Monday, June 30, 2008

A dream that you do not fight for will haunt you for the rest of your life.
From the movie "Robots"

Sometimes it gets hard. Sometimes you get tired. Sometimes you care too much about what others think. "It would be much easier to want something normal. To want what you are supposed to want," you tell yourself. But you keep going. You keep fighting for your dream and hope that the people who love you most will understand and love you more because of it.

When I keep my eyes on my own paper, I am most at ease with the choices I have made in my life. But once in awhile I look up, or to the left, and I see what someone else is doing. And it seems smarter than what I've chosen, or at least easier. That is when I am most open to the criticism of others. When the jabs of, "Are you crazy? Why in the world would you want to run for 24 hours. There must be something wrong with you!" hurt the most.

But then my alarm goes off at 4:50 and I put on my shorts, shirt, and running shoes. I go downstairs and have a cup of coffee by myself in the quiet kitchen. I head outside into the darkness of early morning, feeling like the only person on the planet, and being okay with that. And then someone says, "Good morning," and I know they are there, the other runners. The other people with the same, but different, dreams. The people who are always waiting for me to run 6 miles, 10 miles, 20 miles. We talk about everything - our kids, our plans, our day, our frustrations, our weaknesses. And sometimes we even talk about our dreams.

We all have our own dreams, dreams that may not make sense to anyone else. Today, I hope to fight for mine. And whether I achieve them or not, I am enjoying the journey. I wish the same for you.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I was tagged by Jamie, so here goes:

1) How would you describe your running style 10 years ago? I was pushing my twins in a Baby Jogger up and down hills - walking and jogging when I could. There wan't much running going on!

2) What is your best and worse run/race experience?
Best: Ultracentric 2007. I was shooting for a personal goal of 120 (the minimum needed to be considered for the US 24 Hour National Team. My PR had been 118 at FANs (my first full 24 Hour race), so I thought it was a possible goal. After I reached 100 miles, I asked my husband to quit telling me my mileage count because there wasn't anything I could do about it - I was doing the best I could. After it was all said and done, I had run 126.99 miles for third place. I was so happy!

Worst: I guess that would be a tie between Ruth Anderson because of my bad attitude and Kettle Moraine because I screwed it up so badly.

3) Why do you run? I run because I like the feeling of motion, I feel free.

4) What is the best and worst advice you have been given about running?
Best: Train the way that works for you. Ultrarunning is very personal - there is no one size-fits-all training program. When I have tried to train "by the book," I lose interest and motivation. When I just run and let the results fall where they may, I am a much happier person.

Worst: Don't run so many miles. Because of the above, I have to run a lot of miles! :) Seriously, because I hate specificity, I make up for it in distance. This method is not for everyone, but it suits me.

5) Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know. After my Junior year of High School, I went to college because I had taken all of the substantive courses offered (this is back in the day before AP, etc.). I went to a school 12 hours away from home, pledged a sorority, got a 4.0, and then came home for Christmas. I went to my high school to turn in my transcript (I still had to meet the hours needed to get my high school diploma) and my principal told me he wouldn't accept my college courses because there was nothing that would correspond at the HS level. I had to return to my high school for the spring semester, enroll, and then get a job at Red Lobster where I received "work credit" that would apply to my high school hours. Go figure. It was very strange. I resumed college the next fall.

Hope everyone is having a fun summer! Happy running!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Back to Work

I just discovered a wonderful side benefit to dropping out of a race - you don't really have to recover! Other than sore quads (from my lame attempt to "pound down the hills"), I feel no different than had I run a long run. I'm both happy and disappointed by this. Happy because I would have hated to take a three week taper and then have to take a week recovery for nothing, but disappointed because that means that I went all the way to Wisconsin for my long run :)

As this is the first week of summer, I have been sleeping in and running/walking/swimming later than my normal 5:20. This pattern will probably continue through next week as my husband is having surgery at Mayo, so we will spend most of the week in Scottsdale. I'm just going to have to be flexible and run when I can. Since I don't have another race planned until October (unless I can find something within driving distance), I'm not in a huge rush. It's kind of nice, but I'm feeling a little antsy. By this time last year, I'd run a marathon, a 100 miler, and a 24 Hour. I'm searching race calendars, hoping to find an ultra close by, but so far nothing. Living in the southwest allows you to run 365 days a year, but that doesn't mean that anyone wants to come down here to race! I may have to call Ronda and get some ideas on putting on my own running camp. She does one with her friends every year and it always sounds like such a blast. It would be a fun way to break up the training cycle until October.

On the learning front, I definitely figured out that I have to come up with an electrolyte drink I can stomach if I plan to run trails. The aid stations are just too far apart to rely on pure water. I hate sports drinks, so as a result, I only drink water and take E-Caps. I definitely think this contributed to my problems at KM100. My body just couldn't absorb so much straight water. I know this is one of those, "Well, duh!" things that has been talked about ad nauseum on the List, but I've always just used plain water and never had a problem. The key differences at other races, though, were that, a) conditions weren't so hot and humid; and b) I had access to aid much more often so it was much easier to correct a problem before it got serious. At KM, once I figured out I was in trouble, I had several miles to go before I could change my strategy. On trails, those several miles take a LONG time. Not only did I need more electrolytes, I also needed more calories. Anyway, for the next few months, I'm going to sample different sports drinks and see which one doesn't make me want to hurl! My next race is a 24 Hour, so it won't matter as much, but I'd like to figure it out during the hot months so that I will know for next time - not that I will ever run another 100 mile trail race :)

When you get a chance, hop over to Jamie's blog. She is in her final prep for Badwater. I am so excited for her! As I've mentioned, I really think she can win overall. She is such a tough runner, really focused and smart. I think it is going to be so fun to follow!

Happy running!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I Fought the Trail and the Trail Won

I am able to post this blog entry today instead of tomorrow because I finished KM100 in 6 hours. Or rather, it finished me :) I DNF'd at mile 31, the Scuppernong turnaround. A very long, and costly trip to Wisconsin, and I had an intense training run!

Tim and I left for Chicago on Thursday, but not before I called Bob to check on his travel status. I had gotten all freaked out because there were tornadoes touching down in various parts of Illinois. Bob was great, reassuring me that the scary weather was usually over in a matter of hours and that I would make it safely to Wisconsin. And we did. But not before we had one of the scariest flights ever while flying over Nebraska. The turbulence came on in an instant, violently knocking our flight attendant to the ground in the aisle, and tossing her tray of drinks onto us. Luckily, she was fine, and we could mop ourselves up. The scary turbulence seemed to go on forever, but it was probably just about an hour. I was so happy to land in Chicago!

Friday, Tim and I made the trek to Whitewater, only to find that the hotel did not have our reservations and put us in a smoking room - yuck. We hemmed and hawed a little bit and finally decided to stay there the first night and then move to another hotel the second. We spent the rest of the day getting organized, going to packet pick-up, and finding things to eat. We ended up buying enough food for 50 people, worrying that one, or both of us, might get lost in the forest and need supplies :)

Saturday morning came bright and early with a 4:00 am wake-up. We got ready and headed to the Nordic Trail parking lot where the race was to start. There were quite a few runners (I think the website said 223 total), so it was fun to make small talk with new people. I got to meet Alan McLain, another runner from Texas, and several nice people who were from Wisconsin and familiar with the trail. Everyone seemed a little concerned by the forecast, but we all know that it is part of ultrarunning - ultra weather. After a quick briefing, we headed out right at 6:00 am. The sun was already up, as sunrise is much earlier in the north I found out, and the temps were pretty warm at the start. Even though I tend to be cold, I was warm in shorts and a t-shirt.

The first part of the course is a wide cross-country ski trail, with some small hills thrown in for fun. It is breathtakingly beautiful, especially to a girl from the desert. Everything is so green! I was loving the course, so excited to be out and spending my Saturday running through such a beautiful part of the country. And then the hills started. Now, I know to those of you who train on trails, these hills are probably not a big deal. But I train on a river levee and roads. These hills seemed like mountains to me! And they were never ending.

This is where I think I made my fatal error. Because the course had become a single track trail, I was "in line" with runners in front and behind. So, I just followed and did what they did, trying not to hold up the line. Up we went, and down we flew. I saw the other women doing a sort of stutter step down the hills, so I copied them and found that it was much easier on the quads, but really increased my speed. I was working hard and it was only the beginning of the race. I often find myself breathing heavily the first few miles of every race, I think from the adrenaline rush and excitement, but I usually settle down. Because of the "train" I was in the middle of though, I never settled down. I just kept running, hoping that at any minute my breathing and heartrate would settle. The total distance of this rocky, hilly section was 12.3 miles. When we finally made it through this section, I thought it was all going to be okay, but I was wrong.

After the technical section, we headed into a flatter, faster section, my favorite. I was so relieved. I thought I could finally get a rhythm and loosen up. The problem was that most of this section was out in the open. And it was HOT. And HUMID. And it didn't seem to ever end. Just when I started singing "The hills are alive with sound of music," I realized that I wasn't feeling so good. I was sloshy and thirsty, a bad combination. I doubled my E-Cap consumption and held back on the water. Even though I knew I was getting dehydrated, I knew it was more important to get rid of the sloshing. I couldn't pee, so the only thing I could do was wait for it to subside. I kept running, getting thirstier and thirstier. I know from the docs on the List that you need to slow down to speed up the absorption process, but I was desperate to get out of the direct sunlight.

By the time I arrived at the Hwy 67 Aid Station, I knew I was in trouble. Tim told me I seemed disoriented, but I assured him I would be okay. I still couldn't pee and was still sloshing. I made it to the next aid station, and told Tim I was probably going to have to drop, but I wanted to try to make it at least to the turnaround. The section from mile 26.5 to Scuppernong (the turnaround - mile 31.4) was shaded and not quite so technical. I thought it might give me a chance to recover. I walked most of those 5 miles, only running when I could. People were making their way back from the turnaround, and it started getting more and more discouraging. I saw another runner, Kevin, walking and asked him if he was okay. He said he was done, and I said so was I. We kept each other company the last few miles, comparing stories of our misery.

When we got into Scuppernong, I told Tim I was dropping. He didn't even try to stop me. We both knew I was hyponatraemic (I didn't pee for 8 hours), and that there was no way I was going to make it back to the other side. Kris Hinrichs was the aid station captain, and she was awesome! I told her my situation, and that I had Jerry coming to pace me, and that I hated to let him drive all the way down to the race for nothing. She told me not to worry about it, went to her car, called him from her cell phone and told him I'd dropped. We gave Kevin a ride back to the start, picking up another dropped runner on the way. When we got back to the parking lot, there were several others, all of us commiserating on our day. Ultrarunners are even supportive in DNFing!

I read later that there were thunderstorms throughout the day and night, leading to more DNFs as the race wore on. In the end, there were 37 finishers out of 123 (I don't know the stats on the other events). Hats off to all of those who finished, it was a tough day!

Fellow blogger, Bob, made it to the 100k mark. He rocks! Another blogger, Meghan, got third female in the 100k - awesome! Unfortunately, I wasn't out their long enough to meet them, so I hope we run another race together in the future!

Overall, even though it wasn't the best running experience, I can absolutely see why so many people love trail running - it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever done. If (and that's a big if) I ever run another trail 100, I will make sure I have a better strategy. My "run to how I feel" strategy completely fell apart on the single track portion. I followed the group and not my body, and paid for it dearly. I just couldn't tell how much of it was normal - adjusting to the trails, the ups and downs - and how much of it was wrong. I could never get a rhythm so that I could do a "systems check" of my body. I felt like I was in fight or flight mode the whole time. I think experience will help with that, but it wouldn't hurt if I had used a little more common sense :)

So, Olga, Ronda and Julie, I am going to lick my wounds and head back out on the flat courses I love while watching you all rock the trails! I have the utmost respect for your abilities to run tough courses! For now, I'm just going to participate in trail running vicariously through y'all - you make it look easy!

Happy Running!