Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Keeping Me On My Toes

I went for a bike ride with Connie, one of my coworkers, on Monday, down to Boyd Lake and into Loveland and back. It was a warm morning, the day ended up being hot, in the 80s by afternoon. First thing in the morning I took Iris for a walk and found myself running, but it was already really warm and she couldn't go very far. Looks like I'll have to start taking the girls before the sun comes up. The sprinkler stops won't be as frequent given our watering restrictions. I might have to hose the girls down before we leave the house.

I wonder if not getting as many miles as my body was capable of in the race has made me less tired. It's hard to tell because sometimes you think you feel good soon after a race and then you can overdo it, and set yourself back. I've learned to be on the conservative side of this. Three weeks minimum. If I'm crawling out of my skin, that's okay. Speaking of rest, and patience, the universe sometimes delivers these messages in cruel ways.

I was supposed to get together this week with another Connie, my friend from the running club, to have coffee and just catch up. She's been recovering from knee surgery and hasn't really gotten back to running. I thought I'd hear from her during the day on Sunday and never did. Then Monday morning I was on Facebook and saw a message from her daughter, saying Connie had been in a bike accident and had surgery Sunday night for a hip fracture and other injuries.

Fortunately her daughter was able to get to the hospital and let them know before the surgery that Connie is an athlete, which changed the way the surgery was done, and was there to advocate for her afterwards, reminding the nurses and other staff that her mom is not an old lady, that she should be treated as the younger, stronger, healthier person she is compared to other people her age.

I got in touch with her daughter Monday morning and later in the day went over to the hospital to see her. Connie's husband was there, he'd been out of town when the accident happened, but flew back early in the morning. Connie was groggy from the pain medications and finally they had her pain under control so she was able to sleep. She is stable and recovering, but she's at the beginning of a long road. She wasn't hit by a car, she actually tipped over on her bike while trying to get a water bottle out of the cage, and fell hard on the asphalt.

These things can happen at any time, to any of us. It's important to remember every day that we are so lucky to have our health and fitness and be able to do the things we do, because it's not guaranteed. I'm so glad Connie wasn't hurt worse, I'm thankful for helmets, and that her injuries were things that can be fixed and rehabbed, so she will be able to resume doing the things she loves.

The other lesson that comes out of this is rest. She is going to have to take a long rest, she'll be working hard with physical therapy and getting her strength back, but it's going to have to be in moderation so she heals properly. It will take a lot of patience and mental discipline, which is hard for some runners to do. Disciplining yourself to hold back at times, and knowing when it's okay to work harder, is an art in itself.

It's a reminder that after a hard racing season, or any time when your body is telling you, "Enough!" to listen to the clues it gives you. Sometimes it's tempting to go do those extra miles or extra cross-training, but it takes self-discipline to know that at the most it won't make any difference, and might actually do more harm than good.

When I arrived home yesterday afternoon from visiting Connie, there was a package on my doorstep from Pearl Izumi. The M3s. They are road training shoes, with midfoot stability. My wide foot on the left always gives me problems, there are few shoes with toe boxes wide enough or without material that doesn't hit me in a way that compresses my surgically altered foot. They feel good, very comfortable and well-cushioned.

The weather is about to turn back toward winter, in time for May 1st. That should be expected by now. Eighty-three degrees yesterday, snow tonight. I can see green leaves on the lilac bushes out my window. Last year at this time they were already past full bloom and fading. The leaves have not popped out on the cottonwood trees, but they will any day.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Doing What's Right for You in the Rest Cycle

I'm making gradual progress toward recovery. I was super sore after North Coast, but in my upper body, not my legs. I'm guessing it was from fighting the wind. My shoulders, neck, and low back were sore. At some point in the race Andy Lovy told me I was leaning forward too much. I tried to pay attention but then in a video I saw of myself at a point late in the race, I was leaning forward, my butt sticking out too far. My butt and hips were sore, more on the left side than the right.

Now everything is slowly working itself out, I spent some time soaking in the hot tub Wednesday and yesterday, and stretched while I was in there. I've walked the girls each day, but nothing else. Today the weather looks more promising and I plan to get out on the bike, at least for an easy spin. I work the entire weekend so that will keep me out of trouble. Next week I'll get on the bike more than my feet.

My recovery plan includes at least 3 weeks of primarily NOT running. I'm looking at the Houska Houska 5K as my first "race" of the summer season, and breaking in my Pearl Izumi M3s. I never took any quality recovery time last fall after Oklahoma and I was feeling it by this spring. It's always worked well for me to take a break about every six months and do no running for a week or so before I slowly get back to it. Usually I take a whole month to avoid "training", which means I'll go for runs but nothing long or hard, just easy jogging. I'll ride the bike and sometimes rack up the miles there, but no intensity.

Some people like to get right back into running after they race their last race of the season, but I've always felt it's important to get completely rested, both mind and body. Taking the focus off of the grind of the daily workout is as important as giving your muscles and soft tissue a rest. I can find myself getting mentally burned out toward the end of training, and the rest period helps this. I can tell I'm in a good place mentally, because I already can't wait to get started again.

I'd love to run out the door and go over to the track to hammer out some miles or 400s as soon as the soreness goes away, but that will have to wait until June. The break will build up a hunger to work hard when the time comes. Letting go of the fear of losing fitness is an important lesson that runners need to learn. If you lose anything at all, which is doubtful, it will be quickly made up in the first few weeks of training again, and your body will respond better as a result of the rest cycle.

That's what works for me. Everyone finds what works for them, but I think there are a lot of people who push themselves too hard for too long and then get stale and have mediocre results. That's what I was experiencing myself this spring, but my goal has been to build up strength for later in the year. When I keep myself focused on the long term plan, what happens in the short term is all about strength, mental focus, learning, and experience. It requires patience and believing in one's training.

Last night I went over to Runners' Roost and Scott Jurek was there making an appearance because he was in town to speak on a vegan panel at CSU. He went for a short run with the Wednesday night running group and then signed copies of his book before he left. I took a lot of pictures on other people's cameras of them with Scott. I spoke with Scott's wife, Jenny, about races, while people were lined up getting his autograph. Scott seemed like a very personable guy, even though I didn't actually talk to him, there were too many people lined up waiting.

There was a good turnout and I wish there was that big of a turnout for the Wednesday night runs all the time. I haven't attended many myself, half the time I work Wednesdays and then many of the other Wednesdays I was running my tempo runs. I couldn't help taking the above picture of that t-shirt. I love it.

I saw Cat last night, she was lamenting the fact that all the trails are still full of snow. We were trying to figure out how long it might take for it to melt. It's supposed to be in the 70s this weekend, we'll have plenty of mud to dry up first. Judging from the dog poop in our backyard that was in the snow, the trails aren't dry yet. The poop is still too soft to pick up. The true test: When the dog poop gets solid enough to pick up without falling apart, the trails will be dry enough to run on. Or something to that effect...

Spring seems to be back. We still have a pile of snow in the front yard over the flower garden. All of the flowers that came up before the blizzard are trashed, but the wildflowers will probably do great in a few weeks. I saw in the paper that the snowstorm helped our snow pack so much that the city is considering partially lifting water restrictions. I think that's pretty dumb, City of Fort Collins, considering that we are still in a major drought. As soon as they lift the restrictions, we won't get any more rain and we'll dry up like last year. We should have been on watering restrictions for years.

The other night I officially signed up for 24 The Hard Way in October. I am totally psyched for that race. Plus I know a lot of people who will be there, it will be fun, intense, and there will be tons of competitive support among the runners.

I also started looking at tuneup races in August and September. I think I found one, the Badgerland Striders in Wisconsin have a 12 hour event at the end of Auugust, on Labor Day weekend. I looked at the map and costs, it looks like it would be a fairly reasonable trip to fly to Milwaukee or Chicago. I have to work Labor Day, so it will have to be a quick trip.

It's time for me to get off my ass and start moving this morning, I'm getting the Buffalo staredown. It's sunny and almost 50 degrees, and purple flowers are popping out in the wildflower garden. I'll need to find my sunglasses, in case I look down at my white legs. Happy running, walking, hot tubbing, or whatever you're doing to get off your own ass this weekend!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gone With the Wind: North Coast 24 Hour Race Report

I finally made it home to cold snowy Colorado, I apologize for the delay in getting this blogpost out. I have been tired and sore, still haven't caught up on my sleep so I'm having a hard time thinking, plus didn't get home from Ohio until late in the day yesterday. Now I'm back to the woman cave where I can relax and collect my thoughts, plus I can do a little soaking in the hot tub outside.

My feelings from this race are mixed, I loved the event, I enjoyed the venue and the race itself. There were great volunteers who braved horrible conditions and had to be miserably cold. It was well-organized and the aid station had everything. There was extra security in the park at night from the rangers. They delivered on everything I'd heard about, it was extremely well-done.

As far as Cleveland goes, not so sure. I didn't get a chance to do any real tourist activity while I was there so maybe I missed the good stuff. I'm really not into cities, but there were a few things I would liked to have seen, like the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. I would definitely consider going back to run this event in the future. It was even better because I got to see Lynn and Suzy and spend some time with them.

There was the disappointment, of course, of not getting anywhere close to the mileage I wanted, which was 110. Most of all, to win a 24 hour race with not even 100 miles is sort of embarrassing. But this was not my goal race, I certainly hadn't anticipated winning it, and the weather and conditions made it a survival event. Which, like it or not, seems to be my forte.

In the late hours of the race, I honestly was not even thinking about the fact that another mile or two would have improved my overall ranking dramatically. I was just over it, and wanting the time to pass so I could be done. I had completely lost sight of numbers. I'll reflect on that a bit later in this post. However, it's just more fuel for the fire next time.

Pre-Race: Just Shoot, And Walk Away

I'd spent a relaxing two days at my friends Lynn David and Suzy Newton's home in Columbus, where I got plenty of great sleep and food. On Thursday the weather forecast looked like this:

Friday evening, the race day forecast looked like this:

Friday it was raining hard all morning as I drove north toward Cleveland on I-71. I made two brief stops for food and supplies outside Cleveland and then proceeded into the downtown area to find my hotel and figure out where the race course was.

The rain stopped before I got to downtown, and I found the hotel easily. I was able to check in early and got a room on the 10th floor with a city view and some views of Lake Erie. The hotel was okay, could have been a little cleaner, but at least there was no bat guano or leftover human hairs this time.

I dumped all my stuff in the room and looked at the map and directions I had to Edgewater Park. About a 10 minute drive from the hotel, shouldn't be bad, right?

I got in the car and started going toward the park, I drove across a bridge and then into the downtown area, made the correct turns, until suddenly there were detour signs for the road I needed to take. I attempted to follow the signs but ended up getting hopelessly and completely lost, and I ended up seeing some scenic parts of downtown Cleveland that I hadn't anticipated. There was NO WAY IN HELL I was stopping the car to ask for directions in this neighborhood.

My mind immediately went to the advice I'd received from a patient at work a week or so ago. He has a background in law enforcement and was familiar with Cleveland, and his exact words to me were, "When you're in Cleveland, just shoot, and walk away." I would have to agree...

I continued driving and trying to follow my gut on directions to get back to another part of town where it looked a little safer. Somehow I ended up at the dog pound, which seemed to me to be as good a place as any, since there was no other building that looked like it might house someone who could actually give directions without risking my life.

They were very nice at the pound, they printed out directions for me on Google maps so I could find both the park and the way back to the hotel. Once I left there, it took less than 5 minutes to find Edgewater Park, but it had taken an hour to get there!!!

I felt a bit frazzled when I got there, and stepped out of the car. It was hard to open the door against the stiff, biting wind coming across the lake. It was also freezing cold! I walked around near the pavilions, where the aid station would be set up, and a little on the path we'd be running. The wind was a killer! All I could do was hope that tomorrow it wasn't as bad, otherwise it was going to be an interesting race.

The trees were being whipped and huge waves were crashing against the shore. You could go surfing out there, on a lake! I could feel the mist from the waves, standing there about 20 feet from the water, and I was on the race course. It could be hard to stay dry, too.

I'd seen enough. I was freezing my butt off, and now I was glad I'd brought two huge bags full of winter clothing, because I was going to need it. I'd had my little urban adventure, now it was time to get ready for race day. There was hope though, the clouds were moving fast overhead and there were actually two little spots of blue sky visible.

I wrote to Lynn to tell him I'd arrived safely and was at Edgewater. I also told him about the blue hole in the sky.

His words back to me were, "Don't be deceived. The hole is to pour water through."

Driving back to the hotel took 10 minutes. I saw where I had made the wrong turn, so I felt relieved that on race morning it would be much easier.

Back at the hotel, I finished organizing what little I had left to do. I mostly thought about it. Stepping out into that wind was a hard thing to do the day before a race, knowing it could easily be just like that. I do not like cold weather. But I had to psych myself up, I came all this way, and there was no way I was going to wimp out. I told myself, a little wind and cold isn't going to stop me. I have run across Death Valley several times and endured heat. I can do this for 24 hours. All I needed to do was stick to my plan and stay warm and I'd be fine.

I didn't feel like going out again for food, I had bought some soup, bread, salad, and pasta at Whole Foods and warmed them up in the microwave in the room. It was a little spicy, but not bad. I watched the sunset over the city from my window. I had a hard time falling asleep but once I did, I slept a solid 7 hours.

Race Morning

I drank my coffee, took a shower and got dressed. There was a nice sunrise over the city, but I could see the trees in the cemetery across the street from the hotel that were swaying, and a flag on the Progressive Field stadium building was blown straight out in the wind.

Going out to the car it was cold, but the sky didn't look too bad.

I drove over to the park and got my stuff set up on a picnic table and picked up my race packet and timing chip. The wind was fierce, my hands were frozen, and I tied my stuff down with bungee cords to the picnic table so it wouldn't blow away. It started snowing, horizontally. I had time to kill so I sat in the car to stay warm. People were huddled behind a building trying to stay out of the wind, waiting for the pre-race briefing to start.

I had to get out of the car for the briefing under the pavilions, and everything was being whipped by the wind. People's tents were flapping and lifting off the ground, there was sand blowing across the race course and into everything, and it was bitter cold. I grabbed some extra layers of warm clothes to start out in.

I found Beth McCurdy and Andy Lovy, and talked with both of them. I first met Beth at the Keys 100. She's been running awesome performances and was planning to get a national team qualifying performance at this race, which would probably take about 130 miles. She was definitely the favorite going into the women's race. There were several other strong women runners out there too, Liz Bondar was one of them, I had never met her before, but she has done over 110 in the 24 hour. Debra Horn was running in the 12 hour event, as she has the World 24 Hour championships coming up in May. I was hoping to talk with her and some of the other runners to get some tips and ideas on strategy in these races while I was there.

Andy is nothing short of incredible. He was the medical director for this race, and he has served in that role many times at this and other races, including Across the Years. That's where I've gotten to know him over the years. He is now 78 years old, and despite some health problems over the past several years he has managed to come back. He had a goal of 26 miles, and then he was planning to be done. He was also taking care of the runners in his medical director capacity, and had a crew of podiatry students on site with him. I found out that he will be running medical at the 24 hour national championships in Oklahoma City this fall, so it will be great to see him again there.

As we all stood there huddled together and shivering, Heidi Finniff, the race director, started the briefing, talked about the course and the start, which was a little ways back on the course from the timing mats, so that we would end up at exactly 100 miles at the timing mats when we hit our 111th lap. We had a 26 second moment of silence to think about what happened at Boston last week, and then we walked over to the starting line. The snow had stopped, but not the wind. We were starting going directly into the blast, on the corner of the course that faced directly into the water and blowing sand off the beach.

The Start

My plan going into the race was to run a steady pace of 13 minute miles over the most of the event, which would yield a total of 110 miles, and that was my goal. I allowed myself a few hours of carefully regulated adrenaline laps but didn't want to go too fast in the beginning, so I was careful not to get caught up in Beth and Debra's paces. Liz was moving along at a fast pace, too. I was there for my goal miles, not to place competitively, so I completely ignored my place as I went through the day. As much as I wanted to talk with them, I only allowed myself a couple of laps at a time with them and then I made myself walk or slow way down to keep from tiring myself out.

After a few laps it became obvious that this was not going to be a predictable day, and the wind was making it hard to focus on pace anyway, because one half of the course had a stiff headwind or cross wind, and the other half the wind was at our backs. There was one little corner of the course, near where we had started, where the wind was so strong that it blew you back. It was a struggle to figure out how to deal with it. I tried running into it, walking into it, leaning forward, and various other strategies. Finally I decided I would approach it by not trying to fight it, but just letting it roll over me. Running into it seemed easier than walking, but I didn't push the pace. I just kept turning my legs over at a painfully slow pace and getting through the hard wind with a minimum of energy expenditure.

It was also hard to regulate your clothing layers because it was so cold in the headwind, but then you'd get hot with the wind at your back. I opted to stay warm, as always. I had my oldest pair of warm Pearl Izumi tights on with my knee-high compression sleeves underneath, a long sleeved PI shirt, followed by a fleece jacket and then my PI jacket on top. Then I grabbed a windbreaker to put on top of that, for a total of 4 layers. Later on I added a 5th layer when it got cold. I also had a windproof pair of gloves on under a pair of thick fleece gloves, a fleece hat and a headband to hold the hat on over my ears, and two neck gaiters: one for my neck, the other to pull over my face when running into the wind.

The wind was so strong in that one corner of the course that the wind was forming sand dunes across the path, which the race volunteers had to keep shoveling of every hour or so. If they didn't do that, it would have been running through sand dunes to add an extra challenge.

I talked a bit with Debra, she told me about it being an exercise in patience, running the 24 hour event. She suggested that I try qualifying for the national team. I told her, I feel so far from that at this point, I have a long way to go, and already being 49, it would be really hard. Debra told me she is 54. She runs a lot of marathons to help with her speed and strength. I have been working on the speed and it's been a hard year, I feel like I've made some progress but it's been minimal. I do plan to work on it on an ongoing basis, though.

I need to get some much better performances before I could even think about going to qualify. I'm planning on doing some marathons this summer and fall. What I also need is more experience running these competitive events, which is why I wanted to run North Coast, and plan on going to the national championships this fall.

Beth introduced me to a number of runners on the course. I ended up meeting a lot of great people in this event. We were all struggling together, talking helped to take my mind off the wind. I thought about Joe Fejes and his advice to me: staying out of the portapotties, aid stations, and staying on the course as much as possible. I did that. I ran the tangents carefully, something I've always been good at. Beth said that was one of her weak areas, she needed to pay more attention to the curves. She introduced me to Karen Heitner from South Carolina, who was running strong all day in the 24 hour.

By mid-afternoon Beth was struggling to keep on pace for her goal. She caught up to me on one lap and asked if I could talk. She said she was having a hard time staying warm and fighting the wind. We talked about revising goals, I had already been thinking that in my head, that I didn't feel 110 was going to happen for me. Beth was afraid of getting hypothermic at night. She had a hard goal set and these conditions were clearly not going to bring her 130 miles.

I told her how I approached the wind, by not fighting it, but I understood about trying to go for a fast pace in this weather. She definitely could still win it easily if she stayed. But it was more important for her to get a high mileage performance. I hoped she would stay for my own selfish reasons, I wanted someone to push me. Still, I understood and there are times when it is smarter to call it a day than to try to push through.

She decided to hang in there and see if she could get her head back in the right place. We ran together for a while, and tried to stick to talking about things that helped distract us. Like food! It seemed like she was starting to feel better after an hour or so of this, and she took off at a faster pace again. Meanwhile as the hours went on, I realized that I would have to revise my goal downward, but I still thought 105 might be possible.

The wind was gradually dying down, from howling to a moderately strong headwind. It was still a hard wind but not so bad that it prevented forward progress like in the morning. It had the effect of making it seem a little warmer, at least when the wind was at our backs. It was also shifting direction, so it was cold on different parts of the course than earlier.

Somewhere around 6 pm Beth decided to call it a day. I felt bad for her, but she was doing the right thing given her goals. Liz was struggling with an injury and left at some point. Debra had called it a day early, understandably.

Hung Ng, whom I knew from Badwater, was thinking about quitting too, around 50 miles he looked at the standings, and saw he was doing well, and decided to stick with it. There were several men who had been running fast earlier in the race, but fizzled out and were barely moving by late in the day.

The sun started sinking and the temperature started to drop by 7 pm, and I changed clothes for the evening. I changed into my windproof PI tights, changed my socks, cleaned my feet off, and poured sand out of my shoes. I had no blisters, just a few minor hot spots from the pile of sand I'd dumped out. I had more layers ready for late night, when I'd need them. I took a few sunset pictures while my hands were warm, then dropped the phone back in the box. I didn't want the temptation of texting anyone or checking Facebook when I was feeling crappy.

I had no stomach problems all day, I was eating tons of grilled cheese and PBJs, and drinking surprisingly little water compared to what I normally do. I wasn't thirsty, I was peeing once an hour, and not cramping. I had no swelling in my hands or feet so I knew my hydration was perfect. I had only taken two S caps all day. I drank a Starbucks doubleshot when I changed clothes.

Night Time

I reached 53.5 miles at 12 hours, and I was tired, but not dead on my feet. I knew keeping the same pace through night was going to be tough. I started to use some of the caffeine gels Wheaties Boy swears by. They helped me stay awake, but they give you a boost for only a short time, and then you start to crash. I tried to keep eating PBJs in between the gels to avoid the sugar crash, and it worked well. I had some broth and soup during the night, too.

I realized by midnight that even 100 miles might be too ambitious of a goal. I was doing some fast walking, but lamenting the fact that my training has consisted of 99.99% running, so my walking skill is not what it has been in the past. I hooked up with a couple who were racewalking, and they were moving well. I stayed with them for a couple of laps and talked. I tried to talk to as many people as possible to stay awake and moving.

Hung was running a very strong and consistent pace the whole way. We talked and ran together a bit at night. He kept talking about the fog. It was hard to see very far on the water, and the clouds were low, but it didn't seem foggy to me. I figured I just didn't notice the fog due to my fatigue. I was watching him run through the whole race, and watching him take frequent stops at his table. He was amazing, he was stopping often, but his running pace was solid. I hardly ever saw him walk.

I talked with Andy throughout the night. He had surpassed his 26 mile goal 12 hours ahead of schedule and continued on to 30, and then 35 miles in the race. He cheered me on every time I passed him.

It got noticeably colder between the hours of 2 am and 4 am. I was shivering, no matter how much clothing I wore. I added a fifth layer again. I tried warm drinks but they didn't last long. I needed to stay awake and do something. I tried running a little and was making better progress walking. I walked a lot during the hours of 2 am to 5 am.

I started to wonder where I was place-wise anong the women. I didn't see very many women out of the course, maybe a half dozen. People had dropped like flies earlier. Beth and Liz had both left early. Karen was still on the course, along with Anne McClain, and Sara Brunazzi. I didn't have a clue where I was in relation to any of them.

I decided to try to figure that out, to give myself a mental task to focus on, maybe it would help me stay awake and motivated. I'd downsized my goal again to 150 km, which frustrated the hell out of me but I felt completely beaten by the cold and wind. I talked with Karen a little, she told me she was over it, too.

I figured out at some point that Anne was ahead of me by 3 laps, so I decided to focus on making up that gap, simply because it was something to concentrate on. Eventually she must have gone off the course, because I made up the gap and then kept gaining on her. I saw that Sara was behind me, but racking up the miles well. Karen was 4 laps ahead of me, so I decided to focus on catching her next. I must have been moving for 3 hours trying to make headway on that and couldn't. She was a beast.

Karen kept crossing the timing mats somewhere ahead of me, but I couldn't see her, I just saw her name and mileage on the screen. Finally I saw her ahead of me. She was moving at a decent pace. We started up the gradual incline toward the lake, and I ran by her. I said, "good job Karen" and continued on by. Once I leveled out at the top of the hill something kicked in, in my brain. I grabbed some packets of chocolate cherry "crack" (that's what Wheaties Boy calls those Clif Shots) and stuffed them in my pockets so I could avoid crashing.

I took off and before long I had made up two laps on her. That motivated me enough that I started pushing myself to a run/walk pattern. It felt better to run, so I didn't even walk much from that point on. I ran with Hung again, who was still complaining about the fog. I was too out of it to converse and ask him questions about it, though. It amazed me how much I had left in my legs. It also made me feel really stupid for not having used more of it earlier, but it was too late now. I had to use what I had left with the time remaining on the clock.

Light was coming back in the sky, and I was coming back to life. I focused on getting to 150K, and then 95 miles, and whatever time I had left until 9 am. It never occurred to me that I was going to be close to 100 miles, or I would have somehow tried to do it. I simply spaced out from running during those 3 hours in the middle of the night, feeling defeated by the long day, and being in survival mode.

By the time 7 am came around it had warmed up somewhat and I had been able to shed two of my jackets. The wind was the calmest it had been the whole time. I was in the lead for the women, and was in no danger of being caught. At some point my hands warmed up enough to grab my phone to take sunrise pictures as I took a quick break to eat some yogurt, and I quickly posted one to Facebook, and no sooner did I do that than I got a message back from Joe who said, "Quit texting! Keep running!"

Yes, sir!

I didn't let up, I figured I could get as many miles as possible, but for some reason, trying for 100 never even crossed my mind again. I must have been experiencing late-race dementia. The difficulty of changing my goals and adjusting my pace, and figuring out the wind all day must have blown my brain out my ears.

I was nearing 98 miles, so I focused on that. I grabbed my popsicle stick to mark my final spot when the horn went off at 9 am. I was with Andy Lovy at the final moment, just before another full lap at the timing mats.

They had delicious breakfast burritos and some fresh fruit at the finish, I ate some and then started taking my stuff back to the car. Karen helped me carry things, which was much appreciated. Then we had the awards. I ended up with 99 miles, actually, which makes me want to kick myself in the butt even more!

Karen had finished second, about 4 or 5 miles behind me, and Sara was third. Among the men, John Cash ran an amazing 135 miles in his first 24 hour. I told him he needs to go to the national championships. Hung finished second with 120 miles. Those two were running the whole time. I learned a lot from watching both of them, and it convinces me even more to give up the walking for the most part, I am going to work on running a steady pace in these things from now on.

Hung was having a hard time seeing, something had happened, possibly hyponatremia or some other weird thing, and he suffered some temporary blindness. That's why he kept talking about the fog. Andy checked him out, fortunately I heard he recovered from that quickly after the race. I've never heard of that before. Note to myself for working races on medical teams in the future. I have no idea how that could happen, unless he had some cerebral edema that could put pressure on his optic nerve? I might be way wrong on that, so don't quote me. I will look it up as soon as time allows.

I got my finisher's medal and a plaque. There was also prize money, which is a nice thing, as this was an expensive trip for me and will help to offset those costs.

After thanking Heidi, Andy, and some of the volunteers, and saying goodbye to a lot of the runners, I took off for the hotel to get showered, fed, and rested. I limped into the hotel, disheveled and looking like the bag lady. But when I got to the room, I had no blisters and no heat rash. Not even any chafing.

I took a 2 hour nap, went downstairs and got a HUGE burger, fries and a beer, then went back to the room to try to sleep, but I made some phone calls and texts to Dennis, Wheaties Boy and a few Facebook posts before I actually fell asleep. I was sore, swollen, and uncomfortable and tossed and turned all night.

Monday morning I drove back to Columbus, spent the day with Lynn and Suzy, and did laundry so I cold fit everything back in my bags. I flew back to Colorado on Tuesday morning. It had snowed another 5 inches.

What I Learned

I need to have a lot more confidence in my ability to sustain a running gait for 24 hours. I can do it. I've relied entirely too much on my walking in the past. It's time to put that behind me. Walking is good for short breaks to relieve muscle fatigue, but it's not something I can continue to do if I want to rack up the miles.

Having a crew will be helpful in keeping track of my place in the standings, and to help me be consistent on food and fluid intake. I did just fine all by myself at this race, but it was cold and damp, and I didn't need as much fluid. It would have helped to have someone dig through my stuff occasionally and hand me what I needed as I ran by, instead of having to stop and rummage through a box.

Sticking to a goal pace was right, even though the conditions screwed things up here. I will use that strategy again next time. And everything Joe told me is good advice.

As far as pacing myself went, I obviously had a good bit of reserve in my legs in the last 4 hours. That tells me I did a good job of pacing in the first half, but a really crappy job of pacing myself in the second half, but I felt pretty clueless on how to handle the conditions. There is still so much to learn! Also, mentally I needed to be stronger in the second half. I felt more mentally exhausted than physically.

It's a little embarrassing to say I won a 24 hour race, especially North Coast, with less than 100 miles, but it just gets me that much more determined to blow it all out of the water next time. 6 months to Oklahoma City!

Yes I am on Team Pearl Izumi, so I do have financial interest in saying this, but I wouldn't say it if it weren't true. One thing I need to mention, was that while I had 5 layers on top during the cold night, I never wore more than one pair of tights the whole time, and at night I wore my Pearl Izumi Fly Evo tights, they have windproof panels and are breathable. I never needed more than these in those extreme conditions, so I was really impressed with how they performed for me. My legs never got cold. I did have a pair of compression sleeves on underneath up to my knees, but my thighs stayed warm even in the coldest hours of the night and the wind with just the Fly Evo tights. Highly recommend them.

What I'll do now, and a few parting thoughts

I finally wrapped up the longest racing season I can ever remember. I am so glad to be done. I am taking the rest of April and most of May off from training, I'll get on the bike, do a little running once I feel rested, and then will resume racing in June.

I do feel like I made significant gains in fitness. In better conditions, I know I could have reached my 110 mile goal, and it would have helped immensely to have more competition if Beth and a few others had been there, given a better day. I am only disappointed with the number, but then, it's only a number. There are more races and better days ahead.

I am really proud of myself for overcoming my cold aversion in this race. I trained for heat for so long, that last year I was a complete wimp in the cold. Over the past year I feel like I've gotten so much better at dealing with it. Could it be the hot flashes? Maybe. But I didn't have any in this race. It would have been a nice thing...but I'm also glad they left me alone during this trip so I could sleep!

I'm ready to get on with my rest time because I am totally psyched to go into training for Oklahoma City. This whole experience makes me want even more to get out there and blow out all the carbon!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

North Coast 24 Hour Brief

Here's the short version: managed to pull off a win in the women's 24 hour in the most bone-chilling wind I've experienced in an ultra. The long version is coming, I'll need to catch up on my sleep and get home to Colorado, hope to post on that by mid-week.

This was the toughest race I've ever run, really, it made a Badwater double seem easy by comparison. I struggled more, both physically and mentally, at North Coast.

Strategically I did play my cards right, by not "fighting" the wind and sticking to a slow pace from the beginning. I found myself revising my goals early, this was clearly a survival and grit race. When people were dropping like flies I was able to conserve my energy and it paid off, in a big way, in the last two hours.

I am exhausted, and happy, even with a grand total of only 98
miles. Those were 98 hard-earned, mentally challenging miles!

Full report in a few days!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ohio: Old Friends, Goat Cheese and Cherries, and Magnolias

After a harrowing drive down I-25 to DIA yesterday morning, my flight to Columbus left almost on time, just a little de-icing necessary.

On the flight I met a woman from Columbus who now lives in Colorado Springs, I got plenty of tips on The Columbus area, plus her husband is involved in the running business, so I passed some Pearl Izumi contact information to her about the products.

Columbus is a tiny airport and the first thing I saw was green grass and flowering trees, everywhere! Total contrast from the blizzard I left 3 hours earlier.

I got my rental car, Toyota Corolla, at least this time I'm familiar with Toyotas and could figure out how to unlock and start it.

It was an easy drive to Lynn and Suzy's, he gave me directions and it only took a few minutes and I was there. On the way I drove through some streets where there were old houses with more beautiful grass and trees but along the roadside there were ugly horrible powerlines running through all the yards parallel to the street! Who did that???

Lynn and Suzy's neighborhood is beautiful. The streets are wide and lined with homes that remind me of my childhood in Pennsylvania. It has an east coast feel, not sure why. Big trees, ivy crawling up the trunks and over the brick. Neighborhood schools, colonial and Tudor- style mansions. Neat landscaping, groomed hedges, flowers everywhere: azaleas, honeysuckles, magnolias , tulips, pear trees. Everything is in bloom now.

We spent several hours talking and catching up, Suzy cooked a delicious dinner and afterwards they took me for a tour of the neighborhood adjacent to theirs, called Bexley. More huge and beautiful homes and landscaping, private schools, and narrow streets. Even more reminiscent of my childhood.

We stopped for ice cream at Jeni's. I've had this before, one of my dad and stepmom's friends shipped some of this amazing stuff to them. I tried flavors like cayenne, goat cheese and red cherries, Ugandan vanilla, salty caramel. These were only a few. You could spend all day sampling ice cream there.

I settled on goat cheese and red cherries, it tastes like cheesecake. I might have to go back there AFTER my race.

We talked for a short time after arriving back at the house and I suddenly felt the long day catching up to me. I showered and went to bed. After a while, i crashed and slept a solid 10 + hours, I didn't even get out of bed until 10 am Eastern time!

This morning I talked with Lynn, he gave me pointers on navigating Cleveland, and places to run in his neighborhood. I just got back from a 3 mile run around here. It is 70 degrees and humid, the air smells like wet grass and it's as spring-like as you can get. It was 18 degrees in Fort Collins last time I checked.

Tonight we are going out to an Italian restaurant, and tomorrow I will leave for Cleveland. Race day is Saturday. More later...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Well, I'll be darned...

The McMarketing geniuses at the paragon of obesification have outdone themselves, again!

This morning I went out to do a few errands and driving home along College Ave. I couldn't believe my eyes. In fact, I had to double back and pull into the parking lot to take a picture because I couldn't believe what I was reading.

The makers of Fish McBites have gone a step further in naming their latest creation, "the McWrap". Before you get all excited and take off to your local McDonald's to order a McWrap, understand that it is not just a McWrap, but a New Premium McWrap.

Imagine, for a second, pulling up at the drive-thru window of your closest McDonalds and placing your order.

You drive up to the ordering menu, and the little voice inside the speaker says, "Welcome to McDonald's. What can I make for you today?"

You answer, "I'll take a McCrap. I mean, a McWrap." You have to be very careful enunciating what you want.

Seriously, McDonald's?

And Your Point Is...? Bombs, Boston, Blizzards, and B.S.

Yesterday was a weird day all around. It started out weird. We woke up to 10 inches of heavy snow before work, that we had to shovel out of the driveway to get out to our never-plowed street. Driving to work was weird, you would think that in Colorado people would know how to drive in snow, but it turns out they're not much better at it than if a blizzard dumped a foot of snow in Phoenix.

I went into work and it was a bizzarro day, is the only way I can describe it. We got some weird characters at work. They were not patients, but people who accompanied the patients. It's already crowded enough in our work space and then you sometimes get these annoying people who occupy more space, make noise, and find other ways to encroach on our foot space while being rude and loud and sometimes invading the privacy of our patients. When people don't feel well, they want to be alone, or with their own carefully chosen family members or friends.

All this crap makes me question the sanity of our human existence. I felt extremely irritable all morning and I was busy. Fortunately my own patients were easy to work with, none of them had been affected by the mid-April zombie apocalypse, or whatever weird phenomenon occurred that ate so many people's brains prior to April 15th.

By 1 pm or so, the irritation had worked itself out, or gone home for the day, I was lightheaded and my hands were shaking. I got someone to cover my 1 pm appointment and I took off for lunch. Our soon-to-disappear, already undersized breakroom was full and I needed quiet, so I ate my lunch in the report room, which was empty. I turned my phone on and started scrolling through Facebook, and then I saw the bit about an "explosion" at the Boston Marathon.

By the time I had to go back to work, it was apparent that it was not just an explosion, but a deliberate bombing. I thought of all the people I know who were at Boston, either as runners, spectators, or support. The rest of the afternoon, whenever I could, I checked Google News to see the developments of the story. All my coworkers were checking, too.

I hate to get sucked into the porn of a tragedy, I tend to never follow these things and wait until the dust settles with more information. I don't have TV at home, either, so I don't get exposed to the dramatic and overblown newscasts, and I don't watch them on the computer. I prefer to read about it after more information is available. So, I tried to avoid the video coverage and the graphic pictures that were coming out.

When I got off work at 6 pm, I saw my e-mail and some posts on Facebook that all the local runners were safe, and that ultrarunner Tammy Massie, who had gone to Boston to cheer people on and spectate, was safe, and reports were coming back about people being killed and critically injured.

What I want to say to the perpetrators is, "And your point is?"

How cowardly and pathetic that someone has to resort to violence to attempt to get some point across, I do want to know who and what their motive was, to choose a large gathering of people at this event. It seems that it was timed to coincide with the largest number of finishers and spectators at the finish line area, around 4 hours into the race. Somebody knew enough about marathons, or Boston, at least, that they figured that out. But I also think to coordinate this many bombs, they had to be an organized and funded effort by a group.

We have seen so many violent events lately, with the mass shootings and bombings, that I think that somehow this bombing might be connected in some way with someone with an extreme agenda regarding the massacres we've seen lately involving guns. I'm not sure if that's even right, but it's what pops into my mind these days whenever there is some kind of mass violence. Some frustrated, crazed sociopathic freak of a monster like a Timothy McVeigh. Who knows, it could have been anything, but I get the feeling it's homegrown and related to that domestic political issue. I might be way off, but it feels that way to me.

What scares me about this incident is that it seems like every time we have a violent event, it is followed by copycat events. It could have been any sporting event, a baseball game, or anything where there are crowds of people. No one ever thinks something like this would happen in running, except maybe at the Olympics.

I heard they had some kind of tribute to the people of Newtown, Connecticut at 26 miles on the course. I imagine there were plenty of people who experienced that horror and were also at Boston. Double traumatization. The people who were actually injured, or killed, and their families and social circles, are the ones who can never have justice.

I hope the crime is solved soon, I want to know, but no matter what happens to the people who plotted and carried this out, there is no justice in these situations, not for the perpetrators, and never for the victims. Justice doesn't exist. They will have to live with it forever. The only thing other people can do, other than supporting the victims, is to refuse to act out in violent ways and to solve disagreements through words, and peacefully.

There are too many people out there who feel that terrorizing other people is a way to get the message across, we have this horrible way of sensationalizing it in the media. Sometimes there is no message, it's just a mentally deranged individual. But in this case, it's more than that.

It always amazes me when I read posts in social media coming from individuals I think are just regular people, who run, go to work, have children, and lead fairly ordinary existences, don't commit crimes, wish to live peacefully and safely, and wouldn't endanger other people on purpose or want to traumatize anyone.

Then they spout things that exacerbate polarization and violence, and support the outrageous assertions of groups like the recent statements coming from the NRA leadership. I suppose that by pointing this out I could be just as polarizing to them, but I really think what we hear coming from those groups is crazy fringe nonsense and doesn't do anything to help solve the real issues we have with guns and violence.

Our so-called "elected" representatives, who are really bought, don't do anything to help these situations because they are so polarized. They set a horrible example for the people. They don't get anything done, they just obstruct each other and waste the taxpayers' time and money, while working to advance the agendas of the lobbyists' organizations who pay them much better for it than we taxpayers do.

There are too many people who are just freakin weird. Like the latest idiocy coming out of the Westboro Baptist Church, the hate group in Kansas that likes to blame everything bad that happens on God's wrath due to something to do with gay people. These crackpots are grabbing media attention by saying they will boycott the funerals of those killed in Boston.

Really makes you wonder about humanity. But I still think that the overwhelming majority of human beings are not bad people, and I think it's time that the good people harness their power and drown out the voices of the tiny minority of crazy, evil ones.

Regardless, we go on and move forward. We will run more marathons, and ultras. We will continue to have large events with spectators lining the streets. It won't stop runners. It will change the way some of the larger races are managed, and it will probably increase entry fees due to in the increased cost of security, but it won't stop people from going about their business as usual. It will leave people with an uncomfortable, eerie, nagging thought in the back of their minds when they remember what happened at Boston in 2013.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Stories from the Treasure Trove!

Yesterday as I was bouncing off the walls from not being able to run enough miles, I turned my attention to a stack of boxes in the garage that I've been eyeing for a few months. Whenever I taper, I use the extra time and energy to go through old piles of junk that accumulate over time and get rid of things I don't use.

As I dug through the pile, I found old writing materials, old notes from graduate school, a copy of my dissertation, diplomas from college and high school, old backpacking pictures from the 70s, and wedding mementos. I sorted through most of it and tossed the things I didn't want. But I did find one box of stuff I had completely forgotten. I had all my old running logs, since 1984, and a bag from the 1980s and early 90s with old race bibs, ribbons, medals, newspaper clippings, and a few plaques and belt buckles.

Long ago Dennis and I tossed all of our old race trophies and a lot of old race hardware that we didn't have room to keep. I did hang on to a lot of the smaller stuff that could be compressed into a few plastic bags. We moved in 2006 and that's the last time I glanced at anything in the boxes, and at the time, I didn't feel like sorting through things.

I started pulling things out and as I did, I started to remember the stories behind the race numbers and finishers medals, age group ribbons, and so on. So many stories! I have many more race numbers and ribbons tucked away in the pages of 30 years of running logs, and more medals in boxes in my closet, a few recent trophies scattered throughout the house, and belt buckles that I find in odd places as I rummage through drawers and closets. I've never taken the time to pull them out and actually organize them.

I took what was in the box and laid most it out on the kitchen table. I left a pile of rumpled ribbons and numbers in the box, I spread out the items that were least wrinkled and looked over them, and let the stories flood over me.

So many happy and fun memories! There were only a few that were reminders of disappointments, and times when I ran poorly, missed an opportunity, or learned some valuable lesson that hopefully has stuck with me to this day, even if I can't remember the origin of the lesson. I remembered my running buddies over the years and our adventures together.

I'm excited to dig through this stuff again because it gives me all kinds of ideas for writing material. But even more important, it reminds me of how significant running is in my life, and how much it's contributed to my entire existence today. It's more than just an activity I do, it's a huge piece of who I am.

A few of the stories that came to mind:

Running my first 50 miler at the Cross Timbers Trail Run in Texas, with my buddies Dennis Werth and Craig Remner. At the start, there was this woman with a face full of makeup and a rather large butt. The guys told me I could beat her. She ended up winning the race and I was second. I learned that having a big butt doesn't mean you can't win. Probably a lesson every woman needs to learn.

I remember running my first sub-40 10K, in Aspen. I'd been training for months, so hard, and my best time was 40:10. I wanted it so bad. As I crossed the finish line at my goal race, I was shocked and ecstatic to see my time of 38:58. I killed it!

When I ran the Creede Mountain Run in its inaugural year, I was 22 years old and it was my first long trail race. I trained hard all summer in the mountains of Crested Butte and then I blew it by going out too fast, and gasping for air as I tried to run it like a road race all the way to 12,000 feet elevation at the top. All the way down the descent back to town, I was being passed by people I could easily outrun in any road race. Big lesson learned.

Running in the elite race at the Bolder Boulder in 1988, I had my hair cut super short. I crossed the finish line at Folsom Stadium, with a gazillion people in the stands cheering us as we straggled in, in the 80 plus degree heat, I was somewhere way back in the pack of 40 or so women. After I stopped gasping and got some water, all these people were asking for my autograph. I couldn't figure out why they were swarming me. Then one of them asked how my training for the Olympics in Seoul was going. Then I realized they had me confused with Rosa Mota from Portugal, who won the race that day, and had beaten me by something like 10 minutes...

One year in the Leadville Trail 100, I was suffering from sleep deprivation once the sun went down, and I begged my pacer to let me take a nap. We had just gone up the hill out of Twin Lakes, headed for Halfmoon, and I stopped to lie down beside a tree, just a few feet off the trail. Soon after that, another runner and his pacer screamed. It startled me awake. My pacer and the other two people were laughing hysterically. They screamed because they thought there was a bear off the trail. It was me, snoring.

The first race I ever won was the Lake San Cristobal 10K in Lake City Colorado in 1986. The second race I ever won was later that summer at a 5K in Gunnison, Colorado. The day of that 5K is the day I met Dennis for the first time, at a pancake breakfast after the race.

So many more stories, memories, and places I've been. Some races I haven't thought about in years or have completely forgotten, but would like to go back and do again. One of these days I need to go through everything and organize all of it. I'd probably need a museum if I saved everything over an entire lifetime.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Packing for the Guilt Trip

Yesterday I couldn't motivate myself to do everything I needed to do, but I was excited about North Coast so I packed. I always avoid being too obvious about packing when I do it early, but somehow the girls sniff everything out, and once they figure it out, I might as well drag the bags out and fill them, because the girls become obsessed.

Spring has a loose grip on us now. Each day it looks closer to the day when the giant cottonwood trees behind our house will leaf out. The mornings are hovering around 32 degrees. Our yard used to be full of green and flowering plants but the past few years' drought has killed off much of the grass. It looks bad right now. Once the leaves come out that will look better, but it needs work and I'll use my recovery time in May restoring it.

Yesterday I didn't even get my butt out the door except for a brief walk with the girls! I might head up to the foothills today and run on trails. Tomorrow there's a 5K on the west side of town that I might run, only if I wake up early enough. It's called the Flying Pig 5K, a benefit for a local agency that supports families with someone in the family with cognitive disabilities.

I actually slept through the night last night. I wish I could bottle that. I think that's only the second time I've done that in the past 3 months.

I work on Monday. It's going to be chaotic at work over the next few weeks, because they are tearing the old, north part of the hospital building down, that used to house the administrative offices, for asbestos abatement and eventually they will build a whole new emergency department and outpatient services wing there. Our unit is at the end of the bridge to the parking garage, adjacent to the demolition site, and all foot traffic will be diverted for at least 6 weeks. That means we have to take all of our stuff in our lockers home because they are remodeling the area that is now our break room. Who needs breaks anyway?

I am glad I will be gone for the first 2 weeks of the construction chaos. They were originally going to wait but moved it up, that was what we were told Friday afternoon. Another one of those wonderful Friday afternoon announcements that the corporate world loves to make.

We're already jammed in and packed to the gills in our area, we don't even have room to squeeze our bodies in between the chairs and IV pumps, and now they're forcing all the nurses to use the bathrooms in our tiny space since they're taking away the breakroom bathrooms temporarily.

Should be fun times.

It's funny how fast they can get to work on an expensive capital improvement project but a simple thing like revamping an internal space with temporary walls and a few square feet to make it more accomodating for nurses is put off and ignored forever. Love the corporate world.

I'm suppressing another rant, only because I really need to get out and run.