Monthly Archives: June 2012

Brazil or Bust!

My sister-in-law Claudia has a special talent – she wins stuff! You name it, she has entered a contest for it and been declared a winner. But she outdid even her own track record when she won an all expenses paid trip to Brazil!! For 2!! After checking with her immediate family and (unbelievably) getting no’s from them (ok, they all had good reasons, but still!!), she asked me to join her. Would I (a travel fiend) like to go on a free trip to Brazil, a place I have never been before, and have some bonding time with my sis-in-law? Hmm, let me think. No, actually, let me expend zero brain cells and give an emphatic YES while jumping up and down wildly to quite possibly the easiest question of all time! We have our updated passports (this was a very good reason to get a new one in my married name), our VISAs, and our Mentos (Kisiel family superstition dictates that any and all trips must be accompanied by an unopened roll of Mentos to ensure safe travel. All flavors have been tested – including when sky diving- and perform equally well so you are free to pick your preference).  

I’m a fruit gal, myself

The trip is sponsored by a coffee company, Peet’s, and will last a week. We depart for an overnight flight today and will return in the dawn hours of July 8th. The next week will be filled with coffee, sightseeing, running (of course!), more coffee, plantation tours, café tours, some more running and then capped off with a little more coffee for good measure! Between the running high and coffee buzz, I expect to be in rare form.

Thank you Peet’s!

Lil sis and I have an ongoing competition to see who can run in more continents, countries and states, so finding a place to run is an absolute must! I found a running tour company that I want to run with in Sao Paulo but also hope to get out on my own a bit (it’s the best way to see somewhere new!). The rules for our competition are that you must run at least 3 miles (or 30 minutes if you do not have a way to determine distance – this contest began before Garmy and Prince Michael Garmy came into our lives) and the run must take place outside – so no treadmills allowed. Unless they are outside, in which case you might be able to plead you case to the judge, who would then say, “Really? A treadmill outside? Demerits for even attempting something so ludicrous when there is a whole big beautiful earth to trod upon!”

 Here is a map of all the states I have run in so far. I have 21 states, plus 1 capital district (DC) and 1 unincorporated territory (Puerto Rico) 🙂

Please don’t mind the missing chunk on the bottom. The map was apparently irresistible to my ‘ol bunny, Miss Amelia, RIP. She had a thing for paper!

My country list is Costa Rica, Ireland, Ecuador and New Zealand. My continent list is North America, South America, Europe, Oceania (NZ) and Island Chain (HI).

We will have access to the internet, so I will be blogging my coffee and running adventures, stay tuned! See ya on the flip side (of the world, that is, as we’ll be south of the equator)!

 Do you drink coffee? Have you tried Peets?

Do you like to drink coffee in conjunction with running?

What continents, countries and states have you run in?

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Mug Run!

I will be in Brazil on vacation next week (and posting about running south of the equator, so be sure to check in!) but that does not mean the social runs in Cape May grind to a halt! I recently “met” (through email) a woman named Beth (hi Beth!) who is organizing a super fun sounding event Thursday night, July 5th at 6pm. Combine running, beer and poker and you get The Mug Run! Here’s the scoop:

Everyone meets at The Ugly Mug (26 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ) between 5:15pm and 5:30pm. There you will meet Beth, sign a liability release and get to know your fellow Muggers. At 6pm, the group (with a bicycle chaperone) will leave the Mug and start a 4 mile course, stopping at the C-View Inn, Sea Salt, Carney’s and the Rusty Nail along the way and finishing up back at the Ugly Mug. At each stop, you can choose to have a beer (or not) and will be given a card for your poker hand. At the end of the run, the winning hand gets a prize! Here is the course:

Click on map to open image in Google Maps

This event costs nothing save for whatever beer/drinks you choose to imbibe and it gives you a chance to meet more runners around the area. You can also make a shirt to really get in the spirit – make sure it says “Mug Run” somewhere on it but otherwise let your imagination run wild!

T o RSVP or for more information, please email Beth: beth1446 at gmail dot com or leave a comment below!

I wish cloning was a little further along so I could be there too! Happy running, drinking and pokering!

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What I Saw When I Ran Wednesdays

For those of you who read food blogs, you will often see a “What I Ate Wednesday” post. Same idea here, except it will be what I saw when I ran on Wednesdays.  So take a peek at what my orbs observed and then add your own experience!

Tonight was the second group run of Cape Island Runners and it also doubled as a beachnester reunion! Melissa is moving cross-country with her hubby later this week, so it was a last hurrah of sorts (I say “of sorts” because I know I will run with her again, hopefully when I visit her out west in the not too distant future!). We also had Amanda and her adorable boss baby as well as Emily and Christy, who are fellow plover lovers with Melissa and I. Rounding out the group was running husband Scott and real husband GD! Awesome run, loved, loved, loved seeing everyone and chatting it up! It definitely reminded me how very much I am going to miss my running bud, Melis.

CMP is so chill you can run all over the road, even in the height of summer 🙂

Sunset is so late this time of year – love!

When boss baby got a little fussy, Scott continued his streak of being the visual distractor and fashioned his shoes into a mobile.

Happy baby!!

Seriously, nothing makes me happier than group runs!

Good-bye Melissa, we will miss youuuuuuu!!!!!

What did you see on your run today?

If you did not run, what did you see while being active?

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My First Time

It was the summer of 1995. I was deliriously in love with my high school boyfriend… oh, wait, not that first time. My other first time – my first race!

I started thinking about that day because my friend Kat just started her first marathon training cycle (go Kat!!) and it took me back to the day that started me down my own path. I was a freshman in high school, toeing the line at my first competitive event (nevermind the ill-fated season of club soccer in the third grade where it became startlingly clear that I should never be involved in any sport where balls, coordination, catching and kicking are basic requirements. It was not pretty, folks). How did I get to that line to begin with? For that answer, we have to go back one more year, to Mr. Pierangeli’s (Mr. P’s) 8th grade class. By this age, most kids had gravitated towards a sport and were likely already playing it – soccer, football, softball, etc. But for those of us who had no direction when it came to high school athletics, Mr. P represented a hail mary. He was like one of those guys that you see on the documentaries that go sorting through the rubbish piles and pulls out stuff that no one else wants. We were his treasure.

He successfully recruited me and gave the team instructions to start running and building a base that summer, but I did not. I did use a stationary bike one time on a vacation at my grandparents and figured I was sufficiently prepared. I mean, it was just running. How hard could it be? I soon found out. My first day of practice involved me gasping, turning bright red and doing very little actual running. I was far behind the main pack but had the company of a few others who had also not heeded Coach P’s instructions and got my first introduction on how great it is to commiserate with fellow runners.

So, back to that starting line…

September 14, 1991 Schalick vs Audubon, scrimmage ( Sidebar: Audubon HS is the alma mater of a guy I dated in college, who was also the first of many things, and a friend who I consider like a sister-in-law. Combine those with the bird artist and my first race and you’ll agree the word Audubon has loomed large in my own personal history!).

Prior to the race, the opposing team’s coach showed us a map with the route drawn on it. I was too nervous to pay much attention and figured I would be all right (in those days, I did a lot of figuring that was wrong!). The gun went off and I was sprinting the main pack thinking “ok, this is not so bad, I can totally do this!”. About 10 seconds later I thought “ok, of course I cannot hang with them, they are the fastest boys on the team! But I will definitely not finish too far behind “. Cut to a mile or so into the race, and I was walking and cursing my poor attention at the pre-race meeting. It was a wooded area and there were turns we were supposed to know about that I did not. I was half walking/half jogging and trying to makes sense of the course through tears. I was so far behind everyone that there was no one to follow and I just did not know what to do. So I did what would later become second nature – I just kept putting on foot in front of the other. Eventually, the fast boys who had finished almost 20 minutes before came to find me. They showed me the way, and I ran to the finish line, mortified, as parents and students cheered me in. 34 minutes and 44 seconds had elapsed and even though I was a heaving mess who came in dead last (long, long after everyone else), I was now a competitive runner.

Sophomore Year and it still looks like I am about to die 🙂

I am nothing if not sentimental (there is no escaping it, really, I come from a long line of nostalgia hounds and am a direct descendent of one of the biggest in the Kisiel clan, my dad) as evidenced by this picture of the tag off the first pair of running shoes I ever bought:

So it should not be a surprise that I have quite a collection of running “souvenirs” from the years. It brings me great comfort to have these physical reminders of my past. For me, it is like having a portkey of sorts (Harry Potter reference there the Muggles among you). I just touch one and am instantly transported to another place on the timeline of my life. One of my most cherished portkeys is a popsicle stick. Gather round, youngsters, let me tell you a little about how it used to be done. Back in the old days (being able to say this without irony is kind of a fun thing about getting older!), we did not have electronic chip tags or any other sort of technological tracking system to log runner’s times.  What we did have were mom’s with popsicle sticks. In 1991, the way a cross-country race’s order of finishers was determined was to station a volunteer (usually someone’s mom, occasionally a dad) at the finish line. As you crossed it, she would hand you a popsicle stick with a number (your place in the race) on it. After catching your breath, you would bring it to whoever was roaming around with a clipboard so they could record your name and order you finished.  A few calculations later and they would declare which school won.

Over the years, I amassed quite a few popsicle sticks. Here are the ones from my freshman year:

And the most cherished of them all, my first one:

Mr. P is responsible for an awful lot about me. Simply, he is the reason I run. There is no other conceivable route that I can picture that would have led me to find this true love of my life. But as with all unsung heroes of the coaching world,  he is responsible for so much more.  He helped shape the person I became –  the discipline, the self-worth,  the mindset that running is fun, and all the cheering I do for other athletes? Those seeds were planted and tended to by him, many years ago. When I PR in any race, I still half expect to see him at the finish line, arms open for a hug and cheering for me like I just won a spot in the Olympics as he did at the finish of every race I ran under his coaching.

Mr. P is on the right, in the suspenders 🙂 This was my last year running with him.

I don’t regret a lot in life, but one of my biggies is that I did not run my senior year of high school. The anxiety of racing simply became too much for me because my teenage runner self  had not yet learned the adage “the race is long, but it is only with yourself”. Instead I fretted too much over how my performance would affect the team and had not yet learned to funnel that nervous energy and direct it into a reserve to siphon strength from. I have since learned that skill and now count on race day nerves to propel me towards PRs. I wish I had figured it out sooner and had just one more season with Coach P. No matter though, he is always with me in my mind’s eye, wearing Schalick green and cheering me on. I hope he knows just how important he is to me, even now, 21 years later. Thank you, Mr. P. for seeing the runner inside me that was just begging to come out. You are the only one that noticed she was in there.

What was your first race like?

Who saw the runner (or triathlete or biker or dancer or Zumba fanatic) in you?

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Eek, it’s Western States!

Today we are in Horseheads, NY to celebrate my cousin’s high school graduation. Lil sis’ June Running Goal was to run a new 10k but her grad school schedule got in the way of finding a sanctioned race, so we will be running the inaugural “Serena’s HS Graduation 10k”! No entrance fee, no shirts and no course (TBD). The hotel has free breakfast, however, so the post-race provisions should be a step above orange slices.

While we toil in what feels like mountains to our flatlander sensibilities, 369 men and women will be gearing up for one of ultra marathons’ premier events, the Western States.

The run originated in the 1970s during what was then a horse race, the Western States Trail Ride, where competitors would race their horses 100 miles in 24 hours or less. In 1974, a runner named Gordy Ainsleigh decided to see if it was possible for a human to complete the distance – 23 hours and 42 minutes later, he found out the answer was yes! Since then, the race has grown into one of the most “popular” ultras in the US and has a lottery system to regulate entrants. With growth, of course, comes criticism of the way the race is directed, but in general this is a highly regarded, well- respected ultra. It attracts a deep field and the race times have gotten downright unbelievable – the current men’s record is 15 hrs 7 mins 4 secs (9:04/mi average pace) while the women’s is 17 hrs 37 mins 51 secs (10:31/mi average pace) (sidebar:  I love, love, love how the gulf between men’s and women’s times shrink the further you run). Remember, this is 100 miles and here is the (brutal) course description:

“Beginning in Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, the trail ascends from the valley floor (elevation 6,200 feet) to Emigrant Pass (elevation 8,750 feet), a climb of 2,550 vertical feet in the first 4½ miles. From the pass, following the original trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850’s, runners travel west, climbing another 15,540 feet and descending 22,970 feet before reaching Auburn, a small town in the heart of California’s historic gold country. Most of the trail passes through remote and rugged territory. People who are unfamiliar with the area should use caution when planning training runs, especially in the high country. Before leaving, let someone know where you will be running and when you will return. REMEMBER THAT MUCH OF THIS TERRITORY IS ACCESSIBLE ONLY BY FOOT, HORSE OR HELICOPTER.”

What??!!! Insane!!

A fantastic documentary was released awhile back called “Unbreakable” which followed the nail-biting 2010 race (I know, hard to imagine that a 15 hr race could be described as nail-biting, but it was!!). This is the type of doc where you don’t even need an interest in the topic to be sucked into the story and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for an “I need a story to give me a kickstart and motivate me to take on the world!” kind of  movie.

The race starts at 5am PST today, June 23rd. The men’s race will be missing one of it’s principal players as of late, Kilian Jornet (this guy is seriously poetry in motion. GD is sick of me mooning over him, but his glutes, oh his glutes! To die for! See for yourself how beautiful the trail running human form can be) since his friend’s life was tragically lost on a quest they were both on so that race is up for grabs. The women’s race promises to be as action packed as 100 milers can get! I’m hoping Ellie Greenwood takes the day.

Read more about the race here and here

So whatever you may do today or wherever you may roam, keep a thought for the 369 runners who are out there, all day and all night. They’ll need every positive vibe they can get!

Update: The race was one for the books! Timothy Olsen and Ellie Greenwood both smashed the men’s and women’s record!! An unbelievable race and triumph for them both! Congrats to all the finishers!!

Do you have a “bucket list” race that you would one day love to do?

 Why do you think people run these seemingly impossible distances?

 Is the junk in Kilian’s trunk not the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?

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Kashi Classic 50-Miler, Part 3

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here

Get comfortable, it’s a doozy!

Miles 40-45

So there I was, falling apart at the Mile 40 pit stop. The crew lept into action and within minutes had me on the mental mend.  Liz gave me a huge hug as I said to her, through tears, “just tell me it will be ok. I always believe you when you say it will be ok”.  In her most reassuring “everything will be ok” speech to date, she rallied my spirit and topped it off with an interpretive dance that had me in giggles. I sat down to roll out the glutes and was laughing through tears as everyone took turns making me smile/telling me how close I was and that I was definitely going to make it. Laur was at her most serious and told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to have to eat something.  I was starting my battle with nausea (which was ameliorated through the occasional ginger candy, worked wonders!), which would last the remainder of the run and is not uncommon in ultras, and did not want anything. I had prepared Laur for this and she rose to the occasion beautifully, gently but firmly letting me know that I had to keep eating. Instead of saying “do you want something?”, she would say “do you want a GU or animal crackers?”, etc. We bargained for the rest of the run – she would let me put off eating or drinking, but not for long. Anyway, I was rolling out my hammies at this stop and looking longingly at this beautiful stand of spruce trees. All I could think was that I wanted to take a nap under them. But the nap would have to wait, because this was the Kashi Classic 50-miler, not 40 miler! I summoned my strength and stood up. The crew sensed that I really needed them and a whole pack of us started running, save for Liz and GD, who had to man the two support cars. We started running and everyone was chatting away. I was definitely too tired to really participate, but I remember listening to Carrie and Scott talk about tris and Laur and Melis making idle chit-chat. At this point, I decided to employ a game Laur and I always play on roadtrips where one person asks a question and the rest answer. So I asked and they answered: what was your favorite race? when was your first kiss? We learned that Melissa was the early bloomer of the group but that we all had pretty rough first kisses, lol. Carrie also spent these miles using props for my entertainment; including a shopping cart and a traffic cone that doubled as a megaphone (Laur was jealous) as well as carrying a handful of Twizzlers just in case I wanted one.

Carrie with a random shopping cart she found on the route. Ahh, South Jersey at its finest!

It was also at this point that I started feeling pains that I have never experienced before while running – there was the normal long run muscle aches and sore feet, but I also started to notice that I was getting some tingling in various body parts and my skin hurt to the touch. We made our way through Rio Grande and got onto Seashore Road, which was really exciting because I was now on very familiar ground. I had been running these roads over (and over) the last 6 months thinking about this day and it was one of those trippy “whoa, this is actually happening” moments. I started mentally checking off the cross streets as we passed them – Breakwater, Tabernacle, Academy, Townbank. I pointed out a few favorite trees and concentrated on the next big check – crossing the canal and getting on Cape Island.

Miles 45-50

I decided to skip the Mile 45 pit stop because it was getting to the point that I knew if I stopped, even for a few minutes, it would not be easy to start again. The runners out there can surely identify with that feeling of just wanting to get to a finish line and not let anything delay that! It was here that GD joined us – this was such a welcome addition because I absolutely adore running with my husband. It does not happen often, but when it does, it’s like the two loves of my life are in sync and it feels… well, it feels like if I died right then, there would not be a happier way for me to go. The boost of him joining us gave me the energy to run up the West Cape May bridge. I had originally planned to walk it, but I hate walking and especially hate walking bridges! At the base, Laur forced some Nuun in me. With 4 miles to go, I knew I had enough in the bank to refuse food and be ok and she knew that too. But she wanted to keep me hydrated, so Nuun it was! We came into West Cape May and our friends Sam and Tom drove past us and blasted “Eye of the Tiger”. I wanted to thank them, but the time for words had passed.

We turned on Fourth and were heading west to home! This was a long straightaway on a quiet road where we could all spread out. Carrie yelled to everyone we passed (ie strangers enjoying an evening BBQ) that I was at the tail end of a 50 miler and I appreciated their confused cheers, lol (“Wow, that’s great? Way to go?”). We crossed over to Stevens Street and were getting close enough to taste it, less than 2 miles. We passed Michael and Louise’s house, and they cheered their cute little tails off too. I was in a lot of pain (I had to take Garmy off because it hurt to have anything on my skin and he also seemed to be making my fingers tingle) but it was starting to hit me that I was actually going to make it. This was a welcome thought, but did not do much to erase the pain.

I think my face sums it up

Crossed over to Seagrove and made that last left onto Lighthouse Ave. Words cannot describe the feelings washing over me, but this is a blog and words are the point, so I will try 🙂 Setting and reaching a goal is something that is written into my DNA. I find it immensely satisfying and it is a defining characteristic of my personality. Things like checking off chores on a to-do list bring me the warm fuzzies, so you can imagine how good it felt to reach this one. I loved having that last mile to really soak it all up – the fact that GD was still running by my side (he had run longer than he thought he would too!), and having people I love so much around me just meant the absolute world to me. Is there really anything better in life than loving people? No, there is not, unless you are running while loving them. I thought I was going to explode from happiness, pain, or both. I have never felt anything like it.

This is it!

The lighthouse came into view, beckoning me home, and I obliged. Gave one last push and we all ran it in! In a beautiful topper to her amazing day of signs, Laur had also made a finish line for me to run through. Most of us were running so there was no one to take pics, but here is what it looked like later:

Front side…

…back side. “Jubilee!” is what Laur, Carrie and I use as a go-to catchall phrase for anything remotely celebratory!

The crew let me run through it alone and then I touched the SP sign as the official end (I always need to touch something to signify a turnaround point or ending point, weird runner thing), immediately bent over and cried. 10 hours and 38 minutes had elapsed since I had taken my first step and it was hard to comprehend that it was over and had gone so well.

Post Race

The crew gave me a moment alone to process it, which I deeply appreciated. When my eyes reopened to a world where I had run 50 miles, I just wanted hugs:

I was high on the victory of completing the run and we all agreed a walk to the ocean was in order. This went smashingly well until the pain set in:

High on life and numb from pain until…

…cold water and cramps hit!

Crawling was the chosen mode of locomotion for awhile!

We went back to our house and I began the slow recovery from this longest of long runs. My legs were screaming and would not be soothed for hours. No matter, though, I was so enjoying relaxing with everyone. People slowly started heading home but Laur, Scott, GD, Lizzy, Sam and I all ordered Chinese (well, Sam tried to order Chinese, but we forgot to place his! He scavenged off everyone else’s orders and filled his belly just the same). Usually after a long run, my appetite is nil, but I was ravenous and would remain that way for the next 48 hours. I laid in bed that night with pulsing legs and sleep did not come easy. I woke early the next day, relieved that the worse pain had passed and proceeded to eat more food than I think I ever have in one day without feeling full or sick. I rode the wave of contentment for days after.

A Month Later

I took a full week off after the run and my body recovered well (I was a little more tired than usual for that week, but my muscles quickly felt like themselves, within 2 or so days). This was the longest break I’d had since 2011. Amazingly, I had not missed a single run in 6 months (I have to be near death to skip a run when I am training for something and I had made this a priority so there were no dealbreaker conflicts) so rest was in order! The laidback approach to running has stayed with me since the break. I have gained a few pounds, stayed up later than usual, and have run anywhere from 16-25 miles/week since I have been back at it. I expect this relaxed version of Kashi to last until the end of next month, when I start gearing up for the Philly Marathon, where I hope to cozy up to a new PR.

The question I get asked most often (after “why would you do such a thing??”) is “what’s next?”. Well, part of the motivation for this race was to push my body and find its upper limit. Though it did hurt, I did not hit the ceiling just yet and so I will likely try for a 100-miler one day. Not any day soon, but one day. And when I do, I will take with me the memories and joy that this ran brought me and crash right through the next wall with them as my lance.

Thank you to everyone who supported me on this run. My amazing in-person crew: GD, Laur, Scott, Lizzy, Mom, Dad, Melissa, Kat, Carrie and Lisa. And to all the wonderful friends who emailed, called and facebooked words of encouragement, especially Becks and Meg.

The creative people who did things like send me pics of their babies dressed like this:

Melissa and Brandon’s sweet baby girl, Bailey, the youngest cheerleader.

Or had their kindergarten class do a before/after of the run:

Carrie’s kindergartner’s “before” at Mile 1

And “after” at Mile 50

You are all the kind of people that we think only exist in movies and in books and I really, truly could not have done it without every single one of you. Thank you.

Run on, friends!

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What I Saw When I Ran Wednesdays

For those of you who read food blogs, you will often see a “What I Ate Wednesday” post. Same idea here, except it will be what I saw when I ran on Wednesdays.  So take a peek at what my orbs observed and then add your own experience!

First day of summer deserves “two a days”, ie two runs in one day. Especially considering how hot it will be later, I thought it would be fun to run once in the AM by myself in the cooler weather and once in the PM with friends in the heat. 3 miles for each run, same route.

AM Run:

Rosa rugosa, or Beach Rose, my favorite plant. Its rose hips were used by sailors to help prevent scurvy while at sea since it is high in Vitamin C. I like to eat them just in case!

I always thought this was a woman holding a baby but today I started to think it is a dude. More runs are needed to investigate!

Sprinklers were a very common sight today – people are preparing their plants for the heat ahead!

This was the Cape May Point Country Club, opened in 1899 when the town was trying to build a sense of social status for its inhabitants. Those days are over, but the building remains.

PM Route:

I remembered my camera for CIR’s first group run, but not the memory card, doh! Nor did I have a cord, so at the end of this day I opted to take an iPhone pic of the camera screen. Very classy, I know! But we had a great run, come out next week and join us!

Sprinklers were a welcome addition to the run!

Lil sis and Scott, my running husband, are two of my favorite running buds!

High five for the finish, followed by an awesome swim in the ocean. Summer is the best, end of story.

What did you see today?

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Kashi Classic 50-Miler Race Report, Part 2

Read Part 1 here

Part 2

Miles 15-20

Around Mile 16 or 17 we stopped at Wawa (all told, I think there were 4 Wawas that I passed that day, plus the one we went to before the run!) for a pit stop.  The day was starting to heat up and GD immediately started wiping me down with cold Wet Ones, which felt heavenly. I went inside to use the facilities, but as the norm on a Saturday morning there was a long ladies line. Ack! So I ran out back, dodged the truckers and used the woods (surprisingly, no line!). I went back to crew and ate the rest of the animal crackers. Kat had now run about 8 miles, so she swapped out with Scott, who was ready to take on the next section with me.  When designing the course, I knew this next stretch was going to be mentally challenging. It was on 347/47, a pretty boring road that has a lot of traffic. Not the most exciting eye candy! Scott knew this, and had a whole list of interesting topics in his arsenal to yammer on about.  I was hot and a little tired here, so I asked him to talk while I mostly listened. I asked that he give me a super detailed verbal race report of his half Ironman from a few weeks before, which was fascinating (I love RRs). The miles clicked off, but slowly.

The long, hot miles of 347 were made more bearable by great signs and GD’s one armed push-ups!

Miles 20-25

The day continued to heat up and I started flagging mentally. This section was not getting any easier – there was no shade and the glorious wind we enjoyed earlier was blocked. We chugged along and Scott told me about the cool books he was reading, including ones about the similarities in human and bonobo sexual relations. This worked great in distracting me! Miles 21-24 were particularly tough and would be some of the roughest of the day. I reminded myself that mental dips are just part of the game and all you can do is tough them out and not give in to the feelings so they don’t overwhelm you. This is where having a science background comes in handy. I was able to kind of pull myself out of the situation and feel as though I was observing these feelings in someone else, like in a research study. So instead of focusing on “oh my god, i have already run 20 miles and have 30 to go!!! That means not even halfway, I’ll never make it!!!” I was instead  thinking,  “The research subject appears to be grappling with negative thoughts. This is expected and normal in all other test subjects. How she deals with them is what is currently unknown.” I felt fine physically, even better than I thought I would at this point, which was comforting.  We carried on.

The crew keeps themselves amused in between pit stops with things like “sexy tractor photo shoots”!

Mile 25-30

Hitting the halfway mark at Mile 25 was just the mental boost I needed to get back to a good place! It was so exciting knowing that I had just completed a near marathon and was about to start a second. There is something about running ridiculous distances that is just so appealing to me, who has theories on why people like me do this sort of thing? As I have quoted before, “it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun”! At this point, I scarfed down a mini-bagel with honey and a honey stinger waffle. I did not dwaddle too long because the skeeters were making their presence known, but they did not seem to bother me as I ran, so I was anxious to move on. I swapped out my Garmy for lil sis’ PMG (Prince Micheal Garmy) since I knew my watch would not make it the whole way on one battery charge and off we went… well, tried to go off that is. We were still in technologically challenged Cumberland County and PMG was having a hard time locking into  satellites. We waited and waited – finally Scott gave us his Garmy and we starting running. Lil sis had hopped in with me and it was so great to have her by my side. I asked her to catch me up on her life since she had a lot going on – getting into grad school, work drama and recent dates with a very promising Mr. O.! Around Mile 28 we stopped at another Wawa where I peed for the first time in an actual bathroom and had some watermelon with salt on it. I had read about this on other ultrarunner’s food lists and it was as delicious, refreshing and easy to digest as promised! Soon after, I hit another slump. This one was different than earlier – instead of it just feeling like a crisis of confidence, I was feeling some signs of early bonking. I could still think clearly, but it was hard to talk. I asked Laur to run ahead of me so I could just look at her calves as we ran (I have mentioned this elsewhere, but not on the blog. When I need to concentrate or hit a rough patch while running, I find it helpful to watch another runner’s calves running in front of me. Who knows why, but it is like a graphic mantra that I can just hold onto and ride through the hard times).

Miles 30-35

Laur swapped out with Melissa and told her I was having some tough times and that I needed people to talk to me, but could not easily talk back. Melissa is a seasoned runner who knew exactly what to do in this situation – she kept very calm, did not bombard me with “are you ok??” questions and stares and instead just acted like we were on a regular training run.  She and her adorable husband Will are about to move cross country, so she had all sorts of interesting and fun updates on that front.  Between her tales of pending adventure and getting off Rt 47 and onto a rural, shaded road with access to wind, I started to feel human again and was able to talk more. We saw the crew and since Laur had informed them I was feeling a little rough, they were ready for action! Scott had the ingenious idea of loading his iPod with photos of cute baby animals to make me laugh – there were bunnies in teacups, kittens and picture of his dog Monkey (who was an official crew member and was in the car!) as a puppy. Oh my lord, so cute!! See:

One of the many awesome pics Scott loaded on his iPad and showed me during tough times! Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ensun78/1102721/

They sat me down, pumped me full of honey and GU and within minutes I was feeling really, really good! Melissa and I took off and I felt fresh as a daisy!

Me and Melis

Miles 35-40

This was an intense stretch as my emotions ran the gamut. At Mile 35, I felt insanely good. Like, scary good! We were in Cape May Court House and I started thinking “15 miles? That is nothing! I could do that in my sleep!” and feeling confident that I was really going to finish this puppy. Even if I started feeling absolutely terrible, I thought I could mentally hold up for 15 miles. This was an incredible sensation!

Mile 35 happiness!

At this point, Melissa decided to keep on going (another rock star friend who ran wayyy longer than planned- 20 miles instead of the 11 she thought she’d do) and Lizzy joined us. This made me heart happy as Liz has been a great friend to me since our college days and having her by my side just makes me feel like everything will be ok. It was even more awesome because she is not a runner – she’s more the dancer/yoga type – and it meant the world to me that she would bang out a mile with a smile on her face. Next we were joined by Carrie. Carrie is a friend from OC, who along with her wife Lisa, is and always will be my running/tri idols. They are crazy fast but also the most generous, giving athletes I know. Case in point – when I was doing tris, I never bothered learning how to change a flat tire because I could always rely on these two to rescue me! They are both hilarious and manage to balance that with being intense competitors. They are my heroes. Carrie immediately began cracking wise and would do so for the next 15 miles (her stamina in mileage and personality is unmatched!). Lisa gave me positive encouragement and told me to stop talking! I shut up for a few miles, but that kind of thing never lasts with me, lol.  I was feeling good until about mile 38 and then… not so good. No particular reason, I was just getting tired. The furthest I had ever run prior to this day was 31.85 miles and was asking an awful lot of my body. Where 15 miles had sounded so short, 12 now sounded super long! I listened to the conversation going on around me and moved on. I came to the mile 40 pit stop, saw Liz and started crying. I have experienced this before on long runs – when I get super tired, it’s like the toddler in me comes out and I react with tears! So I knew it was fairly normal for me, but my crew had last seen me at mile 35 feeling on top of the world and were probably not expecting for me to be a mess just 5 short miles later! Liz gave me a huge hug, Scott whipped out the cute baby animal pics, Laur queued up the honey and GU and GD gave me ice water. This was the biggest challenge the crew faced yet – there were 10 miles to go and they had a runner in tears.

“This doesn’t feel good anymore”

Stay tuned for the conclusion of the Kashi Classic! Will the crew be successful and will I make it? Well, I think we all know the answer to that one already, but do you know:  Who surprised Kashi the most with their support run? Who on the crew had their first kiss at the earliest age? Who never got a meal because we forgot to place his order for the post-run feast? Come back soon to find out!

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Kashi Classic 50-Miler Race Report, Part 1

Never heard of the Kashi Classic 50-miler? Well, for good reason…it’s a race I made up! I had been wanting to run an ultra for some years and this winter things finally lined up to train for one. I knew I needed a spring race, a relatively flat course and not too much in the way of trails, since I don’t often run on them (ditto for hills, save the bridges). When no races met my criteria, I just decided to make up my own! This was mainly to make the big day feel more like an event and less like a lonely long training run. This was successful beyond my wildest dreams and the race report tells the tale. Or, rather, race reports. It has taken me almost as long to write the report as it did to run it so I am breaking it up into manageable parts (classic endurance running trick)!

PART 1

Carrie and Laur designed and ordered these amazing race shirts, making it feel like a real race!

Pre- Race

Night before

GD and I packed up everything I needed (which was a LOT!) and headed out.  I packed a few different bags for the crew to help keep them organized – one for extra clothes, one for food (see list at end of report  for food list), and one for gear. We also got a cooler with ice for beverages (water, Gatorade and Nuun tablets).  We stopped at Heislerville to watch shorebirds, which was incredibly peaceful and helped calm my mind. The week had been very busy at work and I did not feel like I got to rest as much as I thought I needed. The hour or so we spent here really helped me feel more centered than I had all week. We headed to the Fairfield Suites in Millville and were checked in by 7pm. I could not find any restaurants nearby that I thought I would like (I know, try to contain your surprise!), so opted to pack my own dinner (after I confirmed they had a fridge and microwave). I had a huge salad and large bowl of pasta with Morningstar sausage links and broccoli. GD went out and grabbed some Taco Bell for himself. I ate it all by 830 or so and had just the fullness I was looking for – more than normal but not so much I tipped towards a sick feeling.  We turned out the lights by 10 and I slept really well. I woke often (every few hrs) to pee and drink more water, but was able to fall right back to sleep. The hotel curtains did not allow us to block out the bright lights from parking lot and I thought that would be an issue, but it was not.

Race Morning 

Alarm went off at 6 and I popped up with no trouble. I was nervous enough that using the bathroom was no problem and I felt confident that my belly was clear. I hopped in the shower to calm my nerves (this did not work but at least I was clean!) and went downstairs to toast the cinnamon-raisin bagel I had brought from home (which had come from Brooklyn, yay!). I added honey to it and ate it up. I also had three handfuls of cereal, as that has been my ritual for 6 months of long runs. I came back up to the room by 7:15 and had a little freak out. Lots of people were texting me good luck messages and it suddenly hit me that I was actually going to attempt this and that a lot of people whose opinion mattered to me would know if I failed. GD gave me a hug and did a silly dance to distract me. As if often the case when he does silly dances in his underwear, it worked. We packed up the car and were on our way by 730. The weather felt just wonderful – no nip in the air, but not yet hot. I knew I might feel hot later, but was happy with the temp! It also confirmed that weather would not be an excuse today – I could not DNF b/c it was too hot, too rainy, too windy. If I did not make it, blame would not fall at the hands of the weather!

We made our way to the post office in Newport, where we met with some of the absolutely, insanely awesome crew I had – Mom, Dad, Laur, Lizzy and Scott. We hugged hello and Scott started taking pics (as he would continue to do – boy, is it ever a gift to have a prof photographer as a friend). My nerves were def calmer by this point because it almost felt like it already started.

Crew at the start!

We drove the mile to the spot I designated as the “start” line.  GD and Scott dealt with a cranky local who apparently was not a fan of 3 cars parked on the side of a public road (whatever, dude, imagine if this were a real race!). I ignored all that and got Laur set up with all my gear so she knew where everything was. I also nerded out and gave her a clipboard to record everything I ate and drank. I did not think I would be able to keep close enough tabs in my mind to recall it later and I thought it would also be good for her to be able to monitor if/when I needed more calories/sodium/water (I put a little guide on the bottom of the sheet for her to follow).

Giving lil sis the lowdown

We all hugged once again and then it was time to start! I got Garmy set and asked GD to keep a timer going on his iPhone for the whole time, since I planned on stopping Garmy every time I stopped so that it only recorded running time but I wanted a total time as well. Laur pulled out the first sign (there were many many great ones all day long) that said “You’re almost there!” lol. My mom was set to do the first leg with me, so we “lined up”, someone said “go!” and I took off with the familiar Garmy “beep” signaling the beginning of this surreal day.

This was her first sign of the day. At the start line.

Time to go!

Race

Miles 1-5

Mom and I started off and I kept it really easy. We chatted about what a great morning it was and took in all the beautiful sights (Cumberland County is so, so pretty).  We thanked the universe for living in the time and place we do and took a moment to reflect on what a gift this was – to be able to spend a day running instead of being poor and spending the day trying to get fresh water and food. Scott and GD were going to shoot for 100 birds today (always staying on the course) so they shot ahead and Laur and Liz went ahead to get ready for the 5 mile stop (my plan was to see them every 5 miles early and then maybe every 3 later on). Dad, however, kept us in his view the entire time. He had been nervous about this from the get-go and deep down maybe less than thrilled that I was taking on this challenge. But he was verbally very supportive and I really appreciated that. This did not stop him from asking “how are you doing? Ok?” almost every time I saw him, which was often. He and mom had to catch a flight to Florida later in the day, and this worked out well because  I don’t think he would have enjoyed seeing me later in the day.

Me and Momma take off! I esp love lil sis in the background

Mom’s tendonitis started acting up around Mile 2 but she was too stubborn to stop, despite me telling her that she was not being a smart runner. Eventually, she had to stop (although she did hop out and run with me for one more half mile because she is stubborn like that, ie a true runner) and they went ahead to the Mile 5 pit stop.  I peed in the woods around Mile 3 and also remember thinking “what is the point of even looking at Garmy yet ? it is still so far to go”! I started noticing the smell of honeysuckle, which continued with me all day and it’s now a smell I will forever associate with running 50 miles, joining an earlier memory of a childhood spent on Tiverstock Drive. I got to that stop and made a decision to start rolling my glutes every 5 miles – this turned out to be an amazing idea!!! Best idea of whole day – I literally had no tightness in my butt muscles all day, which is unprecedented in the last 3 or so yrs. I also took a GU and 11 ounces of water to go. Mom and Dad said good bye shortly after this and I chugged on.

Franksters looking like a concerned dad 🙂

Miles 5-10

I spent miles 5-7 in a unique situation – alone. It turns out these were the only two miles I had all alone for the rest of the day (no more Franksters lurking,lol). I turned on a podcast and immediately just felt like I was on a long training run. This was the only time I felt this way all day – the company before and after this always made me feel like I was doing something out of the ordinary. At around 7.5 I saw the crew ahead – GD had a “Y”-shaped stick and a nut from a tulip tree and was shouting “why not?” and had me cracking up. Every time I saw them, my sprints were instantly raised. By this time, Kat had joined them and she was going to run with me for 5 or so miles. We started running and immediately chatting! I knew that I should conserve energy and not talk too much but that was definitely much easier said than done (at this point and for the rest of the day – I simply cannot keep this trap shut!!). The conversation touched on many topics,  among them men, her future marathon plans and our love for lil sis. My favorite part of the conversation, though, was when she talked about her career changing plans. I siphoned strength from her tales of career changes and the bravery she showed in making that leap. Weeks later, I would come back to this feeling of admiration as I plotted my own plans for Cape Island Runners.  At Mile 10, I laughed at the crews signs, took another GU and rolled those hammies, which were feeling remarkably good, as was the rest of me!

Coming into an aid station and loving the signs!

Miles 10-15

Kat was having a good day running, so she chose to forge on with me, which I was quite grateful for. The miles were clicking off, the scenery was beautiful and the conversation heady.  I finally began to feel that the run was truly underway.  GD and Scott had stopped to give us directions (it seems crazy to me that I did not more fully memorize the route, but this particular area had many turns and I just did not take the time to commit them to memory).  We got to one particular intersection where I was not sure whether to turn right or go straight. I hemmed and hawed for a moment, paralyzed by indecision and the fear that the wrong turn would lead me to run either further or not far enough (true to my particular nature, a run of less than 50 miles simply would not do). We decided to make the turn and see what happened. About a quarter mile down, it was still unclear whether we had made the right choice. We decided to test out Cumberland County hospitality and knocked on a door to use their phone and call the crew. An impeccably dressed man answered the door and it was clear that he had a vision problem as his eyes did not focus on me. But what he lacked in eye contact, he made up for with warmth. He graciously allowed me to use his phone, drip sweat all over it and erase my fear that we went the wrong way when GD confirmed from the other end of the line that we were on track. I thanked “formally-dressed-for-a-Sunday-morning-oh-but-maybe-he-just-got-back-from-church” man profusely and we were on our way! Mile 15 brought a stern looking lil sis wielding a clipboard and telling me I was way behind on calories and must inhale these perfectly doled out Swedish fish and animal crackers. I happily chowed down on some (Swedish fish did not sit in my stomach as well as I thought they would but the animal crackers were DELISH, as always. They were my go-to on Mile 15 in training runs and did not disappoint) while trying to convince the food Nazi that I was fine. She had forgotten that I had a GU at Mile 10, and marked it down as “sneaky GU” despite the fact she was the one that gave it to me, lol.  Kat decided to keep on going and we made a plan to hit the Wawa in 2 miles so that I could pee again.

To be continued… nothing like a cliffhanger about peeing to bring you back for more!

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What I Saw When I Ran Wednesdays

For those of you who read food blogs, you will often see a “What I Ate Wednesday” post. Same idea here, except it will be what I saw when I ran on Wednesdays.  So take a peek at what my orbs observed and then add your own experience!

Wednesday we headed to Olney, MD for a lil family reunion with the Davis clan. We went to see GD’s aunt, uncle and cousins, some of who he has not seen in a decade or more, and many who I have never met.  To avoid the Philly, DC and Baltimore traffic, we decided to take the first ferry of the day, which left port at  730a. Early morning run it was! I didn’t mind a bit though as this time of year I habitually get up at first light, and the chorus of birds inviting me to get up and out had me popping out of bed around 5. Here are some of the things I saw in my almost hour long jaunt around Cape May Point and West Cape May between 530a-630a this morning:

Cape May Lighthouse – light is still flashing its beacon on this cloudy, windy morning. After running in it’s constant presence for the last 9 months, this lighthouse has started to symbolize home for me.

Not to runners!

Good morning skimmies! Black skimmers, a state endangered species, enjoying the quiet of a Cape May morning.

This is what I saw when I looked down, as I often do when running 🙂

Is there anything cuter than this car??

The straight shot down Sunset Blvd is going to come in very handy for long intervals and tempos runs during marathon training later this summer!

Milkweed jungle on Seagrove will hopefully be a nursery to monarch eggs and caterpillars very soon (if not already)!

An hour later and the light is off, sea farers safe for another day.

I got back to the house a half hour before we had to leave to find GD languorously waking up. He proceeded to shower and shave at a luxurious pace, while I clucked around the house like a crazed chicken, worried that we’d miss our ferry. As he predicted, we made it with time to spare and I was finally able to exhale!

What did you see on your run Wednesday?

If you are not a runner, what was something you saw while being active on Wednesday?

 

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