Friday, April 18, 2008

Umstead 100 miler 13 days later

This year I have decided to followu-up my Umstead 100 mile run with a chronicle of how I have recovered. This hopefully will serve as a baseline for Vermont 100 as well as for next year, when I am puzzling over when I will stop feeling certain pain and when I will be able to resume normal activity.

But before I get into this, I have finished my race write up. I will warn you it is 15 pages long, but for those of you with the endurance to read 15 pages, you can click on the following link:

Now, to summarize my progress to date. This year immediately upon finishing the race, my husband drove us from Raliegh to Richmond to my father-in-laws. We stopped briefly at his house so I could shower and to drop a few items off. We then continued back to our home in Maryland. I might have dozed off occasionally, but for the most part I was awake and my husband suggests somewhat chatty. I don't recall much of what I said.

Sunday night I slept pretty well after falling asleep about 8:30. I woke up about 5 a.m. which is usual for me. I did not get up until closer to 6 a.m. just because of pure laziness on my part. My feet were painful as were my knees. And a very odd blister/chaffing location about 2 inches above my heel was discomfortable. It is still a mystery where this problem came from. At work, my colleagues took good care of me, feeding me and watering me at regular intervals (it may have helped that I brought in cake to celebrate so was sort of bribing them to help me:-)

Monday-Thursday I really craved mashed potatoes for the second year in a row. I think it is because I really go to town with the salt on my mashed potatoes so perhaps my body knew it would get some of it's sodium and potassium replenished. Monday-Thursday I was icing my right knee, which still has occasional pain from a car accident I had (getting hit as a pedestrian). I also had pain on the front of my foot near my toe joints. This continues to a lesser extent through today, but I think was excerbated by standing for about 11 hours straight while volunteering at Bull Run (on a cement surface no less!)

The final odd pain has to do with my arms for about 2 days after the race and was probably explained by the fact I kept waving my poncho around to dry it off a bit. I have no upper body strength so just doing this really was quite a workout!

The Wednesday a week and a half after Umstead I tried to run. I went about 1 mile and was really happy about it. Thursday (yesterday), I ran to my local running store, Fleet Feet Gaithersburg which is about 1 mile the shortest route then ran an additional 4 miles during their Thursday Fun Run.

In addition to this milestone running, the first day I walked a moderate distance was one week after Umstead when Tristan and I went to a local garden: Brookside Gardens. We walked around for about 1.5 hours and appreciated the daffodils, tulips, cherry blossoms and many other blooming flowers and tree's.

As of today I would say I am completely recovered, which is good considering I have only 2 weeks to cram to get ready for the Frederick Marathon and just 3 months until Vermont 100 miler!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Volunteering at Bull Run 50 mile Run

This past Saturday I celebrated my personal victory at Umstead 100 miler by volunteering at the Bull Run 50 miler. I volunteered at this race in 2007 and really enjoyed feeling the excitement and energy of an ultra, without having to run the race (and realistically my legs are in no shape to do so!).

The Marina Aid station (mile 21 and 45) is an aid station that has a bit of shelter and is easy to reach; so for the second year in a row I arrived at 7:30 a.m. ready to help. The first task is setting up the aid station for runners. This includes getting the food, beverage and medications in order and set out. The other volunteers included our team leader Deb (an experienced ultra marathoner who likes trails), Mike (another experienced ultra-marathoner), John (who has run Bull Run 50), three firefighters from Frederick MD and several others. We worked fast and efficiently and were quickly ready for the runners. We had enough time for the firefighters to reorganize the food to be the sweets table and the salty table (instead of a mix of items). This cracked me up because whenever I come into and aid station, I am grazing until something catches my eye.

After the aid station was set up, a few spectators trickled in indicating the runners were on there way. I spoke briefly with Anne Lundblad's mother who is really nice. I have e-mailed Anne on occasion because she is such an inspiration to me. In particular I was really impressed by how supportive and encouraging she was during Umstead 100 in 2007 (although she was only doing the 50 miler option she would say things like "go runners" as we passed on the out and back sections). Just like almost all the other elites she is so kind, encouraging and supportive which I think makes this sport very unique and makes me proud to be a part of it.

At about 8:30 or 9, the elite runners started coming in. First place was Mark Lundblad and all he needed was a bit of water. He quickly raced on after a quick "thanks". The next person was Anne about 20-30 minutes later. She did not need anything and her mother provided a new bottle of sports drink (this is actually very smart since creating gatorade/sports drink from powder it is quite difficult to get the mix perfect and some glasses are VERY strong and others quite weak). She was very nice to volunteers and offered "thanks" to the volunteers. The next runners arrived pretty quickly and needed only water and gatorade and seemed to have their own personal crew. They all were very nice and moved quickly through the aid station. At this point we realized we needed more water and gatorade pitchers because although the prediction was not too hot and rainy, the day was getting steamy and actually the sun was out. Since there were no pitchers we improvised and re-used soda bottles and filled them with water and gatorade. We could then easily fill sports bottles and camelbacks.

After a bit, the wave of runners hit us and we were constantly moving asking runners what they needed, filling bottles and camelbacks, and returning filled bottles. The runners were muddy, in good spirits and appreciative. It is nice to volunteer because you realize how hard the volunteers work in attending to runners every need. At this time a small burst of rain occurred and in addition to helping runners we had to place the food under the shelter to protect it from getting too wet. This added a degree of complexity to our job, but soon enough we were back into our groove of filling bottles and checking on runners. During this time, I saw a bunch of runners I knew from Reston Runners: Jon N., Jim A., Dave Y., Ed C., Keith W. and some others. I also saw a bunch of VHTRC runners who my husband and I met during our January run up and down Maryland Highlands near Harpers Ferry as well as several Montgomery County Road Runners including the president Cathy. Finally, I saw my friend Charlie from the B&A trail marathon who I had run with both in 07 and 08. It was great to see so many friends! Pretty soon the main wave was over and we had a bit of time to re-organize the aid station and catch up in filling up cups of water, gatorade and resupplying food.

Unfortunately this break was over pretty quickly as the first place runners were on their way back and were at mile 45. Again the elites were very low-maintenance and yet very appreciative as they came through the aid station. Anne Lunblad's mother came back to the aid station and chatted with us again. She was very nice. She mentioned that at the previous aid station she had been "scolded" for taking a picture of her daughter rather then providing water. I made sure to take a picture that I will send. During this each of the runner/volunteers fessed up to times they have been less then gracious to their crew or pacers. I brought up my "Umstead sandal incident of '07" in which my husband brought me flip-flops instead of Teva supportive sandals. I definitely said a bunch of choice words at my husband during this incident, although in retrospect it is pretty funny. I am going to have to say the choice word I said to my husband he mile 98 and nearly 30+ hours of no sleep, there is no way I was mentally competent enough to make a good choice about this.

After a bit there became a steady stream of runners; however, this time they were not big clumps of runners. We were able to resupply water and gatorade bottles and the runners although hot and tired were very nice and appreciative. At this time my feet started to bother me, so I took on a few other tasks to get off the hard pavement of this aid station. One task I took on was helping runners cross the road. Although basically this task amounted to helping runners get up and over the guardrail and warning them it was an active road and to be careful. After returning from this task, I filled bottles and checked on runners for a bit but ultimately decided I needed a more "sit-down" job. Checking runners in was perfect for me and the other volunteer was leaving that job. I became the person to ask runners, "what is your number" when I couldn't see it, and when I could, I would acknowledge them with "Number xx, I have you" and then I would try to say something like: You are doing great, looking good or some other encouraging words. Once in a while there would be a cluster, although frequently it was a group of friends encouraging a runner so all my stress related to getting all the runners numbers was for nothing:-) When I was handed the clipboard less then 50% of the ~300 runners were check in, but by a bit after 6 p.m. when our aid station was closing nearly 270 runners had come by. There was a high drop out because of the unexpected heat and pretty muddy conditions. But all the runners (even the DNF's) deserve a great deal of credit for running in very tough conditions!

After the last runner passed through the aid station and it was cleaned up, it was time to go to the post race party. Last year I did not participate because a very bad thunderstorm arrived about 6 p.m., so the post-race barbeque did not sound like a good idea. But this year, the weather was holding off, so I followed several others aid station volunteers and enjoyed the barbeque. It was a really great party and I was really able to enjoy it since I had not just run 50 miles. I walked around and mingled with some of my runner friends and congratulated them all on a great race. It was nice to catch up to some of my friends including the folks from Reston Runners (pretty much they are the reason I got into ultra's and have been really supportive). I chatted a bit with Cathy from Montgomery County Road Runners and finally recognized where I knew her from (the piece of cake 10 km, my husband and I ran about 1 month ago). She is really sweet. I also caught up with Vicki and some others from VHTRC who I had met on the mountain near Harpers Ferry. Finally a really big shock occured when I ran into Monica, a runner who I was near much of Umstead 100 miler. She was volunteering at the finish line. Thus, at least 3 Umstead 100 milers were celebrating their victories by volunteering at Bull Run. I think it is a great way to celebrate the victory and is now a tradition I plan to keep up for a long time!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Umstead 100 first thoughts

Picture: My family and friends: My husband: Tristan, Me, Imelda and my sister: Cindy.
This past weekend I ran the Umstead 100 mile endurance run. This is my second time at this event and my basic goal was to not finish in last place as I did in 2007. I succeeded with 58 minutes to spare and 13 places!

My time is currently listed as 28 hours 52 minutes and 17 seconds. And I was in 91rst place out of 104 runners who completed the 100 mile distance. I am still on cloud nine with resepect to how well I think I did.

Currently my race recovery issues include a bunch of blisters. I have named a few (the biggest meanest one is called "Stumpy" after a mean cat that I was related to by marriage alone-thus she was my step cat). I have a few other blisters and one that is quite puzzling to me; a blister about 3 inches above my heel on one leg. It might be related to my ankle gaiters but it sure seems like an odd spot. I have one toenail that was never really a team player on my body that I suspect will be falling off in the near future. And of course I have the usual stiffness and soreness, but it is getting better each day.

I am working on my running report of this event, but have a few highlights to share. My first highlight started a few months ago. I try to volunteer for races frequently and really wanted to give back a little to Umstead 100 which had treated me so well last year. I sent in my volunteer form to Blake and a few days later expressing an interest in registration, he dropped me an e-mail asking if I would be willing to work the merchandise area. Of course I was happy to do this task but requested that he assure me the position would not entail much standing as I wanted to be as fresh as possible for the race. He replied that it would be pretty much a sitting position particularly since there has never been a racer who has come in last two years in a row, earning the Norwoodie. I assured him I did not want to be the first to do this and was not interested in creating a matching pair or "set". Happily I did not come in last, but for a few laps I was a bit concerned. It is really hard to tell where you are ranked particularly since the runners do not know who has dropped.

The second highlight of my race was right before the race started running into Jamie Donaldson, the first place female from 2007 in the ladies bathroom. She was really nice and friendly and perhaps a bit puzzled how someone knew of her (I know of most of the elites because I read ultrarunning magazine every month and sometimes read articles over and be able to run these events faster then I could run a mile or even run from a bear frothing at the mouth is really impressive). Jamie wished me luck in my race and each time we ran into each other, she has positive words of encouragement. She is a really classy and gracious runner and such an inspiration.

The next highlight of my race was running about 5-10 minutes with the overall winner: Serge Arbona. Last year he finished his final lap right as I was finishing my 5th lap. But even before this slight interaction we had met briefly at an aid station and he had wished me luck. This sport really impresses me with how kind the leaders and elites are to regular (or even really bad) runners. His positive words in 2007 really left a positive impression on me. Well as he caught up to me about 7 in the evening on my 4th-5th lap and his 75+ mile we exchanged the usual greetings and pleasantries. Just being in his presence gave me a bit of energy, so I picked up my pace and started chatting. He asked about his status on the field and I suggested that he was solidly in first place and unless someone slipped by me while I was in the bathroom (which was a possibility), he was pretty much alone. But then I realized maybe I was supposed to give him some motivation to go quick, so I quickly said, "but do you want me to lie to you, and tell you someone is sneaking up on you?" He had an amusing story about being told someone was within 2 minutes of him at mile 90 in a 100 miler race several years ago and ending up with a painfully stiff neck for weeks. However, when he read the race report he learned that he was well ahead of everyone. Just so any of you reading this know, I will not lie to you about where you are, your physical status or the weather unless you tell me it's okay. But if you do, I really will go to town. I do find it a bit distressing to be misled. I figure that for the most part it is better just to know reality and that things may not be looking good.

My final story for the time being has to do with my state of dress. I wore my lucky outfit which consists of a pink runner girl skirt, pink singlet with my name on it (I kind of get tired getting called a number and anyway if I need CPR I want the medics to be yelling, "Tammy run away from the light!". Because if they say "ma'am, excuse me ma'am, are you okay", that will only incite me to run to the light faster! In addition to this I had a yellow poncho from Niagara Falls I had gotten on the Maid of the Mist when my Trisan and I were up to run the Niagara on the Lake 50 km Ultra (which I highly recommend). I kept in in my fanny pack when it was not raining but when the rain or strong mist occured, I would put it on. The race director Blake Norwood saw me in it and mentioned it looked like I was part of a kite. Others would say things like: "Nice Cape". Someone suggested I looked like big bird and finally the most amusing comment was when another runner suggested that I looked like a superhero. I wish I was a superhero! And I wish my superpower was to be able to stop and start rain on command. But alas I am just a slow runner trying to run with passion (since I can't run with speed).

I will try to write a summary of my race in the next few days and perhaps will try to include some more pictures.