Crazy is probably the one thing I’m actually really good at. I’m a mediocre runner. I’m pretty average when it comes to just about anything in daily life. But dare me to do something that sounds batshit crazy and I’m all in. That said, the price of insanity can be quite high.
For the last four weeks I haven’t done anything. Since the marathon, but especially after my surgical debacle, I have become deeply involved with my couch (and maybe mint chocolate chip ice cream). I haven’t been allowed to do anything at work so I’ve spent my days staring at paper work and computers. I finally finished Breaking Bad and caught up on The Walking Dead. I also scheduled a trip to see Sean in South Carolina to brighten up my days a bit.
Which leads to our shining moment of brilliant insanity. Sean’s close friend was registered for the Run Like A Nut Half Marathon in Florence, SC. Of course misery loves company, so he volunteered us as running buddies. Next thing I know I’m registered for 13.1 miles of pavement pounding.
The days leading up to the race were our normal ritual of bar food and beer, video games and television, spicy things, and CrossFit (which in a moment of clarity I decided to sit out). We also added a new little fur baby to the family, Jake. Much time was spent cuddling and spoiling him (and the other furry monsters, too). I worried a little about my stitches and lingering pain. Mostly I fretted about what to wear. Halloween races are so hard!
Excuse the delay in getting to this. It’s been a crazy few weeks.
My taper ended up coinciding with an outage at work. For those unfamiliar with the term, an outage is when a plant (power, chemical, refinery, etc.) shuts down for maintenance and repairs. It usually means I end up working 12 or more hours per day and sometimes staying out of town. Outages are great for my wallet but terrible for my running because it always parallels peak racing seasons.
I left for South Carolina directly from work on Thursday. I planned to drive a little over halfway and then stop for the night but I ended up making the trip straight through. Sean still had to work Friday so I occupied myself with picking up our packets, shopping for our pre-race breakfast, and laying out my outfit. By the time he came home I was going a little stir crazy and he’d had a rough day. So we did what all the best runners do… went to the bar. After a few drinks and some wings we finally called it a night.
Our alarms went off at 5:00am Saturday morning and we dressed quickly. Breakfast consisted of Clif bars and bananas in the car. I really missed my coffee but there wasn’t anywhere to stop along the route. We arrived right at 6:30 and parked in the infield of the Darlington Raceway. There was some hilarity to our self-induced predicament. Under trained for a marathon that runs around a NASCAR track and is sponsored by a fried chicken chain…. pure ‘Murica.
Week 5 meant that it was time to buckle down. In order to have at least a 10 day taper my last long run needed to happen in this week. I was really nervous and kept my weekday mileage low in order to be fresh for my last big run.
Week 5 ended up looking like this:
Monday: Driving back from South Carolina
Tuesday: 5.25 miles at 10:19 pace
Wednesday: 3.25 miles at 10:01 pace
Friday: 17 miles at 10:44 average
Sunday: 4.1 miles at 8:37 average (10:04 warm up mile followed by a 25:12 5k)
Total: 29.6 miles
I haven’t posted in awhile. My apologies but I needed a break. From running, from training, from thinking so hard about it all. So what did I do with my two weeks? Nothing. I didn’t run. I didn’t work out. I ate anything I wanted. I drank some beer and wine. After about 12 days of living a normal American lifestyle I’d had enough.
I started with the P90X plyo DVD followed by a 3 mile run the next day. Apparently that was too much. My legs were super sore yesterday and still complaining this morning. But Shane was excited for this event so we were on our way at 6:45am. I chose my INKnBURN denim shorts and leaf ’em sports bra under our Team Brunazzi shirts. Shoes were Altra Superiors with the rock guard removed. We dropped off the kids with Shane’s sister to play with their cousin and then headed to North Park.
We picked up our shirts and bibs and then talked to the other runners and our friends from the timing service. Shane decided we should do a warm up so we headed up the road a ways and immediately my legs complained. After a short distance I gave up and headed back to await the coming torture. I also discovered my Garmin decided to discharge its battery and shut down so I would be running ‘blind’.
I’ve run this race every year since it started. I’m a little bit over the whole underground running thing but I knew Paul would get a kick out of it so I had signed us up for our first race of the year. The day before the race my babysitter fell through so we ended up bringing Gem with us and she decided to run too.
Race morning was pretty laid back as the race doesn’t start until 11am. We arrived at 10 and got Gem registered and our bibs pinned on. Then we hit the bathrooms and walked around and saw a few friends. Mostly we just sat on a curb and waited.
This past week was a complete failure. I only got in two workouts, a back day and a leg day. My diet was awful and my motivation was MIA. Paul and I both had minor but irritating colds. Paul’s son had a much worse version of our illness. My oldest had it too and then my youngest started throwing up. To top it off things at work were hectic which left me feeling mentally drained at the end of each day. I ended up gaining back a pound or so and I just feel fluffy and unfit. In the end it’s all just excuses but those added up to a lost week.
So now it’s time to get back on track. I’m starting week 5 over again and getting my diet back on track. Paul and I are also racing running a 5k on Saturday so I have more reason to stick to eating healthy, hydrating, and getting back to my workouts. We won’t be racing hard but it should be enjoyable to stick together and run for fun for once. If you have been around for awhile then you probably remember the mine race that I have done the past several years. I really wish I had a GoPro so I could show you all the full experience of running a 5k underground!
First off is obviously my friends and family. I could never have accomplished my first 100 miler without my crew and coach. I couldn’t dream big if it weren’t for my family backing me up. And I wouldn’t laugh until I cry or get squeezed in bear hugs until I squirm if I didn’t have friends like Jenn (both of them), Dan, Kelly, or Paul. I love you all!
FitFluential – I have taken my blogging to a new level and been introduced to opportunities I never would have had otherwise without FF’s mentoring. I’ve also met a ton of wonderful bloggers and been inspired to improve my own. Look for lots of upgrades in 2014!
INKnBURN – How could I have run 100 miles and had NO chafing or blisters or other issues without them? I made new friends because I always stand out in their gear. I get to be comfortable and stylish which is something that rarely happens in my ‘normal’ life. INB4Life! <3 p=””>
Altra Zero Drop – The base of all my running! No black toenails. No blisters. Total comfort. After just over 1,300 miles run this year my feet are still happy. I can never think the Altra crew enough for all they’ve done for me and always having my back!
Okay, now onto the shameless bragging!
As of today I am at 1,322+ miles run for 2013. I ran 27 races totaling approximately 500 miles. These included 7 5k’s, 2 5 milers, 1 10k, 1 10 miler, 3 30k’s, 1 20 miler, 2 marathons, and 3 ultras (one 24 hour, my first 100M, and one 50 miler). There were also some odd distances like 4.3 miler, a 7 miler, and 24.5 miles during a relay. Overall I would say it was a very successful year!
On the personal side there were also lots of changes. My family dealt with stalkers and sabotage. My marriage ended. I found a job I loved and then was laid off almost immediately. But despite all the drama there was lots of good as well. I made a lot of new friends. I reconnected with old ones. I went to my 10 year high school reunion (what?!). I turned 29 and began to accept that I really am going grey (I blame the kids).
I got into my car feeling defeated by life. I’m working at a job that demands more of my time and attention than my children and gives almost nothing back. The relationship that was supposed to last the rest of my life is over and I’ve come to the realization that dating in this stage of my life is going to be a lot less fun than when I was in my early 20’s. I miss my dog and my fish and my ‘stuff’. And I feel flabby and out of shape. As I drove and fretted I glanced at the temperature readout on my dash. It said 68*F. I couldn’t believe it so I pulled out my phone and checked the weather app (at a red light people!) and it agreed with my Jeep. I decided that a run might be just what I needed.
Now I was feeling scared. It’s been weeks since I ran for real. The Boston Harvest was my last race and probably my last real run. I did 1.5 miles on the treadmill one night but then work got in the way again. Would I be able to run? Would it actually help or just make me feel like a failure in yet another way? What if it really sucked and turned me off to my therapy of choice in this time of need?
I got home and no one was here. My mom had taken Gem to the grocery store and her husband was out and about. I took it as a sign that the run was meant to happen and threw on my INKnBURN denim shorts and steampunk shirt along with my humping bunny socks and Altra Torins. My Garmin thankfully still had a charge after weeks of neglect so I hopped in my Jeep and headed to Northmoreland Park.
This story starts with last year’s Boston Harvest 5k. Shane has been working around the clock since about 3 days after the 2012 race ended to make this year’s version bigger and better. He added a 10k option and got more sponsors, more donations, more door prizes, and just more everything. The goal this year was to have 300 participants. Thanks to an estimated 800 man-hours we reached, and possibly exceeded, this goal.
Friday night we packed up the kids and sent them off to Shane’s parents for the night. Then we frantically packed vehicles and double checked mile markers and signs. We had caught a teenager stealing the handmade scarecrow mile markers from the trail so we had to check every last detail ten times over to be sure everything was perfect. Shane picked up cookies, cake, chips, and made Gatorade while I made parking signs and buckets for door prize drawings.
Shane surprised me with an entry to the Rock’n The Knob 30k a couple weeks ago. After last weekend’s disastrous trail 10k I was about terrified of running up and down a mountain for three times as long. But the race director of the RTK, Ben, had given Shane a free entry for me as a fellow race director so I couldn’t be a no-show.
The Rock’n the Knob is not actually 30k. It’s advertised as 19.23 miles (31k) but everyone got closer to 20+ miles by GPS which means it was probably actually longer since tree cover causes signal loss and vertical gain/loss are not calculated in by GPS. I’m glad I didn’t know this in advance.
The race itself is billed as ‘PA’s Highest Trail Race’. The course description states:
“Runners will start from the Clubhouse at the Blue Knob All Seasons Resort. Racers will then conquer the ski slopes, enjoying beautiful vistas along the route. The 30K racers will then split from the 5 mile route, linking with the Lost Turkey Trail to begin their assault on the State Park side of the mountain. The 30K runners zigzag up and down the mountain accumulating over 9,700 ft. of elevation change! This race will be the most challenging in the area, putting even the most hardened trail runner to the test.”
I made the decision to drive out to Bedford, PA and stay the night before the race. I found a hotel and then headed out for some food at a little Mexican place called Salsa’s. If you’re ever in Bedford I highly recommend it. While Denny’s, Hosses, and all the other chain places were packed, Salsa’s had maybe 10 patrons inside, live music, and the food was excellent. I made it back to the hotel and laid out all my gear (minus a forgotten Garmin) and got ready for bed.
After a restless night I got up at 6:30 and dressed in my INKnBURN denim shorts and sugar skull tee with Altra Superiors. I added a long sleeve pink shirt on top as a warm up. I grabbed coffee from the hotel lobby and began the half hour journey to Claysburg where the race would begin at the Blue Knob Four Seasons Resort. Once there I picked up my packet and bib. I’d been assigned number 13. On top of the forgotten Garmin, the poor night’s rest, and the bib number I was pretty convinced it would be a bad day. I mostly hid in the lodge until start time because otherwise I was freezing in the 48* morning air. BRRRR!
We lined up right on time and were given some brief instructions on the course and markings before a shotgun start. Wow was that loud up there in the mountains!
This was my third year and final leg of the Baker Trail Ultrachallenge. In 2011 I ran the North section and in 2012 I completed the Central section. This year I would face the toughest section, the South. The challenges of the southern end of the Baker Trail are not single track trail, rocks, roots, or bush whacking but pounding pavement and country roads for 30+ miles while baking in the sun on relentless climbs.
Now all three medal pieces rest together on a marble rolling pin seated atop a wooden base. In about six weeks an inscribed plaque with all three years and my finish times will arrive to be affixed to the base. I have to say it feels really good to have this one checked off the bucket list!
The Greater Pittsburgh Road Runners Club came to the rescue with a $1 race like the one Shane and I hosted last week. I headed to Boyce Park after a late breakfast for the 10am run. I say run and not race because 5 runners showed up for all three distances, 2 miles, 5 miles, and 10 miles. We started out by walking up a ski slope to the start line. What a warm up!
After a brief description of course markings we were off. Three runners were doing the 5 mile and one other plus myself planned on 10. We scrambled up and down the slopes and over the trails on the backside of the mountains. After two days of speed work this week, the last one being yesterday, my legs were protesting long before I hit the final brutal climb of the loop.
Shane created this event as a ‘low key’ race with our local friends and some not-so-local runners. Thanks to the Greater Pittsburgh Road Runners andMiles of Smiles Timing Service he was able to put together a relatively inexpensive event with a few perks. There were 4 & 10 mile options, run concurrently, with a water stop at mile 2 and 8. We bought cookies, chips, and some candy on our grocery trip and added these to the finish table. Shane also ordered awards for the top 2 men and women in each race. The cost was $1 for GPRR members and $3 for non-members.
The alarms sounded at 4:30am and Shane and I were up to prepare for the event. He was picking up our timing volunteer while I set up the water stop. It was interesting to have to drive on the trail I run every day. I was surprised to see a single cyclist at 5:30 in the morning with his headlamp on. I put on my own headlamp and assembled the table, water dispenser, and cups. Then I set out a cooler full of popsicles in case it was hot. Two more volunteers would be arriving around start time to man the water stop. We couldn’t have done it without them!
After the water stop was complete I returned to the start line two miles down the trail and assembled the table there. We had a bin full of ice and bottled water as well as food. Bib numbers were assigned in the order of arrival and I began to worry when there were only two runners at 6:45. I decided to take a quick warm up walk down the trail and when I returned I realized my worries were unfounded. There was a large group of several of our friends and a few new faces gathered around the table while more figures were materializing around the bend in the trail. All together we had 33 runners between both races.
I’ve been feeling pretty good since my Burning River finish and I’ve started running again. It began with 2 miles and then 3. And then my friends enablers struck again.
I saw that my pacer, Allison, from BR100 was running a weeknight 5k about an hour and a half away. I really wanted to see her again and thank her in a more coherent state of mind for all she did for me. So I loaded up my youngest daughter and the jogging stroller and went to the race. Because that’s what a sane person would do right? Also check reviews of jogging strollers travel system at this blog – babystrollercarseatcombo.com
When I was a new runner I had no idea how to act or what to do at a race. Now that I am experienced I try to remember that new runners don’t join our ranks knowing the in’s and out’s. Not every faux pas is a personal insult and every misunderstanding is probably the fault of someone more experienced for not explaining.
So here’s a few tips for the newer runner or racer.
1) Line up according to your pace. Only the people who expect to win, or at least be in the top 10, should be toeing the line. Mere mortals should be further back in the pack. A good rule of thumb is to ask those around you what their goals are. If they match yours then you’re probably in the right spot. Not only does this save you from being stampeded by the speedier runners but it saves them from having to waste energy dodging you. *Note: If you’re a walker, you belong all the way at the back unless you are an Olympic speed walker.
2) Run or walk in a line. If you’re running a race with a group then you’re all probably going at your slowest member’s pace. Try not to walk or run three or four abreast. You’ve just created a wall that faster runners can not breach without elbowing you or your friends out of the way. Walking or running in pairs may make conversation harder but really, we’re here to see how fast we can do this thing. Save the chit chat for the finish party.
3) ‘On your left’ means move right. If you choose to ignore rule #2 and walk or run in a large group please heed the pained cries of ‘on your left’ from faster runners approaching from behind. Not only have they wasted their breath to warn you of their approach but they are often rewarded with a dirty look when they are forced to the very edge of the road or path to skirt your group. Moving to the right a hair takes much less energy for everyone.
4) Look before you blow. Everyone gets a runny nose or a bug in their mouth at some point. But before you spew body fluids on the run look in the general direction of your intended projectile to make sure no innocent people are spattered with your gore.
5) Don’t cut the course. It happens to a lot of new runners. You’ve finished a 5k or two and you’re looking for the next challenge. So you sign up for a 5 mile or 10k race and find out it’s not just twice as hard but more like 10 times as hard. Maybe that little voice in the back of your head says that hopping up on the curb and cutting that curve isn’t really cheating. Or maybe it says it’s okay to take the 5k turn off instead of continuing on. The truth is that it really isn’t. Either walk it in or remove your bib and don’t cross the finish line. Cutting the course is cheating and it takes away from the accomplishment of the runners who ran the whole thing. You don’t want to be the next Rosie Ruiz.
6) If you must walk, move right. Just like slower cars use the right lane, slower runners and walkers should move to the right. And before you walk take a quick glance over your shoulder to make sure no one is right behind you. You know, since runners aren’t equipped with taillights?
In general, just try to treat the trail or path like you would a road. Try to respect that others may be competing even if you’re not. And remember that we all make mistakes but, if you do, all it takes is a moment to utter an apology. Most runners are very nice people and won’t hold it against you. Happy trails!
Saturday night Shane and I ran the Race to Moon in Apollo, PA. Get it Apollo? Moon race? Hahahaha. Yeah, I must be too young. Shane had to explain it to me.
The race didn’t have an exact start time, just listed it as ‘dark’. So we drove out after dinner since sunset was listed as 8:30-ish. We arrived a little after 7PM and parked and then went to check in. Only we weren’t on the list. Turns out Shane registered us so early (and by paper form instead of online) that the race director forgot about us. Thankfully he found our forms tucked away somewhere in his car and we were able to get our bibs and goody bags.
I think the shirts were okay and the glow-in-the-dark mug is pretty darn awesome. We were also given glow necklaces to wear during the race for visibility. Shane and I both wore Black Diamond Spot headlamps since there was barely any moon.
Since we had arrived so early we hung out by the Kiski River and then did a little warm up jog along the course. In the fading light there were already hundreds of lumineries lighting the rail trail path for the entire race. I had been hoping for a 3 mile warm up but I was afraid we’d miss the start so we settled for one. Turns out we had plenty of time and it was pretty much a wasted warm up mile.
This is the second year I’ve run the Jerry Maher Sr. Memorial 5k for Parkinson’s Awareness. Last year I finished in 27:46. It’s weird to think of that as a good time now.
This year I went into the race not remembering what I ran last year. I remembered the race and the course but I couldn’t remember what I ran and I didn’t really care. I have run about 40 miles so far this week and my legs are trashed. I’m four weeks out from Burning River 100 and all I can think about is tapering. So I hoped I’d pull a 25+ minute run out of my behind today. I would have been thrilled with 26-27 minutes too.
When we arrived I noticed every fast local runner was there. Heath, Emery, Dom, Rich, and Dana were all warming up and chatting around the starting area. I saw plenty of women that had that lean, hungry look that usually signifies speed that I didn’t know by name as well. I figured I was well out of the awards at this point and just hoped I’d survive without walking.
Shane and I collected our bags and hung out in the car until 15 minutes before the 9am start. Then I did a quick warm up run up the road and back to see what my legs were going to give me today. I had an easy 9 minute mile pace on the uphill and no problem flashing 7’s on the way back down so I decided to go out like I was actually racing and let my legs dictate the pace from there.
At the last minute, literally on the starting line, they announced that a tree had fallen on the course and a bridge was out so the course had been diverted and would be almost entirely new. I was a little ticked that this couldn’t have been posted earlier, whether online or by sign at the race. I had definitely arrived early enough that I could have run the whole course as a warm up but I assumed I knew it already. Now I was flying blind.
After a couple false starts (no kidding, they actually pulled us back for that) we were finally off. The lead pack was gone in minutes and I was pretty much by myself. There was a group of young kids all around me and I kept waiting for them to die off but they never really did. Every time one fell off the back another one caught a second wind and took their place. I tried to ignore their uneven pacing and labored breathing and focus on running as evenly as I could. I figured even 7:50’s would get me a PR but it was still a long shot.
Mile 1: 7:53
The second mile turned out to be a long, gradual uphill. I kept chugging along and hoping for it to end. And it finally did right as I hit mile 3.
Mile 2: 8:51
The third mile was pretty gentle and I picked up the pace. There were a few small out and backs with sharp turns to eat into my steady pace. By 2.5 I wanted nothing more than to stop and walk but there were some older guys urging on the young kids that were still hanging with me and I did not want to get beat by any of them. I started focusing on picking them off one at a time until the finish line was in sight.
Mile 3: 7:56
I didn’t have much of a kick and just tried to hold on through the chute. I ended up with an official time of 24:40 for 43 overall and 2nd in my age group. Considering this was on dead legs and in 80 degree heat plus on a hilly course, I’ll take it. If it weren’t for that darned second mile of uphill I very well might have PR’ed. I can pretty much guarantee that, if I survive Burning River, my first 5k post-recovery is going to blow my previous times out of the water.
After the Laurel Highlands Ultra relay yesterday (where I ran 24.5 miles of brutal, technical trail) my plan was to rest, nap, hydrate, eat, and pretty much do nothing today. I had gotten home somewhere around 1am and by the time I showered and crawled into bed it was nearly 2. I woke up to Shane getting ready for a local 5k at around 6:30 and rolled right back over. About an hour later my phone wouldn’t stop ringing and I finally gave in and answered.
Shane begged me to come down to the Alpha Fitness Highway to Healthy 5k. There were only 20-some people there and he thought I could win. I told him he was nuts since I already had major mileage on my legs from the All Stars Week mileage game. I was just ready to go back to bed when the little voice in the back of my mind said, “Three more miles could only help your miles game team. You don’t have to race.”
So I threw on some clothes and my trusty Altra Torins. I didn’t have time to do anything with my hair so I added a hat as well. No phone, keys, water, or anything besides my cup of coffee. I walked out the door and jogged down to the path. I found Shane and we got me registered. I drank my coffee and fretted about the burning scrapes on my leg from yesterday’s relay tumble and the aches I’ve already accumulated this week.
The race started a few minutes late and I lined up right up front. So much for not racing huh? I know from past experience that sometimes just showing up is enough to win in a small race. So I went for it. The horn sounded and I took off with the front pack. There were two men and a woman just in front of me. The men were pulling away but the woman was running my pace. I pulled up shoulder to shoulder with her and just hoped to hang on.
Mile 1: 7:50
As we approached the turn around I could feel the fatigue of all the heavy mileage settling in. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I pushed or how fast I turned over my legs. There was just no power left in my toe off and my pace began to slip. I high-fived my husband, who was leading, and then turned back toward the start. I saw the third woman was about a minute behind me and that gave me enough of a rush to keep moving despite slowly losing the lead woman.
Mile 2: 8:30
In the third mile I would have walked if our friend, Jennifer, hadn’t been in third place and gaining on me. I kept glancing over my shoulder and she would be a little closer every time. The jolt of adrenaline would improve my pace for a moment and then my body would begin to shut down again. I told myself I just had to hang on for second place. I would never forgive myself if I let Jennifer catch me now.
Mile 3: 8:50
I saw the finish line ahead and I took one more glance over my shoulder. Jennifer was only 20 or so seconds back now so I pushed as best as I could. That ended up being 8:30 pace for the last .13 miles but it was just enough. Jennifer finished 8 seconds behind me.
Final time: 26:21
5th overall, 2nd woman, 1st in the 20-29 age group. I also won a gift card for a manicure and pedicure in the chinese auction. They only give awards for the 1st overalls and the first in each age group so I got a smaller trophy for my age group win. Shane won overall and got a huge trophy!
Just goes to show it’s all about who shows up!