Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An endurance weekend close to home: (The Bear, The Grizzly and The Grandfather Mountain Marathon)


This is a public photo courtesy of Grandfather Mountain.
The Bear ends on the Mountain Top
The Grizzy’s S/F is the track
The Marathon ends on the track

It’s been a little over 4 weeks since I came to the conclusion after Highlands Sky that my body is not in the correct form for any sort of serious ultra running or training right now. I decided to seek another option about my mysterious “angry” calf and to in the interim of ultra training, see what other sort of physical events I could get into to keep me “fit” and somewhat involved with my local ultra/adventuring community.

I still feel desperate to get back to training, yet more than anything, want the use of my body back-to be able to dig a hole in the garden or run up the yard after a piece of getaway paper without feeling like something is so weak and wrong…

To take care of my physical body in addition to continuing to see my chiropractor I sorted out some referrals and made a series of traditional medical appointments. Most of the appointments are far out of town, as anyone “local” seems booked for the next 2 months!

6/30: Had a complete annual physical and blood work. All groovy.

7/3: Met with neurologist Dr. David Seales in Wilkes County. He doesn’t think my issues have anything to do with nerves. An EMG, which is a nerve conduction test could be an option, yet is expensive. Doc believes I need to see orthopedic specialist. I can do the nerve test if other avenues don’t provide information.

7/8: Met with Dr. Skip Whitman in Surry County (Elkin, NC). As expected, nothing conclusive. He told me runners were difficult patients and gave me an order for 2 MRI’s. (MRI are costly too, yet in this case a bit more apt to show useful information).

7/14: Had 2 MRI's at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in Elkin, NC.

Currently awaiting the results of the MRI to determine “next steps”.


Since long back to back runs on technical trails isn’t an option right now I continued to run “mellow” (flatish and not fast) on dirt roads and pavement and spend as much time as possible, despite the summer winds and thunderstorms of the western north Carolina mountains, on my road bike. To keep me motivated, especially on the bike where I am at best, slow and steady, I signed up for what some locals here call “the triple”-all taking place at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games July 10-12, 2008:

The Bear
5 mile hill climb (running), The Grizzly 100k (bike) and The Grandfather Mountain Marathon. This would be my 1st road marathon.

My reasoning was that if I couldn’t be strong at any one thing, perhaps I could be mediocre in all! It would be fun, I reasoned to run without my own personal expectation or even the expectations of others as has happened do to past successes in ultras. I was looking forward to seeing old friends and playing hard without getting stressed about performance. I must admit, I did have another motive. Last year was the first “King and Queen of the Mountain: a special award given to the male and female completing all 3 events in the least amount of time." Several men did all 3 last year. No women did. I wanted to be one of the 1st women (especially over 40) to do “the triple”!

July 10, 2008: The Bear. I have run The Bear several times during the last 10 years. This year had almost 900 people registered! The links I show will provide better visuals than my descriptions. This year was different. I can honestly say my ego was not involved. Dorsal fin, tucked away. My goal was to warm up and run steady, pushing the pace only as hard as my R leg would allow. I must have made some good decisions as the run never got “stupid hard” for me. Last year I ran my PR in a 1:13 minutes less than this year. My 2008 time was 43:23 and 8th or 9th woman, 101 overall. The top 10% of the men and top 10% of the women receive locally made pottery mugs, so I got to add one to my collection!

July 11, 2008: The Grizzly. I had a hard time sleeping the night before this. Last year I road the event in the chilly drizzle and was cold the whole day. This year was pleasantly different. There were about 100 starters compared to last years 60ish!
As expected, I quickly gained the back of the pack and was very comfortable there, warming up slowly the first 20+ miles of the event. At mile 23ish I met Jane Kupkowski at the aid station and learned that this buff 24 year old was an ultra runner and was also going for the triple. We chatted for several miles up the backside of Beech Mountain. Rumors had it there were 3 or 4 women signed up for all the events…

I could feel my dorsal fin poking me, yet kept it in check as the ride continued. For me to push during this event would be to insure failure at the rides end, during the marathon or to totally tweak my R leg. I would NOT further hurt myself! So the name of the game wouldn’t be to “push”, it would be to be efficient.

I rode the rest of the event alone, passing several riders going up and being passed on the down. The weather and my spirits remained happy and I pedaled around the Highlands Game track to finish in 67th place overall and 6th woman (there were only 12 female finishers-10 of us 40+!) with a time of 4:36:30, as compared to 4: 48:10 of 2007.

After getting off the bike I stretched and drank a beer for 30 minutes with tears rolling down my face evoked by the bagpipes of the Games! I was relieved to have the climb up Beech Mountain over and was very much looking forward to tomorrow’s run!

July 12, 2008: The Grandfather Mountain Marathon. (I wore my Saucony’s in lieu of Montrails for this road event-though I did elect to wear my jersey as I was using both Clif Bar and Nuun Products that day.)

Oh what fun! I was a little nervous before the start-mostly just excitement from being at such a traditional event that starts in a town I used to live in and now live near. The morning of the run I met may familiar ultra and non-ultra faces: Doug Blackford and Martha Culler, Joey Anderson, Dennis Norris, Lynn Phillips, etc...

We started at 7am on the ASU track and ran through the nearly empty (I have lived in the Boone area since 1992 and have never seen the streets so vacant!) streets of the Appalachian State Campus and 321 for 1 ½ miles before turning on to a side road and starting our windy ascent to The Blue Ridge Parkway. Around and up, around and up we ran. (I plodded) as was passed by men and women as we went up. Ego was checked!

I found myself being annoyed-not at my limitations-but because runners kept switching sides of the road to lessen the distance or equal out the camber of the road. I thought you were supposed to run facing traffic? With all this back and forthing I was certain someone would be hit. To non-locals these look like country roads-yet to those of us who live here, they are mountain thoroughfares! After conversation with several runners, I found myself accepting the practice-for the good or bad-I didn’t want to be the lone person running against traffic with cars having to come through runners… If I choose to do more marathons on curvy roads I will know more of what to expect.

I ran with male companionship for most of the run until after the Blue Ridge Parkway. I really was having great time-sharing stories with folks. My pace was measured and the Clif Shot blocks I carried in my pockets and sports bra were doing me “right” . It felt sorta empty to not be carrying bottles and relying on aid stations for fluids…yet this too was freeing!

Somewhere around mile 17 the inclines lessened and I must have unconsciously picked up my pace because I started to pass people. And I was feeling really good! At this point I was 4th woman-an although I was told the 3rd woman wasn’t far-I was not willing to risk pouring out too much and doing something stupid. So I just ran and felt strong and furiously enjoyed myself. Being a local event, I knew many aid station volunteers and I am ever so grateful for their presence and encouragement! I also thought a lot about my Dad (who passed away due to cancer 3 summers ago) during this event and believe that somehow his energy helped me stay smart. (I take after him with being driven and he would always try to get me to see to “lighten up”…hard for both of us!) Thank you Dad!

As I entered the grounds of the Highland Games and heard the bagpipes again, I got all kinds of choked up! It was hard to breathe for several seconds! Such celebratory, and sad sounds all at the same time. My lap around the track took some effort as I worked to maintain my pace. I felt pleased and proud to have finished. I was happy with myself for staying smart and still having a great time-and a good run-finishing 4th woman, 1st masters and 25th overall with a time of 3:28:23.

After changing clothes and more stretching, beer and bagpipes I hung out at the finish for hours. As I turned out, I got on the podium in front of the Highland Games stands and received a large “silver” plate and was dubbed “Queen of the Mountain” for 2008. 3 woman and 4 men completed the “triple” this year.

I had a very fun and satisfying weekend. It was excellent to see my Southeast ultra running friends and old friends too from Boone. I must admit as immersed as I was in my own experiences I also thought of folks out running Hardrock 100 and closer to home, the Rattlesnake 50k in WV the same weekend. It feels good to be able to put a happy post on my blog. I will post again when I receive more info from the MRI.

7 comments:

Reese said...

Great job, both in competition, and holding yourself in check. Hope all works itself out very soon.

Hart said...

yeah good job on the race and it sounds like your perspective is improving.

hang in there.. it will get better.

Lloyd said...

Nice job on the triple! You live in a beautiful part of the country.

I enjoyed chatting with you after the marathon.

Good luck with the rehab and return to ultrarunning.

AnthonyP said...

Well done on all fronts. Hang tough (you always do) !

Bedrock said...

Glad all went well for yu. You have a great attitude. Hope all continues to improve. Talk to you soon.

Sophie Speidel said...

YAY Annette! So good to "hear" your happy voice as you wrote about the Triple. What a fun weekend and I know you must be pleased.

Hang in there...Dr. Bob Wilder is the ortho guy here in C'Ville who works with Jay at the UVA Speed Clinic that you attended last summer. Bob is a runner and will help you (I actually introduced you to him briefly while at the UVA track...remember?) Anyway, drop me an email if you want another opinion. He will help you.

Hugs to you,
S

Melissa Orr said...

Great job over the weekend! I've run in a couple events you have run (and placed MUCH further along than I) and admire your mental ability to push through tough races. I concur totally about your comment on folks switching sides of the road throughout the marathon. It drove me nuts as well. Glad I found your blog... your perspective towards training is refreshing.