Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Not A DNF ... Just Plain FD

OK, so it's six months into the year and this is only my second post.  To say that my attention to this blog has been pitiful is an understatement.  I have been running and getting out and doing fun stuff, I just haven't felt like writing for some reason.  Well, a little introspection is sometimes a good thing and might actually bring a little perspective back to my running.  Plain and simple, this year I wanted to avoid what I call the "FOMO Syndrome" (Fear of Missing Out ... signing up for every race because I don't want to miss out on the fun).  Well, that goal went right out the window and I completely blew it.  And in the end I blew up.  The one race I had been looking forward to running for literally years ... well, in the end, it was a bust.

So let me go back to almost the beginning of the year.  My one post for 2014 was about The Beast of Burden 50 miler back in January.  Let me start by saying that I freaking love this race.   Basically it entails several things about running that I absolutely hate.  First of all, it's a flat course.  Flatter than flat.  There are long distances between aid stations.  There are long periods of time when you are alone and feel like there is no one else out there but you.  But here's what I LOVE about this race ... it's in the winter (= brutal weather conditions), the volunteers and race directors are amazing and fun people, my fellow BoB'ers who have been there since the first running of the race keep coming back, it's an out-and-back course so you get to see the race as it unfolds, and it's just plain fun ... because who is really trained to "run" a 50 miler in the snow and wind (and sometimes sleeting rain) in LOCKPORT in January?!  And it is the only race where I never regret not going for the full 100 miles.  50 miles is my limit there and I am always happy with that, no matter what my time.

Forward into February and the Febapple Frozen Fifty (50K) in NJ.  I had an OK finishing time.  The NJ group is always fun and I got to see many of our friends.  But with the snow and then rain and then brutal cold that we had, the course was a mess of post-holing through hard snow and not very runnable.  But all in all I had fun.  This was my first official race running as a Team FLRTC ambassador and I was proud to wear the logo and advertise Finger Lakes running.  I have to say, just having the support and encouragement of this team really helped to make a hard run much more enjoyable and helped push me to the finish.

So two ultras in two months, one would think that some rest would be in order, right?  Wrong.  March shows up with the usual fun of The St. Patrick's Day 4-Miler in Binghamton, which I have to say is truly a "race" for me.  There is no "just finishing" here.  I have won the Athena Division (aka, Big Ladies Division) every year that I have run this race.  I want to keep this streak going as long as I can.  And they have beer at the finish ... what more encouragement does one need to put on a little speed?  So this race is serious business for me.  Then two weeks later was the HAT Run 50K in Maryland.  I hadn't done this race for about 5 years so I really wanted to go back and try it again.  As always, it was fun and I made my usual stupid mistakes of going out too fast and not fuelling properly on the first loop, but all in all I felt good and got my shit together on lap two and had a decent run.  Most importantly I finished feeling way better than I felt at the end of the first lap!

Alrighty, on to April and the first local race where our Team FLRTC could really show off our stuff.  In general, I really do not enjoy road races but the roads are a necessary evil around here if you want to stay in good running shape throughout the winter.  It was a beautiful sunny and warm day and I ran a bit slower than I would have liked ... but let's face it, I don't run on roads really enough to think I should be able to race fast on them.  And I am a few years older than the last time I had done a long-ish road race.  And I looked at it as a nice endurance speed set-up for a 50K I would be doing in two weeks.  Yup ... two weeks later we were off to Ohio for the Mohican Forget The PR 50K (and Joe running the 25K).  This race was held on some really beautiful trails and I really loved the course.  And they had PEEPS at one of the aid stations.  I was in heaven.  Given the insane climbs and thigh-deep water crossings that were part of this course, I was happy with my just-over-7-hour finish.  And everything was feeling good.  And they had beer at the finish and gave out cool finisher mugs so that you could keep refilling.  Pretty sweet.  I used to study course maps but then at one point I figured I am not leading these races, I can just follow the others, and stopped looking at course maps.  I need to start looking at course maps again.  This is the SECOND (yes, that means I did not learn the first time) race where I thought since there was a 25K and a 50K race that the 50K was just two loops of the 25K loop.  Well, it wasn't.  Fortunately I had put on my good sneakers for the "first loop" and generously filled my pack with some good snacks.  I had plans for the "second loop" but ... well, you get it.  Thank goodness I survive these things despite myself.

And then came May.  Whoa ... how did that happen?  I was not signed up for an ultra?  Well, better make up for that by doing a weekend of back-to-back trail half marathons ... one that was all-out runnable (Allegany Adventure Run in Salamanca) followed by a not-so-runnable-serious-climbs-with-suicidal-descents half marathon (Greenwood Furnace Trail Challenge in PA).  Obviously this would be a great set-up to try and run a Boston Marathon qualifier in two weeks.  Off to Augusta, NJ, for 3 Days at the Fair.  Joe had signed up for the 48 hour race (48 hours of running on a 1-mile paved loop).  The plan was for me to crew for him and help him to reach his goal of 90 miles.  So I thought, he really won't need me for those first few hours of the race, so why don't I just bang out a marathon and then I can help him?  Again, I am not a real road runner.  Nor have I actually "run" 26 miles consecutively in I can't remember when.  That is why I like trails.  Run a little, walk a little.  And eat.  Real food.  Apparently you can't really do that when you are trying to run fast.  And did I mention that I am not a fan of flat or pavement?  Yup, had both of those, too.  So I just wanted to get it over with so I could make one last trip back to Boston.  And about five minutes into the race it started to rain.  And then it poured.  For the whole race.  I felt pretty decent until about mile 20 and then I really just wanted it to be over.  I stopped by our tent to grab a fresh water bottle and there was a giant cookie on the table and all I could think about was that if this was an ultra I could eat that cookie.  But I didn't.  I kept running until I came upon Joe and my friend Eva, both enjoying their 48-hour runs, and I just melted down.  Screw this, I didn't care if I qualified or not.  This was not fun.  And then Eva asked what I needed to do for those final three miles in order to qualify.  I knew that 10-minute miles would easily get me under the 3:55 that I needed and Eva gave me so much encouragement to get me going again.  I fumbled on mile 24 but once I crossed the timing mat and saw where I was at it was game-on again.  And I threw-down two more sub-9 minute miles to get the job done and I was a Boston Marathon qualifier!  Cool ... now I could get on with what I was really here to do ... crew for Joe.  And he was amazing in some pretty crazy weather and finished with 80 miles in less than 30 hours!

Alrighty ... that was a good little speed workout and I had two weeks to recover before Cayuga Trails 50.  Nice.  I guess I was a little tired but I took it easy for those two weeks and come CT50 race day I felt great.  For the first 1/4 of the race anyway.  It was a beautiful day but the heat really kicked-up and, oh, those stairs!  Again, did I really look at the course map?  Of course not; I ran this last year.  So when I came out at the top of the entrance to Buttermilk Falls and the volunteer told me that I was going to keep going straight (and not turn left and cross the stone bridge like we did last year), my insides kinda turned.  I had only been on this section of trail once before and I remembered it being a little, ummm, brutal.  Crap.  But what are you gonna do?  Actually, my body felt pretty strong throughout the race and mentally, I guess I kept it together.  Somewhere probably around mile 38-ish one of my trail angels was out there with some good running beer ... yup ... that would be the Lucifer Steps.  No GI issues while drinking that on the run!  Good stuff and just what I needed.  But by the time I got to the Underpass Aid Station I was craving something more than water again.  But they were out of soda.  And Joe was out of the soda that I had in the cooler.  Sometimes you just have to improvise.  I had a Pale Ale in the cooler that would just have to do.  And that 12 ounces went down very well and I was off to get this last seven miles done.  The next four miles were pretty interesting to say the least.  And the last three miles just a little painful.  But I got it done in not a bad time for me, especially given the heat, which my slight-build of a body pretty much detests.  A few beers and burgers later and recovery was well under way.

So a 50-miler just two weeks before a scheduled 70-miler is a good build-up, right?  Just rest for those two weeks and get that 70 done.  After all, it's not like it's a 100 miles.  I got this.  Off to Ohiopyle, PA, for the Laurel Highlands 70.5 mile ultra.  I have wanted to do this race for years but it always came so close to the Finger Lakes Fifties and I always had too much stuff to get done for the race to be able to run the LH race.  So finally, not having to worry about the FL50s this year, I had my chance to run Laurel Highlands.  We got to our lodging on Friday night a bit later than I would have liked.  And it was raining.  And I had to get my stuff together and try to get some sleep.  I actually started to feel a little overwhelmed.  And I thought, "do I really have to do this?"  But this race was a long time coming and I thought once I get out on the trail it will all be good.  I got a few hours of sleep and woke feeling rested but still wondering, "what if I just overslept and missed the start?  That wouldn't be so bad."  But Joe was ready to crew and I just thought my feelings would pass.  I actually felt apprehensive at the start, which really is not normal for me.  But pretty soon we were off and running.  The trail was really nice but with A LOT of climb in the first 11.9 miles.  I was sweating like mad from the effort and drinking like crazy but never feeling like I was quenching my thirst.  I ate but was still feeling cranky.  Electrolytes didn't help.  The talk of the other runners and their laughter annoyed me.  I was not having fun.  I have been known to feel like shit during races but never this early on.  So by the time I got to Joe at 11.9 miles I just wanted to be done.  I didn't want to be out there; I just didn't want to run.  Nothing was physically wrong and I was mentally OK, I just didn't want to be there.  But somehow he and a volunteer convinced me to go on.  So I walked and I ate and drank but the energy, physical and mental, just wasn't there.  Joe told me to look around and enjoy the beauty of the trail.  I tried but I just was not seeing it; this was not fun.  Some friends caught up and passed me and we chatted a bit and I ran some miles with another friend and it was nice.  But I was not out here to walk 70 miles.  I am no elite athlete and somehow it always seemed like it is OK when an elite runner just isn't having a good day and they stop so that they can save themselves for another day.  I am not elite and my only goal is always just to finish.  Sometimes I have a time goal in my head, but mostly I want to enjoy the run and do the best I can.  And on this day my best was not good enough to satisfy what I wanted to get done.  So why shouldn't I save myself for another day?  So when I got to Joe again at mile 19.6 I pulled the plug.  He did his best to try to get me to keep going, saying things would get better, and they might have, but the truth was I just wanted to be anywhere else but running on a trail for the next 16+ hours.  I took my number off and gave it to the aid station chief and all of a sudden felt very relieved.  It was over and I was OK with this.  This was not a DNF ... I was just plain FD (credit for this term goes to the wonderful BoB ladies who coined it ... just plain "F-ing Done").  I have used this term more than once.  Thank you, ladies.

So now I'm back home and back out running some short easy miles.  And I'm feeling happy again, waiting for my Escarpment entry code to arrive in the mail so that I can finalize my entry.  And I'm not registered for any ultras until the end of August when the Green Lakes 100K comes around.  I'm excited for Escarpment and excited to take time and rest and really prepare for GLER.  And I just plan to take it one race at a time.

Thank you to all who had the endurance to make it to the end of this report.  Maybe I should start writing more often.  Hmmmm.  So in closing I will admit that I signed up for way too many races this spring.  But it's not completely all my fault.  It really stinks that races just fill up so fast that you have to start looking at them months in advance and sign-up just so you won't get shut-out.  Well, forget that ... next year if I get shut-out then it just wasn't meant to be.  And then there's the fact that if I was still a race director this year I would not have had time for all of this anyway.  So next year I plan to do some more volunteering again.

And wow, June is half-way over.  Time flies when you're living race to race.  Never again.  And yes, this all sounds a little insane to me when I put it down in writing ...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

2014 BoB ... And Avoiding The FOMO Syndrome

OK, 2014 is here and it's time to get a new year of running and racing started.  A new year means some pretty exciting things in store or me.  First of all, I was accepted into the NUUN Ambassador program as a "NUUN fan", which means representing a company and a hydration product that I really love and really believe in.  NUUN is great-tasting, has a clean and crisp flavor, and does not fill me up like other sports hydration products do; it provides pure hydration and allows me to eat the real food that I love to fuel the fire.  To find out more about this amazing company and their products go to http://www.nuun.com/company/about.

So this year my main goal, other than trying to improve on some old races and running some new exciting ones, is to avoid the FOMO Syndrome.  FOMO is the Fear Of Missing Out ... and I have it bad.  Even when a race offers different distances and I register for a race that is not the longest distance offered, I feel like I am going to miss out on some fun.  A lot of my friends will still be out on the course running when I have finished ... and what if they are having fun and I am missing it?  So that is what makes me register for the longer distance, even if not properly trained and even if the race terrain is not completely compatible with what I run best on.  This year I am determined to not just do what my running friends are doing but to register for what is best for me.  We'll see how that goes ...

For many people winter means taking a break from running and racing; a time to recover and enjoy other fun like skiing, snowshoeing, or just taking a break.  For me, January brings the start of my ultrarunning season with the Winter Beast of Burden 100 and 50 Mile runs.  Typically I have signed up for the 100 miler and end of DNFing at the 50 mile point.  This 100 miler is tough because it is FLAT and repetitive and generally I just can't keep my mind in it.  And when things start to physically fall apart I just can't mentally overcome the problems.  But that's the FOMO Syndrome ... all of my friends are doing the 100 and I don't want to be left out.  That's what gets me in trouble.  So this year I got smart and registered for "just" the 50 miler.  But I have to say ... right up until the days before the race I so wanted to email the race director and try to beg my way in to the 100.  Thank goodness for my good friend Karen who set me straight.  At 37.5 miles I was ready for it to be over and at 50 I was just glad to be alive!

We had some great snow and cold in early January which provided some great training - mental and physical - for the race.  And then just weeks before the race a horrible thing happened ... the snow melted.  And it warmed up.  As I watched the forecast leading up to race day I was totally convinced that this year the race would not be a Beast.  But then Mother Nature came through with the forecast of some great winds.  Thank goodness; there was going to be a challenge after all.

So here's the run-down on how things unfolded ...

Race morning came and it was mid 20s and just a little windy.  As usual, I couldn't decide what to wear and slightly overdressed.  Fortunately Joe was out along the course at around 2 miles and I stripped off my outer layer of wind pants and gave them to him.  This made the first 12.5 miles more comfortable.

12.5 miles - 2 hrs, 15 min.  I was soaked in sweat, since the wind had been at my back the entire way.  This is my biggest issue with this race; I lose a lot of time having to change into dry clothes.  It's a long way between aid stations and if not properly dressed, dry, and warm ... well, it can be pretty miserable if not totally hazardous to your health.  So I quickly changed into dry clothes, downed some Ensure, refilled my bottle with NUUN strawberry lemonade, grabbed some chips, and headed back out.

In the middle of the 12.5 mile sections is Gasport and the midway aid station.  You will hit it on each trip between Lockport and Middleport and it is a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because there are great volunteers there and some pretty excellent food; a curse because going inside that heated tent feels so good that you don't want to leave.  Leaving means you are now warmed up and a bit sweaty and having to go back out into the wind and cold.  So despite how amazing the food and people are, you don't want to spend much time here.

25 miles - 5 hrs, 19 min.  OK, this entire 12.5 mile section was directly into the wind.  I was feeling a bit beat-up and cranky from hypoglycemia at this point.  I couldn't wait to get in and have some hot food.  My honey, Joseph, who is the most amazing crew man out there, was waiting for me with dry clothes and whatever else I wanted.  Problem was, I didn't know what I wanted.  I knew that I had to change my shirt and coat (knowing that the trip back to Middleport would have the wind at my back and I would be warmer and sweating more and I didn't want to soak my windstopper jacket, since I would definitely need it for the last 12.5 miles).  So I got some dry clothes on, ate a luke-warmish grilled cheese sandwich (doesn't it figure ... as my luck goes, Lockport AS lost power and just got it back just as I was coming in, so the hot food that I was so looking forward to was not too hot).  Oh well ... I needed to get out of there and give myself an attitude adjustment.

Once leaving the Lockport AS I was running into the wind, which I knew would not last long since I would soon cross the bridge and head the other direction.  So even though I was cold with what I was wearing, I just hoped that once I crossed the bridge I would be warmer.

So I finally crossed the bridge and was back on the towpath.  One big problem for me this year was that there really was no snow on the towpath; it was just a frozen gravel path and it was hard!  At least with the snow there is some cushion under the feet ... this was totally unforgiving.  Whenever I could find a patch of drifted snow I got onto it and it was heaven.

Once I the towpath the wind was again at my back.  Now it was around 4pm and it really didn't feel as warm as it did earlier.  And I didn't feel as warm.  Fortunately, I had tied a windbreaker around my waist when I was leaving Lockport, so I put that on over my two layers that I already had on and just hoped for the best.  As long as I was moving the cold was at least tolerable.  The wind was still at my back and by the time I reached the Gasport AS my water bottle mouthpiece was frozen.  I had hoped that the effervescent NUUN would help to keep this from happening but I guess the windchill was just too much.  Fortunately, they had hot water at the aid station and were able to thaw the mouthpiece for me.

So I left Gasport slightly revived.  Now it was getting dark.  Headlamp on, front and back flasher lights on.  I looked like a freaking Christmas tree moving down the towpath.  Just as I was hitting a bit of a low spot I came upon some people who were waiting for their runner to come by.  They were having a regular party out on the canal (which is drained down pretty low during the winter and frozen pretty solid in some areas).  The guys were out on the ice running and belly-flopping and sliding on their bellies on the ice!  It was hysterical and just a bit of comic relief that I needed.

I ate some more salty caramel GU which made me feel pretty happy inside.  The NUUN was keeping me very well hydrated.  But now the weird thing was that my face just felt cold and my sinuses were actually hurting.  The wind wasn't even blowing in my face.  So I just got to the point where I ran when I could, walked when I couldn't run, and just bitched out loud because there was no one around to listen to me.

37.5 miles - 8 hrs, 58 min.  Thank goodness I finally reached the Middleport AS.  I was hungry and grumpy and just ready for it to be over.  Joe had gotten a ride out to Middleport so that he could run back to the finish with me.  I knew that he would want to go out with me but I worried that he would not be warm enough at the pace I was moving.  And we would be heading directly into the wind for the final 12.5 miles.  So I grumped into the aid station (thank goodness it is in a heated building) and wanted to know who keeps allowing me to sign up for this every year.  I was cold and miserable.  FORTUNATELY, the ladies working this aid station know me and how I swing with this race.  And they know how to take care of me.  Nancey massaged my irritated IT band and Dani had some homemade Bailey's irish cream.  So I had a nice big cup of Bailey's with some coffee to warm it up, some super hot chicken broth, got on some dry clothes, and got my spirits lifted from the group working there.  These volunteers are, bar-none, the very best!

I really emphasized to Joe just how brutal it was out there but he still insisted on running with me.  Thank god!  At this point in the race runners are so spread out that you really end up running alone most of the time.  I drank more Ensure and refilled the NUUN bottle, grabbed some hot grilled cheese, and we were off.  I had gotten dry clothes on and additional layers, so I was very comfortable.  Joe was moving a bit faster than me and I warned him not to get too sweaty because I was not moving all that fast and wet/sweaty plus a headwind could spell disaster.  He slowed to my pace and I was actually starting to enjoy myself again.  The moon and the stars were and it was pretty surreal.

We met up with friends Lisa and Gary who were running the 100 miler and ran with them for a bit.  The cold was still pretty wicked and with about 7 miles left to go my headlamp faded to practically nothing (the cold really drains the power even though I had lithium batteries).  I had a spare set of batteries but Joe's light was enough for the both of us ... and even if his went out the moon was so big and the towpath so flat and clear we would have been fine.  The lights are mostly necessary on this  course for the other runners to see you so that you don't run into or startle each other.

That last 6.5 miles from Gasport to Lockport always seems longer than it is.  It just takes forever.  And then, out of nowhere, I saw the lights of Widewaters Marina on the other side of the canal.  This is the start/finish area in Lockport.  Granted, even when you can see this spot you still have about 2 miles to go, but just seeing it makes everything better.  I was feeling pretty good at this point but the hard frozen ground and the flat terrain were taking its toll on my right IT band.  I really needed a beer to loosen things up.

50 miles - 12 hrs, 32 min.  FINALLY!  THE FINISH!  I made it.  After 5 years of running this event I finally had an actual finish and not a DNF.  I got inside the heated tent and was right away given some pretty amazing beer ... an IPA with 12.5% ABV.  Thank you, Jim!  Joe did an amazing job of getting me to the finish; keeping me moving and running when I just felt like walking.  All of the volunteers, race directors, other runners' crew people ... they all helped to get me to the finish.  This is why I come back to this race every year ... the people are just simply amazing!  Thank you to all of them for a wonderful time!

I had really hoped to run a faster time but then I realized a few things ...

1.  The terrain of this course works against me.  Flat is not my thing ... the repetitiveness on the muscles and joints is really hard for me.

2.  I need to carry more food and eat better between the aid stations.  They are pretty far apart and trying to eat enough before going 5+ miles until the next station is pretty hard.

3.  I lost at least an hour having to change into dry clothes.  I can't say that I wasted this time; it was essential for my survival.  It can be below zero and I still sweat a lot.  And sweat + wind + cold = disaster.  It was necessary to take this time to make sure I was properly clothed and warm.

And what I learned ...

1.  I laughed when Joe got me a box of 40 Hot Hands handwarmers for Christmas.  Guess who knew what the right gift was for me this year?  I love you, Joseph!

2.  No matter how cold it is outside, nothing tastes better than a cold beer at the finish!

Aside from Joseph and all of the other wonderful people, what got me to the finish?
NUUN hydration tablets
Gu salty caramel gels
Butter Pecan Ensure
grilled cheese sandwiches on good old white bread
coffee and Bailey's Irish Cream (I could have used more of this!)

OK ... that ends my winter fun-run, just-survive-and-finish-no-matter-what-the-time run.  Now it's time to focus.  I hope to be better about posting after my next race (this took me 2 weeks to get this together!)  I love the winter but I miss the trails ... maybe it's time to get the snowshoes out!

Pictures to come ... as soon as I figure out why they are not uploading!