Monday, November 29, 2010

JFK50 miler 2010: Leading up to the Race

Running a 50 miler is both a physical and a mental challenge. Little did I know by the end of my 2010 JFK50 miler I would be living out this adage. But alas it is the challenging times, situations and events that frequently make us stronger (at least that is what I said to myself throughout the race). And it also makes a greater appreciation for those times when success is easy and painfree.

Leading up to the Race

My running and professional calendar has been jam packed since 2006 when I ran my second JFK50 miler. But this past fall has been exceptionally packed. I started running what was to be 13 marathon or greater events each weekend back in mid-Sept with my favorite 40 miler, the “Tails for Trails 40 miler” hosted by Faye and Kev Hawn in Hanover, PA. This year I PR-ed in this distance by an hour and yet still was the last place female and last place overall. But I had a great time at the race and it was a lovely day for a 40 miler. My biggest disappointment was the lack of my husband Tristan and dog Gilligan. Tristan was in the midst of rehabbing from his mountaineering accident and Gilligan had passed away just a month before this event.

My next event was the Adirondack Marathon during a Father/Daughter Weekend in upstate NY. Again this was a beautiful day for running and I set a PR on the course. The weekend involved lots of eating, lots of hiking and good times. The Adirondack Marathon is one event you end up weighing more after the race weekend then you did coming in.

The Freedom’s Run Marathon was run with my friend Tammy B who I had jogged a considerable amount of the VT100 miler. I also nearly became her ex-friend by suggesting the Grand Tetons 50 mile Race would be "Great Fun". She was good company during the Freedom Run Marathon until she turned on me at mile ~20. Granted I went for a bathroom break but stayed for the visitor center/store. I would have made my dad proud as I read a few placards, enjoyed the air conditioning in the movie theater/displays and even put on some civil war outfits they were selling at the gift shop. This is all critical stuff for a marathon. But apparently Tammy B has different standards!

In 2009 I ran the New River Trails 50 km in 6:06. I knew I could do better and would tell anyone who would listen I wanted to break 5 hours. I realistically thought I could break 5:30 or maybe 5:15, but I figured I might as well set a really high goal for once in my life. Annette Bednosky puts on a GREAT race and the volunteers, course and overall race experience is excellent. The food along the course is amazing (and I nearly deraile my stated goal by eating perhaps one too many home made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), the scenery along the rails to trails along the New River and easy/non-technical terrain make for a fast course. I achieved my goal with many minutes to spare and PR-ed with a 4:48!!! I was shocked, amazed and super-proud.

The next weekend Tristan and I met up with my friend Dana from the JFK50 miler to run the Breakers Marathon in Newport Rhode Island. This is a beautiful marathon (on a nice weather day) that goes along rocky shores, sand beaches and multi-million (billion?) dollar houses, estates and even compounds. Running with Dana added to the experience as we were able to catch up since our last time running a significant amount of time together: JFK50 in 2006. Oddly enough my streak of PR’s for race courses continued with the Breakers Marathon.

Mid-October I flew to Phoenix to run my second Javalina Jundred 100 km. Last year I had run this race and had my first and most public meltdown (and in fact the whole meltdown was captured on video and a small snippet of it was played on a PBS television special). This year was a completely opposite experience. After meeting up with my friend Jamie at the airport we slowly headed to the race site for packet pick up. Of course on our way we had to stop at Chompie’s and Yogurtini for a huge bagel sandwich and a frozen yogurt treat. Let’s just say no visit to Phoenix is complete without a stop at Chompies and Yogurtini! During this trip an observation was made about my packing style. Apparently I pack heavily. This is both for my traveling and my ultra’s. In fact this topic has come up repeatedly and leads to endless mocking. But I can handle it as I have all my stuff to console me! When setting up my fanny pack it was noted that I had a lot (maybe 5 or 6) lip balms and 2 emergency ponchos. Apparently this caused a bit of controversy including texts to pretty much every ultra runner in America! Pacer Dan, Jamie and Tony tried to have an intervention. It was suggested I did not need a poncho in a desert and 15 lip balms might be excessive. I grudgingly jettisoned a few items. But then I had to text mid-race when I realized I had inadvertently not confessed about a lip balm in my handheld which was used during the race. Apparently texting during the race causes even more controversy! But I believe I win. Oh yeah and I did set a PR for the 100 km distance of 13:45 even with my 5 lb sparkeley fanny pack.

At JJ100 I was so thrilled to see so many friends and make so many new friends. And of course it was great fun volunteering overnight with everyone including the Race Director’s mom: Patty, who is so sweet and kept trying to get me to sit down and relax. At least I was not running the 100 miler, relatively speaking volunteering is easy. In the morning as I swept the course, I headed backwards along the final loop and was fortunate enough to run with my friends: Susan, Rob and Janette who was running her 2nd 100 miler and 3rd ultramarathon ever. The only bummer of this trip was seeing a pair of rattlesnakes right near the women’s shower/bathroom. I nearly refused to come out, but alas I was part of a carpool and had a business trip to go on.

Immediately following JJ100, I flew to Italy. It took 3 legs to get there and nearly 24 hours of flying. I seriously think my employer (the gov’t) is trying to kill me! Even worse on my way back (on Thursday) I ended up missing a connection at Rome. Ultimately I did get home but at one point a British Airlines Agent (the airline of the connection I missed) suggested he could get me a flight from Heathrow to Baltimore on Saturday!!! Seriously! Am I the only one seeing several issues with this “solution”? And I was quite jet-lagged!

Finally getting home on Friday evening I had to make a quick recovery for my 7th Marine Corps Marathon. I was super lucky my neighbor, friend and fellow competitor from the 24 hour race around the lake: Karen had picked up my race packet. So I could rest on Saturday. Sunday I woke up, headed to the race, saw lots of friends who I would say “I just want to finish so I can lie down at the finish line”. My plan was just that and to hope the Marines would pick me up and carry me. Alas even after setting a new PR for the marathon, 4:02, I was able to wander along the course cheering on runners. Ultimately Karen who had run the 10 km joined me in cheering runners and then we walked to meet up with Tristan who had parked the car at Roosevelt Island.

After nearly a week of being sick, Tristan and I flew to Manchester NH for the marathon. We did hike a bit in the White Mountains including going to the top of Mt Pemigawassett. Apparently that trail is pretty tough when you are sick/injured as we both struggled to the top. Luckily I was able to bounce back quickly and had a fairly successful Manchester City Marathon.

I was supposed to run the Richmond Marathon with my friend/FDA/Industry Statistics Workshop Co-chair Carmen. Unfortunately family obligations led to her deciding to postpone her inaugural marathon. My friend and former pacer, Pacer Dan had a similar experience with his first time runner. So we both entered the race runnerless. We decided to run the marathon together. After establishing, no I do not run 7 minute miles we decided a 4:15-4:30 marathon was a reasonable goal considering my upcoming JFK50 miler.

We had a great time running this race together. Although at points “running” might have been stretching the definition of running a little. Alas with lots of fun along the way meeting dogs, proving beyond a reasonable doubt my husband needs to be fired as my crew and that I can eat a cupcake (or pretty much anything else for that matter) during a race with no issues we both had a great marathon experience. Also, since I was unaware that Pacer Dan would be running with me I had not jettisoned anything from my fanny pack and still was able to run pretty quickly. And Pacer Dan in solidarity with me carried a lip balm. He will be pacing me at Umstead 100 and hopefully I can convince Pacer Iva to as well which combined with firing Tristan from my crew should enable me to run a sub-24 hour Umstead 100 miler with a bit of good luck and good training.

All of these races were training for JFK50 miler, but more importantly they are training races for my big 2010 event: Across the Years 48 hour Race in Phoenix Arizona!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Excuses, delinquency in not blogging justified

I am very sorry I have been remiss in not posting for so long. It has been a tough summer.

Life has proven it is like an ultramarathon. Sometimes everything is going great and other times you are puking along the course perhaps even in the fetal position. This has been my life since Tristan’s accident in late June. I have moved forward but it has at times been a struggle. The proverbial second shoe dropped with Gilligan our beloved dog passing away from bloat in mid-August. Gilligan was in perfect health then deteriorated quickly over the course of the evening. In the end his family including Tristan and I and his doggie friend Simba and Simba’s mom Karen were with him. Like I said, it was a rough summer.

I shall try to be better but I can offer no promises. One of the issues of having a sudden and unexpected emergency is that suddenly less important tasks get put to the back burner. Currently my backburner feels like it is larger than many named forest fires! And of course suddenly new tasks crop up. I did not fall into a wormhole that extends the hours per day so I barely muddled through my life and did the best I could to keep a semblance of “normal”.

It took Tristan 10 weeks until his cast was removed and he did not start walking until labor day. And the word “walk” is used very loosely here. Tristan has improved dramatically but the hours, days, and weeks lost this summer are gone. Time is a precious commodity. But so is health(*).

(*)As many know, I was hit by a car (while I was a pedestrian) many years ago (1995). This led to several surgeries each one more invasive and complex than the last. A complete knee replacement was on the list of potential steps in my road to recovery but I was very lucky that my final surgery involving breaking my leg, leveling my leg and attaching wayward ligaments with several screws did the trick. After nearly a year of physical therapy I was definitely not as good as new. But at least I no longer had the oddest gait ever. After about 8 years I finally was able run again. And starting with my second Marine Corps Marathon I have never stopped or looked back. I don’t ever take running for granted. It is something I love to do and know I am lucky am able to do. I hope that my husband has a similar experience in that at least he is able to one day return to the sport he loves. Maybe it will be with some pain (yes, I still have pain) but hopefully it is manageable.