Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ride the High Horse - Thrill in the Hills 21K race report

So, you know how I hate it when people drop trash outside of designated trash receptacles?  Today, I am going to get on my soapbox/high horse and vent about it.  If you are a litterer or think that you are too good for trash can usage, stop reading now. 

But first, the race!  
About a month ago, Natalie, Karen, and I decided to do the Thrill in the Hills Marathon at Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, GA.  Sure, Natalie was scheduled for a marathon 3 weeks prior to the race, Karen was coming back from Hawaii, and I was undertrained.  Our friend James was running, it is a lovely trail race, and what a grand adventure it would be! 

Then, life intervened.  I have been sick for two weeks, Karen was exhausted from her trip, and the weather was cold and rainy.  So, it ended up that only Natalie was tough enough for the full, I ran the half with James, and Karen got some much-needed rest. 

It was a beautiful race, though, even with the muddy conditions, and I had a grand time running through the woods.  I sang songs ("Gilligan's Island," when the dude in front of me turned up the bottom of his white hat which reminded me of Gilligan's hat; "Bootylicious" after I slipped off of the trail and landed on my well-padded posterior; and the "Rocky" theme after another runner requested it), chatted with other runners and generally had a glorious time.  I challenged some young dudes to a swim across the freezing lake (I totally could have taken them on the swim, not so much on the run).  And, I only fell three times!  The first time, I face-planted and James picked me up.  The second time I slid out of a turn, which led to the Bootylicious discussion with my fellow runners.  The last time was 1/2 mile from the finish where I thought I could leap over the puddle like the dude in front of me.  Alas, no.  My feet slipped out from under me and I landed IN the puddle.

So, my shoes look very clean here because I had hosed them off before this photo.  You would have thought that trail shoes would have been necessary for this race, but my Ghost 5s performed admirably and shucked each layer of mud and dousing of water within about 4-5 steps.

NOW, on to the horsing around:

Our race instructions were very specific about waste disposal: 

Aid Stations: 3.95 (water), 6.95 (water / gatorade / gel packets), 10.3 (water), 13.25 (water / drop station for 42K runners)... please note at each of these stations we will have trash cans located just beyond the station... please help us keep the trails clean by putting the "gel packets" and "cups" in the trash cans.

Note that last part.  The "putting the gel packets and cups in the trash cans" part.  Is that ambiguous?  Does it not mean "put your trash in the can"?  Well?

Apparently, my fellow runners (people consuming jet blackberry GU, blueberry pomegranate ROCTANE, and Powerbar gel, I am especially talking to you), interpreted this sentence differently because they dropped trash everywhere.  They left stuff at road crossings, at the directional signs, after each aid staion, in the middle of the trail.  Seriously.  I picked up at least three gel containers, plus tear tabs, cups, and other trash between each aid station.  Consider that (a) I only did the half, (b) I did not get every piece of trash, and (c) there were a lot of people behind me, and you start to realize that those runners are a bunch of pigs.

Now, it was good for me to look for the trash because it kept my eyes sweeping the trail, which helped me maintain my footing, but really?  How about a brief tutorial in proper gel management? 

Dagny and Annika will demonstrate:
 First, tear the top off of your gel:
 Next, mash the gel out of the sachet, squeezing from the bottom up:
After you have eaten most of the gel, tuck the opening tab against the bottom of the sachet as you roll it up to squeeze the rest of the gel out:
Continue squeezing the sachet from the bottom and rolling the sachet up until you have eaten all of the delicious GU.  Notice that the tear tab is securely stowed in the center of the roll and the squeeze/roll process has extracted all GU from the sachet.
Completely rolled GU sachets are empty (no sticky leakage!), small, and easily stowed in your pocket, jog-bra, handbottle pocket, etc.
Until you find a proper trash receptable.
Please keep the trails (and roads) clean, people.  No one wants to pick up (or even touch) your saliva-covered, half-empty gel containers.  ICK.

Please note that I am a GU Ambassador and a Brooks Fanatic, so I receive reduced-price products (and sometimes free stuff!) from them.  However, regardless of these relationships, GU is my fueling method and Brooks are my shoes of choice, neither company commissioned this post (littering really is my pet peeve), and I paid to enter myself in the Thrill in the Hills marathon.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Red Top Cadillac - Red Top Rumble Race report

Bear with me. . .

Throughout the Red Top Rumble 11.5 mile trail race  today, I kept singing the refrain from Pink Cadillac because that song was playing as we ran through the first aid station.  Bruce Springsteen does a masterful job with this song.

Pink Cadillac
crushed velvet seats
riding down the track
cru-u-u-sin' down the street
wa-a-avin' to the girls
fee-e-lin' outta sight
spendin' all my money on Saturday night

Anyway, today we joined 400 or so of our buddies for the 6th running of my favorite trail race this morning.  Here are Annika, Michelle, Dagny, John, Greg, Owen, Adam and Doug pre-race.  It was chilly for the start, but as the other racers filtered in, we found more and more buddies.

Thank you Jeffrey Galinas for following photos.  First, here is the former RD, Jaydene, finally getting to run this year!
And here, with Jeffrey (who I do not actually know) is new RD and fellow Brooks Fanatic Jim Bickelhaupt.  Jim did a fabulous job this year and we all had a great time!
Here are Team Bachman and Team Dasher (minus John because he took this photo) before the start.  John brought snacks and kept the kids safe while Doug, Michelle, and I ran.  He also took lots of great photos!

The official plan for today's run included some miles and half-miles in Z4.  After my first mile came in at 8:05 (a hair above Z4) and with the knowledge that the second half of the race was very hilly, I decided that I was going to ignore the plan and just run along.  This turned out to be delightful.  I ran with (behind) some guys whose shirts said "choice, not chance, determines your destiny", with my friend Eric, with my friend James, and with a very nice lady whose name I did not think to ask.  I missed running with Natalie, though, so we will have to run together another day.  I ate a Just Plain GU somewhere around the half-way point after I decided that I would feel awful at the finish if I did not eat something, even though my heartrate was likely too high to absorb the GU very well.  I slowed down a bit to help it along and it did help me feel better.  Mmm, just plain is so good.  All the while, Pink Cadillac kept repeating in my head.  It had a nice beat and although I did not do The Boss justice, I enjoyed singing along.  We jumped several logs in the first few miles and ran around the lake as the sun rose and the sun glinted off of the water.  We came upon the loudest and happiest course monitor ever (thanks again, Jeffrey Galinas, for the photo).  Jason was yelling and cow-belling to beat the band and he kept up a constant stream of encouragement.  It made me smile.  He was still doing it on the return trip and you could hear him a full quarter of a mile away!  Thanks Jason!
At mile 4.5, we arrived at the vistors center.  Yes!  This race runs right past a real bathroom with running water, soap, and paper towels.  : ) Perfect for me!

Then, the hills began in earnest and I chugged up them (small steps!) until I got dizzy and then power-walked the rest.  I airplaned around the curves on the downhills and generally had a fabulous time.  At some point, John and the kids were out to give us all high-fives!

You can see Dags greeting Doug.  Owen is the one in the teal hat.
 Here I am!  Annika's hand is in the blue glove.
 Here comes Michelle!
Owen in his angry birds hat/mask.
I picked up trash on the course, sang to myself, encouraged the folks around me, joked around, and generally had a good time for the rest of the race.  I won't tell a lie, though, those last 4 miles were pretty hard.  Possibly, 8:05 was a bit fast for the first two miles.  The only downer was that the guy in front of me fell down on one of the downhill curves in mile 8 or so.  He twisted his ankle and it hurt a lot.  He got back up, though, and finished the race, so that is good news.  Tough guy.

Here is Michelle at the finish.  Notice that we have matching vests.  : )   I was in charge of picking the color of her vest, so we are twinsies.
 After I finished, we got to see the kids come in from the kids' race.  Each kid got a wooden medal and a bag-ful of goodies.  They LOVED it. 

After Owen beat Annika last year, she was out for blood.  She gave it all she had to keep in front this time.  Owen does not appear quite as tired, so he might have taken one for the team.
 Dagny came in on her own (quite the ham, this one) looking strong.
I made Doug take my photo before I changed into dry clothes.

In addition to GU, Montrail, and a bunch of other sponsors, the race was sponsored by the Great American Cookie Company, who gave out free cookies from their truck and made everyone's day.  Who doesn't want delicious fresh-baked cookies after a race!  And, a giant cookie running around - how cool is that?
The post-race spread was awesome, as usual:  hot chocolate, chobani yogurt, the cookies, turkey, pork, and tofu BBQ, potato salad, cole slaw, and fixins.  Dagny wanted only cole slaw.  Ha!

We stuck around until the finish and had a lovely time.  I even won a door prize from Village Naturals!  A basket of bath salts and body wash that I got to share with my buddies!  All in all, it was a fabulous day.  I love this race.  Thanks Jim for the great event!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Kiss the Dirt - Last Chance 50K race report

Wow, this song takes me back.  In high school, Kim, Jennie, and I were intimately familiar with the collected works of INXS so it is always a bit nostalgic for me to hear them.  And with the falling and dirt theme, this was a natural pick for the title of my Last Chance 50K race report.

Sometimes I have fabulous ideas for adventures.  Eagle Endurance's Last Chance 50K was one of them.  A 50K race, near Charleston, on a flat trail through the country.  What more could you ask for?  Doug and I have been eyeing 50K races for several years as we volunteered at various GUTS events and met a lot of cool ultra runners.  We love the low-key atmosphere of the ultra events and discovered that we can camp!   Who would have thought?

So, last year, I emailed the race director (Chad) to ask about the distance and race particulars.  He responded immediately with a blast of positivity:  "Yes! You should do the race!  It will be great!"  And with that, the die was cast.

All that was lacking was talking some friends into joining me.  Becky and Katie were taking time off.  Natalie just started a new job.  Karen was game, though, and Doug modified a plan for us to train.  My friend from the Savannah Marathon and the Goofy Challenge, Cathy, and her run buddy Noah were racing too, so that made it feel perfect.

So, how do you train for a 50K? 

You run A LOT.

Doug made up a plan for us that looked a lot like a plan I found online and we plunged into training.  Because of the late start on training, we were a little behind from the beginning, but it was OK.  Karen did the whole plan and ended up way better trained than I did.  I fell down [insert foreshadowing music here - BUM BUM BUMMMMMM] on a couple of morning runs, and pulled my hamstring both times, so I missed a couple of long runs but thought I would be all right since the leg healed quickly.  Better undertrained that injured, right?  Training was really empowering, though.  Something about busting out a 13 or 15 mile run in the middle of the week makes you feel like Superman.  Me, myself, and I had plenty of good talks on those mid-week runs.  On the weekends, I tried to cajole Natalie or Karen into solving the problems of the world with me, but sometimes those runs were solo also.

As the race drew nearer, I got a little full of myself.  Chad published the race packet here and it did not even make me nervous.  [more foreshadowing music]  I was more worried about the "facilities" than the race.  We drove to Summerville the night before the race and my tummy was a mess, so maybe all of my nerves were subconscious.  Luckily, in addition to my trusty GU, I packed the ginger chews that show up in all ultra race bags.

Race morning dawned cloudy and cool.  We met Karen and Tom in the lobby of the beloved Hampton Inn, where I promptly spilled my water all over the floor not once, but twice.  We caravaned to the race start where Doug and Tom would leave one car for Karen and me while they went out for breakfast.

I was dressed not in my planned race shirt and vest with the pockets, but in most of my soft post-race gear, because someone was not focusing and neglected to pack the planned race shirt and vest.  Luckily, I remembered the headband at the last minute, and Doug was willing to return home to get it, so my ears did not freeze.  I secreted my GU in handbottle, capri pockets, and jogbra and Karen and I milled about and met a bunch of neat ladies (the Quick Chicks, I think?).  We finally found Cathy and Noah before the start.   I ate two ginger chews during this time and I think they helped my tummy calm down.

Then, Chad said "go" and we were off!  We started off into the pine forest along a pinestraw covered trail.  The trees met overhead and the trail was narrow, so it was hard to find my own pace and pass when necessary.  Miles 1- 3 were 11:17; 10:20; 10:22

The inevitable potty stop happened in mile 4.  I was pleased to have made it three miles without needing to stop.  As I came back out of the woods, Karen happened by and needed to stop also, so I waited and then tried to run her back up to the lady with the blue flowery socks, who was her beacon.  That was fun because I like a job!  Miles 4-7 were fast because of this and because my new experienced ultrarunner friend with the skull shorts dropped her hankie and I picked it up to run it back up to her:  13:27; 9:56; 10:24; 10:17  I fell for the first time during this section.  I was following the lady that eventually passed me in the last two miles of the race with her two run buddies when I tripped on a root and supermanned into the peaty trail.  It didn't hurt, but I was quite surprised to suddenly be facedown sliding through the leaves and dirt.  I must have been extra stealthy because they people ahead of me did not seem to notice the fall.  Later on, I stepped into a hole and did not realize it until my foot went down instead of springing forward into the next step and suddenly I was on the ground - WHUMP!  It was disorienting, but did not hurt and I don't think anyone else saw me.  I kept finding Accel-gel packets and beer cans on the trail, so I picked them up and carried them until the aid stations.  Littering is a huge pet peeve for me, so it made me angry to keep finding these things.  Whoever raced with Accel gels and Chocolate Raspberry Roctane has lost some serious karma points, I am telling you!

The aid station in mile 8 was lovely, with a beautiful porto-john.  Yes!  I had a party for myself, visited the potty, used my hand sanitizer, grabbed a handful of pretzels and continued on my way:  12:31  Somewhere after this, the wheels fell off of my running train.  As promised by Chad's detailed race packet, we exited the pine forest and entered the hardwood forest.  Chad had thoughtfully blown the leaves from the trail so that it was easy to follow the path through the trees and so that it would be easier to see the roots.  Unfortunately, I don't look down when I run, so I fell here at least twice more.  These falls were onto packed soil and roots, though, and they hurt a lot.  And, for each fall, there were several trips on which I managed not to fall, which were sometimes more jarring than the actual falls.  I hit the valley of darkness in this section and after the 4th or 5th fall, I gave myself a stern talking-to.  I was running like a mack truck and I needed to run like a deer.  This gave full opportunity for a flashback to my fat years and a cataloging of the character flaws that cause me to do this kind of thing to myself.

     "Look at the ground!"
     "Stop being so stubborn!  You can't muscle through this!"
     "You must adapt to this terrain and pick up your feet!"
     "Get your head out of your . . . . !"

This got me past the 10 mile tree without turning around and quitting, so that was a huge victory.

It was not a pretty time for me and luckily the guy in the blue shirt that kept flickering in the corner of my eye was not actually the mirage I thought he was and when I caught up with him, we ran together for several miles to the halfway point.  I fell one last time onto some roots after finding blue shirt guy (who is doing Ironman Nice this year because of a family reunion), and we had some good conversation after that point.  Miles 9 - 16: 11:00; 10:41; 11:03; 12:46; 11:03; 10:44; 10:22; 12:34

I had two handfuls of pretzels at the half-way mark and continued on with some modicum of mojo.  This portion of the race was through a narrow passage that looked like a cross between something out of Children of the Corn and running through someone's backyard.  The footing was still dicey, but I stayed relatively upright without falling.  10:14; 10:15; 10:22  Then, sometime around mile 20, I found the pain. 

Later, I realized that the pain was probably because I was undertrained and underestimated the course and went out too fast, but also because my body was sore from all of the falling and trying-not-to-fall-ing.  In a marathon, this pain does not usually happen until mile 22 or so, at which point you can suck it up because you are almost done.  In this race, though, I still had ten miles to go, which led to another valley of darkness.  This time, however, the valley was wider than the Grand Canyon, and I could not find any path out.  Miles 20-24: 11:48; 11:23; 10:59; 12:12; 13:38  Sometime during this stretch, I found Noah in my punch-drunk state and we battled to the final aid station together.  He had given away his water and was cramping badly, so I gave him some of my mine.  We must have been quite a sight because I was not making sense at that point and though I knew the aid station was coming up, I could not articulate this concept with any clarity.  I had a banana and some pretzels at the aid station and got back underway.  Miles 25-31 were run-walking as I battled to keep moving.  I ran with a very nice lady during this section who was so sweet and positive that I had to leave her behind.  Usually I am that positive person, but the nice Steph I used to know was long gone.  I just wanted to lie down.  I whimpered a lot, but was too tired to cry.  Miles 25-27:  11:25; 12:39; 11:57

I tried to run as much as possible, adhering to the ultra-running adage that if it hurts to walk and it hurts to run, you should just run.  At times it was too much, though, and I walked for longer and longer stretches before talking myself into running again.  I passed a guy in this section who had given away his water, so I gave him mine, which immediately made me feel as thirsty as if I were in the Sahara.  It was just in my head, I knew, because the darkness was making me negative.  The dark-haired woman and her two running buddies passed thirsty man and me at this point and I jumped on the back of their group thinking I could just tail them to the finish.  Alas, their pace may have been steady as a rock, but it felt herky-jerky (constantly speeding up and slowing down) to me in my cloud of funk and I had to walk just to get away from them.  During this whole section, I could not sing songs, not even my happy song, and I was reduced to counting the miles as I do laps in the pool:  28, 28, 28, 28, 28, 28, 28, yes!, 29, 29, 29, 29, 29, 29, 29, 29, etc.  You might think this would cause insanity, but it was oddly comforting. 

I had thought that the race was 31.5 miles long, and when the finish line appeared just after 31 miles (what I thought was half-a-mile early), though I felt a pang of guilt at it being short and briefly contemplated running the rest after the finish, I was completely relieved.  It turns out, 50K is 31.06 miles, so I was wrong.  Whew!  The last splits were : 12:28; 12:51; 12:27; 10:57 partial  Doug got me some water and I lay on the ground for a while before changing into my warmer clothes.

Cathy had finished just in front of the dark-haired woman and her buddies, so we hung out until Noah arrived.

Then, Karen arrived and was not (as I feared) mad at me for talking her into this ridiculous endeavor, but was beaming!  She had had a great race.  : )  We drove to Charleston, checked into our hotel, and proceeded to sample the local brews and snacks until bedtime.

It has taken me several weeks to come to terms with this race.  Physically, I had a pretty good race.  My legs were sore, but not destroyed at the end, and my GU every 5 miles plan worked very well so I had plenty of fuel.  My plan B outfit and trusty Brooks Ghost 5s held up fine, but I lost the mental battle. 

You may ask, "why would you want to run so far when it is so unpleasant?"   I don't think it has to be unpleasant, so I can do a better job than this and I will try again.

Maybe next year.