Friday, July 31, 2015

2015 Mohican Mudfest 100

Mohican 100 was chosen because it was a WS qualifier, close to home, good venue for the kids, and a new race for me. Training went fine, although maybe the taper wasn't quite enough. I seem to peak in training and then not have quite as much left as I would like for race day.

My friend, Joe, and I would do the 100. Shauna, Megan, and David would run the 50 mile option. Connie and her family still decided to come to support and have fun even though Connie would not run due to a fractured bone in her foot.
The race began in a drizzle at 5 am. The rain gradually increased to a steady downpour for a short 13 hours!!!!! The loop course became muddy, shoe sucking muddy and often over ankle deep, and hard to traverse. Hills turned into slippery slides.
I was worried that the kids, Jason, and Connie's family would not be able to do the scheduled ziplining as I ran in the drenching rain. However, they were having a great time ziplining in the rain as I would learn at the half way point.
We also ran through a terrible tragedy as a search and rescue was working to recover a teenager who had drowned the night before. I could not help but feel ill from heartbreak for this child's family much of the rest of my run. Any time goals were thrown out the window on the third loop. Joe got sick in the middle of the night. Several people were falling and dropping. Jason paced on the last loop and exhibited his usual patience with the trudgery.
But, in the end, we all finished. 42% finish rate. 3 toenails sacrificed. WS qualified. Cool buckle. Oh my!
Thanks to Jason, my girls, awesome friends, and the Mohican volunteers and RD for a race that I will never forget!

My 54 mile smiling crew!

Recovery Hike!

Ropes course on tired legs!!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Shatwell Search and Rescue

Frozen Sasquatch 2015 was the first race, as usual, on the calendar to start off a new year! Six of us would be traveling to Kanawha State Forest in Charleston to tackle the 50k. Each of us in our group has at least one 50k finish at this event. The weather is always a wild card as we have encountered ice, snow, and even a warm day that appeared to be spring like. This year it seemed that we would be running in chilly rain!
We drove down the night before and stayed with Jason's aunt and uncle who were very generous and welcoming. Early the next morning, we woke to crisp air, but pleasant running temps. We picked up our packets and started the race. As if on cue, the rain began to pour. The trails were wet, muddy, and sloppy from the start. Joe and I stayed together during the race and finished a little slower than we had hoped. Jason was already finished and cheering us on at the race headquarters. Jes was there, as well. She had been injured and decided to stop after one loop, completing the 25k distance.

We were all changing and anticipating Shauna and Erica's finish. They would probably be finished in about 8 hours based on previous performances. We also thought it could be slower due to the muddy trail conditions.
We decided to wait in parking lot where you can see runners descending the switchbacks on the final mile. Our group of runners all have distinct gait patterns, arm swing, limps, etc. and we can spot each other from quite a distance! We watched as the clock neared the cutoff of 8 and a half hours. Shauna and Erica should be coming any minute. We spotted Shauna in her orange hat, but that did not look like Erica in front of her. Well, Erica will be right behind her, we were sure.

We cheered Shauna on to finish as she announced "That's it. I'm the last runner! ". Jason immediately responded, "Well, where's Erica?". There was obvious concern on Shauna's face as she explained that Erica should be 45 minutes ahead of her. They separated at around mile 16 when Shauna didn't feel well and decided to take a significant walk break. So, where was Erica? The sweepers followed Shauna into the finish and said that they did not see anyone else. One of the sweepers was in charge of aid station 2 (about 7 miles from the finish) and confirmed that Erica did pass through that aid station.
We were still expecting Erica to come down the last switchbacks soon. Maybe she got off course briefly, but she would find her way back. She makes maps for a living, after all! It would be getting dark soon so we were becoming more worried by the minute. She did not take her cell phone since the signal was sparse. The volunteers at aid station 3 could not be reached to confirm if she had made it to that aid station. The park ranger and volunteers had driven some of the roads leading to the aid station and did not see or hear her.
A sound in the distance lead the sweepers off in the nearby hollow hoping to find her there. But, the sound was not replicated and the search in that area did not reveal her whereabouts.

So, now we had to go find her. The park ranger initially did not want "5 more runners lost", but who best to find her, but runners who are fit and can navigate trails? The plan would be to go the top of the last trail and start back tracking. We hadn't brought our nice lights and headlamps, not anticipating being out on the trails after dark, but the park ranger found a few household type lights and a volunteer loaned us one.
Mike, the race director, would accompany us since he was most familiar with the park trails. It was totally dark. We piled into the Suburban after putting our muddy trail shoes back on for the task. We headed up Middle Ridge Road. The road was in terrible shape. We slipped and slid in the deep ruts and ditches as the mud peppered our car. I had my window down in hopes to hear Erica and the mud quickly splattered my face! We all had some terrible scenarios of Erica's whereabouts and condition and they kept getting worse in each of our minds as the minutes and seconds passed. Was she unconscious and injured? Would she even hear us yelling? Did she have an asthma attack? Did some crazy mountain man kidnap her and have her in a trailer (with a basement)somewhere? It is amazing where your mind goes when you become scared and uncertain. It had been nearly 2 hours since darkness had fallen. Erica did not have a light.
We finally reached the top of the trail where we pulled off of the narrow road. We began walking down the trail, we blew my soccer whistle which had been hanging from the rear view mirror for 2 years. We had a small cowbell from a triathlon and began yelling. We had barely ran 100 feet, when we heard an echo "hello", "hello". Seconds later, Erica appears in the beam of our lights with a big smile saying "Guys, I am so sorry". We all nearly burst into tears! She said that she was fine and knew that we would find her! She took a wrong turn and then when she was able to navigate back, the course markings had been removed so she could not find her way. She had traveled over 38 miles!
We quickly loaded her up and slid back down the muddy mountain in the Suburban.

Erica is probably one of the most observant and attentive people who I know. And, also she is very smart (as I told those at race headquarters). So, if she can get lost, I know that could happen to any of us. Erica was correct in not feeling upset and knowing the we would find her! We were not leaving without one of our own even if it meant a helicopter with a spot light, search dogs, and a lumbersexual trying to find her (inside joke).
Thank you so much to the park rangers, Mike, Dan, Sara and the other volunteers/sweepers! This is a Shatwell Adventure that will not soon be forgotten!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Jealing at Javelina

Javelina Jundred would be my best shot at a Western States qualifier this year. I had tickets in the lottery the 3 previous years, so I did not want to lose those chances! If I could not run a qualifier, then I would have to start from scratch the following year! I began weight bearing on my right leg status post fracture of tibia/fibula and hardware including a plate, wire, and 11 screws in late February. My goals of Vermont and Tahoe 200 were not to be realized, so I chose Javelina due to the date (allowing maximum recovery time) and the hopefully, forgiving terrain. I had to gamble on the heat since the previous year was a scorcher, but this would be my 2014 goal.

My ankle and right lower leg looked like a chicken leg with maximum atrophy, but I worked hard to regain strength and stay determined. Mileage was limited for several months due to discomfort and limited range of motion, but MI Titanium Iron Distance Triathlon training would be my cross training and endurance base. Biking was going well until I crashed when my brakes locked up and I fractured my tooth root and ripped off the right half of my face. Unknowingly, I also severely bruised my right femoral medial condyle which forced no running for 6 weeks. The Iron Distance race was a success with no run training, but I have to admit that a marathon distance without run training was not easy. :-)

So, now my focus would be to balance increased mileage to complete a 100 while not re-injuring my knee, ankle, or other part of my body!!!! I completed a long run of 40 miles 4 weeks prior to the 100 and hoped that would be enough!

Javelina would be part of our family vacation and my awesome crew of my three girls and husband would be there to provide support and encouragement. Watching the forecast in Fountain Hills gradually heat up was a bit scary. My first 100 mile race was in heat and I suffered in a bad way. The conditions were out of my control, so I would make efforts to prepare for the heat and develop strategies to keep my body temperature under control.

We arrived in Arizona on Thursday and explored the area. It was HOT! Friday morning we arrived at Javelina Jeadquarters to claim our tent site. It was HOT! The girls were already suffering from the heat and direct sun at 8 a.m.! We headed down to Casa Grande to explore and meet Sam, Jason's cousin, for some supplies (cooler, chairs, sleeping bags). Thanks, Sam! I started to feel sick with a headache...not a good sign. I tried not to worry...I needed to rest. We headed back to the hotel and I went to bed. I woke to pick up my packet and then back to bed! Jason took the girls to the Jalloween party in Fountain Hills. (Thank to you the great community of Fountain Hills who welcomed the runners' families to join their celebration!) I completed my drop bag preps, ate a bit, and then back to bed!!!!
I woke at 3 am Saturday morning and the headache was gone. The first couple steps after I got out of bed were painfree and no limping (usually it takes a while for my joints to loosen up these days). All of these were good signs. Jason drove me to race and watched as I squeezed into a mass of runners as we headed out into the desert to start the race. He then went back to let the girls enjoy the pool and relax. As sun went down they would head over to cheer me on and Jason would pace the last 3 loops.

The first loop felt great. The sunrise was beautiful and despite over 500 runners, the trail didn't seem overly crowded. The first loop was too fast for much of the field, including myself. It felt effortless enough as I chatted with other runners and compared goals, injuries and such. It would heat up quickly and then I would be forced to slow down, so I didn't worry. The second loop felt warm, but I felt like I was tolerating it well until my left calf seized up...for no good reason? I had never had this happen and it did scare me a little. I walked some and then tried to run through it and it did eventually go away, then came back an hour later, and then I guess it just decided to chill out!

I was not looking forward to loop three which would be the hottest loop of the day. I slowed my pace and decided to just get through and it would get cooler. I could feel the hills on this loop and walked a little more. On the the downhill rocky section, I went down hard hitting my right ASIS (front of hip/pelvis) directly on a sharp rock. That hurt! It took my breath and make me nauseous. I sat for a few minutes and two nice guys lifted me up on my feet. They walked with me for several minutes until I felt like I could run. Thank you so much to these two!!!! So, I kept moving. My hip was sore and bruised, but I could run gingerly so it must not be broken....ahh, that would just stink! I was having trouble taking in calories at this point due to the heat and and nausea, but was looking forward to the sun going down.

Loop four was fairly uneventful. I was concentrating on my footing as the sun was going down and looking forward to seeing Jason and the girls. Finally, I was there and my awesome crew was waiting and developing their strategy to help me out! Jason was ready to go! Alexandra and Jillian (13 and 10) would take turns staying awake. This was totally their idea. I told them to try to sleep and set an alarm for 4 hours. They were so excited and ready to help. Lap 5 was tough. We hiked the hill and started to attempt a little running when Jason nearly stepped on a rattlesnake!!! The rattlesnake seemed to taunt us. It did not rattle, but it was in no hurry to slither off of the trail and into the desert floor cover. I was not doing well and so glad that Jason was with me. I'm not sure if I would have had the reflexes to hop over that fella! I felt like I wanted to puke and even tried, but nothing. I decided to sit at the next aid station halfway through the loop and try to drink soup broth and pull it together, somehow. That seemed to help and we were able to run (well kindof) much of the second half of the loop.

Jillian was ready and wide awake to greet us as we completed the 5th loop. Meghann (7 years old) was sound asleep from her busy day swimming and Alexandra was asleep, as well. We gave Jillian a big hug and were off on loop 6. It was the middle of the night and fatigue was setting in. We could hear coyotes howling on both sides of the trail as if they were discussing the unusual notion of humans running around in circles on their land. Now, just as I hoped for the sun to go down, there is something about a new day and daylight that is also comforting. I knew that the chance of a 24 hour finish was not a possibility at that point, so I reset my goal to just finish. It seemed that my body forgot how to run. I would try to pick up my legs, but the movement felt very uncoordinated with little forward progress and it just seemed more energy efficient to walk. We arrived the Jeadquarters. The sun was not quite up. Alexandra was awake and so was Jillian. They were ready to help, but I told them that I was hurting and just needed to get back out to finish the final loop. Meghann was still asleep! (That cot must have been comfy!)

So, we were off. We hiked alot. The 3 1/2 mile hill that I easily ran on the first loop seemed like a mountain. There was no way I could run that now. So, we finally made it to the spot where the trail was runnable..the last 3.5 miles. Jason told me that if I could run at least 15 minute miles, then I could break 27 hours. I told him that I didn't care and that there is no way. At that point, I got a little angry with myself and then I just willed myself to run, to pick up my daggone legs and run! And, it worked. I was running. I was running 12 minute or under pace and wondered how long I could do that. I just kept thinking that I wanted to be done and see my girls. I passed several runners on that last loop and encouraged them to push to break 27. I was on my last half mile and was still running. The girls were waiting and ran through the finish with me in 26:48.
Jason and my daughters are always my inspiration to finish. I never want to let them down. So much of a 100 mile race is mental toughness and working through the low points in your head. This was certainly not my best performance, but I am proud and lucky to finish. I am so grateful to have a family who believes in me and to have awesome friends who were cheering me on from home. I have a body that is somewhat beat up, not genetically gifted, but I have a strong mind and I don't easily give up!

Thank you to the wonderful volunteers and Race Directors who provided a well organized, inspiring, and memorable event in the heart of the Sonoran Desert!

Relaxing, visiting family, and celebrating on our last day on Arizona!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cacapon 12 Hour Challenge Trail Run 2014

The first year was a success after being pulled together on short notice. Year two we came back determined to make the Challenge bigger and better, and we succeeded! Entries nearly doubled to 89, and 80 solo runners and two relay teams toed the line on July 12, 2014 and ran a total of 2,860 miles on the rugged Central Trail. In the men's race, Brad Hinton led from the start and defended his title in dominating fashion, matching last year's total of 65 miles completed. Chris McIntosh was hot on his heels for the first 20 miles, before Brad pulled away to his impressive victory. Peter Jetton ran strong and steady all day, moving into second place for the ninth and tenth loops. Chris reeled him in on the 11th loop and they had a sprint to the line, with McIntosh narrowly edging out Jetton. All three men, along with Bernard Pesjak, Jonathan Loewus-Deitch, Jason Farr, and Aaron Hastings became members of the 50 Mile Club, earning pint glasses.

The women's race was a tight one. Braden Reid had the lead throughout, but found herself clinging to a slim margin over Jana Snider in the middle part of the day. Eventually Reid's relentless pacing won out and she became the women's champion and also joined the 50 Mile Club. Snider held on for second place and Amy Formica was third, finishing 45 miles about 30 minutes after Jana. Team BAMRs (Bad Ass Mother Runners) (Gene Lewis and Katie Thompson) took the relay title with 50 miles in 10:14.


Congratulations to all of our runners and thanks for doing the race! This format is unique as the runners get to see each other and their crews many times through the day, and it's really cool to watch the budding camaraderie as the race wears on. Our volunteers were once again amazing and we couldn't have done it without them! Some of our biggest volunteers are our three children, running and racing is a family affair with us! They made PB & J sandwiches, stuffed packets, worked the aid station, ran the timing computer at times, and our ten year old Jillian even jumped in as a pacer for 7.5 miles late in the race! Thanks to Baltimore Street Grill for all the great food and to Hammer Nutrition for all of their support! And thank you Cacapon State Park and our liaison Renee Fincham for hosting our event! We'll announce next year's race date in a few months and plan to be even better in 2015! Hope to see you there!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Standing on Two Feet

Today marks nearly 8 weeks since I fell and fractured the distal tibia and fibula in my right leg. It was a beautiful day when the snow was dropping big, fluffy flakes from the sky. The local 5k race that we were planning to run as a family was postponed. It was my oldest daughter's 13th birthday so we would be celebrating later that day with several of her friends if the weather cooperated. I put on my Talons for added traction and set out for a short run with my dog, Sara. I took about 3 steps and was immediately reduced to the hard, icy ground. Under the crisp new snowfall was a sheet of thick ice. My right foot slipped as the front of my foot was on the ground and my body slammed down forward (bending my ankle completely backwards) creating the force that resulted in my fractures. I knew that my ankle was injured, but the fractures were confirmed quickly after arriving at an Urgent Care center.

Surgery to approximate the bones with a plate and 11 screws was completed 4 days later.

I am a runner, an ultrarunner. I also compete in some triathlons, mainly to cross train and stay healthy for running. The longest I have not exercised has been about 3 weeks after each of my c-sections.
I have continued to lift weights and started swimming without kicking per doctor orders, but the endorphins that you get from running are not easy to replicate with other activities. The emotions of suddenly being injured and the hormonal changes are tough and challenging. My first reaction was to fight, not to fight anyone or the process, but to fight to be immediately independent on one leg. I did not want to ask for help. Those who know me well know that I have been very independent from a young age and had to grow up very quickly. I knew that I could do most things on my own. What I didn't realize, though, was actually how hard that would be! The energy, both mentally and physically, of trying to do nearly all of things that I previously did was more than I would have every imagined. I learned quickly to drive with my left foot while draping my right leg across the console. I learned to negotiate every imaginable surface and crawled when necessary. I adapted weight lifting as much as possible and figured out how to carry a 15 pound dumbbell while using crutches.

I have a whole new outlook on physical challenges. It was so welcoming to have someone open a door for me as I struggled to do it myself. It was nice to have someone volunteer to let me go first in line so I did not have to stand longer on one leg as my foot was throbbing and swelling. "Here, I'll do that for you" was a pleasant statement to hear because it is not in my nature to ask for help.

I have never believed that all things happen for a reason or that they were meant to happen for some greater purpose. But, I have always believed that you can grow, become wiser, become stronger and become better as a result of your experiences, especially the experiences that challenge you. Right now, at this stage of my recovery, I am so thankful to re acquaint my right foot with the earth and to start to stand on two feet again. I am thankful for my wonderful family and a few very close, supportive friends who help me constantly. I am thankful that I am strong enough to push through the pain and effort to be able to stand again.

Am I looking forward to running again? Of course, I am. But, when you cannot walk, you really don't miss running. You miss walking. You miss standing. You miss how it feels to stand up straight. You miss how it feels to walk and hold someone's hand. You miss being able to carry you own cup of coffee (it tends to spill when you put it in your pocket).

So, today I got the good news that I can start gradually bearing weight on my injured leg. It has only been a few hours and I am walking (with a boot) and using only one crutch and carrying a cup a coffee!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bone Island Triathlon 2014

We decided to do a winter triathlon for the first time! It worked out well as a good week to get away from the cold and snow: the weather was so bad at home that the kids missed hardly any school, and we enjoyed sun and 70+ degrees every day while we were there. Our arrival on Monday was smooth, and since we had a race in hot weather coming up, we knew it was important to start our hydration regimen right away!

We enjoyed a couple days of the Keys and on Wednesday I ran downtown to Eaton bikes and rode home on my CAAD 10 rental bike. I would have much preferred my own road bike, and the course is really optimal for a tri-bike since it is completely flat, but the CAAD served me well and the bike shop was good to work with. I don't own a tri-bike and the few times I've ridden one, couldn't get comfortable and take advantage of the geometry and aero properly. Maybe I'll find the right match one day, and enjoy the speed a tri-bike could provide but for now I'll stick with my road bike. It works well on all the hills we have to climb locally.

Later in the week our friends/teammates arrived and pre-race hydration continued at an impressive pace!

Friday was packet pickup and bike drop off. We rode down and set up our transition area for the next day.

Race day dawned sunny and warm, the warmest day of the week so far. We made our way to the beach, got marked, and were ready for our race. Garth, Joe and I were all in the second wave at 8:05, Shauna, Jes and Erica were after us and Mary Beth was in the final wave at 8:25. We knew the course layout would allow us to see each other out on the bike and run and our families would be able to cheer and support us through the day!

The saltwater swim was interesting. We swam a few hundred yards straight out before making a right turn for nearly a mile, then made another hard right and swam under a pier before exiting. Being a primarily left-side breather, the sun was blinding me on every stroke, so I experimented with closing my eyes when breathing and also breathed on the right more often than usual. Even though we were far from shore, we could see the bottom the whole time and I saw coral, fish, etc. There were some mild rolling waves, and the swim seemed a bit long to me...most people seemed to agree. My time was about 5-7 minutes slower (45 minutes) than expected, whether this was due to currents, poor sighting, or a long course I'm not sure. Having wetsuit strippers waiting on the pier was nice since it always seems to slow me down getting my suit off. I lingered at the freshwater spray station to ensure all the seawater was rinsed off.

T1 was smooth and I was out on the bike. It was about as usual, passing a few people and also being passed by a lot of fast people on tri-bikes. One of these was my buddy/teammate Garth, a beast of a biker now doing his first triathlon! The bike course was out and back through the Keys on very busy US 1...very scenic but also a little scary. The shoulder was not the best for riding and we often had to move into the road to pass, incurring the wrath of motorists who were not happy about their day being inconvenienced by the race. I got a few fingers and expletives hurled my way. Around mile 20 I passed several emergency vehicles and later found they were attending to a man who was in the Iron Distance event that had his bike blown out from under him by a passing semi. He's still in the hospital and may need surgery. At the turnaround point, I had the bad luck to be the first competitor held up to allow traffic to go (something they warned us could happen). I had to sit and wait for 3-4 minute until enough additional cyclists (most of whom I had worked hard to pass over the last hour!) caught up and formed a large enough group to justify stopping traffic again to allow us to cross the road and begin the return trip. It was frustrating, but I tried to at least use the downtime productively by eating a sandwich and refilling my bottles. My bike leg was about 2:55 (19 mph). At the end of the day, the delay didn't cost me any places, but if not for the holdup I might have been able to catch Garth on the run and we could have finished together, holding hands (just kidding bud)! I saw my friends on the return leg and everyone looked good.

T2 went fine and I could tell right away I was going to have a good run. Even though I don't run much anymore due to a bunch of chronic injuries, it remains by far my strongest discipline and I passed a lot of people throughout. My buddy Matt (Mary Beth's husband) rode along with me for a quarter mile or so updating me on how everyone else was doing and I was able to see Garth, Mary Beth and Joe on each loop for some high fives and encouragement. Mary Jane and the girls were there cheering us on, which really helped and the best part of the day was my girls running me in to the finish. I clocked the 15th fastest men's run split (1:41 half marathon in the heat, I would have been happy with that even without the swim and bike) of the day. Garth and I finished as the 34th and 35th men, both top 50 overall, and I got second in the men's 40-44 age group! Mary Beth came in shortly thereafter and set a PR, meeting her goal of a sub-6 hour finish, and Joe wasn't far behind. Jes, Erica, Shauna were out on the run course and we cheered them on while recovering...we were pretty gassed from the hard effort in the heat and sun. The second best part of the day for me was seeing the elation and triumph on the faces of Jes, Shauna and Erica as they came in to the finish. It was Jes' and Erica's first half-Iron event (and as mentioned earlier Garth's first tri ever, what a debut!) and they were so happy and excited that I was really inspired. After recovering and cleaning up, we all headed out to celebrate at Fogarty's! Returning to the condo that night, we saw several of the Iron Distance athletes still out there gutting it out. I had originally planned to do the full Iron and am SO happy that I did the half. With the heat and lack of training in the cold weather, it would have been a very long day and difficult recovery. Big thanks to all the volunteers who really helped make the race go smoothly and took great care of us. We had a blast in Key West, the girls really enjoyed visiting Dry Tortugas National Park, snorkeling and kayaking, Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden, and the Butterfly Conservatory, among other things. It was a great week and a great race! It was tough for all of us that MJ wasn't out there racing alongside, but her recovery from a broken ankle and surgical repair is coming along and she'll be back out there with us soon. This race is supposed to be moved to July in 2015 due to low numbers (about 500 combined entrants for both distances, including teams) and financial difficulties...I have my doubts as to whether moving it to the heat of mid-summer will increase registration numbers or not, we will see. I wouldn't do the race again, due to the distance, cost and logistics involved but would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good time in the dead of winter. Racing in Key West in July, I'm not so sure about that! We returned home to a drop of nearly 80 degrees in 24 hours, but that didn't stop me from strapping the microspikes on my Hokas and heading out for a snow/ice run tonight! No bad weather for running, only inappropriate gear!