Tuesday, October 29, 2013

ROCK CREEK PARK, Gem of D.C., back on the trails....

                           I have been missing MY Rock Creek Park, although I did not know just how much until I was hugged by the trails once again and I was like a fish in water. I got a rare opportunity to run during the day, after work and I took it. Ran home, changed out of my long earring and fancy work dress into my shorts and t-shirt. Filled my water bottle and out the door I went....to run in shorts in almost-November is also a gift. Feeling so grateful I can't even put into words how great it felt to be out in nature, all alone once again. 

                 All by myself in the woods....to have all this minutes from my apartment is a blessing. 

                      The creek is on the left, with water gently rolling. for this one hour, THIS is all mine.

                                       It was almost 6pm and darkness closed in quickly. I went home and made dinner for the family and felt amazing the rest of the night. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Last long run before first ever marathon

             We hear a lot about how runs have a way of deciding on their own how they will be. Some days you may come to the start of a workout with all the pieces you need to have a good run (good sleep, good nutrition, etc) and still have a crappy run. This was a great run until about the 2nd hour when I noticed I had left or dropped my bag of electrolyte/salt pills. I had no idea how essential they were until I noticed my energy quickly drop at mile 14. Normally, when I have only 6 miles left my mind happily thinks, "only 6 more miles."This time, the 6 miles seemed like a very long way to go to the finish. Nevertheless, I did finish the run.  The day was absolutely beautiful too, just enough cool air, no humidity, and the fall colors were everywhere. I passes over this bridge and could see the Marine Corps Marathon runners making their way. I also got to see tons of houses decorated for Halloween. Below is one of the most astonishing house I got to see. This one is on Massachusetts just north of the embassies. 

                 In 3 weeks I will attempt to run my first marathon ever. I think my strategy will be to take it slow and easy at the beginning and start in with music at the halfway point. I have never been to Philly in the daytime so I'm sure there will plenty to keep me busy and engaged. I will also be very diligent to hydrate often and get at least 200-250 calories per hour via Gu's or actual foods.  

                     On another note, I have also been accumulating a mental list of what I would do different if I were to do the West Virginia Trilogy 50K again next year. I try to get this list up soon. But a huge part of me is convinced that I may just do it again next year.....funny how ones mind works. The first thing I told my husband after coming back from my first ever 50K was, "That was the stupidest and most exciting thing I have ever done. But I don't think I will do it again." A day later, I started thinking about strategies I  could use to make myself go faster and the challenge started calling me. So, I think the thing with ultras is that the challenge is one you actually fear you might not get, so when you do the rewards are actually so much more rewarding. In my mind, I can do a marathon easy, but an ultra, will all the mud, unpredictable rocks, cliffs and distance is not a sure thing. THAT is what makes it so much more interesting than a marathon......the fact that it's not predictable, not a sure promise....it's a tease, a carrot that calls and calls....

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Want to Hear More Narratives from Back-of-The-Pack Runners

              I am tired of running's obsessions with speed. For once, I'd like to tune into my favorite running podcasts or open my running magazines and not have to hear/read an interview with some super speedy 18-something year old. Instead, how about interviewing a person like me, someone who got into running a bit later, but that is committed, curious and yes, slower. I know for a fact that an interview with a person much more like me would make me more inspired, and more interested to tune-in in the future. 

               It's not like I don't understand this fascination with speed. On days I go faster than my typical slow pace I am ecstatic and the feeling of strength and invincibility I feel are unmistakably addictive. But, I also have this need to internally celebrate the fact that I even get out there at all. Perhaps my disinterest in this top 1% running speed-freak 'anomalies' closely parallels my general disinterest in famous people, celebrities and pop stars. I guess you can safely say I am not the 'star struck' kind of girl. I strongly suspect and am starting to believe that the narratives of those in the back of the race as just as interesting, if not more interesting. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Post-Race Thoughts and Resolutions

                         I went back on runs this week and been so enjoying the fall weather. I have also been thinking about future races. Obviously I have the Philly Marathon coming up in November....but what next? More and more I am thinking I might....just might want to do the 50K west Virginia Trilogy race again next year. At least this time there would be no surprises. I would know exactly how technical things get and what I would need to do to be ready. It will also give me a chance to beat my own time....

So happy to be running again!!

Look what I found in my car!

              I was reminded of my adventure today when I ran into my sneakers in the back of my car. My daughter saw it and asked what it was. I said, "It says mom had a great time!" I am tossing these babies in the shower and going to get them nice and clean again....believe it or not I own 3 identical pairs of this sneaker. It's the New Balance Trail MT1010. Love them!!

Monday, October 14, 2013

West Virginia Trilogy -50K

               This journey begins somewhat roughly. Let's just say getting to the race was an endurance event all on its own. The weather has been very rainy for a day at this point. But even with the rain, I almost did not make it out the the race. My friend, who had agreed to come along with me, had to take her mom to the hospital the night before we were due to depart and I was getting mentally ready to go alone until she called to continue our plans. Therefore, the moons aligned and voila!, we were in my car headed to West Virginia. 

             The enchantment with the mountains quickly wore off as it got dark and we found ourselves driving on top of mountains with very little visibility due to fog/clouds, steep drops and lots of fast moving cars from obvious locals who were used to such conditions. 

         We soon discovered we were.....TADA!!! OFF the grid.....In fact we were off the grid 90% of the trip, no phone, no internet, no GPS. With the exception of the hotel which was in the town of Elkins, over an hour away.  
                  This is an image of the hotel room. The hotel, The Days Inn at Elkins, apparently use to be a hospital. Despite very low reviews was not bad at all. Maybe it was just because we were tired, but it was pretty much alright as a hotel, but its look brought me back to my kids' c-section births in hospitals. You see, at the time I had my c-sections (one on 2004 and another in 2007) I had felt my weakest ever. Not only did I feel like a failure at not being able to deliver my children naturally, as we had planned in both instances, but I also felt unable to do the most basic things afterwards for a long time. Ironically, this race made me feel my strongest, so it was a very interesting contrast to remember me at my weakest and be in that similar space at my strongest.

                The morning of the race it was still foggy and misty. This image below is the way the field looked right before countdown.
                  Spruce Knob Mountain is absolutely gorgeous. Even in it's foggy, soggy state you could not ignore it's stunning beauty. 

            Around mile 11, the lower back of my right thigh started to ache, it started small and got pretty intense very fast.  I knew exactly why this was happening. The tension held in my legs while driving for 7 hours in the mountains the day before had weakened those muscles. I tried several times to ignore the blunt pain and run  anyway but would lose my balance. I often found sticks to help me balance and chose to continue speed walking and half running where it seemed less slippery. 
                          Because of the enormity of the trail, the small number of runners (67 total, 21 of us females) and my slow pace, 80% of my time on the trail I was all alone in the forest. These randomly placed orange markers (see below) marked my 'path' and each time I saw them I got this surge of bliss. I did not want to get lost and seeing those markers meant I was AT least on target. Just catching a glimpse of them far away brought such a deep sense of relief each time. Understand that this being my first ever race over 13.1 miles, I was like deer in headlights and had I know all I did not know I would have never left my front door. I did do one other run in the woods before in Northern Virginia, but the technical nature of this race far surpassed any idea I held about it's difficulty. See elevation chart below. 

                  A lot of the single track looked like this.....wet, soggy, stony. Part of me wished there was no cut-off so I could actually stop and enjoy the beauty all around me. 

           Look at this amazing view. This is what the path looked like. Gorgeous, but not an actual path. 

                  I realized somewhat late that what most slowed me down was that for the first half of the race I was trying to avoid the mud. Only in seeing the deep shoe gouges in the mud did I begin to realize that the runners in front of me were actually just walking right through the mud. Only in the end when I began to realize that I might miss the cut-off did I begin to walk right into and through the mud puddles. My feet felt tired and swollen, so the gush of water from the mud that would enter my shoe each time felt terrific. In addition, the score of stream crossings also felt amazing on my feet. Ice cold water would rush into my shoe each time and make my feet feel amazing. I welcomed the many, many stream crossings, they helped clean off the mud and were icy mini foot spas. 

          Part of the rewards of making it to the top of any mountain is the view. The view below was amazing. Truly feeling on top of the world here. 

                    About 3 hours before my finish I met Gavin. A guardian angel sent from above. He was running behind me picking up the orange markers. Apparently I was the last runner. He became my companion for the last 7 miles and I am sure I would not have finished this race without him, at least not by the cut-off. Gavin has a deep love for the woods and I had an absolutely delightful time talking to him and learning all about the woods and all things running.

             To think that these woods are rarely seen made me feel like a nymph in the woods, part of some magical kingdom. Absolutely stunning and gorgeous everywhere you look.

            This is me.....tearing up already 2 miles from the finish, full knowledge that, HECK!!, I am going to actually finish this thing. It was a very emotional moment for me. As a new runner who has only been running for one year, who a little over a year ago could not even run one mile, this was a huge accomplishment.  The voices in my head had been telling me for months, 'you don't belong in these races', 'you won't finish', 'you will quit and not finish' and a part of me knew better. A part of me believed in magic. Therefore, to actually finish this race, that has terrified me for months, and had kept me awake many nights was more than I could handle. At the finish line the tears just came rolling down and it felt absolutely amazing. The cut-off was 10.5 hours and I  crossed the finish line at hour 10:29:45. To add to the emotions already pouring out of me, the amazing WV Trilogy Volunteers, who are seriously the most supportive folks on the planet in my book, were all at the finish line screaming my name and counting down, urging me one, as I sprinted like a crippled deer to the finish line. They alone make me want to come back and do this race again. They were amazingly supportive and not once did their belief in me flinch.

                     This is me at the finish line with one of my two guardian angels, Gavin. I was bawling and laughing and overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.
            This is my other guardian angel, Jenna. Jenna and I have been friends since I was 19. We had a blast turning all creepy, odd, scary, tense moments into an adventure. I doubt she'll be coming with me to WV EVER again, but who knows, maybe like me, she'll begin dreaming of the gooooorgeous mountains and seeking a similar adventure next year. Besides, I need to cut that pace down not that I know what the heck I am doing.