The Opener

Apr. 23rd, 2030 02:46 pm
bricks_and_bones: (captain's log)
Welcome to my journal on running!

Here I am with Tom, one of my running buddies:

While I am a relatively slow runner, I am very persistent and I run because it brings me relaxation and all those great endorphins and whatnot. If I participate in a race, it is to have a running goal and to finish. (Aaaand maybe to try to get ahead of that other slow person before crossing the finish line. I am SOMEWHAT competitive.)

I also rarely if ever run on the roads. Why? For one, it is not good for your joints. For another, you can get hit by cars. I first and foremost run on trails and I have come to know and love so many natural places on the North Shore. The woods bring me peace and relaxation and adventure.

I have participated in a number of distance races over the years; the highlight of the road races I have done was the Chicago Marathon in 2003. The Chicago Marathon is 26.2 miles; I only say this because so often I am asked, "Is that as long a race as the Boston Marathon?" Yes. Any marathon, no matter where it is run, is always 26.2 miles. Any HALF marathon is 13.1 miles, and an ultra-marathon must be 50k/31 miles or longer. (Common ultra distances are 50k, 50 miles, and 100 miles, though there are definitely variants.) There were a few triathlons and half marathons as well. I even ran half of the Stone Cat one year, and it was then that I decided that, eventually, I wanted to do the whole race.

Since starting this blog I have officially finished the 2012 Stone Cat Marathon! In addition, I came in first place in my age group (30-39) in the 2012 North Shore Trail Series sponsored by New England Running Company! (The secret to my success? I SHOWED UP FOR ALL THE RACES AND FINISHED THEM.)

I have completed four ultramarathons in 2013: the Fatass 50K in January, the Traprock 50K in April, the Brookvale Ultra trail marathon (50K) in August, and the Stone Cat 50 Miler in November. I ran the Nipmuck 26.4 marathon in October to train for Stone Cat.

All this running takes its toll. My plantar fasciitis is about 70% better through therapy and use of special insoles and running shoes. The worst problem I have now is tendonitis. It runs through the tendons on the tops of my feet and where my ankles join my foot and leg. Some mornings it is tough to walk. For this reason, even though the weather has been PERFECT for running, I have to stay indoors on the cross-trainer machine. :(

Working out indoors has been really tough for me, mentally, but I suppose I brought it on myself. Recovering from running injuries can wreak havoc on a mind that is used to releasing stress through running. It is now December 2013 and I am in the process of mentally retraining myself and being at peace with things I cannot change.
bricks_and_bones: (martinis!)
I ran my 50-miler at the beginning of this month. Here’s me at Mile 45:



That was probably the hardest thing I have ever done, physically. The major reason for that was that I ran it injured, with severe tendonitis in both ankles on top of plantar.

Now I’m kinda paying the price. Most mornings I can barely walk, and even though I’ve been working out low-impact (x-trainer machine, stationary rower), I really haven’t seen any improvement. All of this is contributing to my depression. For one thing, I used running (as many people do) to combat depression, so NOT running is affecting me negatively. I think it’s normal to have a post-race downer, especially if it’s a race you have been training for for YEARS. But man — I’d give anything to not have pain and be able to get out and run the trails right now. This is perfect running weather!

This winter I am hoping my tendonitis clears up enough for snowboarding and snowshoeing, and hopefully some winter hikes. There is nothing more fun than hiking in the snow. I love it. I really want to get to a place in a couple of months where I can participate in that again.
bricks_and_bones: (Default)
This week you get an audio blog!

Nuun!

The weather for the race look like it will be in the 70s and not-rainy! Woo hoo!
bricks_and_bones: (Default)
This is my new running partner, Barq.




Barq is a retired sled dog who used to compete in 10K sprint sled races in Alaska. My friends adopted him and asked me to run with him, since they understand he needs regular running to stay fit. He is all muscle. We did 5 miles together last night and I don’t think I’ve ever run the trails that fast. He had no problem pulling me up the hills. It was a little like sprinting while simultaneously doing bicep curls. Barq is part pointer, part Alaskan malamute (which probably explains the blue eyes). I will probably only run shorter distances with him, but I know he could easily do the long runs with me. It’s a huge learning curve to figure out how to run with a strong dog on a leash after being a solo act for so long, especially on the technical downhills. In other news, my heart and aorta ultrasounds came back NORMAL. In other words, no one can explain to me why I got the blood clot that caused me to lose my vision. I now have monocular vision, which I can cope with really well on some days while on others it seriously screws with my sense of balance and gives me vertigo. I am hopeful it will continue to improve, though, and that eventually my vision gets closer to normal. I signed up for the Brookvale 50K ultra in August and I’m keen on getting there in one piece and two eyes on the trail.
bricks_and_bones: (toast)
Brookvale Ultra Training Plan

Week 1: June 9 – 15
Mon 0; Tue 7; Wed xtrain; Thu 6; Fri 0; Sat 18; Sun 10

Week 2: June 16 – 22
Mon 0; Tue 4; Wed 6; Thu 8; Fri 0; Sat 20; Sun 10

Week 3: June 23 – 29
Mon 0; Tue 4; Wed 8; Thu 6; Fri 0; Sat 10; Sun 8

Week 4: June 30 – July 6
Mon 0; Tue 4; Wed 8; Thu 8; Fri 0; Sat 22; Sun 10

Week 5: July 7 – 13
Mon 0; Tue 4; Wed 10; Thu 8; Fri 0; Sat 22; Sun 10

Week 6: July 14 – 20
Mon 0; Tue 4; Wed 10; Thu 8; Fri 0; Sat 26.2; Sun 10

Week 7: July 21 – 27
Mon 0; Tue 4; Wed 10; Thu 6; Fri 0; Sat 10; Sun 8

Week 8: July 28 – Aug 3:
Mon 6; Tue 4; Wed 3; Thu 2; Fri 0; Sat 0;


Sunday, Aug 4 – Race

Heart Stuff

Jun. 3rd, 2013 01:58 pm
bricks_and_bones: (The hell??)
I have two tests this week! A heart echocardiogram tomorrow, and an aortic something something ultrasound on Thursday. I am eager to get these over with.

As far as running goes, this weekend was all about getting acclimated to 90+ degree heat. Not my favorite thing at all -- I would much prefer running in freezing weather to hot weather. Yesterday I ran about 7 miles or so, and the day before that I ran about 10K. It's the time of year when I need my anti-chafing cream! Hurrah!

I use the Gold Bond Friction Defense Stick.



I find it works really well. I can usually go 3 hours on one application, which is nice, and it glides on very easily. Not messy at all. I just keep it in my car so I can grab it before I hit the trails.
bricks_and_bones: (Default)
EYE ISSUES GALORE

OKAY SO it has been exactly one week and six days since I went blind in my left eye. CENTRAL RETINAL VEIN OCCLUSION. That means a blood clot blocked the vein (and a small artery as well) and deprived the eye of oxygen. The ultimate result is that my right eye is 20/20 vision. Everything I look at out of my left eye has the Asian subcontinent superimposed over it. If I look at your face, for example, you will be Asia with hair. That would be the part of the eye that died from blood starvation.

I am still running. The weekend after it happened I ran about 21 miles (1 14-miler, one 7-miler); I’ve done a strong speed workout since then and another 2-hour long run on Sunday, and another shorter run that was probably about 10k. The doc actually said “We PRESCRIBE exercise for this, so don’t stop running.” That is because what I have typically affects elderly people with high blood pressure and diabetes. I am a medical anomaly, because I am not on birth control pills (one risk factor) and my blood pressure is that of a Marvel superhero. HOWEVER diabetes does run in my family. My otherwise-healthy 40-something cousin was recently diagnosed with it. But my bloodwork has all come back normal, so that’s not it, either. We still can’t figure out why this happened to me.

The biggest problem is my depth perception. Sure, I can accomplish my speed workout on the treadmill at the gym, but hell yes I am going to fall off the curb OUTSIDE the gym like a major tool because I can’t see where I am putting my feet. Ditto on the trails, although I haven’t fallen out there, only stumbled a few times. There’s a chance the eye won’t get better 100% — I may see Asia for the rest of my life. But friends of mine with impaired vision insist your brain gets used to it over time and compensates for it and it gets better.

Right now it’s just the waiting game and trying not to fall down too much.
bricks_and_bones: (skull)
This week I lost the vision in my left eye. It is a central retinal vein occlusion. Today I have blood tests and x-rays to make sure there are no major clots in my body.

I am scared and overwhelmed by it all. This is a disease normally diagnosed in older patients who have problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, glaucoma. It is NOT common in young marathon runners with no major health issues. Just goes to show, right? "Healthy" is such a fluid, interesting term. Am I healthy? I don't even know if I can define myself that way right now.

When I asked if I should stop running, the doc told me NO, that they actually prescribe exercise as part of the treatment of this problem. SO I guess I will keep going out there, even though my vision is pretty impaired. Good thing I know the trails like the back of my hand.
bricks_and_bones: (skull)
I ran the Traprock 50K ultramarathon back on April 13th, just days before the horrendous bombings that occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Traprock was treacherous, difficult, and mountainously steep in places, with amazing people running it and manning the aid stations. I made a friend, Gayle, who ran with me almost every step of the way. I count it a victory! Friends of mine didn't finish. One, Ed, left after the second loop of the course, his entire abdomen and chest dripping with blood. The rocks on this trail were SHARP; the "traprock" for which the race is named. You didn't want to fall on them yet they were everywhere trying to trip you up.

Some photos:

Posing at the entrance to the park:



More race photos under the cut )


Traprock was not for the faint of heart. What I took away from it was valuable experience and a new friendship. It was easily the most technical and difficult run I have done, ever, and I think that makes me a stronger, wiser runner. And I walked away from it NOT covered with blood! Win!

As for the Boston Marathon, I think I cried for about 3 days. It felt completely surreal. Typically I would have been down at the finish line with the girls, waiting for Dan to come across. We would not have been in that direct area, but we would have been within a block or two of the explosion. (Dan did not run this year because he had foot surgery in December. He will actually start running again this week. He gave his number to his friend Wayne, who was not allowed to finish because by that point they had closed the finish line due to the explosions, but he made it out okay.) I have friends who work for running shoe companies who were literally RIGHT THERE, and two of the people who lost limbs are the cousins of my friend Diane. We pray for them. Their lives are forever changed. The running community around Boston is surprisingly small, at least relationship-wise if not numbers-wise. Everyone knows someone, or knows someone who is related to or friends with someone who was affected.

Strangely I do not feel "angry" at the perpetrators, just confused and pity and sadness. How did they get so extreme? Why was there that much hate? I only hope that there will be some answers for everyone in upcoming months from the surviving bomber and perhaps from the widow of the dead bomber. I'm not sure how this will affect the marathon NEXT year, but it will be something to pay attention to and might in fact influence my decision about whether to take the kids in to view the race or not. We shall see.
bricks_and_bones: (martinis!)
Yup, the announcement recently went up on the race site. Last year’s registration was a debacle, I will admit. The marathon sold out in UNDER AN HOUR. (What is this, the Boston Marathon?!) The online registration site somehow oversold the race and a lot of people were left frustrated and upset. I think the lottery is in place this year in the hopes of avoiding those problems and making the registration process fairer. I have to say though it has my stomach in knots: the idea that I WON’T make the lottery. I have been planning on entering the 50-mile race for months now and I think I might be crushed if I don’t get in.

Stone Cat has easily become one of the most popular trail races around, and there is good reason for that. Stone Cat is AWESOME. It is a race put on by the GAC, a club that has years and years of trail experience all over the world. They were running trails before the sport ever became as close to as popular as it is now. The support on the course is outstanding, the course is beautiful and eminently runnable, the race is well-organized, and there is an old-school trail race atmosphere. (Read: you don’t feel like you’re at a testosterone-powered frat house hazing, which is the feel I get from a lot of these “mud runs,” trail “challenges,” and other faddish events that seem to have gained popularity in recent years.) This is just serious runners running; experienced and non-experienced alike. It’s an EXCELLENT first-timer trail marathon, too! Trail running is a different sport from road running, period, and those with road experience shouldn’t assume that translates to trail at all. So anyone with an interest in hitting trails WOULD be excited about Stone Cat.

My plan at this point is to keep training and make sure I get my name into that lottery. After that, it will be trying not to think about it too much until the entrants are announced.
bricks_and_bones: (whining)
I've noticed something just lately among my running friends: if there has been one prevailing response to things outside our control, like the weather or injuries or other issues, the first response seems to be to blame ourselves and lose heart. Frustration and impatience, especially during times of injury, psychologically derail a runner.

In my case, I've recovered from the tendonitis, but now the trails are covered with snow. And not just ANY snow -- a special ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO RUN ON snow. The deep dump from last weekend's blizzard was, of course, pockmarked with snowshoe and cross-country ski tracks over the course of the week, not to mention deer tracks and horse tracks. And person tracks, of course. This tracked-up snow crusted and froze over and melted and crusted and froze over AGAIN creating what I can only describe as ankle-breaking conditions. Coupled with the fresh snow that is falling today and COVERING all those alarming ankle-breaking holes in the crust, well -- let's just say that it is making running INCREDIBLY difficult.

Or maybe that's just me: I did see a lot of people out today, mostly GACers, who didn't really seem to be having problems. I couldn't put speed on, though; attempts at speed were met with that painful sensation of the foot breaking through crust and the ankle rolling unnaturally sideways. A trail I commonly run on has a natural sideways cant anyway, and that, coupled with the ridges created by cross country skiers? It was looney tunes out there, and at one point I almost faceplanted.

I say this, though a couple of the notoriously rocky, rugged hills are actually EASIER to run with a good coating of snow on them!

I suppose I could put my snowshoes on and go for a hike, but April is around the corner and I need to put in some solid running time before Traprock. I don't need to go nuts, I just need to run -- but weather conditions have prevented that.

So today, as I suited up to run in the snowstorm -- ski goggles, balaclava/mask, hat, gloves, mittens, snowboarding pants over running tights, polypro shirt under sweatshirt under windbreaking outer jacket, alpaca wool socks, ice spikes -- I decided I had to be patient with it all. Patient with myself, not getting frustrated when I can't run with any kind of speed or step with any kind of surety; patience with the trails and the conditions; and, maybe, the knowledge that adverse conditions really make a better endurance athlete. YES I could be inside on a treadmill, but that isn't going to create any mental toughness. Boredom, maybe, but not mental toughness, and mental endurance -- PATIENCE -- is one of the most important qualities of a finisher. And since I've started this, I want to finish it, and I WILL finish it, but I want to get there mentally intact, so.


QUALIFIER: My reference to "mental toughness" is only to my OWN state of mind, no one else's. Some days the most badass thing to do is get on the treadmill, quite honestly. Everyone's badassery is his or her own. Getting out into the storm was how I had to exercise my patience today.
PATIENCE.
bricks_and_bones: (captain's log)
My friend Rick, who is an experienced PT, confirmed my tendonitis tonight and suggested that the time off is really dependent on the symptoms easing. Basically, when the symptoms start to ease, I can return to gentle easy runs for about a week, and then start ramping up again if that goes well. I am actually pretty okay with all of this downtime. Originally, I thought it would really bother me not to run, but I have been doing pool workouts, stretching, and a lot of resting, and I think I am going to end up the better for it.

In lieu of any actual running related content, here is one song that often gets stuck in my head on long runs.
bricks_and_bones: (jello)



I. Am. In love. With them. I am a woman of expensive tastes.
bricks_and_bones: (Default)
This is what is wrong with both feet right now. (A little worse in the right foot than the left foot.)

SO I can stop feeling horrible about it and move on with life at this point, right? Traprock is in April. This coming week I will be resting: standing as little as possible, walking as little as possible, not running at all. (It will be fun with 2 active young children and a husband who is also not quite on his feet yet.)

I will be swimming as much as possible all week, with a pull buoy to drag my legs behind me.

Next week: easy runs on as flat a surface as I can find -- probably the old carriage roads and access/fire roads. Hills, apparently, worsen this condition.

Week after: trying to build back up to normal runs.

Week right before the race: rest.

I HOPE THIS WORKS.
bricks_and_bones: (Default)
Last night I did indeed sign up for April 14th's Traprock 50K.

Is it telling that I also had a horrible nightmare last night in which I was barely able to crawl but I knew I had one lap to go of a race? It was a TERRIBLE dream. It has been on my mind all day and in my musings I have been trying to unwind its meaning.

1) Legs were badly exhausted/broken: Meaning: This could hit upon my concerns about getting injured in this sport. I am really not that concerned about injury because I am in probably the most conservative and sensible training program possible. Physically right now I FEEL OKAY -- tired a lot but that is more because of my life versus my running. (The whole family has been sick and Dan has been off his feet from surgery for 2 months, now.) My one complaint might be the beginnings of tendinitis in my feet/ankles and an annoying bunion on my right foot.

2) A crowd of runners who had already finished were gathered around the aid station, talking and laughing, while I went out for my next lap on my hands and knees BARELY ABLE TO MOVE.: Meaning: Oh man I am not even sure how to unpack this one. It's possible that I feel humbled when I am around people I see as "real" runners. (Yes, in spite of completing multiple marathons and one ultra-distance race I still do not consider myself a RUNNER runner.) It could relate to fears of being left behind (which I have had since I was a little kid) or coming in last (which in my conscious brain I don't actually care about. Maybe my subconscious does?) Maybe it simply raises that old insecurity that many runners face before a big challenge, namely, Will I have what it takes to do this?

UGH. Anyway, after paying the $50 entry fee and doing all this training I am not going to chicken out, but having that dream made me realize I am not all hunky-dory in my running universe at present. Interestingly, the dream transitioned into a dream I have (no word of a lie) been dreaming for twenty years: I am in a giant mansion with many rooms, and I am trying to reach a secret room where there is a box hidden. It's always the same mansion, though in some dreams it looks a little different, and this time the mansion was rotting away. Like, I got to the secret room and the floor threatened to collapse under my feet.

I have NEVER actually OPENED the box in any of these dreams, which is kind of interesting.

Cross training is going fine: I go out with a rowing goal of 2000 meters per 10 minutes of rowing, with endurance and strength buildup, not speed, being the purpose. (Speed tends to follow those things anyway and I usually end the workout with sprints. Which is hard.)

I've also started jumping rope, which I have discovered I REALLY SUCK AT. No, really. Jumprope was something I was great at when I was a kid, and now apparently I have LOST ALL ABILITY AT IT. Either I trip over the rope or it gets caught in my hair or ________. I am going to persist at it, though, as long as I have to work out indoors.

bricks_and_bones: (overdrawn)
I think I have almost settled on running the Traprock 50k in early April. It looks like a fun, well-run event and isn't too much of a hike from at least my parents' house. I could stay there and leave early and make it to the race.


Other than THAT, not a whole bunch has been going on in my running universe. I made a page over at the Fit Fatties site, because I like that place, and have been doing a lot of cross training as far as rowing and swimming. I am amazed at how much my swimming has improved through rowing. I can move more easily through the water, now. I even bought a new suit, a dolphin uglies practice suit. This is my third uglies and my preferred brand now, while I used to be a loyal Speedo fan. They are just so CHEAP. And good! Suits don't last long, frankly. They get stretched out and draggy within a few months, so I would much rather pay $15 for a decent practice suit (YEAH IT IS CHRISTMAS-THEMED, SO WHAT! IT WAS CHEAP!) than $70-80 for the Speedo brand name.


It has little reindeer and Christmas ornaments and holly sprigs all over it. Oh well.


This weekend I am hoping to put in some decent hours on the trails. We recently got some nice snow and I expect by Saturday it will be well packed down! Love it!!
bricks_and_bones: (jello)
I found myself pondering this question this morning, because I wasn't always a runner. I have always been a woodsy/outdoorsy person. I grew up in a small rural town with a huge woodlot as my backyard, and my family was into things like camping and taking walks in the woods together. We've done roadtrips together to most of the National Parks as well. (My favorite is probably Zion park in Utah.) In my early 20s I took a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course through Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities, and I enjoyed that very much. At the time I wanted jobs leading wilderness hikes and running outdoor recreation programs. I was suited for it, but unfortunately it was just at this time that I started experiencing serious anxiety issues. This prevented me from pursuing that goal -- I wasn't ready for a big move alone across the country, which was what working in that industry would involve.

While I loved hiking and backpacking and had been on cross-country skis since age 3, I had *always hated running*. I blame P.E. classes at school where we would show up and be asked to run a mile for our physical fitness test. While I loved high school for the most part, I dreaded that class so much. I would always be able to hang in for about a half mile and then have to walk the rest, failing the test every time.

My gym teacher never spoke to me about my failures. She would just tick off my name, writing me off with the rest of the kids who couldn't pass the test. I was not one of her favorites because I was not a star athlete. She had no expectations of me because of how I looked (awkward, not-athletic) and because I was a relatively quiet kid, not one of the attention-seeking jocks. I think she said about four words to me over the course of four years in that school. Part of that attitude of "writing off nonathletes" at my high school probably came in part from the fact that my school was nationally and internationally known for its ice hockey team, and was extremely competitive in other sports. The kids on those sports teams became the ones that "mattered" in athletics; the rest of us just had to shuffle through.

While I was expected to run a mile in those gym classes, no one had ever taught me how to run or to condition myself for running. There was absolutely no time spent on preparing us for that stupid test, mentally or physically. It was like being given an algebra test but never actually being taught algebra. I just assumed I COULDN'T run and was a *bad runner.* And while no one ever said those words to me directly, there was plenty of reinforcement of those beliefs from my gym teacher and other students. It's too bad I carried that self perception for so many years and missed out on running. Little did I know that a person can LEARN to run, and that many runners are made, not born.

Dan helped me to realize this years later. When I told him I wanted to try running he actually taught me HOW -- giving me a program that was very similar to the Couch to 5k program. He gave me advice built on years of experience and was (and still is) always there to encourage me. The funny thing is, giving someone the basics on how to run doesn't take a ton of time and effort. After being properly taught how to condition for running mentally and physically, I've come to see it as something pleasurable. It works so well with my personality. I like setting goals, leveling up on skills, accomplishing things. I like learning new things, and running is a constant trial-and-error path of discovery and learning about oneself and the world.

Dan initially encouraged me to run trails, but I was so new to the sport that my comfort level was roads and sidewalks. I was obsessive about measuring mileage because I wanted to run my first marathon that fall. (CRAZY. I realize that now!) My first road race was a local 5k and I was SO NERVOUS beforehand!! Looking back, I am not sure what I was nervous about -- maybe I was afraid I would not be able to finish, or more probably it was because I still didn't think of myself as a "runner" and was remembering back to those failed tests in high school.

That was about 12 years ago or so. Now I won't run roads at all, and definitely no road races! They are just not my thing, physically or mentally. I no longer own a pair of road shoes. I don't judge road running/racing as good or bad, I simply don't enjoy doing it. Trail races/running on the other hand get me completely fired up. I feel like I've found my "home" when it comes to movement. (Hiking and snowshoeing are also awesome, as is simply taking a walk in the woods. I love all these things.) A big part of it for me is not just my love of the outdoors, but feeling like I broke out of a box someone put me in years ago. Maybe *I* was complicit in the box-putting-in too, I don't know.

But one reason I support anyone trying out a new and potentially "scary" form of movement -- whether it is running, swimming, hiking, walking, etc. -- is that it can be an amazing process of self-discovery at any level or ability. One of the most VALUABLE things I've taken from this journey is that my body is CAPABLE of amazing things. So often we are told that our bodies are imperfect and lacking. This is what all the advertisements we're hit with daily are based on, really. Accomplishing goals in movement has helped me to realize that I am in fact whole, amazing, complete, resourceful, and capable of far more than I might have ever believed about myself. We only have to be what we are, and running can be a process of uncovering just that.

bricks_and_bones: (martinis!)
Happy to announce that on January 5th I completed the GAC Fatass 50K ultramarathon in 6 hours 36 minutes! The course consisted of packed snow and ice trails through the state park where I like to run. (I have posted pictures and videos of these trails in previous posts.) Lots of singletrack and gravel paths. Ha -- my horrific warmup hill (which [personal profile] novelties has gone up before) had to be run FIVE TIMES. I wore a light Solomon running jacket over a polypro long sleeve shirt, medium-weight running tights, my calf sleeves (which I will review in a coming post), merino wool socks, ice spikes -- heavy but a MUST on those icy trails, imo -- and my old Brooks sneakers. (NOT THE ONES I RAN THE MARATHON IN. The pair I WISHED I had run the marathon in. :|) I had not one single issue with my feet. It got too warm for my hat and jacket, which I wore the first lap only. I carried a small water bottle for laps 2-6, though I didn't drink much on lap 6.

The weather was amazing: sunny skies, 35F+ or so temperature. Beautiful beautiful beautiful! At one point I thought I might be getting sunburned!

Here I am with Tom, my stalwart running buddy: (LOOKIT MY ANGELIC SMILE!)



Tom stuck with me for 1.5 laps of the 5-lap course. Each lap was 6.2 miles.

I was SHOCKED at the number of people who showed up! I had thought it a small local race. There were cars there from Alaska, Vermont, Maine -- all over the country. I pulled in late because I overslept -- the race started at 9 and I think I got there at 8:51 -- and there was hardly any parking. It was exciting though to see so many people. It was a very festive atmosphere.

Price of registration to the race was to bring something for the food/drink table, so I brought a blueberry blizzard coffee cake and 2 liters of Coke. Coke is my drink of choice in a distance race -- caffeine + sugar and the flavor soothes my stomach.

Marty and co. at the aid station, VERY WELL STOCKED:



The five laps were so very different from each other, and each was interesting.

Lap One was the Social Lap. I hung out with Tom and we chatted and caught up on what had gone on in our lives since we'd last seen each other in the fall. (Tom is one of the few people I know in real life whom I can have a conversation about the ridiculous ultrarunning abilities of Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn in LOTR.) During lap one I also saw three of my friends out on the trails, and they cheered me on. This was wonderful because it is so rare in a trail race and SUPER rare in an ultra. It felt great!

Lap Two was also Social to some extent, though Tom bowed out halfway due to muscle soreness. He was awesome to come THAT far with me, really. I did catch up to some acquaintances from Gilly's -- Martha and Vicki -- and then more people who I did not know but who know Dan. So there were plenty of conversations to have and listen to during Lap 2. I finished lap 2 right on pace at under 2 hours 30 minutes -- right where I wanted to be.

A beautiful trailside rhododendron:



Lap Three I slowed down a bit to pace myself. I had just run a half marathon and while I wasn't really tired or sore I knew I still had 3 laps to go to finish. I was mostly alone on this lap though I did run into a couple from New Bedford for a short while who were marathon training. It was interesting -- they passed me at a good clip, but later I passed them at my slow and steady pace and ended up finishing the lap before them. Jim Logan's words still run true: this sport is SO not about speed. If you don't pace yourself on the trails you run out of gas pretty quick, especially with the monster hill on that course.

Lap Four: At the start of the lap I had run almost 19 miles and was feeling it. This lap was all about mentally preparing myself for the final lap. I passed a slender woman with long blond braids early in the lap -- she ended up being one of the 5 or so people I beat. XD She looked like she was hurting and it just reminded me to continue pacing myself as much as I could. This lap I ran with mostly GUYS. TALL, LEAN, GREYHOUND-LIKE MEN. They were all built like Dan and I felt like the only stocky person out there. In spite of the distance -- by the end of the lap I had nearly run a marathon -- I felt okay, physically. I knew I would finish the race.

Runners on a snowy trail:



Lap Five: THE LONELY LAP. I felt like I was on the Alaskan tundra and there were no other human beings for miles. Two or three times I came across this one couple who were wandering the trails; they seemed to know about the race and cheered me on when they saw me. It was encouraging. The sense of isolation and loneliness were strong; on top of that, it was beginning to get dark. I walked the major hills on this lap. I also focused almost 100% on JUST FINISHING. I didn't think anyone would be left at the finish line when I got there. By the time I reached it, there were maybe 6 or 7 people at the finish. They clapped and yay-ed me in! It is so different from a big marathon or race where there are cheering crowds. There was no t-shirt or award at the end: this kind of race isn't about recognition in that way, I suppose. There ARE bragging rights but it's not on display.

Lonely and quiet woods in winter:


I immediately ate chocolate chip cookies and drank more coke and ate a variety of other junk food. I had wanted to come in around 6 hours but my time of 6:36 was more than acceptable -- maybe even impressive: average pace = 12:44 minute miles. Interestingly, while I consumed about a pint of water per lap and was very hydrated, I didn't have to pee during the race or immediately after. This concerned me. If you're drinking you should be peeing and I was worried, but as they say, everything came out all right in the end. Interestingly, one of the most sore parts of my body was my shoulders and upper arms! This might have been because of keeping form for over 6 hours. It was unexpected, though. My quads and hamstrings were also very sore afterwards. NO LACTIC ACID troubles, though! That amazed me. Maybe eating a ton of carbs the week before the race helped get the right amount of sugar in my blood or something.

It took me 3 days to feel not-sore and I started my first recovery run yesterday -- yes, on the dreaded warmup hill. Lots of slow jogging and walking and BOY I could still feel the soreness in my hamstrings. My calves felt relatively good! So now I am heading out onto trails that are pretty muddy for my second little recovery run. Mostly I just need fresh air and to be in the woods for a little while.

Next long-distance goal: I need to run a marathon in June if I am to be ready for the 50K on PEI in August. WE SHALL SEE.

[[All photo credits go to Roger Perham, who stood out there for HOURS with his camera!]]
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This has been a long time coming, but I will report here and now that in November 2012 I ran the Stone Cat Trail Marathon with great success! (IE: I FINISHED!) Time: 5 hours 12 minutes something-seconds. I had wanted to break 5 hours, but honestly, considering the circumstances? I am SO pleased with the time.

What an awesome, fun event. The whole endeavor started before daylight; we parked at the soccer fields and walked to the school where the start was:



Before the race, in the gymnasium:







I can quite honestly say I was grinning and excited the whole time before the start. ALMOST GIDDY, EVEN!

My first seven or eight miles were smooth, but my left foot started to flare up in pain after that. Then the right. My toes went numb and I tripped/stumbled (but did not fall!) five or six times. What was going wrong? The pain was intense. I reached the two rest stops but persisted and went on after grabbing a quick drink of water and something to eat. Every step? AGONY.

It was my running shoes: I had replaced the insoles with after-market insoles and OH MY GOD what a rookie mistake. One cardinal -- CARDINAL -- rule of distance running is you do not change anything the day of the race. NO, running with fresh insoles is NOT going to make your feet more comfortable. It is going to KILL them. Unfortunately, I did not bring along my other pair of shoes as I had wanted to do. I simply forgot them when I left the house at 5 that morning.

At the halfway point, I took off my shoes, straightened out my socks, and massaged my toes and feet for a while. Then I laced back up and headed out again. My mom, who'd been waiting for me there, wanted me to stop, but how could I not finish the race after planning for it for so long? Besides, my feet felt marginally better after I took care of them.

For about 2 more miles. Then the pain started in just as badly as before.

I decided to walk the most intense hill on the course after that, and that helped a little with the tingling and numbness, but once I started running again all bets were off. Pain pain pain pain.

HOWEVER -- that pain was mitigated by the sheer happiness of doing the race. My heart felt lighter than helium all throughout. I ran with a couple of guys for most of the second half, leaving them behind around mile 21 because at that point I just wanted to finish. My last 5 miles felt the best out of the whole race. I was on a kind of natural high at that point that felt wonderful, even though my feet were in absolute agony.

Once I finished I immediately took off my shoes to change into my Uggs and felt better. I will never wear those shoes again. They were Brooks Cascadias -- the same kind as my old shoes -- but they never quite broke in right (which was why I tried the insoles) and were never comfortable.

Then the party started: we ate Ramen noodles, chicken soup, grilled cheese, bacon, and PB&Js and cheered the other runners coming in. One, our friend Justin, finished the 50 miler and we gave him a sword to run in with. Here are some video blogs of the experience after the race, along with some fascinating people out on the course:







After the race with my family:



I met a WHOLE BUNCH OF CANADIANS. I love Canadians, man.



One was Shawn McArdle, who is director of the Brookvale Ultramarathon on Prince Edward Island. My plan right now is to run that race in 2013. Haha his friend was so aghast and confused that I wanted to take Shawn's picture. "What...is he famous or something?!"

Marty: "NO, she just wants to run his race!"

With Marty, the race director:



With Leah, my stalwart running buddy. It was so good to see her as I came in to the finish line:



With my parents. I love them! They are the best!:



With Dan:



All in all, this was a fantastic marathon and a good run in the woods. If fate is kind I will do it again one day!
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