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Philadelphia Marathon Race Report – Scott’s Story

Scott sent me his race report a few weeks ago and I wanted to share it with you all. This was his first marathon and even more impressive than the fact he finished was that he did it barefoot! Scott tried running years back, but often found himself sidelined with injuries. When he took up the sport of triathlon a few years ago, he decided to forgo shoes in hopes that he would have better luck staying healthy – it has worked! The only injury to date was some tweaks in his knee and it turned out they were, ironically, due to his clip-in bike shoes being misaligned. He runs year round with no shoes, only occasionally donning minimal ones for especially nasty weather or courses (like prickly gravel). Here is how his first bout with 26.2 went…
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The night before I had to do a job (ed note: worry not, he is not a Mafioso hit man,  just a professional photographer!), so I got into my hotel at about 11pm (which was earlier than I expected), and got about 6 hours of sleep. I was happy to get that much!  Next morning I got going and stopped at a Wawa around 5:30a  where I got a muffin, banana and tea, plus water.   I didn’t have much of an appetite but I forced the food down then drove into the city (about a 25min drive). I got to the parking lot at 6am and it was full so I had to find another, and by the time I parked and got walking to the start it was about 6:30. Temps were in the mid-30s, low 40s, so it was cold! I had to meet GD to get my race bib (he and Kashi picked it up the day before for me) and also had to use the bathroom. I got on the bathroom line and realized there might be a problem – it took 30 min to get to the front of the line and it was now 7am – start time!  GD and I got our signals crossed as to where to meet and by this point he had checked his bag with his phone in it.  I went looking for the info tent to see if I could do something about the bib…needless to say I was starting to get pretty stressed.  The info guy said they couldn’t help me, and I had a race bag which I couldn’t drop without my bib so I started to panic – I just tried to put aside my anger at missing GD  and keep the race as my focus.  I went to the bag trucks and luckily they had a spare tag someone had left behind so I used that to drop my bag and just figured I’d run without a bib and time myself…I was pretty pissed!  I got into a corral and finally saw GD waiting by the start line with arms raised and my bib in his hands, hoping I would spot him. That was a big relief – I went from hate to love in like one second.  So overall not a great way to start, but a start nonetheless.
I carried 5 gus, 4 chomps, plus had my shoes tied around my waist (ed note:  Scott had never run this course, so he brought the shoes in case the road got rough).  The first couple of miles were slow because of the volume of people, and it was a good basic warmup.  By the 3rd or 4th mile I found a comfortable pace, and it became apparent that it  would be around 10 min/mile, not 9:30.  I was okay with that as long as I could finish barefoot, so I just settled in and made sure to keep eating regularly and keep things smooth.  The road surfaces were pretty good, so I wasn’t having any  trouble, and there were only a couple of patches in the race that were a little rough on my feet (around mile 11-12, and for a couple of miles in the back half around 17).  There were a few hills around 8-10, and they went well. I think that work on the bike may have helped and I found I could climb while maintaining my pace. I just watched my HR, which never really got to be a problem as  it was pretty steady throughout the race.   The downhills were a little harder on my feet, I think just because of the angle of extension, but nothing to worry about.
Mile 13 and the half- marathoners split off so things opened up.  I still wasn’t using headphones/music because I wanted to save them for the hard part!  I stopped briefly to wrap some tape on my big toe – my push-off callous was a little sore from a rock I hit at mile 2, so just wanted to make sure it didn’t get any worse. The tape seemed to help for the rest of the run.  I also made a quick pit stop in the bushes, which I think meant I was hydrating well.  At about 2:45 I was starting to feel the burn a little, but still had a lot left in me – held off on music to about 3 or 3:15, and then went to my playlist…it was a big advantage to have music!  It definitely gave me an extra mental boost, and kept my mind off the suffering of the last miles.  I had a little cup of beer at mile 18 (can’t pass that up!) but other than that I was hitting water at every stop (ed. note: the awesome people of Manayunk give out beer, this wasn’t at an official water stop, lol).
A little suffering kicked in around 19 and then in the early 20s…nothing like those last 8 miles of the 1/2 Ironman tri last year, but definitely some general tiredness/pain and impulses to stop, which of course I ignored.  Mentally getting to the last hour felt good and I was pretty sure I was going to come in at around 4:20.  At that point I just kept thinking I can do anything for 1 hour, and then as I got closer that I could always finish a 5K, then 2 miles, etc.  Feet were a bit sore but nothing really worrying.  I got to the last mile and picked it up, and then really pushed the last 1/2 mile at a fast pace (much of that was uphill). I came sprinting in to the finish – that fast pace actually felt a lot better on my legs than keeping up the steady pace of the last 25 miles.
My average pace was exactly 10:00 min/ mile, and I think I did a good job of keeping my it consistent through the race.  Afterwards I walked the chute and then sat down (not easy!) for a bit. I had my jacket and hat but my teeth were chattering – I will definitely take a space blanket next time.  Being out there in high 40/low 50 for 5 hours chilled me, especially since my clothes were a little damp from sweating. I’ve found Smartwool to be generally good for wicking and drying, but this was the first time it sort of failed on me. It stayed a little damp after the race and wasn’t warming me enough.  Maybe try a synthetic next time?  Or just have warm dry clothes to change into!
I was definitely waddling after the race – my feet were sore, legs hurt, it was hard to walk.  We went and got sandwiches and then drove back to Cape May (about 2 hrs).  Over the next two days I went from waddling, to crippled, to limping. By the third day I was sore but walking, and did a swim which always seems to help.  I did a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, which also was good (although I felt pretty slow!  I didn’t time it but probably 9:30 min miles).
Overall I think it went well despite the trouble at the start, and I was proud of myself to do the whole thing barefoot.  Got a lot of “Oh My Gods!!!” and “Where are your shoes?!?” from people. I only saw two other barefooters the whole race – that was kind of surprising considering it seems to be getting more popular.  In any case it worked, and I was happy with my time even though it wasn’t a 9:30 pace…next year I’ll go for a sub-4!  Got to get down to mid 3s if I’m ever going to get to Kona : )
Not too bad for running 26.2! I've seen worse after a day walking around in the summer!

Not too bad for running 26.2! I’ve seen worse on people after a day walking around in the summer!

Well done, Scott!! His dedication to triathlons and his long-term goal of making it to the World Championships of Ironman at Kona make training with Scott a real pleasure. We have spent many dinners plotting strategy and talking race goals and it was very satisfying to see him check off another item of his endurance sport to-do list! He hopes to one day do an ultramarathon as well, and I hope to be right there with him! Not to mention the trip to Hawaii that I look forward to when I cheer him on at that IM 🙂
Any questions for Scott?

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Race Report – 2010 Philly Half-Marathon

In honor of the friends I have doing the Philly RnR half-marathon this weekend, I thought I’d post my half mary race report from 2 years ago. This was the half that is run with the marathon in November, so it is not the RnR September one. But the distance, pain and jubilation is the same! One of my go-to ways of dealing with taper madness is to read others race reports in the days leading up to my own, so thought this might be helpful for all you out there that are gearing up for your own big day. So read on, rest up and hydrate – then go kick some ass! Good luck, everyone!!

Time – 1:45.43 (Garmy registered 13.3mi and I hit 13.1 at 1:44.xx)

Weather – Sunny, clear, low wind (<8 mph), temps in upper 30s

Nutrition – cinnamon raisin bagel 1.5 hrs before, GU chomp at 1 hr before, half GU at 2 mins before start, half GU at 45 mins, half GU at 1 hr 5 mins, half GU at 1 hr 20 mins

What a day!! I love this race and at my 4th appearance it is starting to feel like an old friend. Hit the expo on Sat with mom, Laur and GD. It was great, though I preferred the expo for the Distance Run in Sept.  Mom was totally energized by the atmosphere, the running bug has bitten her big time! She wants to do the half now, and I think that would be amazing (Note from the future: She did do the half, in 2011, and has plans for the full in 2013! GD was so impressed with her half last year that he is doing his first this year! Love the running domino effect!) .

Due to a mistake on my part, our hotel wound up being about 11 miles away from the start. Whoops! But it worked out just fine. We headed back to the hotel by 3-ish (Four Points Sheraton in NE Philly) and went to dinner at the Italian Bistro where we met up with our friends Rochelle and Shannon. Great meal – filled up on bread and pasta with basil sauce but did not go overboard. Back at the hotel I had some dry cereal and a Clif Z-bar and off to bed. Except sleep did not come.  I usually have no problem the night before a race but I tossed and turned until 5am when the alarm went off. Felt sleepy when I got up, so I decided to take a long, hot shower to wake up. It worked! Got everything on, including my good luck charms of a rabbit silly band from my cousin and a temporary tattoo of a plover on my calf. Ate a Yanni’s cinnamon raisin bagel (more superstition – ate one of these before my great training run in AC last month and had to do it again) about 5:30.

Laying out gear the night before a race is a tradition I never skip.

Headed out about 5:45am, drove to start line with no problems. The exit lane off 95 to 676 was busy though, so Laur and I just hopped out of the car and walked to the start. Put toe warmers in my shoes and gloves, this was clutch!!! Weather was clear, cold (upper 30s) and no/little wind. I was really nervous about the temps, but it turned out to be very do able, esp with the toe/hand warmers. I wore capris, a tank, a long sleeved shirt, hat and gloves and felt great. First race in my new Brooks and it’s official, I love them!! We hit the porta pots and made our way to the corrals – at 6:57am! Race started at 7am, so cutting it close (but that’s just the way I like it, I hate waiting around to start). The one complaint I had about the race was that the color corrals were not well marked. Laur and I split up and each tried to find our corrals – not even sure we were successful, but got to the start line pretty quickly and we were off! Love the beginning of a race, everyone is so psyched. Mayor Nutter and Bart Yasso were giving out high fives – I missed them, but Laur said she grabbed Bart’s hand and yelled “You are awesome!!”. She said he looked slightly scared, lol. I started my race, telling myself it would be a great day and that I had already put in the hard work. Now I just had to put into play what I had practiced.

Look close, it’s Mayor Nutter and Bart Yasso!!!

The course was crowded, but thanks to the corral system, everyone was running the same pace so I did not feel hemmed in, which was a relief. The next big boost was at the first water stop. Unlike Chicago, the water stations were only on one side so you could scoot through with very little time lost. Yes! Two of my biggest concerns (crowds and bottle necking at the water stops) were being swept away and that was great for confidence. I know some people prefer water stops on both sides since it helps cut down on people swerving madly for Gatorade, but not me. I’m down with the one-sided version.  I was chugging along quite happily, soaking in the atmosphere. The spectators were especially awesome this year. Lots of great cheer zones, tons of bands – loved the Mummer’s as always, but also lots of other great music. My favorite sign – “It does not have to be fun to be fun”- was during these early miles.  Chestnut Street was on fire with spectators! There were also hilarious drunk frat dudes and a group of people dressed in 80s garb doing aerobics to “Let’s Get Physical”. My plan was to hang around 8:20’s til mile 6.5, then slowly increase in speed until mile 10 and then just haul some ass for the last 5k. I tried to keep the pace easy, but my legs were excited and kept trying to go faster. I told them we did not have enough experience with this distance to get nuts and promised them if today went well that we could go harder next time. They sorta obliged and the plan worked, though I never ran 8:20 after the first 2 miles. But I went by perceived effort and kept it comfortable.

I don’t have any pics of me while running this race but lil Sis and I look so much alike that you can just pretend it is me 🙂

I took half a GU and some water around Mile 5, 2nd half at 8-ish and some water and another half GU 11-ish (closer together than normal, but just felt I needed it). Nutrition was great, I was nervous just before I started that I had not eaten enough (ghosts of Chicago haunting me) with the bagel and one GU chomp I had, so I took a half of a GU just before the start and that made my stomach cranky for first few miles. Mistake! But it settled down and went away – I did not feel hungry the whole time, not dehydrated and did not collapse at the finish. Hurray! Elsewhere in my body, I had a side stitch around miles 3-5 and my arch yowled a bit in the middle miles. I ignored them both and they went away.

By 6.5 I was getting antsy, because it was time to GO! But also because I knew this was where I might see GD & Co. As in Chicago, my first look at him was him running down the road on my right and it felt so good!! I love seeing that man!

Nothing better than seeing our cheerleaders on the course, sporting their “Team Lauren” and “Team Christina” shirts! You may recognize GD’s from our wedding pics – this was where it originated!

Starting working harder after mile 6.5, which was tricky because it is also the hilliest portion of the course. I just pretended I was on the Longport Bridge for any of the inclines, grinded my way up them and enjoyed the downhills. After the big hill at mile 9, I knew most of the rest of the course was downhill and checked off another worry! The long downhill around mile 10 was also a little emotional – I just had one of those “god damn, I love my life!!!” moments. Teared up a bit but told myself I could  have the warm fuzzies later – now was the time to work! I had been monitoring my pace the whole time and it was increasingly clear that I was having a really good day. 1:50 (my goal time)  seemed a foregone conclusion and I started wondering just how much better I could do. Was super happy when I hit Mile 10 at 1:21:xx, which is faster than I ran Broad St a few yrs ago (although I knew I could have done that faster but this confirmed it!). The longer tempo runs really came in handy mentally at this point, because I had a 5k to go and that felt like nothing after 8 mile tempo runs! I told myself to leave it all on the course and kept going. By 11, the miles were catching up to me and I was feeling tired. But I was happy with my pace and just busted out my mantra, “Just keep swimming”  from Nemo, and got through Mile 11.

Plover Power got me through the late miles.

The flag at Mile 12 was a welcome sight indeed and I told myself to just hang on, not be afraid to push and that it would be over soon. I was having nice flashbacks of running with Sherry from the previous year, and I really felt her support at that point – I knew she believed in a sub-1:50, and now I did too! Climbed up that last hill towards the art museum and felt so good, so many people were cheering. Turned the bend and left the marathoners behind (they ran under an arch that said “Welcome to the halfway point, the best is yet to come!”) . Garmy said I was at 13.1 at 1:44:xx so I was psyched. Saw our cheerleaders a little before the end and that gave me the last burst  I needed to push through. The way Garmy was set was such that I could not see the seconds on the overall time. So I saw I was at 1:45 but could not tell how far into that minute I was. I really wanted to make it there before 1:46 so just hauled some ass into the finish. Raised my hands and YES!! It was still 1:45!!! I immediately started bawling. You know how every so often you just surprise yourself? That is what happened to me today. I know this isn’t a particularly speedy time, but it is truly faster than I thought I was capable of at this point in my running. Garmy said avg pace was 7:57 and that just blew me away. I did that?? For 13.1 miles?? Holy! Good job engines (GD’s nickname for my legs, I’ve adopted it too).  I really took a minute to just be grateful for everything running gifts me and was so happy to be alive and in love with GD and have my family there and being in that place at that time. When I came out of my reverie, I noticed that the song on my iPod was crazy appropriate. The lyrics were “time means nothing”  and it just drove home the feeling that as good as it was to push myself and get this new PR, what really mattered was the way it made me feel and sharing it with the people I love. The next verse provided this gem: “we’re all right where we’re supposed to be” and it just felt so perfect – and brought on another round of tears. Popped over to where my family was and watched Laur come in (producing round 3 of tears!) . We reunited, hit the massage tent (hurts so good!) and headed back to the hotel for a shower and more perma-grinning.

Could not have done it without these guys – plus my momma and poppa, not pictured here.

Me and the ever adorable lil Sis. The medal is great and all, but doesn’t hold a candle to the feeling of running races with this one!

I highly highly recommend the massage tent after a race! I laugh like a hysterical mad scientist the whole time. One masseuse (not this one, who clearly was not amused) told me that your body can feel ticklish instead of feeling pain and that apparently is what happens to me at these things. But I say “thanks, body, I’d rather not feel the pain!”

Me and my baby. We were engaged a month and 4 days after this picture was taken ❤

An amazingly incredible day, and a race I won’t soon forget.

Have you run a half-marathon? Tell us about it!

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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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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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