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

Going South

In the several months I took off from running and blogging (and pretty much everything except working) I went through a lot of changes. The guy I was seeing and I didn’t work out. I jumped jobs AGAIN. The Jeep blew its engine and I traded it in for a Mazda. I guess it was a pretty eventful few months. But it also brought about a lot of wonderful things.

One of which was meeting the kind of guy I never dreamed existed. We clicked from date one… which was amazing considering I was working 13 hour night shifts and skipped about 3 hours of sleep to meet him for lunch. It wasn’t long before we were spending all of our free time hiking, running, going to concerts, and playing in the great outdoors. The only downside was knowing our time was limited. See, he lives 600 miles from me and was only home for the summer. Check reviews on the best folding picnic table for outdoor activities
Even his dog is awesome
When it came time for him to leave we both had trouble saying goodbye. I promised to visit. He was sure I never would. And next thing I know I’m on my way to the Carolinas to spend a four day weekend with him. And it was without a doubt one of the best weekends of my life.
We went bar hopping Friday and I got to meet a few of his acquaintances. Saturday we were up bright and early to cheer on his friends at a CrossFit competition. I have never in my life felt so tiny as I did standing next to the ripped men and women of Carolina CrossFit. I am certain I looked like an idiot walking around with a huge grin on my face the whole time. I forgot how much fun it is to cheer and crew for athletes. (Which reminds me that I should really volunteer for a race soon.)
I may never be this much of a beast
After the competition it was time for our own workout. A nice 5 mile trail loop was a joy to run. It was flat, well groomed, and fairly scenic…. except for the 90 degree temps and the raging humidity. For the second time that day I was humbled as an athlete. It only reinforced my desire to get back in shape and be able to keep up with my boy and his friends. Then we had dinner with one of his running partners and her boyfriend. She is training for the Chicago marathon and kept us all laughing with her stories.
Sunday was more of the same. Another trail run in a beautiful park. There were so many things I don’t see in Pennsylvania. Armadillos, huge snails, Spanish moss, and cacti. I loved every minute of our time on the trail. Well, except for when I twisted my ankle on a root. But I do that in PA too. Guess you can’t leave clumsy at home.

 

 

 

 

 

After all the adventures and craziness, we are both still very into making this work. So I guess it’s time for some southern races since I’ll be making the trip fairly often!
Time to start knocking some more states off the list!

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*

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.

Lapped By The Sun – My Burning River 100 Recap

On Friday, July 26, I finished my packing. I missed a few things, like extra batteries, but mostly had everything I expected to need to run 100 miles. My amazing crew filled in the gaps. Then the unexpected happened (like usual). My husband had a doctor appointment that morning and the doctor decided he needed to be hospitalized for testing. All of this happened as I was about to leave. We talked and decided I would still go to the race but my crew would keep my phone on them so I could drop out and drive home if needed. We had lunch together before he went to the hospital and I left for the biggest adventure of my life.

I dropped my youngest daughter off at my mom’s house (my older daughter is staying with my grandmother for a couple weeks on summer break) and then continued on to Ohio. I arrived at the packet pick up at 4:30pm and met my first crew member/pacer, Ed. We had met at North Coast 24 Hour back in April and Ed kindly volunteered to join me from miles 55.5 to 70.6 at Burning River. I received an awesome backpack and bib number 1526 and left my drop bags with the volunteers before I drank a Burning River beer with Ed and Jason (another runner from NC24). There were BR100 shirts for sale but I was afraid it would be like a jinx to buy one before I finished so I waited.

After the mini reunion at the packet pick up, Jason and I decided it would be cheaper to split a room. We both had reservations at the Sheraton by the finish line but he was getting a better deal so we cancelled mine. We dropped off our gear at the room and then headed out with his friend, Christen, for some pizza. By the time we got back to the room and organized all our gear for the 2am wake up call it was almost 10pm. Always a gentleman, Jason took the pull-out couch and I got a giant fluffy bed all to myself. It still wasn’t enough to calm my nerves and between my anxiety and the music from the Rock on the River festival nearby I didn’t get much sleep.
At 2am the alarms started beeping and we began getting ready for the adventure ahead. I wore my INKnBURN phoenix camisole and denim shorts with my Altra Torins and Dirty Girl gaiters. I filled two 20 oz handhelds and put my ‘pace’ tattoo on my forearm. My pace tattoo actually consisted of the mileage between each aid station and the total distance at each, not any projected time. Now it was time to go.

 

The bus from the Sheraton/finish line left at 3am and I took a back seat so I could stretch out and nap on the way. A poptart served as breakfast. I arrived at the Squire’s Castle starting point shortly after 4am and found Ed right away. He said the rest of my crew was on their way and would see me at the first aid station. I found my Altra teammate, Zack, in the crowd and we chatted for awhile in the cool morning. I explored the castle a little bit and then finally just stood in the dark shivering until the start.

 

At 5am we were off. I let people go and tried to hold back on any urge to chase my friends. I saw a friend of mine named John on the first loop around the castle and we chatted for a bit. He looked really good and had a great plan. He took off after a bit and I continued my slow and steady plod. I eventually caught up to two runners I know, Kevin and Danielle, who had similar goals to my own so we stuck together for quite some time. I wasn’t wearing a watch so I depended on them to set our pace.
As we returned to Squire’s Castle 6.2 miles later I saw my other two crew members, Allison and Patrick. I hugged and kissed Allison, dumped my headlamp in Ed’s hands, and grabbed a piece of a granola bar as I headed back out. I averaged a 12:34 pace for that first loop, reaching the castle in 1:17. The next 4.8 miles to Old Mill were uneventful. I continued to run with Kevin and Danielle and we were faster than expected but feeling comfortable so we continued on. The first 26 miles are mostly road so I figured they would be faster. We hit Old Mill in 2:26 and didn’t stay long. If I remember correctly Kevin said we spent 57 seconds at the aid station. Nice!
The third aid station, Polo Fields, was a crew access point. I saw my friends again and assured them I was doing great. Patrick shoved as many calories as he could at me and Allison offered encouragement while Ed filled my handheld. I just kept thanking them over and over. It was amazing what a difference it made knowing I would see them in a certain number of miles. It also started a steady drizzle at this point that would last most of the daylight hours.

 

Around the next aid station, Harper Ridge, I realized Mother Nature had decided to send me a visitor. This seems to be a common occurence during big events for me so I was prepared. At mile 26.2, Shadow aid station, I saw my crew again and got some supplies and changed my shorts, mooning a couple people in the process. I also changed into my trail shoes. Now the real challenges would begin on the trail section. I knew from my training runs that it was going to be muddy and sloppy. I finished my first marathon of the day in 5:33.
I wouldn’t see my crew again until mile 41.7 so I just kept plodding. I ate and drank and chatted with lots of other runners. We thanked our lucky stars for the overcast skies and light rain. I reached Oak Grove, mile 41.7, in 9:38. I was still feeling great and having a blast and I was now running with a woman, Karen, who was working her way through the midwest grand slam. It was really fun to listen to her stories and learn more about habitual hundred milers.

 

At Oak Grove I hung out for awhile with my crew and ate lots and lots of food. Everyone commented on how great I still looked and how well I was running. Looking back I wonder if we jinxed it here. I wouldn’t see my crew again for 24 miles until mile 65.7. I was still having a blast and enjoying the company of my friends, Anne and Greg, along the trail. It was really awesome to have so many friends running about the same pace so we saw eachother often.
Leaving Oak Grove our little band ran together and chatted happily as we headed for Ottawa Point, mile 46.4. When we reached my drop bag there I thought about changing my socks but the workers told me the next section was muddy so I figured I would just wait. I’m glad I didn’t waste the time because it would have been absolutely pointless. The next 9 miles were relentless ankle deep mud and standing water with no breaks. I lost Greg, Anne, and Karen on this section. I discovered once again that I suck at running in mud and I lost a ton of time.
It was all I could do to stay upright. I clung to trees and bushes on the downhills, tearing up my hands and arms. I did the bear crawl, hands and feet on the ground with my butt in the air, on the uphills just trying to avoid sliding back down. It took me 1 hour and 38 minutes to cover the 4 miles from Ottawa to Snowville and I was just about mentally broken. I was screaming obscenities at the mud and barely moving by the time I hit mile 50.4 and I still had a muddy 5.1 miles to the Boston Store where I would pick up Ed as my first pacer.
I hit the Boston Store, mile 55.5, in 14:36. I had estimated 13 hours so I was really starting to worry. Not to mention my average pace for that section was about 2 miles per hour. Visions of those three dreaded letters, DNF, started to race through my head and I tried my hardest to pull myself together at the Boston Store aid station. I crammed candy, broth, noodles, and every high calorie item I could gather into my face and drank a few cups of ginger ale to help it settle before Ed and I headed out.
As we searched for the trail for the next aid station we came across a group of other runners that were also confused. There was a three way split in the trail and no markers on any of them. Ed ran up and down several but couldn’t find any markers. I could see the aid station glistening in the dark on the other side of a meadow but I knew we were supposed to loop around about 4 miles before we got there. I decided to run over and ask a volunteer to get me back on track but a volunteer spotted us first and ran across the meadow to meet me halfway. He ran with us back to where we had gone off track at a poorly marked turn onto a side trail hidden by tall grasses and we set off in the right direction but had added about a mile to an already long run.

 

We made it to the Pine Lane aid station at mile 59.4 in 15:56. It was just getting to be full dark and my spirits were reviving knowing that I would see Patrick and Allison again at the next stop and we could take care of my sore feet. The next 6.3 miles to Ledges Shelter were mostly road and a paved bike path. Ed and I ran as much as we could until disaster struck. Around 100k I was running pretty well up the bike path when something in the back of my right knee got really tight and then just popped. I went from running to clutching my knee and sobbing in the span of two strides. Ed kept me moving forward though and dealt with my on and off crying jags when I would stumble over a rock or root and send shooting pain through my knee. We finally made the 65.7 aid station and Allison and Patrick were waiting.
They helped me up onto a table and Allison got me new socks and shoes while Patrick did some kind of ART/massage work on my knee. Ed refilled my bottles and kept me calm throughout the process. All around the aid station there were runners wrapped in blankets on the tables and floor. It looked like a war zone hospital. I ate everything my crew told me to and took two Tylenol and then rushed out of there. I knew it was too tempting to stay somewhere warm with so many people who had seen the end of their race. Thankfully whatever Patrick had done to my knee fixed the problem and I was running again. The crying jags were over and I could refocus on the task at hand. I also found out that Shane had texted and he was home from the hospital. It seemed like a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
I’m not sure what time we made it to Pine Hollow, mile 70.6. There are no splits listed for me here. But Allison took over pacing and I was really excited to spend more time with her. She has become an awesome friend since we decided to undertake my journey at BR together. It was only 3 miles to the next aid station and it passed in a blur. She fed me something every half hour on the dot. Gu, gel, ShotBloks, etc all went in at prescribed intervals but my stomach was starting to rebel.

 

Frequent bathroom breaks at convenient trees were eating into my overall pace and I began to worry about cutoffs once again. At the Covered Bridge aid station, 79.6 miles, I knew I was facing the last really tough section called Perkins Loop. I was just over 23 hours into my adventure and I was about to face my biggest fear. Allison shoved some sandwich squares and other items at me and I did my best to choke them down. I was forced to take Endurolytes and some salt. I knew Allison and the aid station crew were doing their best for me but my upset stomach was convincing me that it might just be sabotage.
As we headed out on the Perkins Loop the mud returned and so did my demons. I choked back tears and more obscenities. I swore on every holy thing I could think of that I would never do another mud run, obstacle race, or muddy trail run ever again. I became convinced that mud was the most evil thing on earth. And the bathroom breaks continued to eat away at my shrinking cushion of time.
When we popped out of the loop at mile 84.3, the Oak Hill aid station, I told Allsion
my stomach needed a break from food. She agreed it was worth a try and we covered the 2.4 miles to Howe Meadow at the fastest run I had managed in quite some time. I ended up regaining 25 minutes of cushion between myself and the cutoffs. Patrick and Ed were concerned that I had stopped eating but Allison assured them it was the right decision as I had made the whole 2.4 miles without a stop. I took advantage of the rest room at the aid station and drank a little bit of calories and then headed out again.

 

There was a simple water-only pile of jugs for the ‘aid station’ known as Botsum and it indicated I had passed the 90 mile point. This section was mostly towpath and I had pretty much stopped taking in anything by mouth. Allison would open a gel, eat half herself, and then force me to nurse the rest during a walk break. We continued to run as much as I could but I don’t think my run was much faster than my power walk by that point. All that mattered was staying ahead of the cutoffs.
At the Merriman aid station Allsion told Patrick her back was becoming sore so Patrick threw on some running shoes and joined me for the last push to the finish despite the fact he was never intended to pace me. I can’t thank him enough for all he did on those last sections. Just knowing that I was running next to a Western States finisher forced me to suck it up and push harder.
The last aid station, Memorial at 96.2, had a bathroom so I took advantage one last time so I could push hard to the finish. Patrick picked out some saltines and a cup of Coke and forced me to eat them on the fly. He also noted that the volunteers hadn’t even had to top off my water bottle and I must not be drinking so he began reminding me to take a sip every 10 or so minutes.

 

The last section had a good bit of hiking trail that also held multiple sets of stairs. I had been throwing fits about how Ohio can’t just leave good enough alone and has to carve stairs into every hillside for the last 12+ hours already and these were tough to stomach. The last half of this race has probably 20 or more sets of stairs, most consisting of 20-65+ stairs and almost all of them were slippery with mud by this point. Each time I crested a set of stairs I kept hoping to see the road to the finish emerge. I could hear intermittant cheers but we were headed away from them and one last low spot set in.
I power hiked along a power line trail while Patrick forced me to eat a gel. He kept telling me about how I would forget how much it hurt and I would be able to run hard as soon as I could see the finish. I tried to focus on what he was telling me and keep my walk as fast as possible while promising to run as soon as we found pavement.
I had forgotten that the final road section starts out with an uphill. Patrick allowed me to hike it really hard instead of run but pulled me into a run as we headed towards the last uphill. As we crested it I could see the Sheraton where I had been sleeping only 32 hours before and the finish line beyond it. I could also see another woman walking with her crew just a hundred feet ahead or so ahead of me. Patrick told me we were going to catch her and pass her and so we did.
As we neared the last intersection I began to speed up. I finally felt like I was really running again. The volunteers stopped traffic so I could cross to the finish line without breaking stride and Allison and Ed were standing at the finish line waiting. The screams and applause were overwhelming and I began to choke up. I forced back my tears as I crossed to the timing clock but as soon as I saw the volunteer with my buckle on a ribbon I lost it. My official time was 29:30:42.

 

I sobbed and hugged my crew and my friends. We took a picture with all of us at the clock and then I hugged everyone some more while I cried. My friend, Anne, had gotten off track around 71 miles and ended up missing a cutoff but she went to the finish and waited for me anyway. My heart was so full at seeing her there that it almost burst. My friend Greg had finished 45 minutes ahead of me and he hobbled over to give me a hug and congratulations. Total strangers were hugging me and shaking my hand and giving me high fives. I have never felt as loved and supported as I did at that moment.
As soon as I calmed down my crew walked me to the tent to get a coffee and a breakfast burrito and then we sat on the edge of a fountain and talked while I ate. Allison presented me with a card that made me cry all over again and I tried to process that I really had just covered 101 miles (plus a bonus mile) on foot. It was completely surreal.

 

Ed gathered my drop bags from the trailer, while Patrick gave me a pep talk on recovery, and Allison just kept telling me how awesome I am. I just kept thanking them over and over. I could never have done it without them and I owe them more than I could ever explain. I don’t know if I can ever repay them but I do know that we now share an unbreakable bond forged over almost 30 hours of sleep deprivation, blood, sweat, and tears.

 

As I drove home (yes, I drove 2.5 hours home after I finished) I was barraged by texts, Facebook comments, tweets, and messages. When I got home I read everything and did my best to respond to everyone. I also found out there was a four page thread on Running Ahead following my progress and cheering me on. My coach sent me a tear jerking string of texts telling me how proud she was of me. As I laid in my bed waiting for the cramps and muscle spasms to ease enough to let me nap I choked back more tears realizing just how many people actually cared whether or not I succeeded in my journey.
Now, almost 24 hours later, the pain and the details are already fading. It feels like an amazing dream but the buckle hanging on my wall tells me differently. At this point I’m unsure as to whether or not I will do this again. I’m registered for the Oil Creek 100 in October but both Patrick and Allison are running as well. I’m tempted to just crew and maybe pace for them instead of running. And Ed may go back to North Coast 24 Hour in September which would be a great opportunity for me to volunteer and pay back the running community for some of the support they’ve given me. So now I recover and set my sights on my third Baker 50   mile finish so I can complete my medal. It’s almost unbelievable that a year of training, planning, and dreaming is over in the blink of an eye (or several thousand blinks more likely)!

 

Apres Moi Le Deluge

This isn’t really running related besides the fact that it’s interfering with my running. But I think we all understand how the weather can affect us and our communities and bring unexpected disaster. The last few weeks my tiny town has been drenched by heavy rains and thunder storms. Despite living near the river we rarely have flooding but this summer it’s not the river that’s the problem.

It’s the sheer volume of water that’s been dropped on such a small area.

Driving out to the main road.

 

The road to our house.
Water shooting out from the underground lines

 

End of the road
The creek under our running trail

 

The drainage ditches can’t handle it

 

Playground or pool?

 

Even the trees can’t handle any more

 

Storm damage on our trail
I’m not really sure what the point of this post is besides wanting to share my sorrow. I’ve lived in this town for about as long as I’ve ever lived anywhere now. Our family is here, our friends are here, our running trail is here. Everything safe and familiar has been turned upside down. Every time I hear a clap of thunder in the distance I shudder and wait for the next downpour that will bring more devastation. I honestly don’t understand how the surrounding towns are escaping with little more than wet basements while we are bearing the worst of every storm but the rain can’t last forever. And so we wait for the sun.

Taper Time

What do you do when the work is done and now it’s a waiting game? Enjoy it!

Ash at the splash pad
Ash’s first concert, where she played with sticks
Visiting the ruins in Dead Man’s Hollow on an easy run
Eating right so I can run well

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

Love the Run

Recently I was asked, “Do you love where you live for running?” I wanted to respond with a resounding NO. I dream about living in Colorado or California and running in the mountains. I imagine being trapped between the mountains and the sea so I can run along both. I want altitude and heat and technical trails.

And then I realized…. A lot of people would love to live (and run) right where I’m at. So I decided to capture why western Pennsylvania and, especially our little slice of the Yough River, is so cool.

How many places can you run for tens of miles and catch glimpses like this the entire way?

Where else can I appreciate the destructive beauty of an acid mine drainage waterfall?

I eagerly anticipate the day I catch a glimpse of the beavers who built this dam.

I can run 10 miles and treat myself to an icy treat and then run back, all without touching a road.
And as Independence Day approaches I am reminded just how much history lies in these lands. In this ancient, forgotten cemetery lies soldiers of both the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Alongside them lay the family members who suffered through food shortages, loss of their men, disease, and war.
Some monuments remain tall while others are broken or missing completely.
Margaret E. aged 1 year, 1 month, and 10 days.
List of the soldiers from both wars interred here.
Yes, it’s true. Pennsylvania is a beautiful place to live and run. It doesn’t change my desire to explore far off places but it does remind me just how lucky I am to have all of this just outside my back door.

Wordless Wednesday

Well, I actually have a word for what I found in my mailbox today….

Something along the lines of YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!
I also have a word for what I almost ran over on my first run in my new ‘The One’ shoes too…
But it’s not really appropriate for here.

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.)
Got trophy?
Swag

Laurel Highlands Ultra Relay

A couple weeks ago my friends posted on Facebook that they were looking for a few more runners for the Laurel Highlands Ultra Relay. The Laurel Ultra is a 70.5 mile race on a wilderness trail with difficult footing, steep grades, logs, rocks, and mud. There are 8 aid stations along the course, four of which are checkpoints and relay exchanges. So of course I volunteered!

Friday night I drove out to Seven Springs and found the condo where our teams would be staying. We had ended up with enough people to form two teams. John, Kam, Alisa, Sunshine, and I were to make up Team 1. Mike, Steph, Kelly, Rob, and Michelle were to make up Team 2. Relay runners who were not currently running were going to volunteer at the 26 mile aid station.

When I arrived at the condo I found out that Michelle had not been able to make it. Some quick restructuring led to the decision that Mike would run leg 1 and 5 for their team. We also decided that I would be the transport person since I was the anchor runner for my team.

So after an awesome potluck dinner and some beers I hit the sack around 10PM. Mike and John woke me up around 4 or 4:30am and I dressed in my Altra tank, INKnBURN shorts, and Altra Torins. We headed out to drop off Mike’s car at the first relay exchange point (mile 19.3) and then I drove them to the starting line. I picked up the bibs and shirts for the rest of our runners and then watched the 5:30am race start. I saw a couple friends and chatted for a bit before heading back to the condo. I picked up coffee on the way which was surprisingly okay for gas station brew.

The coffee did the trick and everyone was up and moving shortly after my return to the condo. Alisa and Sunshine loaded our van to set up the 26 mile aid station while I followed Kam and Steph to the second relay exchange point (32.3 miles) to leave their car and then drove them back to the first checkpoint to wait for John and Mike. Thankfully I got them there just in the knick of time! John crushed the first leg, finishing at about 10am. Mike wasn’t far behind coming in around 10:30.

view from the road to Laurel Mountain summit

 

Leg 1 elevation profile

I rushed back to follow Kelly to the third exchange to leave her car and then drive her and Alisa to their starting point. Once again our runners were rocking and their relief didn’t have to wait long. I drove back to the aid station where Mike asked if I would run two legs instead of one. I agreed and we decided Rob would run my 5th leg for Team 1 and I would run legs 4 and 5 for Team 2.

Leg 2 elevation profile
I was suddenly out of time now that there wasn’t another leg between me and my run. I rushed to the exchange point and then helped patch up incoming solo runners until Kelly arrived. I grabbed two handhelds, one with Gatorade and one with water, and headed out to tackle leg 4.
A runner I helped out at mile 46
Leg 3 elevation profile
The trail is almost entirely single track and technical. I took one good tumble about a mile into my first leg. The runner behind me let out a little curse and hurried to make sure I was okay. It must have looked pretty epic but I was okay aside from some scrapes. I averaged right around a 13 minute mile and arrived at the last relay point in around 2:20. My team had dumped my bag at the checkpoint with a headlamp in it so I quickly stuffed my arm warmers and one handheld in the bag and took the light with me. I talked to Rob, who was waiting for Sunshine, quickly and then headed out again.
Scraped up
Leg 4 elevation profile
I once again maintained about a 13 minute per mile average until it started to get dark. As the shadows lengthened it became harder to see the rocks and I began twisting my ankles more and more. I let fear get the better of me because I’m not willing to get injured before Burning River 100 so I slowed to a walk. A couple times I tried to run again but I’d quickly slip or trip and decide it wasn’t worth it. I averaged about a 19 minute mile over the last 4 miles.
Beautiful and brutal single track
Leg 5 elevation profile
I finally popped out at the finish line where I found Sunshine waiting for me. We ate some chili and chatted with other runners until Rob finished about 15 minutes later. All total I ran about 24.5 miles in 5:52. Sunshine drove Rob and I back to Rob’s car at the last exchange point and then Rob drove me back to my car. I was a little sad to say goodbye to the last of my teammates but I was ready to go home.
Finding this on the back of my Jeep this morning did help though:
Overall, I’d say it was a good day. I had about 50+ miles on my legs going into this relay and I only expected to run about a half marathon. Being able to handle the unexpected bonus miles made me feel really good about my current fitness level. And I have to say my first relay experience has left me ready for more. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again!
Shirt

Treadmill Troubles

As a mom of two and wife of a night shift worker, not to mention Pennsylvania native, I am often confined to the treadmill. This week was the end of my poor hamster wheel though. *insert sad face here*

Between Shane and I the treadmill has survived 3,500 miles of pounding in just three years. Sometime last night it decided to expire. I called the manufacturer and took off the hood to access the insides. What I found was complete carnage. Our newly replaced drive belt is already fraying apart. The roller pins are bent, almost broken. The walking belt is destroyed and ready to break at any moment. And the electronics are going haywire. It only turns on every few tries and in between it flashes random numbers and words, even while in the off position.

 Little pieces of our new drive belt everywhere.
Bent roller and more shredded belt.
So now we are relegated to outside running or no running at all while we search for an industrial strength treadmill that won’t break our budget. Hopefully we will find one soon!
In the meantime, the outdoors is offering up challenges of its own. Oh boy!

Trail Adventures

Taken on the trails of Boyce Park. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Glacier Ridge Trail 30k

My coach and I chose the GRT as my last long run before North Coast. I had pictures of a sunny day, a light breeze, and runnable trails in my head. My reality was somewhat different.

The weather was cool, drizzling on and off, and windy. I changed my outfit at the last minute (literally, I probably flashed half the field) to capris, a tee, and a jacket. I wished I had brought gloves but I hadn’t thought I would need them after a week of 70+ degree weather.

I pulled into Moraine State Park right at 8am and collected my bag, shirt, bib, and chip. I threw the swag bag and shirt in my car and visited the restrooms. Then we lined up and off we went!

I was excited and happy at first. We were on the pavement for about 100 yards and then turned onto a crushed gravel path. It was easy running and I was holding back at just below 10 minutes per mile. People were blowing past me but I figured I would catch a good many of them later in the race. Then I hit the first mud pit and all my hopes for a good day flew right out the window.

Swag
For the next 9 miles I slipped and slid and walked and tried to gingerly pick my way around the above-the-ankle deep pits. Sometimes it was a quarter mile of mud, a small runnable section (like 100 feet), and then more mud. I gave up on picking my way around and just began sloshing through. My feet were freezing and felt weighted down. By the time I hit the turn-around at 10 miles I was wishing I had stayed in bed.
Elevation profile from the back of the shirt
After the turn-around the runners took a shortcut back to the trail we’d run out on. The short cut was in good shape and I began to hope that the return trip would be nicer than the out section, at least for awhile. My relief was short lived as the shortcut trail linked back to the main trail in less than a mile. It was back to mud and puddles.
I began to get really depressed and feel like this was never going to end. I ranJust A Short Run 30k in 3:07 just two weeks ago. Today I was only 13 miles in at that time. I was freezing, miserable, and probably surly. I just wanted to be DONE!
My shoes post-GRT
As I got closer to the beginning/finish and began to recognize landmarks I had passed on the way out I increased my pace but it didn’t do much with having to walk every muddy hill. Finally I broke out onto the gravel path and then the blessed pavement and I was free! I crossed the line in 4:40 according to my Garmin. I collected my medal and quickly headed for my car to drive home shoe-less with the heat blasting!
medal
Official times and photos will probably take a few days since the 50k and 50 mile won’t be finished until later so I will update when I have those! For now I’m just glad I survived!

A Sordid Tale

If you noticed, my last post was taken down after a day. If you didn’t notice… well that’s okay too.

I feel like I’m living in a bad reality TV show, maybe a daytime soap. Things like this just don’t happen in real life, right? Before I get ahead of myself, let me just start at the beginning.

A little over 2 years ago Shane and I went to a volunteer clean up for a conservation area near our home. We spent an entire day mending and painting fences, signs, and benches. We cut apart fallen trees to clear the trails and picked up litter. It was at this event that we met the president of the Mon-Yough Trail Council (MYTC) and pitched our idea for a race on the trail.

Fast forward a few months and our dream became a reality. Team Brunazzi teamed up with the MYTC to create what is now known as the Boston Trail 5k & Half Marathon. About this time Shane and I began experiencing our first ‘trolls’ but we quickly realized it was just one person who seemed bound and determined to find ways into our lives.

Since the first year of this race Shane and I have been targeted by this person. Fake Facebook accounts pop up and add us as friends or ‘like’ our event pages and then start complaining about the event or trying to sabotage our relationships with other community-minded people. We realize the pages are fakes when this happens (and the name on the account was never a registered participant at the event, etc). In the past we have always reacted by ‘unfriending’ the account and moving on.

Now a line has been crossed. This person created a Facebook page for the Mon-Yough Trail Council after last year’s race. No one realized it was not created by the MYTC and the Brunazzi family and many of our friends ‘liked’ the page. The page pretended to be the real MYTC for almost a year, posting about upcoming events, council meetings, and the like.

At one point the page sent Shane a message asking him to submit an article for the MYTC newsletter. Shane spent hours writing and rewriting his article and then sent it off to the trail council by snail mail. Because he sent it to the true MYTC the article was published (without them questioning why he sent it) and we never questioned that the page that asked Shane to write it was legitimate.

This false sense of security in the false MYTC page almost cost us our relationship with the council. A few days ago Shane created an event page for the Boston Trail race and began inviting friends and family to attend. A few hours later the supposed ‘vice president’ of the MYTC used the Facebook page to ask us to take down the event page stating that we couldn’t advertise the race because it’s ‘not ours’ and their sponsor wouldn’t like it.

Shane apologized and took down the event page but questioned why free publicity was suddenly frowned upon. In years past we have bought banners and signs (with our own funds) to promote the race and never been asked to take them down. The response was that Shane and I are ‘arrogant’ and use the race to promote ourselves instead of the MYTC and should leave the race to the professionals. We quickly retaliated by asking our friends and family NOT to attend the race. Of course we were angry, justifiably so, but we were also wrong.

The next day I spoke with the true MYTC board members and learned that the Facebook page was false. We were stunned to say the least. For over a year we had been duped and sabotaged unknowingly. This person managed to set it up to look like the real MYTC by asking Shane to submit the article which was then published. They posted about every event and meeting diligently just like the true council would. Never once did we doubt the authenticity of the page, until it almost ruined an outstanding event.

We quickly apologized to everyone for the mix up and took down our posts about it. This led to the next deception. The person behind all of this obviously had access to Shane and I’s personal Facebook pages. The messages we received referred to posts we had made on our private accounts so we began to hunt for ‘suspect’ friends. We unfriended dozens of pages and people simply because they didn’t have mutual friends or we didn’t know them on any personal level. We began to feel a little more secure in our online world again but it was short lived.

You may remember Shane and I’s first ‘Team Brunazzi’ event, the Boston Harvest 5k, from last year. It benefits a little boy, named Rex, in our community who suffers from Batten’s Disease. We had the pleasure of meeting many family members and friends of Rex at the event and some of them became our Facebook friends too. One of these ‘people’ claimed to be Rex’s grandmother.

For the last year ‘she’ has been privy to our private Facebook pages and all of our posts. ‘She’ has commented on our events and ‘updated’ us on Rex. But today we found out ‘she’ is not real. We spoke to Rex’s family and mentioned this ‘grandmother’ and quickly realized it’s another fake page. The Brunazzi stalker strikes again.

Right now we are just blown away by the length of time, the amount of planning that went into the fake MYTC and ‘grandmother’ pages, and the amount of hate that must be behind such an effort. So I hope you will forgive us if we are not as active or open as we would normally be online. Until the investigation into these matters is completed and the person behind it is facing legal consequences we won’t be very trusting.

Not to fear, however, there will still be race reports, running pictures, and some product reviews coming up. There just will be no updates on our personal or charitable lives. We need to protect ourselves, our children, and our events. I’m sure you understand!

Thank you and love you! <3 p=””>

Take a Tumble

Well, I did it. I went and made life more complicated! Endorphin Mom is now on tumblr! I guess I just love my social media. It’s not like I have much time for a real social life anyway.

But I do go on some cool adventures right?! So join me at endorphinmom.tumblr.com and don’t forget to follow Altra’s tumblr here.There you can see my first tumblr post (it’s me running on a bridge) and leave me some love so I can impress my new shoe love for Valentine’s Day!

Speaking of which, here’s a great video from Altra on how to break up with your old shoes. I had this conversation with mine back in October. It wasn’t easy but I had to follow my heart. 😉

 

Week in Review: Week 8

Two months down already! I can’t believe I’ll be starting to taper for Shamrock in just another month or so! This week was a great week aside from the dog incident. I also got in some fun on the trails so I have some pictures to make this a little less boring.

Shane decided to jump a stream instead of taking the bridge

Monday: 4.5 miles of hill work. 10 minute warm up, 5 minutes at 8% incline, 2 minutes at 4% incline, repeat. Really happy with how much easier the hills are becoming! I actually forgot I was on 8% at one point and tried to increase it!

Taking a tree over the water

Tuesday: 50 minute tempo run. 7.25 miles. I actually didn’t feel like this was tempo effort. Guess I’m getting faster!

Sleep running? 🙂

Wednesday: 7.25 miles of 9:1 run/walk. Not much to say about this workout.

I took the bridge

Thursday: 6.5 miles including 8 x 400m repeats. I really surprised myself by being able to complete this one at the prescriped paces.

Shane stopped to do pull-ups during the run

Friday: This is the day I was jumped on by the dog. It should have been a repeat of Wednesday. Instead it ended up being 1.14 miles on the trail and 1.86 miles on the treadmill to make 3 miles total.

Horses!

Saturday: 18 mile long run. I had to break up my long run because Shane’s parents were watching the girls. I ran 15 miles in South Park and then ran the 3 miles home from his parent’s house to our house.

Tiny Shane but pretty trees

Sunday: This was scheduled to be a rest day but since Friday got so messed up I went ahead and did 3.5 miles of 9:1 run/walk. It felt fine which I was pretty excited about the day after a long run!

Total: 50 miles in under 9 hours of running! Woah!

Hey Dog Owners!

I have two dogs if you didn’t already know that. I love our two mutts and because I love them I take care of them. One of our two is a rescue. She appears to be mixed with beagle and she will run like one if she gets away. One time she went to chase a rabbit, tangled my legs in the leash knocking me to the ground, and ran nose-to-ground for over a mile before I caught her. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.

Our Scoops
Our second dog is a purebred miniature dachshund. She is the sweetest, funniest, most cuddly dog I’ve ever met. She sleeps with me every night and she’s always either with my kids, my husband, or myself. I couldn’t imagine life without her now.
Lily
And that’s what makes what happened today so horrific to me. I will start at the beginning and see if I can write this without being a total bitch. (Yes, I’m swearing today. I am that upset.)
This morning Shane asked if I’d like to do my run before he went to bed. This meant two things: 1) I would be able to run outside. 2) I would actually run while it was still daylight. I, of course, said yes and ate breakfast quickly before donning my warm gear to brave the 20-ish degree temps.
I headed out the door and down to the recreational trail. I did everything right. I had only one earbud in and my music was turned down so low that I had no problem hearing everything around me. I eased into my first mile at about a 10 minute pace. My plan was to use 9:1 run/walks to reach 7-8 miles at an easy pace today. I hit the 1 mile mark at 10:36 after my first walk break and was feeling good. I was just settling into my second run interval when I heard it.
A terrifying snarl which was coming from directly behind my right shoulder. I barely had time to turn my head before the dog plowed into my back at full speed. Only my momentum from running kept me on my feet as I hurtled forward struggling desperately to turn towards the dog so I could defend myself. The dog ricocheted off my back and to my right landing on his feet and taking off through a yard beside the trail. I struggled to catch my breath, worrying the dog was going to return at any second, and decided that I would follow his tracks in the snow to see where he went so I could give the owner a piece of my quaking mind.
This is the dog that attacked me.
I followed the dog through one yard before losing sight of him but I did get a good look at him. Brown and brindle with a bandana on his neck…. NOT a stray! The woman who’s yard I was walking through had heard me scream and let me inside quickly after I explained what had happened. She told me the dog had been walking around her house all day and she was afraid to let her own dog out because of it. We discussed it and decided the police needed to intervene.
A few minutes later two officers arrived on scene. They tucked me into a cruiser and we went in search of the dog. It only took a minute to find him a few houses over. The officers knocked on several doors but no one claimed the dog. Animal Control arrived but the dog wouldn’t let them get close enough to catch him. They finally had to give up and an officer drove me home since I was now too afraid to run back.
When I got home I posted on my Facebook page about the incident and a description of the dog. It turns out the dog had been lost just a week or two ago and the picture above had been circulating until he was found and returned to the owner. A friend suggested it was the same dog and I identified it easily as the one that had ruined my run and taken the feeling of safety I have on my home trail.
Shortly after that someone commented on my post that the dog is a ‘sweetheart’ and just likes to run with people. And this is where I get PISSED! A dog is a responsibility like a child or a weapon. It is the owner’s responsibility to take care of the dog and protect other people from said dog. There are leash laws and control laws that this owner has broken, at least twice now since the dog was already running loose just a few weeks ago.
I have NO WAY of knowing that the dog did not intend to hurt me. Had I been elderly or had my children with me or one of my own dogs along someone could have been hurt! The trail is covered in a thin layer of snow and ice packed hard from repeated trampling. Being hit behind by a 40-50 pound dog could seriously harm a young child, elderly adult, or cyclist. And no matter the dog’s intention the owner was nowhere to be found to call it off or control it.
The dog is obviously not friendly enough to allow police officers or animal control officers to approach it. It did not try to run with me or ‘play’ with me after it struck me. If this is the owner or dog’s idea of playfulness they are WAY off base. This dog ATTACKED. It saw a moving target and went after it.
So the moral of the story is that I will be carrying a weapon from now on. I will be carrying pepper spray and an emergency whistle as well. And should I encounter another loose dog (or human attacker, God forbid) I will not hesitate to use force. The owners of this dog should know that the next time I encounter this dog off of a leash it won’t come home in one piece and I will press charges.
To all other dog owners out there: Be responsible for your pet. Just because they have never hurt anyone or ‘just want to play’ doesn’t mean that they won’t accidentally (or purposely) hurt someone if you aren’t in control of them. If you let your dog off leash in areas where it is illegal or if your dog continually escapes your home/yard and you are not correcting the problem then YOU are the problem. You should give your dog to a home that will keep them safe and protect the general public as well. To the responsible dog owners, thank you for setting a good example! Also check the best outdoor & indoor rabbit hutch, which can be used for bunnies, dogs, cats,…
Have you had an encounter with a dog? What was your reaction and was the owner there?