Friday, December 27, 2013

"What's the secret???" Canal 100

Graveyard 100 went well and recovery was coming along, so the decision to run the inaugural Canal 100 was relatively easy. The race was close, inexpensive, and had forgiving terrain. It also fell into my "100 mile" theme that I created to celebrate my year of turning 40. Mary Beth and I waited until a couple weeks before and signed up. We stayed with my Aunt the night before which worked out great since it was only about 20 minutes from the race start.
The evening before I felt really bloated and knew that it was quite possible that I would be running 100 miles at same time as my menstrual cycle emerged from it's greatness. So, in preparation for this added small inconvenience, I added some menstrual specific supplies to all of my drop bags.
We met up with our friends, Tina and Todd, at the race start. Tina would be running and Todd crewing/pacing.

I could tell from the start that this day would be a struggle. I felt super bloated (5 pounds heavier), crampy, and kindof just "blah". I felt like I was doing ok and that the general field of runners were going out way too fast, as usual. We were keeping an even, controlled pace, chatting, and solving worldly problems. The day started to warm up quickly and layers were shed.
The aid stations were great and well stocked. I would not have needed anything really from my drop bag except for my unique supplies. So, as we pulled into the 25ish mile aid station, I immediately went to my drop bag first. There were many crew and spectators at this particular juncture. I could see that I was being observed by several as I was trying to discreetly retrieve my personal items. It is always interesting what ultrarunners use to get through a 100 mile run and there were several on lookers who I believe were interested to see the special fuel that I was quick to pursue from my drop bag. So, I am pretty sure that they were disappointed in the result, especially the guys????
Mary Beth and I stayed together for the first half. Our husbands, friends, and my daughters would be at the half way point. It is always so great to know that someone who cares about you is waiting to assist and I was looking forward to seeing my family and friends this juncture. This race is unique and special in regards to pacing. They allowed bikes to pace after the first half. So, a quick kiss and shoe change at the 50, and then we were off.
Jillian (AGE 8) was the first pacer on bike. She seemed to have a great time and smiled the entire ride.

As it began to get dark, Alexandra (AGE 12) took over pacing duties with her head lamp! Our friend, Joe, joined us along this 20 mile stretch!!!! That was Alexandra's longest ride and she hung in there despite some seat discomfort!

It was during this second half that I really felt crampy and needed very frequent breaks, just off the trail. I suggested that Mary Beth go ahead since I could not control my GI issues (which were primarily a result of the monthly thing) and it was causing me to become depleted. I knew that my sub 24 hours goal was probably not going to happen. But, I also knew that my entire family was there and that I would finish this race and keep pushing with whatever I had left. Jason took over pacing the last 30 miles on bike. I know that had to be so tough. It was cold, dark, and I was moving very slow in between stops on the side of trail! The miles crept by slowly. Daylight arrived. Where in world was that terrible hill with the rope that I would ascend for the final 1/2 mile? Finally, it was in sight. Joe had all three girls there to help me rally a tiny bit of strength remaining to make it to the finish line 24:15. So, I did not meet my goal, but I was just so happy to be finished and to be surrounded by the best family and friends ever!!!!!! So, that is the secret! The secret does not reside in the drop bag. The secret is knowing that there are three girls, a husband, and awesome friends who dedicated their weekend to helping you enjoy your passion!Some days you don't feel the greatest or have your best race, but those are the times when you dig deep and know that you will still persevere!
So, during circle time at pre-k on Monday morning, Meghann will have some great stories to tell!!!!

Congratulations to Mary Beth and Tina who both ran amazing races that day!

The girls entertain themselves as they wait!
Jillian gives me advice around mile 80!
Meghann rides along for short jaunt!
Mary Beth and Matt getting ready to head back out on the trail!
This crewing or whatever you call it is exhausting! WEll, maybe not for Jillian!

The girls meet with with less than a mile to go! Yes, I am pooped!
Meghann....because crew can just be cute to be supportive!!!!
Jason was the photographer so there are no pictures of my biggest supporter, so I have to add one of my own!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Inaugural Cacapon 12 Hour Challenge Trail Run

We were humbled and honored to organize and host the inaugural Cacapon 12 Hour Trail Challenge Trail Run! For many years we had pondered organizing our own event, and had always thought that Cacapon State Park was a hidden gem that would be an ideal site for a race. After a chronic knee injury hit critical mass, requiring surgery and bringing my hardcore training and racing days to a premature close, I was searching for another outlet for my running passion and energy. With Mary Jane's encouragement, we embarked upon the goal of putting on a quality trail race with only three months' notice. I was unsure if we would be able to pull it off, but when it was all said and done, it went off without a hitch!

OK, well maybe we shouldn't quite say that, because there was a hitch involved. When we exited our cabin two hours before start time, we found our Suburban, loaded to the max with race supplies, with a flat tire! We quickly reloaded to another vehicle and the race started promptly, but AAA decided to hitch up the Suburban and tow it later in the day after an unsuccessful attempt to fix the tire. Luckily it was ready the next morning to make it back home and to work.

At 7:00 am, 48 solo runners and 2 relay teams charged out onto the trail!

As expected, Brad Hinton established the early lead, and his relentless effort over the next 12 hours brought him the victory with 13 loops (65 miles) covered. Brad faced a stiff challenge from Paul Peters, who had a successful return from injury with a strong performance of 60 miles. Tom Dekornfeld, age 60 was a machine all day long, logging nearly a mile per year of age as he finished third with 55 miles. On the women's side, the lead changed hands a few times. Issy Nielson took control of the race early and achieved 40 miles in under 9 hours before calling it a day. Sheri Fiolek and Mary Beth Strickler were hot on her tail and took advantage of the full 12 hours to both finish with 50 miles, with Sheri getting the nod by less than 30 minutes. Relay team The Tortoise and The Hare took the title in that division, completing 50 miles in 9:34.

Brad setting the early pace with Paul dogging his heels.

Sheri taking control

It was a warm and humid day. The trail was very challenging, perhaps a little more than most runners expected. We were very impressed by the tenacity and fortitude of the runners, as many of them persevered late into the day to get the most out of themselves. The 48 solo and 4 relay runners covered 1675 miles, averaging over 32 miles apiece! The volunteers were amazing as they tended to all of the runners' physical and emotional needs throughout the day. The loop course and small field made for a very encouraging and positive atmosphere, and we really enjoyed seeing the camaraderie amongst runners, spectators, and volunteers build as the day wore on. As first-time race directors, we consider everyone who took part at Cacapon to be part of our extended running family, and all you runners and volunteers will always hold a special place in our hearts. Thanks for making the Cacapon Challenge such a memorable day! Thank you so much to Mary Jane for her unwavering support and her determination that we could pull this race off and make it something special in a few short months from conception to reality. Our reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and we appreciate that so much! Good luck in your upcoming races and events! We plan to be back bigger and better in 2014 and hope to see you there!


Our volunteers were second to none!

Brad is gassed after 65 miles. Kate is thinking the only thing that could make this day any better is if someone would dump a pitcher of cold water on her!

Joey made the 50 Mile Club!

Erika was one of many who knocked out their longest run EVER at Cacapon!

Chris and Kitty ran their first trail race. Chris made the 50 Mile Club, 4th overall!

As the sun sets over Cacapon Mountain, there are still many runners out on the course getting that final loop in!

Father and son Pete and Elijah, we had lots of family connections out there!

Most of our runners never stopped smiling all day long!

Mary Beth ran strong and steady to a second place finish, 7th overall!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"When The Wind Did Not Blow Her Way, She Adjusted Her Sails" Graveyard 100

One of my favorite quotes is "She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails"- Elizabeth Edwards (UK). This quote would resonate in the weeks leading up to the Graveyard 100, during the race, and post-race, as well. Graveyard 100 would be my third 100 mile race. My strength is running, not hiking or climbing, so I thought that this race may suit my ability. I mentioned this race to my two close running friends as we were all a few miles into the Cheat Mountain Moonshine 50 mile race and before I could justify why I wanted to follow a white line on asphalt for a 100 miles, they both said "Yes. That sounds good!". My husband decided to surprise me by signing up for the race just before it filled in October.

So, the four of us trained and peaked with a 47 miler four weeks prior to the event. Around this same time, we learned that our oldest daughter, Alexandra, would be performing in a dance solofest the same day as the race. This was such a heart wrenching discovery. Now, we were faced with decision of whether to run the race. There was no alternative, but to discuss this with her directly and let her make the final decision. Jason was struggling with severe knee pain and needed surgery. Alexandra's dance was dedicated to him as she chose a song that he sang to her as a small child. Jason chose to stay and sacrifice his potential 100 mile finish. Alexandra decided that I should run the race since I would see the dance later in May. So, this was our first adjustment in our sail.....but, this was such a tough choice.

My mom took her last breath a week and a half before the race. The hardest thing that I have ever done is to know that her final day on this earth was probably that morning and then to watch her take her final breath as I held her hand and assured her that everything would be ok. I was emotionally exhausted. I was running a bit too much during this time, in an attempt to deal with the stress, and strained my calf. So, now I was 2 weeks away from Graveyard, injured and exhausted.

My friends, Joe and Mary Beth, who were also running and Shauna and Matt, who would be crewing, all met and left Friday before sunrise for the trip to Kitty Hawk. The trip was smooth and the forecast looked perfect. We picked up our packet and saw how turbulent and raging the ocean appeared. We joked about doing a triathlon in that water. The pier where we had the pre-race meeting was moving a bit and it was making us nauseous, but not quite as nauseous as I felt after Brandon, the race director, announced that due to road washout south of Nags Head, the race may have to be an out and back. We would not know this until the next morning AFTER the race was underway. He was confident that there was a good chance that the course would follow the original planned route, but the decision would be made on race day. So, we all headed to our hotel to sleep as well as possible before a 100 miler and contemplated what to wear to start the race!

Matt and Shauna drove us to the start of the race at 4:10 am. The weather seemed mild and the atmosphere was light. We sang the national anthem (well, some of us did)and then we were off in the darkness. The three of us stayed together and shed our first layer pretty quickly. We found some nice port-a-pots on construction sites to use periodically. It seems funny how a port-a-pot can be such a welcoming sight! We arrived at the first aid station where there was still no word on the decision of the race route. A quick shirt change and some snacks and we were headed toward Kitty Hawk. Things were going great. Joe slowed down a bit and Mary Beth and I just chugged along chatting and laughing until we reached Kitty Hawk and veered left onto Route 12. Immediately, we were faced with a road full of clutter and debris. Most of the road was completely saturated with sand and water and smattered with wood pieces, tumbleweed, siding from houses, and various hardware that had been blown from the apparent storm of the previous days. Mary Beth and I hiked up some sand dunes to avoid water, but quickly I sank about a foot deep into sand and water and we realized that this was going to be an adventure. This is about the same time that Mary Beth checked her phone and received a text from Jason stating the announcement was placed on Facebook that the course would be changed to an out and back! We both had a few moments of despair (and a few curse words), but we quickly adjusted our sails and decided there were some positives to this decision (I think that we were delirious, because I can't remember what we rationalized at the time as positive, but somehow, we did!). We also decided at this point that we would move to the upper road to avoid the high water. This did add a little distance, but it seemed worth the effort to avoid the water and sand.

We continued to move well and make good progress and we found port-a-pots at the opportune times! We arrived at Aid Station 2 feeling strong, but with the worry of what the turn around may present. We saw the leaders coming back and it appeared that they were working very hard against the headwind. As we headed out toward Bonner Bridge, the wind intensified and it was obvious that the runners were facing a challenge contending with the wind. We turned around only to be blasted by the force. We had to secure our hats from being plucked off our head and carried away like a kite. It felt as if someone had a rope around our waist pulling us back as we tried to move forward. We would learn later that the wind was gusting around 25 mph. I felt as if I were fighting too hard and told Mary Beth that I had to adjust and go easy pushing into the constant blast. I told her that she may need to go ahead and not to wait. So, this was the agreement as we headed into Aid Station 3. The struggle against the wind continued for a few miles, but seemed to decrease as the sun was setting. This is also about the time that Shauna and Matt showed up with the best pizza that I have ever tasted. We inhaled the pizza and decided to run on the busy highway, in order to avoid the sand and water, for the final 6 miles into Kitty Hawk. It appeared dangerous at times, but we hoped that the traffic would take mercy on us and we trudged along. We ran most of this segment due an urgency to get off of the busy road. Soon, we were at the final Aid Station and we were still together!

I did the math in my head and thought that we definitely could break 24 hours and if we pushed on without falling apart, then a sub 20 hour finish was in our reach. We decided to do a 15 min run and then walk break as long as we could keep that going. Things started to get tough around mile 85-90. Our chatter decreased to "It's time for a walk break" and "I need to go whenever we see a good spot". Any time that I felt tired or wanted to walk early, I immediately thought of missing Alexandra's dance recital and that I had to make this run worth the sacrifice. I also reflected on my Mom's fight just to hang on to her final breath. There must be some of that fortitude that she left in me! We missed a water stop somewhere and we were both without water. Luckily, we barely found the next water stop and replenished. Now it was mile to mile and each one became longer and harder. We knew that we had to pass by the finish chute for the final out and back segment and were prepared, but we weren't prepared for how long it took to get to the end of that road! We turned and headed back toward the finish and ran most of the way. We crossed the line hand in hand and finished as a tie for the 3rd place woman in 19:31! We embraced and received our silver buckle and asked Matt to take our picture with Brandon, the race director, who adjusted his sails several times over the weekend, as well.

We were then off to get the crew car to Joe. Shauna had been running with him for several miles in the dark and now they were cold and hungry. We drove until we saw them. It just happened to be at the hotel where we had made last minute reservations due to not being able to get to our condo near the original finish line. Joe wanted us to get to the hotel and then he would take a break in the car. So, we retreated to our room while Shauna persisted in crewing.

I had the typical post race hypotension which led to a very quick shower and then a short break recumbent on the bathroom floor with my feet elevated. But, otherwise, I was just basking in endorphins over Mary Beth and I pushing ourselves as only two kindred runners could understand and then finishing so strong. I was also anxiously waiting for Jason who left right after the dance solo to drive all the way to the Outer Banks to see me finish. He wasn't going to make it since we had finished earlier than predicted, but I was still excited to see him ASAP. I was also waiting to hear from Shauna and find out how Joe was progressing. Needless to say, I did not sleep. I then received a message from Jason that he got a flat tire about an hour away from our hotel! He adjusted his sails, after there was no response from AAA, and changed it himself. He was back on the road! Shauna sent a message that Joe was progressing well and should be done in under 24 hours which was all of our original goal.
Jason made it to the room about a half hour before Joe and Shauna. They had just set the breakfast buffet out in the hotel lobby.
We slept about an hour or so and then woke up refreshed (that was sarcasm) and had breakfast before heading down to our comfy condo where we would recover and relax in Hatteras. We traveled about 10 miles when we learned from the realtor that the road was still closed and there was no way to know if it would open that day. So, we adjusted our sails once again. We chose to drive to Williamsburg and stay at a condo that my brother in law manages. We celebrated that night with a nice dinner, a few beers, and great company.

So, the Graveyard 100 experience overall was just a parallel to life. You adjust and make the experience as positive as it allows. Life would not be such an awesome story if your boat was always sailing on placid waters. Sailboats act in direct response to the wind and sea, which is forever changing.

A sincere thank you to Jason, Shauna, and Matt for crewing and supporting.Congratulations to Mary Beth on an inspiring first ever 100 miler and to Joe on his sub 24! A special note of gratitude to Jason, who is such a giving and caring husband and father. Thank to you the race director, Brandon, his family, and all of the volunteers who gave up time and energy to help the runners meet their goals. The Graveyard of the Atlantic tried to sink us, but we persevered! "Ready about" and "Hard alee"!

PHOTOS courtesy of Shauna McQuade, Matt Strickler, Mark Sillitoe, and Frank Lilley.