Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Catching Up After The Races

OK, I have been slacking a bit in the reporting department - having more fun running and not wanting to take the time to sit down and put the reports in writing. The weather has really been great to get out and run, so I have been taking full advantage of it.

On March 13 Joe and I went to the Annual St. Patrick's 4-Miler in Binghamton. I have always said (and still stand by this) that this is by far the best race we do! It's a mere 4 miles, but it is tough! The great thing is that it is early enough in the season that I haven't gotten into my "ultra shuffle" and still have a little pent-up speed in my legs.

Actually, the really great thing about this race, aside from the people who put it on and the volunteers, is that Joe and I go all-out with our outfits. This year we made a few alterations - I am certain that we spent more on the outfits than we did on the race entries!

Race day weather was cool but there was a bit of humidity in the air with some decent winds. I somehow managed a 27:52, only 7 seconds slower than last year's time! I'm certain that the hair created a little extra wind resistance!

This is truly the best race with a great feast and excellent beer after. This was my first race this year as an "old lady" Master - and I actually won the female Masters division! And, still maintaining my weight to keep me in the Athena division, I pulled-off a first here. It was a really really fun time with friends and a great day for running.

Now . . . onto the HAT Run 50K, which was held on Saturday, March 20. This is also one of my favorite races, mostly because after a long winter and being tired of the snow and cold we go to Maryland, it's warm, the sun is out, the flowers are in bloom, and we get to reunite with our ultra family.

This year the weather proved to be the biggest challenge for me. It was waaayyyyy warm - high 70s, maybe it even cracked 80. I just was not acclimated to it yet. But still, I had fun even though I ran my worst 50K time ever. I wore my Inov-8 X-Talon 212s which I absolutely loved. And I didn't fall once!

Not sure what was up with the water that was being served at the aid stations. I had planned to run with just plain water in my bottle and use Hammer Endurolytes and Hammer Gel (rock-on Huckleberry flavor!!!!) as my fuel. After the first short loop through the woods (about 4 miles) I decided to top-off my water bottle before heading out on the big loop. Shortly after leaving the aid station I took a big gulp and nearly tossed my breakfast. There was a very chlorinated taste to the water which made it totally non-palatable. At the next aid station I dumped the bottle and filled it again with new water, only to find the same problem. Not good; it was way too hot out to not be drinking well and I was not able to tolerate the taste of the water, which meant that I wasn't drinking as much as I should. I started running with my friend Doug who told me that he was drinking the HEED, which helped to disguise the taste. So at the next station I filled my bottle with HEED and discovered that even though there was still a hint of the awful taste, I could tolerate this. So the HEED and hot salty french fries got me through.

Joe completed 17 miles before giving in to the heat (he was smarter than me, I think!), Lorrie pulled-off a sub-6 hr run, and Karen bested her last year's time by something like 25 minutes! And even though my time was my worst, I take heart in that I got some really good trail time in and it counts as "time on my feet" in my training book for MMT 100!

So as for races, it's sort of fun time now. Yesterday was the Annual Forks XV (15K) road race, which was good fun. I did an 11-miler before the race and finished the race in 1:13. Next up is the Skunk Cabbage 1/2 marathon on April 11, which I plan to do as some add-on miles in my training log.

The weather is up and down, hot then cold, sunny then raining. Even had a bit of snow the other night, which fortunately did not last!

In the world of rugby . . . France pulled-off an amazing grand-slam win in the Six Nations tournament. I'm am totally a fan of Ireland, but I have to say that they played pretty pitifully this year. Now it's onto Magners League and Heinneken Cup and rooting for my Munster team (and keeping a close eye on my other fave, Leinster).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

You Can't Bitch About The Weather

(Ryan, Jim, and me just before heading out to the snowy start . . . note: smiling and dry . . . smiling would be the easiest part of the run; staying dry would be another story!)

My brain probably thawed-out several days ago, but with the sun and temps in the high 30s-40s range around here I have to admit that I have been more tempted to be out running than writing on my blog. But I have been doing a lot of thinking about the race and thinking about what an experience it was and now it's time to put the thoughts down in writing.

First of all, let me just say that the inaugural Beast of Burden race was all that I expected and more. I originally registered for this event because I have never done a winter ultra (or a timed 24-hr event) and I really wanted to see what I could do in some extreme weather. Well, then Mother Nature pulled a fast one and gave us a lot of not-so-snowy days - and aside from a couple of wickedly freezing days - pretty balmy temperatures. Now, running in the cold is not too challenging for me; I like it a whole lot and I actually breathe better in the cold. So if the snow was not going to be a factor and all I had to deal with was the cold, maybe this Beast thing wouldn't be too tough after all. And then, two days before the race, we got WHOMPED with snow - like 3+ feet of it at our house! Holy crap; now I had to wonder if I was really ready for this! Well, the weather is what it is, so hence the title to this story - you can't bitch about the weather. I mean, really, what did I expect when I signed up for a WINTER ultra?! Let the games begin!

Once we were able to get out our front door - and then out of the driveway - it was off to Lockport. We drove up in rapidly falling snow for 100% of the drive. WOW - Cowgirl Up! It continued to snow during dinner, after dinner, and when we got to the hotel and went to bed. And then we woke up on race day to what? Rapidly falling snow! Temps seemed to me to be in the very high 20s-30s, which made clothing choices difficult. How to stay dry without getting too warm? Well, I would have the first 15+ miles to consider this and then make changes when I got to Joe in Middleport.

With a starting field of 42 I spent a lot of time running alone, which gave me a lot of time to think - and rethink - my goals for the day. Eventually I managed to run for 16 hours, 50 minutes, completing 63.79 miles. A respectable run in my book, earning me my very first ultra buckle! This race posed many new and different challenges that no other ultra has provided me - a unique experience that I will definitely try again. Here are some of my highlights of the day (and night):

* Starting the race in absolute snowglobe effect. This was probably the best of times, getting to run as a group and talk with each other. This lastest for maybe the first 3.7 mile add-on loop. Then it was into my own head.

* Race Director Sam Pasceri ran in the 100 mile event. This was really fun to have the RD out there experiencing the same torture as the rest of us! I got to see much more of him this way than I would have with him just standing around at the start/finish area and he was so encouraging and fun.

* SNOW - lots of it! I was certain that the flatness of the course would be my major obstacle, since I love hills and the opportunities they provide me to walk, use different muscle groups, and a time to eat while still moving. However, the snow made the footing challenging (see my next point). Also, the blanket of snow on the surrounding area really did a number on my eyes. I started out without wearing eye coverage and the brightness of the whiteness noticeably bothered my vision during the first 15 miles. Thank goodness I brought shades! I tried the sunglasses but they caked-up too easily with the falling snow. I think they needed coating with Rainex. Glad I threw the ski goggles in the car - they were the ticket. I knew I would look like a dork out there running in ski goggles - but I had lots of good dork company with many others - including Sam - looking like giant bugs running with ski goggles on. This really shaded the white, kept the snow out of my eyes, and saved my vision. Do you know how much a snowflake in the eyeball hurts?! Blisters got nothing on this pain!

* The temperature - well, it was too warm for me. The temps were, I think, reportedly in the 30s, although it felt much warmer than that! At one point I ran with my jacket open and just a sports bra underneath. The warmer temps also wreaked havoc on the snow, making it mushier and the footing more difficult. My ankles definitely got a workout!

* Three aid stations - it was a mental game during what seemed like long looming miles before getting to each oasis of warm food and drink. The volunteers were always cheerful and provided some really great eats of HOT pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, and soup. The hard part was having to leave the aid stations . . . after running alone for so long it was so nice to talk with someone, which made it was really tough to leave.

* I managed to keep my energy at a pretty constant level with Hammer Gel. Who knew I could love a gel? I am so in love with Hammer's new Montana Huckleberry flavor - it rocks! And it tastes even better cold.

* I got lonely at times. 42 runners spread out over a 12-mile trail = lots of time running alone. I ran with my friend Jim off and on, but at one point I had to call Joe on my cell phone just because I was lonely and wanted to talk to someone.

* The cell phone - thank goodness RD Sam encouraged us to carry them. Joe was great driving from end to end of the course bringing my next change of clothing with him. However, at one time I was so interested in getting into my new dry clothes and eating that I forgot to tell him what to bring to the other end for me. So with my phone with me I was able to call him and tell him what I needed, which meant not having to run another 12 miles in cold wet clothes.

* Schwag bags - really excellent! We were just piled with great stuff - a fleece-lined running shirt, socks, all sorts of good running stuff, and a really neat flashing blue light. I wore my little blue light on my waist pack and Joe said he could see me coming from quite a ways out. And then a cool t-shirt when we finished. Let's see . . . $99 to enter the race, all the food and drink I could handle, a bag full of cool stuff to use and wear . . . basically the RD paid me to run!

* My downfall - the slush storm that occurred during the night. I really was having a good go at keeping myself mentally up and I felt quite warm when I headed out after completing 50+ miles, so I made the mistake of wearing just a light shirt with a light jacket. Unfortunately I was not moving fast enough to stay warm when the slush started falling from the sky. I got soaked and rather cold. I re-warmed at the Gasport aid station under a nice heater but just before hitting the Middleport station I was greeted with another wet, cold slush downfall. I hit the Middleport aid station a little worn and cold and that's when I decided to call it a finish. After three cups of coffee with Bailey's Irish Cream I felt way better and I think if I had this to drink about 1/4 mile earlier I would have had the mental boost that I needed to get dry clothes on again and head back out.

* Oh, the best part. I can't forget the clothes dryers! At each end of the course there were clothes dryers. Joe was so great - he took my wet clothes, got to the end of the course that I was headed to and dried my clothes so that I had warm, dry clothes to change into at each end! This was, by far, the best perk of the race and really helped my mental state. Because, in case you didn't know, I am all about being comfortable during the race. And if that means continually changing clothes, then that's what I will do. I know that I lost a lot of time doing this but I also know that if I didn't do this I wouldn't have gotten as far as I did.

So, did I have a good race? Well, it wasn't really a race for me as much as it was a challenge. And not even a challenge to see how many miles I could do, but really to see how I could handle the the changing elements as they came up. I think I had a good run, was able to stay fuelled and not mentally bonk, which has been my downfall in the past. My body can handle way more than my brain can, so if I can just keep my brain in it I feel that I can do well. So now that I have had my winter fun I am ready for the snow to be gone! It's time to hit the trails - as soon as I can find them!

Cowgirl up . . . the HAT Run 50K trail awaits!

Preliminary Beast Of Burden Thoughts

OK, it's been a couple of days since tackling The Beast Of Burden 24-hour run and what a major blast it was! Thank you so much to Sam Pasceri for creating this winter fun! My feet have recovered from the trenchfoot but I think my brain is still snowbound.

CLICK HERE for full results of the 24-hour and 100 mile races by Score This!! timing.

For a really excellent video by Jeff Tracy, go to and click on "Beast of Burden video". It will make you feel like you were there! Dress warm!

CLICK HERE for some pics by my wonderful crew honey, Joe.

Eventually I will come up with a report of my race that I hope will do justice to the wicked conditions that all of us runners, crews, and volunteers had to endure. This was really a great event and I am already planning on giving it another go next year.