Let’s Do Work!

I passed! I passed! I’m an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer!
So who’s ready to get fitter, faster, and/or stronger?! I’ll be picking up a limited number of online training clients starting in February. I will also be making myself available for one on one consults and workouts at your gym (if you can bring a guest) as my schedule allows. Hopefully soon I will have a ‘home’ gym for the locals to come train with me too! If you are interested then email me at brazentraining@gmail.com and let’s get started!

Run Like A Nut

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!

Cool kids teach their dogs to play video games
Saturday morning we woke early and met Sean’s friend and his coworker at the military base. We piled into one vehicle and headed for Florence around 6:30am. Once we located the parking and start line we went into the Fitness Forum and picked up our bibs, shirts, and swag. We took everything back to the car just in time for the rain to start so I threw my Garmin back in the car along with my phone (sorry, no mid-race pics or splits!).
Swag
I was freezing in my INKnBURN skeleton shirt and denim shorts. I hadn’t expected it to be colder in South Carolina than Pennsylvania and I really wasn’t prepared to be wet on top of it. Thankfully a kind woman handed me a single use poncho as we huddled near the starting line.
Pre-race
We were sent off shortly after with very little fuss. Sean, our companions, and I set off conservatively. We ran and chatted and laughed but I could already feel my insides twisting and spasming. I tried to ignore it and focus on enjoying the company. I thought to myself, “We have to be at least 5k in by now. It’s only single digit miles now.” Then I saw the 1 mile marker and knew it was going to be a long day. I’m pretty sure I even cursed out loud.
From there things continued to go downhill. I checked out mentally. If someone asked me a direct question, I would respond. If our whole group laughed, I would too (even though I had no idea what was being said). I was already deep in the pain cave and we weren’t even 5 miles in yet. The only upside was that I was mostly warm and dry in my poncho unlike the rest of my group.
Around mile 7 or 8 Sean’s friend said something about my breathing sounding labored. Sean started to explain that I always sound like I’m dying but the conversation was just enough to pull me out of my own head. I suddenly realized I was being stupid and slowed to a walk. Sean dropped back and joined me and we told our companions to go on without us. We walked hand in hand for awhile, just talking, but it was too cold to stay slow for long. Sean mentioned that I could quit any time but I quickly dismissed that idea. If I had made it almost 9 miles then I could finish.
We picked up the pace again and passed the 9 and 10 mile markers. The rest of our group was long out of sight and the back of the pack was passing us with every walk break. We even saw the sweep vehicle on an out and back at one point. That was enough to put some pep in my step and we started running more than walking again. A friendly stray cat joined us for a couple blocks, running to catch us and then winding around my ankles until I started moving again. It was the best mood boost I could have asked for at that point.
Sean was once again the voice of reason, forcing me to walk when I looked or sounded as if I was in too much pain. Finally, I told him that we just needed to finish. Nothing was going to make me feel better until I could quit running. So he took the lead and said, “Just focus on staying on my heels.” I put my head down, pushed back into my own head, and off we went. It was exactly what I needed until I got a foot cramp around mile 11 or 12. Forced to walk again, I couldn’t escape the pain. Finally, the cramp subsided and Sean took the lead again, slowly picking off a few of the runners who had passed us during my walk breaks.
At one point, Sean started trying to encourage me. “Just a little more baby.” “You can do this.” Being pulled out of my mental fog brought all the pain front and center again. I snapped, “Shut the (expletive) up and run!” Thankfully Sean wasn’t upset by my outburst. Instead, he took my advice and poured on a little more speed.
A volunteer at a turn told us, “Five more blocks.” and I about died with happiness. It was the longest five blocks of my life but we finally turned the last bend and I saw the line. Sean and I crossed together and grabbed our medals. Then it was back into the warm building to find our friends and get dried off and fed.
Much happier (and apparently forgiven) after we finished
Our official finish time was 2:21:54. We were 78th and 79th overall. I was 4th in my age group and Sean was 5th in his. While our results are not at all impressive ordinarily, this time I am more than happy with my performance. I proved to myself that I haven’t lost all of my fitness and mentally I can still push through even the toughest runs. I got to spend a few miles with my favorite person on earth and a couple really good friends. I didn’t die and I don’t think I caused any permanent damage. Overall, it was a great day!
Even Jake says it was just what we needed

Darlington Marathon Recap

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.

Pano shot of the raceway from the infield
We visited the restrooms, ditched our long sleeves in the car, and lined up on the track with the half and full runners. There were some announcements and then the National Anthem was sung. Pretty soon it was time to get started and we went out around a 9:30 pace just to get off the steeply banked track. We decided to run 2 miles and walk 1 minute for the first 10 miles and then reevaluate.
Mile 1-5: 9:36, 9:43, 9:46, 9:35, 9:51
The first few miles flew by as we found our rhythm and joked around. There was a group of very LOUD women directly behind us. We would speed up to get away from their chatter but it was like they were chasing us. Finally we took a restroom and walk break in mile 6 and got behind them enough that we didn’t have to listen to them anymore. One of the nice things about a small marathon is being able to enjoy a conversation and your surroundings in relative peace. And we finally got our chance on the remainder of this loop.
Mile 6 – 10: 10:51, 9:58, 9:50, 10:19, 9:57

 

 

Giving a guy who’s 6′ 4″ bunny ears is tough
But his reaction when he catches you is priceless!
We continued to goof off and just generally have fun for the remainder of the first loop. We went to a run 1 mile, walk 1 minute interval towards the end of the loop which brought our average pace down some but we tried not to focus on anything but staying comfortable. Any time I picked up the pace Sean would gently (or not so much) remind me to slow the eff down! We passed the half by looping through the pit road of the raceway and back onto the streets of Darlington. The course was not closed to traffic and there were a few times I saw cars blow past the police and volunteers trying to direct them away from the runners. Thankfully there were no close calls that I saw.
Miles 11-15: 11:41, 11:22, 10:54, 10:22, 10:31
Yeah, I was ahead of Sean here ūüėČ
As we got into the late morning heat of South Carolina the humidity rose and my breathing was worrying Sean. His knee was also beginning to give him some aches. I thought it was because he was going slow to stay with me so I told him to go ahead but he refused to leave my side. The chatty girls had slowed down and were quieter now. I began to contemplate that they just might be in my age group and that passing them might mean a medal for me. Sean had to keep pulling me back from trying to pass them too quickly. We slowly gained on them until they walked on a gentle uphill (to a girl from Pennsylvania) and then we overtook them for good.
Mile 16-20: 10:33, 11:42, 10:42, 11:40, 10:49
Somewhere in the first half
Around mile 19 Sean’s knee decided it had had enough. We tried taking longer and more frequent walk breaks but it wasn’t helping. We then tried to just push through but he could no longer bend his knee without feeling like it was going to give out. I promised to stay with him no matter what but he made me promise that I would beat the chatty girls even if it meant leaving him behind. I continued to walk with him and encourage him to try to run for awhile longer but by mile 24 I was cramping up from all the walking. My body felt much better when I was running and the women I had worked so hard to pass were back in view behind us.
Miles 21-24: 11:26, 11:47, 12:56, 12:38
Downtown Darlington
Sean encouraged me to go ahead and I finally did. I felt really weird running the last 2 miles alone but I also felt really strong thanks to Sean’s restraint on our earlier miles. I tackled the last long uphill grade passing many, many limping and puking marathoners. At one point I glanced at my Garmin, saw an 8:xx pace, and thought, “Wow! I have never felt this good this late in the game!” I turned into the raceway for the last 1+ miles on the track. I tore down the pit road, rounded the first sharply banked turn, and then cramped up! Less than half a mile from the finish line and I hit the wall. I was a little upset with myself but I took a deep breath, walked to the next turn, and then pushed every last shred of muscle in my legs to carry me into a run for the finish.
Mile 25-26: 10:02, 12:18
Finally finished!
My legs cooperated and I crossed the finish in 4:47:46. Not a PR but right in line with most of my marathon times. My legs instantly locked up as soon as I stopped to get my medal. I almost went down and an official grabbed me and started to drag me towards the golf cart waiting to take runners to the med tent. I didn’t want to miss Sean’s finish so I assured him I was fine, grabbed a water, and began to walk around until my legs quit fighting me.
I must have just missed Sean coming into the pit road as I fought to remain upright and in the finish area. Almost as soon as I was recovered I saw him come around the final turn and fight to run the home stretch. I asked the woman handing out medals if I could give Sean his and she handed me one. As soon as he crossed the line I grabbed him for a kiss and draped the medal around his neck. He hugged me tight and I knew that I was forgiven for leaving him at the last minute.
Sean crossing the line
Once Sean had some water and recovered his ability to walk we posed for pictures and then made our way to the celebration area and results tent. We typed in our bib numbers and were both shocked to learn we’d gotten second in our age groups. We walked over to the awards table and had to wait for our placement to be verified but it was correct after all! We proudly took our medals over to the food table before we made our way back to the car.
Bling!
We celebrated my 8th marathon and his 2nd by picking up some Ibuprofen and BBQ on the way home. After a shower and lots of food (maybe some beer) we both felt good enough to continue the celebration with Sean’s good friend that you may remember from the¬†CrossFit competition¬†in August. Good food, good friends, and some good alcohol made the night amazing. It’s amazing what a difference sharing our accomplishment made on our views of the day. I wouldn’t have been so happy if I hadn’t shared it with an amazing man.
Bacon shots!
After a good night of sleep we decided that breakfast should be a good, greasy, southern-style affair. We headed to Bubba’s diner and, once again, the running community never ceases to amaze me. Sean and I were seated next to a familiar face and I had to check FaceBook just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I was seated next to the amazing Bruce and his wife, Brandi. Bruce helped me immensely at¬†North Coast 24 Hour¬†last year and I thought I would never get a chance to properly thank him since he is from Florida and I’m from Pennsylvania. But here we were, reuniting in rural South Carolina. They were even kind enough to invite Sean and I to visit for the Jacksonville Marathon for my birthday weekend. We chatted all through breakfast and caught up like we hadn’t been mostly out of touch for over a year. It was the perfect ending to our marathon weekend.
Super happy to see Bruce and company at Bubba’s Diner!
Honestly, I don’t know how I can even explain how incredible the whole weekend was. I’ve made an effort to surround myself with only the best people and in return I have developed the most amazing relationship, built true friendships, and accomplished things I wouldn’t have done on my own. I’m not sure that I would actually recommend Darlington Marathon on its own merit but if you have the right support any race can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I feel like the luckiest woman on earth and I’m not sure how we’re going to top this. I just know that we will!

They Should Increase My Meds: Marathon Training Week 5

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
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 17 miles at 10:44 average
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 4.1 miles at 8:37 average (10:04 warm up mile followed by a 25:12 5k)

Total: 29.6 miles

After 17 miles. I was not impressed that I didn’t go 20.
Now I’m into week 6 and getting ready to face taper madness! The mister has already noticed my tendency to over-think every aspect of training and racing so it should be interesting to see if I can tone it down.

FAAP Fall Classic 10k

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’.

Shane pre-race
This race is held by the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh so there was a hand-carved gong to get us going. The race director recognized Shane and I and offered a greeting before launching into the course description and markings. After that the medical director gave a short word on not pushing too hard and respecting your limitations. I admit I snickered that a 5k/10k had a medical director so maybe I only got what I deserved.
The 10k started 10 minutes before the 5k and at the sound of the gong I went hard. I knew we would move from road to trail quickly and I wanted to be in position before we bottle necked. Suddenly I realized I was ahead of Shane and all the other women. I pulled back and about 5-7 more people blew by me. Shane shouted, “You’re running 6:15 pace. Slow down!” I should have listened.
I pulled back a little bit as we hit the trail and settled into the chase pack. My legs hurt but I knew I was refreshed from the recent rest and wanted to see if they would shake out. I started to worry when I was looking for the 1 mile water stop long before we actually hit it. Feeling like you’ve run way over a mile at only 0.75 is not a good sign. Without a Garmin I figure I went out too hard. I probably ran a 7:45 first mile. Oops.
The next two miles were a blur of pain as my lungs and legs began to burn. I kept pushing knowing that I should be able to place well since it was decently technical trail and a short distance. I couldn’t get any decent pace on the uphills (I’ve had this happen a LOT recently) and I was overheating. I whipped off my shirt, not caring that my bib was on it.
As we approached some volunteers pointing to a turn I thought, “We must be over halfway now.” Nope, they shouted, “2.8 miles. Almost halfway!” I wanted to die. I decided to pull back for a mile and see if I could recover enough to push hard to the end. A few men passed me and a woman I know, Natalie,¬†caught me and ran with me for awhile. We chatted and I relaxed into it for a bit until we hit a long uphill. I let my friend go and silently berated myself as I walked up.
The last couple miles another runner I know, Mike, caught me and basically stayed on my tail with another man. We were all suffering and didn’t chat much except for when we came to two forks in a row that were unmarked. We made our best guesses based on the general direction we needed to head and hoped for the best. Thankfully we came upon another volunteer about a¬†quarter mile later. I quickly told him about the unmarked forks but I guess he didn’t say anything because I found out a lot of people got lost there, including the leaders.
As I pounded down a hill a volunteer shouted that there was a downed tree at the bottom to watch out for. A man bolted past me, ignoring the warning, and caught his feet on the tree taking a pretty awful digger. But he got up and kept running so he must have been okay. I took the time to walk to the tree and step over and lost the man in the process. As I ran up an access road I heard another set of feet approaching. I figured it was Mike but a quick glance over my shoulder told me differently. A woman passed me and quickly gapped me. I didn’t care in the least by that point.
As we headed back towards the start I knew there was a field and then one last road section to the finish line. Two more women approached from the rear and I gathered enough dignity to push hard enough to ensure my lead. I tried to catch the woman who had passed me on the way to the finish but I didn’t have enough of a kick. I dragged myself across the line in 1:05:15 for 27th overall and 9th woman.
I crossed the line, handed over my bib tag after some fumbling with my shirt, and then stumbled to the grass where I promptly collapsed. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I was hot and then cold and not sweating. I chugged the remainder of my water between gasps and stared at the swirling tree branches over my head. I was slightly amused by how I must appear to the other runners. Out of shape? Not a trail runner? Inexperienced? I mused that the medical director would be showing up to give me a speech any second. Only it was just a fellow runner and a volunteer who came to my aid. After a few minutes of listening to them debate whether I should stay laying down or get up and walk I dragged myself to my feet and into the port-o-john to hide. After about 10 minutes I felt almost normal although a little wobbly. I swallowed my pride and rejoined the festivities outside.
While waiting for results the FAAP put out Filipino food but I couldn’t even look at it. I grabbed a banana and hunkered in the corner to watch the dancers do their performance.

 

Filipino dancers
As I watched my strength returned. I just wanted to¬†go home¬†but Shane had finished in 7th place in about 55 minutes and earned 1st in his age group so we waited. I was shocked when I was called for 3rd in my age group. I absolutely felt my performance was undeserving of anything. I also learned the first woman had finished in 55-something. On a good day I probably could have smashed this course and gotten an overall award. That’s going to drive me in regaining my fitness in the coming weeks for sure. In the end I’m just glad I got a run in and got out on the trails even if it was an embarrassing performance.

 

Close up of the bamboo award

 

shirt

Back in the Saddle… For the First Time

Maybe you’ve been around long enough to remember when I got¬†a bike¬†for Christmas. Well, it pretty much sat and collected dust for almost 4 years while I focused on my running. Then my friend, Jenn, suggested that I move it to her house and meet up for evening rides. She decided we would start with an easy 20 miler through the city. I felt confident I would bonk, possibly die, and embarrass myself.

View of the city from the Hot Metal Bridge
Amazingly, I survived and even kind of enjoyed myself. We made it 20 miles and averaged 10MPH or so. It was nothing spectacular but I was very happy that I completed it. We made a stop at REI and also at the OTB Bike Cafe for some dinner. It was a great way to spend an evening with some of my favorite people.
A cafe for cyclists? Right on!
I guess I enjoyed it more than I would like to admit because we did a 20.5 miler on a slightly tougher course just a couple days later. And then followed that with a 16 mile ride the next day. Ending up with 56 miles of cycling in 5 days, and a good number of running miles too, was completely unexpected. But it lit the fire in me that has been missing for some time now.
Where’s the pot of gold?
I don’t know if I’m training for anything. Jenn thinks I should sign up for Pedal Pittsburgh’s metric century (100k). Someone else has suggested doing a Spartan Ultra Beast in the not-so-distant future. And I’ve been eyeing a marathon or ultra early next year. But mostly I’m enjoying feeling stronger and healthier than I have for a long time. I’m enjoying spending time with the people I care about the most in the beautiful city I love. It’s enough to just be back on the path of my six year journey to fitness for right now.
Cooling down along the North Shore Trail

Runnin’ Outta Our Mine 5k … Again

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.

 Paul and I as INKnBURN pirates
 Gem and I before the race
>> You may also wanna consider to get the Step2 Skyward Summit, a kids outdoor playhouse, for botth purposes playing and training!
A few minutes before 11 we went outside and gathered around a fire barrel to stay warm while we waited for the start. When the race started (I never heard a gun or horn or anything!) I grabbed all of our coats and threw them in the snow off to the side. We all ran up a hill for a quarter mile or so and then into the entrance of the mine. It was such a relief to get into the 55* interior after the 18* run up the hill.
Gem did really well the first mile. We passed the clock at about 11 minutes with only one or two quick walk breaks. The second mile she started to get a little tired and we took a few more walk breaks. Right before the two mile clock we finally reached the water table which pacified Gem for just a little longer. The second mile clocked in right around 12:30.
Running through a mine
The third mile was Gem’s undoing. She walked a lot more and even began to cry. I was a little tough on her because I knew she was going to act up. Every 5k she’s ever done she has thrown a fit and wanted to quit in the third mile but I can never talk her out of doing them in the first place. I’m pretty sure a lot of the other parents probably thought I was a jerk but I know Gem can finish a 5k and I wasn’t pushing her too hard.
Rubble
We finally turned a bend and were back on concrete floors. We could feel the fresh breeze from the mine exit and Gem perked up. Her pace picked up and we managed to make it to the last bend with only one more walk break. Then the finish line came into view and she started to sprint hard. I guess she couldn’t wait to be done!
Area of the mine used for boat storage
As soon as we crossed the line in 38:07 (a new PR for Gem!) she threw up. I was a little horrified but kind of proud that she has the drive to push to the finish. She was upset about throwing up at first but as soon as she was handed a water and a cookie she cheered up. Then she got a few congratulations from bystanders on pushing so hard (and a few finish line puke stories) and she began to brag to everyone that talked to her about it!
Overall, this race is poorly organized and I’m not that thrilled with moving the start/finish outdoors in February. But I’m glad I’ve been able to share it with Gem and Paul now. Hopefully next time we sign up for one it can be puke free! >> Let’s check folding table for outdoor activities at here!

LiveFit Trainer: FAIL WEEK!

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.

Sick baby fall asleep in her breakfast

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!

One of only two workouts last week
Here’s to second chances and the ability to turn around a bad day or week. As the saying goes, it’s not about perfection. It’s about progress!

2013: Year In Review

This year has been a wild ride to say the least. Ups, downs, and unexpected twists were rampant. Nothing I’ve ever experienced can compare to 2013 for the trials, tribulations, and triumphs. Before I look back on my best year of running yet I want to thank the people who made this all possible.

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!

Representin’ FF at the Pretty Muddy

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=””>

INKnBURN went everywhere with me this year, even my first Strongman clinic

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!

Altra carried me for over 1,300 miles in 365 days

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!

Third woman, first in age group at the North Coast 24 Hour Endurance Run
My crew and I after my first 100 mile finish

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).

At my 10 year reunion
So here’s to 2014 and even more adventures. Whatever the new year may bring I know it will be worth it because I have the best family and friends. We always work hard and play harder. We give blood, sweat, and tears. And we never, ever give up. Cheers!

Returning to the Run

Today was a beautiful fall day for western PA. Temperatures in the 60’s, light breeze, sunshine, and no rain. All day as I slaved away at work, having a terrible day, I felt wound tight and ready to have a fit. I made a big mistake. I cut my hand. I couldn’t get a simple project right. And my boss was overdue on getting my annual review (and therefore raise) done. I finally nagged him into doing the review and he gave me a score much lower than I thought I deserved.

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.

I have never run at this particular park. My mom told me there was a 1 mile paved loop. It turned out it’s actually pavers, as in brick and stone laid into a long winding path around a lake. I wasn’t too thrilled about the surface but I was there and ready to go. I jumped out of my car and was struck by the fall foliage reflected on the glassy surface of the water, the sunshine beaming down on the families playing in the grass, and the lure of the other runners out on the path. I started my watch and tried to stay slow but not necessarily easy.
As I rounded the first bend I encountered a small bridge. The view from the bridge looked out over the lake to a boathouse. Geese were grazing on the bank and people were fishing. Walkers, runners, cyclists, and dogs were all out enjoying the day. The air whooshed in and out of my lungs and the tempo of rubber on pavement seemed in time to the nature around me. For the first time in a month I began to relax.
The next bend brought me into a small stand of woods. A family sat on a bench, a squirrel skittered through the leaves, and the shadows of the boughs brought a chill. I still felt good and it seemed like my legs and lungs were loosening up. I began to remember why I do this crazy sport in the first place.
I continued around the boat house and back to where I started. In the second loop I really began to feel the return of the rhythm that comes when you find the zone. Music played softly in my ears but I was barely listening. All the thoughts that have been angrily buzzing around my brain began to sting a little less. I found a little piece of myself that has been missing.
On the third loop my chest began to burn. I knew that I was pushing myself based on the paces I would see when I cared enough to look at my Garmin. For the most part I ran by feel and the tempo was steady. Mile 1: 9:57, mile 2: 10:10, and mile 3: 10:06. I reached my car at 3.2 miles in 32:05 and I was quite pleased with that.
The temptation to continue was strong but I know I need to be smart about coming back. I’m hoping to build back up over November and be able to run some strong races in December to finish out the year. And now I remember why I need to run. Every little detail of my life is still the same. Nothing has changed or will change the path I’m on but somehow it just looks a little brighter with a few extra miles on my legs.

Boston Harvest 2013

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.

Parking signs
My car
Shane’s car
Handmade mile markers
By the time we made it to bed Friday night I had no idea how we would make it through race morning. However, we were up and moving shortly after 5am and we got everything set up right on schedule. We never could have done it without all of our wonderful volunteers. They erected tents, set up tables, registered runners, handed out packets, and generally turned chaos into calm.
Food table
Cake with a certain child’s fingerprints
At 9am we were ready to launch the 10k runners. I was originally registered for the 10k but I developed a bad cold in the days leading up to the race and I didn’t want to be MIA for over an hour so I dropped to the 5k. As the 10k began I rushed to set up the awards table, food table, and door prizes for the runners upon their return. A short 15 minutes later it was my turn to toe the line.
Big Beaver Big Dawgs
As we took off I tried to hold back. I was breathing okay and I began to hope I might do okay despite my cold. I was running with our friend’s son and we put down a 7:40 mile. I felt fine and wasn’t even breathing hard. I started to get excited but I guess it was premature. As we approached the turn around I began to feel my chest tighten up. I kept pushing but quickly went from congestion to pain so I pulled way back. My friend’s son kept up the strong pace while I struggled to breathe coming in at 8:30 for mile 2. In mile 3 I began to assume I was going to have to walk. I really eased up and trotted while a few men passed me. As soon as a woman passed me I pulled it together and sped up again. I managed to fend off all of the other approaching women. Mile 3 ticked off in 8:48. I held steady for the last .12 miles and just crossed before the next woman.
Waving to our amazing photographer, Jesse Meyers
Finishing
My chip didn’t register as I crossed the mat and I forgot to stop my Garmin so my time is off. But the official results are listed as 25:54 for¬†24th overall, 7th woman, and 1st in my age group. I’ll take that for being sick, up all night, and stressed all morning!
Boston Harvest swag
As soon as I finished I stumbled up to the finish area to get back to work. My mom and the other volunteers had set out the door prizes and drawn bib numbers while the races were happening so I spent the next half hour handing out 130 prizes to the lucky winners. Meanwhile Shane was getting the official results printed out and the clown and Kona Ice truck entertained the kids. Unfortunately, our scheduled band did not show up so the adults were less entertained.
Lulu the Clown was a hit again
As soon as the results were available we handed out plaques plus gift certificates to the top 3 men and women in each race plus the top master man and woman. The top 3 men and women in each 5 year age group each received a medal. Every kid got a finisher medal on top of being eligible for an age group award. And there was a midpack award for each race as well. Our hope was that everyone would go home with something between awards and door prizes.
Age group awards
Kids’ medals
Midpack awards
Overall awards
Even the dogs got medals
It began to rain as we started the awards ceremony. Thankfully it stayed at a light drizzle until we were just finishing cleaning up. Everyone except our most loyal volunteers and friends had left by the time it really poured. We quickly broke down the tents and cheap vanity tables and cleaned up the garbage and signs. Before we knew it the ballfield looked like we had never been there and the trail was empty. We were left with 3 vehicles to unload in a downpour but it didn’t put a damper on what turned out to be a really great day!
There is no official total yet but we feel confident we exceeded the $4,000+ we raised for Rex’s fight against Batten’s Disease last year. As soon as the final bills (port-o-john rentals, timing fees, etc) are paid and the final registration check comes in we will be able to give Rex and his family the proceeds from the race. Seeing Rex’s face light up at the race made it worth all the time and effort and frustration. He is such a sweetheart!
Rex and his family and friends
Overall, I don’t think we could have asked for a better day. The course was dead on accurate, the weather was great until the very end, the volunteers were amazing, the participants were cheerful and patient, and everything just went according to plan. We are so blessed to be part of such an amazing community and running family!

Rock’n The Knob

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.”

The view

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!

Start

 

Looks like I was lucky to avoid this guy’s farmer blow
The start at the Clubhouse (elevation 2,376 feet) meant running uphill for about 2.25 miles until we reached the radio towers on the top of Herman Point (elevation 3,014 feet). I took this slowly and watched people disappear over the hills and around bends wondering if or when I would catch them again. My stomach felt rocky and I hoped I just needed to warm up. We then turned onto Lost Turkey Trail¬†and headed¬†down the mountain. I almost got smeared by a speeding car at the road crossing but was able to hustle across just in the knick of time. After that I reached the steepest descent of the race, an old logging trail that drops 831 feet in 0.87 miles. Thankfully it was followed by a flat 0.73 mile trail to the campgrounds. I was already struggling by this point and my stomach was roiling¬†but just focused on relaxing and staying rubber-side down. There were two women in front of me running together and I dubbed them The Ponytails because that’s all I would see as they disappeared around each bend in front of me. I vowed to catch and beat them before the end of the race.

 

The Lodge
The runners next circumvented Blue Knob State Park campgrounds via a wide single track trail before taking an access road over to the Crist Trail. It was at this point that I realized I wasn’t absorbing my water. My stomach sloshed with each step and the weird gurgling sounds it was making worried me even more than the stabbing pain it was causing. As we headed towards Pavia Road we headed down the sharpest descent of the race with 859 feet of fall in 2.6 miles. Unfortunately my stomach couldn’t take the pounding and I walked a lot of the descents. I crossed Pavia Road and stopped at the mile 7 aid station to eat a couple gummy bears and refill my handheld. From here I had to conquer a 4 mile loop consisting of rolling single track, an ascent of Rock’n Ridge Trail, and a loose rock gully climb. The climb is roughly 2 miles and becomes progressively steeper the farther it goes. The total climb¬†is 887 feet. Thankfully it’s followed by almost a half mile of flat double-track before dropping back to the aid station. Here I joined up with a group of runners named Luke, Rachel, and Sarah for the remainder of the run. Luke had fallen at mile 2 and broken his hand but refused medical attention and finished the race. What a rock star!

 

Careful descent of the stone stairs
From the aid station we followed the road and headed straight back up, 0.87 miles and 395 feet of climb from the park office to the Homestead Loop Trailhead. The loop is 1.75 miles long and follows an old road. First¬†it¬†descends 363 feet in 0.63 miles and then ascends 624 feet and 1.11 miles back out of the hollow. I dubbed this section the Hill of Despair for the numerous false summits and relentless climbs. We did pass a woman on this ascent which made me feel a little better about my performance. Finally, we reached Raven’s Rest Pavillion and the final aid station at 2,037 feet elevation. I sat on the folding picnic table and tried to eat some gummy bears while the volunteers checked out Luke’s hand. My stomach had relaxed some but pounding down descents was still out of the question.

 

From the pavillion we began to climb the southeastern flank of the mountain. We traversed a contour to 2,570 feet elevation and then dropped 500 feet in a half mile to Beaver Dam Run. According to the course description “this¬†entire section requires runners to be able to stop on a dime to avoid seriously technical and jagged rocks along the narrow single track.”¬†Once you reach the bottom, you are greeted by a stunning view of a waterfall cascading down a gully filled with boulders covered in moss. Well, stunning until you realize you are about to climb the waterfall, 971 feet of ascent in 0.79 miles on slippery rocks and crossing the falls twice.
Finally we reached a dirt road where we continued our final ascent of the mountain for another 0.2 miles until reaching the ‘Stone Pads’. This is a single-track section of extremely rocky trail.¬†After awhile¬†things leveled off and we followed rolling trail past the Pavia Overlook and out to Pavia Road, which we ran up to the ski lodge at the summit (3,142 feet). We turned onto an access road to the ski lifts and proceeded to run straight down the Route 66 ski slope to the East Wall Traverse ski slope and down to the bowl at Stembogen. Finally the last of the stomach-pounding descents were over and I turned into the forest until I reached the final surprise, the ‘rock garden’. This is where I finally overtook The Ponytails as they walked through and decided it was a good race afterall. The maintenance building appeared and then the finish line and I was able to put out a final kick to finish in 5:42:21.

 

Elevation profile

 

Course Map
I was surprised to learn I took second in my age group but it turned out two of the top women were in my age group. The Ponytails and the other woman I had passed were also in my age group so there is some satisfaction in that. Afterwards, there was food and beer to be had before I made the long trek home.

 

Swag

 

Finisher’s Medal/Bottle Opener

 

Age Group Award
Overall, this is a great race for an experienced trail runner. The views and trails are amazing and well worth the trip. However, it’s definitely not something to be taken lightly as evidenced by Luke’s broken hand. The medals, the shirts, and the post-race food and refreshments all make it top notch. And it’s not every day that you can summit the second tallest mountain in PA twice while traversing both sides. The course was well marked and obviously well planned to challenge everyone who attempted it. But it definitely was not beginner or even intermediate runner friendly.
And I’m still not sure I can ever wear the race shirt because having ‘Rock’n The Knob’ emblazoned across my chest just seems like it will invite sexual innuendos, especially from those who know it was Blue Knob! Oh boy! *face palm*

Half Baked

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.

Elevation Profile
This section also features some tough obstacles right in the first 10 miles to help wear you out long before you ever touch the long stretches of pavement. At mile 4.1 there is a rope climb up a 40 foot sheer cliff face covered in loose shale. And at 7.4 miles there is a steep descent and ascent out of a hollow. This was a slide down on your backside and crawl out on your hands and knees type of valley!

 

The rope climb
I knew I probably shouldn’t even line up for a 50 mile race just four weeks after my first 100 miler but I really wanted the final piece of my medal. I have reserved every August for the last three years to complete a leg of the Baker so I was really looking forward to finishing it for good.
Shane was running the last leg of the relay so he didn’t need to arrive until Saturday afternoon. The 50 miler began at 6:30am and buses to the start left at 5:15am so I drove up alone the night before. I checked in and ate and hung out at the farm house just like last year. And I once again slept in my Jeep. All in all it wasn’t a bad way to spend an evening.

 

A blurry pic of me with my friends, Tom and Jeff
After a restless night I awoke before my 4:30am alarm and began to dress. I had chosen my INKnBURN cherry blossom camisole and denim shorts along with my Altra Torins. Other than that I carried only a 20 ounce Ultimate Direction handheld. I wandered into the farm house for some coffee and socializing until it was time to load the buses.

 

Kim and I in the farm house
The bus ride was about an hour since the Baker is point to point. I chatted a bit and dozed a bit but really I just wanted to get started and get done. I wasn’t nervous and I wasn’t really excited either. It just felt like something I had to complete. I arrived at the starting line and found my friends, Allison and Patrick, who had paced me at Burning River 100. I knew Patrick would take off quickly but Allison and I decided to stick together with our friend, Brian, for the first several miles.
The gun went off about 15 minutes late and we all headed up a country road. Before long we were traversing single track trail and Jeep roads. Then we reached the line for the rope climb. As I was climbing I heard branches cracking and a curse from Brian. I yelled up to ask if he was okay and it turned out that he had surprised a deer at the top which almost ran him over in its rush to get away. Thankfully no animals or runners were harmed and we all continued on, laughing about the different scenarios that could arise from a runner on deer collision.
Somewhere on the way through the steep valleys and peaks of the hollows we all got separated. My legs were not responding well on the climbs and I felt like I couldn’t really pound the descents like I usually do. I knew I was going slow but I promised myself I wouldn’t stop unless I got pulled for missing a cutoff. I had been hoping for 11 hours but it was obvious early on that I wouldn’t make it so I tried to keep pace with my previous year’s splits.

 

Coming into an aid station
Somewhere around mile 10 a huge group of us followed some blazes down a path and then they suddenly stopped. We finally found our way back to where we had gone astray and it turned out someone had purposely blacked out the real blazes and laid a false trail. That was a new experience for me and added a lot of time and about a mile to my day.
I hit 21 miles in 5:23 and looked forward to the beginning of the road section that would take me to the finish line. Around this point I was at an aid station stuffing my face when Allison and Brian popped up behind me. They had gotten lost as well and added about two miles which put them just behind me. Brian had also twisted his ankle and was having trouble keeping up with Allison. After a few miles of running together Brian and I let Allison go and continued on together. For her first 50 miler on a tough course, Alli was really killing it!

 

Bridge on the course
Brian and I ran together, running and walking, chatting away. We slowly began to overtake people who had gone out too fast or who were having issues with the heat. As we reached the exposed road that we would follow for the next 20 miles to the finish it was easy to see that many runners were not acclimated to the conditions. Thankfully Brian and I both love to run in the heat and sun!

 

Take me home country road
We enjoyed wonderful views such as some goats taking a dump, an old folks home painted pink like Barbie’s Malibu mansion, and a wiener dog that chased us down the road a ways. There were also lots of Amish horses and buggies, lifted trucks, and very large dogs chained outside of very small trailers. It was very obvious that we were in the deep countryside.
Allison at Barbie’s Dream House

 

If memory serves me I reached the marathon point in roughly 7 hours. I was feeling fairly certain that I would be racing cutoffs for the 14 hour finish. But as Brian and I counted down the miles we began to pick up the pace. A couple runners joined us on the push to the finish. I had met Dave the night before and Murray recognized me from this blog! It was really neat to run with two new friends for awhile! Brian’s friend, Tom, joined us as a pacer for the last 10 or so miles and we really began to push. A mile from the finish I saw Shane waiting at the top of a hill. We took off together with Brian and Tom at our heels. And, just like last year, runners were directed up and over a furrowed hill to a tractor lane rather than running down the driveway to the farm.

 

As I ran down the tractor lane I pushed as hard as I could. My Garmin was long dead by this point so I have no idea what my pace was but I’m pretty sure I would be proud. I crossed the line in 12:44:52 and was awarded my medal and my rolling pin. This was also the first time I negative split an ultra. First half in roughly 7 hours, second half in approximately 5:44!
After that it was time to eat before Shane and I headed to the airport for¬†my girls’¬†trip to Disney. No rest for the wicked in this house!
Crossing the finish line

 

Swag
I had to wait four entire days to get home and see my medal and rolling pin again. But now I have finally assembled the final product of three years of toil in the hot August sun!

 

All three years’ medals prior to disassembly

 

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!

Ski Slope Scramble

I started my ‘new job’ two weeks ago only to be informed I was being laid off after 13 days. This put a squash on any racing plans I may have had for at least the next few weeks. I switched my focus to training instead of racing and began adding speed work to my schedule. Today called for a 10 mile long run.

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!

walking up the slope

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.

Ski Slope fun!
I made the not-so-fun decision to cut my run short but instead of finishing with just 5 miles I would tack on a tour of the 2 mile loop. I got some quick instructions since there would be no one else on that loop and headed out. The last two miles of my day went quickly and I saw lots of wildlife. Before I knew it I was making the final climb up the last ski slope again and I was done.
Trail
I stuck around to cheer the last two runners in, the 10 miler and the last 5 miler. Then I chatted with everyone for a bit before heading out. All in all, I’ll take it. With the elevation change and tough trail sections I’m sure this was equivalent to a 10 miler. It took just as long! Now I get to taper and relax for 6 days heading into the Baker 50.

P&LE Express

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.

Waiting to start
At 7:00 Shane gave a little speech telling everyone to come to our September race and where to turn around. With a simple, “3, 2, 1, Go” we were off. I stayed at the back of the pack with our friend, Scott, and we settled into an easy pace. I didn’t wear my Garmin because I didn’t want to push too hard on my first double digit run post-hundred. We passed a few people and were passed a couple times before everyone settled into their pace.

 

Scott and I finishing
The miles flew by and pretty soon we were at the turn around. On the way back a few more people passed us as they picked up the pace but Scott and I continued with our easy run. The miles went by even faster on our return trip and soon enough we could see the clock. I made a joke about sprinting it in and Scott took me seriously. He picked up his pace and I followed suit, just beating him to the line by 1 second! My official time was 1:36:56.
I found out Shane won the 4 mile in 31:17. Our friend, Jen, won for the women in 35:08. Our friend, Emery, won the 10 mile in 1:02:38 and newcomer (to our races), Danika, won for the women in 1:06:43. All total there were 10 4-mile finishers and 23 10-mile finishers. It was quite the turn out for our little race!
Afterwards it was just a matter of reversing my setup and cleaning up everything. It was made a little more challenging by the fact that it was a beautiful day and the trail was packed with cyclists and runners. The only snafu was that the fully charged timing clock began to inexplicably dim after about an hour until the numbers were unreadable. Shane didn’t know the plug in my Jeep had to be turned on by a button and couldn’t understand why the display wouldn’t brighten back up. Once I finished and turned the plug on the clock righted itself and all was okay again. And we all got a good laugh out of Shane’s frustration with my vehicle! Overall I think it all went pretty smoothly!

Kalajainen Klassic 5k

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

Goofing off with the baby before the race
Allison is coaching a couple to run the Erie half marathon and they were at the race as well. Being so far away I only saw a few familiar faces but Allison seemed to know everyone. She kept telling everyone how I just finished Burning River which was a little embarrassing. I’m sure no one really cared about the insane girl with the wild-child toddler and a pink stroller!
At 7pm we all walked to the top of a big hill to the starting line. The race director gave a few little directions and shout outs but I missed most of it because I was feeding the baby cookies to keep her quiet. After a few minutes we were off!
The first quarter mile or so was across a parking lot and then left across the top edge of it. Then we turned onto a trail. A real, honest to goodness dirt and grass and rocks trail! The stroller was hammering up and down like a jackhammer and I couldn’t see where my foot would land next so I was forced to back down the pace quite a bit and a few people passed me. I told myself I didn’t care but when we reentered the road after a half mile I started trying to gain back my spot. Mile 1: 9:24
After that there was a fairly long uphill to a turn around point. I saw all my friends and shouted encouragement but I was slowing down. I could feel that uphill was not in the cards today. More people passed me. After the turn around I fairly flew back down the hill but we turned back onto the same trail and I was forced to slow down even more this time. I even walked a few portions for fear of overturning the stroller. Mile 2: 11:14
After we exited the trail into the parking lot where we had started we ran across a bridge and down a paved road on a steep descent. I hate braking on descents but I had to keep control of the stroller on the winding road. I passed many people on the way down and probably got a little ahead of myself. At the bottom of the hill we could see the finish line but we ran right past it. A little while later we turned around at a cone and headed back. I passed one more woman on this section and then there was no one left to catch. So I just tried to maintain the best possible pace. Mile 3: 9:28
The last .1 or so was an 8:37 pace. Time: 30:40
We crossed the line with Allison cheering wildly and amused onlookers cracking jokes about the baby beating me and how I would have crushed the whole field if I had ditched the stroller. It was hilarious to me that they were so impressed with my 30 minute stroller run. Allison actually did perform impressively and took 3rd woman overall.

 

Allison and I post-race
Since Allison had won an award I wanted to stick around and see her get it. I got the baby some pizza and ice cream and she made a mess and ran around like, well, a two year old. While we were waiting the official results went up and my eyes almost bugged out of my head when I saw I’d gotten 3rd in my age group. I finished 52/81 overall and 3/4 in my age group. It’s kind of hard to believe I beat anybody in my current condition but I apparently did.

 

I guess now I should probably actually rest and recover but I’m not good at taking my own advice. I’ll probably just try not to be too stupid and maybe hide all my running friends on Facebook for awhile.

Race Etiquette

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!

Race To The Moon

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.

 

Shane gives me this look often.
We got to meet up with some of the Latrobe Area Pacer Society (LAPS) members that we ‘know’ online but hadn’t actually met yet. A couple people also recognized our shirts and introduced themselves so it was a really nice evening regardless of the wait to start.
LAPS group. Excuse my paler than the moon stomach
Finally we lined up around 9PM. The race director said he wanted to wait for it to get just a little bit darker but everyone was ready to go so we just stood at the line and chatted. There was a 5k and a 5 mile race both running together so I had no idea who my competition was. I figured I would run comfortably to the 5k turn around and then see who was still ahead of me. Of course, easy never happens for me on race day.
The gun went off and people were flying by me left and right. I looked at my Garmin and saw 6:59 pace so I pulled back despite the sprint happening all around me. By a half mile people were settling in and I was able to start passing back most of the runners who had taken off so furiously at the start. I was hoping for an 8:30 pace but my body didn’t want to settle in there. I was either close to 8:00 or close to 9:00 and I couldn’t get in the middle. First mile: 8:17
In the second mile I finally began to feel the pace and zone out. As I approached the 5k turn around I was right behind another woman but she made the turn. I shouted good luck and then looked ahead to see who I could catch. About 100 feet ahead were a man and woman so I focused on reeling them in. Mile 2: 8:33
As I approached the 5 mile turn around I counted people while looking for Shane. I counted 7 men and then Shane. I only saw the same woman ahead of me that I had been trying to catch so far. I couldn’t believe I was in second! I told Shane he was in 8th and we missed our high five. Then I set my sights on the man between me and the first woman. I caught him right as mile 3 beeped in at 8:33.
I asked if I could hang on him for a bit and he said he didn’t mind but he was fading. I could see the glow of the light stick on the woman ahead of me and estimated her to be 45 – 60 seconds ahead of me. I began to put the hammer down but I knew I wouldn’t catch her unless she faded. Mile 4: 8:19
Somewhere in the final mile I lost the man I had been running with. I began to pass the 5k walkers and back-of-the-packers. One guy was running hard and then walking and then repeating. As I passed I yelled “Let’s go, only a half mile!” He hung with me for a bit but dropped off again quickly. I continued to push. My legs had no more to give and I knew my pace was slipping despite the effort. My ragged breathing and aching chest were really starting to hurt but I couldn’t let the women behind me catch up. Finally the finish line was in sight and my Garmin beeped in 5 miles. I hit stop and handed over my bib tag. Mile 5: 8:26
I found Shane and he told me he had finished 8th in 39:56. My official time was 42:13. I was 11th overall and second woman!
Getting my award.
In the end, I’m really happy with my performance and my results. Even though I was suffering I maintained a pretty even pace. I didn’t let the early sprint get the better of me and ruin my race. And I gave every last bit of energy I had to chase down the woman ahead of me. She ended up beating me by 1:01 which means I really didn’t let her gain anymore ground after I set my sights on her. I’m also pretty sure this is a 5 mile PR for me and now I feel really confident about my night running capabilities at Burning River in less than 2 weeks!
Shane and his medal
trophy

Surprise Improvements

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.

 

Alpha Fitness 5k

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!

Our friends
(Shane and Emory in the back. Me, Jennifer, Lukas, Melanie, and Carina in the front.)
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