50K

Why You Should Try an Ultra

“Running has taken me in, and continues to comfort,

heal and challenge me in all kinds of magical ways.

I am not a ‘good runner’ because I am me.

I am a good ‘me’ because I am a runner.”

– Kristin Armstrong

Some trail humor... not my photo, so I can't take credit. (unsure of source)

Some trail humor… not my photo, so I can’t take credit. (unsure of source)

Today I started my second day out from the Chatfield Hollow 50K with some yoga… or at least I attempted to. I realized very quickly that flexibility and balance postures are a pretty much a joke for me post ultra (shocker, right?) Plus, my dogs kept interrupting to “help”. The good news is that, despite my recovery time getting cut short due to the fur balls, I still felt some immediate relief in my post race soreness and stiffness.

dogyoga“But you’re on the floor… What do you mean you don’t want to play?”

The rest of my day I spent doing some work on the boat with the hubs, catching up with my mom, and, of course, looking up information on other ultras… like 50 and 100 milers… Now I know what you are thinking “Jeez woman you just ran an ultra!”, but I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason. If I came across that finish line on Sunday completely victorious, that might have been it for me for the season (I know, I know! Who am I kidding). However, instead I got my first ultra running DNF; and there is no way I’m going to end my season with an unfinished race!

It’s not so much that I have something to prove. I am completely happy with my performance, DNF or not. What is different about this race is it opened the door to possibility. That course was HORRENDOUS, and yet I basically begged them to let me do a forth lap. I would have done a fifth too and finished had they let me! That is what made me realize that I totally have a 50 miler in me. What’s more, I’d like to do it sooner rather than later.

I may not have come away from Chatfield with a finish, but I did get something better. It ignited a little fire within to push even harder. I went into that race feeling fried, burnt out, and unmotivated. Yet, I came out 40K later completely invigorated. It was as if I had gone back to my roots and renewed my sense of passion for trail running… for ultra running.

The thing that appeals to me so much about ultra running beyond just my love for the trails and community is that it is so much more about character than pure athleticism. Not to say that a certain level of athletic skill isn’t required, but it’s not what’s going to get you to the finish. The drive and push to keep going when your body fails (because it will fail) and the unending pain sets in comes from the heart. Ultras are run on resiliency, determination, and faith more than physical prowess.

I am better at ultra running than any other sport two reasons 1) I love trail running, and 2) I can enduring suffering. The longer the race, the more heavily mental fortitude is favored over speed and talent… (and the faster I look since I tend to run the same pace no matter the distance). Basically, I can hang in there and keep moving regardless of how much it hurts, I am doubting myself, or want to stop. That is my running super power. Sadly, it doesn’t serve me well in short runs. Yet, set me out for a full day on the trails and I will just keep on truckin’.

If you want to have fun and get fit take up a class. However, If you want to learn the absolute depths of your strength and soul, take up ultra running. It’s more than a sport. It’s a mindset and culture that will change your life and build you into a better person. I can fully understand why some people say trail running is their religion. There is no other place in my life where I feel more clarity or at peace than spending 7 or 8 hours running in the woods. Nothing else even comes close.

If you have ever thought about ultra running you should seriously consider trying it. So many people think it’s too hard or far, but the truth is that if you have ever run far enough to have to push through a “wall”, then you can work up to a half marathon, marathon, or ultra. The only difference from one to the next is how many “walls” you have to run through. As long as you hydrate and get enough electrolytes and calories you will continue to get “another wind”. That is the trick to long distance running. You just need to realize that feeling terrible is going to come in waves, and if you hang in there it will get better. Most people just don’t ever push themselves past the first “wall” to realize there’s a second or third.  However, now you know (if you didn’t already), which means you are already well on your way to long distance running success.

On a more serious note, while ultra running may not be for you (yet…) at least consider that there is some distance that could push you outside your comfort zone. Rather than pick a race you know you can finish, choose the one you’re unsure of. The reward is so much greater when it isn’t guaranteed. Plus, it will help open the door to the next challenge.

Truly, there is no greater feeling than accomplishing something you never thought you’d be capable of. Don’t you owe it to yourself to try?

I’m just here for the scenery…

”Running is a road to self-awareness and reliance …

you can push yourself to extremes

and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations

or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet.

But when you are through, exhilarated and exhausted, 

at least for a moment everything seems right with the world…”

-Unknown

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“I’m just here for the scenery” was the half joke I made at the start of the Chatfield Hollow State Park 50K yesterday morning. The truth is I WAS there for the scenery, but I was also there for a very important reason- raising money to support CT-ALIVE (The CT Alliance For Victims of Violence and Their Families). This was my forth year fundraising for victims of domestic violence, and I certainly wasn’t going to sell them short with anything less than an ultra distance. I picked Chatfield Hollow because one year wasn’t a long enough to wipe Bimbler’s Bluff from my memory. Plus, I thought it would be fun to race in a new venue.

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Nature walk to the start. That’s my kind of race!

I was surprised when I looked at the registration list and found only 15 runners had signed up for the 50K with most runners opting for the shorter distances. Of those 15, only three were women… Clearly the rest of the ultra community (and majority of the runners present) knew something I didn’t.  Rather than get nervous over this revelation, I figured the low numbers were due to the close proximity with Bimbler’s. Besides, I was too busy enjoying the gorgeous scenery to worry about the brutality that awaited me!

Plus, I figured that if I could survive Bimbler’s, I could handle anything they threw at me. I just couldn’t imagine it being any worse. What a silly notion!

What I didn’t take into consideration was the stricter time cut offs. The total allotted time for the course was only 8 hours (an hour less than Traprock and 2 less than Bimbler’s). Like Bimbler’s, the course was extremely rocky with a good amount of technical single track trails. There were parts that literally involved scaling up and down rocks which definitely slowed me down. I am not the biggest fan of running on rocky terrain because I am clumsy to begin with; so overall the unstable footing was a detriment to my pace. That’s not to say that I didn’t still enjoy myself because I totally did!

The course was composed of five 10K loops. (Spoiler Alert: I got DQ’d after not meeting the time qualifier on my third lap; however the officials took pity and allowed me to still run a forth!) The thing that was really challenging about this specific ultra is the entire loop was up and down. Every other ultra I have run, all the really horrible climbs are either in the first third of the course OR at the beginning of the loop (For example, at Traprock of the 10 mile loop, only the first three miles were horrific and the rest were more manageable).  This race had hills throughout the loop, including rock faces that had to be scaled at the end (well played race organizers, well played). In a word, it was BRUTAL… and this is coming from a girl who did Bimbler’s as her first 50K and finished a Half Ironman less than two months after gallbladder surgery.

10418904_716524945104810_4785371998643999263_nAll that being said, throughout the race I really felt good. I was going slow, but I wasn’t hurting or miserable. I felt better on my third lap than I did on my first or second, and that was in spite of having to repeat a mile and a half section that I accidentally missed on my second time through (in my defense, the course was marked going in two different directions and I choose the one with the flags to my left because that is what we were instructed to do… I definitely had a little internal struggle about making up the part I missed knowing I was already flirting dangerously with the cut off. However, I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. I didn’t want to get credit for finishing unless it was for the entire course).

At that point, I was a little tired of all the climbing and descending and the pounding on the rocks, but not to the degree I expected given the difficulty level.  It definitely helped that there were some great views and really fun sections which were enough to keep my mind off any aches or pains. Not to mention, I was too busy trying to simultaneously watch my footing and for trail markers to pay attention to much else! On a side note, I have to be honest that the scenery alone makes this run worthwhile… rocky terrain, continuous climbs, and all.

If the Chatfield Hollow SP 50K is a race you are considering doing, my advice would be to expect very rocky terrain and make sure you are prepared for it. Also, all the race distances start together, so expect the first few miles to be crowded and slow unless you get to the head of the pack. Another consideration is to plan on bringing your own water/nutrition. They have an aid station at the start/finish with some food, but the other two aid stations are just water stops without volunteers. There’s not going to be anyone handing out your snacks or water, so that’s something to keep in mind (Think “self serve”).

On that same note, while there are some people at the start/finish area, there are not a lot of volunteers on the course. Be10675731_716524988438139_6863402278390244130_n prepared to spend some quality time by yourself because you won’t find a lot of company or support out there (like at some other races with larger numbers). Personally, I like to think that the secret of ultra running to be really comfortable with yourself. Otherwise, it’s an awful lot of time to spend with someone you don’t like. Any demons or insecurities you have are going to be brought on on this course, so make sure you either deal with them ahead of time or have a strategy come race day.

Lastly, don’t get caught up with the time cut offs. I spent a good part of my first loop worrying about not being fast enough before I realized there was nothing I could do about it. I was doing my best, and it was either going to be go enough or it wasn’t. It turned out that it wasn’t; but, surprisingly, the world didn’t end. No one pointed a finger at me and told me I wasn’t good enough. In reality, getting pulled and not finishing did not even remotely detract from the experience.

I took on a course that was WAY out of my comfort zone, and I didn’t quit… even after I was technically disqualified. I am immensely grateful to the race organizers for allowing me to run that last loop and get in as many miles as I could. In addition to being a great opportunity for me to cry it out and work out my frustration (which lasted about 30 seconds until I reached the first climb up a set of stairs… what is it with ultras and stairs anyway?) it was also a terrific chance for me to savor the scenery and run for the pure joy of running.

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Okay, so in reality they said it was for finishing the 20K

(I might have to write in a little x2…since I techincally did the it twice.)

In truth, when I did get pulled after my forth loop I felt great beyond just not being sore and feeling like I could take on another lap. Every problem I had stressed about during my hell week of tapering had completely dissipated. Sure, there may have been a little fraction of disappointment; but, for the most part, I was just happy and grateful and having had the opportunity to spend a whole day doing something I love.

At the end of the day, I’m not in this sport for the finish lines or medals (although I do appreciate the bling too… shiny things, what can I say?). I do it because I LOVE the trails and constantly challenging myself. This course was INDEED a challenge, and a glorious one at that.

As far as I’m concerned, any day spent on the trails in good company is a fantastic one in my book.

Would I do it all over? 100% YES! I have absolutely no regrets.

ctalive

As much as I did this event because I LOVE trail running, this race wasn’t about me. It was about raising awareness and money for victims of domestic violence so that other women have the chance to THRIVE after abuse that I did. CT-ALIVE was there for me when I needed help, so I am happy to endure any kind of torture a race course can throw at me if it means raising funds for them to help someone else. In fact, I’ll even do it with a smile on my face.

Thank you Trails 2 Trails for a wonderful race experience and definitely living up to your “We Don’t Do Easy” advertising… although, for record, I think running 50K is hard enough without you trying to make it more challenging with 8 hour time cutoffs and such. 😉

Double The Miles, Double The Fun: Ragnar Adirondack Recap

“Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes
no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances
on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the
approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted
from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense.
The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that
is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that
the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running
such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of
their being — a call that asks who they are …”
– David Blaikie

(I know it’s a long one, but it’s so good!)

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Hello All!

I’m baaaaaaack, which means I survived my Ragnar Adirondacks Adventure! I’m not sure I can adequately do justice to what an UNBELIEVABLE experience it was, but I will do my best. I had no idea what to expect go into this event as I had never done a Ragnar Relay or run for a sponsor. However, I did at least have a few ultras under my belt, so I knew what to expect from a mileage standpoint.

Since an ENTIRE weekend of racing is A LOT of race to recap, and ultra runners tend to have a LOVE/HATE relationship with their miles, I thought it might be more fun to break this post down into The Things I LOVED/HATED About Ragnar Adirondacks.

FEELING THE LOVE:

  • For starters, I LOVED LOVED LOVED the overwhelming support from our sponsors (Bondi Band, Shower Pill, Clif Bar, Chase This Skirt, Nuun, Energy Bits, Vega, KT Tape). Immediately upon arriving at our room the hubs and I found our beds decked out with goodies (it was like the animal shaped towels on cruise ships, but BETTER). Sandra, the super fabulous Bondi Sales Manager, had left us our Bondi Bands, compression socks, sponsor samples, and our Bondi Shirts which had the Bondi logo in PINK SPARKLES… Bondi clearly knows the way to a girl’s heart… Given that Bondi had already paid for our race, hotel, and supplied us with free nutrition from our other sponsors, I completely did not expect all the extra gear and goodies they gave us. The generosity on the part of the sponsors was truly beyond my wildest expectations.

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  • I completely assure you that I am not trying to brown nose our sponsor when I tell you that I LOVED the Bondi Bands. They were bright, colorful, and had all kinds of fun sayings which meant we could coordinate to both our outfits and our moods. It was super fun to switch out on each leg and wear a different option. Plus, they completely lived up to every claim by Bondi. I have have had some experience with sweat and headbands, and these are by far the best I’ve used. The colors didn’t bleed or run, they absorbed a TON of sweat, and they absolutely did not slip. They also were extremely soft and comfy, which meant no headache. I have now had over 50K of experience with these bands, and I don’t think I’ll ever wear anything else again. Luckily I have a whole stash now, so I can can wear a different one for each workout of the week. Likewise, the compression socks were equally top notch. I already own a pair of generic compression socks and a set of zensah sleeves, and while I feel like a traitor for saying so, I like Bondi’s better. They were more comfortable than my sleeves and had better compression than anything I’ve owned previously. I also completely put them to the test when I got a HUGE blister on my first leg (from running on the grass to spare my joints). I pulled on the compression socks for my night legs and not only didn’t feel the blister, but it actually got better (not 100% better, but dramatically improved)! Needless to say, I was super impressed. It was like blister treatment magic.

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  • I also LOVED meeting the rest of the team and getting to know them. It was really interesting to get to meet runners from all over the country (and Canada!). Together we got into some serious shenanigans and shared plenty of laughs.

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  • The fact that we were an ultra team was another BIG PLUS for me. I LOVE running long; so, for me, the double legs were a bonus. It was kind of amusing to me how many people looked completely stunned when they found out we were doing the ultra and asked why we would want to. I, on the other hand, was equally perplexed as to why they would only do 3 legs when they could be doing 6! Double the miles, double the fun people! For their convenience I compiled a list of my top 5 reasons to run a Ragnar Ultra so they could see just how much they’re missing out.  I mean who needs breaks to rest or eat anyway? That stuff is for sissies!

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  • I also have to mention that I LOVED my night legs, even in spite of the fact that I had the suckiest climb of the entire course. Running at night with a headlamp makes any run seem that much more bada$$. Plus, I enjoyed the peace and quiet- just me and my tunes out on the open road with stars as a backdrop. What could be more perfect? It was an awesome experience… even if it involved climbing almost 700ft in two and half miles… without any flat or downhill.
  • thatsmeAs much as I LOVED the running, I enjoyed Bondi Banding our fellow racers almost equally as much! Our team name was the Bondi Bandits, and our race tag involved sneaking up on unsuspecting teams and leaving Bondi Bands with our team and sponsor info. Sandra, Lisa, and I had SO MUCH FUN tagging the other vehicles and socializing with the other teams. The other runners were all super excited about the bands, which became a great opportunity to get information about Bondi out there. However, by far, the best part was Bondi Banding the other team’s mascots and getting photos with them, including a team with a giant pickle that we banded with “Suck It Up Buttercup” and a bear named Murray who got “Run Like a Princess Today.”

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  • One great thing about Bondi Banding the other teams is that it not only gave us a great opportunity to meet a lot of runners (and get them excited about our AWESOME sponsors!!!), but also gave us a chance to check out a lot of the other van themes and decorations. There were so many cool ideas out there (including a team of parents who titled their team “Every Child Left Behind”), but my absolute favorite was the “Twelve Hangry Blerches.” Their van was EPIC!
  • 10621901_10152290579877397_1547844836_nOn a similar note, being that this was my first Ragnar, I really enjoyed and appreciated the fun atmosphere with all the crazy themes and costumes. I have never been involved in a race event that encouraged so much silliness, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. From the costumes, to the van decorating and tagging, it was crazy and chaotic at times, but also extremely entertaining, especially when random people honked, waved, and rang cowbells for you while you ran.

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  • While I have to say that I LOVED meeting all my teammates (because we were an Ultra Team, and that by default made us all pretty awesome), I was especially grateful to have had Lisa (and her husband Jay) for company. She and her hubby are just some super cool, laid back people, and it was an absolute pleasure to hang out with them (including at our grown up sleep over party after the race when were bunked up in the same room). Adam and Jay hit it off immediately being the only source of testosterone in the group; and Lisa and I ended up running our last legs together, so we had plenty of time to bond. Thank you Lisa for keeping me entertained even in the delirium and sharing your story about your pet raccoon named Sara Lee. You are a class act and an amazing runner. I can’t wait to hear about your next ultra!

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  • As great as it was to make new friends, I also completely lucked out and LOVED that I got to do this event with my hubby. I was beyond fortunate that Bondi was willing to sponsor my race entry, but the fact that they invited him too was beyond anything I could have hoped for. I am so lucky to have a husband that not only understands, but shares my passion and love for running… even if it’s not quite to the same degree. It meant so much to me to have him there and share the experience with him. Therefore, I am super grateful to both Bondi and my hubby for making my race experience extra awesome.

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  • Finally, I cannot discuss all the things awesome and wonderful that I LOVED about Ragnar without mentioning our team supporters. The Bondi Bandits were so beyond fortunate to not only have Sandra (who is completely lovely and totally deserves a raise) but also Jay who volunteered to be our driver. Given the amount of mileage we were all running, having a driver was HUGE. Plus, Jay was COMPLETELY AMAZING. In addition to driving the entire 200 mile course without any breaks or rest, he also cheered us on at exchanges and circled back to make sure we had enough food and hydration. Jay was the person who met me at the end of my second night leg and made sure I found my way back to the van. He truly went above and beyond. (Lisa, you have a good egg!) Plus, he had a great sense of humor, which was absolutely necessary when contending with a van full of exhausted, cranky women.

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  • Likewise, Sandra was a total trooper! She was at nearly every exchange and stayed up with us through the night. Despite the fact that she wasn’t running the legs with us, she was 100% in the trenches. She looked out for each and every one of us and had a smile on her face every step of the way. I honestly don’t think we could have had a better Bondi rep, and I give her major kudos for dealing with a van of (at times) hungry, overtired, and irritable runners with absolute grace. Truthfully, there were moments when I wanted to strangle us. I’m not sure how she managed without the benefit of running induced endorphins other than that she is just a super woman. Sandra and Jay, as far as I am concerned you get the team MVP award. We truly could not have done it without you!

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NOT FEELING THE LOVE

  • Hate is such a strong word, but I can definitely say I was not feeling the love for the ENDLESS HILLS… especially my ridiculous night climb. I am, however, super grateful that section came after dark when I couldn’t see it coming! By our last leg, Lisa and I decided we were both over the hills. To make our point, I took this photo and sent it to Ragnar. They were apparently amused because it was the only photo I posted that they liked… sadists.

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  • The other thing I “HATED” about the Ragnar Adirondacks course was THERE WAS NO PLACE TO EAT! We were literally driving in the middle of nowhere for hours on end, which was great in terms of scenery, but completely awful in terms of getting in a real meal. To make matters worse, the three times my team stopped to eat were all while I was running. That meant 0/3 meals for me. By the third time, it was starting to feel personal. They did finally bring me back to get food after my last leg when my eyes were glazed over and I couldn’t formulate sentences. Half a sandwich later, I was feeling like a whole new person. On a side note, I am sure any nearby locals were highly amused when I was so calorie deficient and dysfunctional that I got tangled in my own shirt and couldn’t figure out how to fix it (I’m talking full on straight jacket style…) Luckily for me, Krave Jerky and Mojo bars are pretty darn delicious and were in plentiful supply… for a while at least. Ultra running is hungry business!
  • As much as I hate to say it- because by far the majority of my Ragnar experience was completely amazing- another thing that I was not super fond of was some unsportsmanlike conduct by a few of the other teams. While I get that the concept of keeping track of “kills” and running for time can be fun, I don’t agree with people using it as a means to put down other runners. Running a Ragnar is supposed to be about fun and camaraderie. I think it’s incredibly unfortunate that some people forget that due to being so caught up in the spirit of competition. It’s not okay to insult and ridicule other runners, and I personally did not appreciate the team of guys who loudly made fun of me for wearing a hydration pack and “a lot of gear” (commenting that it must be “To keep her from running too fast”) at the start of my first night leg. They obviously had no idea that I was running a cumulative 12 miles due to my back to back legs OR that my headphones were not on despite being in my ears. It was a pretty lame move on their part, although I suppose I should thank them. I was so annoyed by their endless commentary that my night legs were actually some of my fastest… despite the monstrous climb.
  • While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I HATED being stuck in tight quarters with a bunch of cranky, hungry, tried women, I certainly wouldn’t call it my idea of a good time. There were times that were absolutely hilarious, but then there were also instances when I just wanted a hot meal, a set of ear plugs… and maybe some leg room.

All that being said, I would 100% do it again in a heartbeat! As I already mentioned, I simply can’t say enough for what an absolutely amazing experience Ragnar Adirondacks was. The entire trip exceeded my expectations in every way possible. I feel so blessed to be given this opportunity by Bondi Band AND to have had the support of all our other sponsors who were all both more than generous and super supportive. Beyond supplying us with a wide assortment race fuel (Clif bars and Bloks, Mojo bars, Krave jerky, Vega supplements, Energy Bits, and Nuun) and Bondi gear, we also were provided bath wipes from Shower Pill to keep us feeling somewhat human between our legs, KT Tape for our weary joints and muscles, and the most adorable race skirts ever from Chase This Skirt.

For me Ragnar Adirondacks had everything I could want in a race: beautiful scenery, high mileage, great staff and volunteers, and a super fun atmosphere. The fact that I was able to run it through the support of sponsors was truly a gift. I am glad to have been connected with some great companies who not only have great products, but actually care about their athletes. I would absolutely recommend each sponsor that supported our team and would like to extend a sincere big thank you to all of them.

For anyone interested in seeing more photos from our adventure, you can use the hashtag #BondiBandits on twitter or instagram.

I EAT MILES FOR BREAKFAST (TRAPROCK RECAP)

“Run often. Run long. But never outrun your joy of running.”
-Julie Isphording

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“I eat miles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”  That was my race mantra for the 7 hours and 30ish minutes it took me to complete the Traprock Ultra 50K yesterday.  That is a full 1.5 hours faster than my last ultra finish at Bimbler’s Bluff by the way… just in case you were curious. 😉  While I would like to say the faster time was related to my veteran status as an ultra runner (with one whole 50K under my belt…), the truth is it is much more likely related to the fact that this run was shorter (um, yes they were both 50K but this one was actually 50K… as opposed to the 50K-ish course at Bimbler’s Bluff which was closer to 34 miles… if you didn’t get lost, which I did… repeatedly) and really well marked.

One thing it was not was EASIER.  There were two ridiculously steep climbs within the first couple miles, including one right at the start.  Since the course consisted of 3 loops, we had to do both 3 times!!!  … And thats not even counting having to run the first one (which was by far the worst) in reverse 3 times as well!  So the people who designed Traprock were sadists as well, but then what trail runners and trail race organizers aren’t?  I mean honestly, when have you ever done a trail race that wasn’t filled with ridiculous hills? Or finished a race thinking “gosh that course was easier than I expected?”…. Never? Yeah, me either.  Of course, the hills on this course were steep and technical even by trail running standards.

The good news is, after the quad-busting climbs in the few first miles, there was a nice descent (not so nice going in reverse) followed by a very friendly and supportive aid station and the Lollipop section of the course.  This was the first out and back and it was super fun to cheer on all the runners who were already on their way back.  I think this was my favorite section because it was dirt (minimal rocks!) and consisted of a gradual uphill which became a fast, easy down on the way back.  From there it was anotherImage aid station cheer section and back up (literally up… sadists I tell you) into the woods on a lengthy stretch of up and down.  This felt like the longest section of the course to me.   I think partly because after picking up speed in the lollipop section, the steep parts of the hills made me feel like I was grinding to a stop.

After several fake outs (as in “nope, not leveling out yet”), there was yet another aid station at the top of the ridge.  BTW I will say there were some spectacular views along the way, and a nice breeze at the top.  The volunteers at this aid station were also AWESOME.

I just can’t say enough about how wonderful each station was!  They cheered, they played music, they asked how I was feeling and what I needed.  They even filled my hydration pack for me so I didn’t have to take it off.  It was definite pick me up each time I saw them.  This last aid station was roughly 3 miles from the finish and led to a (longer than I would have liked) paved section consisting of a gradual up and down.  The thing I hated about this section (aside from my obvious dislike for running on pavement) was that there was not much shade, and I felt like the sun was roasting me.  By the time it finished I was happy to get back on the trail, even if it meant repeating that merciless hill from the start.  Thankfully, it was slightly less awful in reverse.  Plus, it was a another loop part of the course so I got to cheer for all the runners coming out on there second loop.

Finishing the first loop meant running through the finish and then turning around and heading back up the way we came (yes, up the evil hill again).  It was slightly cruel, but not as emotionally damaging as getting lost and backtracking through the entire Bimbler’s Bluff course.  Unfortunately, during my second loop I started to feel sick.  Anytime I tried to eat anything resembling solid food, it just didn’t agree with me.  I had stomach cramps and a headache, and I was worried I might have to drop out.  It was much warmer than it has been recently, so I was not acclimated to running in the heat.  I tried to increase my fluid intake and see if that helped.  Luckily I had added a protein mixture to my water and was able to keep down the cliff bloks I brought.  It was frustrating because my legs and joints felt good.  I decided just to slow down and not push myself.  After all, it was a gorgeous day and beautiful course.  I Imageam a trail runner first and foremost.  There is truly nothing that makes me feel happier or more at peace than being on the trails.

My main goal for this race was to finish.  The time cut off was 9 hrs, which is just about what it took to run my last 50K.  I figured I should be able to make that as long as I didn’t get lost.  My secondary goal was to finish in 8 hrs.  Given that I was running over 30 miles, I thought shaving a full hour off my previous time was a reasonable aim.  When I finished my first loop in just over 2 hours (well behind most of the field btw… Ultra Runners are beasts!  And possibly part mountain goat…) I knew I had the time to slow down, and give my body a chance to recover.

My plan worked, and by the start of loop 3 I was feeling great.  I still did not push hard for fear of causing more GI distress; so instead I socialized with the runners nearby and walked the hills. YES! I walked.  I walked any reasonable looking hill.  I am no dummy.  I ran almost the entire Bimbler’s Bluff 50K, and the only thing I accomplished by doing so was burning out my legs on the hills.  This time I had nothing to prove, and I wasn’t about to mess with the heat.  Guess what?  I went faster!  I figured it was better to walk and run than crawl… which is what I would have been doing had I not walked some of those inclines!  It was so much more enjoyable too!  Because my legs weren’t super fatigued, I was able to actually run the flats and downhills, which is so much more fun than poking along at injured pace.

My whole goal for loop 3 was really just to enjoy it, and honestly I did.  Once I got through the hills on that first section I was so pumped to have “the worst” of it behind me.  The aid station volunteers commented on what a big smile I was wearing as I came into view.  I hollered back “The hard part is over! Just the fun stuff left now!” and I truly meant it.  I sailed through the entire lollipop section as if my legs weren’t tired at all (ok, well my version of sailed).  In fact, I felt strong right up until I ran out of cliff bloks.  Then I, again, got into trouble with the cramping.  This was unfortunate because I was heading into the sun-scorching paved section again.  The last 5K was the longest 5K I have ever run in my life.  Most likely because I was barely moving in spite of my best efforts.  I had given everything I had and left it on the course.  There was simply nothing left in me.  That is until I had the finish within my sight.  Then I came down that hill and hurled myself at it as fast as my legs would carry me!

ImageEven being one of the last finishers, there were still plenty of people cheering at the finish.  I was just happy that I had finished before they shut the course down!

I am no expert in Ultra running by any means, but I would definitely recommend this course to any one considering running one.  Normally I am not a fan of any kind of repeats in a race.  However, in this case, it was one of my favorite parts.

First, the fact that the course was a loop meant it was well marked with frequent aid stations (ie. cheer sections).  It also meant by the second and third loop that I knew where I was going, which made it easier to watch my footing (and not face plant).  Furthermore, it was helpful in terms running more efficiently due to knowing where to push hard and where to coast.  Finally, it was a great way to interact with the other runners!  Ultra running can be such a lonely sport when you sign up by yourself.  It’s nice to see a friendly face every once in a while when you spend hours of your day running in the woods.

While I loved my experience at Bimbler’s Bluff, I cannot say I enjoyed the course as much as I did in this ultra.  I had put so much pressure on myself last time to run well and finish.  This time around I really wanted to just embrace the experience.  That is exactly what I did.  Sure plenty of (ok most) people may finished ahead of me, but I doubt any of them enjoyed the experience as much as I did.  For me, trail running is pure bliss.  Even when I’m tired and it hurts, I still love it.  That being said, Traprock has earned a special place in my heart.

Doing Nothing to Prepare for My Ultra

“Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.”
-Jules Renard

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We are just 2 days away from my second Ultra, and I am preparing today by being lazy.  Perhaps the most difficult part of training for me is the tapering.  Fellow endurance junkies, I know you know my pain!  I am so accustomed to living life 100 mph that cutting back on training makes me feel like I am literally grinding to a halt.  Plus, given that exercise is my coping mechanism to deal with all the other absurdity going on in my life, the decrease in workouts makes me extra looney.

This time around, however, I am trying to enjoy the downtime.  Life has been so chaotic recently with being promoted to supervisor Imageand my parents moving that the change in pace is actually kind of refreshing.  Instead of feeling like a total slacker, I’ve been reminding myself that my training for Saturday’s run is behind me.  The best thing I can do now is make sure I eat properly, sleep plenty, and ensure my body is well rested.  

So today I am giving myself permission to be lazy.  Rather than worrying about getting in enough mileage of swimming, biking, and running this week, I have been trying to relax… Try being the operative word.  Surprisingly, this has not been as difficult as it typically is for me.  Perhaps this is because I made it to swim class Tuesday night.  We only swam just over a mile, but it was enough to take the edge off and shake off a crappy work day.  

The class was great because we learned a new “punching” drill, and I feel like it really helped my stroke.  Plus Coach M was in a great mood given that I finally gave her my gift for teaching me to swim.  I had noticed she has propensity toward soft, fitted shirts so I got her an “i swim” shirt from the comfiest brand I know: Tough Chik! 🙂  She absolutely loved it!  It’s funny to think how far we’ve come from that first class… 

Aside from swim class, I haven’t done much in the way of exercise this week… Well other than the 5K on Sunday. I might sneak in another swim today, but that will be the last workout prior to Saturday.  Tomorrow I am working, so today my goal is just to take it easy and plan out my gear and attire for the run.  The hubs has agreed to give me a ride and pick me up.  I told him not to feel obligated to stay the whole day since it took me almost 9 hours to finish the last one… plus ultra running is not much of a spectator sport.  I am lucky to have a hubby that not only doesn’t mind me spending an entire Saturday running, but is willing to give up his time to help make it happen.  I think I may have won the spouse lottery.  After all, it takes a special breed to love an ultra runner… especially a tapering ultra runner… 

Who else is racing this weekend?  Any big plans?

Becoming A Grown Up (And My Grown Up Bucket List)

“…Let me be something every blessed minute.

And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” 

― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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Hello Everyone!

You may or may not have noticed some subtle (and not so subtle) changes going on with this blog as of late.  You see, given that I am now married, discussing family planning, and working as supervisor it seems like my life has finally transitioned from that weird in between stage (where you are on your own but really only responsible for yourself) to official grown up.  In that spirit, I thought it was time for The Running Thriver to become more grown up too.

Over the past few years I’ve been blogging, I feel like I have finally come to a place where I have found my voice (big surprise: it’s kind of snarky) and know what direction I want to take this site.  Within the past few months I’ve learned a tremendous amount about how to customize my blog appearance, edit and create my own graphics, and use new social media outlets (twitter, instagram, pinterest… my head is still spinning!) all in an effort to make this blog completely my own and use it to reflect who I am as a person (and blogger!).  

As much as I loved the paisley (I may find a way to incorporate it back in yet!), there is more to me than a pre-designed layout.  My personality and voice are unique, so my blog appearance should reflect the same.  I started with something simple and little by little I am making it my own.  BTW I would love to hear your suggestions and feedback throughout the process! 

My monumental accomplishment for today was adding social media buttons (present above my gravatar… which PS. now links to my “About Me” page. Who’s awesome? That’s right, me! jk… It’s actually kind of pathetic how badly I struggle with these things.)  See them. Use them, Love them.  If you don’t, I will have wasted several hours of my life that I will never get back.  

Anyhow, as you all know updating this blog has been something that has been on my To Do List for quite some time.  So, now that I am in the process of tackling the major revamp, I thought I’d share some other items on my Grown Up Bucket List:

  • Publish a book– Of course not just publish a book, but become a New York Times best seller.  Then I can take the proceeds from the book and provide scholarships for other victims of trauma to live their dreams.  No, I am not kidding.  Go big or go home people!  I am going to share my story and inspire the masses that they too can chase their dreams, regardless of athletic prowess or coordination (or lack there of…)
  • Start a Non-Profit– Because someone needs to be in charge of coordinating and handing out the scholarship money.  If the best seller thing doesn’t come through, I may need to win the lottery for this one.  On the plus side, at least I have my life figured out should I ever strike it rich.
  • Start a Family– For the record, these are not in order of importance.  Also, it turns out I am not pregnant (yet) just crazy, as previously expected (I finally got my period and it snowed today. Happy Monday to me!  I know, TMI).  I may need to see a doctor if this continues… the weird symptoms that is, not the lack of pregnancy.
  • Run an Ultra in an Exotic Location– Well maybe not super exotic because I’m not really into humidity and giant bugs, but I wouldn’t mind Tuscany or Ireland
  • Vacation at the Sandals Resort in St. Lucia– Why? Because we never had a honeymoon, and if we did have one that was where I wanted to go.
  • Finish a 50 Miler– This one should be totally obvious since I have already done a 50K 😉
  • Maybe Try a 100 Miler– I refuse to commit to this dream at this time
  • Finish a Half Ironman– I am clearly dedicated to this one if I stuck with swimming in spite of Coach M kicking me out of class and telling me to get a refund.
  • Finish a Full IronmanThis one is going to happen before I die!
  • Become a Marathon Swimmer– That’s right, I said it out loud… or typed it anyway.
  • Get Comfortable on My Bike– Preferably before the Half and Full Ironman…
  • Qualify for the Boston Marathon– At the rate I am going I may be able to qualify at age 80… if I don’t get any slower by then…
  • Meet Diana Nyad Because she is AMAZING, I admire her, and I am secretly hoping to become a better swimmer by being in her presence.
  • Meet Meredith Atwood (Swim Bike Mom)– Also AMAZING, and I’d like to thank her in person for the book.  I’d prefer not to meet her though until after I’ve written my book or completed an Ironman because otherwise it will just look creepy and stalker-ish
  • Complete an Un-Assisted Pull Up– I am SOOOOOO close…  It’s going to happen. This will be my year!
  • Compete in a Body Building Competition– It’s probably the only time I will get on track with my nutrition and eat enough calories in a day.  Plus, I think it’d be a great challenge.
  • Climb Mount Kilimanjaro– The Hubs is on board with this.  We just need to find extra couple thousand dollars for funding…
  • Live on a Lake– Luckily the Hubs also has this one on his Bucket List.
  • Become a Fitness Instructor/Coach– Just part-time, you know, because I don’t have enough else going on…
  • Be a Guest on Oprah or Ellen (probably Ellen… there’s more dancing and oh maybe I could meet that girl who raps Nicki Minaj…) Clearly this would have to happen after becoming a best selling author 
  • Place First in My Age Group– Just once… maybe when I’m 80 and qualify for Boston.
  • Make an Impact– Before I die I want to do something to leave my mark.  I want to have helped to make the world a better place.

That’s all I have for now… I’m sure I’ll think of others after I hit publish.  

What’s on your Bucket List?

Any in common?  

How about a Spartan Race?  

You know I do still have that free race entry, and we are only 9 likes away from starting the giveaway.  I think you should all head over to like my Facebook Page through my new social media button and take note of the “Giveaway” tab while you’re there.  

9 MORE LIKES PEOPLE! That’s all that’s separating you and the chance for an EPIC RACE EXPERIENCE!    

Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell random strangers.  The sooner we get to 200 likes, the sooner I can make one of you a very happy fellow thriver.  And for those of you who enter but don’t win, I also have a link for a discount code.  

In the meantime, I hope you are all having a very Happy Monday! 

Because I couldn’t help myself…

The Mystery Illness

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

-Christopher Reeve
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Last night I started to get sick again…  Not as back as last time with shaking chills and the whole nine yards, but I can’t seem to keep much in my system. It’s been great in terms of weight loss for Fit Challenge; however, I was not really aiming to lose any weight and this wouldn’t be my preferred method of going about it.  

Speaking of which, Adam and I both had weigh ins again and I am holding steady at exactly 139.2 (for two weeks now- the difference between last week and the week before being that I didn’t work out before hand so I probably weigh even less).  Adam is still under 200. Our challenge was to hold a wall sit for a cumulative time of 15 minutes with two attempts per day (just like the plank challenge).  It took us three days, but we completed the challenge without any issue… per usual.

However, feeling less than stellar and not being able to tolerate much in the way of food has really been hampering my workouts in general recently.  The other day I tried to run, but after 2 miles I was feeling sick and called it quits.  I did still manage to run 15 miles total for the week and got in a over a mile of swimming before the dreaded illness set in.  As far as cycling, I missed spinning on Saturday because the hubs realized when we got there that he forgot his shorts, so those miles were a fail.  In his defense, he did offer to wait for me while I went to class without him, but I didn’t think it’d be particularly fair or fun to go without him.

We also did two workouts with the trainer, and one was pull ups, chin ups, and close grip pull ups (can you picture me brimming with glee as you read this? If not, you don’t read this blog regularly enough… ) with rows, lat pull downs, and back extensions in between.  We used the bands as an assist, which made me feel totally badass (in spite of feeling crummy)… especially now that I only need the green one to do 10 in a row! 🙂  Pull ups, I will OWN you this year!

As far as still being sick, all I can think is it’s a combination of things: being run down from swapping back and forth between regular and night shifts, the stress of being promoted to manager, the dog drama and having to re-home Ellie, my parents having to sell their house and move… the list goes on and on.  Taking all that into consideration, I guess I am actually doing pretty well. 😉

So given all of that and the fact that I was feeling like garbage again this morning, I came home from my session with the trainer and Imagesigned up for another 50K trail ultra in April.  Why?  Well first, who wouldn’t be inspired to go run 30+ miles on brutal trails when they have these kinds of inspirational posters?  Second, I feel like I’ve plateaued and finishing another ultra will help me get back on track to feeling accomplished again.  

Furthermore, my race goals for this year all involved triathlon, but if there’s a chance I may be pregnant it makes it hard to register.  I am not stable on my bike, so that is the one thing I do not want to be doing in a race while pregnant.  The ultra, on the other hand, I think I could handle.  Especially since it’s not that far away and it’s a loop course so I’d have plenty of opportunity to drop out if I needed to for any reason.  Finally, I have already done one, so I know I can do it.  Plus, I have been training consistently since the last one.  If anything, I’m in better shape now.

I suppose that is all my big news for today: still sick and signed up for another ultra…  Totally seems like those two should go hand in hand.  As far as the mystery illness, I am just going to have to find ways to try and relax without exerting myself too much… like blogging and plotting Thriver World Domination. 😉  To me, it’s just another obstacle to work through, and it may be that I just need to start incorporating low intensity weeks into my training schedule.  For now, I’m doing my best to chill out and not worry about it.  After all, I think I have enough on my plate. 

#thriveon