Race Schedule

2015 Races…TBD!

Sept 20: Xterra Trail Run Nationals 21k - Ogden, UT

Monday, December 28, 2009

Screw Shoes!

Literally, screw shoes! That's Geof, above, installing the screws in an old pair of my Brooks Cascadia trail shoes.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and hooked myself up with a pair of handcrafted screw shoes :) I read over Matt Carpenter's Screw Shoe article to make sure I got it right the first time. After lounging around inside most of the day on Saturday, watching the snow fall the entire day (and opting for a treadmill run rather than one outside...I know, I know), Geof and I marched over to the Ace Hardware near our apartment and bought a box of 3/8" sheet metal screws. I brought one of my Cascadias with just to make sure the screws weren't too short or too long. Oh, and I went with the hex head sheet metal screws (very important distinction!).

Back at home, I set about trying to figure out how I was going to get the screws in my shoes as we don't own a power drill. After watching me attempt a couple different things, Geof jumped in and took over. Phew :) Geof used a ratchet screwdriver and got them all in in no time. Much faster and easier than a regular screwdriver!

Shazam! Screw shoes:

Now it was time to test them out. Sunday, we lazed around quite a bit, then finally got out the door around 2:00. It was still snowing! This would be the perfect weather to test out my shoes in. It was about a 1/2 mile (give or take) of exposed pavement the whole run so there wasn't a ton of beating on the nails. Once on the lakefront path, it was smooth sailin'! It hadn't been plowed yet, but there had been a good bit of traffic, so the snow was matted down pretty well. But it was just enough that my screw shoes came in handy, especially on the icey, snow covered curves going around the Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium. Handy little suckers!

We did a few loops around a snow covered Northerly Island, and really enjoyed the scenery, especially since we both finally warmed up and were feeling good. We discovered that the Chicago Park District is set up in the old Meigs Field airport building (which is what Northerly Island once was) and they rent out snowshoes and cross country skis apparently. Lots of cool old photos hung on the walls showing original city plans and photos of how it once looked in the area. Now it's fuzzy, but I think we did four laps around the Island, but definitely three. I felt much more confident with my screw shoes and didn't do nearly as much over-compensation, anticipating slick areas. What a difference that makes!

All told, we ended up with our planned 2 hours running, and a little over 11 miles. I felt really good most of the time, and only had a single twinge on each ankle the entire time. I'm not complaining :) I think I'll give that laser therapy another try this week if I can get in to see Dr. Heddles at Active Body Chiropractic again.

If you're contemplating the screw shoes, I highly recommend giving them a try. I'm sure most of you have a pair of old running shoes laying around the house :) It's a cheap way to feel a little safer out there during your icy wintery runs. Plus, it's easy to do!

Crash, out.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Poopstacle Course!

Yesterday, Geof and I went out for a late morning run along the lakefront, and were greeted by a most curious sight...poop, everywhere! The snow and ice melted from last weeks barage of random weather, and revealed a veritable poop graveyard. I should mention it was all goose poop :) It didn't stop at the lakefront, it was populating much of the path that wound around Northerly Island, too. Good grief!

I'm glad I opted to squeeze in one more run in my current Brooks Glycerin's before retiring them for the new pair :) It was caked in there like it was built into the cushioning! Suffice it to say, the run was glorious! The weather was cool, hovering around 30 degrees and a little breezy. We wound around the path, heading south, ran a loop around Northerly Island, and then headed back towards home to do 8 reps of our favorite set o' stairs. My ankles and heels held up just fine, and they didn't say a word during the stair session.

Speaking of, I saw my rockin' doc last Wednesday and he confirmed my assumptions: tendonitis. It's peroneal tendonitis on my left leg, and posterior tibial tendonitis on my right leg. Maybe a touch of the posterior tib on my right as well, but nothing like it is on the right. So, that said, I begin PT (!!!) tomorrow evening with a new PT, Brendan, at Athletico. Geof is seeing the same guy right now for his ankle ailment and loves the results he's gotten. Dr. N gave him his seal of approval so I'm looking forward to getting this resolved. Meantime, I've been doing my glute/hip exercise he showed me so I can start strengthening those suckers. I also bought 1lb. ankle weights to wear when I do the exercise (basically, lay on your side against a wall...butt, heel and shoulders need to be touching the wall...and you raise your top leg up, squeezing your glute and hip muscles, then bringing it back down and repeating it x20 on each side. Great little workout!). Knock on wood, this little pain in my arse gets resolved quickly and I get to the root of its evil so that it doesn't come back again!

Backtracking a bit, Saturday, Geof and I drove out to Deer Grove Forest Preserve and met up with some CHUGs for a birthday run for Deanna. She wanted to do 34k for her 34th birthday, but when we arrived in Palatine, we were greeted by over a foot of fluffy powder, and once we got started, most of us decided one loop was going to be more than enough! Besides, time on your feet is more important sometimes than mileage itself is :) Since there was so much snow, apparently unexpected, all the entrances to the preserve were closed. Seriously?! So we all met in a parking lot across from an entrance and devised a plan. We were still going to run, goshdarnit! We ended up driving back down Dundee Rd., towards Deer Grove East, parked in the far end of a strip mall parking lot, and then ran across the street to the service entrance and then from there we just improvised! We had no idea where we were in the preserve, but we turned right on a hunch. Where the snow plowing ended, it was hard to tell if we could go further, but I hopped over the pile of snow and blazed a trail, turning around after a bit to see the rainbow of winter running jackets that was our group, watching to see what I found before following me. It looked cool, their bright jackets against the stark white snow. Much to our delight, it led us directly to the brown loop, which we followed, and were able to hook up with the yellow, 5.4 mile, loop eventually. Perfecto! I couldn't believe how well it worked out, as far as navigating went.

The snow was just deep enough, and just uneven enough that the footing was pretty awful. For healthy ankles, no problem, but for my poor ankles I was experiencing a new level of discomfort. After a few usually unremarkable ankle rolls, I was thinking of bailing. Now my ankles were burning whenever the ground was less than perfectly even. Oh for the love, I get it! It really wasn't the best idea I've ever had, but I made it out alive. After almost 2 hours of running we managed to do barely 8 miles...proof positive that snow running ain't no joke!

After a to-die-for brunch at Egg Harbor Cafe in Barrington with Brian and Kelly, we drove home and I immediately started the epsom salt soak, followed by a hot shower, followed by elevating the ol' legs and icing them. Something worked, because there wasn't so much as a twinge during our run on Sunday. So, I repeated the same prescription after Sunday's run as well.

I'm excited to start PT tomorrow :)

Meantime, I'm learning the ways of the iPhone...delighting in all the cool stuff it can do, and comparing my apps with Geof's apps :) With the new year, I plan on tracking all my mileage/workouts in an electronic something-or-other, and my new gadget will come in handy with that!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Crash, out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bumpin'

Dude, seriously, today's morning run was awesome. I don't even have intelligent words to describe just yet, so I'll fill you in on the last few runs first.

Geof and I bundled up eskimo style last Thursday and Friday and headed out into the 3 degree weather for our usual run. Thursday was great, bitter cold, but great. The curve in the path near Oak Street Beach was completely frozen over, so we turned around and took the tunnel under Lake Shore Drive and ran on the sidewalks the rest of the time. Brrr, colllllld!

Friday was pretty much the same, but a little warmer. Five degrees this time. The wind wasn't as bad and we headed south along the path. I was cautious the whole run because it was so icy and snow was covering up ice patches really well. Even though we were running late as it were, we decided to still run stairs at the end. We made our way down the river walk path, towards Columbus Drive (those stairs are great for running up and down). As we neared the stairs, I took my first step all morning without looking first. BAM! I was down on my arse before I could even take a breath. I hit so hard my head bounced on the ground. Geof looked horrified and jumped down to pick me up. We just stood there, I'm crying like a baby and he's hugging me, probably as shocked as I was. All I could muster was, "it bounced!" referring to my melon. I didn't get knocked out, but I felt like I had gotten the crap kicked out of me. We made our way up the stairs, then ran home. No bleeding either. Around 11:30 a.m. I finally decided to get checked out, just in case, and walked down to the nearby urgent care office. All was well, just banged up a bit, and all headachey. Now ice really scares me!

Sunday, Geof and I grabbed brunch with Brian and Kelly out in Barlett, then we all headed over to James Pate Phillips State Park (where Windburn Six in the Stix will be held this coming January!) for an hour run. It was Brian's first run back since Javelina Jundred...6 weeks ago? Yay, Brian, welcome back! It was a warm, but still snowy run and it was a great workout for the calves!

Yesterday's run was very good, with warmer temps, in the 30s. But, this morning, it was even better! It was colder out, but Geof and I were out the door by 6:15 (it's usually more like 7:00 that we finally make it out to run) so it was still dark out. I was super nervous about all the ice along the path, but I did just fine. We did about an hour run, maybe a little less, and on our way back home, Geof suggested doing some fartleks. Ewww, speedwork. Blech.

Okay, let's do it!

We sped up to just enough outside my comfort zone, turning over the legs faster, pumping the arms more, able to feel that I was now workin' it. We held that for 5 minutes, gathered our faculties for one minute, then repeated the faster speed for another 5 minutes. That was it. Simple, and FUN. Oooo, it felt good. It made me realize how slow I really do move when I'm 'comfortable' :-) Then we threw in 10 sets on the stairs before finishing up and heading home.

It felt good, not gonna lie!

Looking forward to the next run already!

Crash, out.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tecumseh Trail Marathon...Did That Just Happen?

Tecumseh CHUGs '09

I decided it was high time to run a marathon. I have a few 50ks, a few 50 milers and that funny little 100-mile run through Vermont. Why not add a marathon to my repertoire? :) In classic CHUG fashion, a bunch of us rallied together and headed down to the thriving metropolis of Nashville, Indiana (just outside of Bloomington) and bunked up at a sweet cabin tucked into the woods of the Morgan-Monroe State Forest (or maybe it was Yellowwood Forest? They're right next to each other). Who'd have thought such a gem existed in Indiana?! I don't spend any time in Indy, nor do I know much about it, other than that interstate 65 is pretty nifty. I certainly don't identify it with beautiful rolling terrain. I thought it was flat.

It's not flat.

Plenty of peeps warned me about how tough the Tecumseh Trail Marathon is and that I was in for a real surprise. Okay, it wasn't that bad. When you consider courses like the Glacial Trail 50s or McNaughton Park Trail Runs, or even Louisville Lovin' the Hills, it was hard to take the warnings seriously. But, don't get me wrong, Tecumseh ain't no joke!

Getting ready race morning...

A couple things I liked about the format were the point-to-point course, and the fact that it started at 10:00 a.m....that meant we could sleep in a bit :) We followed our cabin-mates to the finish line where they caught a shuttle bus to the start, and Geof and I followed behind the bus. Geof wasn't running, and was going to be hanging out, being the wonderful CHUG cheerleader that he is :) After about 847 hours driving, we arrived at the start line (okay, so it was more like 45 minutes, but still...). I hopped in the potty line, and then we all congregated near the start line and took some pictures. It was super cold standing around. I noticed my shoulders felt really tense, and then I felt my upper back, neck and shoulders starting to seize up and tighten. It happened fast and it was really uncomfortable. Geof massaged them a little as we waited for the other 750 runners to gather at the start line. My neck was officially stiff and cramping. WTF? Probably nerves, and probably shrugging my shoulders up due to the cold was causing it.

Finally we started...! The course heads up the road for a bit, in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest, and eventually gets onto the trail. There were SO MANY RUNNERS that it felt like a road marathon/elbow contest. It was kinda frustrating getting started because you couldn't get into a groove. Good thing the trail was wide at this point. I thought to myself that eventually the field would thin out.

The field never thinned out.

Despite the chilly temps, and the crowd, I was enjoying myself. The trail is just beautiful, and I can only imagine how great it is in the spring when it's in full bloom!

Some of the field...not thinning out.

I ran for a short bit with Torey, and off and on with Ed Kelly. I finally met Jim Halsey (and then his wife, Vicki, after the race). I was in the mood for some quiet trail time this day, but it was clear that wasn't going to happen, so I slowly eased into the rhythm of feet in front of and behind me. Smiling to myself at the random chatter I overheard, and marveled at the beauty of the forest. Then there was a stream crossing. I didn't know we had to scale a four foot mud wall. Nor did I know there were water crossings in this race. Ooops, guess I should have done some research on the race :) These made the day interesting. There were so many water crossings, it got funny. Towards the end, I didn't bother with trying to keep dry as it was fruitless, and the cold water actually felt good on my heels.

I had no plans for racing, and no time goals going into this. I just wanted to enjoy a new trail, hang out with my friends, and run comfortably. So far so good! The aid stations were so close together, it was a little odd. I think that that's necessary in long runs like 100-milers, but it was a little excessive for this race...every 2-3 miles. I was carrying two water bottles and had extra Perpetuem and gels in my vest so that I wouldn't need to stop much. This worked out very well. I ran through most of the early aid stations, and stopped only twice to refill my bottles, eating only pretzels and some corn chips at a station. The rest of the time, it was liquid only. I was pleasantly surprised to arrive at about the 9.7 mile aid station to see Geof standing there in the road, cheering me in...! He got a lot of pictures, and waited for us all to pass through before heading to the next aid station area to see us all again. What a fantastic guy!

Most of the day passed by quickly, and the miles were just flying by. I had no idea where I was in the pack, nor did I have an inkling of what my time was. I didn't wear my Garmin, but did have on my running watch that was keeping time from the start, but since it was so cold, I never pulled up my sleeve to glance at it. I liked not knowing where I was time-wise. I did know that I wasn't pushing it hard, but I also wasn't dragging ass. I caught up to Ed Kelly at some point, just before one of the many super steep gravel road climbs and together we charged up the hill, running. It felt good! "All those hill repeats are paying off!" says Ed, and I replied with loving the fact that Geof and I had taken up stair climbing after our runs. Boy did that make a difference in this race! I ended up running a lot more of the hills after this point, realizing I could :)

The majority of the trail is single track, but there is also a good amount of steep gravel road running, and of course stream crossings. It was tough to pass peeps on the single track as it was so narrow, and either side of the trail was covered in leaves and stepping into it was tricky since you didn't know what you were putting your foot into. I got stuck in a line of people for a couple miles, with a guy behind me who sounded like he was dying. He was hacking and coughing and breathing SO LOUDLY that it was interrupting my ability to concentrate on anything except how loud he was. And he was on my heels, kicking them a few times even. DUDE, back off! How annoying, and I was stuck there until the next aid station. Serenity now ;)

I had told myself I could turn on the iPod after 15 miles, then I decided 3 hours would be better timing, then 21 miles, and finally at 22-23 miles I decided to turn 'er on. I needed a boost and I really was craving music for some reason. I popped in the ear buds, and blasted the volume as Static X's "Dirthouse" came on. WOW, that song got me moving! I found a new gear and suddenly my legs were speed demons. I was flying and it felt good! I came upon two older men, that stepped aside immediately and waved hello, then I came upon someone that was moving so familiarly and I instantly knew it was Ed Kirk. "I know that gait, it's one Mr. Edwin Kirk!" He seemed pretty surprised and turned to see me. Cool, I didn't know you were runnin' Ed! Good to see you!

I was on a roll. Where did these legs come from? My neck and shoulders were still bothering me, but I felt them most whenever I stopped or slowed. So, I went through the last couple aid stations without stopping. Running all the hills, and pushing faster on the downhills. I knew I was making great time, I could feel it. I was making up for the slower pace I held earlier in the day, passing by people I hadn't seen the entire day. I thought my legs would burn up quickly, but they were so happy! I pushed and pushed, and smiled, and loved the feel of the rocky, uneven trail under my feet. My heels didn't make a peep during this time, and I felt happy :) I was really looking forward to that finish line, and to seeing Geof. The trail poured us out onto the rolling gravel road that would take us to the finish. I could smell the finish line. It was callin' my name! I finally rounded the last corner and turned into the parking area, following the orange fencing around to the finish line. Geof was there and snapped my picture as I finished, in a better than expected 5:15:31!

Now I kinda wish I had worn my Garmin so that I could see how those last few miles played out. There had to be some serious negative splits in there. Geof commented on how strong I finished and that I really made up some ground. BAM! What a lovely little race! It was tough, but not enough to break you (well, as long as you have some hill training in), beautiful, somewhat unpredictable in some areas, complete with water crossings, great weather, and a well marked trail that was easy to stay on. A little later, Bill (finishing his first marathon, and longest run to date!!) and Leslie crossed the finish line, all smiles. Geof got the BEST picture of them as they finished...
After the final CHUGs finished, we all headed back to the cabin to clean up and grab some dinner at Big Woods Brewery in downtown Nashville, then managed to stay awake long enough to get back to the cabin before passing out from the day's efforts. What a fantastic day, shared with my CHUGs no less, and the trails :) We all felt the remnants of a tough run, and that made bed all the more inviting.

The next day, on the way out of town, Geof and I stopped at Muddy Boots Cafe for breakfast. We were so glad we stopped. It was exactly what we wanted: a cozy, eclectic atmosphere with great food, great coffee and wonderful service. You have got to stop here if you are ever in Nashville, IN. It is adorable. The mismatched furniture, eclectic mix of art and knick knacks filling the space, the aroma of homecooking and fresh coffee, soft music emanating from corners, and the hum of locals gathering around a carafe of coffee and catching up on gossip. It felt good in there. Downtown Nashville is something to see, especially during the holiday season. It was like a Courier and Ives painting, four blocks long, bursting with character and warmth. We loved it.

So, Tecumseh, I will likely see you again for another round of calf-busting running. Word to those considering the race for the first time...work on hill training, and running with cold, wet feet :)

Running my first marathon was the final goal left on my list for 2009, so I was very happy to finally check it off. Done and done. Time to start thinking about my goals for 2010...it's going to be tough to top the goal busting year I've had this year, but I'll try my ultra best :)

Crash, out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snow Drifters

I LOVE SNOW!

Yesterday morning, Geof and I woke early as usual to start making motions toward heading out for our run. I was on Facebook and noticed someone's status message mentioned snow...wait, what? Snow?! I ran over to the window, pulled back the blinds, when what to my wondering eyes should appear? But a gorgeous city, covered in snow! Yippee! My calves and quads were super tight and sore still from this past weekend's Tecumseh Trail Marathon (race report with pictures to follow later this week!) and my neck was stiff as a board, so I was considering opting out of the run, but once I saw the snow, it was a done deal! As soon as we got outside and along the deserted lakefront covered in a thick layer of fluffy snow, I started feeling better. It was a nice run, and we cut it short at 2.5 miles since we got a late start on the run.

This morning, it was even better! We woke in the midst of a heavier snowfall, and supposedly it's going to get a lot heavier throughout the day! We suited up, (I in fewer layers this time because I heated up so much yesterday) and headed north on the path. Man, did we feel good out there! The wind was at our backs, snow falling, covering the ground, the street lights reflecting off the fresh fallen snow and making it sparkle. It was lovely. We both mentioned how good we felt and that we wished we could go long today. I think we finished with 4.5 miles, and we may head out again tonight after my final exam for some more :)

The legs were much better this morning, and I can only feel some tightness around my ankles, otherwise I think the run yesterday was an excellent idea for recovery. Bam!

Now to decide how to squeeze in a long run this weekend. Wonder if it'll snow :)

Crash, out.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wicked Weekend

I love mojo. I love when I feel like I've lost it, and then like THAT it's back! Doesn't take much, but it does take a little push in the right direction to jump-start the motivation. Geof and I have decided to find our mojo again, and boy have we found it!

All last week, we rose at the crack-o-dawn to run, did it again on Thanksgiving morning out in Iowa before the big meal, took Friday off, and then on Saturday the most glorious thing happened. We did calisthenics together. And it just got better from there. Geof decided it was high time to get back into pre-KM100 shape and stop feeling so lazy (we have been pretty lazy, in runner-terms of course...not in 'typical' American citizen terms). So we did a nice 15 minute workout, doing some planks that I thought were burning up my abs inside, arm work that emphasized muscles used to carry water bottles that feel like cinder blocks after 80 miles of carrying them, back exercises and shoulder exercises. Wow, that got us warmed up pretty good! So, then we suited up and headed outside for a little over 8 miles along the lakefront in some damn fine weather. After a loop around Northerly Island we headed back and then hit the stairs at Columbus and Wacker to run up and down them a few times. That felt funny, switching from running to climbing, then back to running, but it felt really good, too. It gets better!

When we got home, Geof took to making a kickass fruit/yogurt/cottage cheese smoothie, and oatmeal with raisins and honey, while I cleaned up and then dunked my legs, up to my calves, in a bucket of hot water and epsom salts. We inhaled our breakfast, and man did it feel good to eat so well right after running, rather than a burrito an hour late. I tell ya, the epsom soak felt amazing. As soon as we stopped running (and actually while doing the stairs, on the downs) I felt my heels starting to fire up, all the tendons protesting a little. After the soak, nada. Brilliant.

Today we met some CHUGs out at Waterfall Glen for a run. The weather was not so fine as Saturday's was...raining the whole drive there, but it did stop long enough for us to crank out a dry and cold 9.5 miles. It was a great run, following the trail clockwise, with Geof, Kelly and Ian. David, Kristi and Tony ran up ahead so we didn't spend much time with them. They were flyin'! I felt great the whole time, save for some hip flexor tightness, and when we got home I soaked my feet and calves again in the epsom salt, and Geof prepared our same smoothie and oatmeal breakfast. Delish! We did our calisthenics before we left (adding in push-ups and more ab work), which meant getting up a little earlier, but I was glad we did because I am now in full on lounge mode :)

It feels good to be getting back on track. Eating better, doing weights again, the salt soaks. Makes you feel like a million bucks when you're taking better care. I'm going to get some ART from Dr. Heddles later this week for the ankles/heels to help that process along, then...I have my very first marathon this coming weekend! I'll be running (read: hiking) the Tecumseh Trail Marathon in Indiana with a bunch of the CHUGs. Should be a fantastic time. It's a tough course, so I'm planning on taking it verrrry easy since I'm just now getting back into some miles, and thus will be doing a lot of hiking :)

My classes end in two weeks, so that means great things for my morning runs since I'll have a month off from early morning studying before work!

I smell a hundred miler creeping up...so what's it gonna be? I guess we'll see :)

Crash, out.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Run, Talk Trash, Run Some More

This past Saturday was another fine installment of the Chicago Trash Runners...this time we headed north and laid the smackdown on the Loyola University area of the city, at Sheridan and Hollywood to be exact. The area is a bit of a mixed bag: it has pockets of coolness, intermingled with pockets of 'run for your life'. Geof and I drove up and met with a new Trash Runner, Matt. We covered a couple miles along Sheridan and got a good amount of running in as it wasn't as 'trashy' as I thought it would be. Still, we managed to get a number of bagfulls of stuff, and had a few laughs at some of the 'treasures' we found along the way. Man, some Northsiders sure do enjoy their condoms, and they enjoy them outside apparently!

In other news :) Geof and I made it out for a run early on Sunday, brushing off the dust and oiling the rusty joints. It felt really good. The weather was pristine and the city streets welcomed us with outstretched arms. I also was treated to no stomach issues this time! We stuck to running south on Michigan Avenue and then weaving through Millennium Park on the way home just in case my stomach had other plans in store for me. This time I was proactive: I ate some cereal, sans milk, and only drank about 1/4 of my latte along with an S!Cap about an hour before we left for the run. I also grabbed a Powerbar Gel juuuuust in case. All was well, though. We ended up getting just over 5.5 miles, and it was awesome!

We were crunched for time as we were heading out to Brian and Kelly's crib for a relaxing day chillin' out. We were getting in-house massages from their friend Rebecca Sturgeon. She's new to the biz and we were excited to get some really great massages for a great price. And what a nice young lady she is! I'm already looking forward to my next one...she did a bang up job on my calves and found some knots I didn't know I had buried in those muscles. Ouch! Hurts so good :) So today I've been drinking lots o' water and icing at work.

I'm looking forward to getting back into a regular running routine again, and back into training, BAM! Slow but steady build.

I dream of running :)

Crash, out.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Peeking Out of Hibernation

Ahhhhhhh, hibernation is bliss. Well, self-imposed hibernation is bliss :) Geof and I gave ourselves two full weeks of rest in the wake of a very, very busy ultra season. As soon as he crossed the finish line at Javelina Jundred on November 1st, we entered hibernation. This includes zero running, zero exercise, lots of RICEing and some stretching, lots of...nutrition, and of course plenty of sleeping and ice cream.

It was weird at first to not do anything but recuperate. But after a few days of this, I fell right into the groove of hibernation. It looks good on! I have enjoyed this sort of break from running because it was a conscious decision, rather than being forced on me. That aided in avoiding any sort of guilt that could come along with inactivity. I chose to do this, so I'm not going to feel bad about it! Everyone needs to do this at some point in their season, I would imagine, to some extent. It's rejuvenating! I was getting hardcore burned out from all the racing and training, and it was time for a break, so that I could once again crave the feel of the road and trail underneath my feet, the feel of achey joints and muscles from a hard week's miles or tough workout, the wind chapping my cheeks as it turns from mild to downright frosty outside, sniffling every 4 seconds because it's so damn cold out, and of course, the feel of my shoes laced up and my running clothes (rather than stiff work clothes). These are a few of my favorite things...!

Geof and I decided to break the cycle and go for a short run yesterday afternoon. Oh boy! We were both feeling the itch and after a full weekend of relaxing inside and doing stuff around the apartment, we laced up and headed downstairs, "I don't even know what to wear for 45 degree weather!" My running clothes were so happy to see me!

Brr, it was brisk out, and windy as a motha! But it felt like heaven. We crossed the street and then switched gears and busted out a sort of shuffle. How funny it felt! Geof commented after a few minutes that this must be what it feels like for beginning runners...weird! Geof's coming off a 100 mile finish, just two weeks ago, so his run is far more impressive to me. I felt a little leg-heavy and slightly less nimble, but overall it was good. My legs settled quickly into a pace and I was enjoying myself. We went 2 miles north on the path, then turned around, with the wind finally at our backs. It was slow going, but all things considered, not bad at all!

Things were great until about the 2.75-3ish mile mark (on a 4 mile route). Suddenly my stomach lurched. Not just a little, "Hey, how are you, this is your stomach talking," but more like a, "You want a piece of me?! You goooot it!" What's that all about? It subsided almost as quickly as it attacked. But it came back a few more times in that final mile. Oh, how it hurt! Maybe I shouldn't have eaten all that pumpkin bread earlier, or maybe I should have eaten more of something else instead...I barely ate all day, other than that bread. Oops. So naturally I stopped focusing on the action, and could only focus on my stomach and making it home safe n' sound. Geof was trying to distract me, and it was working at first. Then it wasn't and I was hurtin!

Anyway, we made it home. Four miles done and done! I believe I have pinpointed the medial side of the flexor hallucis longus muscle on my right foot as my main issue right now (only when going down stairs or a sharp decline). It's a biatch, but I'm keeping on top of it. Other than that, I think I'm ready to get back at it. Ya know, just in case there's a certain hundred mile race to run in a certain month that rhymes with...February :)

I'll probably take the rest of this week off, and then start up on Saturday for the trash run I'm doing with the Chicago Trash Runners. It's looking good so far. I'll hold off on the pumpkin bread, though :)

Hello running, how are you? I've missed you.

Crash, out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ultra Cool

What fun last night turned out to be! I expected to enjoy myself, but what a long day it had already been, and with home just around the corner, I wasn't sure how long I'd last. Boy am I glad we went!

"Tropical" John Medinger and Lisa Henson (the peeps behind UltraRunning Magazine) were in town for a couple days on their way home to sunny Cali and decided it would be fun to host a little impromptu dinner party and invite all the Chicago area UltraRunning subscribers. Sweet! My subscription recently ended, but Geof still has his and he received an e-mail from John about the party a couple weeks ago. We showed up right at 6:30, at La Madia, in River North, and were immediately greeted by John and Lisa.

We sipped on wine and chatted it up with the small crowd of area ultrarunners (most of whom we didn't already know...which is funny since our 'kind' is such a small group as it is!). Eventually, fellow CHUG Vishal showed up and joined in on conversation with another fellow CHUG, Tracy. Bill Thom showed up just before we sat for dinner. So it was fun to see some familiar faces amongst all the new!

Dinner was delicious! Lots of great thin crust pizza and salads, and even better conversation. Geof and I sat at a table with an area ultra dude, Jim, and his wife, and Lisa. Lisa regaled us with highly entertaining stories about being a pacer and how she's pulled some runners back from the dead to finish a tough race. What a funny gal she is! John held down the fort at the table next to ours. Lots of great discussions going on, and fun stories about our various experiences running 100 miles. I can't stress enough just how enjoyable it is to be surrounded by all like-minded folks, geeking out about ultrarunning. I love it!

To top off the evening, Lisa and John handed out the new UltraRunning hats they just had made and we took a big group photo, wearing out new hats.

Meeting John and Lisa was really cool, and made even better by the fact that they are such fun and down-to-earth people. That's one of my favorite things about the ultra community, the people!

So, thank you John and Lisa for having us all out for dinner, and for being such great hosts!!

Crash, out.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Javelina = Jot, Jot, Jot!

What do you get when you put eight CHUGs in a desert for the first time, hot weather, and grilled cheese sammiches? One jeck of a Javelina Jundred!!

Tis' correct my friends, we boarded ship on Friday morning and arrived in sunny Phoenix that afternoon, hopped in the "K Bus" (that's what we named our rental mini-van) and stopped off at Denny's in Fountain Hills for a delicious dinner of burgers and brownie awesomeness (yes, we did this two hours before the pre-race pasta dinner was scheduled to start...). After getting settled in at the Holiday Inn in Fountain Hills, we headed over to Jeadquarters to get the boys checked in and then partake in some carbo-loading. Geof, Brian, Gary, David and Jerret were running (Geof's second 100, everyone else's first 100-miler) and had to pick up their swag from the ever cheery Chris Rios, then get weighed in with the medical peeps. We hung around and caught up with some other familiar faces then found a nice little cacti to do a jumper photo in front of, great job snapping this one, Kelly!

Jerret, Brian, Gary and Geof

Since we had a big dinner, everyone just went and sat down. Geof wanted some grub, so we stood in line for some food (I got a slice of cake, yum!). After dinner, Caballo Blanco (Micah True, the dude featured in Born to Run) gave a speech that about running down south. It got dark fast, and we were all pretty wiped, so we headed home afterwards. Time to sleep! Kelly and I got to relax this time while Brian and Geof busied themselves preparing for the morning.

"Hey buddy, how ya feelin'? What can I get you, some soup, maybe some hot chocolate? You look good! Only 95 more miles to go and you're done!!"

I slept like a baby :) I think everyone else got some pretty good sleep, too. We rallied the troops for a 4 a.m. wake-up and were out the door by 4:45. Kelly and I were volunteering at Javelina Jeadquarters so we needed to be there at 5 a.m. The guys picked their spot under the picnic shelter, out of the hot sun, to keep their bags during the race, and readied themselves for the 6 a.m. start. Jeadquarters was buzzing! So many peeps! I met Robert Andrulis (sp?), Chris Rios (he was our aid station captain from 5a-1p), Dave Combs, Patti Coury (RD's mom, who is a complete sweetheart, to the max!), and a bunch of other folks and readers of my blog, how fun!

Six o' clock came fast and before we knew it, it was time to go. The course is about a 15.5 mile loop, run 6 times, and a 7th shorter (~9 miles) loop added at the end. Runners also run the loops in a washing machine fashion (switch directions each loop). Cool, huh? Here's Geof, all set to go in his Chicago Ultrarunners Atayne shirt!

The morning went fast, with Kelly, Ian and I all helping out at Jeadquarters. Ian was our "CHUG Brew"master (making all the Succeed ULTRA drinks), Kelly and I sliced, peeled, poured and restocked the table to our hearts' content. I met so many folks from the list, and was really enjoying myself. The runners were so appreciative and awesome. Patti was great to work with and really had this whole thing down to a science (the Coury family is one heck of a race directing machine!). It started to get jot, jot, jot around 10 a.m., eventually maxing out at around 81 degrees. The sun was out in full force, not a cloud to speak of, and zero shade anywhere on the course. Ice was a very popular commodity, and so was the pumpkin pie. It was fun to see the front runners come through and observe their antics (come in, drop their bottles, grab two more from their crew, and head out, never breaking stride in that whole exchange). Jorge Paccheco never exchanged anything, he just ran over the mat and then headed back out. No refills, nothing. He ended up DNF'ing later that day, leaving the front to Dave James the rest of the time, and the course record :)

Geof was looking AWESOME. He is a machine, a quiet, swift machine. I prepped a 5-scoop serving of Perpetuem for him so that I could just pour it right into his bottle, fill the other with water or Gatorade, and he's change his shirt or shorts while I did that, and then he'd be out. He was moving well the first few laps, slowing down some as the day grew jotter and jotter (j = h in this post, in case you were wondering, to keep with the Javelina theme :)). I was planning to jump in and pace Geof the last 9 mile loop, or maybe even the last 25 miles tops since my ankles have been giving me some grief since Glacial Trail 50k three weeks prior. Geof mentioned some funky glute and knee pain he'd never felt before, but the usual aches and pains were nowhere to be seen. Funny how that always works out in a race! On the fourth lap, the funky pains disappeared and he was feeling great again. But it was JOT! Here he is, heading out for loop number four...looking back for me :) (FYI, my most favorite picture!):

Back at Jeadquarters, I suited up, just in case Geof needed me to jump in a little earlier than anticipated. Kelly and I chilled out by the guys' bags, enjoyed a nap in the K Bus, and I made multiple pee stops (I was trying to keep up on my water intake since it was so hot). Brian eventually made it in, and we snapped to it, helping out however we could. Beej fights a constant battle with blisters and today was no different. I convinced him to clean his feet up with soap and water after he popped the devil blisters. He put on clean socks and shoes and then enjoyed a slice of pizza. Jerret and Gary came and went and seemed to be in good spirits. David was having a time with the heat, but still in great shape.

Helping Brian with his feet

After sending Brian off, Kelly and I got back to chilling out. Geof was going to be in soon, hopefully. Steve Hanes (whom I met a year ago, while hiking/running the Black Forest Trail and is an all around great dude, and I met his son, Mike Hanes, while running the Pineland Farms 50M this past May, in Maine) and Ian Stevens came over and we chatted for a bit, always great to catch up, dudes! It was starting to get dark, earlier than anticipated, around 6:00. Geof didn' have a light on him so I was a little worried. It was taking longer than we expected for him to get back, so I walked up to the trailhead where he would be emerging from. No sign of him after about 15 minutes, so I walked back down to the Jeadquarters. Eventually, G came running in. He sat down and he was smiling! He was now 100k into the race, alright! I asked him if he wanted me to jump in and run with him and we decided on a 'yes'. Okey dokey smokey! I put on two long-sleeve shirts and has on my Moebens in addition to my short sleeve CHUG Atayne top. Geof was still drinking Perpetuem so I filled up my bottle with Gatorade...something I do NOT do for long runs. I figured I'd be okay this time around. All suited up and 40 miles to go(!):


For as hot as it had been earlier in the day, it was cold as a mutha at night. We headed out on loop number 5, clockwise direction, and started walking on the undulating and very sandy/rocky trail. By the middle of each loop I ran, I had about half of the desert in each shoe. The moon was high overhead by now, and we ended up running without our headlamps for awhile once we passed the super rocky section. This was fun! The desert is gorgeous, especially in moonlight. We chatted most of the way to Coyote Camp AS, and I was digging deep for my rhythm. Where was it? You should know that Geof is one hell of a late-race runner. He moves, fast. He was pacing me! Obviously, as the pacer, you don't want to complain about feeling crappy, when your runner is almost 70 miles into the race already. But I'm bad at covering discomfort up. We were in and out of Coyote Camp and headed the next 5 miles to Jackass Junction AS. After we hit JJAS, it was mostly easy downhill back into Jeadquarters. We didn't need out headlamps and we just soaked in the scenery as we ran quietly. I was starting to feel like complete ass. My stomach was screaming, "where the hell is my damn Perpetuem?!" My ankles were saying, "you shmuck, you think you can push us another 40 miles, after standing around for 12 hour straight?!" And everything else was saying, "sit down, stop." Ugh, I felt awful. Clearly, my stomach was used to a liquid diet on the run, and today I was not giving it that. I was considering sitting out the 6th loop, and then jumping back in on the final loop.

Once we reached Jeadquarters, I dropped one of my long sleeve shirts, and then mixed some Perpetuem for myself when Geof decided he was done drinking it. We dilly dallied a bit, but then headed right back out. Things settled a bit while we were at the AS so I was feeling better. We headed back for number 6, counter clockwise. This time the trail is slightly uphill. Not enough that you can't run most of it, but enough that you feel it and kinda just want to walk. However, now I was cold (when you crested a hill it was warm air, but when you got to the bottom of one, it was chilly. This was weird because the hills were nothing major.) so I thought we should push it some. I started to jog, hoping Geof would follow suit. He did. So, we ran. And ran, and ran, and ran! No headlamps, just moonlight, and we were running, almost 80 miles in now. We were quiet for most of those 5.5 miles into Jackass Junction, but we ran every inch of it. I sort of regretted initiating that (!), and soon Geof pulled in front of me and was pulling his pacer along! I thought I was going to expire! We were pulling off sub-9:30 miles and I was gassed! It's amazing what the body can do. After Jackass, we decided to walk for a little. The rest of the loop went similar to this. Good strong running for awhile, following by strong walking. This was a really nice stretch. Just us, moving along, getting it done.

After coming into Jeadquarters, and before heading out on your final loop, runners are given a glowstick necklace so that AS folks know the runner is on their final loop. This was a fun idea, and motivating whenever we saw a runner with the necklace on already. Geof got his, and then we were off once more, heading clockwise up the trail. Geof was tired, and after letting go of the idea of finishing sub-24, he was pretty quiet again. We walked, a lot. And I was chiiiiillllly. Every so often, I would start a slow jog, Geof would follow suit, and then we'd slow back to a walk after a bit. I was getting tired finally, and the long day was starting to take its toll on me. Eventually we reached Coyote Camp, enjoyed some soup, said hi to Jerret who was chillin' on a chair, wrapped up in a blanket. Despite that, he looked good still, I had no doubt he would finish. He still had another 5 miles into Jeadquarters before he could get his necklace. Dawn was approaching and we had just 4 more miles of smooth downhill trail before we were home free. So, off we went. Geof grew chattier and we moseyed along the awesome Tonto Tank Trail, off and on shuffling and walking. The sun was starting to break free of the mountains and share its warmth with us. Sunrises are so pretty out west:

The sun came up fast and soon the Pemberton Trail was in sight once more. Once you were back on Pemberton, you had one more mile to go. We were running once again! Oh, glorious locomotion! Geof was almost done! Up and down, and up and down the last stretch, we crossed paths with Gary, who was heading out on his final 9 miles, past Karsten (the dude I went back and forth with at Vermont) and Dorn Peddy, who had dropped from the race and was cheering runners on at the trailhead. We rounded the corner by the tiki torches, and BAM! Finish line!!! Geof crossed the line in a highly respectable 25h:08m! Done and done! What's that? Two-time hundred mile runner, comin' in!

We hugged at the finish line, relief washing over us. Rest! Food! Oooo, belt buckle! Jamil handed Geof his buckle and someone grabbed his timing chip, then we went and...sat the eff down! Geof's finish was made even more impressive by the fact that exactly 50% of those who started the race DNF'd. FIFTY PERCENT! Wow! I have to say, I completely understand why the drop rate is consistently so high. That course is downright deceptively tough. You go into it thinking it's easy because there is no major climbing, and it's a loop course. You come out of it thinking it's effing TOUGH because there is no major climbing and it's a loop course! Mentally, that course will chew you up and spit you out if you're not trained for it in your mind. Then, add in all that extra running you're doing because there aren't any hills that force you to walk, and you're one tired SOB before too long. Oh, and the heat will do a number on you, too.

What a fun day though. I got to see my dude reel in his second 100-mile finish, run 40 miles through the desert in a place I've never been before (first time in Arizona!), spend time with my lovely CHUGs, hang out with Kelly who is pure human joy, and learned even more about how incredible the human body is. Just when you think it's had enough, it kicks into another gear and pushing you along some more. Geof is an incredibly strong runner and it was so cool to see first hand how he does it. JJ100 is a very, very well run event, great volunteers are out there, working hard, Jamil and his whole family 'get it' and have everything you could possibly want from a race. The organization is top notch, and they just...thought of it all. It was so cool. Kudos to the Coury family, and everyone that worked to make this happen!

Lessons learned? I don't fall in the desert, so maybe I should only run in deserts :) Geof has really, really great legs. Perpetuem saves lives. I love glow sticks when they lead only to aid stations. Never volunteer for 8 hours, crew for another 5 hours and then run 40 miles on a stomach filled with pumpkin pie, Gatorade, water, oatmeal cookies and a sub sandwich. Perpetuem really does give you the best sounding burps, and the sound reverberates off of cacti very well...I'm just sayin'. Blister ain't no joke...I just KNOW there is a solution out there and Brian is going to discover it :) And, last but not least, 100 miles is an amazing distance filled with a lot of incredible experiences and lessons that you will take with you everywhere in life. I can't wait to run 100 miles alongside Geof :)

Two thumbs up to Javelina. I recommend running it someday. Just remember, it ain't all that easy!

Chillin' at the K Bus with Geof and Brian after Geof's finish, and a luke-warm shower

Check out Geof's account of the awesomeness: A Very Javelina Jalloween

Crash, out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"And you PAY to do this?"

Uh, yes, that would be correct. I forked over money to run 50 miles on little more than fumes.

Recall that I had busted my butt on the Glacial Trail two weeks prior to showing up at Ottawa Lake to run the North Face Endurance Challege Midwest Regional 50 Mile race on October 24th. I knew what I was doing, but I don't know why I did it looking back. But isn't that kinda how ultrarunning usually plays out?

In the wake of the GT50k, I had some funky tightness hanging out in my calves that was playing out in the form of an annoying discomfort in both of my ankles. Imagine what it sounds/feels like to pluck two rubber bands over each other, while stretched out. Gives me the willies thinking about how it feels! Well that's what the funkiness felt like. So, after just a couple of runs (literally, one 6-miler in Iowa, and then a 9-mile night run the Tuesday before NFEC), I paid Dr. Heddles at Active Body Chiropractic a visit to get a little ART done on my calves and ankles. BAM! He works wonders. After some e-stim, some ART, and some swapping of favorite Seinfeld quotes, Dr. H decided I should try out Kinesio Taping. So he applied two strips of the stuff from my heel to the back of my knee (one black, the other hot pink :)) and sent me on my way saying I'd feel a lot better during the race.

Friday night, Geof and I spent more quality time in gridlock getting up to Brookfield to meet some of the CHUGs for dinner at Mama Mia's and to finally experience the garlic bread that floats in garlic butter that Deanna and Torey had been gushing about. I fell in love with that bread. Lucky me, Kelly and Brian got up into 'sconsin early and were able to pick up my packet and race swag (thanks Brelly!), so after dinner the four of us headed to our hotel for the evening where I set into motion my usual pre-race A.D.D./anal retentiveness...I know, that must just shock you :) After I was happy with my preparation and organization, it was time to hit the hay.

I must say, 4 a.m. came pretty early. Kelly was running the 50k (her first one!!), so she and Brian got to sleep in, and Geof and I snuck out early to get to the start line. It was balls cold, and misting a little, but the weather called for that to clear up. I dropped off my drop bag with a volunteer who didn't really seem to like runners all that much (a strange theme I'm noticing in this particular race series)...

Then, after a bathroom stop, Geof and I hung by the propane heaters with Ed, waiting for the start!

Fellow CHUG, Ed, and I, brrrrr!

There were a lot of people. We met one of Ben's friends, Mike, who was running his first 50-miler, and his fiance, Blair. Blair had planned to just hang at the start/finish area since she couldn't drive their truck, but since Geof was crewing me he offered to have her along to the aid stations so she could have a chance to see her dude more often. This turned out to work out really well for everyone!

So we started. It was cold, I was tired. Legs were...just being legs. I ran alongside Ed for a bit on the road section, but moved up once we got on the trail. It seemed like it was dark for-flipping-ever. Just as first light was showing, I noticed a dude who was leap-frogging with me quite a bit and introduced myself. He's Brad from Cherry Hill, NJ. He liked how bright my headlamp was, hence the leap-frogging. He was on a redemption run of sorts after having a performance he wasn't so happy with at the NFEC in D.C. He ended up finishing just over 10 hours; great job, Brad! Ah, light. I made it to the first aid station (6.6 miles) feeling pretty good, legs were happy finally, belly was fine. Seeing Geof sent me soaring :) I was in and outta there pretty quickly as I didn't need much more than a refill. The next crew station would be around 11 miles, and since Brad was out of there before me, I was prepping myself to go it alone. Not long after leaving the aid station, though, I noticed a runner just ahead of me who stopped to see which way the ribbons led at a fork in the trail. He looked back at me and I pointed to the right. I noted that his t-shirt was funny ("We're the fast crowd your mother warned you about") and we chatted it up from there on. Kevin was running his first 50-miler so it was fun to feel like a little bit of a veteran. It was also great to have trail company.

In and out of AS 2, a pat on the butt from Geof and I was off. The next crew station was 21 (I think) and a station that we would return to again at 35. I had 10 miles of no Geof ahead of me, yipes! I was feeling fine for the most part, and had plenty of trail chat going on with Kevin, but I could feel this nagging blah coming over me. Checking my vitals, I was fine. Legs felt good, great in fact. Stomach was stellar. Feet were happy. What gives? Coming into 21 I was so thrilled to see Geof there. I told him I was getting lonely feeling out there, and that I'd probably pick up my iPod at mile 28. Some more refills, and I was off! Kevin had left before me, so now I was on my own for a bit. After a non-crew AS that I more or less cruised past we were poured out onto this godawful field section. Ugh, you could see everyone in front of or behind you, you could see where you were heading and it felt like a million miles away. Come ooooonnnnnn! Worse yet, I knew we'd be coming back through it at some point. Gross. I was officially getting bored. I was tired. I just felt like stopping. Whoa, what?! Stopping? There's no stopping in ultrarunning! Well, there's no stopping when absolutely nothing is wrong :) Being a little tired or bored is no reason to stop in my book. So I kept on keeping on. A little ways before pulling into the mile 28 AS, Kevin caught back up with me and we rolled into mile 28 at the same time...

To my surprise, Jim and Torey had joined Geof at this aid station (also known as Emma Carlin for all you KM100 runners out there!), so it was a big lift to hear my name being shouted by my peeps again :) Thanks Jim and Torey for being out there! After a quick potty break, some Perpetuem refilling and snagging my iPod, I glanced down at my Garmin and noted to Geof that if I got out of there right then I could probably hit 6 hours for the 50k mark...BAM! So I kissed him goodbye and said I'd see him at mile 35, I've got a goal to achieve! I thought Kevin had already left so I cranked up the iPod and got rolling to some Coldplay. Ah, sweet ultra music.

Once back in the field section, I was pushing it harder so that I could hit my 50k goal. Kevin came striding up beside me and scared the bejesus out of me. I told him what I was doing and he pulled me along here. I kept looking down at my Garmin checking my distance, when BAM!, 5:59 = 50k!! I got my goal! Yahoo, one more thing to check off the 2009 goals list! Sweet.

So from there I pulled back as I was officially out of breath. It was rolling and the sun was acting like it might come out and play. The conversation was steady and the breeze felt good, but my ankles started aching on ascents. Feels a bit like a very subtle burning/stretching. Felt good on the descents though. I started to take it easier and my stomach was dropping out thinking about what could possibly be going on with my ankles/achilles. Should I stop? Nah, I'll try some Advil at the next AS. Finally, the mile 35 AS came into view as we rounded a corner. Kevin was meeting up with his pacer here, so I knew I was definitely on my own after this part. I suddenly felt very unmotivated to continue. I just wanted to see Geof! The stars aligned.

As I pulled into the AS I locked my eyes on Geof's legs just across the road...they were bare! He had shorts on, wait, and running shoes! Oh my gosh,"is this a joke?!" Geof was going to pace me in the last 15 miles! Oh glorious morning! The sun was out, it was warming up and now I was going to get to spend the last 15 miles with G :) Blair was going to drive Geof's truck back to the start/finish so she could catch her dude finishing, so this worked out so perfect for us. I did a quick change of socks (only one blister, on my left foot, and while it was a big one it didn't hurt, so I left it alone. The Hydropel was working a little, I guess), grabbed a Doubleshot, dropped some things in the truck, refilled bottles and then we were off. Oh, and I took some Advil for my ankles.

Achey ankles? What achey ankles?

Coming into the mile 35 AS...I was showing my number to the volunteer :)

The last 15 miles with Geof were the best. The weather really picked up and it was just gorgeous outside. My legs were tired and sore in spots, but I felt good otherwise. We pulled into the mile 40 AS and were greeted to very loud, thumping dance club music and some of the more colorful and hilarious volunteers I've ever experienced. They were great! They called themselves Aid Station Awesome; very apropos! Next up would be the Hwy. 67 AS (mile 45) where I had a drop bag that I wouldn't end up needing. Everything was holding up really well and I was very happy with how I did things throughout the day. One bottle of Perpetuem and one bottle of Clip2 (drank these up every 2 hours-ish), one S!Cap per hour and one gel or three Clif Shot Blocks per hour. I think I had one Skittle, two sips of Mountain Dew (won't do that anymore, makes my stomach get funky!), and a few potato chips at an aid station and that's it for solid food. It's nice not to have to rely on the aid stations, and it keeps me from dilly dallying at them.

I was having a great time running with Geof and he really was a race-saver for me that day. I would have finished, but I would not have been happy about it, and I'd have probably walked it in completely. My spirits were lifted, I was smiling and laughing, I was running (more or less) and I was going to finish with plenty of time left over. I knew I wasn't going to PR, but I knew I'd break 11 hours. As we were poured out onto Hwy. 67 once more and followed the route that I had began on 10 and a half hours earlier, we could hear the sound of the start/finish, and then the red arch came into view. I'm almost done!! Geof pulled off to the side and I glided across the finish line and into a gathering of CHUGs waiting there for me. Gotta love the CHUGs!! My final time was 10:35 and some change, not bad considering how the early part of my day felt and how my legs were treating me most of it. I'll take that to the bank!

A good race overall, a little bit of a head trip, but nothing like Pineland Farms was for me this year. Plus, I had peeps to talk to on the trail, Geof was there helping me along, CHUGs were out en force, and the weather really cooperated beyond expectations. I used Hydropel on my feet for the first time ever, and while I got that one blister on my left foot (outside of ball of my foot), that was it, so I'll give it another go in my other shoes to see if maybe the wider toebox is the answer. Loved 'doing it liquid' as Geof and Adrian would say, it makes racing easier not worrying about carrying food, or stocking it in drop bags. And, I love the race swag...lots of crap that I'll actually use (though it would have been better if the shirts were Atayne shirts)!

After changing into warm, dry, not-stinky clothes, Geof, Kelly, Brian, Tony and I headed into Eagle for some dinner (and solid food) at Coyote Junction, yum! After dinner we went next door to the gas station to buy some ice for my legs for the drive back to Chicago. That helped a lot! It was great to get home and get to sleep finally (especially knowing we could sleep in!). I dreamt about food and woke up really early absolutely starving so I made myself a big bowl of cereal, fruit, and Geof made toast with Nutella. Wow, hungry much?! I was starving like that all day Sunday...perhaps I was making up for the whole no-solid-food-while-racing thing the day before :)

A great time had by all...and congratulations to Kelly on finishing her first ultra and 50k, and to Sarah for finishing her first 50-miler! Now it's time to hunker down and give my legs a break for a while. I need these ankles/tendons to get happy again. Of course, I need to wait until after Javelina Jundred pacing this coming weekend before I can do any of that :) I'm spent after such a busy ultra season! But man has it been a great season :)

Check out Geof's post about his experience crewing for me: Here Comes The Sun

Crash, out.

Monday, October 19, 2009

1 Year, 1 Love, 1 Big Freakin' Run

Isn't it funny how much can happen in a year?

A year, in the grand scheme of things, is a hiccup in the fabric of time. It's there and then it's gone. Just like that. But when you stop and think about the preceding 365 days...the red carpet of mornings and nights that have lead you to this very spot in time, it's kind of...rockin'.

Just one year ago today I embarked on a new journey; a simple race, but a race that would forever change me and the way I saw things. Corny? Absolutely! But, true.

In case you've forgotten (or you are just now coming down with a Serious Case of the Runs), here's a little recap: Where There's a Whim There's a Way. I won't expound on how neat it is to personally look back and see how things unfolded and how one thing led to the next and how wonderfully amazing it is now, but you should give it a try. Look back on the last year and reminisce about everything that went on. The people you met, those you lost, the experiences you gained, the lessons you learned. Then see how everything just sort of weaved together. Until you really look at it, a scarf is just a scarf. But then you notice the individual threads and how each thread is intertwined with the next. Cool, huh? Such is life :)

The 2008 Stone Steps 50k was my very first ultra, and I'm very happy to have a solid year of ultrarunning under my belt, which includes three 50ks, one 60k, two 50-milers and a one-hundred miler (um, what? I forget that I did that from time to time; I never planned on running 100 miles!!)...and one more 50-miler coming up this weekend...holy smokes, where did all that come from?! A lot can happen in a year, and even all that running was just the tip of the iceberg.

I know I'm still a novice at all this ultra stuff, but getting through some of the races I got through sure makes me feel pretty good about my place in the ultra world, and I guess in the world in general. It's fun to look back at those runs, knowing what I know now, and knowing that I still have a LOT left to learn. I don't think you can ever know everything you need to know about ultrarunning; it is a perpetual learning experience that I look forward to every time I toe the line.

What's more, is that being able to share this passion and excitement with someone who 'gets it' every single day eclipses that feeling you get when you cross the finish line. Geof is that someone :) He's a pretty great dude, not gonna lie.

So all this in mind, I taper down one more time for the year and get my mind wrapped around the idea of running 50 miles once more. Since Glacial Trail two weekends ago, I find myself thinking, "how on earth do people run 50 MILES!?" Hahaha, it's funny considering what I've already done. But, I know I can do it again, and it's just as cool as the first time I did it. I hope I always keep that enthusiasm for the sport; it's just so much dang fun :)

Just some thoughts for a Monday afternoon!

Crash, out.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Glacial Trail 50k: Double Shwag!

Holy hell. I think I redefined the term "wipeout" while meandering along the glorious northern Kettle Moraine trail known as the Glacial Trail. However, for once, the multitude of 'crashes' were entirely understood...there was no falling on flat ground, or over a breeze. These were bonafide stumbles-turned-ground-lickers caused by softball-sized rocks and body-length roots strewn across the trail. I had all the excuses in the world this time :)

That said, Glacial Trail 50k rocked my world!! Pun intended. This trail is no joke. It is covered in rocks, roots and trail crud, then covered in a beautiful layer of freshly fallen golden leaves. It was a "baby leap of faith every time your foot hit the ground," according to Geof. True story.

Geof and I spent a few hours in gridlock heading up to WI Friday night where the unexpected awaited us...a ridiculously awesome show at Cafe Carpe, in Fort Atkinson, WI: Brooks Williams. Cafe Carpe is the sort of intimate, deliciously quaint and cozy venue you'd expect to find hidden in the black hole of Portland, ME (pretty much heaven)...mismatched furniture, eclectic artwork on the walls, the owner pouring your beer for you, very low lighting, and absolutely perfect. I HIGHLY recommend you check out both Brooks and Cafe Carpe :) Saturday was another supreme day spent drinking multiple cups of Andrea's coffee talking about everything under the sun, relaxing in Geof's dad's loungers, grabbing a late lunch and then heading up the rest of the way to Sheboygan where our rickety hotel room awaited. After getting everything laid out for the race, we grabbed a steak and 'tater dinner up the road and then turned in.

It was a slightly restless night for me for some reason. I kept thinking about a creepo breaking into our room. And bedbugs. So, I didn't sleep a whole lot :) Around 5 a.m. we hopped in the car and headed to Greenbush, WI, about 20 minutes up the road, to check in and get ready to rock!

RD Robert Wehner is awesome, by the way. He totally loves this race and makes sure everything is just right. He even knew our names! After getting our sweet sweatshirts and numbers, Geof made the final touches and we headed out for the 50 mile 6:00 a.m. start. I watched him off until I couldn't see him anymore, disappearing into the cold, dark morning. Back inside the Greenbush Community Center (which is awesome! A large, heated building with clean bathrooms, sinks, tables and chairs...the PERFECT ultra headquarters!) I changed into my running clothes, pinned the number on, and then waited. The 50k wasn't starting until 7 a.m., so I was getting antsy, and so was everyone else around me. Juli Aistars came over and introduced herself and we chatted for a bit...it's about dang time I met Juli! We've been at most of the same races this year and never ran into each other!

I should mention it was cold as a motha! I think it was 28 degrees at the start, with a 'high' of 45 expected for the day. It was like an ice bath...in the air. All 70 of us 50k playas lined up and waited for Robert to say "go!" and then we were off, heading about a 1/2 mile up on pavement before we would hit delightful trail.

At the start line...the sun was finally up, but it was still COLD! I have on my brand new Atayne CHUG shirt underneath and boy was it a lifesaver, keeping me warm and dry!

I wasn't sure what to expect, or even hope for, in this race. I had kind of eliminated all but the long runs from my 'plan' in the last few weeks leading up to Glacial...a couple 20+ milers and a bunch of 10-milers. Was that going to be enough? Meh, I guess I would see. I was having trouble trying to prep for this one the night before...what do I eat, what do I drink? It's been since July that I've raced! I also had the feeling that I wasn't "respecting the distance." After you've run 100 miles, even if only once, you kind of develop a different approach to a lot of things, but especially running. Suddenly, it's "just" a 50k..."just" 50 miles. I was worried I wasn't preparing enough. The aid stations on this particular course were going to be spread out a lot...roughly every 7 miles...so I was going to need to be largely self-sufficient. Totally cool with me, I kind of prefer that. Geof and I both made a bag for the one drop bag AS (it is an out-and-back course for both distances), but I wasn't sure how much I was even going to use it. Nice to have it just in case, though. I prepared one bottle with Clip2 in it, and one bottle with a controlled mix of Gatorade (the blue Frost flavor...yum!), then I carried all the gels, Clif Shot Bloks and S!Caps I was going to need the entire race in my vest, as well as more Clip and Gatorade. Turns out I was more ready than I thought :) Never a bad thing.

So back to that whole running the race thing... Off the pavement, and onto the blue Greenbush connector trail we went, pretty clumped together, but the trail was wide enough to allow plenty of passing and moving aside if need be. I was taking it eaaaaaasssyyyyyy here and had Juli in view, quietly hoping I would have the legs to keep up with her all day. Juli is a rockstar! Once we finally made it onto the trail of the day, we were introduced to singletrack and what should be named the location of the official natural rock museum of North America, aka Ice Age Trail. If you like to lick rocks, stub toes, and get dirt in your ear, I recommend this stretch of the IAT. It all started out friendly enough. But I quickly learned that the hills everyone lamented about were the very least of my woes. I welcomed those hills on this day! I loved every single one of them. A hill meant I could walk, and that my body temperature would rise enough to break a sweat in the bitter cold :) Here is a taste of what the majority of the day looked like (just beautiful!):


After 5 or 6 miles, I got into a great rhythm running with Dorn and Juli. We were moving great and running the hills. After a bit, we passed up Dorn and from there on Juli and I were two peas in a pod! She got to witness my first fall of the day...I landed on my right side, landing my right knee in a cushy bed of mud, phew! The second AS, mile 13.3 (Butler Lake? The one with the drop bags) I decided I needed to pee. No potties, and no good spots to go, and after I wandered around the parking lots scouting out pee spots, I decided it wasn't all that important, so I grabbed my bottles and headed out. Dang it, Juli already left. I decided then and there that the lesson of the day was, stick with Juli, she knows what she's doing! So now I was on my own, but my goal was to catch back up to Ms. Aistars somehow. At the turn around, there were two dudes sitting in plastic chairs in the middle of a little opening in the trail. They told me it was my turn around (at 3:02, woohoo!) so I pivoted around and continued back as they yelled, "it's pretty much the same thing on the way back!" To which I replied, "that's cool! Bring it!"

So the trail totally "brought it." After leaving Butler Lake I was on my own for a bit, between miles 17ish to around mile 21ish. Admiring the landscape and thinking, "man, I need to take more pictures!" because everything looked so cool up top. Coming down from there, you head into a nice field section, but you're flanked by tall prairie-like grass on either side of the single track. Crossing over some little bridges and just about making it out of a little muddy section, I looked up for a moment to see Juli and company up ahead in the distance, and then BAM! Down for the count! I laughed outloud because I fell on my left side this time, and my ear now had mud in it :) Thank goodness it was the left side because I had a can of Starbucks Doubleshot in my right jacket pocket for safe keeping! After gathering myself and getting vertical again, I really put the hurt on and decided I was going to catch back up to Juli and the gang of chicks she was leading. It was time to make up some time! Just after the open field section, I caught up and hung around for a bit with the girls as we headed back into the woods. I was tripping on rocks left and right, catching myself and almost falling on the heels of the gal in front of me more than a handful of times, sorry about that! I decided I felt pretty bad about that, but I didn't want to slow down. So that meant I needed to speed up. I moved up the line and joined Juli, and from there we separated from the pack. After hearing Juli mention to one of the other women that if they kept moving at this same pace, they would break 6 hours...hoodaddy, I like the sound of that!

My "whisper" goal, as Geof would put it, was 6 hours. Yea, well, I wasn't sure how possible that was, so at about the turn around point, I had redrafted that plan and decided that I was going to be thrilled with 6:30, which would still be a PR, by 27 minutes. Doable.

Juli and I started getting antsy for the final aid station, letting us know we would only have 7 more miles to go. Just before the station, we got to an awesome downhill section. I let my legs go and do their thing, following Juli stride for stride. Halfway down the hill, I did it again. Got my right toe caught on another rock. HO-LY crap! This one takes the cake, over all other trail crashes I've had thus far! It was violent, painful, and maximum impact. I landed on my right shoulder and hip then continued to roll down the hill, water bottles flying in opposite directions. I finally lost momentum and stopped and Juli turned to see me laying on my back. I think I was laughing from shock. Was that an unfair advantage, rolling down the hill? I had leaves in my hair, bloody, muddy palms, a welt the size of a golf ball on my right knee, scratches up my right leg and my hip felt geriatric. That was a doozy! Onward we plodded, picking up the pace a little more, and then the AS appeared. I really wanted to keep 6 1/2 hours in sight, so after a quick bottle refill and one more slice of apple with peanut butter (that's all I ate all day at any aid station), I decided to head back out. Juli was getting some soup and I was sad to move on without her, but I knew she'd be just dandy. I started to pick peeps off slowly but surely. I wanted to apologize as I did this because it is so unlike me, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't secretly enjoy it!

I was having such a good time, and I wasn't letting myself slow for anything. I was running the hills, picking up more speed on the downhills, NOT crashing! I was feeling really freakin' good, and I was so excited to see Geof! I glanced down at my Garmin and saw that I had 3 more miles to go, oh my gosh, it was still possible! I was trying to reel in this dude ahead of me and I tried my hardest but he always kept just out of reach, glancing back at me every few yards. He did NOT want to get chicked :)

Finally, I reach the most glorious scenery of the day...the road home! That meant only a 1/2 mile left to the finish. I passed one more dude walking, turned the corner and there it was. Robert in all his blonde glory standing at the finish line. I knew I had passed 6 hours, but I didn't care, I was done! I crossed the line in 6:12:03, greeted by a handshake from Robert, and, after checking his clipboard, he handed me a handmade mug for coming in 5th female overall, and a finisher medal. I didn't really think about the whole 5th female thing at first. Turns out I was 5th out of 20 chicks, whoa, where did that come from?! After I caught my breath I announced that I just got myself a 45 minute PR to which Robert said, "on MY course? You got a PR? Congratulations!"
About to round the corner to the finish line (Photo from a crew member on the course)

Joy of joys, a PR, on a ridiculously tough course! And a cute mug :) After a quick change into about 12 layers of dry clothes, and still shivering, I hung out in the race HQ with Juli while I waited for Geof to come in. Before too long, I was ready to head outside to try and catch him crossing the finish line, when I turned around and there he was! Nice! Geof got himself a cute little mug too, 7th male (7th overall in the 50M), and a 50M PR in 9:03. That's how it's done! I guess we woke up with our running legs on afterall :) It was a PR kind of day. We sat around a little while Geof got some warm food and we rehashed our races for each other. John came over to introduce himself and let me know he's a fan of my blog...AND that he'd just finished his very first ultramarathon! Way to go John!!

What a GREAT race, no joke. I can't believe how good I felt the entire time; my nutrition was right on, and I really pushed myself more than I normally would have. It felt good! I had a fantastic time getting to know Juli, meeting Mary Gorski in the hallway after the race, even crashing on the trail had its own virtues :) What a fun day, and even better to share it with Geof, even if we were in different distances :) One thing is for sure, we will be back again for this one!
Geof and I with our double race shwag :)

Crash, out.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

When it Rains, It Pours...Literally

Busy = the last week. I sure got a lot done, though! And guess what? Geof and I had a brilliantly awesome 20-mile run along the lakefront on Saturday!

We spent all night Friday moving, then all morning Saturday organizing and cleaning up a touch. Somewhere around 2:30ish we decided it was high time for a long run. So we suited up and headed downstairs...where we were greeted to a downpour. Not once, but twice we got laughed at by two separate couples walking along the sidewalk..."You're not going to run still, are you?" We stood underneath the overhang for a minute or two trying to decide what to do. After heading back upstairs to grab our rain shells, we set out once more, this time with thoughts of only doing 10 miles.

The rain had slowed to a mere trickle by the time we got back outside, but it's a good thing we grabbed our jackets because it was off and on rain the entire run. It was chilly and gloomy out but the lighting was really cool, giving the lake a turquoise-ish hue, in stark contrast to the heavy gray clouds overhead. It was pretty! We ran north along the water until the totem pole, then we ducked onto the bird sanctuary path near Belmont for a short little taste of trail...delish. This brought us out onto the gravel portion of the path along the water up to Montrose where we witnessed part of the prairie restoration project: an explosion of wildflowers. It was downright gorgeous! We meandered further north, I was feeling great and really, really enjoying this run! We wound through the Loyola University campus, which I'd never been through before, got back onto Sheridan then turned around at the 10 mile mark. Bam! Guess we're doing 20 afterall!

It was a fantastic run, and it went by quickly. Once we got home, we went downstairs to the old apartment to clean up and grab the last of the stuff, then we got all pretty to head out to my 10-year high school reunion. That was a beast in and of itself, but still a good time...I guess :)

Now it's time for one more long-ish run (in the rain, once again), and then I'll keep it simple until Sunday, where Geof and I will be running in the Glacial Trail 50s up north, in 'sconsin...I'll be playing in the 50k and Geof will be hammering the 50M. I can hardly wait, the pearls have been down for too long!

Crash, out.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Go Long!

Quick pic: Eating some birthday sushi at Kamehachi...you can see soy sauce mid-drip. Mmmmm, suuuuuussshhhhhiiiiiii

Okay, now for the good stuff!

I had a kick butt kind of long run this weekend! And not a "recovery" long run, but a f'real long run. Geof posted on the CHUG forum to see if anyone would want to join us for a run at Palos this past Sunday for a good old fashioned CHUG trail run. Bam! Peeps jumped on board almost immediately and before we knew it, we had a healthy-sized group for Sunday.

We got to our usual spot, 40 Acre Woods, around 9:00 and found Sarah, Tony, Bill and Leslie there already, with Torey shortly after us.
Sarah, moi, Torey
Torey, Leslie, Bill, Tony, Sarah

After some CHUG talk and some bottle prepping (I decided to go with a single bottle of Clip2 this time) we set out clockwise on the 8-mile yellow trail so that we would catch all the hills going up (per Tony's suggestion). We quickly got into our grooves and Tony and I hogged the front. Tony had run 4.5 loops of this the day before and he wasn't sure how he was going to feel, but from what I could tell he definitely had his runnin' legs on on this morning! He was really pushing the pace and somehow I had it in me to keep up with him. The rest of the group was back a ways and I wanted to slow up so we would all be together, but for some reason I put on my speed legs and I really wanted to see what they had for me on this day. I checked my Garmin from time to time and we were sticking to 9:00 minute/mile splits, some 8:30s on the downs and flats. Holy heavenly smokes, where did that come from?! And, I even felt good! The uphills weren't bad, but Big Bertha never, ever disappoints and while Tony sped straight up it without a second thought, I was reduced to barely a brisk walk. BB is one heck of a hill, and it's long for the area!

So, we did the same thing again on the second loop. After a mile or so, Leslie, Bill and Torey turned around (they each wanted 10 for the day), so Geof, Sarah, Tony and I were left to the trail. After the typical trail run conversations about food and bodily functions, Tony started to push the pace again, and I pushed myself to keep up. After the second loop I was finally beginning to feel the speed and the distance (longest run since VT, at 16 miles!). Sarah peaced out after the second loop, and then there were three.

As soon as we set into motion on the third loop my glutes ached, hams and quads burned and my feet tingled with early signs of hot spots. It felt good! I had completely forgotten what it was like to feel tired and achy all over mid-run. I started reminiscing about all the races I've run over the past year and how this felt so much like a few of those races. So I pushed on and while we had pulled back to a more reasonable/sustainable pace, I was burned up pretty good. Oh, how I love the feel of a good, long, run! We were all pretty tired by now, and the hills became walk breaks. The conversation dwindled and we fell silent the last few miles. I ached all over! Not a spot on me didn't feel like running death, but onward we went.

All three of us were ready to be done, and the parking lot couldn't come soon enough. The weather was absolutely perfect (sunny, slight breeze, mid-60s), the trail was in pristine condition, there were lots of people out enjoying the trail and the day, and I felt like rigor mortis had set in. I was in heaven. We rounded out 24 miles as we approached the parking lot signaling the end of our run. I stepped down gingerly from the trail onto the pavement and felt the creaky knees and tight quads protest. I was literally hobbling across the lot to the car, and I was delighting every step. I haven't felt like that in so LONG! Oh, the glory!

After we changed and cleaned up a bit, the three of us headed to Chipotle for our usual post-run burrito/tacos. I brought in one of the baggies the Clip2 came in and filled it with ice and rested it on my knees while we ate. I think we got what very well may have been the last downright perfect day for a bit, so we sat outside and stuffed our faces.

How totally awesome. Great run, great friends, great food. Holy soreness! I feel like I just ran 50 miles, not 24! I guess I need to do more of those kinds of runs now; I think I'm ready :)

Big week ahead, I got my butt-kicking, gut-wrenchng exam out of the way, and next up is moving day! Friday we get a brief three hour window in which to hog the elevator and move but I think we'll get it all done. Then, Saturday is my 10 year high school reunion...wowza!! Doesn't feel like it's been 10 years since I weighed 90 pounds, ate a Snickers everyday for lunch and thought that Blink 182 had talent. My how time flies!

Crash, out.

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