Monday, October 10, 2011

another 100K done ... Oil Creek 100 Trail Runs

ok, i have run only four 100k races. there have been the 100 mile race DNFs at mileage over the 100k mark, but that doesn't count. i'm talking actual 100k race distance. so i don't have a whole lot to go on when even beginning to imagine what kind of time i can run the 100k distance in. i just look at my first 100k (which i guess also really wasn't a 100k race ... it was the winter beast of burden 24 hour race) where i ran 63.75 miles in 17+ hours. then there was the green lakes endurance run where it took me 13:42 to cover the distance. and then there was the nj ultra fest 100k where i ran a PR of 12:22. and lastly was the vermont 100k this past summer where it took me 15:56. so many different races with different terrains and in different seasons, so i wasn't sure what to expect for the mountainous fall race at oil creek 100k. somehow i just pulled the idea out of my head that i would like to run under 15 hours; no real basis for choosing this time, just thought it sounded reasonable.

so on friday joe and i headed down to titusville, pa, for the race. it was a sunny and beautiful drive and we took a little detour through mansfield, pa, to visit friends tim and jackie. we arrived in titusville around 3pm and hooked up with friends karen and rob (rob preparing to run his 3rd 100 miler in 6 months!). we checked out a bit of the course markings and the EMS set-up, which was really impressive. they were totally prepared to take-on any emergencies!

dinner at a small italian eatery and then it was off to bed in the car-V. i'm getting pretty used to this camping thing before an ultra and it's quite relaxing, actually. no distractions. just get your stuff ready for the next day, lay it out in the front seat, and put yourself to bed. this time i filled my hydration pack the night before the race so i wouldn't have to fart around with it in the dark on race morning (lesson learned at VCU!). we camped in the parking lot of the titusville middle school (aka, race HQ). nice to have real indoor bathrooms to access!

it was a cool night, 56 degrees was on the thermometer at the school. i slept quite well and got up in time to chat with some friends who were running the 100 miler and see them off at 5am.

6am ... start of the 100k. i wore my "team T.U.R.D.s" racing singlet and arm warmers. it was a bit chilly - 40-something at the start, i think - but i knew it would warm-up eventually and i knew that i would warm-up quite quickly once the climbing in the woods started.

7:35am-ish ... aid station #1. didn't really need anything; i had been religiously eating my perpetuem solids and drinking water and felt pretty-well fuelled. i ate a cookie and a pb&j sandwich and started walking.

9:11am ... aid station #2, the only station where crew members could meet you. it was so good to see joe and karen and our friend jeff was also there waiting for his runner, mary, so it was a nice little reunion. all three of them tended to me, helping me refill my water pack and feeding me. peaches and rice baby food and dr. pepper tasted really good for breakfast! the trail had a lot of big climbs and descents, mixed with lots of switchbacks, and it really kept me alert (mostly because you had to be to keep from falling!). it was an absolutely beautiful course and the markings were, so far, outstanding! i had been feeling something funky on the bottom of my left foot, which i had experienced at VCU 2 weeks before. i had checked it then and there was nothing there then, but i thought i better check it out today anyway and if it was actually something this time i wanted to take care of it early. so maybe there was some kind of blistery thing brewing under the callus on my foot but taping it just didn't seem necessary. so i took some gobs of frozen vaseline and glopped it all over that foot and hoped for the best. ok, it was time to go ... i knew it would be a long time - 17 miles and many hours - before i would see joe again, so he walked me out of the aid station.

11:29am ... aid station #3. i was still feeling quite good and running and speed hiking at a comfortable pace. still fuelling well on perpetuem solids and water. now they were serving some nice hot grilled cheese sandwiches, my all-time favorite ultra fuel, so i knocked back a couple of those with some dr. pepper. again, the course had been going UP and DOWN a lot but so far this portion seemed less technical than the first half, so i was happy for the break. still, the course was wonderfully marked and i couldn't see how anyone could possibly get lost ... even if you tried. from this aid station we had to back-track just a bit to some stairs that lead us up to a long climb. excellent. i love long climbs like this; this is where i get my time back because i can speed hike the hills like no tomorrow. it's the descents that kill me ... on my bike or on foot, i am a regular chicken-shit going downhill, so i have to gain my time on the climbs. there was also some really smooth sections of running from here and i was still feeling really good. the left foot bottom was burning on and off and the heel of my right foot was hurting (maybe from a bit of plantar fasciitis, but i am in denial of that). i contemplated maybe changing shoes to a more stability pair when i got to the next aid station.

1:34pm ... aid station #4. the trails had been amazing but i have to say that i didn't really enjoy the last couple of miles on flat grass and then the paved bike path and road. but it was what it was and it got me back to the start/finish/aid station area and to joe and karen and jeff. my own personal pit crew waiting for me. the feet issues had sort-of worked themselves out (well, except for that burning feeling, which now was present in the balls of both of my feet). i have come to accept this feeling during the ultras; it's from the wicked calluses that i have there and i just know that it won't kill me and it will eventually go away when i stop running, so i just try not to focus on it. so not having to treat my feet i was able to focus on my stomach. and i was hungry. karen had gotten me some baby food custard ... sort-of tasted like custard, sort of not. but i woofed it down, along with two cups of pepsi and two grilled cheese sandwiches (two halves, so only one whole sandwich). i had also still been eating the perpetuem solids and drinking lots of water and taking endurolytes, so i was still feeling really good. joe clanged the cowbell to get me moving and i grabbed another grilled cheese and karen walked me out. i had to walk quite a bit from here since my gut was just too full of food. maybe i ate a bit too much. maybe. probably. wow ... i started feeling a bit crappy. so i just walked; the feeling would eventually pass. soon, i hoped.

3:40pm ... well, eventually the crappy feeling passed and i was able to run again and i arrived at the aid station #1 again feeling pretty good. wow, the heat had really kicked up. a wonderful volunteer offered me a big cup of dr. pepper with ice and it was sooooooo good. i refilled my water pack just to make sure i would have enough to get me to the next station, and i was off, hiking up the steep switchbacks that led out of this station.

5:36pm ... back to aid station #2 and to joe! here joe would join me for the run home. i fuelled on pumpkin-peach pie baby food, grilled cheese, dr. pepper and changed into a warmer shirt for the impending cooler evening hours. jeff was here waiting to join mary, so he helped get me ready. i just love how ultrarunners' crews are so wonderful to help others while they are waiting. it's such a wonderful community of people. i consider all of these people, even the ones i barely know, to be friends. refilled with a pack full of water, endurolytes, and perpetuem solids, joe at my side, and we were off. i was so glad to get to joe in the light so that he would get the chance to see some of the course in the daylight and really get to enjoy it.

8:25pm ... back to aid station #3. joe had fallen only once and me with more than one stumble/close-save. my mood was a bit up and down since i felt like i was just not going fast enough. i don't really know where i thought i was supposed to be time-wise, i just felt like i wasn't doing good enough. running on technical trails in the dark is definitely an aquired talent ... one that i have not mastered. i tried to run when it appeared to be not so technical, but i just kept getting scared of toeing a rock and falling. but once again, my speed hiking came in handy and i was able to cover some distance pretty good now that i think back. it just didn't seem like it at the time. we got to the aid station and joe had some eats and i just had a couple of cups of dr. pepper and half a grilled cheese. i had been doing well fuelling with the perpetuem solids, so i really didn't feel the need to eat a lot. we spent just a few minutes here and chatted with friend brian who was crushing his first 100k. what a rock star! and then we were off again ...

10:52pm ... for several miles we had been listening to the oil pump that was pumping at the drake well museum, which we had to run around. it was the strangest sound, but quite comforting when up on the trail ... you knew you were getting close when you heard it. on the bike path coming back in we crossed paths with rob and karen, who was pacing, as they headed out on rob's 3rd loop. and then, finally ... THE END! after 16 hours, 52 minutes, and 58 seconds i crossed the finish line! wow ... that was hard! harder than i had anticipated. i wasn't disappointed in my finishing time anymore (despite my thinking for so many miles that i just wasn't going fast enough). all i could think was ... that was so hard and i did it! i finished it and it was so wonderful to have joe out there experiencing it with me. he paced me in at vermont 100k and now again he did it and he is a wonderful pacer and i love having him out there with me. we did it. and now i could finally take a nice hot shower and eat some food and put my feet up.

i can't say enough what a wonderful race this is. the volunteers are absolutely fantastic, the course is way challenging and really beautiful and extremely well-marked. the staging of the race out of the school is so nice because you get to get right inside when you're done and there are hot showers and hot food waiting for you. i highly recommend this race ... don't know if i'm up for the 100 miler yet but the 100k is a great challenge (although i was really jealous of the 50k-ers when they were passing me and finishing and i was still having to go back out again!).

what i think worked in my favor on this one:

- i fuelled well with primarily hammer perpetuem solids and water and hammer endurolytes. no stomach issues; no nausea, no acid reflux. felt 100% well fuelled 100% of the time. at one point i think i over-did it on the endurolytes, but i backed-off of them for a while and got rid of some extra fluid and things got back in order easily.

- montrail rogue racers on my feet. perfect blend of minimalist shoe but protective enough on the rocks and roots. love these.

- i primarily hydrated with just plain water. love the taste of it and it's much easier to control my electrolyte status with this.

- i did not eat any candy during the entire 62 miles. a first for me, i think. i never craved it and i think it worked to not eat it and avoid the sugar high's and low's.

- once again, baby food did the trick. love that stuff. and grilled cheese ... need i say more? there is nothing to say except grilled cheese is heaven.

- joe has crewed for me so many times and he has stepped into the pacer role in grand fashion! pacing a runner through the hard times in the dark of night is such a personal time, in my opinion. to me it has huge significance. and sharing a night on the trails under a nearly full moon with my husband was nothing short of spectacular. once again, a moment in time that i will never forget and i am so glad that we have the ability to experience this.

it's now time to rest and recover, drink some beer and eat lots. a few pics of the fun can be found at until my next adventure ...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Virgil Crest Ultras 50 Miler

ok, it's been a while since i have posted. not that i haven't been running; actually, quite the opposite. since VT100K i have had some fun adventures but have just been too lazy to write. i went back to the escarpment trail run after taking 3 years off from it. and i remembered why i took 3 years off from it. it's a fun and daring and challenging run for me, but it is mentally and physically draining. don't get me wrong; it's a great run, just hard for me ... i guess that's the draw. and then i got to crew for joe at the summer beast of burden, where he competed in the 24 hour race, completing 50 hard miles in the brutal summer heat. he's definitely got some heart for hanging in there through some really tough times.

and so that brings me to the present. this past weekend was the fourth running of the virgil crest ultras (100 mile and 50 mile runs). and for the third year in a row i completed the 50 miler which i have to admit is the toughest of all the 50 milers i have ever run. and extremely rewarding. i definitely get my money's worth on this course; i drag it out for as long as possible. more time on the trails = more fun! and so finally, a few days after the race, I am still recovering and getting my thoughts together. I have run this race three times, each time a slightly different version of the course. I have to say, this year's course was by far the best. the best for a couple of reasons ... 1) the climb up the lift house 5 loop going in the reverse direction (second time around) was much easier ... new route plus the use of trekking poles, 2) the temps were finally in my favor ... nice and cool, and 3) the mud!

FRIDAY ... arrived in virgil (all of 45 minute drive from home!). it was raining lightly but steadily ... CRAP! the good news was that this bit of rain wouldn't make any difference ... the trails were already saturated and the mud was already set. it was then off to a nice pasta dinner at the virgil fire department, hanging out with old friends and new. funny how getting ready for an ultra seems so relaxing now; no nerves, just a long day of running ahead. i love it. those short races (anything from the marathon distance down) just sends me to the bathroom endlessly leading up to the start.

i have also become quite adept to camping the night before running an ultra. i never thought this would happen. i like the comfort of a bed and a shower, but there is something to be said for waking up right at the starting line. and it makes you quite efficient. no lounging around, no dawdling. no reason to wake up any earlier than the time it takes to get dressed and get moving. it's good for me. so joe and i camped in the car-V at hope lake and i awoke just before 5am on Saturday morning feeling well-rested and ready to run. the only thing was that i guess i wasn't really as organized as i thought. usually i have all of my race stuff layed out and ready to go, hydration pack filled and food in the pockets. well, i overlooked that this time so i felt a bit out of sorts and scrambling to get things in order. once i finally got this done i headed down to the pavillion for some coffee, now really feeling comfortable. but CRAP again! no coffee. oh well, I brought some ice coffees with me, so one of these and a couple of No Doze and i was good to go. so here's the dirty on how the day went about ...

5:45am ... all packed-up and ready to go ... 2 liter hydration pack of water with pockets full of hammer perpetuem solids and hammer endurolytes. hit the restrooms for what i thought would be the last time and tried to relax and chat with friends, and waited for the start.

5:58am ... well, better make another trip to the bathrooms. CRAP! only 2 minutes to the start? who cares! does it really matter if i start at 6am or 6:05am?

6am ... made it in time for the start! woo hoo! we're off and running in a sea of headlamps. i love these dark starts, but i surely wish they weren't in the mornings! ugh ... i hate to get up in the morning! lots of good chat with friends, identifiable only by voice. wore my less-than-the-best headlamp since joe had my good one that i would get from him later in the day. perhaps i should have checked the batteries ... since joe used this light at the summer beast and the batteries hadn't been changed since i don't know when. so the freaking light kept going out but it was ok since it got light pretty soon and the road/trail we were on were not too technical. yet.

7:06am ... arrive at the gravel pit aid station. everyone was still pretty bunched together so it was a bit of chaos. put my light in my pack and got a few warm boiled potatoes with salt for breakfast. nice ... just what my stomach, which detest mornings as much as my brain, really wanted. carry on ...

8:20am ... after some really greasy muddy sections (forget even trying to have dry feet! i already realized that this was not to be, so get used to the squishy wet feeling) and then some easy running on the road (ok, i would rather be on a muddy trail!), i arrived at the lift house 5 aid station. the runners were still pretty tight at this point, so there were lots of people to chat with. some pepsi, chips, and a pb&j sandwich, and i grabbed my trekking poles from joe and set-0ff up the ski slope. man, i gotta say that those trekking poles are the bomb! i love 'em! they took the pressure off of my knees, my quads, and my low back. can't say as i was necessarily faster on the climbs because of them (and lord knows i wasn't faster on the descents ... i never will be!), but it was just way easier.

9:35am ... first round of the lift house 5 loop done. and i felt good. i was hungry but i didn't know what i wanted, so i went with more of the same, interspersed with a few perpetuem solids here and there. i had brought some gatorade with me, just in case i needed something different, and i was so glad that i did. joe replenished my water supply and i took a bottle of gatorade with me, which i sipped on as i climbed up virgil mountain in the good company of dean and jack. i have never run up virgil mountain and this day was certainly not going to be the time that i started!

11:21am ... still feeling good at the rock pile aid station! somewhere between van donsel road and o'dell road charlie and carter caught up to me and i had new company to distract me from thinking about how uncomfortable (not painful, just icky) my feet were from the wet and mud. charlie and carter were in the 100 mile race and as i fell into running with them i felt really good. my attitude was good and my fuelling was good. i had considered that if it was a good day at 50 miles that i may consider going on for the 100. my joe crew was there, my friend karen was willing to pace, and there was nothing to lose if i didn't actually do it ... so why not? i got into the rock pile aid station and talked with karen as she was working there and told her that it was feeling pretty good; today might be the day. i would definitely let her know on the return trip from daisy hollow. so i chowed on some really wonderful pineapple and joe was there to hook me up with some baby food. thanks jim for sharing this secret with me ... i can't tell you how wonderful this was. i hate to eat bananas during a race but that banana and rice baby food just hit the spot!

12:49pm ... hello daisy hollow! it was a super run in the company of dean, carter, and charlie and it was so nice to enjoy this super soft trail out here. i was still feeling really great, fuelled, and in good spirits. i had gotten used to that not-so-fresh feeling of my feet and just succumbed to the uncomfortableness, and just went with it. some more pb&j, cookies, and broth and i was refreshed. and some ginger beer to settle it all down.

2:49pm ... back at the rock pile. joe was there with some more of that really great baby food (seriously, it sounds weird but it is good stuff!). i have to really thank karen for keeping the pb&j sandwiches under cover so that they didn't dry out! those things were awesome! some more fruit, some sandwiches, and it was time to move on. i told karen that i would meet her at hope lake, and unless something drastic happened, we would go on. off with some more gatorade in the bottle and water in my pack. 'nuff of the perpetuem solids; they just weren't going to do it today.

4:17pm ... and back to lift house 5 aid station. i was pretty gross at this point. fell in a really stinky mud puddle, fell on my ass on the way down virgil mountain (ok, "fell" is a relative term ... there was no "falling" on this day, i simply just "slid" to the ground. ahhhh ... the wonders of mud). but i was feeling food and there was good food here. i refuelled with some cheese pierogies and soda, grabbed my poles, and headed up the mountain. the good thing is that i am a pretty speedy uphill hiker and can cover the ground pretty quickly ... the downside is that i really loose a lot of this time on the downhills. wussy? no. i am just not fast at descending and i like my knees. and the poles got me through this round again pretty unscathed. and i was still feeling happy. wow ... could this really be the day?

5:58pm ... back at the bottom of the lift house 5 loop. oh, they had the most excellent cheese quesedillas! and they were hot! i had to stop and get a pebble out of my shoes, so i took the opportunity to put some new socks and gaiters on (i knew they wouldn't stay dry long, but it was kind of nice to have "fresh" feet again, even if only for a while). more soda, more gatorade, more quesedillas, good chat with joe and melissa and a few of the relayers, and it was time to move on. this was the first time that i sat down since i got my butt off the toilet at 6am! sitting felt good but for once it didn't feel like a necessity; i was feeling really good.

7:45pm ... tough going to get back to the gravel pit. things had been going so great and then once we were back in the woods it definitely got tougher. the greasy mud in this section was simply treacherous! i slipped and slid all over the place. i was on my knees more than once (and threw out a few prayers since i was down there). by the time i got to the gravel pit i was feeling a bit worse for the wear and my left foot that i had injured the week before was now, for the first time all day, really annoying me. the week before i had put my foot through some wooden boards of a bridge while on a trail run. i tried to ignore the pain; had some eats and broth and got moving out of the aid station as quick as i could.

8:53pm ... back to hope lake; 50 miles completed. the run from the gravel pit back to hope lake, although just over 4 miles, is really quite tough in the dark and the mud. and when you're hurting it can get just plain ugly. and that's how i started to feel. my head was still in the game and my fuelling was good, so maybe karen and joe could fix me up. but when i hit vinnedge road that left foot just was, wow, unbearably painful. the pain started shooting up my leg. i didn't make any decisions at this point about stopping or going on; i wanted to talk to joe and karen. so when i pulled into hope lake i decided to just sit for a minute and think and talk with joe and karen.

8:57pm ... and then decision time came. really, it wasn't a tough one to have to make, except my brain was ready to keep going. i had done well with fuelling and pacing and the reality was that, for once, i really felt that i was in good shape to keep going. but the other reality was that i didn't want to really damage my foot when i had another race (100K) just 2 weeks later. CRAP on that damn foot! but i was content with stopping, mostly because i felt like i had really crossed a barrier ... i didn't want to stop, it was just the right thing to do. no regrets. so my finishing time of 14:57 didn't beat the previous year (nor would it have even if my time had been recorded at the very moment i crossed into hope lake), but things went so much better than i could have expected. and now i want that 100 mile finish; i have found the desire again.

so things will likely always continue to change with each and every ultra i run, but i have found some new realizations ...

1. baby food is good!

2. once i succumb to the reality that i will be running for a very long time and stop worrying about time, it really did get mentally easier.

3. joe is still the most awesome crew and karen, you rock for always being prepared to go!

4. wet and muddy feet are not the worst things ... just giving in to the feeling that you will be uncomfortable and probably even very disgusting is just a reality and it is what it is.

5. i think i can do this 100 miler ... and i will some day!

some pics of the adventure can be found HERE. (OK, the picture of Salem isn't from the race, but isn't he adorable?!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

VT100 … A Different Way … OR … How I Was Possessed By The Honey Badger

(pictured ... RD Julia, Kim, who I would leap frog with throughout the race, & me).

I love the Vermont 100. It is just a great time with wonderful people and just such a nice location and a really fun time. It was where I had my first attempt at the 100 mile distance, my first 100 mile DNF, and my first 100 mile finish. The downside to this event is the timing … it occurs just two weeks after The Finger Lakes Fifties. Unfortunately, this means that in the weeks leading up to The Fifties I haven’t gotten in much training as I have been getting things ready for the race and in the days following The Fifties I am still bogged down with cleaning up from the race and getting reports and thank you’s taken care of. It’s just not good timing to switch from race director mode to runner mode … especially to 100-mile runner mode. I know … I’ve tried it. And two out of three times I have failed miserably at it. Thank goodness the VT100 has added a 100K option. The 100K hasn’t really gained the popularity that the 100 mile event has, but it is a great option for someone like me; someone who wants to be there in the midst of a great party and run … just not so far.

After a year away I was excited to be going back to Vermont; excited to be able to be a part of this great event again. I have a few 100Ks under my belt now; some of them done in pretty brutal conditions. So despite my not so great training, I felt pretty confident that I could have a decent run at the VT100K.

It’s always hard to put these big events into words, especially just a couple of days after the event when my brain is still a bit mushy. So I will just hit the highlights that really stood out for me.

Joe and I arrived on Friday afternoon, got me signed-in and weighed-in and then we went and set-up our tent. This was a first for us, camping at the race site. I generally like creature comforts like a shower and bed but being cheap and having successfully completed some 100Ks where I have camped, I felt OK with the idea of camping and running. Plus it would be much easier to get up and watch the 100 mile start and go back to bed to rest before my race start.

Friday evening pre-race meeting. Pretty much the same old thing. OK, it’s a meeting where you are reminded of all the race rules and regs and updates, but really, for those of us who have been there and done that, it’s a formality. Truly, it’s a meeting of friends.

Joe and I were set to eat dinner at the race site; they always serve a great spread. But just sitting in the midst of all those people during the meeting I soon realized that it was just too much; I needed to be somewhere else where there was less stimulation. I didn’t want to be overwhelmed with everything running all at once. So off to dinner in Woodstock with Karen, Rob, and Will we went. And it was a good choice … very relaxing.

Friday night was the official full moon and it was so very cool. The light coming into the tent was amazing. Fortunately I was tired enough that it didn’t keep me awake and I easily fell asleep.

Saturday morning, 4am. Woke up to watch the 100 mile start and wish all of our friends good luck and felt very good that I was not running right then. Not even have a twinge of want crossed me when the runners took off.

Thought it was really great to not have to start running until 9am … but at 8am I wished it would just start. I was ready to go.

9am … 25 100K starters walked to the starting line where we would start our run uphill. How wonderful. Fortunately when we went to dinner the night before we had driven the start of the 100K course … and saw that the uphill start would be short-lived. There was a way long downhill that I knew I would have to go easy on to save my quads and knees.

Just a few miles in there was an elderly gentleman who was out working on his tractor who stopped to pick me a tiger lily when I ran by. He wished me well and it was just so nice to have someone make me feel special. I ran with the flower until I hit the paved road section, where I laid it down … just like laying a flower on a grave, as I knew pavement was my death, but maybe somehow this flower would ward-off those evil spirits on this dreaded section.

Just after the aid station at 5.3 miles (around 43 miles for the 100 milers) I was passed by Leigh Schmit, who was leading the 100 mile race. It is so nice to watch him run … so smooth, so easy. And it wasn’t long before he ran away from me.

I hit that first section of trail and felt so glad. It had been more than 6 miles on dirt road (and the short paved section) and I was so ready for trail and its forgiving surface and rolling terrain. It was heaven.

It was mentally tough knowing where I would have been in the 100 mile distance but I felt clueless as to where I was in the 100K. I just couldn’t help but think in terms of the 100 mile race and the mileage of the landmarks, but I just couldn’t grasp the distances and landmarks in terms of the 100K event. Each time I recognized a landmark and thought of the distance in the 100 miler, it sounded so far but in 100K reality, I hadn’t gone that far. This was very mentally draining.

But there were the cheers from the spectators, crews, and landowners who were out watching the race. Normally by the time I would have passed through these areas, not too many spectators would have been left. So that was cool to be out there early enough to have people watching; yet I somehow felt very small, knowing that they may think I was in the 100 mile event when I was just a poser.

And then there were the homemade cranberry and nut and white chocolate chip cookies at mile 16.2. These sat amazingly well in my stomach after a period of, ummm, GI distress. At first I was afraid to try them, thinking they might really set my stomach off, but they were excellent! Who knew?!

I did not see any of the 100 mile horses until Tracer Brook (mile 57 for the 100 milers). In the 100 mile race all of the horses would have way passed me before this point.

100K … 100 miles … it apparently doesn’t matter. As usual, I felt like crap coming into Tracer Brook (only 19.1 miles for me today), getting some ginger beer and tapioca from Joe, going easy on the long hike up and out on my way to Margaritaville, I eventually came back to life again.

I reached Margaritaville and wanted something solid to eat. I looked at the veggie burgers and thought that would require too much energy to chew. But there was this sweet, wonderful aid station worker who MacGyvered me up a grilled cheese sandwich from a hamburger bun and it tasted sooooooooo good.

I got back to Camp 10 Bear, knowing it was still 30 miles to the finish, but just kept reminding myself that I only need to go 18 miles until I had Joe with me … company that I so needed.

But let me go back a bit; somewhere before Camp 10 Bear things started to fall apart.

Somewhere before reaching 10 Bear I was overcome and eventually possessed by the Honey Badger. My give-a-shit factor just fell out. Those of you who don’t know what the Honey Badger is absolutely need to go to youtube and watch the video ( It’s hilarious … and so so appropriate for how I was feeling at this time. Honey badger doesn’t give a shit and at that point, neither did I. The mental wearing from thinking about the 100 mile distance at each aid station and then realizing I was not that far and still had so many miles to go, the heat, and just being alone for so long was starting to wear on me.

Now let me clarify on why I was running alone for so long … believe it, it certainly wasn’t because I was so fast. With only 25 of us starting the 100K, the group had broken up rather quickly right from the start and I was running alone pretty much from the start. Starting somewhere around 5.5 miles the first of the 100 milers passed me and then it was few and far between that the faster 100 milers would come and go. Although I was really enjoying the run and having fun, I did get rather lonely and each time I came up to an aid station it was just so good to chat with the volunteers, who I have to say were stupendous!

When I finally got back to Camp 10 Bear and saw Joe, Karen, and Will, my spirits improved momentarily. I so wanted real food to eat and when Will brought me grilled cheese, I was just so excited … until I took a bite. Horseradish! Ugh! I think they used horseradish cheese and it was disgusting! OK, when it comes to food, this Honey Badger does give a shit! So I had to settle for PB&J and chips, which was OK but not exactly what I wanted. With my tummy full and my spirits lifted, I headed out and just kept thinking only 18 miles until Joe gets to run with me. That’s what kept me going.

It was really neat seeing the trail leading up to the Spirit of ’76 aid station for the first time in the light … and still being passed by horses there. They looked so awesome. Wow … I had never seen how the horses looked so far into their ride before and they looked marvelous! I was just so amazed. And in the light of day this section of trail was really nice to run … not like the dreaded death march in seemed like in the dark.

OK, the Honey Badger attitude was getting stronger and I was getting cranky. I got a 5-hour Energy with extra caffeine at mile 39.1 and hoped for an attitude adjustment. Here I took my headlight, even though it was still light out and somewhere around 7pm; I knew it would be tight with reaching mile 50.7 (the only place where I could possibly next get a light) before dark. And it was pretty good timing … I reach Bill’s (mile 50.7) at around 9:15pm and it was very dark at that time. The full moon was just rising and hadn’t reached its peak light and there was too much leaf shade over the road. It was dark.

And now here’s where I have to give a shout-out to my new headlamp … what a great purchase that was. If you have to get only one light get the Black Diamond Spot Storm … 75 lumens. Don’t get the 50 lumens; splurge the few extra bucks for the additional 25 lumens. It’s worth it. The thing is AWESOME! I usually wear a headlamp and carry a hand-held, but this thing totally obliterated the hand-held. When I arrived at Bill’s the volunteers said I got the award for the best headlight!

At Bill’s I was down only 2 ½ pounds. I chowed down on their very excellent grilled cheese sandwiches, praised the cook, got my bottles filled and headed-out with Joe. But Honey Badger still didn’t give a shit … it would be a finish and that was that, no PR here tonight. The original plan was that I would go the distance alone, as I have been able to in the past. Well, factor in that it was dark and I was tired, it was very fortunate that we figured out a way for Joe to join me for the final miles. I was still in the midst of the faster 100 milers which meant they would come and go and then I would be alone again. I needed the company and someone to drive me along.
The full moon was awesome. We probably could have turned our lights off when crossing through a very non-technical field, but I was just totally entranced by the beam of my light. Those 75 lumens were something. In case you haven't figured it out, I'm a real gear-head.

We ran (slowly) and walked. And it was so strange to have horses still coming by me in the dark. It was definitely a different experience. I was still in awe of these amazing creatures.

We sort-of ran through a sort-of technical trail section (OK … dark = very technical, even with 75 lumens). Honey Badger didn’t give a shit and cursed with every step over the rocks and roots.

We got to Polly’s (last manned aid station with only 4 ½ miles to go to the finish) in the dark. The horses also got to stop for a snack here too. Apparently Polly (who owns the house at this aid station) is a real horse person and she sets up a great spread for the horses. So the horses were snacking on carrots and water while I downed some broth and contemplated just how hard this 100K was feeling. Joe tried to do the tough-love pacer thing and get me going but … you know … Honey Badger. I sat right there until I was good and ready to make a move.

But Joe was a great pacer and did manage to get me out of there once I had two cups of broth. We jogged and walked and still had mostly coherent conversation (probably more so on is his part than mine). And we passed people … granted, they were likely 100 milers who were just cooked and deservedly so, but I didn’t care … I was passing people.

It was pretty much I just want to finish from there on in. No more comparisons to how I felt or what I was seeing that night versus how it was when I finished the 100 mile there. I just wanted to be done. There was just one focus.

The finish was actually pretty anticlimactic. I always thought it would be so cool to finish in the dark but the reality is, those who finish in the dark have been putting out a lot of energy. They are pretty much spent when they get there and there aren’t too many people just sitting around at 1am to watch the finish. The finishers finish and go to bed. So that was really different. And although I thought that when I had finished the 100 miler there I would cry, I never did. Tonight I did. Maybe somehow I thought this was my “fast finish”, although it was actually my slowest 100K finish to date (15 hours, 52 minutes). But I was finishing with 100 milers who were finishing in the 21 hour range, something that will likely never happen to me. And that was overwhelming. And having Joe experience it with me was definitely overwhelming … and really nice. I am so lucky to have the best crewman and he showed me just what a wonderful pacer he is. I am so glad that he was able to run with me and we could experience this together. I will always remember this.

Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers who make this event happen and to Julia, the race director, for keeping it going after her father, the race director when I ran the 100 miler, died. I did enjoy this 100K; it was so different in so many ways from the others I have done. I totally underestimated it and realized it was tougher than I gave it credit for. So many factors, not just the distance, make a race hard. Heat, time of day, nutrition, attitude. You just never know. I have come to really enjoy the 100K distance and I would definitely like to come back to Vermont again and take it on again. If I am faster, I am, if not, then no worries. Honey Badger doesn’t give a shit.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Good Beer For A Good Cause

Just a quick shout-out for an event that sounds like a major fun time, The Finger Lakes Brewfest, which will be held on Thursday, June 16, at 6pm. Good food, brews, and music ... does it get any better? Roosterfish Brewing, local sponsor for The Finger Lakes Fifties, will be in attendance.

The festival is a benefit to increase awareness and facilitate monies to be donated to “Gas Free Seneca,” a local non-profit group dedicated to stopping LPG gas storage in the Watkins Glen area.

Details for the event can be found HERE.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Measure Of "Fitness"

How do you measure your level of fitness? How do you compare it to the level of fitness of other runners? Do you even care to compare it? I guess I don't really have the answer to these questions, mostly because I really don't care anymore, mostly because I have become happy with my level of "fitness", whatever that is. I guess some measure fitness by speed and looking at some of the runners around me, I guess I can see that they are fit and they are fast. But I also know that if I was pitted against them in, say, a 100K or a 100Mile event, it may then become a run of the tortoise vs. the hare. I am fit, but I am not fast, and I can keep going and going ... just like the Energizer bunny. And the runners with "fast fitness" who don't have "endurance fitness" can and will be hunted down.

I guess the reason that I am even contemplating this and subsequently posting this is in response to a comment that was made to me during a "fun" (not racing) group run this past weekend. A fairly large group of runners gathered for a trail run Saturday morning and not long into the run the group split. The nice thing with these runs is that there are runners of all speeds and you never have to run alone because, it seems, that there is always someone who runs your speed. Which is nice. Our group of four were at the back of the pack, enjoyng our time on the trails, when I jokingly asked "Is that group racing up there or what?" At that time, a faster runner who had started late and then caught up to us stated "They're not racing, they're just more fit". What the hell? Immediately I was insulted. Likely this distracting comment is why I crashed my knee into a large branch while stepping over a down tree.

I know that I am not fast but I have endurance on my side. But just because I am slow, make no mistake, I am fit! As are so many others who run at the back of the pack with me. So to those who say that slower runners are not fit, maybe I will see you toeing the line at the next 100K or longer event. And then I will see you at the finish line ... and perhaps I will be there watching you cross the line after me!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Factors That Make Or Break A Trail Run

i haven't really had time to spend many hours out on the trails and have really felt the withdrawal lately. i was lucky enough to remedy that yesterday, spending 8+ hours (something like 8 hours, 14 minutes, i think) out on the trails of bear mountain, ny, at the north face endurance challenge. the race itself was exactly what i had expected. i was warned by some that it was a very commercial event, so i was prepared for the almost impersonal feeling that comes with these big-name events. but i had also heard of what a great course it was and i knew that no matter what, if the course was good, i would have a good time. i had expected it to be very crowded on the trails and was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case; most of the time i ran alone or with only a few people around me. during this long run i was able to contemplate on the factors that, for me, can make or break a successful day on the trails.

1. Training Factor: this was my first long technical trail run. i checked the elevation chart on the race's website and i was prepared for the climbs and descents. what the website did not show was pictures of what the trail actually looked like to show you just how technical it is. i am not fast on this stuff, but i love it, so i just decided to go slow and enjoy the experience. and i did ... on both counts.

2. Nutrition Factor: some good, some bad. some my bad, but i think mostly the race organizer's bad. i had decided to use my hydration pack with water and NUUN tabs for electrolytes. usually when i do this i carry my own extra tabs for when i have to refill the pack. i did not do this this time, as the race advertised that NUUN would be available at the aid stations. my bad ... i should have carried extra anyway. race organizer's bad ... i was told at an aid station that NUUN did not sponsor this year, so they did not have the tabs for the runners. no way should this ever happen that something is advertised to be available to the runners and then not have it for them. fortunately i had, at the last minute, packed some endurolytes, so i was able to go with plain water and have my electrolyte caps. i was also disappointed in the quality of the food at this event. again, a few things listed on the website not at the aid stations. perhaps i am just spoiled by those great smaller events that have grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries, and they just keep my gut satified. i just like REAL food. those 8 packs of Gu roctaine just didn't cut it and always leave my mouth feeling sore from the excess sugar.

post race food also gets a bad grade here from me ... a minimal amount of food was free to the runners and if you wanted more you had to pay for it. good food at the aid stations and post-race are the main standards that i grade an event on. the north face failed big time for me on this one. course markings are the only other thing that are the biggie for me and i will give north face good grades here ... the markings were most excellent.

3. Foot Factor: almost, almost blew it on this one. i had planned to wear my new inov-8 baregrips for the great traction that i was sure i needed. the baregrips do not have any cushioning on the bottoms, which i normally don't mind. thank you to max king who just gave me "the look" when i told him i was going to wear them on this course. and thank you to me for being stupid enough to run a road 50K two weeks ago and making my left foot bottom so tender that i HAD to rethink wearing the baregrips. went with the brooks cascadias at the last minute and that was WAY the right choice.

4. Fun Factor: i always have fun on the trail. even when i am grumpy, hypoglycemic, cursing, and hallucinating, i have fun on the trail. i ran with old friends and new ones, it was a beautiful sunny day, and we were in the woods for a LONG time. it just doesn't get any better.

so that about sums it up. and with that said, although it was fun and a beautiful run, i think i will stick to the smaller club events that really know how to take care of you for the long run. at this big-name event i felt like i was just another number. i guess i just like the "family feel" of the smaller races. but if i hadn't tried this one i would not have seen what a beautiful trail it was out there and i would really like to go back with a group of friends and camp and just have a good running party ... with good beer and good food!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

reality check ... i am not a roadrunner ...

yes, i run the roads ... sort-of. we have a lot of seasonal dirt roads around our house and i love to run them. there is no traffic and they are dirt ... soft sometimes, rocky sometimes, not unlike the trails. in the winter i am forced to run on the regular roads where traffic goes. my favorite dirt roads allow access to me only on skis or snowshoes. and i run road races ... sometimes. so i run roads ... or so i thought. well, i was given a HUGE reality check in this department this weekend. and what i found out is that i am not really a roadrunner.

yesterday joe and i were in connecticut for the jack bristol lake waramaug ultras (50k, 50mile, 100k); a multi-loop run around lake waramaug. it all started when i didn't get into the bull run run 50 mile race this year and had to find something else to do. i had heard good things about the lake waramaug ultras and thought it would be a fun thing to do (joe's sister also lives very close to this race venue, so we would get to visit with her and her husband, which is always good fun). i am comfortable with the 50 mile distance, so i signed up for that race. joe had planned to run the BPAC 6-hour race, but skipped that due to bad weather and decided to go with me to lake waramaug and run the 50k. piece of cake, right?

well, first of all, the morning started out with temps below what was predicted (it was around 40 degrees at the start) and the weatherman's prediction of 70% chance of rain was wrong ... it was a 100% chance of rain. hard rain. but ultras are always fun just being around the other runners and the volunteers, so it was ok. however, after only a few miles i knew something wasn't right. my left hip was nagging me with an achiness i have never felt. but i thought i was just stiff and not warmed up yet, so i just kept trotting along. unfortunately about five miles in, the ache was no longer nagging, it was starting to scream. i ate, i walked, i jogged ... nothing helped. and then i realized it ... the pavement. i thought i had done enough road training, but the reality of it was that i don't really road run. i thought i run on the roads, but the reality is that even when i run on paved roads, i don't. i run on the side of the road where it is soft and dirt. wow ... pavement is much harder. and i don't like it. and there are no dirt shoulders (well, very few and in very short segments) on the roads around lake waramaug.

fortunately, as i was self-commisserating early on, there was joe. my hips and low back were in agony and my pace had slowed. i had already decided to down-grade to the 50k distance and not hurt myself for the upcoming Bear Mountain 50K. at least i was feeling mentally better running with joe and that helped to keep me moving. and it was fun again! our buddies karen, rob, and will were manning an aid station, serving some awesome grilled cheese sandwiches and hot hot soup. joe's brother-in-law, dan, jumped in and ran about 10 miles with us and we just had a good time!

joe and i finished the 50k in under 6 hours (i don't really know what time it was ... seeing friends and talking, i forgot to look at my watch!). the rain stopped for a bit when we finished so we were able to visit with karen, rob, and will at their aid station. it was just good fun. today i feel a bit sore in the hips, but no long-lasting damage. it was, all in all, a great weekend of friends, family, and running, but i can't wait to get back to the trails. trails don't hurt ... even my falls hurt less than pavement. but i know i can't help myself ... if my friends are all going to be at a run, pavement or trails, i can be coerced into doing it too. i hate being left out!

Monday, March 28, 2011

And The Madness Continues ...

‎100K last weekend, trail run yesterday morning = good 5 mile race yesterday afternoon. bad news is that the race was 9.3 miles! oh well, Forks XV is a classic and just fun to be with friends and running! thanks to tom hamlin, TCRC, and all the volunteers for hanging out in the cold wind for us!

Success At The NJ Ultra Fest

OK, so I am finally getting around to writing down a report of last week's trials and tribulations. Usually at this time of year, Joe & I travel to the HAT Run 50K in Maryland, a top-notch trail run on great trails which is always a great way to ring in spring. Well, this year the HAT registrations filled in 2 days. And although the HAT Run is a really great event, it has grown in size and last year I actually found that the trails were just a bit too crowded for me. So I had actually decided that I wanted to find something new this year, something that was a bit more "homey". And fortunately, my bud Johnny had told me about the NJ Ultra Fest, which just so happened to be going on on the same day as HAT Run. I really love the 50 mile distance and, although I am not fast at it, feel that it is very do-able for me, so I am always looking to challenge myself with something more. Unfortunately, that has led me to attempting more 100 mile races which I have not been so successful at. The cool thing about the NJ Ultra Fest is that it offered me something in between ... the 100K! This would be my second try at this distance and from my first go at it, I knew that even though it is only 12 miles longer than my comfortable 50 mile love, that extra 12 miles is WAY challenging! (Funny ... my first 100 mile attempt was with a DNF with 12 miles to go ... perhaps this was some kind of foreboding for me?). Anyway, back to the Ultra Fest. First of all, it was cool that it was only a 3 1/2 hour drive to get there (which equals 3 1/2 hour drive home when you're sore, tired, and stinky!). Really nice. Joe and I found our way to the race site quite easily with the assistance of Tom-Tom, our new travelling guide. We arrived to find our buddy, Jim, and his dad, Don. This weekend would be redemption runs for both Jim and I, since our DNFs at the Beast of Burden. I think we were both ready to make ammends. We quickly found Johnny and his friend Dave setting up their tents and we settled in next to them, setting up our tent "Aid Station". The plan was to put all of our race junk in the tent for easy access during the race and "camp" inside our vehicle. This proved to be an excellent plan because the wind was blowing like mad and the tent just rocked & rolled from side to side the entire weekend! We met the Ultra RDs, Rick & Jenn McNulty when we picked-up our race goodies (a really nice bag & tech shirt) and found them to be super nice, down to earth people. They were awesome and really put on a super event. A nice simple pasta dinner at the race site and Joe was off to bed to rest for his 50 mile debut while I sucked a couple of brews with new and old friends. Around 9pm it was off to bed for me, because if I don't go to bed by this time, it will be that I am up until 2 or 3am, which wouldn't bode well for my 5am start! I slept well, woke and downed a Starbuck's Double Shot to caffeinate me, and a couple of Pop Tarts, got my running gear on and walked that couple hundred feet to the starting line ... I love races where you get to camp right at the start! Joe was up to see me off and then prep himself for his 6am start. I am so used to having him be able to "get me ready" but this time I had to get myself together by myself since I didn't want to take Joe away from concentrating on his own run. At 5am, after a few last-minute instructions from RD Rick, we were off into the dark. I had looked at the map of the course, and although it seemed quite simple and self-explanatory, I really wasn't totally sure of where I was going. It was cool and the full moon helped to light the way, and I just tried to run easy. I finally felt comfortable when we reached our 6-mile turn-around point. On the way back to the start/finish I would see Joe heading out for his first out-and-back ... this was a great way to pass the day, seeing familiar faces over and over again and encouraging each other. The course was flat, which some may find this to be fast, but I find it to be quite challenging. When there are hills I know when to walk, when to eat, and get to use different muscles. Things are just different on the flat. So on and off I felt good, felt like crap, ran, walked, but got to see lots of friends and just had a great time. Just around the 6 mile point on the western section there was a pasture of Clydesdale horses ... my peeps! ... and they were just awesome. I could have stood there for hours just staring at them. But I had a job to do ... 62 miles in what I was hoping would be a PR. Throuhout the day I saw Joe and he looked absolutely fantastic! I was shocked because for two weeks leading up to race day he had been coughing up both lungs and just plain feeling like crap and had barely been able to get out for training runs. But, as usual, he somehow, somewhere, pulled another amazing run out! Joe finished his 50 miles in 11:22 and change and looked (and walked!) quite well after. Amazing. I fuelled throughout the day with just plain water with NUUN tabs and Honey Stinger Waffles interspersed with my fave tapioca pudding. This was perfect as I never felt hungry or out of fuel. Just before my last leg of 9 miles I downed my traditional 5-HR Energy with caffeine and was off. It did the trick and I had an amazing last 9 miles, completing that section in under 2 hours! I finished my second 100K in 13:23:31, a PR. Joe and I celebrated our runs with some nice spicey chicken wing pizza and for me, a couple of Harp Lagers. Up Sunday morning to talk with the other race finishers and cheer in the remaining 100 milers. We then all shared trail tales at the post-race celebration at the Long Valley Brew Pub where there was an EXCELLENT food spread!Through tears of happiness and exhaustion, RD Rick presented the post-race beer awards (a really excellent local brew) and fine pint glass with the race logo on it. The weekend of running was a huge success ... redemption for my running and finding just what I was looking for in a race ... fun with friends and a nice "homey" feeling with everyone there. RDs Rick & Jenn were the best hosts! I will definitely put this one on the calendar for next year. The drive home was uneventful with Tom-Tom leading the way ... and LARGE Shamrock Shakes to celebrate with!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review And Redemption

OK, after a great time of running yesterday it finally got me into the mood to look back at my racing since the new year has begun. First of all, yesterday was the 10th Annual St. Patrick's Day 4-Mile Road Race in Binghamton. This is truly one of the best races around ... the RD is awesome, the volunteers are so great, and the church ladies really know how to put on a spread! Joe and I, as always, were totally geared for the race and ran in full uniform. I finished in 27:42, 10 seconds faster than last year. Good enough for second Female Masters and first Athena! It was a great day of running and most importantly, great to see all of our friends during the social hour after the race!
So back to February, a race I have been putting-off writing about because, quite frankly, it just drained the hell out of me. Last year was the first running of the Beast Of Burden Winter 100 (miles) and 24-HR race in Lockport, NY. Last year I ran the 24 hours and it was just very cool and fun! Just run what I could in 24 hours and no pressure. So I was game for that again this year ... but for some unknown and likely insane reason, at the last minute, I decided that I could do the 100 miler. What the hell was I thinking? My last long run had been in early December and due to lack of enthusiasm and bad weather, long runs were just hard to come by to fully prep for this event. But I was confident that I could do it.

Well, long story short ... The Beast showed-up in full-force! The temps were low 20s with just NON-STOP winds, gusting 20-30 mph. The snow was actually quite good for running and my yak traks worked well. However, the cold (which I usually love) combined with the wind and windchill, just made it hard. I had been practicing with a new fuelling strategy of drinking Hammer Perpetuem as my main fuel, which worked OK. But what I realized was that the fullness from the Perpetuem actually kept me from eating enough solid foods and apparently the Perpetuem wasn't enough to keep me fuelled for the long-run. Lesson learned. I like and need to eat solid foods, especially in that type of environment, to keep me well fuelled.

But the main issue for me was that for the first time I actually felt hurt during the run. Not just hurting, but actually hurt. There is a difference. Hurting is expected ... you expect to hurt during this type of run. It's not easy. But being hurt is different ... like there is actually an injury presenting itself. Approaching the 50-mile mark, my right groin felt so strained that each step forward with that leg felt like some ligament or something might just tear. It was incredibly painful. There really wasn't much of a decision to make ... no way did I want to do permanent damage to myself and jeopardize the rest of my racing season. The hard part was, well ... yet another 100-mile DNF. I am so hating that feeling.

So I rested and drank some beers and coffee with Bailey's and that seemed to ease the mental anguish but unfortunately it did little to help my leg pain. At least the continuing pain let me know that I made the right decision in stopping. The nice thing was that I got to help Joe crew for our friend Karen who was also running the 100. She is one amazing and tough lady. I just wanted to cry (and I think I may have) when I saw her approaching the last couple of miles on the other side of the canal. Karen finished in 29 hours, 2 minutes ... DFL. But, like I told her, DFL is actually a great place to be ... the cheers are as loud for you as they are for the winner! I know ... I have been there.

So it was a great weekend and actually a very fun time. Lessons learned, as I always do at each one of these things I attempt. I was honored to be there to see Karen truly grit it out in some of the harshest conditions. I will go back again next year and take-on the 24 hour again and see what I can do. I love to run, but I love more having fun when I am doing it ... and the 24 hour event for me is fun. No pressure. And really, for me, in those conditions, it's all about finding out what you have in you. So Sam ... I WILL BE BACK!
(Karen & Chris pre-race at the BOB)

And on another note ... Fox Soccer Plus ... thanks for NOTHING! I can't even watch the Six Nations rugby tournament because you're not showing it! And I so needed the distraction of watching good rugby and I am apparently missing some really great action by England who are so far undefeated and could take the Six Nations in a grand slam!

Friday, March 4, 2011


Just a quick note to explain why I am now - in 2011 - posting a 2008 race report. First, given my recent inabilities to complete the 100 mile distance again, this has been very helpful for me to review this success, what was good, what was bad, and look harder at what I need to do to make another successful run at the distance.

Most importantly, I am posting this so that I can send it on to a brave soul who is collecting stories of ultra adventures and writing a book. I hope that this can somehow be helpful to her!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Vermont 100 -- Take II

"I think I will never run another 100 miler again ... definitely ... maybe ..." Those were the words that I wrote on July 25, 2007, just four days after admitting defeat at mile 88.6 at the 2007 Vermont 100 miler. The more that I thought about it, the more I decided that running 100 miles was just too hard; I really didn't need to do it. But anyone who knows me knows that I hate unfinished business ... and this was unfinished business. So by September I was already looking for redemption. My first thought was to find an "easy" 100 miler -- as if there is such a thing. I thought of the Umstead 100, which is a loop-course and somewhat flat. However, the limit for this race was filled within days of its opening for registration, so my next thought was back to Vermont ... it had beaten me once and now this was my chance to beat it. So in October I filled out the entry, wrote the check, and sealed the deal. Now came the hard part - telling Joe that we were going back. I waited until I had the moral support of my friend, Lorrie, along side me and over a pre-race dinner in Maryland I broke the news to Joe. His face was pretty much blank and his only response was "Well, how are you going to pay for it?" To which I replied "I am going to quit drinking wine, take up drinking beer, and save the bottle return money." And the journey for redemption was underway.

My experience and DNF at VT100 2007 was not all for naught. I learned a lot about myself and what I needed to do differently in my training in order of having any chance of conquering the 100. So in January my training for VT100 2008 began in earnest. The long runs started as did the mental training that came with doing those long runs in some of the most frigid and harsh conditions. Thank goodness I have a few friends who are just as freaky as me (and you know who you are!) and willing to do long runs in crappy cold weather.

I also started a "support group" via e-mail. I gathered a group of running and non-running friends who I would regularly report my training ups and downs to and gather their thoughts and suggestions from. I figured that if I had to report to someone other than myself I would be more likely to stay on track with my training. It's far too easy to convince yourself that you are doing what you should be and to justify it when you aren't, but it's not so easy to justify your slacking to others. This proved to be a very helpful technique for me.

After six-plus months of training, the day of reckoning was here. It was time to head to Vermont. I was not nervous about the distance; my thoughts just kept going back to the fact that it would be a long way to redemption -- 88.6 miles to be exact. My nerves centered on making sure that I had everything I needed in order (i.e., clothes, food, crew members). And then there was the bigger issue -- the weather. The forecast was for high heat and humidity and I am so not a hot weather person. Really? What did I expect signing up for an ultra in July? But even the threat of heat exhaustion did not worry me much -- it would be what it would be and I would just have to adjust accordingly. 2007 proved to have almost perfect conditions and that didn't work for me. Being the freak that I am, I am almost guaranteed to run better in even the most adverse conditions.

Joe and I arrived in White River Junction, VT, at the Super 8 Motel where we would be staying -- about 30 minutes drive from the start of the race. Not The Ritz, but a comfy bed and hot shower were all that I really needed. It was definitely helpful to arrive a day early to just get settled and relax.

No sooner had we started to unload the car than we met a couple who looked like runners. Sure enough -- the woman was going to be running the 100-miler -- her second one. Her worries were not of the hills or of the weather but she worried most about rattlesnakes on the course. I assured her that there were no rattlesnakes in Vermont -- something that would come back to haunt me later.

Joe and I headed up to the race headquarters to pick-up my number and go through my baseline medical screening, which consisted of weight and blood pressure. I stepped up to the scale and the woman started out at the low 100s. I told her to start at 155, to which she replied "you don't have to say it out loud". I told her that it was OK -- I'm a Clydesdale and proud of it. My baseline weight was 157 pounds in my running clothes and sneakers and my blood pressure was good at 110/70. From then on Joe and I just walked around admiring the athletic physiques of the horses that would be competing along side me in the 100 mile endurance ride. What awesome athletic spectacles they were! We checked out the last bit of trail that would bring me home into the finish, which made me suck in a bit of nervous air. And then we were off to gather some last-minute supplies and rest before having to head back to race HQ for the mandatory runner and crew meeting at 3:45pm.

We met up with our friends from Connecticut (my pacer Karen McWhirt, Rob, who would be running the race, and Will, Rob's pacer). It was a great reunion of Finger Lakes Fifties regulars.

After the meeting we headed into Woodstock for dinners. The race holds a great pre-race pasta feed, but it was much more relaxing to get away from everything and enjoy a nice quiet dinner.

After a hot shower it was off to bed by 8pm and I think I fell asleep before 8:30.

BEEP, BEEP, BEEP ... the alarm sounded at 1:45am. I wasn't dreaming; race day was here. I rolled out of bed and, barely awake, managed to eat an early morning (late night?) breakfast of crappy hotel coffee, cheese danish, and a bottle of butter pecan Ensure. A little Pepcid and Gas-Ex to hold things down, and it was time to jump in the car and head off to the starting line.

We arrived to a beautiful scene of lights on the dark mountain top and the theme to "Chariots of Fire" playing and runners bustling around. This was actually a calm time for me as I found many friends to talk with. There was nothing left to do except run. The night (morning?) was already humid and I had planned to heed the warnings of my friends and crew -- GO SLOW!!

And then, just minutes before the race was to start, the rain came. A downpour started but didn't last too long and subsided to a light sprinkle. Finally, my other friend Karen, who was running her first 100 miler, and I decided to head out to the starting line -- we figured we were going to get wet sometime, so why not now?

4:00 AM -- we're off! Neither of us heard the race director yell start, but since the crowd of runners started moving, we assumed that the race had begun. Joe's cowbell rang in the distance and I began my ultra shuffle down the hill among the bobbling lights and faceless voices.

After some time I heard the hoof beats. A testimonial to my slower pace. Last year I was a couple of miles further along when the horses caught me. This made me feel good that I wasn't going out too fast. The sun had come up and it was a beautiful morning. I think the hardest part was that I wanted to look at all of the horses and admire their beauty and athleticism, but it's not so easy to keep moving forward if your head is turning sideways. The horses all seemed to be as soaked in sweat as we runners were at this point. I don't think I had one piece of dry clothing on!

Mile 21.1 (Pretty House) - 4 hours, 34 minutes. Even though I had started out running and talking with friends, somehow I still ended up running for quite some time by myself. That is until we passed a farm and I enjoyed a few minutes of "chatter" with the cows. The cows were friendly enough, but I was ready to see my crew and hear what their assessment of my progress was. Coming down toward the aid station I could see the crew vehicles lined-up. The I heard the voices. And then THE cowbell -- Joe's cowbell. I peeled into the aid station, changed my shirt and refilled my gummy-bear bag and HEED bottles. Well-wishes from my crew and I was off. However, in all of the excitement, I forgot to eat (image ... me forgetting to eat!). So I hit the aid station smorgasbord and grabbed some snacks and headed out.

Mile 30.1 (Stage Road) - 6 hours, 33 minutes. Those nine miles were pretty uneventful, except now the sun was cominItalicg out in full-force and the humidity wasn't budging. When it gets this hot out I just cannot stomach sports drinks of any kind -- all I want is ice cold water. So I switched to my water bottle and stashed the HEED bottle in my waist-carrier. I also made a conscious effort to take my Endurolytes regularly and the gummy bears became my food staple. And then, before I knew it, I heard the voices and the cowbell and I knew I was "coming home". My awesome crew toweled me off, sprayed me with water, gave me Coke, Ensure, and potato chips. I gave up on the HEED and filled both of my water bottles with ice water. My pacer, Karen, walked me out of the station, which was a real mental boost just to have some real conversation and advice.

Mile 47.2 (Camp 10 Bear) - 10 hours, 27 minutes. The climbs from the Stage Road station were simply relentless. I got a real boost from this guy Joe, from Maine, who admired how quickly I hiked the hills. Yah, great, I told him, but eventually I would have to go down and that wouldn't be so pretty.

I pulled into Camp 10 Bear ... FINALLY. I didn't remember it taking this long last year. So great, I had climbed some amazingly steep hills, but my feet were now taking the toll that came with the downhills. The bottoms of my feet were already starting to burn. Not a good sign -- it was too early for this. But my crew, ever on the ball, were right there waiting with the moleskin to keep me moving. Once my feet were re-soled I headed over to get weighed. Unfortunately, when I went to step up on the scale I stumbled a bit and the medical volunteer looked at me and said "that's not a good sign". Immediately I was scared because if the medical crew thinks you are impaired in any way they can pull you from the course, no arguments. I felt great and I quickly told her that I was OK, that this was normal for me -- I had had a brain aneurysm which had ruptured and was repaired when I was 11 years old which had affected my balance. I assume that she believed me because, really, after 10+ hours of running, who could make up that kind of story? My weight was good at 155 pounds; I could go on. I had already had my Ensure and Coke, so I grabbed some chips and Karen walked me out, encouraging me all the way.

No sooner had I left the aid station when the thunder started booming. No rain yet but A LOT of booming. And yet, as I climbed yet another steep trail, I really didn't seem to be bothered by it. What's the worse that could happen? I could be struck down by the lightening and end this agony!

And then it wasn't long before the rain started -- lightly at first and then the winds picked-up and the downpour started. And then I started to feel a bit goofy. I was running along a trail when I came upon a big black bear on its hind legs. Wait a minute ... was that a statue or was it real? I have to admit that I stared at it for a good long time before I started to tip-toe past it and then I hauled-ass! Statue or not, it was just a little too creepy for me.

At the next aid station in the middle of the woods I downed a couple of turkey and cheese sandwiches, cantaloupe, and some watermelon -- a nice change to the gummy bear diet that I had been subsisting on.

Mile 57 (Tracer Brook) - 13 hours, 6 minutes. I wish I could say that the rain cooled things off ... but it didn't. If anything things seemed a bit steamier. And now I was just plain uncomfortable in my wet clothes. Fortunately, when I came into Tracer Brook, Joe and Will were waiting right there for me with a chair just calling my name. Joe ran to the car and got a new attire of dry clothes -- the whole deal. Shirt, bra, shorts, socks, sneakers, all of it, and I was going to change right there. Will pointed out that there was a more private place over in the woods where I could change my clothes. Yes, there was. But why would I walk way over there? I got my new dry stuff on, behind the "wall" (raincoat) that Will held up for privacy. Joe re-moleskinned my feet, I grabbed some Coke and Pringles, and it was time to move on. Karen was back at Camp 10 Bear helping Rob, so Joe had to perform her duties of walking me out of the station and filling me with encouraging thoughts.

Mile 62.1 (Margaritaville) - 14 hours, 34 minutes. Unfortunately, when I left Tracer Brook, the sun came back out and the humidity just seemed to get even worser. The good news? It was mostly uphill to Margaritaville, so I was back in my glory and I really started to move. I performed a few "sanity checks" along the way and realized that I was OK when I could sing the entire chorus of "Mister Ed" (you know, a horse is a horse, of course, of course) and recite the entire poem of T.S. Elliot's "The Naming of Cats". I ate my gummy bears, took my electrolytes, drank, and was looking forward to seeing my crew and maybe grabbing a margarita soon. Only when I arrived in Margaritaville I passed by all of the crew vehicles and there was no sign of Joe or Will or Karen. How could this be? They had over an hour to get here ahead of me. Now I was worried that something had happened to them. I really didn't need anything from them except maybe a light (in case I didn't get to the next aid station before dark) and just their moral support. I started to cry -- and tears came pretty easily after 14-plus hours of running. A couple of my friends were there and offered me some encouragement and gave me a small keychain light -- just in case. It would have to do. And off I went, fighting back the tears.

Mile 70.1 (Camp 10 Bear) - 16 hours, 40 minutes. Well, I didn't need the light. And I had only momentary bouts of nausea which were relieved by sucking on crystallized ginger. My foot burn returned and I had to keep reminding myself that I wouldn't die from blisters so I just needed to suck-it-up.

As I approached Camp 10 Bear I was a little nervous. What if Joe wasn't there? What if he was? Should I be angry? I shouldn't be angry; he is out here helping me. Hmmmm. And then I came upon two guys walking only to find out that one of them was a buddy of mine. It was great to have a friend out here in the middle of nowhere. I was introduced to the other runner, who gave me some additional foot care insight, and the three of us headed for the aid station. Joe greeted us about 1/4 mile before the station and it was just good to see him there - safe. I didn't even care that the reason he missed me at the last station was because he was out getting a sandwich. I stepped up onto the scale without stumbling and weighed in at 156 pounds. Excellent. I sat down and had a cup of hot chicken broth and gingerale while Karen re-soled my feet with moleskin. I am thinking about taking stock in the moleskin industry!

It was getting dark by now so I donned my headlamp, as did Karen, and she grabbed the flashlight, and we were off. The weird thing was that the fog created a beam from the headlamps which made it difficult to see the trail. The hand-held flashlight worked well shining down lower to the ground. Good thing we had this.

OK, so again, we had to go up. And up some more. And more. And the trail was rocky and muddy. And it was still humid. But I had good company with Karen and my buddy Jim to talk with, so it was actually pretty not awful.

Mile 77 (West Winds) - 19 hours, 0 minutes. After some pretty technical trails (OK, so maybe not, but it was dark out and way past my bedtime, so even flat roads were now considered technical), we started uphill again. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! And then I heard it ... the cowbell! Uphill, AGAIN, which was actually OK this time since I knew there was a chair waiting for me at the top.

This year Joe remembered the Gatorade (last year he had forgotten to bring it to this aid station and cranky me made him run more than a half-mile back to the car to get it!). I had been subsisting on water and gummy bears but now I really didn't even want the solidness of the gummy bears, so Joe switched my bottles to Gatorade. I downed a couple of cups of chicken broth (no noodles ... too solid). The chair felt really, really good and my feet and butt were loving the rest, but being the good pacer that she was, Karen got me out of the chair before I really hunkered down. I put on my coat, now a little chilled from sitting still, and we headed-off under the full moon.

My spirits were still good and my mental faculties pretty much intact. I guess I had forgotten how far the next 11.6 miles actually would be. My feet still burned. The uphills weren't so bad, but man, those downhills were just wretched. I just had to remember ... I wouldn't die from blisters. Pain is temporary. And all that crap.

As we headed into the aid station at 83.6 miles we were zinged by a bat. RABIES! What if I got rabies and couldn't finish? Karen assured me ... just keep moving! The aid station looked like some kind of cult meeting; there was a fire burning, a guy wrapped in a blanket sleeping in a chair, and a few others slumped in chairs. I sat and had some broth. A guy came in and announced that he was dropping; he said he didn't have anything left. I remembered that feeling from the year before. Fortunately before I could linger in this thought, Karen got me moving. On to meet my nemesis.

Mile 88.6 (Bill's) - 23 hours, 10 minutes. My feet were still burning and I had already discussed my need for foot review with Karen and so we had our plan of what was going to need to be done when we reached Bill's.

The fog was so thick that we really didn't see the lights of the barn until we were almost upon it. There was no cowbell this time; I guess not everyone needed to be awake at that godforsaken hour.

It was with great relief and a big smile that I stepped up on the scale. I knew that I would be going on this year. I was hurting and tired but it wasn't time to stop. I weighed in at the same 156 pounds and then flopped into a chair to enjoy some more of that yummy chicken broth and gingerale while Karen re-moleskinned my feet. I even helped pop a couple of blisters myself.

Now, I had changed to drinking Gatorade the last time I saw Joe, so one would think that I might want to keep going with that, right? Well, Joe forgot the Gatorade and the car was parked a ways away. Fortunately, Karen's son Eric was helping crew and made the mad-dash to the car to get it. My hero.

So with my feet fixed (again!) and my tummy full, Karen and I set-off on my journey for redemption. Now I was truly going where I had never gone before. Queue "The Twilight Zone" theme and envision Rod Serling standing in the woods. I truly was about to enter a new dimension of space and time. If only I knew what bizarreness awaited me.

It wasn't long after we crossed some trails and started down a road that it was time to re-enter the trails. At this point I felt the need to let Karen know that my head was feeling a bit messed-up (OK, those of you who know me know very well what word I used!). I sat down on the side of the road, turned my headlamp off, put my head between my legs and closed me eyes, hoping the feeling would pass. Karen reassured me that this feeling would pass; that it was just my body trying to go to sleep. So maybe I should let it?

Guess not. I don't even know how long I sat there but finally Karen helped me jup because we both knew that the longer I sadt there the harder it would ge to get mogving again. And, no matter, how slow, forward motion would be progress. You don't get to the finish line by sitting on the road.

Now I was having some difficulty focusing and even walking straight. So Karen took me by the arm and kept me upright. And I think this is the point where coherent conversation ended and I was reduced to whines and moans, intermingled only by pleas to just let any oncoming traffic hit me.

I was relieved to reach the next aid station at 92 miles. Maybe I could just stop here. I passed last year's point; why did I need to do the whole 100 miles anyway? I contemplated my bizarre logic as I drank some broth. Fortunately Karen saved me from myself andd pulled me out of my seat and back to the road.

OK, so I have read about people having hallucinations during 100 mile races but I figured that it just would never happen to me. WRONG! What were those giant hogs, moose, and cows doing out on the trail? And was that a giant grizzly bear in front of me? Since Karen didn't seem alarmed by these creatures I figured she must know that they were friendly.

Karen tried to reassure me that when the sun came up I would feel better. Somehow I just didn't know. And now I was crying like a baby ... but still moving forward. My feet and back were killing me so every once in a while Karen allowed me to stop, squat, bend-over, and take a "mental minute". And she meant one minute. She was timing me -- although I am sure that her watch was moving in double-time! But the rule is that your pacer is smarter than you. She is your brain because you don't have one at this point. There is no sense in arguing; your f*#@!#-up logic is no match for hers. You will try anyting to get her to let you stop, but she will know better and just keep pulling you forward.

Somewhere around 94 miles I had a revelation. I looked at my swollen sausage-fingers and decided that I needed to take an electrolyte capsule. What if my potassium was too low? What if my heart stopped? OK, case in point ... medical knowledge has no place in the mind of someone who has been running for more than 24 hours. The mind just doesn't know what to do with it and it can only hurt you!

Karen patiently listened to my concerns and flat-out told me "you're not going to be paralyzed; come on". So, tears streaking down my face, Karen pulling me by the arm, we headed into the Scary Forest (my friend Jim's title for this gnarly section of woods ... something like out of that scene from The Wizard of Oz where the flying monkeys swoop down and attack the scarecrow -- and that is exactly what it looked like).

Mile 95.5 (Polly's) - 26 hours, 18 minutes. Still crying (OK, bawling) I came walking into Polly's. And there was Joe. How could I possibly go on? The volunteer at the aid station offered me a blanket ... oh, yes, I wanted a blanket. But no, Joe and Karen wouldn't let me have one. Instead Karen told me I coiuld sit down for five minutes. Ten minutes, I said. No, five. The pacer rules. I succumbed and drank my cup of broth while Joe ripped my shirt off over my head to put on my "Diane's Team" shirt. This shirt would give me strength. This was the shirt that I was supposed to wear into the finish last year. Diane was fighting to survive and so would I. But I just didn't feel like I was right now. So I had blisters ... she's having chemotherapy ... who wins? Guiess I needed to just cowgirl-up, as Diane would say.

And then I was told that my five minutes were up. Where did Karen get that damn watch, anyway? I know my head was a mess but rest times sure seemed to go by fast. Once we were out of sight from the aid station I decided that I had to pee. OK, so maybe the first clue that this was not a real needed pee stop was that I was talking to Karen the whole time instead of peeing. Finally she realized my game; the jig was up. That was the last time I would pull that stunt.

Still whining, crying, and moaning that I hurt, we proceeded forward. I can't believe that Karen just let me piss and moan like that and never told me to just shut-up! And then I heard it ... it was an eerie rattleinng sound. RATTLESNAKE! Who the hell said there aren't any rattlesnakes in Vermont?! We couldn't possibly go on; there was a rattlesnake out there. Again, pacer being the wiser of the two of us, I was forced to carry on, hoping that I wouldn't cojme to my demise at the fangs of a rattlesnake after all of this time and hard work. That would really suck.

Mile 100 -- THE FINISH LINE -- 27 hours, 51 minutes, 35 seconds. Despite it all, even the deceivingly placed mile markers coming into the finish, I FINISHED! It was such a wonderful feeling, one that I really still have trouble trying to describe to myself. I know that I could not have done this alone. My crew of Joe, Will, Eric, and Karen kept me going throughout the day and night. They were the best, putting-up with so much of my crap. When Karen agreed to pace me she said that she would get me to the finish line and she knew that was what I wanted and, more importantly, needed. And even when I thought I wanted to stop, she knew better and kept me going. And really, I was just a bit too scared to defy her. And I am so grateful for that. I really would have had a hard time accepting another DNF. And I had also decided that if I didn't finish this time that I would have to come back again in 2009!

As I layed on a cot in the mecical tent, waiting to get my feet assessed, Karen brought over the celebratory breakfast beers. As we clinked cans I could finally relax and revel in what I had just done.

As usual, Joe and I can't travel anywhere without the dark cloud of motel voo-doo following us. Last year the key card didn't work to let us back into the room when we got back from the race. So what happened this year? Of course, the key card wouldn't work to let us in. The motel girl came out with her little tool and diagnosed that it was a dead battery in the lock system. So after an eternity, someone broke-in the room and got the lock fixed. FINALLY, I got to shower and go to bed.

After about five hours of sleep, Joe and I decided that we needed to go and get more eats. Onlhy this time the door wouldn't lock! So I sat in the room while Joe ran out for the exquisite cuisine of McDonald's. After a couple more beers and two filet o' fishes, it was back to sleep.

But I knew that I would be hungry again and I was prepared. I shared my bed with a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips and peanut M&Ms. Every once in a while I would wake up, eat a little snack, and go back to sleep. It worked.

I'm still hungry and eating everything in sight. My head is still a bit foggy. Case in point: I had to go to Ithaca to pick-up my nephew and I drove right on by the location where he was waiting. About a mile after I got past him I remembered that he was the reason that I was driving into Ithaca and went back to get him.

My right big toenail has been lanced with a hot poker a couple of timjes and is till leaking. The blisters on the bottom of my right foot finally popped-up and open, much to my relief. I am still using moleskin on the bottom of that foot. Other than that, the rest of my body feels good. If it weren't for my right foot, I think I cvould actually jog a little. The quads, the hips, everything, actaully feel better that after my first marathon (OK, so I was more than a little ill-prepared for that race, but that's another ugly story)!

So will I run a 100 miler again? Never say never. And I have thought about it over the last few days. When you do something that is this great it really takes on a huge significance in your life and it changes you. And I think that when you do something this great over and over each time it diminishes the significance of that first time a little more each time. So right now I want to cherish this and if I decide to do another 100 miler I think it would have to be a different one than Vermont 100. I don't want to diminish anything that I have experienced this first time.


100 miles is a long way.

I only needed 12 miles to find redemption; after running 88 miles, 12 miles might as well have been another 100!

Anyone who says that running 100 miles is easy or that with practice you willl "get the hang of it" is LYING!

Running for so many hours is like a bad bout of PMS ... eating everything in sight, ongoing irritability, and lots of cramps and mood swings!

Always take good care of your feet; they are your lifeline when it comes to this type of event.

Ensure really isn't so bad.

Find a pacer who really knows you and your needs ... one who knows when you are just full of crap versus when you are really hurt and one who you have a deep-seeded fear of disappointing.

People who will touch you when you are covered in layers of grime, crying, and have snot running down your face and who will pop your blisters for you are truly your friends.

There is just something about the lure and mystique of running 100 miles ...