Sunday, May 20, 2012

Daybreak...and the rest of the day

Daybreak I think is one of the most fantastic times to be out running.  The world is just a quieter place and of course it is usually lots cooler in the summertime!  Getting to the moment of running at daybreak takes more preparation some days than others.  Saturday was one of those days.

Yesterday I did a long self supported training run.  Self support means that there isn't someone manning an aid station to hand me food or drink or cheer me on.  The preparation for this started the night before.  I went to the grocery store and got a selection of snacks (not all healthy ones either), prepared and packed them.  The goal was to have something at these two impromptu aid stations that I was interested in eating.  I'm sure it is hard to imagine not wanting to eat something in front of you but it does happen if you are dehydrated or hot or just feeling bleh at the time you hit the spot where the food and drink is!

So the food selection turned out to be:  strawberries, bananas, orange wedges, chilled boiled potatoes with dipping salt, pb&j sandwiches cut up in quarters, nutella and jelly sandwich cut up in quarters, goldfish, cheetos, fritos, twizlers, swedish fish, gummy bears, oreos, stinger waffles and chews.  Most of these snacks are commonly served at all the trail races i've ever done, and I wanted the long training day to be as much like a race as I could possibly manage.

What did I end up eating?  Not ALL of this silly!  I did have two other folks running with me so I wanted to make sure they had treats they like to eat too and I have a lot of leftovers.  What appealed to me most this time was pb&j, potatoes, fritos and cheetos.  I did have one quarter of the nutella sandwich and decided that is not really what I like so it won't make a visit back on my menu unless my run friends want one.

I ended up having water and a variety of flavors of gatorade at the stops too.  One thing that often surprises me about the aid stations at races is that they usually pick one flavor of whatever drink and that is what you have on course for however long you are out there.  I know I get tired of one flavor after one or two fill ups at any race and by the time I finished the last course at 14 hours I really didn't want one more sip of heed!

Prep completed i had an early dinner and bed time since I'd be up at 4AM to be ready to go at 5AM.  I know it just seems wrong to be up so early on a weekend.  But when you have a friend willing to meet you early, you have to go for it!  My eternal thanks to Mike!!!

I got up at 4AM, got dressed, skipped coffee (boo!), ate two pieces of toast with butter, drank a glass of water and loaded up the car with the aid station stuff.  I'm lucky to have friends that live at one end of my route so I could place my aid station at their house.  Thanks Randy and Tamara!  The other aid station was my car.

With the aid stations all set up,  I headed off for the run with Mike.  When we started it was dark out so we had our lights going.  At that time of the morning there was only 1 or 2 others on trail.  It was peaceful and enjoyable to be out and about chatting with friend in the early morning hours.  It was also great to get in the practice of running in the dark and sunrise time for the 100 miler coming up.

The run itself went as smoothly as it could.  I think I had more company for this training run that I do for most races Mike and Chris (aka hubby) each ran 13 miles with me at the beginning and end respectively.  In between times when I was running solo I really wasn't alone.  I ran into others, some who i know, on the trail.  The temperature was pleasant all day and even when it got a little warm there was enough of a breeze to keep reasonably cool.  There was no falling or getting lost either.

Yesterday was one of those wonderful days when I know why I run and enjoy it.  It is just awesome to be able to be out in the woods, running with friends and enjoying the moment!

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Is defined according to Google as ‘Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.’

I would say that this is an accurate description of the race day I had at Long Cane Ultra 55 mile in Abbeville South Carolina, but I’ll get to why later.  I started out the day thinking I’ve run 5 miles so often I don’t even think it is that far any more.  I can certainly manage 5 more miles after 50 right?!?

The day started off like my normal race days.  Up at 4AM to clean up.  Yes…I do shower up as I have plenty of time to be gross all day when I’m sweaty, dirty and sticky from the sugary foods I tend to consume while racing.

Next up, food and coffee.  Caffeine for me is a nice thing to have just like I do on non-race days!  Time to pack up the stuff prepared the night before (pack, food, drop bags, etc), get in the car and get to the race start.  Three of us arrive at the start on time to pick up our packets, get the drop bags taken care of, say hi to a few people, use the facilities and get to the start area in time for the pre-race briefing.

In no time we are all off and running down the trail in a line like ants looking for the food.  We kinda are actually if you think of an aid station in that way.  The trail is mostly lob lolly pine trees and pine straw.  We get to a green patch with some nice foliage and what do I see?  Sigh…yep poison ivy!  The itchy legs I still have will pass.  This is all a part of the adventure of being in the woods I say to myself and continue moving on to the next aid station.

So far the day has been gently rolling hills, talking to other runners, listening to music, aid station stops (where I’m sure to thank the volunteers – cause they are the BEST just for being there!) eating and drinking.  Sure I’ve fallen a few times (3 to be exact but who is counting other than me and my pride?) and had some digestion problems but nothing to keep me from finishing.

I’m pacing myself pretty well and staying hydrated.  I reach the 50k mark in time to see Chris come by on his way to finishing his first 50k race.  Go Chris go!

I change my shoes and socks, which feels like a small slice of heaven.  Fill up my pack with food and drink, eat some food and drink a cold mountain dew.  Yummy treat with a little caffeine kick for a little pick me up.

I head back the way I came uneventfully and get to the next aid station.  I’m still running close enough to other folks that when I come to the first turn I don’t know I simply follow them without thinking hey is this the right way?

At this point I’m 40 miles into the race and my brain is a bit fuzzy and slow.  I get to the next aid station and it is unmanned, which I have forgotten (did I mention fuzzy brain?), and I cannot seem to figure out which way I’m supposed to go.  I don’t see orange flags like I had been seeing all day so I wait hoping for another runner to come along and help me figure out which way is the yellow brick road.  I haven’t seen anyone so I figure I must be at an aid station that was waiting to be picked up by the crew.  So, I backtrack a ways which adds 2 miles to the race distance by the end of it all.  I’ve called (wow I’ve got signal in the middle of the woods!) the race director and Chris to see if they can help me since I’m not sure what to do.  Fortunately, I find 2 other runners who seem to know the way, so I follow them.  We figure out the turn I missed and continue on.  I’m so thankful for the company and being back on track to finish.

The time I spent waiting and taking it easy must have done me some good.  I was able to pick up the pace a bit and ended up going ahead of the two runners I’d met.   I got through the last two aid stations grabbing the usual heed and food and my light from my drop bag.  I had hoped to finish not needing it but knew that wouldn’t happen due to the delay from being a little lost.  No big deal as it was all a part of the adventure. 

I thanked the volunteer at the last aid station and headed out for the last leg of 6 miles.  I had to turn my light on a mile in and it was dark with 3 miles left to complete.  I knew I had to slow down or risk falling again and into who knew what.  I know I didn’t want it to be more poison ivy, so I walked most of the rest of the run.  My brain must have been working better after the rest time and slower pace because I figured out all of the rest of the somewhat poorly marked turns to the end. 

As I crossed the finish line for the new longest distance I’d run (57 miles), I felt a strong sense of perseverance and accomplishment.  Despite falling, heat, digestive issues and getting lost I had finished the race.  I think this race was a great training run in anticipation of the 100 miler I’m planning to finish in July.  I learned to remain calm, come up with a plan and handle the situation as best as I can and finish!

Thanks should go out to the race director Terri Hayes for putting on a good race!  There are always things that go wrong race day for a director and she like the runners did the best she could of the situation.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The last mile

I had the most awesome opportunity to pace two runners on their last lap of the Umstead 100 run.  I learned the usual about each of these runners - what they do, where they are from, do they have kids, etc.  I also learned the determination that each of them had to finish despite being tired from running all night and in pain from blisters or just moving for an entire day.

You could look at them as they headed out on the last lap and see in their eyes "I will finish this!"  Each mile the determination it seemed to not let the niggles of the night get to them. I must block out the tiredness and forget the pain and focus on the goal and that I am one more step closer to reaching the finish line.

The last mile is where I got to see the joy and pride of my runner knowing I have a few steps before me until I reach the finish line.  I only hope that I reach the last mile of my own race, that along the way I  persevere and remain determined and in that last mile have the same sense of joy and pride in accomplishing my own 100 mile run goal.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Learning the way...

Tonight I will hopefully pace someone for the last two laps of their personal 100 mile journey.  I've attended two practice runs to learn more about how to pace a runner and hopefully motivate them through the last of their run safely.

This is a task I take seriously since I know how much it means to have my friends and family cheer me on either via email, facebook, phone calls, or letters.  I cannot imagine at this point what it will be like for the person I will pace or me.  I know that I will likely be changed by this as anyone would be by helping someone achieve a personal goal.