Friday, September 28, 2012

Virgil Crest 100 ... Conquering Physical And Mental Limits

I have heard the saying “do something every day that scares you”. Well, after this weekend, I’m pretty sure that I should be good for the rest of the year now. This past weekend was the Virgil Crest Ultras and it would be my fourth run there. The first year I ran this event I was content with running the 50 miler (and then working an overnight aid station, which was way fun). But the next two years I had my eye set on the 100 miler and it just never worked out and both times I stopped at 50 miles. Despite running on these trails quite a bit and knowing them pretty well, the actual race was just too hard … definitely physically, but mostly in the respect that I could not mentally get back out there on the second loop after 50 miles. That’s the hardest thing for me on multiple loop ultras … leaving the comfort of warm clothes, friends, and just getting to hang out and have a relaxing beer after a long run. But this year I found new determination. I had seen my friends at so many ultras this year and got to hang out with them and enjoy beers after tough races. So this time I just didn’t have to do that. This time I had another agenda. This time it was all about me. This time there was nothing else to do for the entire weekend but run. This time, barring any life-threatening injury, I would finish this Mother. And to further encourage myself I kept in mind that I wanted to be the first local female to complete the 100 miler on home turf … and each time it didn’t happen it would open the opportunity for someone else to step in and do it. So that’s what truly kept me focused and I just had to keep reminding myself of that. It may have been an egotistical idea, but it was something to focus on and something to keep kicking my own ass into gear with.

Friday, September 21

Thank goodness for the proximity to home for this race. I had already decided that I wanted to sleep in my own bed the night before the race. It is 45 minutes from Newfield to Virgil and I had already thought about what time I would be getting up for breakfast, etc, if I stayed in Virgil the night before the race versus what time I could just roll out of my own bed, grab breakfast, and eat it on the drive to Virgil. Really, not much difference. So I decided that I would sleep much better at home. I also ditched the idea of the pre-race pasta dinner and Joe and I and our friend, Kevin (also running the 100 miler) went out to dinner. These two things, getting me away from the hype of the race, proved to be very good for me. I just needed to relax and focus on myself. 8:30pm I hit the bed, 3am I was up (a bit early, but you know … nerves …) and by 4:15am we were on the road to Virgil and the games were about to begin. And welcome to my playlist of music that helped to get me through this. I only wore my IPod during the first half of the race but there were some key songs that just stuck in my head throughout and just stuck as so appropriate in my head.

Saturday, September 22, 6am, Hope Lake, THE START.

Well I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mind

I left my body lying somewhere in the sands of time

But I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon

I feel there is nothing I can do, yeah

- “Kryptonite”, 3 Doors Down

Wow … there was a lot of bustling around of runners at Hope Lake and yet it didn’t seem to affect me. I got my stuff together, chatted with some friends, and just thought about a weekend of running. And nothing else. There was nothing else to do. So when we all started running at 6am I felt very much at ease.

7:08am, Gravel Pit Aid Station, mile 4.4.

My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me

My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating

Sometimes I wish someone up there will find me

Till then I walk alone

- “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams”, Green Day

I could tell by the time that we would soon be hitting The Gravel Pit aid station. Looking at my watch it was maybe just a bit too fast for me, but I didn’t feel like I was pushing too hard so I was happy with the pace. And then the trail curved to the left. A bunch of us were running together and we kept running downhill for what seemed a bit too long. I didn’t remember ever running downhill this far before arriving at The Gravel Pit. After some discussion with the leaders of the pack we decided to back-track, which was a good idea because we had gone off- course. We were supposed to make a right after the left curve, which would bring us right up to The Gravel Pit. Oh well … we lost just a few minutes, but no worries. It was still way early. A couple of peanut butter crackers and a refill of GU Brew and I was off on down the trail.

8:20am, Lift House 5 Aid Station, mile 9.7.

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold

And she’s buying a stairway to heaven

When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed

With a word she can get what she came for

Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven

- “Stairway To Heaven”, Led Zeppelin

The section to The Lift House was just plain fun. I was still running with a lot of other runners and got to chat it up with some friends. Things were feeling pretty good. When I got to Lift House 5 (should be called Slaughter House 5?!) Joe was there waiting for me. After seeing me off at the start he went all the way out to Daisy Hollow to help set up that aid station and then hustled back to help me out. It was so good to see him, as always, and he got me out of the station in rapid fashion, fixing me up with my trekking poles and hydration pack. I threw on my iPod and I’m not joking, “Stairway To Heaven” was playing as I started to ascend the slope! How ironic! This first climb up the alpine slope is always a pisser and today was no different. And the grass was a bit slippery. So I just put my head down, focused on the music, and dug my poles into the ground.

I have to say that nothing outstanding happened during this section. I had pre-run most of the section the previous week and I knew where I was. What I wasn’t sure on was the timing of how long this section should actually take me, since it had been revised a bit from 2011. So basically I tried not to think about time and just thought that whatever time this section took me would be the baseline to go by for the next three times I would go through it.

9:44am, Lift House 5 Aid Station, mile 13.9.

Destination anywhere

East or west, I don’t care

You see my baby don’t want me no more

This old world ain’t got no back door

- “Destination Anywhere”, The Commitments

The section ended with a long, bone-jarring, rocky, muddy downhill that I was sooooo glad when it was over. For once I couldn’t wait to get back on the flat. And at the bottom of the hill was Joe … waiting with all my needs. I had developed a bit of a hot-spot on my left big toe and also felt some rubbing on my heel. I really didn’t want to stop and fart around with getting my compression sock off to deal with this, but it was necessary. Take time to make time, I was once told by a very wise ultrarunner. Taking this time now would prevent losing time on a major fall-out later.

Joe got my tackle box out and got exactly what I needed. Nexcare waterproof tape for the toe (the stuff sticks forever and is like a second thicker skin) and moleskin for my heel. But I knew the moleskin would not survive sticking to my sweaty foot and I really did not want to keep having to change it. So I superglued it to my heel. There … that oughta hold it for a while.

11:34am, Rock Pile Aid Station, mile 20.

There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west

And my spirit is crying for leaving

In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees

And the voices of those who stand looking

Ooh, it makes me wonder

Ooh, it really makes me wonder

- “Stairway To Heaven”, Led Zeppelin

On down Tone Road, hydration pack full of GU Brew and Pringles in hand, chatting with friends. Wow, things were feeling pretty good so far. But there was still a long way to go. My big issue with the Virgil Crest course is that I have a hard time thinking of it in terms of the Virgil Crest course. I tend to fall into thinking I am somewhere along one of our other FLRC race courses. And that is disastrous because I start thinking I am closer to finishing that I really am. So I had to keep reminding myself of where I was TODAY. And also trying to not think of it in terms of mileage or landmarks … just that I was out there to run until 6pm on Sunday. And that was still a long ways away.

I ran a lot with my friend, Jim, and Colleen … both who were attempting their first 100. It was really quite nice. We talked a lot which kept us all from going out too fast. But somewhere maybe a half mile or so before we were to exit the woods onto O’Dell Road I felt that I just was losing myself. I felt like I was losing focus. Although I enjoyed running with Jim and Colleen it was time to get back into my own head. Surely I did not take off at a full sprint but I did pick up my pace just a bit and stopped talking. I had to remember what the goal was. I had to start thinking about what I would need at the next aid station.

On the final climb up to the Rock Pile I ran into a group that was hiking down. And among that group was Joe Dabes, long time FLRC member and founder of many of our club’s trail races. Joe has also hiked the entire length of The Finger Lakes Trail. So it had some significance seeing him out here and I thought of what an honor it is to me to be able to be out on these trails for hours on end. And it felt good to tell him that I would be out here for 100 miles. It brought back the focus.

At the top of the climb was the reward of food, drink, and people. It was a regular party! But it was get in, get out. No time to waste when I was still feeling good and there was no need to stop. I quickly filled my pack, downed a vanilla bean Orgain, grabbed some chips, got a kiss from my wingman, Joe, and I was off.

1:01pm, Daisy Hollow Aid Station, mile 25.1.

But I set fire to the rain

Watched it pour as I touched your face

Let it burn while I cry

‘Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name

- “Set Fire To The Rain”, Adele

Once again, seriously, the appropriate song was playing on my iPod. Wow, I was still feeling good and got to run a bit with my friend, Eva, who was running the 50 miler. And then the rain started. Lightly at first, which was a bit refreshing. That did not last long. The wind picked up and the rain came down heavier and in bigger drops. I tried to feed off of the energy from Eva’s recent 100 mile run, which she ran in some pretty wicked rain, and she persevered. I tried to stay positive but secretly I wished that the rain would stop.

I had already started seeing some of the 50 milers and a few of the 100 milers already heading back from the turn-around at Daisy Hollow. This is always cool, getting to cheer others on and see how my friends are doing. Somewhere along the way I ran into Gerrit, another first-time 100 miler, who was way ahead of me and looking strong. He stopped to give me a hug, which I was so needing at that point. Usually somewhere around 20 miles, in any ultra, I start hitting a low point. I am never sure why. I’m not tired. I’m not overwhelmed. It’s just what happens and I know it will and I expect it. And I just have to work through it. This hug and a bit of encouragement came at just the right time.

Arriving at Daisy Hollow is always a wonderful time for me. It’s the Finger Lakes Runners Club aid station and my friends are there and it’s such a wonderful pick-me-up. And Joe was there waiting with my needs. I had already told him when I saw him at the Rock Pile that I wanted to change my shorts and shirt and I was glad that I did, since the rain had really soaked me. Wonderful oatmeal raisin cookies courtesy of Laura Voorhees, some hot broth, mashed potatoes, and warm dry clothes, and I was ready to go again. Not with the idea that I was “halfway done” with the first loop, but more with the idea that I was only one quarter of the way there … and still with a long way to go. But the focus for now was just to get back to the Rock Pile.

2:38pm, Rock Pile Aid Station, mile 30.2.

Sometimes you picture me, I’m walking too far ahead

You’re calling to me, I can’t hear what you said

Then you say, go slow and I fall behind

The second hand unwinds

- “Time After Time”, Cyndi Lauper

Excellent. I still felt like I was on pace where I needed to be. I was glad to get back to the Rock Pile to see Joe and my pacer, Karen, who was working the day shift here. I had been hydrating well and the GU Brew was working quite well for me and I just needed a refill here and then move on. But … what? What’s that in the cooler? Not GU Brew but strawberry HEED. Now I can tolerate HEED and I really don’t mind it, but my stomach was doing well on the GU Brew and I really didn’t want to tempt things by switching the drink. Thank goodness I had some single serving packets of the GU Brew with me and was able to mix up enough to refill my pack. I think I had a few chips here but not really much to eat since I still felt pretty full. My head was clear and I just wanted to get down off of the mountain, so off I went.

4:23pm, Lift House 5 Aid Station, mile 36.3.

I walk a lonely road

The only one that I have ever know

Don’t know where it goes

But it’s home to me and I walk alone

- “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams”, Green Day

Again I ran a bit with Jim and Colleen, but eventually again had to just be by myself. As much as I enjoy the socializing that comes with running ultras, when I’m in the game I just have to be alone. I am much tougher when I’m alone; running with someone else makes me do things that I really should not be doing.

Things were still feeling pretty decent when I got to the Lift House. I got a bit to eat, I think I drank another Orgain, grabbed my trekking poles, and headed out. I was really trying to focus on not spending too much time at the aid stations, sitting only for a few minutes to take some of the pressure off of my back. I knew that as the time went on, time at the aid stations would become longer and I felt that I needed save some time here now to use it later.

And basically, it was just me by myself on this loop. Me and my thoughts of how horrible it was doing this loop in reverse. Way harder. And I hated it. And I cursed it the entire time.

5:58pm, Lift House 5 Aid Station, mile 40.5.

I walk this empty street

On the boulevard of broken dreams

Where the city sleeps

And I’m the only one and I walk alone

- “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams”, Green Day

Once at the bottom of the alpine loop, all the pain, all the hate, all the cursing just disappeared. I didn’t want to think about it anymore. I just wanted to get going to meet my pacer at The Gravel Pit. My head was still clear, my feet in pretty good shape, and my stomach holding things down. My pacer, Karen, was here to give me some good thoughts, and I knew that Joe would get her to our meeting place. My anxiety over this was relieved. I grabbed some food and started walking. I also grabbed my headlight as I remember getting caught in the dark in the woods just before The Gravel Pit last year. And so far I was still pretty much holding to the same pace as last year.

7:45pm, Gravel Pit Aid Station, mile 45.8.

I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon

After all I knew it had to be something to do with you

I really don’t mind what happens now and then

As long as you’ll be my friend at the end

- “Kryptonite”, 3 Doors Down

The wind had picked up a bit and the temps dropped a little, but I was still comfortable in a short sleeve shirt with arm warmers on. Love the arm warmers … easy to peel down when I’m warm, pull ‘em up when I’m cold. Nice … I even felt good to run for a bit, being very careful as I crossed through the dreadful spot where Joe had fallen and broken his finger last month. There was even a bit of thunder and lightning as I passed through this area. Eerie.

By the time I reached the aid station my stomach was a bit of a wreck. Nothing sounded good. Joe had multiple suggestions and I wanted none of them. Finally I felt like nothing was going to be OK so I just needed to try something. Anything. So I tried some pierogies. Not a good choice but I choked down a couple of them and some soda and called it good. I just wanted to get to Hope Lake and make the turn-around.

In the past I have told Karen to just meet me at Hope Lake, mile 50. I just always thought it would be easier. But let me just say that for the past two years I had felt good at The Gravel Pit and then something would just happen to me in those next 4+ miles and by the time I got to Hope Lake I was done. This year I was not going to let that happen and that’s why I had Karen meet me at The Gravel Pit. I wanted to make sure she was prepared to make me mentally ready to get in and get out of the transition.

9:04pm, Hope Lake Aid Station, mile 50.2.

In the middle of the night

I go walking in my sleep

Through the jungle of doubt

To a river so deep

I know I’m searching for something

Something so undefined

That it can only be seen

By the eyes of the blind

- “River Of Dreams”, Billy Joel

OK, things were still going good. I was on a good pace, comparable to last year when I had planned to keep going on for the 100 until my brain took over. Thank goodness for Karen being with me because I was feeling just a hint like I could have easily been done at this point … nothing physically making me want to stop, but again … the mental thing.

We pulled into Hope Lake and it was straight to Joe who had all my stuff ready as I had requested. Time for a night time clothing change and finally a new sock change. I really didn’t want to change the socks and disturb my taping, but the socks were quite disgusting by now and I knew that just having fresh socks on would refresh me. Wow … when I pulled off my socks, the toe tape was a bit loose but still intact. The moleskin was still holding firmly superglued to my heel. I changed the toe tape and pulled new socks on.

Refilled the pack with water, grabbed some potatoes and broth, loaded up with some spare batteries for the headlight (after putting new ones into my dying light), and we were off again. Spirits were high … we were on our way out for the first time!

10:49, Gravel Pit Aid Station, mile 54.6.

If I go crazy then will you still call me Superman?

If I’m alive and well, will you be there holding my hand

I’ll keep you by my side with my superhuman might


- “Kryptonite”, 3 Doors Down

Wow, the trail was a bit sloppier than it had been the first time out. Honestly, beyond that, I remember very little about this stop. All I remember is heading down the trail after this, still talking with Karen and Emanuel, who was without a pacer and had joined us. The three of us worked our way through the technical sections and just talked. It was really fun.

And then the wind picked up. And I could hear the rain hitting the trees, but it didn’t sound too heavy. But I could just feel that when we hit Carson Road and stepped out of the protection of the trees we were going to get spanked.

And spanked we got. Right in the face with high winds and stinging cold rains. It was brutal and all we could do was try to run as hard as we could to get to the next aid station and dry clothes and cover. Our sprint was short lived and we all just finally gave into the fact that we were wet and nothing would change that.

12:38am, Lift House 5 Aid Station, mile 59.9.

But hold on to what you believe in the light

When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight

So hold on to what you believed in the light

- “Hold On To What You Believe”, Mumford & Sons

Of course by the time we reached the Lift House station, the rain and wind had stopped. Of course. But at least this gave us the opportunity to change into dry clothes without soaking the new stuff. Dry clothes, a bit to eat, trekking poles in hand, and up the ski slope we went. And I dreaded every section that was muddy earlier … what the hell was I going to see this time around?

Fortunately it was not as bad as I had expected. The skies had cleared and it was an absolutely amazing and beautiful experience on the top of that ski slope. The stars were amazing! At least from what I could see looking straight out; each time I tried to look up at the sky I got a bit dizzy. But what an awesome experience; so worth being out there.

2:28am, Lift House 5 Aid Station, mile 64.1.

All through the night

I’ll be awake and I’ll be with you

All through the night

This precious time, when time is new

Oh, all through the night today

Knowing that we feel the same without sayin’

We have no past, we won’t reach back

Keep with me forward all through the night

And once we start, the meter clicks

And it goes running all through the night

Until it ends there is no end

- “All Through The Night”, Cyndi Lauper

First order of business here was to change my shoes. Crossing the little creek coming into the aid station I stumbled and stepped right into it. Crap! Thank goodness for Joe being there with my second pair of Hoka Stinson Evos. My socks weren’t too bad so I left those alone. I wanted more time to eat. I had been craving tapioca pudding for probably the last 45 minutes. Unfortunately I discovered earlier that I must have forgotten it at home. Really? The one thing that I so really wanted and was sure my stomach could handle. I really, really wanted it and when I get my heart set on something it’s hard to take something else. But when I got to the aid station my friend Ryan was sitting there eating … what? … pudding! Holy crap! I just about jumped him for it! “Ryan, where did you get that pudding?!” He had some extra in his drop bag and offered it to me and I just snarfed that right down and man, was it good! Now that’s what I’m talking about! That did so much for me mentally.

OK, time to go. This time out I decided to take my trekking poles with me, as I wasn’t sure of how steady I would be on the trail in the dark. This proved to be a really good idea.

5:19am, Rock Pile Aid Station, mile 70.2.

There is a house in New Orleans

They call the Rising Sun

And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy

And God, I know I’m one

- “House Of The Rising Sun”, The Animals

We moved along at a pretty good clip, I think, considering the technical trail and the dark. I had almost thought of leaving my jacket at the aid station, since the rain had stopped, but then decided to bring it with me just in case the rain started again. Really good idea. I had forgotten just how cold it gets up on top of Virgil Mountain and Greek Peak at night. I am certain it was in the low 40s. So when I slipped and fell into the cold wet mud, it wasn’t exactly refreshing, but the jacket kept most of it from completely penetrating my clothes. From that moment on, things changed. One minute I was moving right along with no problem, the next it all went to hell. No warning. No nausea. Just puking out of the blue. And as I puked I peed my pants. Repeatedly. It was really quite glamorous. And all Karen could do was put her arm on my shoulder and steady me. Fear just fell over me. I have never puked during an ultra of any distance. I get a bit queasy but I never vomit. What if it didn’t stop? I wasn’t even to 70 miles and there was no way to keep going without being able to keep food and drink down. So I sat on a log and pondered this as I puked some more. Finally it seemed to stop so I decided to try walking. So far, so good.

Finally the lights leading us up to the Rock Pile came into view. Thank goodness! We got to the station and the RD, Ian, was there. This gave me a little boost to see a friend and for him to see that I was still trying. So I sat down, chewed some TUMS and sipped some Dr. Pepper. I tried to eat some pretzels and got maybe three down. I felt that there was really no reason to sit here any longer; I didn’t want to get chilled and I felt like I could at least walk. My stomach felt a bit more settled but I didn’t dare tempt fate by putting more food in. Better just leave well enough alone.

7:32am, Daisy Hollow Aid Station, mile 75.3.

And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune

Then the piper will lead us to reason

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long

And the forests will echo with laughter

- “Stairway To Heaven”, Led Zeppelin

Well, having eaten only three pretzels soon caught up to me. One minute I was feeling pretty decent, well aware of my surroundings, the next minute it was pure tunnel vision. My head was foggy and even though I could still see what was going on around me, occasionally grunting and bitching a bit to Karen just to let her know I was still alive, it was like I was in some kind of daydream. It was pure focus on the straight ahead, one foot in front of the other. Looking at anything at my sides was too dangerous because that would make me very unsteady. I could definitely feel my body draining of energy and by the time I reached Daisy Hollow I knew that I just needed to fuel up A LOT. Joe was there waiting for me and a couple of friends, Will and Kevin, were hanging out around the fire warming up. Joe asked what I needed but I just couldn’t come up with anything. Nothing sounded good. Everything he suggested to me just turned my stomach. And then I remembered the Ithaca ginger beer that I had in the cooler. Joe grabbed that straight away and immediately I could feel the ginger working its magic. FYI … REAL ginger beer is an essential during an ultra. WOW, what a difference that made. And then Karen suggested changing my shoes. Thank goodness I brought my third pair of Hokas, the Stinson Bs. Normally they are a bit wide for my liking for trail running. At this point they were absolutely perfect for my swollen feet. And they were heaven. Finally able to tolerate something more than the ginger beer, I downed an Orgain, grabbed the remainder of my oatmeal raisin cookies for later on, and we were off. I told Karen that I wanted to leave the station by 8am and by my watch I believe we were out of there by 7:59. We were not moving at lightning speed, but we were moving and going in the right direction. And that’s all that mattered. We met up with a few more people that were coming in to the aid station as we were leaving so I knew that I was somewhere near last place, but that was OK. Place didn’t matter. All that mattered was staying ahead of the cut-offs.

9:56am, Rock Pile Aid Station, mile 80.4.

If there’s a bustle in the hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now

It’s just a spring clean for the May queen

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run

There’s still time to change the road you’re on

And it makes me wonder

- “Stairway To Heaven”, Led Zeppelin

Just before reaching the last climb to the Rock Pile I could see a couple of people on the trail up ahead. Now I was wide awake and had regained focus. It’s amazing what the sun of a new day can do for you when you have been up for more than 24 hours. When we finally reached these people I could see that it was Joe and another runner’s crewman. Man it was good to see him and let him know that I had turned the corner on feeling like shit. At least I felt like fresh shit now.

When we reached the Rock Pile it was nearly all disassembled except for a table of a few things. That was OK … all I wanted was the Orgain from my drop bag and a bit of Dr. Pepper. Solid food didn’t even sound tempting in the least. A refill of my pack with water and it was onward with my only focus of getting back down to Tone Road.

We got a super treat up on the power lines on Virgil Mountain … Joel C. had driven up there and was giving us some good cheer. Man, it was good to see another friend out there. Karen was still doing an amazing job of keeping me preoccupied … pretty damn impressive since she had been on the go basically as long as I had. What a superwoman!!

We picked our way down Virgil Mountain … a challenging feat even on fresh legs. I thought it would never end. I got a bit ahead of Karen, but I figured if I kept moving I could get to the next aid station a bit ahead of her, get some eats and drinks and be ready for her when she got there.

12:11pm, Lift House 5 Aid Station, mile 86.5.

When I find myself in times of trouble

Mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

- “Let It Be”, The Beatles

I arrived at the aid station to the cheers of Joe and my next pacer, Diane Y. I so needed to sit down just for a few minutes, just to ease the pain in my back and knees from coming down off of that steep descent. It was immediate relief. Jim H. was working the aid station and told me what the cut-off was for the next section. Crap! It didn’t sound very good … actually it was pretty tight and I worried immediately whether I could make it or not. Fortunately he soon realized that his time was off and corrected himself and the new time was much more to my liking. I was still like an hour ahead of the cut-off. Perfect. Another Orgain down and I was ready to go.

Karen’s work was done. She did a FANTASTIC job of getting me through the night and through 40+ miles. What an amazing woman! I could not have done this without her. Now it was time for her well-deserved rest and time for Diane to take over. So off we went, me and Diane.

1:48pm, Lift House 5 Aid Station, mile 90.7.

Look around me

I can see my life before me

Running rings around the way

It used to be

I am older now

I have more than what I wanted

But I wish that I had started

Long before I did

- “Wasted On The Way”, Crosby, Stills, and Nash

Diane was wide awake and fresh and talkative. Having someone new to relay the night’s events to was fun. But that energy quickly drained from me as we neared the top of the alpine slopes. We did pass one person on the climb up, though, so that was encouraging. And then at the top of the slope, what the hell was that? A pick-up truck? Really? The truck was coming down the slope toward us and the driver asked if that was a dirt road we just came out of. We answered yes … obviously he was not someone helping with the race as I had previously thought. He drove onto the dirt road and I thought out loud to Diane “I wonder if he knows there is no outlet from that?” We got a bit of a chuckle from this and then thought we better get outta there before he came back looking for us!

The sun was out in full-force and the heat had kicked-up. Where did my perfect overcast day go? Oh yeah … that was yesterday. The view from the top was simply stunning and amazingly a lot of the slick mud spots had dried quite a bit, making the footing much better. I had envisioned sliding down some of the spots on my fanny.

We made it to the bottom still standing vertical. My knees were screaming despite the assistance of the trekking poles and the knee straps that I had on. When I got to the bottom I knew exactly what I wanted and I didn’t want to waste any time. Joe and Karen were there just waiting to keep me going. Ice water in the pack, cold Dr. Pepper to drink, and Pringles to eat on the fly. That’s all I needed; it was time to get this baby done. There was still time to blow this and I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen … and in my mind, as long as I didn’t stop too long, I was going to get it done.

3:33pm, Gravel Pit Aid Station, mile 96.

Another shot before we kiss the other side

Tonight, yeah baby, tonight, yeah baby

I’m on the edge of something final

We call life tonight, alright, alright

- “Edge Of Glory”, Lady GaGa

We walked and jogged a bit down Tone Road and power hiked it up Carson. Man, that sun was just brutal! Thank goodness for the occasional breeze, but I couldn’t wait to get in to the shade of the woods. And I was so grateful when we turned back into the woods.

Diane just kept talking … about everything and anything … and I was pretty much limited to one-word grunts at this point. It was just good to have someone talk without expecting me to answer and the distraction was so nice. We power hiked and jogged off and on and picked our way through the technical section. Once out of the major root tripping sections we actually ran for a bit. And amazingly it felt good. Just before reaching the Gravel Pit we passed another runner and his pacer, who had seen me when I was dying back at Daisy Hollow. He commented on how good it was to see that I had recovered. It really is welcoming when others notice this change in you and I try to be vigilant of it when I see others so I can encourage them.

At the Gravel Pit Joe was waiting for me, offering me a chair. Nope. No time. I took two cups of Coke and just said “I gotta go”. One kiss and we were off running. In my messed up mind I was still worried about the cut-off for finishing. And once passing someone I really did not want to get passed back. I wasn’t winning this thing, but it just felt great to be able to pick someone off.

I had no idea where I was on this trail. I had never seen it in the light before. Diane kept asking me where we were and how much further and I was totally clueless. It seemed like it took forever to reach the crossing at Clute Road … with at least three gigantic cruel speed bumps coming down the last section of trail. They might as well have been mountains!

FINALLY we crossed Clute Road. As we headed down Vinnedge Road I could see someone up ahead coming toward us, yelling at us. Damned if I could tell who it was, but I just knew it meant we were nearing the end. Diane kept yelling that I was getting this done, that I was finishing, that I conquered this baby, and all I could do was just grunt. I didn’t even have the energy to start celebrating. At this point I knew by the time that I would finish well under the cut-off, but my energy was just drained. I felt like I could have fallen asleep standing up.

We finally reached the person who was coming at us and it was Audrey … another fresh friendly face encouraging me. Man this was so cool! Thinking about it now, I wish I’d had the energy to celebrate this moment a bit more. But I had nothing. I just wanted to be done and sit down. And have a beer. So we pushed on down the road which seemed excessively long. I didn’t remember being on this road for this long before. Finally after we had gone for some distance I told Diane that I didn’t think that the turn was this far down the road. Now common sense says that since we didn’t pass any opening into the woods as we were going along that we obviously had not reached the turn yet. Yet I was certain that I was not supposed to be going this long on this road. So Diane ran ahead and finally found the trail head as I just stood there in a cloud of confusion. Finally … the turn to home.

As we hit the final black top sidewalk stretch that rounds Hope Lake I could hear foot steps behind us. I thought for sure it was the runner we had passed just before the Gravel Pit. But I turned around to find Will making a strong comeback! Holy crap … where did he come from? Will was smiling and energetic and tried to get me to run to the finish with him, but I knew that rounding the lake was further than it seemed and I didn’t want to start my victory run too soon.

Coming around the lake we could hear the cheers coming from the finish line. This was it; I was going to finish. I fought back the tears and tried to run as hard as I could and not look like total crap when I came into the finish. No good … I looked like crap. Diane was awesome and did a fantastic job getting me through those last 13.5 miles. I know I was not the best company and she just kept on talking whether I responded or not. That was what I needed.

Sunday, September 23, 4:56pm, Hope Lake FINISH LINE, mile 100.4!!!!!!

I am woman, hear me roar

In numbers too big to ignore

And I know too much to go back an’ pretend

‘Cause I’ve heard it all before

And I’ve been down there on the floor

No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

Oh yes, I am wise

But it’s wisdom born of pain

Yes, I’ve paid the price

But look how much I’ve gained

If I have to, I can do anything

I am strong

I am invincible

I am woman

You can bend but never break me

‘Cause it only serves to make me

More determined to achieve my final goal

And I come back even stronger

Not a novice any longer

‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul

- “I Am Woman”, Helen Reddy

I crossed the finish line in 34 hours, 56 minutes … the longest I have ever run! I fell directly into Joe’s arms and couldn’t hold the tears back any longer. I did it. I finished. Wow. What an amazing feeling! I dropped to the ground and received my first ever 100 mile buckle and an awesome beer cup from Ian. Joel immediately filled my cup with beer and that IPA never tasted so good! I was immediately re-awakened and so happy to be with my friends. All the pain … it was gone. At least for the moment. I felt totally revived. Thank you to Ian for giving me the challenge of a lifetime, for helping me to find out what I really can do and just how tough I can be. Thank you to Joe for taking such great care of me and knowing what I needed when I sure as hell didn’t. Thanks to Karen and Diane for taking good care of me on the trail … for getting me through so many tough miles. You two are tough ladies. And I know that I can’t thank any of you enough … the only way that I could think of to really thank you was to finish. To let you know that your time out there was not wasted. And thank you to all the countless volunteers who were out there day and night and day again … especially waiting for those of us at the bitter end. You all were amazing!

It is so hard to leave the race site after the race … all I want to do is just celebrate the moment with everyone. Everyone who conquered the 50 and 100 mile distances … we were amazing! But finally it was time to go. Time to prepare to get back to reality.

And the totally best part about this race? Seriously? The just 45 minutes drive to our house, to the comfort of our own home and a hot shower. Joe and I made a stop at the State Diner … I wasn’t sure which meal to eat but I knew that I had missed breakfast and that’s what I craved. Coffee, omelet, home fries, toast. I wanted it all. And I ordered a second order of it plus some rice pudding for the just-in-case moment of hunger in the middle of the night. And I did get up around 2:30am for a snack of mac ‘n cheese, rice pudding, and beer. And hit the rest of the food a few hours later. Man, I love recovery!

So that’s the story. For once I didn’t cry during the race. My whining (out loud) was limited. I kept a pretty clear brain most of the time. I had only fleeting hallucinations, seeing branches and rocks that I thought were animals. It was the ideal run that I had been hoping for. And as I whined the last few miles and cursed the hills and rocks, swearing that if I was to get this done I would never have to do it again … I now wonder. The hard work was so worth it. I enjoyed every moment. And I’m already thinking about going for it again next year. No guts, no glory. This was the best challenge ever! I came out of this with only one blister and soon-to-be couple less toenails. Zero chafing. It was a good weekend on the trails.

And that moleskin I had superglued to my heel? It fell right off at the end of the race!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

yup ... once again, it's been awhile ...

as always, i have good intentions of keeping up with this blog.  and then reality hits.  i don't know what happens; i gather all of my thoughts when i am out running, compose what i want to write, and yet, somehow just getting on the blog just doesn't seem to happen.  thinking about it, i think i have facebook to blame for that.  getting ready for races, exchanging training thoughts, reminiscing after races ... it all happens instantaneously on facebook.  so when i think i want to get on the blog i guess i just feel like i am repeating myself.  so thinking about groups of events and coming to conclusions seems like a good thing to blog about now ... it just takes more time.  so here goes.

i have been dealing with plantar fasciitis since last fall ... and i have to say dealing with because i think this is a problem that never actually goes away for good, but can be overcome and put into a dormant state.  i no longer have the heal pain but find a "stiff" foot after i sit for long periods and when i get up in the morning.  pain in the butt, yes, but a good reminder to stretch; something that i am very bad about doing.  and yes, i am still running in the Hokas ... and still love, love, love them!  have actually only found one race that i wanted to chuck them at, but other than that they are my savior.  so here's what i've been up to ... me and my Hokas ... and of course, my best crew man, love of my life, Joe ...

June:  got through the 24th running of The Finger Lakes Fifties.  my chance to put on a big party of running for others.  i love this.  stressful?  definitely.  exhausting?  like you wouldn't believe.  harder than any ultra i have actually run.  worth it?  oh yes!  however, getting ready for and cleaning up after this event takes me away from my own actual running for a couple of months.  but seeing the runners on race day quickly brings me back to wanting to hit the trails for endless hours.

July:  my get-my-shit-back-together month and get actually training again.  this year "training" actually meant running The Escarpment Trail Run in the Catskills.  i have a love-hate relationship with this run.  it is, by far, one of the toughest runs that i have ever done.  it is a mere 18.6 miles ... but with 10,000 feet of elevation gain and loss and ALL TRAIL.  there are climbs and descents that scare the hell out of me.  and this year it was pouring rain for hours before the start and the fog left the visibility ... well ... something to be desired.  best thing about that, though, was that i couldn't see off of the mountain while trying to ascend my nemesis, blackhead mountain.  this was my first really technical run with my new Hoka Stinson Evos and they held-up like champs!  my feet felt great the whole way!  i am certain this was the funnest run i have ever done out of the eight times that i have run this race.

                             (view of North/South Lakes from North Point ... a mere 2.5 miles from the finish)

August:  just two weeks after Escarpment came the Wildcat Ridge Romp in NJ.  here there was the choice of several different distances and i opted for the 50K, as did joe.  things didn't start out so good when just two days before the race joe and i went out for a little easy trail run to enjoy our 10th anniversary and get one last light run in before the race.  but just 3/4 mile into the run ... SPLAT! ... and i look back and there's joe on the ground ... not getting up.  at closer inspection i find that his right pinky finger is quite deformed and thinking that it is dislocated and knowing that the longer something is dislocated the harder it is to get back in place, i offer to fix it right there.  joe was a trooper and let me yank on his finger, which after a couple of yanks did not look anything like what a finger should look like.  here's why ...

so joe is doing much better now after seeing the orthopedist and luckily avoiding surgery ... mostly because there is no good way to surgically fix this thing.  so for now he is just having to behave himself and not run ... or fall.

but back to the Wildcat.  what a race!  holy crap ... that was the hardest 50K i have ever done!  elevation not so bad, but the rocks and the footing were brutal!   8 hours, 25 minutes!  good time on my feet, excellent training, but ... WOW!  good times and great fun with friends!

                                                       "clean" runners ... obviously pre-race!

and then, just this past weekend, joe and i made our bi-annual trek to lockport for the Beast of Burden ultra.  normally i run the winter race and joe runs the summer.  this year joe decided (prior to his accident) not to run the summer race.  so i, for once, made a realistic choice ... to run the 50 miler and not attempt the 100.  this race is just too damn much fun with the other runners and the volunteers.  i want to have fun with them.  yes, definitely run, but i want time to just hang out and have a good time.  so the 50 was a good choice for this.  and then my friend karen decided to go for the 100 and go after the "Double Buckle" (completing both the winter and summer 100s in the same year).  very cool.  i got my 50 miles done, but let me just say it wasn't easy!  that flatness is tough!  walk, run, whatever ... it's the same muscles groups working over and over.  my hip flexors never hurt this bad on the mountains!  so i got my 50 done and was sure i would be crippled the next day.  joe was awesome crew for me, for karen, and for johnny and mo from NJ ... and probably helping so many others along the way!  i woke up sunday morning after about 5 hours of sleep and stood up, walked, and felt pretty damn good!  the Hokas kept my feet in great shape!  joe and i quickly realized that we needed to get ourselves out to the Middleport turn-around so that we could catch karen as she headed back for her final trip along the canal.  and we got there just in time!  she was all set to head out!  i was hoping she would want company (she normally goes it alone without a pacer) and she willingly accepted the idea.  i quickly threw on my running clothes, grabbed a waffle from the aid station, and we headed out.  unfortunately i had not had my coffee yet and with the adrenaline rush of almost missing karen, i forgot to grab any caffeine, and a couple of miles into the run my head started to feel a bit foggy.  fortunately joe caught us along the way and got my cold coffee to me.  cold or not, it was exactly what i needed.  and karen was doing awesome and i didn't want to hold her back because i was decaffeinated.  coffee, donuts, and some love at the Gasport aid station, and we were on our way to karen claiming the Double Buckle!  and we made it and she was awesome!  i am so glad we got out to Middleport in time ... it was a great honor to pace my friend to her finish and a great confidence booster for me ... getting going again early in the morning after a tough 50 miles just hours before.

                                                 the many emotions and friendships of BoB ...

and so that's what's the summer of running and fun has been.  i can't wait for the fall and cooler temps and the beauty of the falling leaves and muddy trails.  and the upcoming celebration of Virgil Crest Ultras ... where the whole damn crazy bunch of us will reunite on the trails and push our mental and physical limits once again!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


oh.  my.  god.  freaking amazing!  i have tried so many different running shoes ... different styles, different brands, and really thought that the "minimalist" movement was the way to go.  i enjoyed some fast (for me) times, the feeling of light feet and being able to feel the ground under my feet as i ran in my minimal shoes.  and then injury happened in the form of plantar fasciitis and i was brought back to mortality.  since pretty much in remission of the PF i have still struggled with finding the right "fit" for my feet.  the minimalist shoes didn't work for me any more and just the thought of the PF kept me from even considering going back to them.  i have seen the Hoka One One sneakers and my initial thought was ... NO FREAKING WAY.  aside from the ridiculous appearance, it just didn't seem right to have a sole so thick that i might break my ankle if i should fall off of the shoes!  and how could you possibly navigate gnarly trails without "feeling" the ground under your feet?  and then it was suggested that i just try on a pair.  well, a few steps in those babies and i was hooked.  they are like pillows under your feet!  i got right on it and got me a pair of the Hoka One One Stinson Bs.  day one, right out of the box, 8.5 miles ... ON PAVEMENT!  cannot even remember the last time i did this - or wanted to do this.  no feeling of clumsiness, no tripping over my own feet, no twisting of the ankles or falling off of the shoes that i feared.  and best of all ... NO PAIN.  and it was actually fun!  i felt like i was floating.  no foot pain.  no knee pain.  no back tightness.  these shoes are the clydesdale's dream!  finally ... a shoe built for my, ummmm, stature.  and despite their bulky appearance, these shoes are feather light ... kind of like me.

a friend of mine wore the Hokas at MMT 100 this year and thought they were amazing.  and i know just how horrible the rocks of MMT are, so this says a lot.  and now that i am armed with this ammunition i did something that i swore i would never do again ... i registered for The Escarpment Trail Run (30K) in the catskills.  i have done this race 7 times and it's gnarly and it's a bitch.  but i can't tell you how much i am looking forward to tackling #8 in the Hokas.

AND i can't wait to tear-up the FLAT Erie Canal Towpath in them at the summer Beast of Burden.  and the rocks, roots, and hills of Virgil Crest.  and i am actually going to tackle a ROAD RACE - something i haven't done in ages - at the CanLake 50K in october.  these shoes have brought new life to my running, which has really been struggling for a while.  they are the physical and mental answer that i have been looking for.  i feel like a kid again!

so, conclusion?  who the hell cares what these shoes look like ... especially in the very slight size 10.5 men's that i wear?!  these shoes are awesome and i am hooked!  the only downside?  the price.  they are a bit pricey, but can you really put a price on happiness?  apparently so.  but running is my sanity and it's a small price to pay for staying sane.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Catching Up and Cutting Back

holy crap ... seriously?  my last post was february?  man i am getting pitiful at keeping up this blog.  and time just seems to be getting away from me.  well, let's go back to what i've been up to ...

march - signed up for the NJ Ultra Fest 100 Miler.  thought of cutting it back to the 50 Miler but things seemed to be going good with the foot with my training, so i thought "why not?"  so i thought i would go for the 100M and see what i could do, since i was pretty sure that i could make it to 50 miles and if that is what i signed up for then i would certainly not try to push any further and i wanted to test the hoof and see where i was at.  so here's how things went down ...
loop 1 - 1:49. too fast. i knew it, but i didn't feel like i was going too fast and i had even included some walking. stretched my foot/calf, restocked my fuel, and headed back out.
loop 2 - 2:05. still too fast. and it was warming up and the sun was out. still fuelling good and feeling strong and the foot was still doing great.
loop 3 - 2:24. it appears by the time that i was getting my pace "normalized" but not really. still too fast ... the time just accounts for a bit of a bathroom break, eating, and socializing. foot still doing great.
loop 4 - 2:27. same as loop 3. really, still too fast. more socializing and another bathroom break.
loop 5 - 2:33. starting to slow some, but this time included clothing change and a longer period of stretching of my foot and leg. mentally getting tired of the flatness of the course and my hip flexors were started to wince just a bit. but i wasn't tired and i just needed to keep moving. so i did.
loop 6 - 2:57. really starting to tire of the flatness now. really wished i had some hills to stretch out my legs better. felt that i really was not fuelling that great now ... would have liked more "real food" and just wasn't getting what i need into me. but was getting enough energy from honey stinger waffles to keep moving. around mile 56 my right foot started to have intermittent twinges of pain in the heel and i got really nervous about the PF. it nagged me all the way back to mile 60 and that is when i decided that enough was enough. no way i was going to push it and end up flaring up the PF again and go through months of that hell! fortunately one of the RDs, rick, said i could go out on the 2 mile loop so that i could complete the 100K ... and get the coveted finisher jacket. hell, i could that!
loop 7 - 41:39. so this time looks ridiculous for 2 miles ... i was slow, but not that slow! knowing that i was done, i did spend a lot of time in the aid station talking with friends and eating. time didn't matter anymore, so why not have fun? got through the 2 miles, got my awesome fleece jacket and finisher medal, and sat down with good friends and good beer and just felt great that this "training run" actually went quite well.

so this was a good training run for the Peak Ultra 100 Miler (aka, McNaughton, in pittsfield, vt) in may.  my foot recovered just fine the day after NJ, so obviously nothing too bad was going on with the PF.  i felt really strong about my training for Peak, mentally and physically.  i had done my hill training.  i had trialed different fuelling strategies.  i had done hiking and running with the trekking poles.  i had studied the course and pictures from previous years.  i was as ready as i thought i could be.  but then we hit the course.  the hills were what i expected and i used trekking poles, which were a definite plus.  fuelling and hydration went well.  but then there was this ridiculous 1 mile section of mud and bushwhacking at the end of the 10 mile loop.  this section just broke me, mentally and physically, on each loop.  i think i fell here on each time around.  and in mid-day the heat really kicked up, which only tore at my wasting state.  on my third loop i opted to not utilize the "bridge" (an i-beam turned sideways - yet another challenge of the course) and waded across the "stream".  well, the stream was mid-thigh on me (so i guess i would say that anyone much shorter than me should have avoided this route) and the water was more powerful than it looked.  it was a bit of a struggle to get across but, man, did that cold water feel so excellent on my tired legs and it served to break the heat a bit and refresh me.

joe had signed up for the 50 miler but instead of running in the 50 mile "race" which was a different course, he opted to run his 50 miles with me as my pacer on my last 50 miles.  well, after i had completed three loops and time-wise things were not going as well as expected, and it already looked that likely i would not be able to complete the entire 100 miles within the given 36 hours.  so the RD gave joe the go-ahead to come out with me so that he could start getting his miles in.  it was nice to have the company on my fourth loop, as i had pretty much been running alone for the previous 30 miles.  but things just seemed to be falling further back for me, maybe somewhat because i knew that this was now turning into a 36-hour run to see how much i could do, instead of a 100 mile race.  and this mentally tore at me some more.  so after almost 14 hours of running and 40 miles under my belt, i really could not face hitting that damn bush-whack section in the dark.  the B&B we were staying at was less than 1/4 mile down the road and after talking it over with joe, we decided that a hot shower and a good night's sleep and then getting up early and getting in what we could on day #2 would be good.  now looking back at it, time-wise maybe, just maybe, i could have kept going and got the finish ... but as i was slowing significantly on an already slow pace, it was turning more into a death march than the enjoyable run i was hoping for.

so back to the B&B we went.  the hot shower was so very refreshing.  the climb up into (and subsequently out of several times) from the top bunk proved to be a bit, um, challenging.  somewhere in the middle of the night i got up and the first step on the floor sent ridiculous pain up my right heel.  well, to say that it freaked me out is a gross understatement.  as i walked around the pain continued.  WTF???!!!  the PF didn't seem to be acting up at all while i was running.  shit!  no way did i want to start the whole recovery crap all over again, so once joe was up i told him what was going on and that i was done.  i so didn't want to risk more injury and more recovery time.  i knew that he wanted to get in as much as he could so i made the call to switch into crew mode for him while he became the runner.  and i had not a single regret doing this.  i knew that at this point i would only hold joe back if i went out on the course with him and i knew that he had more gas in the tank to get some miles in.  and he was amazing.  his first 10 mile loop was around 3 hours, 15 min!  and he looked great coming in.  a quick turn-around and he was back out on the course again.  by that time the heat was kicking back up again and the second loop was quite a bit slower because of that.  joe came back in after loop #2 of the day looking just spent ... pale, tired, dizzy.  for him the 50 miles was not going to happen either.  so neither of us reached our mileage goals but we totally challenged ourselves on that wicked course.  and, as always, we had a BLAST with all of our old and new running buddies.  in the end it was a great weekend!

so, what did i learn from this great experience?

i enjoy challenging myself.

i really don't enjoy the 100 mile distance.  i do enjoy the 50 mile distance ... it's challenging but doesn't kill me and i get to sit around and drink beer and enjoy the company of good friends after.  that's what i like.

i still don't really get the whole injury/recovery process.  some days my foot feels great and then ... BAM! ... it's giving me grief again.  there were no long-lasting effects with what i thought was the PF flaring up again, but i haven't really found out (and am scared to try it) just how far i can push the envelope with stressing the foot.  what is just short-term pain versus what could be impending long-term damage?

i really need to start trying to "race" again as opposed to just looking at races as just another long run.  i want to push myself a bit more instead of "just trying to finish".  i really feel like i can do this with the 50 mile distance or even cutting back to some 50Ks and putting a harder effort into them.

all that said ... no more 100 milers for 2012.  i really think i need to pick JUST ONE 100 miler a year and make that my goal race.  so it's already kind of hard for me to write this report on the 2012 McNaughton when all i can think about is how i am going to attack it in 2013.  and i have a plan.  one that i am not going to share with anyone except to say that it's not likely to be running the 100 miles like everyone else ... i have a plan.  and i am already excited about making McNaughton my goal race for 2013.

some pics of the fun ...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Things Are Looking Up ...

wow. since my foot has been feeling better i am enjoying trying to rebuild my endurance. what i have found is that i no longer have the heel pain of PF, which is so so so great. when i was feeling that pain every day all i could think is that i couldn't remember how it felt to not have pain. now it is becoming a distant memory. last week i felt like i really started to turn the corner in getting back into putting some distance on my feet and it was so mentally boosting.

saturday, 2/11 ... 14.5 miles with my buds, lorrie and sandy. we ran on a flat rail-trail bed, so the surface was good for me, but just as before the injury, i still really do not like that kind of terrain. i love hills and flat running is hard for me ... mostly because i have to run. i like the breaks of hiking up hills and the workout of going down them. so this run was a little faster than i would have liked. my foot felt a bit "tight" after, which resolved with stretching and massage.

sunday, 2/12 ... woke up with my foot feeling rather excellent. wow. maybe that push of running a little faster was actually helpful for it. likely what i was feeling in it after yesterday's run was just a matter of lack of training. so get back at it. ~16 miles today, hilly run from our house to cornell in the snow and wind ... a lot of wind. now this is what i like, although i would have preferred to be on trails, running on the dirt sides of the road was not so bad.

so with back-to-back longish runs i completed the week with 52.5 miles. wow. haven't done that in a long time. and even though it felt great, i guess i still need to remember to not overdo it.

so this week is essentially a non-long run week because of my work schedule. this has been a maintenance/recovery week and i will plan to get that long run in monday. it has been a fun 2 weeks of running and i am so glad to start feeling more normal, in that respect, again.

on another note, i am so proud to say that i received what i find to be an amazing honor in my running life. i was awarded the hartshorne volunteer of the year award by our finger lakes runners club. i feel that this award is such a huge thing because it's not about me running, it's about what i give back to running ... something that i have come to appreciate more and more over the years. i do love to run, but it is so rewarding to help others in a sport that i feel so passionate about. i have never volunteered for anything for the recognition of it. i do it because i want to help others see what a wonderful world the running community is and what a great sport we have. that said, it does feel really awesome to have received this great honor. thank you to all who voted for me!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Where The Hell Have I Been?

seriously? my last post was october 10, 2011? what the hell have i been doing? oh, that's right ... wallowing in the world of self-pity that is injury. my first real injury ... not the kind where something hurts for a day or two and just wears itself away ... the kind that is so painful that it brings your running to a halt and just keeps dragging you down. i think i found the runner's hell.

go back to that last good race which was Oil Creek 100K in october. i had my usual foot burning and tiredness, but i was also experiencing heel pain ... which i chose to ignore and kept running until something else hurt more and took my mind off of it. shortly after that race i had to start taping my right foot to relieve the heel pain. it was annoying but nothing that i couldn't run through. and run i did. fast forward to the first weekend in november to the Stone Cat 50 Miler ... one of my most favorite races. it's a great 50 miler and it's just plain fun. i look forward to it every year. and this year they had REALLY awesome finisher's jackets. however, after 25 miles of trying to ignore that damn heel pain my foot just started to seize-up and i knew there was no way i could just "run through it" this time. i had to accept my first 50 mile DNF and it sucked. and i missed out on that awesome finisher's jacket, which should have been mine! i vowed to take a four week break from running and allow the foot to rest and heal.

fast forward four weeks after stone cat. i saw a sports MD (a friend and athlete himself) who unfortunately didn't tell me anything that i didn't already know. that is why i hate to go to the doctor. plantar fasciitis. ok, i had heard of it, but in my mind it seemed like such a simple little thing that was annoying but not debilitating and could easily be resolved. obviously ... what the hell did i know? i wanted to be fixed right then. well, that didn't happen so i hit the antiiflammatories, started wearing one of those awful bulky and immobilizing night splints, icing, rolling my foot on a golf ball ... you name all the traditional treatments for PF, i was trying them. and after four weeks of not running (and coming to hate my Concept II rower, which i am normally in love with), the foot was "not so bad", so i tried running.

OUCH! the pain continued. really? how long was this going to take to get better? i am not a patient person by nature and this was really taking too long. how could i possibly keep up with my normal eating habits if i couldn't run the food off? ok, the traditional methods for treating PF obviously were not working; time to try something new. i poured over anything i could find on the internet about treating PF and saw something about Active Release Therapy. and, lucky for me, we have someone in ithaca who knows how to do this. so after e-mailing and talking with local chiropractor Gerrit Van Loon, i got right on the phone and scheduled an appointment.

WOW ... all i can say is wow. after just one session i certainly was not cured, but i can say that i was already walking differently ... normally. and now after numerous treatments ... albeit painful and a serious workout, since i usually break-out into a sweat just lying there on the table (joe says to me during one treatment where i was lying there sweating and my eyes popping out of my head ... "tickles a bit, doesn't it?" tickle wasn't the word i was looking for) i can run again!

so where am i at?

1 - i can run again. not up to the mileage that i would like, but i was able to run 37.5 miles at the winter Beast of Burden last week (ok, i was supposed to run the 100 miler, but with the lack of training and still not fully recovered, 100 miles was not going to happen, so being able to run my longest run since november felt awesome ... but still made me cry because i wanted to do more!).

2 - i have had to switch back to running in my heavy brooks cascadias with a cushiony dr. shol's heel/arch support. at first i was very disappointed to not be running in my light weight minimal shoes but then i came to the conclusion ... i would rather be running in anything, as long as i am running! and i love my cascadias and plan to stick with them.

3 - i have started stretching and massaging before, during, and after running ... something i have never been very good about. i now realize the tightness in my right calf is directly related to my right foot issues. when my calf is loose and feeling good, so is my foot.

4 - i need to cut back on my long races and be realistic about my expectations. i was scheduled to run the 100 miler at the NJ Ultra Fest in march. i realized after BoB that there was no way that i could get in the proper training for 100 miles in march and i would not go into another 100 "just to see what i could do". so i downgraded to the 50 miler. 50 miles is fun and i feel like i can get in some good training runs for that distance at this point.

5 - injuries are expensive! i have spent a ridiculous amount of $$ on this damn PF! trying different splints, different shoe types (so many people told me "you need a shoe with good arch support" ... well, i tried those and the stiffness of those stability shoes just sent my right IT band crying and actually made the PF feel worse), to paying the chiropractor (which i WILL say was the best money i spent ... fixing the current problem and hopefully preventing future ones! thank you, Gerrit!).

6 - pavement sucks. i already knew this. trails rock! but this injury just confirms ... no matter how cushy my shoes are, pavement still hurts me.

7 - i love to be barefoot, but i am re-learning to love my birkenstock sandals. they have been a savior.

so that is where i am at. i am clawing my way out of injury hell. i am trying to re-create my running self. could this injury have actually been a good thing in disguise? it's hard for me to actually admit that it could be, but it really has made me realize some things about my running and correct things that i didn't know needed correcting, which i hope will keep me going longer and stronger. i am not totally cured yet and continue to do stupid things, like running a 10K on the pavement and suffering in the days following. but i will be back and i am so looking forward to training for this upcoming 50 miler. no matter how long the run takes me, i plan to enjoy and savor every moment that i am out on the trail!