trail running

Sunday Funday Runday

“Today I will run for the pure, absolute joy.”
-Lopen Lomong

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This morning I got up to some pretty chilly weather. In fact, when I checked my Authentic Weather Ap, it looked something like this:

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Now I know it’s December, and there are plenty of FREEZING days in store between now and January; buuuuttttt I live in New England. The weather here is unpredictable. Sure today it’s in the 30’s, but tomorrow it might be in the 60’s.  I’m not taking any chances, which means taking advantage of the really cold weather when I can. None of that unseasonably warm stuff for me. I have a sub-freezing ultra to train for!

Besides, I just got a sweet deal on a Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier jacket, so I obviously needed to test it out. In addition to being wind and water resistant, it was supposed to also be thermal. Given the light weight paper thin fabric, I had some doubts. As it turns it, it really was warm. No false advertising there. Good on you, Pearl Izumi and your freakishly warm paper-thin jacket.

Aaaaannnnyway I picked the Larkin State Bridle Trail because it’s a nice long, flat out and back that is about as close as I’m going to get to the Winter Beast of Burden terrain… minus the multiple feet of snow. In fact, despite the freezing temps and recent snow fall, there actually wasn’t any snow this morning. We’ve had some heavy rain over the past two days that likely washed away any that was left from our most recent storm.

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Trails make me happy.

As usual, the scenery was breathtaking. I spent the entire run out soaking in the views without stopping (and soaking in general thanks to some flooding…). Then I gave myself the liberty of snapping a few photos on the way back. Unfortunately, I couldn’t run the entire trail because at just over eight miles in, it was completely underwater. Having already run through some ankle deep freezing water prior to that point, I really wasn’t excited about the prospect of wading waist deep. I know, I’m a wimp.

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Um, yeah. No

My goal going into the run was to try to get in an easy ten. However after about four miles (when my legs finally warmed up), I was feeling surprisingly good. That’s when I decided it might be fun to take on the entire out and back and get in a 20 miler (yes, I just used fun and 20 miler in the same sentence). After all, I’m never one to waste a good runner’s high!

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 Doesn’t get better than this, right?

Not being able to run the full route meant I would have to do some extra miles at the end. I took this at a fantastic opportunity to do some mileage at my favorite place on earth… which conveniently happened to be just across the street (Yea! Lucky me!). I think I would have enjoyed the scenery there more if I were not hitting the 18-20 mile wall; however, it was still pretty awesome.

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With the plan to go extra long, I thought today run would be perfect for my Emma’s Little Wonder Virtual Fun Run. Emma’s Virtual Fun Run is a fundraiser started by an awesome young lady runner as her Bat Mitzvah project. According to the website for her run “Little Wonder is a non-profit organization that enriches the lives of patients going through cancer treatment and gives them and their families a night out by providing them tickets to local concerts, family entertainment, live theater, and sporting events free of charge. The funds we raise will help spread the word about Little Wonder and increase awareness for patients, hospitals, and vendors.

Like a said, she’s a pretty awesome young lady to set up a fundraiser for such a worthy cause, but then we all know that runners a generous, giving breed. As someone who has been touched by cancer both in my personal life and as a healthcare provider, I was honored to take part in supporting her project.

Furthermore, I would like to encourage all of you to participate as well. You have until December 31st to register. What better way to motivate yourself to get out and run now that the weather has turned cold (at least in my neck of the woods)? Emma recommends a 5K walk or run, but is encouraging everyone to put forth their best effort and do what they can. She is even recognizing winners in the following categories:

Best 5K time Boys under 12
Best 5K time Girls under 12
Best 5K time Boys 12-18
Best 5K time Girls 12-18
Best 5K time Boys 18-35
Best 5K time Girls 18-35
Best 5K time Men 35+
Best 5K time a Women 35+
Longest Run (for those venturing beyond 5K)
Coolest Place to Run
Best running picture (must be a selfie)
Oldest Runner
Youngest Runner
Best excuse to donate and not actually run/walk

So there you have it folks! The gauntlet has been issued! It’s only $18 to register and the money goes toward a great cause. Plus, you have to opportunity to win one of these great titles (because if you aren’t motivated by charity, you might be tempted by the chance for glory). For those of you considering going for the longest distance, you’ll have to top my 20 miler from today… which was epic by the way (except for miles 18-20 which sucked miserably).

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If you do decide to sign up, be sure to tag your running related selfies and photos with the hashtag #littlewonderfunrun; and while you’re at it consider giving Emma a shout out for what a terrific thing she’s doing.

Happy Running!

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Yup, I did it

“To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around.”
― Richie Norton

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Hey y’all!

I did something completely crazy this weekend. Yes, I signed up for the Full Distance at Cedar Point next September (140.6 miles of AWESOMENESS!!!!) No, that it not the crazy thing a did… although, okay that was sort of looney too. The actual insanity involved taking my mountain bike out on the trails for my SECOND. TIME. EVER.  ANNNNNDDD I went all by myself. (I told you: insane!)

The first time I took my mountain bike out was after the hubs bought it for me. We did a short ride, including a few trails. I was absolutely terrified for my life the entire time. I may have cried… a lot. It was ugly. All I could do was picture being horribly maimed as I careened out of control. (In reality, I was probably doing less than 5 mph.) After the experience of feeling utterly defeated and disappointed in myself, I only took it out on the roads… That is until I invested in the road bike. It’s been sitting in the garage ever since.

The thing is, I am still a HUGE chicken when it comes to cycling. I HATE riding alone, so I don’t go enough. My handling still stinks and I have zero (as in zilch, zippo) confidence on the bike. However, eventually after actually careening almost 40 mph while contending with irritable and negligent motorists, hitting the trails didn’t seem so dangerous. In fact, I decided I actually might be better off taking my chances with the trees. After all, at least they are stationery.

Plus, I found a 50 miler I want to do in January, and I figured combining a ride with a run would be a great way to kill two bird with one stone. I would ride my mountain for an hour on the trails and then run for an hour after. Not only would I have a chance to work on my handling skills and getting comfortable on the bike, but I also would start my run on fatigued legs foregoing the need for a high mileage run. Win-Win!

So I bundled myself up for the cozy sub freezing temps and headed to my favorite trails. I decided to warm up on some paved paths and then in a field. It took a little getting used to, but within a few minutes I was managing the gears without much thinking. Surprisingly, I was completely taken back by how much fun I was having. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, and I had most of the park to myself. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing out on!

Because I was feeling brave (something that almost never happens to me on a bike) I decided to try out the cyclocross cross that had been set up for a competition the following day. Other than a little difficulty with some tight turns and abrupt climbs, I felt fairly comfortable; so I set my sights on something more challenging. In the spirit of living dangerously, I started with some of the flatter trails and then decided to really test myself on my favorite running routes. I was completely shocked by how comfortable I felt even on the more technical terrain. I was by no means moving quickly, but I also was doing a pretty respectable job at keep my bike upright and navigating turns. I couldn’t believe what a difference all the time on my road bike had made in handling IMG_6141ability. I was even able to ride the steep downhills without any fear or hesitation!

Perhaps the most remarkable part was just how much FUN it was. I truly loved every second of it. I never would have imagined feeling so comfortable or at home on a bike. Furthermore, not in a million years would I have guessed that I would be more at ease on a mountain bike than a road bike… but then the trails have always been my sanctuary.

The whole experience was completely exhilarating. It was as if I suddenly became aware of a little reserve of toughness that had previously been untapped and a whole world of possibility was opened up by one short ride.

It was a terrific reminder for me of just how far I’ve come with the bike and in general. It’s been so long since I’ve had any big gains in my training that sometimes I forget I’m still making progress. Then all of a sudden there’s an “AHA!” moment, and I have a whole new perspective.

The whole experience was an important reminder about why it’s so important to keep doing the things that frighten me. It’s breaking through that fear that brings the greatest reward. The greatest joy in life isn’t doing what other people think you can’t, it’s doing things you think you can’t and never could. 

This weekend I surprised myself, and it made me feel better than I have in a long time. I felt growth, and it made me hungry for more. That is why I am committing myself to not be inhibited by fear, and instead chase it down. Who’s with me?

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 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?

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

 

 

Bimbler’s Bluff Recap

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
-Colin Powell 

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I am a firm believer that with persistence, anything is possible.  That might have been what lead me to sign up for the Bimbler’s Bluff 50K in the first place.  It seemed to be one of those things where the planets are in alignment and everything just falls into place… although I never could have anticipated upon signing up just how true that would be.

I needed a race to run as a fundraiser for CT-ALIVE this year, and having done attempted the Ultra Beast last year, it had to be something that would test my limits.  Ever since the Ultra Beast, I had considered doing an ultra.  I had already done a marathon, so it seemed like the next logical step.  Plus, the Bimbler’s Bluff was a bargain at $50!

BLQ-tommy-lasordaDetermination-Quotes-for-Blog-300x300Since I was not super successful with my fundraising last year, this year I redoubled my efforts.  I made an event page, sent emails, and continuously begged for money on Facebook.  The fact that I had selected a race roughly 33 miles in length worked to my favor as I had people who offered to make donations in my memory just in case I didn’t survive.  (Thanks for the vote of confidence guys)  My goal was for this year $500, but I well exceeded it making for my most lucrative fundraising year yet!  That only made me more pumped for the race.

The other exciting thing about my big run this year was that a friend of mine (Vanessa from The Purple Song Project) put me in touch with Lana Ives from Ives International Film.  It turned out that Lana is working on a documentary involving stories of inspiring people.  She had read my blog and thought I fit the bill.  She asked if she could meet me at the race and interview me before the start.  She also said I could have copies of the film and images for my own personal use (i.e. for my blog- so stay tuned!).  Beyond the shock that someone would be inspired enough by my blog to want to involve me in a documentary, I realized that this was an AMAZING opportunity.  If my mission with this blog is to inspire people to go out and live their dreams, especially after abuse, then there was no way I could not accept.

Upon arriving at the race, I found Lana and her assistant at the check in.  I was beyond stoked to find not only that the race shirts were fluorescent orange, but that the race bibs were orange as well! I took this as a good sign because, as we all know, orange is my favorite color. Even better, the bib had my name on it- which meant the runners and volunteers would be cheering for me by name!  Anyone who has run a race with your name on the bib knows exactly what I am talking about here.  Plus, it made for better conversation on the course given we all had name tags.

As far as the actual race, I don’t even know where to start.  Trail runners are such a special breed.   When you sign up and arrive at a trail run, you sign up for more than a race.  Rather, you have signed up to be a part of a community, and it’s clear from the moment you arrive.  Bimbler’s Bluff was no exception.  There was a palpable sense of good will.  When the national anthem wouldn’t play, two runners stepped forward and sang it beautifully.  However, they didn’t sing it alone because almost immediately the whole field joined in.  It was a perfect way to start, and then we were off.

The early part of the course consisted of rolling hills, which are my favorite to run.  I picked a comfortable pace and stuck with it the whole way.  I only stopped to walk if a hill was particularly steep.  I plugged along while everyone else passed me, and before long I was convinced there was no one left to go by.  I didn’t particularly mind.  After all, it was nice to see another person occasionally, and I figured most of them had far more experience with ultras than me anyhow.

The first real challenge of the race was that markers were not that easy to spot.  The red and white tape blended with the foliage in some places and required a lot of attention not to miss them… which many people (myself included!) did… repeatedly.   (Might I offer a humble suggestion of lime green or fluorescent pink next year?)  This was good in the sense that it gave me something to concentrate on; however it made it difficult to watch my footing resulting in several good tumbles.  I caught my toe on and tripped over more rocks than I could count!  I was thrilled when I arrived at the first aid station and plowed through it on to the next one.

The second section of the course had areas that were so steep and treacherous that they were really more conducive to 1394469_10151653824057397_1418743311_nhiking climbing than running… unless you’re part mountain goat.  I did my best to run whatever I could safely and was still feeling good when I hit aid station #2.  I called out my number to the volunteers and headed up a near vertical ascent.  I found Lana on the way up, and she asked how I was feeling.  I told her I was still doing ok and scaled upwards.  My reward was a magnificent view from the top!  The rest of that section seemed to span on forever, and I was sincerely doubting my ability to finish before the cutoff… or finish at all… when I arrived at station #3.  Lana, again, was there waiting for me and she even jogged down the street with me asking me questions as I crossed back onto the course.  I asked the staff at the station how much longer to the next one (which I mistakingly thought was the last one) and they said another 6 miles.  Elated by this news, I blasted past them and they called after me that they had cookies and didn’t I want something to eat.

The next section, again, seemed to stretch on forever.  This was at least in part due to the fact that I hadn’t realized I was out of water until after I started it.  My legs were no longer cooperating and the down hills were worse than up.  At some point I ran a whole extra hill because I had missed a marker.  I thought about taking the ibuprofen I brought with me, but I didn’t want to risk injuring myself by blocking out the pain.  Then I rolled my ankle and landed on it. I was relieved to find at least that it wasn’t badly sprained, and I could still walk on it.  I figured I should enjoy what was left of the race because it could be a good amount of time before I’d be running on it again.  When I did finally arrive at the 4th aid station I found Adam.  He had ridden his bike from home to greet me.  I asked if would make it back in time to see me finish, and he said it would be no problem because I still had 11 miles to go.  The volunteer confirmed this information by telling me I did a great job and was 22 miles in.  I was crushed because I had thought that there were only 4 aid stations with 8 miles left after the last one.  I truly thought that extra 3 miles was going to kill me.  Then Adam filled my hydration pack more than I needed despite my protests.

In spite of the fact that the volunteers were wonderful and supportive, I left that aid station feeling totally defeated.  My pack was the heavier now than it ha been when I started, and I had 3 extra miles to go on top of the eight mile section ahead of me.  Judging by the amount of time it had taken me to complete the last section, I thought for sure that I would never make it past the next cutoff.  It was definitely my lowest point in the race.  The one thing that worked in my favor was that there were not a lot of uphills on that segment. In fact, it was primarily downhill; and I was able to push through 8 miles in 2 hours.  I saw Lana shortly before the last aid station and called out to her “I’m smiling because if you’re here then I’m almost done!”  I stopped briefly at that last aid station- just long enough to say thank you and grab some gummy bears.  They were the most delicious I have ever tasted in my life!  I headed into my last 3 miles on a high.  It was only 4:30 PM, and I knew I could walk the rest of the way and still make it.

However, having run everything but the worst hills up to this point, I was determined to keep going.  Besides, if I was running to inspire and raise money for victims of domestic violence, I was certainly not going to give them anything less than my best.  Plus, I wanted nothing more than to be finished as soon as possible!  So I kept running, despite the fact that my running resembled stumbling more than actual running.  I was emotional on the last section because it was the first time I knew that I could do it: the finish was within my grasp.  I thought of all the hard work and 6 long months of training I had put in to get to this point; and I thought of all the women I was doing this for.  This was not a victory just for me, this was a victory for us.  All those women who were told over and over that they couldn’t accomplish or handle anything, who 564089_10151653823952397_1516264909_nhad their self worth stripped from them the way I did- it was a victory for them.

When I did finally see the finish, I sprinted to it as fast as my legs would carry me.  The people who were there erupted in cheers (not just for me, but for every runner).  Lana was there at the finish, and I told her I couldn’t believe it was over.  She asked if she could give me a hug and I was more than happy to accept it, though I did warn her that I was pretty sweaty.  She asked asked me some additional questions, and then we waited or Adam to arrive (because he underestimated how quickly I would get through my last 11 miles!).  When the race director offered me my glass (and it’s a pretty nifty glass too!) for finishing, I had actually forgotten we were supposed to get anything.  To me, the reward was just in the experience.  I spent the whole day doing something I absolutely love, in good company, with great volunteers, and raised money and awareness for domestic violence in the process.  What more could a girl ask for?

Now that it’s all over, I’m still in disbelief that I did it.  Even more than that, I can’t even begin to process how much love and support I have had for this race.  I don’t think I could have pushed through the pain for as long as I did had I not had so many people rooting for me.  Being someone as independent as I am, I am not used to asking for help… or for anything for that matter.  However, when it came to my fundraising race this year, the response was more than I could have ever imagined.  I am so blessed to have the people I do in my life, from my amazing husband who sacrificed his sleep yesterday to drive me to and from the race and cheer me on, to my awesome family and mom who left me cupcakes for when I got home, to my trainer who kicked my butt for 6 months and helped me become the strongest physically that I have ever been, to all my friends, coworkers, and fellow CT-ALIVE board members, and Arch Angels who offered words of encouragement and made donations.  I dont’ know what I did to deserve to have so many wonderful people in my life, but I am truly grateful for each and every one of them!