Good timing I'd have to say. :) The current task is packing, without analysis paralysis! I want to bring everything with me, but really all I need is socks, shoes, running clothes, water bottle, hat, and COURAGE. More blogs to follow. I finally figured out how to blog from my phone possibly chronicling this epic journey I'm on. Don't pinch me - if I'm sleeping, I don't want to wake from this dream!!!
Finishing up packing last night I started thinking about how far I've come in running. From my first marathon of 6 hours to packing for Spartathlon - I'm still in awe of what my body is capable of enduring. How far can we go? What is the maximum we can take? And how do we know when it's the maximum?
Badwater 2011 about killed me. Dealt with a bad hip out there, and crawling up the portal the race still sits on my mind. Despite all of that, it was good to me. The day dealt me a finish line. I'll take it.
When I first heard about Sparathlon it was pre-Badwater. Pre-Javelina Jundred, Pre-Graveyard, Pre-ultras. I was in training for my first trail 50k and had just met a fellow named Jon. A random Saturday morning I waited on the boardwalk to see who would show up to run 30-miles of trails in the freezing sleet/rain. Jon showed. He was it. We ran and compared running stories. He had already run 50-miles. I hadn't and was jealous of his 50-miles. I told him about Badwater. My dream race. And how everysinglewakingmoment of my sheer existence was focused on that race. Jon told me about Spartathlon. Sparta-wha? An even longer race with tight cutoffs. Hmmm....I thought. Nevermind that. I don't have the speed! The whole concept of hearing Jon explain that race seemed foreign and completely far fetched. I put it in the far back part of mind and forgot about it. It was a race I would never be strong enough to run.
Several ultras later, and a few years after that day meeting Jon, I was blessed enough to toe the line at Badwater. Here's a terrific article from the Washington Post who followed me, David Plosonka and Michael Wardian throughout the race. I read it last night and all I could do was shake my head in disbelief. How? When? Really? The body is a remarkable machine!
I've come so far as a runner, but yet, have so much farther to go. That I even applied to Spartathlon took HUGE COURAGE on my part. Sending the entry fee left me feeling ill for days. What will happen a week from today/tomorrow? Will my body say ENOUGH! Or will it say, keep going - you're not done yet. I suppose if I knew what the end result was now, there would be no sense in going.
If ultras teach us anything at all, it's the lesson of patience. The beginning can be drastically different from the end of training, of racing, of recovery. For now, I remain patient with a storm brewing inside. I've spent all year long training, building, planning, in a few more days and I get to find out what the Greek Gods have in store for me. SWOOSH!