Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ok- Only because I got a push and a shove and a kick to update this thing (thanks Mosi)...I won't bore you with details...I will just say this was an up and down year for me in the running and personal world. Here is how my year finished out:

Blind Pig 100 mile- after a disappointing DNF at Double Top, I raced and won this 100 mile for the females. I had a pretty easy, uneventful race. I had an amazing pacer, Alan and the race staff kicked ass! Happy to have taken home my second buckle!

Then I lost one of the most important people in my life; my Grandmother passed just one week before I was traveling home to see her.

Old Dominion 100 mile- What an amazing race!! So pretty and unseasonably cool- took 3rd female and shortly after found out I was tapped to run for the INKnBURN elite team!! world caved in...insert personal sob story here about love, loss and a terrible breakup....

Pinhoti 100 mile- My second DNF- I pulled out at mile 13- second aid station. My head and heart just wasn't in the game. I had too much drama going on in my personal life to focus on the can't run and cry trust me I tried.

All that being said...its on to 2015. I am excited to race again for INKnBURN and already have 2 races in my scope....Leadville 100 (lottery) and Leatherwood 50 miler....

Out with the with the next... Bring it on are mine!



Monday, April 21, 2014

Pinhoti Strike Out

So going into this race, the Double Top 100, I had only one goal- to finish. It was to be the first of the Pinhoti Slam 100 mile races and from early conversations, not overly hard. I soon learned how little I actually was prepared.

On Friday I packed all my gear and headed to Hickory to meet Jeff and Phyllis for the drive down.

Important side note- apparently I had managed to lose my Salomon Speedcross trail shoes since the move 2 weeks prior. I spent the morning freaking out but decided to race in my new Hoka Stinson Trails- thanks to the Ultra Running Company of Charlotte- and Jaime (McDonald) who sent an old pair of her Salomon's with Jeff just in case. 

Jeff was also racing and Phyllis had agreed to come crew me and possible run the 50k. We talked about the race, what to expect and how it should go on the way down. We had learned that there was a mere 18 people running and only one other woman. Odds were good to finish in about 28 hours and possibly a win for me. When we pulled up at check in, we were greeted with different expectations. The race director asked us if we were interested in the early start at 3am, Jeff and I both laughed and told him that we had good 100 mile times. He told us that most runners were taking the early option due to the difficulty of the course. Each loop was anywhere from 5-8,000 ft of elevation change and the trails weren't technical but the climbs and descents were steep. When we got to the hotel, two runner confirmed the difficulty and were also taking the early start anticipating no less that a 30 hour finish. This began to worry me. I had been nursing a sore knee since the 100k in January and was just starting to feel about 80% of myself. Having bailed on a long training run two weeks before in pain and in tears, I had no idea how much I had physically for a semi-challenging course let alone one of this magnitude.  Jeff was also not 100%- he had mustered through the Georgia Death Race the weekend before and was taking care of a very sore IT band.

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Packet pickup Friday night

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3am start- headlamp is blazin
We did our best to calm our nerves, pack our gear and settle in for the evening at a decent bedtime to accommodate a 2am wake up call. Minus a totally random knock on the door around midnight that woke us up...I slept pretty well. The alarm went off and we started the morning routines...I had decided to wear my Lust shorts, Steampunk arm sleeves and Gordy tech shirt from INKnBURN. It was about 50 degrees at the start so it was perfect weather to be out racing in. We got some minor and vague last minute instructions on the course and set off. About 2 miles in we came to the biggest decent I have ever seen. The headlamp of the leader was straight down from me.  It was an almost mile and a half drop; nasty switchbacks and leaf covered rocks made the downhill almost impossible to run. We hiked down as relaxed as we could reminding ourselves it was going to be a long day.  Over the first few miles, most of the 12 runners at the start stuck together through the ups and downs. We climbed up to the first aid station at Cool Springs and found ourselves a little lost. We weren't sure which of the trails to take so we fanned out and found the flags the RD had said would always be on our right. Other runners had taken the wrong trails and would continue to make uncorrected mistakes over the day. We came back through that same aid station after a few more miles and headed back into the main aid station. We were all a little confused and the volunteers didn't know where to point us so we headed up the road to a cabin where the RD was staying. He pointed us in the correct direction (which we were on) and headed back out to complete the loop. We climbed, descended and the sun came up to reveal a really gorgeous day to be racing.

Just a short time later the sun rose and we found ourselves heading out on the "Pinhoti connector" which was a little mile out and back that we had to complete twice to make the course a full 100 miles. As we pulled into the main aid station, there were 4 of us that had decided to stick together. Jeff, Kyle and Benjamin. We cruised through the first half of the course exchanging stories and pleasantries. Kyle and I discovered we both had a background in Exercise Science and he was actually working on his Doctoral degree. We all enjoyed the company and agreed that it was helping the time pass. Through that second loop we were high in spirits. However at the main aid station on the third loop, Benjamin was struggling with some GI issues and decided to sit down. We found out later that he ended up dropping so it was just the three of us. The sun had begun to set low in the sky and by now we had been racing almost 15 hours and were roughly halfway through. I had begun getting some cramping and early blisters on my feet. The Hokas were feeling great but unbeknownst to me, my feet were wet and the skin was separating. The socks I wore were too thick and I wasn't sure how to fix it. On the back side of the course, you encounter about a 2 mile climb followed by the last leg down to the main aid station. We began that climb in the dark and feared that it wasn't going to be long for me. Somewhere along that climb I broke- my mind couldn't fathom another 40 some miles and at least another 10-12 hours of racing that is was going to take me to finish. I didn't want to dampen the spirits of the troop so I put my head down and led the charge up the climb. When the guys began jogging the soft decent- I encouraged them to leave me and continue. I knew I wouldn't finish and despite the tantalizing allure of a first place female finish and the loss of the Pinhoti Slam buckle- I just couldn't pull it together. I didn't want to get out on the next lap and get hurt in the dark or totally destroy my feet which would mean months of recovery. It was one of the hardest decisions I made but I pulled out of the race. Offers to look at and fix my feet and pep talks from Jeff and Kyle just weren't enough. I was done for the race, my watch was reading 19 hours and I had just ticked off a 100k. I could only think of a shower and sleep so Phyllis and I sent Jeff back out on a loop and promised to be back in the morning to check. A shower and bed never felt so amazing and I was out like a light.

We woke around 8ish and grabbed some breakfast then headed to the start. As we pulled in, Kyle was at his car prepping for the second half of his last loop. I wished him well despite the nasty fog and rain that had set in overnight. He managed a smile and was off. Jeff was no where to be seen but apparently had lay down to nap in the night and headed out about an hour or so behind Kyle. We fretted about cutoffs and when Jeff pulled into the station he knew he would have to move on the back half.  He dashed off with high spirits and an astoundingly short time later Phyllis went out to run Jeff in for his last 100ish yards. Jeff's finish time was  35:37 minutes- Only 7 runners out of the 16 that toed the line finished. This race was incredibly hard and we were so proud of Jeff's effort.

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As we started home, Jeff asked me if I had any regret not finishing the race. I said that the competitor in me wanted to finish but the reasonable person in me knew better, I couldn't have gutted it out for much more than 20 more miles which still would have left me short and not any happier. This race meant the end to my slam pursuit but a beginning to putting my body/health before my need to win. I made a promise to the RD that I would be back next year to conquer it.

With a bit of a chip on my shoulder- I look ahead to the Blind Pig 100 in just a few weeks to seek out my second buckle. My only goal is to finish... fingers crossed I am successful!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Eeek! Last minute thoughts, questions and other ponderings

So for the first time since March of 2012, I will attempt to run a 100 miler. I can say my stomach in in knots and my head is all over the place. Its been a busy few months!!

Positives:  1. An ambassadorship from my favorite clothing company INKnBURN This was the best birthday gift I received-awesome clothes to race in from a brand that I have the utmost respect for and is made here in the USA!!  They truly put passion into what they make and I feel honored to have been selected out of the hundreds of applicants.

2. Moving in with Chad to start a new life in Boone. Not to mention the trail and mountain running up there are killer- he opened his life to Daisey and I so that we could be a part of it.  Feeling love and support from someone has been so amazing. (thanks babe)

I feel incredibly blessed to have had both of these happen and a girl couldn't ask for more. My friends and family have been incredibly supportive and I am grateful beyond words.

Setbacks: Since my fantastic race at Weymouth I have been struggling with an unhappy left knee. I have tried to put focus into taking care of it; but working, training and moving 2 hours away has posed a challenge.These past weeks I have done close to zero mileage to hopefully allow it the time it needs to heal.

Conclusions: I will say I feel severely undertrained to take on the mileage but all I can ask for is what Coach Marshall said all those years ago: "Give 100% of what you have today- whatever that is- and I will be happy with it" So Saturday, at Fort Mill State Park I will do whatever my 100% is. This being the first race of the Pinhoti Slam Series, I need to finish it in order to continue. I am hoping to be able to complete all 5 of the 20ish mile loops with relative success. Those of you close to me know that I put an immense (and sometimes unnecessary) amount of pressure on myself- but that's just who I am- a competitive spirit...but 100 miles is an awfully long and humbling way. I don't want to focus on the "racing" but more on the "finishing" one step at a time, mile by mile.

Side note: The knee seems to be angry because apparently my chain on movement is incorrect- i.e. my glutes aren't firing when they need to. Nothing that can't be fixed with a little booty squeezing exercises and retraining the motor pathways. But I just find it funny that I am a literally a "lazy ass" (giggle)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Out of the Woods- Into the light

Hello 2014! Let's just say I kicked off this year's race season with a bit of anxiety. I had  planned to race 5-100 mile races including the Pinhoti Slam. I wanted to step up my long distance game and add to my belt buckle collection- what girl doesn't like a little more bling?! After a great race in October at the White Water Center 50 miler (yes I was slack and did not blog about it) I felt confident in my racing again. I was excited to have a year of long hard races in my future... Until December came around

It started as a skip- a second of breathlessness- a pounding in my chest...then it started to happen more often that I was comfortable with. I was referred to a cardiologist in December and have spent the last 30+ days hooked up to a halter monitor. Results are still pending on the tests but so far so good.  With having good days and bad days  I wasn't sure what to expect from my body this past Saturday. I hadn't been on a run longer than 16 miles in months and my training was sub par. The original goal with this race was to set the course record. A very fast 10:01:34   with an average of 9:37/mile. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to able to maintain that pace so I adjusted my goals. I decided to shoot for:
1. Finishing
2. A win
3. A PR
Any combination of those was going to make me happy and just finishing was a priority.

Let me start by saying that this race is one of my favorite races. Marie Lewis and her entire crew of race volunteers are awesome. The aid stations are well stocked and manned, the facilities are gorgeous (heated bathrooms!!) and the course offers a speedy challenge! I ran it 2 years ago with a lot of success and was anxious to get out there again. The Magnum Track Club and the Runners From Hell that put it on do one heck of a job and they are some of the coolest people in the Ultra world.

Friday around 5pm- Tom, Val, Danielle and I packed into the car and drove out to Southern Pines to stay the night before the race. The house we stayed at belongs to a racing teammate of Tom and I's and its a quick 10 minutes from the race. We unloaded, made a fabulous dinner and all turned in to get some sleep.

Pre- Race Dinner prep with the crew
Race morning held chilly temps in the 20s, but we were expecting a clear, dry day. We met up with Phyllis at the lodge and set up camp next to the course. Marie briefed us at 7:30 and before we knew it, we were standing on the line ready to go. As the gun went off, I said a silent prayer and asked God to give me whatever race he felt I deserved; it was up to me to foot in front of the other, one loop at a time.

Two laps in I was feeling good- that's exactly what I was thinking as I found myself face planted into the soft sand about 1 mile into the course. I got up, brushed myself off and vowed to pick up my feet- less I want to spend the rest of the race limping through my laps. I'm not exaggerating when I say its a minefield of roots if you aren't careful; they can reek havoc on a racer. The course is a 4.5 mile loop which you complete 14 times. Yes, its a lot but the upside is there are 2 aid stations and you can run the entire loop if you have fancy enough feet to handle the roots. After my fall, I allowed myself to settle into a comfortable pace and was keeping time goals- reach this bench at this time, one minute stop at the station to eat... if I stuck to the plan I would be setting myself up for a pretty darn good performance. At the 50k split, I was starting to feel worn.  I knew my pace would slow but tried to stay on track;I was one, then three, then five minutes behind goals. I decided to turn the watch off and run with how I felt. I picked up Phyllis for a lap and she gave me a little pep in my step with her light running style and wordless grace. I truly am blessed to have her as a friend and a running partner- she's an incredible runner and her blogs are chalked full of motivation

On the next lap she told me was in first with a stealthy lead and all I had to do was hold on. With 4 laps left when I grabbed my ipod for some musical motivation knowing that the faster I ran, the less I would have to race in the dark. I ran happy on those laps with my tunes in my ears- singing to myself and thinking about all this past year has held for me. I had fallen in love with my running again, was crazy in love with a good man, Chad,  and was surrounded with wonderful friends and my running family. I let that joy of all those people and my life flow through my feet! God was smiling with me every step of the way.

With about 1.5 laps left, I had to don my headlamp. The dark slowed my progress a tad but by then I was on the victory lap. At the "3 minute station"  I thanked the volunteers for the help along the way and headed for the homestretch. I had realized that I was going to hit a PR for this race but when I crossed the line and hour plus ahead of my previous time, I was ecstatic!! I had not only finished the 62.5 miles but had accomplished my entire list of goals. My finish time was 11:25:08- good enough for 1st female and 5th overall.

Tom finished a strong race and Steve took a good training run home with tapping out early as temps dropped into the teens. Many runners were beginning to suffer in the cold temps and made the same smart decision. Our cheering section of Val and Danielle, joined by Phyllis were incredibly patient and supportive as we knocked down lap after lap of the race and only had mere minutes to exchange a few words before we were off into the next loop. It takes a lot to run an Ultra but it takes a bigger heart to stand in the cold waiting for your runner to come in.

I feel cautiously optimistic about my performance this past weekend and am shooting for a 4 of the 5 hundred milers that were on the original schedule.  All I want is to run as happily as I can for as long as I can one step at a time. Next up is Double Top 100 miler on March 22nd so fingers are crossed that that race can go as well as this one.

Full Race results courtesy of Lee Timing:

Race photos courtesy of Timothy Hale: