Monday, March 31, 2008

March 30, 2008: VA Creeper Trail Marathon: Running, raining and off to dress rehearsal…

As I write this to post I am sitting in the green room of our local community theatre awaiting my scenes on the stage. I am dressed in black strappy heels, hair in a bun wearing a 1930’s maid uniform for my bit part in The Children’s Hour. Several hours ago I was flopping through the mud and water during the 10th annual VA Creeper Marathon in Abingdon, VA. This is a certified marathon course with all except 2 miles of the 26.2 taking place on the flat, packed dirt surface of the old rail trail.

This was my 3rd time running the race-I am drawn to it because: 1) it is less than a hour and a half from where we live in Jefferson, NC, 2) It is a “low key” event with a $10.00 entry fee, no t-shirts and minimal awards, runners come to this event to run, not to be coddled (though the aid stations are well-spaced and offer the most basic of liquids and a couple contain yummy fig bars!), and 3) The event is on Sundays and is during a time of year that makes doing “doubles” part of my schedule. Currently I am preparing for Zane Gray 50M in AZ in 4 weeks and WS 100 at the end of June. Yesterday I ran a rainy 17 miles and did a leg weight workout. Hence today when I ran, I did not have fresh legs and running on heavy, easy to tire legs is good way for me to prepare for the longer efforts.

When it is rainy and windy and the temperatures are in the low 40’s…deciding what to wear can be a dilemma. After sampling the weather I went with shorts, tank top covered with my LS Montrail uniform top, capped off by a baseball hat and covered with a knit cap. On my hands I had 2 layers of gloves: smartwool and pearl izumi over mitts to keep out the wind. I have learned that with my raynouds syndrome, if I allow my hands even an opportunity to loose circulation, they will. Because we have access to our drop bag 4 times on the run, I did not carry any calories.

I don’t know how many people started. (There were 107 finishers)There were perhaps a dozen or more early starters and a small representation of women out there today. I expect the weather kept some folks home for the morning. My personal goal for the race was to better my 3:30ish time from last year. A personal necessity was to finish and get home asap in order to shower and get to rehearsal on time. (This was sort of sad as I Love hanging out at the end and talking and sharing stories…plus it would have been an excellent venue to inform people about The New River Trail 50k).

I enjoyed the early miles-little rolling hills until getting on the trail at mile 2. I felt absolutely great until somewhere around mile 10…I started to feel colder and had a sense the weather was contributing to me needing more calories than I had thought I needed. So after being passed by several guys, I stopped and grabbed 2 fig bars from the cow pasture aid station. These combined with an additional 3 Clif blocks from my drop bag, claimed with immense assistance (because my hands were too cold and unfunctional) from the wonderful volunteer Donna Bays-she is in the photo above…(and soon to run her 1st ultra next month: The Strolling Jim! Yayyyee Donna!)…anyway, these calories gave me a 2nd wind and I “got it back together” to run well again…and pass a few of those “guys” mentioned above! Such a good reminder to not be lazy and just carry what I might need-especially in conditions of wet and chill that I always find my body more unpredictable! I finished 1st woman (6th over all) in 3:24:42. The next women were: Kimberly Wilson: 3:45:09, Mary Lund: 3:53:21. (I think it is very cool that all 3 of us are over 40 years old! )No offense to younger women-yet I continue to do lots of reflecting about running well as “masters” woman… The first 3 men were: Robert Preston: 2:49:22, Paul Carrasco: 3:13:07, Lewis Blake: 3:15:56. Complete results on the VA Creeper Marathon website.

Thank you to Frank Kibler,( race director )and all the volunteers for helping me and the rest of us during all those wet and chilly hours out there (and many additional hours of preparation!) …And I must say those white chocolate macadamia nut cookies at the finish really hit the spot! Yum. Yum!

Just a note: If anyone reading this is interested in a similar terrain ultra…please check out my 1st event as RD coming up in October: The New River Trail 50k…and for better or worse-it is even flatter than the VA Creeper Trail!!!

This was a GREAT event and I look forward to participating again…yet for now my focus (once getting through The Children’s Hour) will be on slow, sandy, rocky steep stuff!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Way Too Cool 50k = Unconditioned, but an ultrarunner again!

“The good thing about Cool is you find out what kind of shape you're in. . . and the bad thing about Cool is you find out what kind of shape you're in.” Tim Twietmeyer.

John Medinger sent me this picture he took on Saturday morning along with Tim’s quote. Both sum up perfectly how I was feeling during much of the race! (Yes, I still had fun, but being “out of shape” and still trying to keep up was hard work!) It didn’t take too many miles to be reminded that one can run on passion, yet must race with training and conditioning!

Perfect way to sum up my day on Saturday!

Running Way Too Cool ’08 was hard, competitive and fun. As noted from my previous posts, I am not presently in racing shape do to the 2 months on the “shelf” with the recovering bruised knee bone and WTC was my longest run since my fall during the Hellgate 100k on December 8, 2007! I think I have been back to running now for about 4 weeks-trying to find the balance between good hard training and not amping up the mileage and terrain too fast which most certainly can bring on all sorts of “itises” and overuse issues. I did not have a competitive performance goal, though I would strive to beat last year’s time of 4:40:33 and I hoped I would place in the top 10 women.

Out on the trail, the first 10 miles felt very good, yet soon after that anything that was slightly up hill drew my attention to the fact that I am not in shape and I slowed some. Sore and winded…yet oddly not frustrated as I was passed by several women shortly after the mile 10 mark: Jenny Capel, Luann Park, Caren Spore, Meagan Arbogast (among others). Down hills were as fun as ever and the rolling course got my attention again this year. I was passed again shortly before the 2nd descent to the American River by another woman-and if it didn’t happen there, it surely would have during the climb up Ball Bearing, the steepest climb on the course. This climb pleased me. Yes it was steep and I hiked some-yet was able to “run” (flimsy running) at least half of this climb. That is encouraging as I am looking to train back into shape for the climbing demands of Zane Grey and WS100.

This is not a hard course, yet for the 2nd year in a row, it really got my attention. It felt really hard on Saturday. I don’t know if that was do to my current physical condition, to feeling sooo slow compared to the speedy women (and men) and being “not near the front of the pack”? I am not used to having so many people in front of me! I know my place was both from lack of my own conditioning AND being immersed in a very large field of very good trail runners!

At 3:53:30 I came through the Goat Hill aid station at 26.2 miles. Almost the exact time I finished the Black Mountain Marathon 2 weeks ago. I registered this and didn’t know what it meant, except I had 5ish miles to go and no time to dally if I would reach my personal goal for the day. Thank goodness for down hills, a clear crossing at Hwy 49 and the drive I had to meet my goal. If I didn’t meet the goal I would have no explanation other than laziness to explain my lack of success!

I did finish in less than last year’s time: 4:36:56, 13th woman and 81st overall. (As opposed to ’07: 4:40:30, 9th woman, 67th overall).

The top 3 women this year were: Susannah Beck: 3:55:22, Beverly Anderson-Abbs: 4:07:08, Joelle Vaught: 4:10:14. Top men were: Todd Braje: 3:32:12, Erik Skaggs: 3:34:17, Dan Olmstead: 3:35:05. There were 443 finishers.

I enjoyed hanging around at the finish line for an hour and a half or so. Gordy Ainsleigh helped me out by doing chiropractic magic on me and I loved talking with him and other runners as we roamed around in the warm 65ish degree sun. Before making our way back to Auburn, a few of us east coasters: Paul Davis, Bradley Mongold, Eric Grossman and I sat in VERY cold American River for at least 10 minutes. I really think that sort of torturous immersion helps with recovery. I wailed and whimpered until my body got too cold to feel it. My male companions were far less dramatic, yet we all whined some!

The day continued sharing a meal with Paul Curran, Chris from Mountain Hardware, Bradley, Eric, Paul D, Sean Meissner, and Monica Ochs (a speedy woman from WA and a new friend who is going to pace me for at least part of WS 100 in June…yipppeeee!!!!).

The weekend was exhausting and fun. And humbling and a great reality check. I have my work cut out for me and really look forward to getting strong. Next BIG event will be Zane Grey 50Miler in AZ, last week of April. From what I understand my training better involve lots of rocks, sand and lots of climbing!