Friday, December 23, 2011

Team Insanity and the Bartram 100s


It has been almost 2 weeks since my last adventure. The weekend after
Pine Mountain my husband John was part of team Insanity at the Bartram100’s. You can read his race report here. As for my part in this wholemess, I was going to support, get a run in and see what this crazy 100 stuff was all about.




I headed down to Milledgeville Saturday afternoon with Peggy Dwyer and Jason Rogers. The plan was to arrive around 5pm (10hrs into the race) when our support would be the most needed. When we arrived, we unpacked the car and piled all of our crap in the tent and picnic area that was base camp for Team Insanity. Team manager Rhonda (Phil’swife) had the camp stove, tent and lanterns set up and between thepacers and runner we had everything you could possible need to feed or clothe a small army (or a hungry band of stoners). I immediately realized I packed all wrong. I think when I die I will lament the fact that I have all the wrong clothes for my time in eternity (regardless of the temperature).


Team Insanity - Doug, Sandy, Mike, John and Phil

John, Phil and pacer Terrie
I am not sure what I was thinking but brought all kinds of relatively warm weather running gear. Sure, it had been 60 degrees that afternoon but it was getting dark quick and cooling off even quicker. Thankfully, I packed all kinds of cold weather gear for hanging around camp through the night. John was just about to start lap 8 (out of 16) when I first saw him and he was in fine spirits and feeling pretty good. Peggy opted to go out on a loop with him first since I wasn’t real sure how things would go between us if I was around and he got in a bad place. John seems to always know the wrong thing to say to me in a bad situation and I did not want to mess him up during this Herculean mental challenge.  Turns out I need not have worried.


I went out with John on lap 9 and 10 when it just started to get dark.  I chatted about random crap and did my best to keep him distracted. I told him a complete stranger would be the best person to hang out with since you could at least ask all kinds of random questions you didn't know the answers to. Instead I talked about my day, the dog etc. I had on a light down jacket on over a capilene T and long sleeve run top along with sweat pants. Basically overdressed for running. We ran a good part of the loop and I was sweating big time. After loop 9 I left behind the jacket and we ran enough to stay warm for that loop despite the ever dropping temps. At this point we had run over 12 miles and John had just finished 100K (62 miles). He could have stopped at this point having completed his farthest run ever but this was the best time and place to do a 100 if there ever was one. Ha ha – I know that really does sound ridiculous!! He was still moving well, running whenever he could and felt pretty good with 6 more laps to go. I had faith he could do this and was not going to let him stop.


I grabbed some food, talked a bit to everyone at camp and figured I needed to get some sleep if I was going to drive everyone home thenext day. Meanwhile, other pacers and runners were doing their thing and John had Harry Goslow for company on lap 11.


I just purchased a sleeping bag at REI (for just such an occasion) so this was going to be the first test. Peggy and I climbed into my car, got in our sleeping bags and tried to get a little sleep before the next rounds of running. It was probably close to 1 when I got in the car and after lots of fidgeting I guess I finally slept a bit when I saw that it was around 5:30.  With the hood of the sleeping bag over my head I got pretty warm and did not feel too bad when I woke up.

I had tossed and turned worrying that if for some reason John felt like quitting they wouldn’t wake me up to kick his ass. I headed over to the fire to warm up, eat a little and perk up with some Mtn Dew. John was out with Leslie and was only walking at this point but was still moving along. When he came through camp again he had 2 laps to go. Peggy headed out for that lap and I waited at camp for Todd Carson to arrive. The plan was for Todd and me to bring John in on lap 16.

I ran out the last 2 miles back to John and Peggy (a little morning exercise to warm up) and then walked back in with them. At this point John was walking with one stick and Peggy said he should get a Wookie with a stick as a commemorative tattoo for this race. I later said I think it was the Ewoks with the hiking sticks and no self respecting Star Wars fan would get an Ewok tattoo! That's almost as bad as a Jar Jar binks tattoo. John slowly made it through lap 15 and then this was the victory lap.

John getting his legs rolled with the stick before starting lap 16

For the final lap, I let John in on one of my motivational secrets. Any race, training run etc that requires multiple laps of the same thing gets a F' you final lap. So, as we began lap 16 I started announcing all the things we would never have to go by again. F you pine cones, F you power line hill, F you Governors Grove, F you creepy enchanted forest, F you aid station and port a potty. I was also tweeting our progress as we went. At this point we were across the lake from the finish and with my tweet and waving of my arms the home crew saw us and we could hear them cheering us on. We finished out the lap and made it to the finish line. 


John had run/walked 100 freakin' miles!! 


What happened afterwards is quite comical and is detailed in John's race report too. I wish I had some of the pictures taken when John finished. I need to start bugging everyone for them and will post them when I do.


This is my favorite - which one is the Ewok??




WTF!! I just ran 100 miles!
This is the car ride home!


So, what did I take away from this experience? I do not want to run 100 miles anytime soon or ever. When we first started running I was excited by how relatively flat and nice the course was and given the generous time limit I began to think that maybe even I could do this some day. Then the sun got down and it got really cold and I said maybe 100K will be a better goal. So, next year I am going to try the Bartram 100K.

Pretty much what I witnessed - mile 100.1 looks just like 75

Heading up to Baltimore for the holidays so not much training going on this next week. Next update will probably be in 2012 so until then 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

F you Daily Mile!

I arrived home Sunday night to find this in my inbox





Well, F you Daily Mile! and No, I did not have fun in Pine Mountain! 

Let's rewind a few weeks....On 11/13 I went to Pine Mountain with a few of the GFA crew to do an official training run with Sarah Tynes (race director extraordinaire) and a few of the GUTS crew. We ran the first (and last) part of the course. The weather was beautiful and I stopped to take a bunch of pictures along the way.

Me, Peggy and Cherie




We did 19 miles and got a nice feel for the first and final part of the course.

The following weekend we returned with a few more of the GFA group to preview the middle portion of the course. This part of the race took us through the tornado ravaged portion of FDR state park. It is amazing the amount of destruction that took place. We nicknamed it the Zombie Forest. Peggy and I skipped the last 3 miles but felt like I at least knew what to expect on race day.

Peggy, Faraz, Erica, Mike, Julie, John and me

Tornado damage

Twisted tree in the zombie forest


My impressions: While Stump Jump had more climbing and elevation changes, Pine Mtn definitely seemed harder. Lots more roots, rocks, and tons of leaves. It's a mentally taxing course. You have to be constantly vigilant at all times to stay on your feet. My parents paid a lot of money for braces when I was a kid so I try to keep all my teeth in my head. I also have an aversion to broken bones. These things tend to make me a little more cautious on these types of trails which translates into running even slower than my usual snail-like pace. I was beginning to really worry about that 10.5 hr cut off. 

The following week I did a couple of short runs and generally took it easy. I pushed my usually spin class to Tue morning and should have been wary when Coach Tony did not spin himself because he was recovering from a cold. Uh oh! Peggy had also been sick at the beginning of the week and I was hoping she would be better by race day. Thursday afternoon around lunch time I got really cold and could not stay warm. Double Uh oh! Really?? This cannot be happening!! I immediately started chugging emergen-C, cold -eez and anything I thought would help. Nose started running and I still could still not stay warm. Friday morning I woke up feeling like death warmed over. Every muscle ached and my head felt like it was full of fuzz. We are short at work right now so I had no choice but to drag my ass in and get through the day. It was a busy one but I made it until the end of the day. I came home, drugged myself up and went to bed hoping for the best. Saturday morning I felt a bit better and I decided to just go and start the race and see what happened. I trained too much to not give it a try. 

We headed down to Pine Mtn and I passed out in the car. Probably, not a good sign. We checked into the hotel and all I wanted to do was take a nap - again, not a good sign. We then headed to packet pick up and met up with Peggy, Erica and Julie. It was Peggy's birthday so we all went to dinner and Faraz met us at the restaurant. It was a nice evening, I wasn't feeling too bad and was cautiously optimistic. 

I got a good nights sleep and then it was race morning. John left early to help with the race and I hitched a ride with Peggy to the start. The weather was very mild and I was worried that I had overdressed. I did not bring anything for  super warm weather and was concerned when everyone was wearing shorts and short sleeved shirts. I was in tights with a long sleeve shirt and light jacket. 

We lined up at the start line and we were off. I felt decent the first couple of miles and while I didn't feel great I didn't stress about it since I never feel good at the beginning of any run. I chugged along for about 3 miles and soon realized I was never going to feel better that this was a good as it was going to get. Uh oh - 37 miles more to go. Not good! Ok, I told myself to shut up and keep moving, which I did. I saw some friendly faces along the way, at each of the aid stations, and tried to keep upright and moving. I was glad I was a bit overdressed since I often got hot only to minutes later be cold when a breeze rolled through. 

At this point running was not much of an option. It was going to be a long day. I knew I was not going to make the time cutoff at my pace but decided I would keep going until I was told to stop. I did not feel "sick" but I just could not run. I tried to figure out if I did not want to run or could not run? Was I being a baby and giving myself an excuse to fail? Was this just a bad patch and I would feel better later? Lots of mental boxing was going on at this time. I tried to run as much as I could but my heart rate just seemed overly high and there was nothing in the tank. Around this time the front runners started passing me on the way back to the finish. I saw some people I recognized, and tried to smile and keep chugging along. 

I plugged along through the zombie forest and on to the next aid station where I saw some more friendly faces but I know I was not very pleasant as I strolled on through to my final fate. I knew my day was ending at the TV tower and I was resigned. I would at least get to see the part of the trail I missed. This part of the trail was very pretty as it wound around the streams and rocks and bamboo forest. It was not very conducive to running so it's good that I was just walking. I did attempt a little jog right before this but it did not last long. Finally, I made it to the TV tower and I was way past the first cutoff. I could finally stop. As luck would have it John was there and we waited for the final guy behind me to catch up. 

John had some more duties to perform so I hitched a ride back to the start. Peggy had met a similar fate and was waiting there too. I got changed into some warm clothes, had some food and beer and watched the rest of the runners make their way to the finish line.

I was in decent spirits at this point. I think I was just happy to stop running/walking. I was enjoying the company and nice weather. Peggy and I joked about making T-shirts that said "I made it to the TV tower!!" Soon Sandy bounded out of the woods and then Erica, Faraz and Julie came across the finish line together. 

The energizer bunny

Erica, Faraz and Julie - their first ultras!!

I was happy to be there for their finish but then I was ready to go home. Time for a shower, more food and sleep. On the way home, John got a call that they were giving out finishers fleeces to the volunteers - and that just bothered me. I didn't get one because I did not finish the race but John gets one for volunteering? That just did not sit right. I started to get a little upset but kept it in check. I then get home and what is waiting for me in my inbox? That little delightful email from dailymile - "Well F you dailymile" I blurted out loud. Not fair!!! I was soooo freakin' frustrated! I actually trained for this race, unlike any other ultra I have ever done, only to be done in by a stupid cold! Grr!!!

So, I have had a little time to digest all this and I wonder again if I should be attempting any of these things. I know my DNF was due to sickness this time but out of 6 races this year, 2 have ended in a DNF and during 2 of those races I was sick. Not good stats. I can attribute the sickness to lack of sleep, stress and borderline overtraining. I have been sick more this year than I have been in the past 5 years. It's clear I need a new plan. 

Is endurance racing (of any kind) part of this new plan? Not sure. I enjoy the trail races more than the tri's if I am being perfectly honest. They are more relaxed and friendly and there is no chance of drowning or falling into traffic on a bike. Problem is that I am slow and most of these long races have cutoffs that people like me can't make on a good day. Better runners than me had DNFs next to their names on Sunday or just made the 10.5 hour cutoff with not much cushion. It was truly humbling. 

Can I get faster? Sure. But the way to do it is not to keep running long and slow. It's time to make some changes. For right now though I am taking the week off, getting some sleep and trying to get my head on straight. 

Will I be back to fight Pine Mountain again next year? I want to say yes but I don't know quite yet. The GUTS group, as always, put on a great race and had fantastic volunteers! But this is a very tough race and I need to do a LOT of training and improvement before I will consider myself worthy. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

I am never watching Hoarders and yes, that's me crying in my car on I-285


I am a big fan of director Kevin Smith's Smodcast network and listen to many of his podcast shows along with audiobooks while in the car or running. I almost never listen to the radio these days. 


If you are curious -visit his web site here - my favorites are Hollywood Babble On, Smodcast, Tell 'em Steve Dave and now Mohr Stories


One of the podcasts featured guest comedian Jay Mohr. I enjoyed their conversation and when Jay Mohr started his own podcast on the network I started to listen. One particular podcast dealt with Jay and his wife's obsession with the show Hoarders. I enjoyed the discussion but I had personal reasons why I would never watch the show. This past weeks episode of Mohr Stories featured the Hoarder's host Matt Paxton. While it was interesting to hear how Matt became the host of the show, I found it very emotional when he discussed his aunt and grandmother who were hoarders. Particularly, when he described his grandmother as being depressed after the death of her husband and not being able to grieve. The things had emotional attachments for her and she could not get rid of them. Well, next thing you know I am all out bawling while driving down I-285. I knew I was tired and had a very stressful week but I really was not expecting that reaction from myself. I knew this subject was touchy for me because I believe my mother was a borderline hoarder. She was no where near to the point of what I hear described on these shows but I could easily have seen it getting to that point if left unchecked.  


***** A little family background - My father died Thanksgiving weekend 1989 of a massive heart attack at the age of 53. I was 2 mths from my 21st birthday and had just started my senior year at Georgia Tech. So, this time of November is always a little emotional for me. My mother died in May of 2002 from complications from esophageal cancer at the age of 58. I was 33 years old. I have one younger brother. I grew up in a small town in upstate NY in the Hudson Valley just outside of Poughkeepsie and I lived in the same house my entire life until I started at Georgia Tech in September of 1986. My mother continued to live in the same house until she died.


While growing up, my house was always a little cluttered but never anything crazy messy. Carpets were vacuumed and rooms were cleaned on a regular basis but stuff like magazines and random stuff piled up. My mother always liked decorating for the holidays so there were always tons of decorations (something I hear is common among hoarders). She also was an avid gardener with a full greenhouse and simply amazing plantings in the yard. I dream of my yard coming even close to what hers looked like. Martha Stewart and her gardner had nothing on my Mom but this also means pots and bags of dirt pretty much laying around at all times. None of this really amounts to a whole lot but I found myself being much more spartan and sterile when I had my own place - which has been described as borderline OCD by some. The clutter and disorganization did get noticeably worse after my father died. In fact , John once commented on how could I be so anal about everything after living in that house. I said that is precisely why I am the way I am. 


After I got married, I didn't get home quite as much as I used to and when I did I noticed clutter but did not think too much about it. I think things got even worse when my brother moved since there was an entire house she could put things in now. The Christmas decorations escalated - tons of Nutcrackers and such. More plants, fish tanks, etc. Just lots of stuff! Again, no where near what you see on TV but more than what I would call normal. I had no idea how much crap had been squirreled away until she passed away. At the time I had a customer support job and could work from anywhere as long as I had a phone and a laptop. So, I moved into my Mom's house and had the enormous task of cleaning out 35 years worth of crap. It took me 2 months! I filled an entire full size roll away construction dumpster and I could probably have filled second one. Numerous trips to Good Will and the dump plus an entire U-haul truck worth of crap I brought home. It was one, if not the most challenging experiences of my life. During that time I lost close to 15 lbs and was probably the thinnest I have ever been in my life. I pretty much woke up cleaned, worked, cleaned, ate and slept. It was emotionally exhausting as well as physically exhausting. Lots of memories unearthed during that time. This is why I never have any interest in watching a show about Hoarders. I have lived it. It's not fun. 


The experience changed me profoundly. Let's just say I did a little spring cleaning when I got home!! It also made me look at my life and really examine it. I was not happy at my job and was depressed in general.  I decided to go back to school and make some changes. This period was very stressful on my marriage. In the end, John and I got through it but it was very rough for a long time. It was a turning point for me in a lot of ways. Going back to school and living apart from John during that time helped me to become a stronger more independent person. I learned to let a lot of things go and focus on what was really important. From time to time, I do find myself doing a little hoarding myself and I hit a breaking point and everything must be cleaned and thrown away. My personal OCD has calmed down a bit partly because Ironman training leaves little time to be obsessed with cleaning and organization. You find new things to obsess over like bike profiles and Garmin data. Now that training has backed off, I find myself itching to get in the basement and start chucking stuff. How the hell do we accumulate all this crap?!!! We literally have Rubbermaid tubs filled with wires and cable - is this an engineer thing or a crazy person thing? Right here next to my toenail collection and hair clippings are my tubs of wire! I know I shouldn't point fingers. I don't really need to have hundreds of travel size shampoos and soaps or alphabetize ...well .... everything. Just call me Ms. Monk. I am OK with that. I think my crazy is acceptable because I am at the very least clean. 


So back to this morning. I listened to the second half of the podcast on my way to work and again I am crying while Matt Paxton talks about his father passing away. He still has vivid dreams about him 10 yrs after his death. I still have dreams my Mom is alive and she is upset with me because I got rid of all her stuff. Yeah, I am NEVER watching Hoarders. 

Nothing about tri's or ultras today. I am sure I will have lots to say after my upcoming adventure at Pine Mtn this weekend.








Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What happened to October?


Last weekend was an amazing Ironman weekend in Panama City, Florida



....but first let's play some catch up. The last couple of weeks have been crazy! The weekend after Stump Jump 50K we made a quick trip to NY for my 25th high school reunion - how did I get so freakin' old - and a quick visit with my godparents, cousins and aunt & uncle.


 Upstate NY is absolutely incredible in the fall. Number one thing I miss about my hometown.



Me and Terri at the reunion



The following weekend I had to work but still squeezed in a Duran Duran concert (fantastic even after all these years) while John went down to Pine Mtn for the North Face 50 miler. I also managed close to 26 miles that weekend. The next weekend was The Great Floridian (my Ironman race from 2010). Terrie Tillman (2nd IM) and Philip Sustar (first IM) were competing and John went to support. I really wish I could have gone but I am running out of vacation time and planned to head to IMFL the following week so I let John cover this one. Terrie and Phil did amazing jobs on a very tough course and I salute their incredible efforts. My weekend mileage was 20.

Mike Delang, Terrie and Phil at the Great Floridian
 Then came the really crazy Homecoming weekend starting with trivia on Thursday night and John's fraternity dinner and cocktail party on Friday. In the past this usually ends with a massive hangover on Saturday morning only to be mollified by more continuous drinking through the actual football game and beyond. This year I kept it light since I knew I had a long day on the trails planned for Saturday. 

 ***On a completely separate topic - one friend at the cocktail party wanted me to write a blog about how 2 first time Ironman competitors stay married after one finishes and the other DNF's - I will shelve that topic for another day but I think it is worth while discussing. I am often asked how all this training affects a marriage so I will definitely work on that for a later date.

I slept in a bit Saturday morning and got through my 18 miles. I came home, showered and then headed to Acworth for a co-workers wedding reception and then dashed home, changed and went to the Get Fit Halloween party. Sunday I was up again and got 10 miles in on the silver comet for a weekend total of 28. While that first 18 was not very fun, I am finding that next days run are getting easier and I have been less sore each time. There must be something to this training stuff!


This brings us to this past weekend. Last year when I did the Great Floridian I was completely blown away by all the support I had on race day even though I tried to keep it stealthy. One of the people who came down to support me was Teesha McCrae. Teesha had just finished an incredible year of doing her first ultra, learning how to swim, doing her first triathlon and ending the season by doing a half Ironman. Teesha is super strong, smart, upbeat and an absolutely beautiful girl inside and out. Teesha ran with me during the first part of my marathon and listened patiently to all my bitching and swearing and still signed up to do Ironman Florida a couple of weeks later. I knew then that I had to be there for her when she did her first Ironman. 


Teesha, Yvette Webb and I before our first 50K

On Friday I packed the car and headed down to Panama City with Peggy (one of the Wisconsin Ironkids). John was also heading off on his own journey to crew Coach Mike on his pursuit of the Pinhoti 100 and that requires a whole other blog post right there. The drive was uneventful and I was grateful for the good company because that is one BORING drive. This is one of the many reasons I am not interested in doing IMFL - the long stretches of nothing but scraggly pine trees and flat open terrain. The wind was pretty gusty and I was hoping for calm seas, warm temps and no wind for raceday. We got to the condo, unpacked and headed off to Ironman central. We hit the expo and found all the IM Kswiss gear was 50% off including great deals on other clothing and Tshirts. Not to pass up a sale, we did a little shopping. We then found George - back for his 2nd IM which also happened to be his 2nd triathlon ever! He is a little crazier than most of us. George had a room at the host hotel that was in a great location and would serve as home base for the rest of the weekend.

While George headed off to dinner we headed to the airport to pick up Elaine. I had googled Panama City airport before I left and it was only 8 miles away. I plugged it into the GPS and we were on our way. We drive up to the airport and I notice there are no cars, the parking lots are filled with weeds and there is a definite "zombie apocalypse" feel to the whole place. I said "Something is wrong here!". Captain Obvious, that's me! I stopped the car and pulled out my phone to figure out what was up when a security guard rolled up and came over to the car. Apparently, this happens all the time. The guy told us that we wouldn't find the airport in our GPS and the airport has moved - well the web page hasn't been updated either so no wonder it happens all the time. He just so happened to have printed directions to the real airport so we set off again while letting Elaine know we would be late. If the security guard had not been so strange I would have taken a picture of the "zombie airport" just for fun. Once we had Elaine in hand I texted George that we wouldn't make dinner and we headed over to where Teesha was finishing dinner with her boyfriend and family. We caught them before they left, wished her luck, hugs all around and then had dinner ourselves. 


The next morning came quick and we headed over to George's room. Katie and Damon had arrived and we met Team George - a super cute family of three that have known George for years. Each had T-shirts with Team George on the front and Run George Run, Swim George Swim and Bike George Bike on each of their backs. Very sweet! Wetsuits were put on and nerves were jangling. Teesha had a braid emergency that Elaine went to fix and soon it was time for everyone to head to the beach. Peggy ran Teesha's special needs bags up to the truck and just got them on before the race. I hugged Teesha with tears in my eyes and said Good Luck. Off she went to get her place on the beach. The air was cool but the ocean was very calm. The canon went off and the washing machine started!

I tried to get some pictures from higher up on the beach but there were too many people in front of me. I moved down to the waters edge and watched all the swimmers finish their first lap and get ready for round two. It was hard to pick anyone out but next thing you know there was Teesha smiling and heading for lap 2. We then headed up to the swim exit to see if we could catch George. He went by too fast along with Damon and Nick but soon we saw Teesha and Katie. Snapped a few pictures and then off they went on their bikes. 


Starting the second loop

Teesha before the second loop

Blurry Teesha is out of the water

Katie is out of the water

The bike course in FL is a giant 112 mile loop so we had some time to kill. You could go out and try and see the bikers farther out on the course but it made more sense to stay near the finish and transitions. We headed off for breakfast and coffee. After breakfast another trip to the IM store - did I mention that Kswiss stuff was 50% off!! After more shopping we changed and Mike, Peggy and I headed off for a little run. We followed the run course for a bit but we did not want to interfere with the racers so we kept straight on the main road. We crossed the race path a few times and got to see the pro men and women run so fast and seemingly effortlessly while we watched in awe.


 We completed our little 6 mile run (so I wouldn't feel like such a huge slug). Just prior to this we found out Katie had to drop out of the bike with a migraine. Oh, no, poor Katie! We headed back to transition just in time to see Nick head out on the run, quickly followed by George. My camera was still in the hotel room so no pics. Everyone looked strong! We showered and headed back out to wait for Teesha. Teesha came off the bike ready to hit the run and it was so great to see her so fired up!


Best pic of the day - the bike is done

Now that everyone was out on the run we checked in with Katie and she was doing well. She had her medication and was not in bad spirits and was cheering on Damon and the rest of the Get Fit crew. Peggy, Elaine, Mike and I grabbed some pizza at Mellow Mushroom and settled in for the  rest of the run. We found a place just before the turn around so we could see everyone making their final way to the finish line or heading to the turn around for the final lap. Nick and Damon came by looking strong headed to the finish and soon we saw Teesha heading for the turn around. We ran with her for a bit until the turn and then when she came back I ran a little more with her to the next aid station. She was doing so well. She had no idea about the time and seemed worried about finishing within the cutoffs. I assured her she had 5 hours to complete 13 miles and there was no way she wasn't going to make it. She was concerned she couldn't eat anything but chicken broth so I told her to just keep eating chicken broth it's that simple. She seemed to calm a bit and she ran off for the rest of her journey. 


We continued to cheer all the runners on and did our best to keep them smiling and their spirits up. When the time was getting close for George and Teesha to be heading back we moved closer to the finish. We positioned ourselves just outside the main chute so we could see the runners coming out of the dark and heading to the finish line. I played with the camera to see if I could actually get a shot in the dark. Of course, I missed George again with the camera but when he saw us his face lit up and he seemed so happy. He ran confidently to the finish line and PR'd by over an hour from last year. 


George is an Ironman again!


About 30 minutes later Teesha came out of the darkness and a smile lit up her face when she heard and saw us screaming for her. Teesha is an Ironman!!








It was an amazing weekend in Florida. Get Fit had close to 80 runners in Savannah for the Marathon and Half while John was in Pinhoti for Mike Delang's 100 miler. Many PR's and great accomplishments by everyone! It will be hard to top this weekend!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stump Jump 50K



I signed up for the Stump Jump 50K as a training race for my planned "A" race - Pine Mountain 40. I knew the timing was not perfect, being only 3 weeks post Ironman Wisconsin and 9 weeks out from Pine Mountain, but John said it was a great race and it was only a 2 hour drive away. Since Wisconsin was a bit of a bust I was at least a little bit more prepared physically then I would have been otherwise. 

Come run the premier 50k trail race in the Southeast. Taking place on a beautiful dirt-packed trail with Tennessee mountain stone thrown in -- and with a 5000+ ft. elevation gain -- the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50k benefits Wild Trails for trail access and maintenance efforts in the Chattanooga area. 

I couldn't run for about a week while my knees healed from the damage done from my mis-aligned cleats. So that left 2 weeks to prepare. Prior to this, my longest run had been 14 miles back in August. Bottom line, 31 miles was going to hurt.

I got a bit of running done in the last 2 weeks. My new Hokas arrived and I did 3 runs in them but was concerned because I was experiencing a hot spot on my right arch. Stump Jump is a lot rockier than the nice trails we run on around here so I was worried about beating up my feet without the Hokas. Up until race day I was still waffling on whether I would actually wear them.

Friday afternoon we headed up to Chattanooga and we made it in time to check in and pick up our race packets. The race shirt was a Patagonia capilene technical shirt in hot pink - very nice! The expo looked great, lots of great vendors and good gear but since we arrived a bit late everything was getting packed up. The expo was in the park along the river and it was absolutely beautiful. The area surrounding the park was full of fun shops and restaurants. I would love to come back when we have some time to explore.

We grabbed some food and then headed back to the expo area for the North Face speaker series. The featured speaker was Diane Van Deren. Incredible woman, incredible journey. Check out her story here.



Next stop was to check in to the hotel, get our gear organized and then off to bed. I slept well since I was not nervous at all. I knew it was going to be a long day and that the course would be tough but I would get through it so I was not too worried. My only nagging problem was my shoes. I decided to go with my Montrail Mountain Masochists and take the beating.

Race morning we got dressed, packed up the car and we headed to the start. We parked and found Mike, Sandy, Leslie and Phil. First thing Phil said to me was that this course was going to make Sweetwater look flat. Joy! OK, well too late to back out. Let's just do this thing. 

John, me, Leslie, Sandy & Eva, Mike, Phil


We lined up and the race was on. The first part of the race wound around the middle school where the race began. The school was huge and we spent almost 3 miles still in the vicinity of the school. Our group stayed together but I knew this would not last long. I am the slowest and I am used to running alone on trails. I had my camel bak and my iPod so I was going to be fine. The first aid station was at the mushroom rock. None of us stopped and we headed down a steep part of the course. This would be key because we would have to come back up it starting around mile 26 and I was so not looking forward to it. 

I soon lost the group because I am a little more cautious on the downhills than the rest. Eventually I came to a swinging bridge a little more downhill and then we headed across the road and the fun started. We climbed a bunch and then headed along a narrow trail overlooking the river. It was absolutely beautiful. I brought my phone to take some pictures so I knew I would stop on the way back. For now, I wanted to keep moving while my energy was high. I ran whenever the trail was relatively flat and walked up any steep inclines. I was beginning to get hungry and looked froward to grabbing some food at the next aid station. The second aid station had snacks but no PB&J so I kept moving. I was a bit surprised since all the ultras I had done prior to this always had great aid stations with lots of real food. This is not like a marathon where you grab some gatorade and carry your gels and gus. These races take a lot out of you between the distance and terrain and you need substantial food and calories. Thankfully I had a few granola bars and gus on hand.






The next aid station was at the Indian rock house and the start of the big loop. Yay! PB&J. I grabbed a bunch of the little sandwiches and was on my way again. While on the loop I kept looking for the "rock garden" John warned me about. He sad a lot of people got lost here and make sure you always see a flag. Meanwhile I was getting hungry again. The next 2 aid stations did not have any sandwiches - only pretzels, fig newtons (yuck!) and other snack like things. Where is the real food? At GRR we had grilled cheese sandwiches. Was I wrong to think they should have more food? Maybe we do stuff different in GA? Either way I was getting tired, grumpy and hungry. 

The miles kept ticking by and still nothing I would call a rock garden until I came upon 2 ladies who looked lost. I knew we were going the right way and encouraged them to keep looking for flags and basically took the lead. The path was not that hard to follow despite the moss covered rocks and lots of fallen yellow leaves that looked like the little yellow flags. Many of the trees had markings for the trail too so I was never worried that I was lost.  The rock garden done I continued on and back to the beginning of the loop. This was the one place that had sandwiches the first time around and thankfully had sandwiches again. Yay! I grabbed a bunch more and headed back to the finish. 

On the final stretch back I passed quite a few people since I still had some energy to run. I walked through the more technical parts but anytime there was nice clear trail I ran. That was until I fell. It was narrow section of trail and not particularly "rooty" so I am not sure what happened except I went down in a  cloud of dust. Thankfully the ground was soft and I did not hit any rocks - completely amazing since this race should more accurately be called Rock Jump. I dusted myself off, stretched my right calf since it cramped up when I fell,  and kept on moving. I was thankful for no scrapes or bruises and that I did not fall down the side of the mountain. I ran for a little bit feeling good and then looked at my Garmin to check distance. That's when I noticed the crack! Apparently, I cracked the crystal of my watch when I fell. Damnit! It looked like it was still working so I tried not to get too mad about the whole thing and concentrate on finishing. 

Soon, we were back to the road, up a steep part of the trail which I navigated pretty well since I ended up passing a guy with 2 hiking poles because he was slowing me down. The trail leveled out again and then we were at the swinging bridge again. Now it was time to get back up all that steep section we came down in the beginning. I trudged up feeling not too bad and eventually I was at the mushroom rock again. Turns out it was not as bad as I had feared.  I snapped a picture of the Mushroom rock and then headed back to the school.






The trails here were nice and wide and I was amazed that I was still running. I looked at my watch and it was going to be close if I was going to make it in 9 hours. I was going to be ecstatic with a 8:30 finish but i knew it would be tough with the difficulty of the course and my lack of training, so 9 seemed pretty realistic. I pushed on and crossed the finish line with a Garmin time of 9:00:50. 

My time was not great by any means. Some lunatic finished this same course in 3:50! This race was an ultra championship race so some big talent was on hand. Based on the times of my friends and what I know of their speeds I did pretty darn good. Especially with the lack of running the past few months. The course was tougher than any that I had run in Georgia with lots of climbing and tons of rocks but I still passed a bunch of people on that last stretch. I was happy that I still had energy at the finish and felt pretty good. My calves were tight and my feet a bit sore but not too bad overall. The biggest problem was that I was hungry! The burger tent shut down just as I finished which seemed awfully early given that there were many more people still on the course. Thankfully, Leslie grabbed a few burgers just as they closed up shop.


Leslie and I rest out legs while I finish my burger and beer

Would I do this race again? Definitely! It was a great course, absolutely beautiful, wonderful people and volunteers but next time I will pack more food!

Looking forward to really putting in a lot of miles in the next few months and can't wait to run an Ultra that I actually trained for - Pine Mountain 40, here I come!






Thursday, September 22, 2011

339 days


339 days until 2012 Ironman Louisville. It took me 10 days to change my mind. So, I am a hypocrite and a masochist so sue me!

The day after the Ironman we headed down to the expo so John could get his finishers s*** and I could cancel my pictures (again). Maybe I will learn my lesson next year but they lure you in with the talk of longer lines the day after the race and being cheaper before the race. At least they give you a full refund so no harm done except for your ego. Next we waited in a huge line to gain entrance to the store (never experienced this at CDA or STG) and while we were waiting John started to try and convince me to do Louisville. He said he would train with me and not do it. That started the tears. John is not a grand gesture kind of guy, nor even a small gesture kind of guy so when he says something like that I know he means it and it's heartfelt. So, I said I would think about it. 

Well, I did nothing but think about it for the next 9 days. I brooded and shed a few more tears - more of frustration than anything else, and tried to figure out what to do next. I did not want to do anything reactionary….like almost signing up for the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon lottery just for the hell of it. I knew if I did that I would get in and have to literally "swim with the sharks". Glad I talked myself out of that one. It's on the bucket list but not today. I weighed my options, talked to a lot of people who's opinion I trust and decided I needed to get this monkey off my back. I needed to drop kick that son of a bitch and make sure he never came back. The GFA Koolaid was swirling towards Arizona 2012 but I was not interested. Coach Mike said the water was cold - he looks and swims like a polar bear and nothing bothers him so if it's cold to him, I am f****d. Plus, there is the issue of travel expenses. Flights, shipping bikes, hotel costs etc etc. I didn't want to spend a ton more money on something that could all go wrong again. It's a long day and no matter how well you are prepared, anything can happen.

I have no desire to do IM Florida even though it's close. Too great a chance of red flag swims and a boring 112 mile bike ride that no one - NO ONE - has ever set an IM record on. Why not? It's flat, they should have record speeds. I think everyone ends up bored to death! Besides, I like hills! 

So Louisville it is. It's close by. There is a river swim, some upstream but most down and no wetsuit. Prior to this summer that would have bothered me but I swam all summer including a 5K with no wetsuit. Bring it! The bike course is somewhat hilly but I am fine with that. The only problem is heat. I am going to have to embrace Mr Sun and log some miles in the middle and late parts of the day. OK, it will suck but it sucks anyway, so what's a little more suffering, right? The run I don't really care too much about. It will be what it will be. Just get me off that Mother F'g bike and I will be good. I am stronger than last year so I can only get stronger and faster for the following year. 

So, here I am….AGAIN….339 days to go. Let's do this thing!

Quick update - knees are all healed, did 18 trail miles this weekend. Looking forward to Stump Jump 50K in 9 days. Bike is back home, hanging in the garage until I get over the urge to run my car over it  a few times.

Pictures from IMWI - look how happy I am!







Finally - Things to share: A hilarious blog on a first ultra. The medals at the end are the best! - http://theoatmeal.com/blog/ultramarathon

Good article on balancing your life and Ironman - it's spot on -  http://coachtroyjacobson.blogspot.com/2011/09/iron-focus-5-important-tips-for-success.html

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ultra Season

So yesterday was a big bust. I was not sure if I should digest what happened and then write about it or just spew it all out like I usually do. I have been up since 5am this morning and while I let John sleep a little more I guess I will try to capture my thoughts and impressions about yesterday.

Race morning we were up at 4am. I was able to take a nap the previous afternoon and while we got in bed at 8:00, that nap made it hard to fall asleep even with some Advil PM on board. I read for an hour and then fell into a nice sleep. Around 1:30 I woke up and then started to stress and toss and turn. Finally got a little more sleep but was up and ready to go at 4:00. We made it downtown very quickly, got parking, pumped tires and dropped off all our bags. We convened with all the Get Fit crew in Dana's room and the company helped keep the butterflies at bay. Then it was time to head down to the swim. Wetsuits were donned and we got in the water.

John's plan was to swim ahead and head toward the inside of the buoys where there would be less traffic. The canon went off and I followed John. There was a little confusion and chaos in our area but I was able to concentrate on keeping John in sight and just kept on swimming. The butterflies never got a chance to get going while I worked to keep up with John and before I knew it I was almost at the first turn. I lost John at one point but saw him again around the second turn but then he was gone. But by then I was fine. Water was basically calm except for the churning of the swimmers around me and the buoys were getting ticked off one by one. I rounded the last turn for the first lap, checked my watch and my time was a little less than 50 minutes. No problem, I had plenty of time and felt good. The second lap was relatively uneventful, lots of jockeying for position and a little flurry when the "lappers" went by but overall very uneventful. My arms were starting to feel the lack of wetsuit time by the end of the last lap and my shoulders were screeching at me as I headed to shore. I got out of the water and the clock said 1:40. Perfect! Plenty of time to get the bike course done. I was elated!

I then got my wet suit off and headed up the parking deck spiral to transition. The run up the spiral was long and annoying but finally I was in the hotel and grabbed my bag of clothes. I worked to get my bike gear on and saw that Dana and Leslie were dressing too so that made me feel great. Said hello to Dana, got a hug and headed out to my bike. 

Down the parking deck spiral and out on the course. The first bit was slow with all the twists and turns on the bike path and through some parking lots but eventually we were out on the course we drove on Friday. I felt a little sluggish at first but eventually the legs started to warm up. Leslie was feeling sick and we leapfrogged our way through most of the first loop. I would have liked to have been moving a bit faster but I knew I was still doing great on time and things were going well. The hills were relentless but we trained on hills all summer and I felt pretty good. I kept it in the low gear and spun my way up those hills passing many along the way. Things started to take a turn for the worse around mile 25-30. I started to get a nagging pain on the inside of both knees. I had experienced this before on one leg and knew this would not get better. I tried different foot positions and nothing seemed to make the pain stop. Before long every pedal stroke was painful. The 3 big climbs were excruciating but I was still able to get up the hills and still was passing people as I did so. I started to panic because I did not know if I could keep this up for the rest of the race. I started to slow down even more  and spin more because every stroke was agony. Once I passed the 56 mile mark I never saw Leslie again. 

Side note on the cleats: When I first started ramping up to big distances on the bike I started to get a nagging pain in my left knee. It would never start until late in the ride. The guy who fit John's bike helped adjust my cleats and for the first time I was pain free. Since then I have kept them in the same position and when ever changing them out I magic marker the outline of the cleat to ensure they are exact. So, a couple of weeks we got our bikes checked out by the same guy and he changed my chain and replaced my worn cleats. I thought nothing of the change since I was confident he would have replaced them in the same exact position. Since I was in taper I only did a few short checkout rides and everything felt fine. On to race day.

On the second loop another issue presented itself. My side was cramping. I had never experienced this on the bike and tried to stop and stretch when it got really bad. It was then I realized I really had to pee. Well, no rest stops seemed imminent despite pedaling many miles looking for one. Finally, I found a good place to make a quick run in the woods. Around this time a sheriff car pulls up and he asks if I am OK and he also adds that I am the last bike out there so he had to keep an eye on me. I asked if the other bikers had been cutoff  and he said no they all just dropped out. The heat was a bit too much for some people yesterday. Although it was hot, it was nothing like we had experienced in Georgia this summer and I felt good except for my knees and needing to pee. According to the sheriff the next rest stop was 5 miles away and he suggested I use the woods if I really needed to go. Excellent idea! I took care of my business and then got on my way. At the next stop I pulled out my bike tool and decided to try and mess with my cleat. I WISH I had done this when it first started. The change gave me some relief in my left leg but the right was still a mess. I had a little more spring in my step and started the big rolling hill section of the course. I did OK but the climbs were still super painful. I kept moving but around mile 80 I realized I was not going to make the cutoff. I had the worst hill section ahead of me and even if I gained some speed in the final trek back to town the last hills would have done me in. It was time to bow out. 

I got back to the start of the race, changed clothes, relayed my day to Leslie and Peggy in T2 and saw them off for the run. 

Unlike IMCDA I was not crushed. I was annoyed and resigned. There are many things I would have done differently to prepare but all in all I think I was well prepared. I worked on my swim and got so much stronger and more confident in open water. I worked with a trainer to get stronger overall. I worked on my bike and did hill repeats, technical bike courses and even conquered the Gaps! My recent runs had gone well and I felt strong. I was much more prepared for this race than my first attempt in 2010. I was nervous but felt like I was ready. The hills were plentiful but I know under different conditions I could have handled them and still had plenty of time to make the run. My energy level was good and I felt strong except for the pain in my knees. I visualized the accomplishment and stayed positive. This is why there were no tears this time. I did everything I could except for taking the responsibility to ensure my cleats were good. I will never leave this to chance again. It is too critical. 

Despite being over my experience, it is incredibly hard to watch the rest of the race unfold and see everyone you trained with reap the rewards. One training partner had a worse day then mine and had to quit during the run. He stuck it out all day but stomach issues and blisters got the best of him. My heart aches for Harry because I know how he feels. This was his first Ironman and he was so ready on all counts. Strong swimmer, biker and runner. It was a no brainer. It goes to show that everything needs to fall into place on that one particular day and unfortunately, things that are beyond your control can ultimately do you in. It's a tough, tough thing and a bitter pill to swallow.

The question now is will I ever do this again? Right now the answer is NO. I spent so many hours training, stressing and preparing for this race. The money alone is depressing. I fought off sickness, risk of injury and felt the toll it takes on your marriage. This is not a small endeavor. It consumes your life and makes you an incredibly selfish person. Sure, I would love to hear Mike Reilly say those words to me on race day. My ironman still feels like a lesser accomplishment than the hoopla and experience of the corporate IRONMAN. It is still the same distance but it is just not the same experience.

I really don't think I am cut out for this distance. Despite all that has been accomplished the bike is still my nemesis. I struggle with it and I honestly hate it most days. I wish it was different and maybe if it wasn't so hard for me I would like it more. I just don't know the answer. What I do know is that I have a 50K in 3 weeks that I am not exactly prepared for. I have not been running any super long distances but the endurance is there. The ultimate goal is the Pine Mountain 40 miler in December so Stump Jump is just another training day. Pine Mtn will be my longest distance to date. So here's to Ultra season. Let's hit the trails!