Friday, October 14, 2011

Heartland 100 Video

I'm not even close to having a race recap ready...but for good reason. I've been working on this video! I've never even attempted to make a video in my life. I think I can safely say that I am better at running 100 miles than I am at making a video. That said, here's my best attempt. The first half of the video is Heartland stuff, and the last half may bore you completely. (There are a few blog friend pictures, though!) I'll be back with an actual written recap one of these days. In short: I DID IT!

Heartland 100 Video

Friday, September 30, 2011

5 months of Updates in 5 minutes. (I ran a lot.)

Greetings from the land of Ultra training!

I have a serious problem: I have way too much to say. Unfortunately, when I get that way, I opt to shut down and not say anything. This does not make for good blogging. Hence, the no-updates-in-many-months that has happened here. And then I got so far behind I dreaded sitting down to try. goes!

I spent most of April recovering from my first Ultra. I was positive I was "broken" - but it turns out when you pound on your body for many miles, it just takes time to recover. Lesson learned.

May 1: BMO Vancouver Marathon. Less than a month after my Ultra, I ran a hilly course in Vancouver and set a PR, and finally accomplished my first Sub-4 hour marathon. (3:58:16! Yay!) Not bad for my 9th marathon (plus an Ultra) in 11 months. Vancouver started me on the "I have too much to say, and I'm too emotional to say it" train, as I ran the event after raising money with Team in Training. No matter what your cause happens to be, running for something beyond yourself is a life-changer. Every. Single. Time. I'm so thankful. And the bonus for Vancouver was that is where my husband grew up, and his sister still lives there. She's a fabulous sister-in-law, and it was awesome to get to spend time with her. I also had my 15 seconds of fame by making it onto one of the National Canadian news stations (you'd think I could remember the name!) when I was at a victory party for one of the politicians. Very interesting and fun to see how the Canadians do it. Vote, I mean. Also, being in the Lululemon mecca of the world was fantastic!

Great idea. Hilarious that you can see through.
No one was in there!
With May also came the last days of school for 2 of my 3 daughters. And then started a summer of fun and craziness with all three girls at home. I can't lie - I just enjoy them being with me. Sure, it makes me even more thankful for my breaks for sanity...but they're fabulous little girls and I am very blessed. Plus, they completed the Mother's Day 5k with me, my Mom, my sister, my sister-in-law, and her daughter. So much fun!

June 11/12: My first double-marathon weekend. My darling friend Lauren and I drove to Iowa, met up with a new friend from the KC area, and started off the weekend by running Marathon to Marathon (started in Storm Lake, IA - ended in Marathon, IA). It was such a nice event. Hot and sunny, but Iowa is gorgeous. Dairy farms, fields as far as you can see, blue skies. After we recovered with some McDonalds french fries and Coke ( recovery food ever) we drove around 3 hours to Viborg, South Dakota. We spent the night at the church camp where the race started from the next morning. There were probably 12 women in the bunkhouse, but most of us had already run a marathon that morning, so we were all early to bed. Woke up Sunday morning, ran Swan Lake Marathon. Yet another beautiful event.

July 15: Lunar Trek 40 mile Ultra in Scandia, KS. Coach Scott and I drove up to this one. The 100k started at 9pm, and all other distances started at 11pm. A bad storm came through, so the 100k got started around 10:20pm, and I took an early start with them so that I'd have company. I messed up a lot during this event. So much. I got caught up in the fact I was trying to get through shoe-sucking mud, standing water, and hills - and thus, paid less attention to nutrition, etc. I had been testing out my gel flask, as it is so much cheaper than buying the Hammer gels individually. This event proved to me that was not a smart idea, as I think in that 40 miles, I had the equivalent of 3 gels. Whoops. It was one of the best learning events I've ever had. I finished, but could have finished feeling much better.

August was a very fun month. On the 20th, I successfully completed my first Pikes Peak Ascent. 13.32 miles, with 7,815 feet of vertical gain. It was one of those events where you just can't believe the beauty that you're seeing. I got to see many Wichita friends, including Mr. 2slow4Boston and also got to meet Jill from Colorado. She's awesome. I had a killer headache when I was finished, but all things considered, it was an absolute blast. (Plus, the first time I ever head the term "marathon" was when my Dad took us up on Pike's Peak when I was young. He told us that people run up the mountain...I said that was crazy. Looks like I grew up to be crazy...)

Rock Mountain High! 

August 27: North Face Endurance Challenge 50k, Kansas City, MO. Ohhhhh my goodness. I had a blast during my 3rd Ultra. I got to run with my friend Lyle, and my new friend Karrie, and we had a wonderful time. Lots of laughs and fun. However, holy hills! It was quite brutal in that regard, but it was perfect as it gave me more chances to practice walking hills, in preparation for the Heartland 100. Amazingly beautiful course. I have no clue where I was running, but I wish I could figure it out. They did a fabulous job for their first road race in the series.

Finishing with my youngest daughters!
I <3 Dean!

Last weekend I ran the Bob Ardrey Marathon in Salina, KS. It was the inaugural year, and there were some hiccups. (Of the first place males who ran it in 2:34, 2:36 and 2:36, only ONE of them intended to run the marathon. The other guys were running so fast they didn't have a volunteer on the course to tell them where to turn. Crazy.) The run was freaking fabulous. I don't know that it would have been possible for me to have had a happier run. I got to run the first 3.5 miles with my husband (he was running the half) and after we split off, I was solo to the end. I am a dummy and forgot my Garmin charger, so borrowed my Mom's stopwatch so I'd sort of have an idea where I was, pace-wise. I walked the hills (and there were lots of them!) and took it easy. Came in at 4:28, and it was the perfect end to a big running year.

Well...the end until next weekend. On October 8, I start running at 6am...and I won't be stopping until I hit 100 miles. The Heartland 100 is already so close, and I'm in shock. And terrified. And excited. And so very thankful. My body has handled all of the miles so well. I get some aches and pains, but nothing that a little voodoo medicine can't help. I've relied on Epsom salt baths, on using arnica gel when I get an area of acute pain, and recovering smart. I found a perfect balance for me. All while being vegetarian and not keeling over from lack of meat.

Looking back on this year, I'm just so thankful for everyone who has helped me log miles, kept me company, and have been so supportive. And yes, the year isn't almost over. But this 100 miler has been in the works for seemigly forever. I'm honestly a little sad it is here, as I've enjoyed the journey so much. I'm blessed, I'm thankful, I'm healthy. My husband and daughters are supportive and amazing (and I adore that my husband has been hammering out 1/2 marathon like they're 2nd nature!). I have the best running friends a girl could ask for. The support system we have between all of us is truly incredible. It is loving and kind and without competition or drama. Not sure how I got this lucky in all arenas, but it is humbling. I will complete this 100 miler thankful every step of the way. And, I'm forever indebted to each person involved in getting me across the finish line. The support necessary is huge.

I'll see you on the other side of 100 miles! Happy running!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Brew to Brew 2011 (My First Ultra)

I am "officially" an UltraRunner!

I apologize for the delay of a few days in between Sunday's running and actually sitting down to blog about my experience at Brew to Brew. Sunday was a travel day home (ok, technically a running day with a relatively small amount of travel), Monday was sort of a daze, and yesterday it hit me that I finished my first Ultra, so I was too giddy about the experience to sit down and write a blog.

Brew to Brew 2011. A 44 mile (technically 43.5 this year) Solo or Relay run from Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City to the Free State Brewery in Lawrence, KS.

Brew to Brew. Get it?
As some mental preparation Friday night, I enjoyed both a beer from Boulevard, followed by a beer from Free State. Ok, who am I kidding? I signed up for this event many months ago, and ever since then I have been unable to have a Boulevard Beer without a Free State Beer. And they had to be in that order. And finished in the same day. It seemed to be bad juju to either split them up or drink them backwards. 

Saturday morning my husband ("my Scott") and I took our three little girls and dropped them off at Grandma and Grandpa's house, then we made the trek to KC with Coach Scott and Jenn. Picked up race packets, got really excited. (And nervous.) Went to dinner where I was silent and nervous and freaking out a little until Jenn gave me the green light to drink a glass of wine. Ahhhhhh. Much better. Two glasses later, I was really excited for what was to come on Sunday. Went to hotel, laid everything out for the event, had a terrible night of sleep. There are really cute pictures of our group from Saturday, but none on my camera (that is how abnormal I was based on nerves) and I got tired of waiting to get the pictures so I could put them in the recap. Hopefully I'll receive some of the pictures someday so I can add them to this post. Hint, Hint.

Nerves were back Sunday morning. Anxious about the distance. Anxious about the weather conditions. (High of 85 degrees with 35mph winds. With gusts much higher. Turns out, they weren't kidding.) Anxious, honestly, that I would hate Ultras. This potential disaster would royally suck since I signed up for my first 100 miler before ever having completed an Ultra of any distance.

Despite the nerves, there were jumping pictures to be had. Coach Scott and I had our "Team" picture together, despite us not being part of a Team. I'll add those pictures in, also, once I purchase from the photographer. (Can't buy digital photos online...have to send a check. Odd.) Coach Scott also joked that the reason I had to do the event solo was because no one wanted me on their team. Or maybe he was being serious...

We started off at 6am on the dot. The first several miles were weird. A set of stairs to go down. Rocks to climb. A rock wall that probably wasn't high for taller people, but that I thought would take me out. And then random hills with rocks. I guess were climbing up and down a Levee? All of that was much better when the sun was up. They weren't bad miles...just different. My plan to be very conservative and to take walk breaks every 2 miles was going beautifully. The wind was very strong, but the temps were decent.

Met Jenn at Station 2 (9 miles). She gave me a bottle of Accelerade which hadn't exactly been my plan, but the water was tasting nasty and I had already missed the first aid station on account of not understanding that it was an aid station. Next time I do this event, it will be really nice to "know" what I'm doing. Regardless, the Accelerade was a great change, and I also consumed a few crackers.

I think it was when I was near the half marathon mark where I felt really really not good about things. I let the distance get into my head. I had a random pain in my shin and I let that get to me. (It was gone 1/2 mile later and never came back....but it still messed with my head.) I realized I wasn't even 1/3 of the way done at 13.1 miles. Seriously got concerned about my ability to do an Ultra. Really, I think I just needed to have a moment, and to press through and keep going. I struggled with these thoughts for several miles.

I can't remember what happened when I saw Jenn at Station 4. Other than she said she'd see me at Station 6, I believe I put sunscreen on my face, and I think I had a PB&J at that point.

Coming up on Station 5, I saw my new friend Amanda. I met her the weekend before at the Dallas 1/2, and seeing her and getting a hug from her was a very welcome moment. I continued into the aid station, thinking it was actually station 6 and that I would be seeing Jenn again...sadly, no Jenn, and sadly was quite bummed to learn I was still miles away from station 6. Enjoyed my first boiled potato with salt, though, and it was truly as amazing as I had imagined it would be. Between seeing Amanda and eating that potato, I think that's all that got me through.

Finally saw Jenn at the real Station 6. I think this was the station where I was really irritated by the long port-a-potty lines, as no one using them was even running. I am typically so happy-go-lucky and sunshine and roses, so this crabbiness was making me more crabby. Had some Pringles, applied sunscreen, had a few big pretzels. Switched out bottles, etc. All the good stuff. And came to terms with the fact that I was doing ok. I stopped at Station 6b (literally 1/2 mile down the road) and my post-baby bladder needed to be emptied a little more. And after those stations, I started singing to myself until I realized it was jacking with my heart rate. It can get pretty lonely out there.

There are so many things I remember, but can't remember exactly where/when they happened. For instance, there were beautiful old cemeteries that I didn't have the will to take pictures of, though I'll remember them in my mind forever. And a big, beautiful limestone house that was up on a hill and overlooked the river beyond the other side of the road. It was just gorgeous. There was also a river crossing, by boat. That was interesting. Here's a picture of me hiking up the hill on the other side of the river.

At Station 8, I got to see both Coach Scott and Jenn. This was the best thing ever because it mean Coach Scott was finished already - and took 4th place over all. Love it! Huge congrats to him. Reapplied the sunscreen. I'm sure I ate something. At this point, Jenn decided to jump in and run with me, since Coach Scott was available to crew. It was nice to have company. I believe I was around 9 miles from the end at this point. It was so so so hot.

It was during this leg that our friend Aaron caught up to us. He was running on one of the Joggers and Lagers (local running club) teams, and his humor was very welcome. There are many people who I will not forget from this first event, and he's one of them. I feel bad, though. It was slow going. Hilly, so lots of walking.

Made it to Station 9 and was greeted by Coach Scott carrying his Ultra Kit, my Ultra Kit (aka: a darling Lululemon Bag) and I realized then I still had a while to go before hitting the actual aid station. Got there, briefly saw my friend Candace who was the final leg for a J&L team, and changed into shorts. I never ever (ok, very rarely) run in shorts. But it was so hot, I was desperate. Was a good call. Temp was 92 degrees (gotta love record highs!) and the last leg took me a billion years to finish. Terrible wind, full sun, and between Jenn and I we went through three bottles of fluid...with more than a mile left before the finish. Definitely could have used another aid station during that time. But really, it was the fault of the heat, not the fault of the Brew to Brew people.

I struggled with an urge to throw up the last several miles. I was just hot. We got in a short rhythm of walking one pole, jogging three poles, walking again. But by the end, there just wasn't much of anything besides moving forward. I never felt like stopping, but I did feel like not wanting to run anymore. When we finally reached the bridge, I started jogging again, as the finish was pretty close. When I saw the place where I was to turn into the finish, I will admit, I did tear up. Didn't cry, though...didn't have enough fluid in my body to make any tears...

I love this picture, as it captured Coach Scott (in the yellow) and one of my most dear friends, Michele, cheering me in.

Felt rotten after, got my medal and a banana. Banana went down ok, PB&J that I attemped - yuck. Got to see my Scott finish his leg for the other J&L team. He was looking pretty rough. Everyone was looking pretty rough. It was just way too hot.  One of my favorite memories from this event was having so many friends around me. I was sitting on the ground, they were all standing around me. It is forever etched in my mind, and it was so special to have each of them there for me at the finish.

Cute medals for Solo finishers.
All in all, I loved it. I'm so happy that I finished and finished still wanting to do my 100 miler in October.  My soreness is mostly gone, but my left ankle is sore, like it was when I started running. It went away on its own last year, just a little tenderness and is a tendonitis, not a broken anything. I'm very pleased with how I recovered from the Ultra, as it really could have been much worse based on the conditions.

On our way home (after a quick shower and some Mexican food) I got this picture text from my friends and their new baby - it made my day:

David was cheering us on from afar!

The official results aren't posted, but my watch said 9:27:21. Brew to Brew is odd in that you can deduct time for waiting for the boat, waiting for trains, and I also get a 2min/leg handicap...but really, I was out there for almost 9.5 hours, so it is what it is. I've got nothing to compare it to, and I freaking finished! Yahoooooooo!

Giant thanks to Jenn for being the best crew chief ever. I know I will be very well taken care of at Heartland. Plus, she jumped in and ran at the end, so she's obviously also a great pacer! And to Coach Scott, who is now officially just my training partner, and not my "Coach". (Coach is now merely a formal term to differentiate him from my Scott.) And to my Scott, who is the most supportive husband in the universe. And to my parents and my sister for taking care of the girls so we could be gone. To every friend who logged miles with me and/or supported me and believed in me - you are all awesome - and you know who you are.

Great memories. Excited to continue on as an UltraRunner.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A2A Race For Mercy Marathon

In shocking news, I'm behind in blogging.

My 30th birthday was fantastic. I didn't freak out as I was anticipating. I did, however, enjoy a trip to Texas to visit family and so I could get up and run the A2A Race For Mercy Marathon in Oklahoma the next day.

Things that were awesome:
- Celebrating my birthday with Champagne
- Celebrating my birthday with my family
- Triple Garlic Fettucini (Yum.)
- My first marathon as a 30-year-old
- Meeting several fellow Marathon Maniacs
- Seeing my new friend, David, who I met at Post Oak
- Successfully using a marathon as a training run.

Things that were not awesome:
- Marathon morning hangover (stupid, stupid, stupid)

Things beyond my control:
- My sweet daughters being unable to sleep well when we're not at home (I was up no less than 10 times the night before)
- 25 mph headwind on a point-to-point course (Wow.)
- 65 degree, overcast start...80 degrees and sunny by the end (Holy sunburn.)
- Hills

Lessons Learned:
- Wind is fantastic mental training.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Do not drink a bottle of champagne the night before a marathon.
- Being 30 isn't all that bad.

The run, overall, went very well. I took walk breaks and walked uphills after a certain point, in preparation for the Brew to Brew Ultra this weekend. Honestly, the wind and heat just sucked the life out of me, so I couldn't have done anything stupid even if I desired. I finished in 4:38:02 - right where I wanted to be for my training run.

I highly recommend this event. Everything was very well run, and it was a blast to finish a marathon on a track. The heat and wind were beyond the control of anyone. The volunteers were very nice and I felt especially sorry for them being out in the wind! It was a beautiful way to see parts of Oklahoma, including the Arbuckle Mountains. I would definitely do it again, if it works out with my schedule.

Countdown to my first Ultra: 4 days!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

30 Miles Before Age 30

My goal, when I started running in preparation for Rock 'n Roll Seattle with Team in Training last year, was to finish just one marathon before my 30th birthday. I had no intention on doing any other marathons. I just wanted to raise money for a good cause, and to hit a goal I thought was just a pipe dream.  I had 3 kids in less than 5 years, and had stopped any sort of working out. (Despite being a personal trainer. Whoops.) And I wasn't getting any younger.

Fast forward to now, and I've actually completed 7 marathons and my 30th birthday isn't until Saturday! Pretty wild the changes that went on for me mentally and physically in the last year. I'm so pleased. Marathon training isn't for the faint of heart. It takes lots of time. I'm just so thankful to have a supportive husband, and three little girls who love their time with Daddy for a few hours on Saturday/Sunday mornings. I am also thrilled to have a training partner who has a family and multiple other obligations, so he "gets" that we need to start early - really early - and be done early.

When I posted last time about an upcoming marathon in Oklahoma, I neglected to remember I had my first "more than a marathon" distance scheduled just a week before the marathon. Nice taper, right? It is funny how different it is to use marathons as training runs, and in preparing for Ultras.

Coach Scott and I started off at 3am Saturday morning (told you he's willing to start early!) for our 30 mile run. The weather was just about perfect. In the 40's, very little wind. There's not too much exciting to report during, but overall, it was fantastic. I don't think it could have gone more perfectly. (Other than me forgetting my gels for our first 10 mile loop.) I ate half of a PB&J at every 10 miles. Took gels at 5 mile marks. Felt great the entire time.

We joined up with the Team in Training group for the last 10/11 miles. It was nice to have their support, and they were very sweet and excited for me. I hit 26.2 with little fanfare, but that was ok. Every step beyond that point was thrilling and exciting, as it was a distance PR. That hadn't happened in about 9 months. I was taken back to those moments of training for my first marathon, where I was amazed each week with the fact I was running 8 miles, 10 miles, etc. It felt awesome to do a distance that I had not yet accomplished. Relish those moments if you're in training for your first run of any distance. It is such an awesome thing you are doing, whether you're up to 2 miles, or 12 miles, or 22 miles. Be thankful that your body can do such an awesome thing.

Hip flexors were a little tight after, and my quads were more sore than I anticipated, but I did a recovery run of 10 miles Sunday morning. No joint pain, nothing odd. I'm just so happy and pleased with the run. Very fun that I got a 30 mile training run in exactly one week before my 30th birthday. Love it.

So now I look ahead to turning 30 on Saturday. And Sunday trying out my new age group at the A2A Marathon in Oklahoma. It will be a training run, mimicking how I will be running my first Ultra (eating, walk breaks, etc.) with a medal at the end. Staring this weekend everything gets pretty wild. The marathon Sunday, then a week later the Rock 'n Roll Dallas 1/2, and then a week after that is Brew to Brew, my 43 mile Ultra. Here's to lots of rest and lots of fun (and no sick kids) between now and then.

Have a great week!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Post Oak Challenge: Part 2

To recap: We finished our trail run. Yay!

After cleaning up, we enjoyed a few hours in Tulsa for Abuelos and a visit to the local running store. We made it back in time to rest a bit before heading to night two of pasta dinners at the Lodge. Had some time to visit with our neighbors, as well. Such nice guys. Again, I love runners.

Pasta dinner did not disappoint the second time around. Lasagna was on the menu, including a very delicious vegetarian version. I was very well fed. Dessert was awesome. Randy Ellis spoke the second night as well, and this time talked about many of the runners who were there that weekend. (Including a woman who had brain cancer, previously. And a woman who was a breast cancer survivor. Think you can't do certain things? Well, you can. True story. So inspiring, what people overcome.)

After the dinner, we sat around and talked with many of the runners we had met previously. I cannot hit on the fact, again, that this weekend was set up so wonderfully. Especially if you were staying on property. It was awesome to spend an entire weekend seeing the same people, hearing their plans for their runs, and also getting to talk to them about everything afterward. Did I mention I love runners?

I was finally able to visit with Johnny Spriggs, the race director. He was so kind. As I mentioned in  Part 1, I had been in contact with him via email several times pre-Post Oak Challenge weekend. We really connected when he told me he has done Heartland before, and he had some really wonderful things to say about the event. Michele was able to talk to him some about pacing me during my last 17 miles of the 100 at Heartland, and he was just an all-around nice guy. His wife was very nice, as well.

Nickki, Michele, Myself, Johnny Spriggs
We also stopped to look at the race maps. All races for Sunday were out and back, so really the marathoners had it easiest, as we at least had mostly-flat to "rest" for many miles. The half marathoners (including Nickki and Michele) had a little less flat, and the quarter marathoners really got spanked by literally going down the hills, and then turning around and going right back up. Ouch.

Saturday Trail Map/Sunday "Troad" Map
We went back to our room and started getting settled in. I heard Nickki and Michele talking about something, and then Nickki said, "Hannah? Are you afraid of bugs?" I walked into the room, and I saw my newest roommate, a scorpion. Gross. Out. At this point, we turned back into the non-trail running wimps that we are, and Guy and Rick came to save the day. Gross. Gross. Gross.

Our Roommate
Despite the scorpion incident, I actually slept very well Saturday night. I woke up every 2 hours on the dot, but was able to get right back to sleep. I hadn't noticed too much soreness after the trail run, until I got up to the bathroom. I took a step and thought, "Oh crap. This marathon is going to hurt."

We got up and got ourselves ready for Day #2 of the Post Oak Challenge. We again debated based on the weather, as it was currently 56 degrees at 7am. What the heck? And 86% humidity. Ouch. I kept thinking I wanted a short-sleeved shirt under my outer layer, but they assured me a tank-top was the better choice. They were so right.

 Nickki and Michele joined me at the main Lodge to bid me farewell, despite their run starting later than mine. Such sweet friends I have.

Nickki, Myself, Michele. Matchy-matchy-matchy, all unintentional.

I told my friends Jenn and Scott that I planned to either PR or run myself so hard into "the wall" that I was reduced to walking the last 8 miles of the marathon. Obviously door #2 was the likelier event, given my current level of soreness.

We started off fast, as it was downhill. But, it was steep downhill. Very steep. Steep enough I was pretty sure I was going to fall. I talked with a woman from Iowa who had done the 25k the day before, and kept in pace with her for a while. She was feeling way stronger than I was, so I fell in pace with a woman named Laurie from Colorado. It is easy to make friends while running. We talked about marathons, about 100 milers (Laurie has paced several people through the Leadville Trail 100), and anytime anyone mentions any 100 miler, it causes me to geek out. I was giddy, and she was a fabulous person to keep my mind occupied.

The miles were clicking by, quickly. I think some of our miles were fast because there were so many big dogs roaming the route. They were unchained and not fenced in. What the heck, Oklahoma? Scary stuff. (Actually, the guy Nickki and Michele ran with was attacked by one of the dogs. Not terribly, but nonetheless, a dog got up on him. Scary.) I would occasionally look down at my Garmin, call myself a total dumbass for running the pace I was running, but ignored it and kept going. We hit our first half in 2:02:something. Wow. I was pleased with that (and scared for my life). Our previous few miles had slowed some (9:30-9:40) and I was questioning my sanity, but was positive about my stupidity. It was very very very muggy, very hot, very windy, but overall still enjoying the pain.

At mile 17 I stopped to use the bathroom. It cost me a lot of time, though I am not sure why. Maybe I just needed the break. I sent Laurie on, and told her I'd catch up. That didn't really happen for a while. I was still sub-10, until I caught Laurie at mile 19+, and that's when it all started to go downhill.

Mile 20 was my first mile over a 10/min mile. We came to a water stop at mile 22(ish?). I was not feeling good at all. They had pretzels, and I took a handful, and sent Laurie on. I told her I would be walking the rest of the way, and if not walking, I would be dying. She hesitated going ahead, but ultimately the walking was just to rough on her body. She told me to try to alternate walking and jogging, just to try to get there faster and off my feet. The world was spinning around me. I was at the worst possible place on the course to be weaving and not with it, as there was absolutely no shoulder on the road. I was walking on the white line at the side, cars whizzing by, and I really couldn't do anything about it other than to not close my eyes and lay down like I felt like doing.

The pretzels (and another gel) helped. So did chugging water. I wanted to keep walking, but I came up on a volunteer who had stopped traffic for me, and I felt like I could at least attempt to speed up, just for their sakes. So, I jogged, just to get through the intersection. Then I walked. A while later, I saw another volunteer who asked me if I was ok. I was around mile 22.5 or something, so I was pretty sure I was going to finish, even if it meant walking the rest of the way. I could see Laurie way ahead, and just kept her in my sights. Before we turned the corner to head toward the Lodge (mile 23?) we had yet another dog run in. I could see the guy ahead of Laurie about to get eaten by the giant beast, I saw him pass and he kept a lookout as Laurie passed the rabid mongrel, and then I realized there was no one watching to see if I got eaten. I decided to cross the road, pray that cars would drive by, and attempted a slow run. It was very helpful, and felt pretty good. Plus, it got me away from the dog a teeny tiny bit faster. (Seriously, Oklahoma. What is up with there being large dogs roaming around and freaking people out. Not ok.)

As soon as I turned the corner to head toward the Lodge, I knew it was uphill from there. Rather, rolling hills and then an enormous uphill. At this point, I knew that it was the perfect time to practice for my ultras. I walked every uphill and jogged the flats and downhills. It was fabulous mental training, and for that I am very thankful. I was even bargaining with myself and picking spots on the road, knowing I could stop running at those spots. Notice how there are no cute pictures in Part 2? That is because I couldn't take any. I was running too hard before I got bonkalicious, and at this point, I was way too woozy. I did text Nickki to tell her where I was, and that I'd be walking. I misspelled every word, but I think she got the point...that I wasn't doing well. My face was caked with salt.

I was still thanking every single volunteer I came upon the entire time, even when I was walking all crazy and seeing stars. Seeing them was amazing, as I don't think there was one spectator on the course. It wasn't bad at all, but it did make me even more thankful for those who had given their time to be out there for us. Dogs do not count as spectators, even if they do weigh more than me. 

By some act of God, I did end up catching up to Laurie after we turned onto the road at the Post Oak Lodge. This was where the hills went from rolling to just plain mean. There was even a sign that said, "The Hill from Hell". Laurie and I hiked up it, which was a welcome change for my quads, as I thought they would explode at any moment. They were not ok. But my glutes were ready for some action, and that is the only reason I made it up that bad boy. We finished all smiles, and with hand-holding. Yay!

(Barely) Survived the Post Oak Challenge. Happy!
I finished in 4:27:57. I was very pleased with the time, given the effort the day before, and the giant wall that spanked me into submission. I loved it. I went out too fast, I hurt, I came back and was able to finish. Though I knew there was no way I could drive home.

I am now a huge believer in recovery being an important aspect of any distance event. I was able to eat within 10 minutes of finishing (bring on that vegetarian chili again, yum!) and went from feeling like I couldn't drive, to feeling better and able to drive, to feeling really really awesome. I also discovered that I was first place in my age group. Even more fitting, though, was that I don't like the idea of "beating" I was really really happy when I realized I was also the only person in my age group. Love it.

All in all, the weekend was perfect (my only complaint would be the dogs). Perfect location, beautiful property, great place to stay, food was amazing, events were all well-run. I am very thankful to Johnny Spriggs and all of the people who were volunteers, who helped plan, who were involved in any aspect of the weekend, including all of the runners. We will be back, year after year. It was one of the most fun and enjoyable running weekends I've ever had. It is a fact, I haven't had that many...but this one was truly awesome.

And now, time to get mentally prepared for running another marathon in Oklahoma in less than 2 weeks! Fun, though - I know at least one of the guys running, because I met him at Post Oak. The running world is getting very very small. I think it is awesome.

Have a great week!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Post Oak Challenge: Part 1

What an incredible weekend. Before I even start, I have to wholeheartedly recommend the Post Oak Challenge. February 25/26 next year. See you there.

Michele, Hannah (me!), Nickki

We arrived at the Post Oak Lodge Friday late afternoon, and checked in. We were in Lodge 5 - it had a common living space, and 4 (locking) bedrooms, each with private bathrooms. We were greeted by two of our Cabin-mates, Rick and Guy, from Minnesota. They were awesome and doing the 50k trail run and the Marathon.

The pasta dinner was held at the main Lodge. It was such a beautiful building. The food was delicious! As a vegetarian, I typically expect that my "pasta dinner" will consist of dry pasta (with olive oil if I'm lucky) and vegetables. I was amazed that not only was there a vegetarian sauce option, but that it was  quite tasty. It had mushrooms and eggplant and was so delicious! Two thumbs up. And the dessert was really good, too. We sat with three runners from St. Louis (all doing their first 50k) and one runner from Oklahoma City (also doing his first 50k). Great people.

Our speaker was Randy Ellis, author of the book "Running With Payne". Randy did a transcontinental run from California to New York in 1998. Beyond the book and beyond the awesome thing that Randy accomplished, he was hands-down one of the nicest men I've ever met. Genuinely and shockingly down to earth and kind and it was so obvious that he truly cared when he talked to each person. We enjoyed hearing about his journey, and talking with him after. (I geeked out big-time, and got on the topic of Ultramarathons with Randy - specifically my upcoming 100 miler in October. It was awesome, as he's done the 50 mile at Heartland, so is familiar with the course, and is also a 100-miler himself. I love runners.)

Michele, Myself, Randy Ellis, Nickki.
He's tall. 
My friends and I headed back to our Lodge after dinner, and drifted off to a restless sleep.

Saturday morning we had a 6:15 wakeup - for an 8am race. Our wakeup time even provided us with extra time! Every other race I've done has required being up at least 4 hours prior to the run. It was heaven to know that we had to walk 30 seconds and we were at the start line.

Us at the start line...that wasn't really the start line.
We were all a little unsure of what we were getting ourselves into, as none of us have ever set foot on a trail in our lives. Especially not a trail with the intent of running! (Or, as we would find out...merely attempting to run.) The great part was to be there with friends, and knowing we were all getting a new experience out of the deal, in addition to having a wonderful weekend away from our day-to-day lives. Nickki and I said goodbye to Michele, as she was doing the 10k and it had a start time 30 minutes after ours.

Myself and Nickki - anxiously excited!
The gun went off and the 25k and 50k race started. I say "race" very loosely, as Nickki and I started near the back, and enjoyed the first part of our run across a giant field. The trail switched quickly to mud, hills, trees, branches, hills, rocks, roots, mud, rocks, mud and single-lane trail. (I don't know my trail lingo. But, hello bottleneck!) It was probably very good we couldn't go any faster or slower. Looking at our pace was pointless, both because we didn't really care what our pace was, with nothing to compare it to, and also because we knew we had a long road ahead of us for Sunday's events.

The trail switched between being in woods, to big fields. Though the real kicker was that we would hit an area and be thrilled to see wide trails, only to realize there were still 3,253 rocks to contend with, along with mud that I feared would suck my shoes off.

Hiking up Holmes Peak.
This picture makes us look like wimps.
I swear it was bigger than it looked...
Our friend Coach Scott had warned us that we would have fun, but at some point would say, "Are you freaking kidding me? I am only 3 miles in?!" And that we'd get to a hill and look up at it and just not want to take another step. He was dead on. I think that was the best way to describe it. He also told me that I would use more profanity during the trail run than I will in October when I do my 100 miler. Talk about a pep talk! (In all seriousness, his wisdom and honesty helped us so much, as we knew any defeat we felt was just part of trail running fun. And we really were having fun!)

The views are apparently quite amazing with clear skies!
I had been in contact with the race director, Johnny Spriggs, several times via email. His biggest suggestion was to get gaiters. I am so beyond thankful that we listened. They were awesome, and I cannot imagine if we didn't have them.

We met great people on the trail. Everyone was so nice. Because Nickki and I weren't concerned on time, we would walk, stop, move off the trail to let people by, etc. It was just an adventure. However, we did feel sort of lame when these two little boys passed us looking about 95% more energetic than we did!

Little boys. Seriously.
I did fall at one point. So thankful I didn't bust my face open, but I did slam my knee into a rock, and banged up my hands a tiny bit. It didn't affect me much, except when it continued to get colder out. Though I won't deny that I did feel 74% more badass after taking my first fall on a trail. We debated that morning whether or not to take gloves, etc. Because of the forecast, we decided against gloves. Bad choice, as the forecast changed and ended up colder. I think that was the one time I really really started feeling my knee aching - when I got pretty cold. Felt much better when we kept moving at a quicker (but still slow) pace.

Crossing a creek behind Lyle, a fellow Marathon Maniac.
Per usual, I had to have fun, especially since I wasn't racing and I was feeling good. Therefore, I give you my jumping picture. (Obviously had a difficult time getting off the ground...)

Jumping is fun.
The race photographer was in the middle of the woods, and got a great picture of Nickki and I. Honestly, I think she and I both got to a point where if we weren't laughing, we would have been crying. It was very cold, and we were slow, and the course was marked in kilometers, which jacks with your brain. Or it jacks with my brain, anyway. I swear I spent 25 minutes while on the trail trying to figure out the equivalent of 2k in miles.

Happy and thankful that we can go out and do this!
I had a wardrobe malfunction that become an issue the last half of the trail run. I wore the wrong socks. Yes, I had the correct socks with me (unlike Nickki who completely forgot her pants...she's wearing my extra pair because I am crazy and take extra of everything...) but for whatever reason, I just didn't put them on. Finally, I gave up and took my gaiter off, took my shoe off, and pulled my sock up once and for all. It was a big mental boost to not be annoyed by my lame sock and my apparent lack of smartness to put on the correct socks. Oy vey.

We eventually made our way to the finish. Ahhhhhh. Nothing like running a marathon finishing time, only 10+ miles shorter distance! Though not my marathon time, thank goodness.

Nickki, Myself, Michele - Done!
Michele had a gerat time on the trail, and very much enjoyed her 10k. I am so proud of both she and Nickki, as they hadn't really been running much at all. Trails are so odd, as it was like many many miles running benches at a stadium, combined with lunges, combined with lateral jumping, with small bursts of running. It was fun, and I did succeed in my goal of wanting to walk away understanding why people love trails so much. Nickki and I agreed that we would absolutely do more trail runs, even without having a place to train for trail runs. It was just fun, and mentally challenging, and physically challenging, and awesome. And muddy and wet. Because I'm sure you want to know, we didn't take dead last, but not far from it...our time was 3:36:31.

Trail runners!
I'll be back soon to recap the rest of the weekend, including my 26.2 miles the next day. Good times!