Race Schedule

2018 Races…TBD!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I survived the unthinkable, all out war, pure massacre on my immune system...the combination head and chest cold.

Okay, so it's really not that big a deal, but for someone who just plain does not get sick, it's a pretty big deal :)

This was the first time I've had to call in sick to work in over two years.  I probably could have taken one more day today, but when I woke up and felt better than I did yesterday I was too excited!  Work, oh glorious work!  World, people, sun!!

I am really terrible at being sick.  Really.  I must have slept about 14 hours worth of naps yesterday.  And in between hour and a half nap stints I would walk around our empty apartment, stare out the window, flip through an Ultrarunning magazine for about two minutes, stare at the wall for another couple minutes, boil water for a cup of tea, then crawl back into bed for another nap.  I don't know how people do it.  I work with people who call in "sick" every week.  They must get reallllly bored ;)

In any event, I haven't run a step since Monday afternoon, and I am really looking forward to running, and wrapping up Mission: 2000.  Just 18 measly miles left on the radar before I can call myself a 2000 mile runner.  I will love every step; I always do.

I did ponder 2012 goals a bit, while cooking up some quinoa for dinner last night, and today I checked into Gretchen's blog and found 31 Days of Adventure.  I dig it.  That's a good way to start the new year.  Thirty-one days of adventure.  Sounds right up my alley.  I'd also like to set a higher mileage goal for the year.  Those are always fun to do.  And some time goals for a couple of races.  But, I'll save that for a forthcoming post.  2012 is going to be another really amazing year with loads of adventure awaiting us, including a really, really big adventure.  But I can't write about that until it's really set in stone :)  How 'bout that for a teaser?!

For now, I'm looking forward to putting pavement to feet later this evening with my number one :)

Paige, out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mission: 2000...Update Ver. 2.0

This is generally the time of year I enjoy E-reflecting upon the previous 330+ days and spin off into a vaguely (read: entirely) self-centered, excited ramble about all the glorious things we've seen and done over the course of the year.
(I just physically winked as I typed that, FYI.)  (I also had my tongue firmly in my cheek.)  (Here's a grain of salt; would you like more?)

I digress.

However, I am still hard at work on one final goal for the year, and will thus hold off on the aforementioned excited rambling.  But, have no fear, it is forthcoming, in some form or another.  What's a calendar running year without a blog post summing up all things awesome?  Exactly.

I digress, again.

Mission: 2000 is getting close to wrapping up, ooooo-weeeeee!  Today I pole-vaulted over 1,960 miles.  Boom.  We've been keeping things short and sweet and aiming for simple maintenance and quick recovery.  Though, we have been pushing the pace pretty hard most days as a result of the short distance runs :) 

Sunday, we headed back to the Little Red School House loop in Palos Forest Preserve and staged a smackdown with the 8.3 mile loop, finishing more than 2 minutes faster than we ran it the week before.  And this week we had the "pleasure" of slip-slidding along the trail in what was easily the muddiest I have ever seen it.  Of course, we felt pretty guilty running such a muddy trail (you're supposed to stay off the single track when it's wet).  We're rebels without a cause.  Please forgive us, trail gods!  The trail repaid us by smothering us from mid-thigh down in thick muck, and the prickly plants alongside the trail reached out and scrapped my pale sun-starved legs.  I have a few scabbed lashings to prove it.

It was totally worth it.

Despite the terrain, we still showed it who's boss and we finished up in fine time.  I was sucking air so hard I thought my lungs would explode.  I knew we were close on time, and Geof had been pulling me along as it were, but I unearthed a hidden reserve of power lingering in the shadows as we found ourselves in the final mile.  Geof was smooth and appeared to exert almost no effort as I cranked it up alongside him, turning the legs over as fast as I could muster at that time, letting the finish reel us in.  In just over 8 miles I managed to leave it all out on the trail. 

That felt really, really good.

By the way, I wish you a very supremely merry Holiday!  Whichever and whatever it may be, I hope you find a heaping serving of joy, love, happiness, and many, many miles :)

Paige, out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Trail Poet Cometh

Stepping out of the warmth of the truck,
the cold nips at my cheeks and nose.
I yank at a zipper that won't come unstuck,
as a high-speed chill runs straight to my toes.

Breath comes out in big white puffs,
as we step onto the trail to begin our run.
Thankful to have remembered my gloves,
as frozen hands are just no fun.

Ah, the feel of a half frozen trail,
beneath our road weary feet.
It's sort of like the runners' holy grail,
when a wintery trail you do meet.

A thin blanket of winter layers the ground,
and the forest flora has taken its leave.
With hardly a glance and barely a sound,
we move through the forest with a bob and a weave.

The trail twists and takes a turn,
rolls up high and descends down low.
Oh for this how long I do yearn,
for winter's first run covered in snow!

The cold air burns my lungs and stings my face,
and my smile is frozen in time.
But I couldn't care less as I aim to embrace,
this loveliest of runs along a moraine spine!

We pick up the pace and push the hill,
winding down the singletrack.
With joy and excitment my heart does fill,
I savor these moments and don't look back.

A nice easy trail run
has officially become fast.
But hey, a little fartlek can be fun,
especially when you're already having a blast.

Before we know it we reach the end,
"Wow, that was fast! What time did you get?"
Oh how I've missed the trail, my dear friend.
"Lets get burrittos before this stomach does fret!"

There's little I love more than trail weary legs and Saturday's trail run was just what the body ordered.  First trail run since JJ100 over a month ago.  The Little Red School House loop did not disappoint :)

Paige, out.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pocket Change

I was contacted by a cute little website called PocketChange earlier this week about being included in their weekly "Best of the Web" feature.  I'd never heard of these folks before, so I decided to do some research and find out what their dealio is.  Pretty interesting, a complete mish-mash of pretty much everything.  I like the vibe, so I obliged.  I dig it, so I wanted to share it with you :)

You can find the feature (and other neat-o blogs featured this week as well) right HERE.

Hey, it's almost Friday, and, this week, that means Holiday Party! 

Paige, out.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mission: 2000...update

Today's run officially pushed me over 1,900 miles.  Only 100 more miles to victory!  The official "start date" for Zane Grey training is also fast approaching, so hitting this milestone will be a nice way to kick off the new training season. 

Goodness gracious, I sure do love running!

And now for a photo completely unrelated to Mission: 2000...one from the JJ100 course:
Photo credit: Manoj Nagalla

I can't believe it's only been 3-1/2 weeks since JJ100.  Seems like a lifetime ago!

Paige, out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mission: 2000

This morning's run marked the official start of winter running for the Serious Case of the Runs household.  The mercury would only reach 27 degrees before we stepped out the door.  And, as Rob C. would say, the "real feel/sissy temp" was a weak 22 degrees.  This was definitely going to be a long tights sort of run.  Ah well, it was going to happen sooner or later :)
That said, I do love cold weather running!  As long as there's no ice I am a happy camper.  Less sweating, faster turnover, fresher legs, happy lungs.  It's all good.

Oh yea, I've been running :)  Recovery post-JJ100 has been a whole new experience for me this time around.  It's been really good!  We took a full week off right after the race, then started back nice and easy the following Monday, and have taken just one day off since.  I am pleasantly surprised (as is Geof) with how well recovery has gone.  Legs feel fresh, and certainly not as if they ran over 100 miles less than three weeks ago.  The body has bounced back like a friggin' champ.  Not to mention my melon.  Usually, post-100, I am mentally wiped and really looking forward to the time off from running.  Not so this time!  Geof and I were both ready to get back at it a mere three days later, so holding back for a week was harder than we expected.  But we were good little athletes and didn't run a step that week, not even across the street.  Though, I may have broken into a run if a block of manchego cheese had been waiting for me on the other side ;)

I have a new goal now.  One last little thing to squeeze in before the new year :)  This year has been so good to me, and I managed to achieve every single one of my goals set back in March.  So I figure, I'm so close now, I may as well just go for it.  I am going to place a little bit of blame on Jennifer Leslie for encouraging me ;) 

I'm shooting to hit 2000 running miles by the close of December 31, 2011.  Before this year, my highest yearly mileage was 1,314 miles.  I'm now knocking on 1,900 miles.  I can easily lay out 100+ miles in the next 4.5 weeks :)  Jennifer and I plotted it out casually at the last New Leaf Ultra Runs club run two weeks ago (where Geof and I cheered everyone else on, and stuck to the sidelines).  She is just as close as I am and has also never hit this high of mileage.  So we're both aiming to hit or break 2000.  Yeah teamwork!  Yeah good bad influences! ;-)

Yesterday we managed to sleep in a little bit and were unable to get in our morning run, so I decided a night run was going to be in order.  Two thousand miles don't run themselves.  However, Mother Nature was P-O'd yesterday and was whipping waves over the path and onto lawns and such, in addition to blowing winds in excess of 50 mph.  So, I decided it would be prudent to stay inside, especially since it was dark already and Geof had a work function to attend...and I tend to get thrown around like a rag doll in winds that strong.  To the treadmills!  I haven't run on the treadmill since maybe February when it was really icy outside.  It went very well though.  I was ready to pull the plug at 3 miles out of sheer boredom, but then I found some fun mind games to play and keep mentally occupied through 6 miles.  I played with the incline (our building got new treadmills I think because now they go up to 15% incline, hellz yeah!), and did some interval work.  That was fun!  I almost forgot what it was like to sweat, but this run reminded me I can sweat like a dude when on the treadmill ;)

Oh, I almost forgot!  Speaking of bad influences...Brian Gaines...  April 21st we'll be running the Zane Grey Highline Trail 50 Mile in Pine, Arizona.  It's going to be a birthday run for Brian, and Geof and I are along for the celebration and masochism.  Kelly and Caleb will bear witness to the insanity.  I mean really, what are we thinking?  Geof and I hmm'd and haw'd about it for awhile, but Brian reminded us it was going to sell out so we made a snap decision and signed up.  COMPLETELY outside our comfort zone, and for that very reason I am very excited about it!  I figure, you need to do at least one big thing per year that really terrifies you.  Zane Grey sorta terrifies this flatland, nontechnical Midwesterner.  And the snakes give Geof the heebie jeebies.  So that'll be interesting!  The average finish time is 13.5 hours.  The Hardrock Honey, Diana Finkel, ran it in 11.5 hours this year, holy EFF!  She lives and trains in the mountains.  The winner does it in about 8.5-9 hours.  This could be a nice LONG day of speed hiking for us.  And totally awesome :)

We're still working on our schedule for next year, and I'm mulling over new goals.  I'm finding that setting reasonable but worthy goals and making them public makes a big difference.  I highly recommend it!  More on that later.

Paige, out.

Friday, November 18, 2011

2011 Javelina Jundred 100 Mile Run: Desert Dancing

Before I get started, here's a quick peek inside the contents of my mind this past Saturday as we ran around the Arizona desert.  I'd like to call it the 100 Mile Mental Montage:

You just gotta ignite, the light, and let it shine/blah-betty-blah/'Cause baby you're a firework/Come on, show 'em what you're worth/Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"/As you shoot across the sky-y-y
Baby, you're a fiiiiiiiiirework/blah-betty-blah-blah/Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"/You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe/blah-betty-blaaaaaahhhhhh/brighter than the moon 
(courtesy of Katy Perry)
*record scratching*
I wish nothing but the best for youuuuuuuuu/Don't forget me, I know I re-emember you saaaaaid/Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts insteaaaaaaad... (Courtesy of Adele)
*record scratching*
Welcome hooo-ooooooooo-oh oh oh ooommmmme, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah (Courtesy of Radical Face)
*record scratching*
I'm too embarrassed to admit the fourth song that was stuck in my head.  I don't know how it got there.  What music happens in my head in the desert, stays in my head for fear of e-laughing and e-pointing.  For shame!

I must admit, the segues into each of the above four songs got smoother and more creative as the day went on.  It was like I had a professional mixmaster in my head.  Except that the mixmaster only had four songs to work with.  For 22+ hours straight.  I'll also admit that the above lyrics are verbatim from my head.  I don't know any lyrics beyond the above, so don't hold me accountable for any inaccuracies.  And I'm convinced that "blah-betty-blah" is really in those songs.  Who can understand what they're saying anyway?!

Moving on. 

The 2011 Javelina Jundred 100 Mile Run (that is actually 101.4 miles) was a mindblowing success!  I don't even know where to begin, so I'll just start and see where I end up :)  Oh, and it's going to be realllllly long.  Grab some hydration, something to snack on, and a warm fuzzy to cozy up with :)

Geof and I flew into Phoenix Friday morning and hooked up with Brian and Kelly (aka "Brelly") and baby Caleb at the airport.  We hopped in our rented hoopty, Caleb between Geof and I in the back seat, and I commenced with the goo-goo ga-ga'ing with Caleb while everyone else held intelligent, adult conversation, of which I heard nothing.  I was very engrossed in the insane adorableness of Caleb.

Exhibit 1 of Insane Adorableness

After checking in at the fabulous Holiday Inn Express - Fountain Hills, we decided to get lunch at Fireside Grill (which is conveniently located inside the hotel).  YUM.  If you plan on running/crewing/pacing JJ, ever, stay at the Holiday Inn and eat every meal you can at the Fireside. 

After doing some arranging of things, doing leaps across our awkwardly large room, and sniffing the really nice hotel toiletries (coconut lime verbena Bath and Body Works products, hello!), we met back up with Brelly and headed to McDowell Mountain Park to pick up our packets, hang out, enjoy the pre-race dinner and sit in on the pre-race meeting.  This year (compared to 2009) was super relaxed and laid back.  I ran into lots of peeps who read my blog (which always makes me blush), and finally met JojaJogger!  We gathered with other Chicago-area runners in town for the race, took some pictures, and then got in line for some grub.  P.F. Chang's was catering the dinner, and it was actually quite delish.  Rices, noodles, veggies, some other stuff that I didn't touch, and then three huge sheet cakes.  The ratio of rice and noodles to cake was somewhat...skewed...on my part :)  And oh so delicous!

After we wrapped up dinner, the five of us headed back to the hotel.  We said goodnight to the Brelly family, and immediately set about organizing our one drop bag (at the midway point of the loop, Jackass Junction), and our bag for the start/finish area.  JJ100 consists of six 15.4 mile loops, and a seventh loop of about 9.4 miles.  You always come back to Jeadquarters and then turn around and run in the direction you just came from (called 'washing machine' loops).  This means you get to see everyone throughout the day, and keep tabs on the front of the pack, which is amazingly fun to watch unfold.

I felt a little parched, so once we finished our OCD race prep, we moseyed down to the Fireside Grill to enjoy our traditional pre-race libation: Coors Light.  Nothing better :)

We both slept like babies.  It was amazing.  I woke up really awake, and really nervous.  Geof went about his bid'ness and I about mine.  We met up with Brelly outside and drove the 20 minutes over to the park around 5:00 a.m.  I stared out the window at the full moon, pondering such things as mortality, why I'm about to do what I'm about to do, what kind of cheese I want to eat when we're done, and things of that nature.  When we arrived at the park, we made a beeline for the shelter at the start/finish to set up our bags and ensure that we'd have a dry place for our things in the event of rain, which had been forecast for Sunday morning early.  While we certainly took the possibility of rain into consideration, for some reason I didn't take it very seriously.  We decided to leave our rain shells in the trunk of the car, so they weren't taking up room in our bag, but still accessible if needed.  The start was cool, but warmer than I thought it might be, in the low 50s I believe.  But combined with nerves and not a ton of sleep, it felt cooler than that. I cuddled up to a cup of hot coffee and walked around some, in a complete daze.  I was reciting some go-to  positive affirmations that I've found to be beneficial when its crunch time.  Settling the mind and easing the butterflies.

For the first time ever in a 100 mile race, I felt ready, determined, and completely confident in my ability to achieve what I was setting out to do.  There was no way in hell we weren't finishing under 24 hours.  Just no way.

Just before the start!
Photo credit: Jen Birkner

What's up Javelina Jundred, I'm gonna make you my b****!  I thought that to myself as we lined up behind the start line.  And suddenly, I wanted to dance.  But I didn't, so I did a dance in my head :)

With a little fan fare, but an intense buzzing of excitement, 396 brave souls set out down the trail, running in the clockwise direction.  Headlamps glowed in the dark morning air, bouncing up and down, side to side.  I noted how very little chatter there was.  Everyone folded up inside themselves, contemplating the task that lay before them.  It felt very dream-like those first few minutes.  Geof and I started near mid-to-back of the pack and were encased in a heavy clump of bodies, worming our way along the double-wide trail, seemingly as one entity.  The soft plod of feet on loose churned sand.  I was thankful for the slow start, being stuck in such a dense pack of people.  Plenty of walking in those first couple of miles up to the first aid station (Coyote Camp?).  After that first aid station, the trail turns rocky.  It was far rockier than I recall from pacing in 2009, and a lot longer than memory served.  But, runnable nonetheless.  

The clump finally broke up some and we were able to bob-and-weave our way around people.  Chatter began, and I pieced together numerous tidbits of passing conversations into one complete thought in my head.  A humorous way to pass the time :)  Geof mentioned he wasn't exactly 'keen' on my sprinting ahead of large groups of people.  I just wanted to get ahead of the social peeps and settle into a nice quiet spot.  I didn't want to get roped into any conversations just yet.  I was still seeking out my happy place.  But, I tried my best to even things out a bit and slow some :)  I tried.  Before long, dawn turned into morning and the headlamps were shut off for good.  A guy named Dallas caught up to us, scaring the bejeezus out of me.  He apologized for the rampage and said he had been trying to catch us for a long time and wanted to see what it was like to run with #16 (me)...I refrained from mentioning that I picked my bib number, it wasn't a number given to me for being a fastie :)  I just smiled to myself.  He was sweet and held onto us for a bit before we cut ties.  I think he passed us up, but don't quite recall now.

And just like that, Lap 1 was done.  I knew we should keep pretty close to 3 hours, if not a little less, at first.  We finished the first lap in 2:41.  Boom.  A little faster than I thought it would be, but totally rockin' because I felt awesome.

Rolling into Jeadquarters, 15.4 miles down
Photo credit: Kelly Gaines

I grabbed a few more waffles for my waist pack, dropped off my headlamp, and topped off my water bottle while Geof did the same, and we were out of there in a few minutes.  Quick turnaround is absolutely key.

Heading in the direction we came from (counter-clockwise this time) we started to see everyone who was behind us.  This is the coolest part of the course, seeing other runners.  We ran all the way into the first aid station (Rattlesnake?  Not sure), stopped for a quick porto-john visit and were out in a flash.  It was very overcast, but still warming up nicely.  We were moving really well and I was stoked about how good I felt, but still very cautious.  One hundred miles is a loooong way to go, and nothing is guaranteed.  It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings.  

Geof and I are pretty quiet runners, but early on we were chatty and gossipy.  I could tell Geof was debating something internally, but I didn't prod.  Verbalizing things sometimes makes them worse.  It was somewhere in this second loop that I enlisted a saying that Marshall Ulrich mentions using in his book "Running on Empty" (which you should absolutely read if you haven't already).  When something started to act like it was going to bother me, I told myself, "Not my problem."  And within moments, whatever it was would be gone; proof of how powerful the mind is.  I know that a lot of the time most of the things that bother me are manufactured by my mind.  So, I let it know it simply wasn't my problem.  That twinge in my ankle?  Not my problem.  That could-be-a-hotspot starting?  Not my problem.  All that gas?  Definitely not my problem...but certainly a problem for whomever was behind me ;)  

We started a habit of discussing what we were going to do at each aid station before we approached it.  I'd ask, "what do you want to do here?" and Geof would list out his tasks, and then I would follow suit.  This was a handy little tactic.  It kept our minds occupied, and it ensured we kept on task in aid stations rather than dilly-dallying.

And, once again, just like that we were back at Jeadquarters.  I decided I would change my socks here for the first time.  I had a couple hot-spotty areas on my right foot, so I did a quick wipe-down of the feet, reapplied Hydropel in key areas, and put on a fresh pair of Injinjis.  This would end up being the only time I changed my socks.  I freakin' love Injinji liner socks.  Of course, I was wearing my usual La Sportiva Wildcats, and I never once changed out of those.  First time I've worn the same shoes all the way through a 100 miler.  

Re-affixing my gaiters after Lap 2
Photo credit: Kelly Gaines

This stop was a touch longer, and Geof changed his socks, too.  He was having some very minor stomach woes and general blahs, but we were out of there in maybe 5 or so minutes.  

Lap 3 started out well, and somewhere in the middle, in the seemingly interminable section between the 2-mile aid station and Jackass Junction (a really loooooong feeling 6-6.5 mile stretch of rocky, rolling, crap) we both mentioned feeling a bit off...sorta tired, sorta not, sorta blah, sorta not...a general malaise.  We determined caffeine was in order.  The best way I can describe how I felt was allergies.  A stuffy head feeling.  Once we FINALLY reached Jackass Junction (it only felt longer as the day wore on), we both downed some Coke.  Holy EFF that was good!  I'm not a soda drinker generally (I'll imbibe once in awhile, at Chipotle, with a burrito), but especially not during long races.  The carbonation doesn't play nice with my tummy usually.  But this time it really worked for me.  Coke would end up being a staple for me during this race.  I was downing a cup of it at every single aid station.  And boy what a difference that made!  I felt like a billion bucks a few minutes later, and so did Geof.  We were in the warmest part of the day, and the sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds.  Each time it peeked out from the clouds it felt incredibly hot on my skin.  It was uncomfortable, and enough that I thought about ripping off every last bit of clothing and dunking myself in an invisible oasis of coolness, but thought better of it, mostly because I knew that oasis of coolness was only a mirage rippling on the horizon...  I kept my RecoFit Armcoolers on because there was still a very nice breeze blowing on my sweaty arms creating a really awesome cooling sensation.  I also kept on my RecoFit Calf Sleeves because they make my calves so dang happy, and now I have a really sexy calf sleeve tan :)

Somewhere on this lap I noticed my stomach sloshing.  Normally, I know exactly what to do when this happens, and I acknowledged that in my head, but for whatever reason I couldn't extract that information.  I asked Geof about it and he noted we were running pretty fast, in the heat, with a lot of liquids going in, so blood was getting shunted to the extremities and not enough was getting to the gut to aid in digestion and fluid absorption.  I married one smart cookie :)  So, we slowed to a ridiculously pedestrian walk for a number of minutes.  And, sure enough, my stomach got its act together.  I was able to answer nature's call, then I took one S!Cap (noting the time so that I could keep track of when to take another one), a small drink of water and then we picked it back up.  I ended up doing this once or twice more throughout the run, and every time it worked like freaking magic.  I eased up on the salt, even though it was still hot, and went from once per hour to once per 1.25 hours.  Keeping track of that timing and calculating when I need it next also keeps the mind nicely occupied.  Double bam.

Photo credit: Manoj Nagalla

Photo credit: Manoj Nagalla

I decided that the heat was "Not my problem" and kept my head down and my feet moving.  We tore up the remainder of the loop and pulled into Jeadquarters in fine time, slowing a bit as expected.  Here we decided to grab our headlamps as we weren't sure how long the fourth loop would take and wanted to be prepared just in case it stayed cloudy or the full moon didn't make it out in time.

Per my mental plan, we were officially halfway done with the "full-time" portion of the race.  The first six laps were like working a 9-5.  The final, seventh, lap was going to be our "over time/party" lap.  Overtime is fun because you get paid time and a half, and who cares how long it takes, you're getting paid for it! ;)  That's one way I kept it fun in my head, and one way I broke things up into bite-sized chunks.  These are the things I think about on the trail.

Exhibit 2 of Insane Adorableness: Caleb giving Geof a pep talk, "listen, dude, you got this, just keep following that awesome wife of yours!" ;)  Photo credit: Kelly Gaines

We also decided to grab our jackets, just in case it cooled off while we were out there.  Not rain jackets, just something with some wind protection.  We tied those around our waists and set our headlamps on our heads...and never once touched either of these things on our fourth lap :)  But, better to have what you need on the trail and not use it, than to need it and not have it I guess!

Lap 4 was great.  We traded places with fellow Chicagoan, Daniel Robinson.  It was his first 100 miler and he was doing awesome!  He was playing a similar game as us...run to that cactus...walk to the next ribbon...run to that sticky-outty bush...walk to the top of the hill...run to that cactusfeeling it the way I normally would.  I could tell I had been running for quite a while, but my legs still felt fresh and springy.  I was really surprised how loose and comfortable everything was.  I was just a touch tired, as expected.  I was keeping my mind in the present and thinking of nothing but the next hundred yards.  I rarely looked up or ahead by much; my focus was very intense compared to prior races.  I felt so comfortable, and my stride effortless.  My breathing was even and conversational, and my mind was positive.

I felt happy.

I consciously smiled from time to time, to remind the rest of my body how happy I felt.  I would get a surge of energy each time I did this.  I also made sure to recite the things I was thankful for at any given moment.  Cheesy, but highly effective in times of need:  "I am so thankful for this perfect running weather...for the ability to run 100 miles...for my health...for the ability to run this race with my incredible husband...thankful for the ability to burp really loudly to release all that carbonation in my belly...the ability to pee frequently so that I know I'm properly hydrating...thankful for having four not totally awful songs stuck in my head...thankful for my DNF at Leadville last year and all the lessons I learned from it, like that quitting was in no way an option, petty weaknesses are not welcome on this day..." thankful for simply being.

And then we were at Jackass Junction, lookie here!  Coke!

Jackass Junction...which was a total jackass to get to...
Photo credit: Manoj Nagalla

From Jackass, we landed a cozy spot behind a gal running an amazingly comfortable pace.  THE perfect pace in my opinion.  We clipped in behind her and matched her stride-for-stride.  I was in a zone, completely off in my own world, concentrating only on the gals feet in front of me and making sure not to run her over.  I could hear Geof making noises behind me but I wasn't registering them.  I didn't want to pass her because I knew she was running everything and the rolling hilly section was upon us, which we would walk.  Once the rollers started, we lost her for awhile.  The gal said she'd see us again soon, and Geof said we'd make sure not to tailgate her next time...oh, oops.  I was totally one of those runners just then.  That's what he was chirping about :)  Turns out, perfect-pace-gal was Jess Mullen.  Boom.  That was cool.  I can't believe we were running stride-for-stride with her!

The darkness began to set in fairly quickly, around 5:30 or so, maybe even before then, but we kept pushing on refusing to turn on our headlamps.  Our eyes adjusted and we rolled into Jeadquarters, 100k done, at precisely 6:06 p.m. (12h:06m for 100k...that's a dandy mid-100 PR!).  I was on cloud nine and ready to kick some more ass and take a few more names.  We took a little time here to reset and get Geof's stomach geared up.  He seemed to be doing better, but a little cautious still.  It was at this time that Kelly told us that race officials announced that they were expecting "significant rain" after midnight.  We asked her if she could grab our rain shells from the car and put them in our bag at Jeadquarters so they'd be ready when we got back.  Kelly is the trooper of all troopers, let me just say this now!  She had Caleb with her all day, but carrying around, and feeding, another human being didn't stop her from being star crew and support for anyone who needed it in our group.

I decided against changing my socks at the 100k mark, as originally planned, since we were now going to encounter rain...what's the point?  I told myself I'd change them after the fifth loop.  I never did end up changing them again.  Once your feet are wet enough it isn't uncomfortable.  I got comfortable with being uncomfortable.  After swapping out my arm sleeves and wet short sleeve shirt for a dry short sleeve under my favorite Icebreaker, and deciding against re-upping my stock of Honey Stinger in my waistpack, we were outta there. 

Somewhere near the end of the fourth loop I decided my waffles and chews weren't sounding appetizing anymore.  I've noticed this happening around the 45 mile mark in races of late, so I wasn't surprised when it popped up this day.  It came on a little later, though, which was nice.  I was thrilled to pieces when I saw that aid stations were stocking CarbBOOM! energy gels.  I've only had this brand of gel once before, but I loved the flavor and texture of it, and that it's made of more natural ingredients.  The apple cinnamon, peach banana, and grape pomegranate became my best friends, along with cups of Coke.  I grabbed a couple gels at each aid station and stocked them in my skirt pocket.  Eventually the gel texture made me want to gag, but it was way easier to just pour those down my throat rather than chew a waffle, so I stuck with the gels the remainder of the race and choked them down on schedule.  I normally start to shirk my eating duties in the final few hours of a race and that always makes for a not-hot feeling, so I kept on top of it this time.

We are making our way up, up, up the sandy wash section of the clockwise fifth loop, pushing hard and I'm starting to sweat now.  Headlamps are on as it's full-on dark and no moon in sight.  I have a handheld in my hand.  I never did end up using the handheld, but I kept it in my hand or pocket all night.  Just in case :)  We pulled into the 2 mile aid station and grabbed some Coke, and Gatorade for our bottles.  And then the rain came.  I look down at my watch and see that it is 10:30 p.m.  WHAT.  THE.  EFF.  Underneath the tent of the AS it sounds like it is just coming down in buckets.  We put on our rain jackets, zipped up to our chins and set out into the wet night.  Not 200 yards out from the tent the rain stops.  "Bring an umbrella and it won't rain...forget it at home and it'll pour."

So, back around our waists our jackets go.  This happened a few times in the next couple hours.  The rain couldn't make up its mind.  But whatever, we had work to do, and rain certainly wasn't going to stop us.  The full moon began to push its way through the clouds to boast its mighty glow.  My headlamp began to flicker a touch, but was still bright.  I announced I'd like to change my batteries at Jeadquarters, before lap 6.  By the Rattlesnake AS the rain became steady.  It sounded ferocious underneath the tent of the AS, and was puddling beneath our feet.  I was thankful to only have to run, and not have to stand still in the chilly, wet night for hours and hours.  Those volunteers are saints of the highest order.

Pulling into Jeadquarters after a little more than four hours, almost an even split with the fourth lap.  I swapped out my batteries and wiped my face off with a wet wipe.  Heaaaaavenly.  We both decided to brush our teeth after slamming a Starbucks Doubleshot.  I was feeling great still, and that toothbrushing made my mouth sing.  I was looking forward to our sixth lap, and saying goodbye to the parts of the course we'd not see again...Rattlesnake, flat runnable non-sandy part, Jackass Junction (sweet mother of love was I glad to say goodbye to that section).  The rain was really coming down now, and it was heavy enough that it was creating large puddles across entire portions of the trail.  Getting around them was tricky, and eventually futile.  My headlamp kept flickering so I moved it underneath my hat so that the brim protected the lamp, and suggested it to Geof as well.  This helped a lot, and thanks to the almost featherweight-ness of our lamps (we were both wearing our Black Diamond Spots) it sat comfortably on our bare foreheads and never caused any bouncing issues.  Score.  Adapt to your environment.  I pulled my hood over my head as well and from there I was completely in my own little world.  I could hear nothing but the sound of my Goretex hood flapping next to my ears, and my own breathing.  The beam of my headlamp spread out wide before me, rain drops gleaming in the light.  My hands were exposed and wet, but not cold thankfully.  The feel of my footsteps along the rocky and submerged trail.  I could no longer hear Geof's footsteps behind me with my hood up so I'd glance back every so often to make sure we were still together.  We pulled up to the Tonto Tank water stop and filled our bottles once more.  We told the volunteer there that we'd be seeing him again soon, for the last time. 

I would glance at my watch from time to time, but never absorbed the information except for at Jeadquarters, and noting when the rain began.  Thus, I had no idea what sort of pace we were on, I just knew we were still on sub-24.  Leaving Coyote Camp, the rain was still heavy, but I was glad to know we had less than two miles to Jeadquarters.  The loose churned sand was now fully saturated and turned into some of the most ridiculous "mud" I've ever experienced.  I've run McNaughton...and I thought that was bad?  This stuff was super slick and glued itself to your shoes.  My feet must have weighed an additional five pounds by the time we made it out of this section of trail (about a mile long).  Oh well, we only had to deal with that one more time.  We stamped our feet to try to remove the stuff, but it was useless.  The rain began to let up enough that I removed my hood and pulled up my sleeves a little for some relief.  Smiling the smile of 92.4 miles successfully covered, and still under the cover of night, we rolled into Jeadquarters for the final time during the race and finally got to that which I've been daydreaming about all race...the coveted final loop glowstick necklace.  It's like being knighted, on your birthday, which is also Christmas, while eating Kyle King Carrot Cake, wrapped in fleecey warmth, surrounded by all your loved ones on top of a mountain of wildflowers.  It's THAT amazing.  I was smiling ear to ear.  Only 9.4 miles to go!!!!

We grabbed a couple more gels from the table, refilled our bottles and grabbed some extra batteries just in case.  Geof got something hot to drink and we began walking out of the station.  I was now in full on inner-reflection mode.  I thought about everything...all the training, all the running, all the good sleep, all the lost sleep, all the Honey Stinger Waffles and Chews, all the aches and pains, all the anxiety, the packing and unpacking, the silly-hot days, the blisters, the number crunching, mileage tracking.  Logging into my running log was one of my favorite parts of the morning, entering in our miles and time for the morning's run.  Getting up at 4:30 every morning to squeeze in our run.  All the Tuesday Ten Milers, all the long runs in the Kettle Moraine and lunches at the General Store.  The gross hot runs at Palos, and the humid and interminable Waterfall Glen runs.  It was all about to be worth it.  Not that I ever questioned that.

I knew I wanted to reach the Tonto Tank water stop by 22 hours.  No real reason, other than that I wanted a full two hours to run it in if needed.  We wound our way along the trail after Coyote Camp and caught up to Daniel and his pacer Jim O'Brien (another Chicago area fastie).  It felt like this rocky crappy section wouldn't end, and Dan and Jim expressed similar sentiments.  We ran behind and beside them for a bit, then the rain picked up again and I put my hood back up.  I was shut out from my surroundings and resolved to just run how I felt.  I put some space between me and the guys...I could smell the barn; it was strong, and I wanted nothing more than to just get there.  Geof caught up to me as we made our way along the ridge that lets you know you're almost to Tonto Tank.  I was being pulled in by the light of the tent.  A little more water, and then we were off.  Jeff Browning was pacing a guy that had been running near the front all day.  They were just a touch ahead of us, but not for long.  We passed them up and never saw them again.  Now Geof was in front of me, pulling me along.  He was putting down the hammer.  But first, I needed to pee one last time.  A quick pit stop and we were back at it.  This section is a really smooth and wonderful downhill section and we used it to our complete advantage.  I knew we hit Tonto Tank at exactly 22 hours (bam!), but after that I stopped looking at the watch.  We were moving fast.  I couldn't believe how well my legs were moving, so fluid and smooth still.  I paid close attention to them all day and made sure to never break good form.  Clearly, this was paying dividends now.  It felt like Geof was upping the pace a little bit every few minutes, and his determination was now palpable.  I was waitin' for that to come out :)  Geof knows how to seal the deal towards the end of these things, and I was thankful we had his resolve at this late hour.  I would have been content to just cruise it in comfortably at this point.  But Geof, he was on a mission that I was unaware of.   And I loved it.  I loved feeling my legs turn over as fast as they were after 99 miles, feeling like I could go on a lot longer.

It felt like we had just left the Tonto Tank water stop, and we were already coming to the turnoff, hopping back onto the Pemberton Trail.  We knew what this meant...one more mile!  I still hadn't looked at my watch.  It didn't matter to me.  It was still pitch black out, and that meant we were still in sub-24 hour territory. 

OH.  MY.  HEAVENS.  WE ARE STILL IN SUB-24 HOUR TERRITORY!!  I couldn't believe it, but at the same time I totally could.  I set out to achieve this goal, did the work, and we got it done.  This is what success tastes like at this moment...gel residue, Coke bubbles, and the cold desert air in my lungs.  The rain had slowed considerably by this point, so I pulled up my sleeves once more, and removed the hood.  The stop sign at the road crossing was in view, and that meant just a few hundred more yards.  The flagging appeared, along with the torches, and people lining the chute leading us to the finish. 

Then that song popped into my head one last time, for old times' sake...Come on, show 'em what you're worth/Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"/As you shoot across the sky-y-y/Baby, you're a fiiiiiiiiirework/blah-betty-blah-blah/Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"/You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe...

And just like that, we ran it in together, glancing up at the timing clock, and crossing the timing mat for the final time...22 hours and 40 minutes after starting this journey.  I wanted to scream and shout words of joy and exitement, but a smile and a thank you to Jamil as he handed me my oversized, sub-24 buckle to me was all I could muster.  I didn't even feel teary.  I just felt...so dang happy. 
With Jamil, RD, at the finish
Photo credit: Kelly Gaines

Photo credit: Kelly Gaines

I still can't believe how good I felt ALL DAY LONG.  Other than that little spell of tired/blah-ness early on, squelched by heavy intake of Coca Cola, I never felt completely off.  I never fully craved a nap, and resolved early on to not take a nap (a first for me!).  I made sure to not sit for very long at AS stops...mostly because it made my legs buzz and I know nausea usually follows shortly thereafter, but also because I didn't want to get comfortable or cold.  I let Geof have his low points and didn't bother him with too many questions about it, and I didn't let his disposition affect mine in any way...which I tend to let happen in these races.  Any discomfort that popped up I kept to myself so as to not weigh him down with my issues...and it helped reminding myself that my "issues" were "Not My Problem", and therefore they left just as quickly as they popped up.  Keeping my mind on track and not letting it lose sight of our goals was key.  Paying attention to the body, but not too much attention, kept me balanced and feeling overall pretty good.  Humming those four songs over and over in the night while it was pouring down rain, and the only other sound was my hood against my ears.  Blinking my eyes continuously and moving them around to avoid getting hypnotized by the beam of my headlamp at night helped in a big way, too.  I find I get dizzy or nauseous if I focus too much on the narrow light beam, and thus generally require more than one light source.  Not paying too much attention to those showing early signs of DNFing also made a difference.  It's easy to get sucked in by the negative field of energy that surrounds a DNF...that sounds really cold, but it's very real.  Maintaining focus on our task at hand was all I had the energy to do, that and running. 

I couldn't be happier with how everything went.  A 5.5 hour 100 mile PR...that's ridiculous!  And in a race where less than 45% of the field finished.  We missed snagging a PR for Geof by mere seconds.  That's the mission Geof was on as we pounded out the final miles down Tonto Tank Trail.  He knew we'd slide under 23 hours, and was looking to PR, too.  I bet I could have turned the legs over a little faster if he had shared that tidbit...  Guess we'll have to snag that one next time :)

Well, recovery has been amazing, best I've ever felt post-100.  Today the legs feel as though nothing happened last weekend.  My hardcore cankles have disappeared and I can see my ankle bones and the tendons in my feet finally.  That's pretty exciting.  Six pounds of water weight/gel/Coca Cola have exited my body and I'm back to pre-race shape.  I earned a total of three blisters, none of which were enough to warrant messing with, so I let them be and they are nothing more than callouses now.  Boom.  I'm a huge lover of my Injinji toesocks these days.  The tendonitis in my left ankle never bothered me once, and still has yet to bother me post-race.  I did tape it up a touch with some KT Tape, and broke up some of the adhesions with my trusty golf ball before we left the hotel for the race.  That hurt like a sum-bish, but clearly worked out.  Everything decided to work together with me and I couldn't be more grateful to my body for that.  What a rush, finishing in the dark, in less than a day. 

I'm not gonna lie, I like this psuedo-fastie business!  Now the question is...how fast can we get?

Almost done, just a couple more photos.  I was hoping for some on-course pics, but those haven't been posted yet.  Perhaps I'll update this with more photos once we get those. 

Ever wondered what a post-100 mile fog looks like?  Exhibit A:

Photo credit: Kelly Gaines

And now for the requisite shwag photo:
I think that's about all I've got right now.  My fingertips are more sore from all this typing then my legs were from our little desert dance! ;)

You can read Geof's account of the day HERE.

Paige, out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gettin' It Done

There is a whole lotta stuff to write, and a whole lotta pictures to post, but I wanted to let you know that things...pretty much worked out for us at JJ100 :)  There was a high level of kickass-ness going on.  Lots of good decisions, almost no bad decisions, and enough urination to keep the kidneys happy.

And the buckle...

...almost weighs more than me.

More to follow...but right now, I need to elevate these cankles.

Paige, out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jello Taper, Jappy to See You Again

This is a Javelina inspired post, jence the use of "J" rather than the usual "H".  Work with me jere :)

Once upon a time I crewed and paced my now jusband at the 2009 Javelina Jundred, and this year we've decided to run that little race together, pushing each other to the edge of our limits, in joly matrimony :) 

Jey, it'll be our first 100 mile race as a married couple!  (We are very cheesy and get a kick out of pointing out each thing we do that is our "first as a married couple"...)    

I'm pretty pumped!  I can't believe it jas been four months already since we decided to take this one on.  Four months of jard training, long miles, short miles, mind-blowingly awesome miles, total crap-ass miles, a couple of PRs, some character building runs, some light-as-a-feather runs, some jighs, some lows, some serious cases of the runs.  What a ridiculously amazing training block it jas been.  I've enjoyed it all.  Even the crap-ass miles :)

I feel ready.  I feel strong.  I feel nervous.  I feel excited.  I feel anxious.  But mostly I feel so totally ready. 

It's about damn time.

Jere are a couple shots from our adventures in the Arizona desert back in 2009.  I like to think about all the fun things that jave jappened since we were last there (*enter: mental trip down memory lane*)...

I guess that's about all I've got right now :)  I jave more or less exhausted myself with this taper, and it jas squelched my creative juices.  My legs like to freak out in the week before a big race.  They are definitely not a pair to break routine, so I'm javing mini panic attacks with every single twinge and niggle.  It's a darn good thing no one else can jear my thoughts; I'd be committed for sure ;)

I jave a costume that I wore while volunteering at the race back in 2009, so I may be wearing that at the start and see how I like it through the miles.  But, we'll see.  It will be a game time decision.  

Wooooo, I just got butterflies!  

Paige, out. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Des Plaines River Trail 50 Mile: Sandbagging Ourselves

Honest to goodness, we had no intention of doing anything even remotely surprising during Saturday's race, the Des Plaines River Trail Races 50 Mile.  Good friends, and co-crew members at Badwater 2010, Ed Kelly and Terry Madl race direct this little shindig, in its second year now, and we were psyched to see the guys and to get in one final extra long training run before the JJ100 taper began.  Once the final price break deadline came and went, we went back and forth about whether or not we run it, or volunteer.  When push came to shove, we decided it would be a most excellent day on the trails and the best way to get a reading on how our training has come along. 

Turns out our training has gone better than we thought (oooo, foreshadowing!).

The race starts in Lincolnshire, IL with a short little out-and-back (~2 miles) heading south, then heads north along the Des Plaines River Trail into Gurnee, IL turns around and finishes where we started.  Geof and I had only ever been on the trail once before, in Libertyville (a section we did end up running through during the race), and it was on the coldest, most depressing-looking day in Illinois history.  Easily.  And the trail was covered in ice and wintery crap.  So we didn't have a good feel for what the trail would be like or how it would look. 

Turns out the DPRT is a gleaming little gem of a trail!

The race started at 7:00 a.m., just as the sun was making its first appearance.  The ground was covered in a blanket of frost and our shoes squeaked as we shuffled across a grassy area to the starting line.  Brrr, it was friggin' cold!  But that wouldn't last long.
The 50 mile start...you can see the frost in the grass...Photo: Bill Thom

There was also a marathon and half marathon that would start later in the morning, but for the time being we had the trail all to ourselves.  I'm not sure how many peeps started, but 55 fine folks finished the deed when it was all said and done.  Zach Gingerich was the early (and correct) pick for the win, and he didn't disappoint with a blazing 5:37:17 finish.  In case you don't want to do the math, that's an average pace of 6:44/mile...for 50 miles.  That makes me want to yak just thinking about holding that pace for that long.  He looked cool and comfortable both times we saw him. 

Anywho, there's a short little out and back to the south that you run before heading north for the day so that the mileage comes out to a little over 50 miles.  We started in back, chatting with a couple peeps, then gradually worked our way up by mile 2 or 3.  Ahh, we had the trail to ourselves...and that was pretty much how it was much of the day.  We passed some folks early on that we thought we'd get passed by later on but that never did come to fruition.  In fact, we managed to hold onto our 8th and 9th place pretty much the entire day, and others came and went.  It's cool to look at the splits and see how grossly consistent we were throughout the day.  We slowed a smidge on the way back, but that was expected.  Otherwise, we were like a pair of metronomes out there :)

The trail was gorgeous.  Did I mention that?  All the leaves were bright yellow and explosively colorful once the sun came out for good and burst through the forest canopy.  The trail was probably 40% exposed, 60% forest cover.  Maybe less, maybe more.  The exposed sections were just as lovely and the sun felt so good on the face and arms :)  It warmed up into the 60s and I was able to remove my long sleeve shirt somewhere after the turnaround.  The terrain is crushed limestone, so I was very thankful for having thought to unearth my gaiters for the first time all year.  The trail is also very, very, VERY flat.  There were two inclines where we thought to walk, but only because we would have killed for an excuse to walk.  There are a few minor road crossings, but most of the time the trail goes underneath the roads, so we were nearly uninterrupted.  

We were clucking along all fine and dandy, having clipped into a comfortable pace after the first 10 miles or so.  My glutes and hams felt fatigued pretty early on, but they never got any worse.  It was like they just wanted to cut to the chase and settle into their low level discomfort for the day early on.  So that gave me plenty of time to get comfortable with the discomfort.  That's a big battle in 100 mile races...getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Somewhere before we hit double digit miles, though, we came to an aid station that Adrian Belitu and Maria Clementi were manning.  Very excited to see them, it's been awhile!  Adrian announced I was second woman, to which Geof shouted behind us as we took off, "don't encourage her!" :-)

I knew I was in second, but I didn't really care this time.  Like I said, I wasn't out there to do anything surprising; I was merely out for a long training run.  So, I let it be.  And that felt good.

There were mile markers for the first 15 or so miles, to cater to the short distances, but it was fun to use the markers to calculate splits and to otherwise occupy the mind.  Somewhere near the 14-15 mile mark, we came upon the first place woman standing alongside the trail, futzing with her stuff.  We said hello as we passed by, and for the few minutes that followed I let myself fantasize about running in first place :)  But then she caught up to us and proceeded to do something very odd...  The trail is a very wide, multi-use trail.  As in, you could conceivably run four across, comfortably.  But this chick decides she's gotta have some Dunmore.  Geof and I run side by side, leaving plenty of room to the left to pass.  She was literally so close that if either of us moved our legs or feet slightly differently she would have stepped on our heels and down we all would have gone.  If there hadn't been a breeze, I probably would have been able to feel her breath on my back.  Um, WTF?  And she was breathing heavy, slapping her feet with each footstrike.  Was this supposed to be some sort of intimidation tactic?  It wasn't working; it just made me want to throw an elbow up behind me.  But instead, Geof and I just held tight where we were and figured she'd pass.  She wouldn't pass.  We held our pace, not pushing anything.  And she continued on our heels.  Geof eventually stepped a little to the left and she took that moment to step between us, run a few strides beside me, then take off.  She must be new to ultrarunning.  That was some BS.  Who does that?  She was moving very strong and that was the last we saw of her until the turn around.  That was bad trail etiquette on her part.  But, whatev, we have much bigger fish to fry :)  Even if we didn't, I'm not sure I could have kept up with her.  She totally smoked us, finishing almost 40 minutes ahead of us, LOL!

In any event, we continued on our merry way, sticking to our comfortable pace and reaching the 26.4 mile turn around in 3:47.  Perfect.  I had "budgeted" four hours for the first half and only stocked enough fuel in my waist pack to cover that.  At the turn around, we had our longest stop of the day, maybe a few minutes.  I changed into my Wildcats as my La Sportiva Quantums don't breathe very well and my feet were really sweaty (I think I'll reserve the Quantums for really cold days).  We pounded a Starbucks Doubleshot each, resupplied my Honey Stinger Waffles and Geof's Gu's and then headed out of there.  It took a mile or so for my feet to get used to the feel of my beloved Wildcats...they are much less cushiony and have a thinner upper than the Quantums, but they felt oh so good!  My feet could air out now, and they weren't rubbing the fresh blister on my right foot.

We continued on, business as usual.  Taking in the beautiful fall scenary, loving the warm sun on our skin, marveling as a couple different freight trains whooshed by us...those things are HUGE when you're down below them!  I giggled like a little kid, loving the rush it gave us as they flew past. 

The aid station volunteers were wonderful.  We only stopped at a couple stations on the way out (there were 15 total), but stopped more frequently on the way back to refill our water bottles.  I was pretty thirsty and making sure to keep on top of my water.  That meant I needed to pee more often :)  There was an awesome bathroom just before the 50k mark that we stopped in and I relished washing my hands.  It's the little things in life.  We farted around a minute there so Geof could empty his shoes and I stretched my glutes.  We hit the 50k mark, and I looked down at my watch...a 50k PR, sweet!  We covered the first 31 miles in 4:54, and after working some fuzzy calculations in my head at that point, I realized we would likely break 8:30 for the day.  But, I didn't want to get ahead of myself.  That's not what we were out there for.

Much of the rest of the race was very uneventful, which is always a good thing in these races.  We stayed very, very comfortable, never pushing the pace.  We walked in a few spots to eat or change up the movement, stopped to refill our bottles at Adrian's aid station, and found some more awesomely familiar faces there, too.  What a great day, filled with great peeps!  We were now in single digits, and the next aid station we were looking forward to seeing Brian, Kelly and Caleb.  I was feeling the cumulative miles and time in my legs and was now having to work a little to maintain our pace, but that was fine by me, we were almost done! 

With three miles to go we pulled into Brian's aid station, goo-goo gaa-gaa'd with baby Caleb, caught up on Kelly's race (she ran the 1/2 marathon; her first race since having Caleb!), and then we were off.  I noticed we were just a little over 7 hours in with only three miles to go.  This was in the bag. 

Apparently, my calculations had been off...we weren't just going to go sub-8:30...we were going to go sub-8:00 even if we walked the rest of it!  Buy why walk when you can run :)

I started to feel really excited, and Geof was feeling the pull as well.  We passed the "1 mile to go" sign and we picked it up to kick it in strong, crossing the finish line in 7h:43m:47s, in 8th and 9th place overall.  I snagged 2nd woman overall, and Geof was 7th male overall.  Hot Damn!

Crossing the finishline...totally bamboozled!  Photo: Bill Thom

We pretty much sandbagged ourselves.  Where did that come from?  We didn't even really work for it, we just ran nice and easy.  Bill Thom, of RunRace.net, congratulated us on our run and marveled at our finish time.  "Yea, but it's a flat course..." to which Bill replied, "Yes, but you still covered the distance; 50 miles is 50 miles!"  Hmmm, good point.  I find myself often defaulting to that thought when considering courses and finish times.  Why?  I don't know, but I do know I need to change my thought process on that because it's totally lame :)  It's pretty awesome to know that I can more or less run 50 miles, and run it well.  That gives me a lot of confidence going into JJ100, which is now two and a half weeks away, holy smokes! 

We were both pretty sore the next day in spots we aren't usually sore due to how much more running we did.  By Tuesday we felt pretty fresh again, but I held off until this morning to go for a run.  I was pleasantly surprised by how good everything felt today.  Except for one pesky little shit of a blister on my left big toe.  Nothing a little lambs wool wrapped around it can't fix :) 

Picking up the September issue of Ultrarunning magazine on Monday evening, I read Tia's editorial for the first time in awhile, and boy was it timely.  The topic focused on how different ultrarunning has become and how we automatically default to thinking harder courses are the "real" ultras and easier courses...don't count.  She wondered why being able to RUN a fast time on what is considered an "easy" course is somehow less of an achievement than hiking/running a slower time on a "tough" course.  Ultrarunning is all about being able to RUN long distances was pretty much what I took away from her short write-up.  I was a little surprised by just how timely reading that article was, especially since we've had that issue since August and I'm just now getting around to reading it :) 

So that was a pretty awesome experience, and one heck of a 50 mile PR for both of us...again. What a year! I was extremely content to let our 8:35 PR stand for a good long while. I had no illusions whatsoever of getting a PR on this day. It just sort of...happened. So, I'll let that 7:43 stand for a good long while :)

Sub-9 hour finisher's buckle

I'm super stoked for how everything went, and how even-keeled my mood and stomach were.  I am now really, really looking forward to JJ100, and really, really happy with our training this time around.  What a difference a training plan makes!!

Paige, out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Humble Beginnings

I don't know what exactly stirred up this particular trip down memory lane.  Maybe it was the crisp fall air with that hint of urban leaf decay floating in the air, or the runner who whooshed past me.  Fall always reminds me of it.

It was my freshman year of high school, and I finally decided to join the track team.  Fall 1995.  The cross country season had just ended and indoor track was about to begin.  My friends convinced me to join.  You didn't have to 'try out' for track at my school, you just had to show up :)  Tryouts for the pom squad weren't until January, and I had some free time on my hands.  So I...showed up.

I started out running with the sprinters for some reason.  It was quite the sight.  I was barely 5 feet tall, skinnier than a stalk of asparagus, and nearly translucent after a summer of avoiding the sun.  Everyone else was exceptionally tall, muscular, healthy looking, and FAST.  But, I wanted to try it.  I wanted to be FAST like the others. 

I hated every bleeping minute of it.  And, I was so not fast.

I could not for the life of me figure out the starting blocks. 

These should be called Death Blocks...

I constantly fumbled with them, tripped, fell a few times, and was always, always the last one out of their block.  And trying to run fast after starting from a near-kneeling position was ridiculously hard for me.  I approached them with the same level of apprehension that I approach getting off of ski lifts.  Gripped with the fear of a thousand hells. 

But I kept after it in that arena, and after a few weeks I found my calling.  It just wasn't where I thought I needed to look. 

Our warm-up was a two mile run to Taylor Park and back (one mile each way).  Every single time I made it back before the rest of the sprinting team, and ready for more.  All the other girls came back gasping and worn out.  Coach D suggested I practice with the distance team for a couple of days and see what I thought.  Coach D scared me.  He was a stoic and critical man.  So any way to escape his critical eye was a most welcome escape.  The next day, I was with the distance team, working with a wonderful woman of a coach.  I can't believe I don't remember her name...but I remember what she looks like and how kind and welcoming she was to me.  I was instantly hooked.  Of course, it now meant workouts were longer, more difficult and I was never the first person back from a warm-up :)  Speed workouts, fartleks (hehe, fart...lek...), hill repeats, funny stretches (which I still do to this day), striders, and best of all, no starting blocks! 

I wore some chunky Reeboks with a bright purple and silver whoosh on the side.  I saved up my babysitting money and allowances to purchase these coveted running shoes, and at $40 it nearly cleaned me out.  My how times have changed.  I was just glad to not have to wear the godawful clumsy Asics my parents bought for me from a sidewalk sale at the Competitive Foot in downtown Oak Park.  They were two sizes too big and looked geriatric.  But, all the other girls wore spikes on the track.  So, I still managed to look geriatric next to them, in my Reeboks ;)

I started and finished every workout gasping for air.  The cool and damp autumn air stung my lungs.  My quads always itched from the wind burn, and my sides always cramped.  I loved it.  I often wondered why we did all our workouts outside for indoor track... 

We had to set a goal for ourselves to reach by the end of the season, at the conference finals (assuming you were invited to run).  I desperately wanted a six minute mile...I just wasn't very good at initiating an action plan.  But, I set that incredibly arbitrary goal (I had no idea what I was even capable of at that point) in stone one afternoon as we did a core workout using playing cards off to the side of the indoor track in the field house.   It smelled heavily of rubber and sweat.  The sound of squeaky shoes on the basketball court echoed around the cavernous room.  The boys' track team was gathering opposite where we were, gearing up for their workout.  We were running to Concordia University a few miles away, doing some 800 meter sprints around their track, and then running back for a cool down.  Colleen ran beside me the entire way there.  She was a senior varsity runner, and she taught me how to run softly, how to roll my foot from heel to toe, rather than slapping.  I think of that conversation almost every time I run.  It is funny the things that stick with us. 

I worked hard during practice, but I never ran outside of practice for some reason.  At least not that year.  I ran the 800 and the 1600 in various conferences and track meets, garnering modest times, but never coming close to winning any.  I looked on in awe at the girls running the 3200.  I wished so bad that I wanted to race that far!  But I didn't for some reason.  I only enjoyed practicing longer distance; I didn't actually want to race those distances.  Again, how times have changed :)

The conference finals rolled around and I was invited to run in the 1600 meter event.  It was at Hinsdale Central.  My dad showed up to watch.  It was cold, and a slight drizzle came down off and on throughout the meet.  Nora offered me her spikes for my event.  She could tell how much I wanted a pair.  She was running the 3200 and there was plenty of time between our two events.  I was downright giddy!  They were a size or so too small for me, but what did I know?  I jammed my feet into those gorgeous Nike spikes and lined up at the start with a smile so big I could have floated out of there.  There were nine other girls on either side of me, and I glanced around to see what my competition looked like.  I felt like one of them.  A girl in a green uniform shook my hand and wished me luck.  With the gun, we were off. 

I don't recall much of the actual event, but I do remember how much it hurt.  My feet ached, jammed uncomfortably into those spikes.  My lungs burned as they always did running on cold days.  Each time around the track I saw my dad standing there, umbrella in hand, waving and smiling.  The tank top and shorts of my uniform were sticking to my skin as the drizzle picked up into a light rain.  As I rounded the final curve and eyed the finish line, the girl in the green uniform caught up to me.  We ran neck-and-neck, but she nudged her head forward as we crossed the line.  She totally beat me.  I felt so ripped off.  But, that was quickly disbursed as I was told my finishing time.  A 6:09 mile, good enough for 8th.  Not quite my 6 minute mile, but considering my previous best had been an 8 minute mile, I was pretty damn happy :)  I just couldn't believe I came so close.

Coach D came over and congratulated me.  I was stunned to say the least.  He said he wanted to tell me 'I told you so', that he knew I'd be a good distance runner.  My dad walked up to us and shook Coach D's hand, "every time I watch her around the track, all I see are those blue shorts and legs for days.  She's a distance runner!" boasted Coach D.  The giddiness in my dad's voice, and the look on his face made me immeasurably happy. 

I never did go back to the track team after that season.  I made it onto the pom squad that January and never looked back.  But obviously I was bitten.  I enjoyed shedding the structure and rigor of the team and just going out for runs as I pleased.  I do love looking back on that season, though.  I learned a lot of things that have stuck with me through the years.  Ah, such humble beginnings.

But, I still can't use a starting block properly ;) 

Paige, out.

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