Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Break

These past few days were truly a break! I haven't napped all year!

I have been on “break” since 7pm Tuesday evening. It was an optional workday the day before Thanksgiving and I opted out. I started the 1st morning of break with a good workout in the gym, followed by an “after JFK” 30-minute leg massage. The day was warm and George and I got in a 4.5 walk before leaving town.

We spent 2 very mellow nights at a cabin in Claytor Lake State Park. Only a 1:45 minute drive from here, it’s a quick getaway. No phone, TV or internet. No work or cleaning. There are always so many things to do at home, that I have a hard time turning “off” to relax. Yet, here it was different!

Thanksgiving morning we drove 11 miles to the North end of the New River Trail State Park near Pulaski, VA. George rode 32 and I ran 16. A few weeks ago I thought I run my age on my b'day...yet the efforts of JFK 50 and my current reality took over and I opted for "43 over 3 (days)instead!
George and I moments after finishing our pursuits on the New River Trail Thanksgiving morning.

After we got back to the cabin and had lunch, I fell asleep while reading Douglas Bulter's A Walk Across America (no reflection on his engagement abilities!)

Photo above taken up dusk as we were finishing up our Thanksgiving afternoon hike. State Parks are strange places....

Sun starting it's set in the Virginia woods.

We got in an hour hike in the park before preparing our Thanksgiving meal: rosemary/lemon chicken breast baked in foil, local sweet potatoes, roasted onions and sprouts from our garden, cranberry sauce, and gravy. George surprised me with goods from WV as “early b’day gifts-quite fun-we sipped on some WV dandelion wine for an aperitif, drank red wine with the meal and sipped WV cherry wine to go with the dessert of apple crisp. It was a wonderful day of togetherness. We even got our 2009 holiday letter written and hung out on the couch in front of the fire and read. Joy.

This is an outside view of the cabins...

My birthday was Friday and I got up and immediately hit the trail for a very slow 5-mile run in the park. We checked out by 10am and stopped at Hungry Mother State Park, only a few miles off the path home. We decided to meet back at the car in 2 hours. It was chilly with little drifts of snow in the shadows. George hit it hiking and I running. My Garmin clocked me at 10 miles in 1:56. Sounds about right. Going up Molly’s knob was quite steep and slow going (and I was certainly NOT going for speed!)

Saturday rounded out my quest for 43 miles with 12+ on dirt. George and I drove 32 minutes to Kerr Scott Reservoir in Wilkes County. More than 1000’ lower, it would be warmer than what we’d have in the mountains. Warm it was! George was on his mountain bike and I in my Hardrock 09’s as we played in our own way on the Over Mountain Victory Trail. After changing and stretching, we had a picnic in the sun and again I promptly fell asleep. I think I have hit my yearly allotment of naps.

As we drove a from N Wilkesboro to Deep Gap, roughly a 14 mile stretch of highway, I counted 117 Christmas trees from the High Country tied to the top of vehicles! I spent a couple hours Saturday late night Wal-Mart Christmas shopping for 6 kids George and I “adopted” for Christmas. (Instead of exchanging gifts with our families, we “adopt” a child per couple –or “single” in case of Mom and Grandma and give in their honor). The Salvation Army ringer was outside Wally world. How did the Christmas Holiday Season get here so fast?

The first couple days of being 43 years old have been great: Quality and fun time with George, awesome running, checking out new places, getting chores done at home and feeling organized by starting Holiday cards early. I am grateful for my health. For George and my family. For kitty. For my friends. For having a job I like much of the time! I am glad to be LIVING this life!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Smashing Great Times at JFK 50 miler

Spirited Tammy Massie takes a photo of us somewhere around mile 20!
Top 4 women(from 4th to CR 1st!) Monica Ochs, me, Meghan Arbogast, Devon Crosby-Helms
(I am not trying to "leave out the other top girls...yet I don't know their names..and not everyone was there...Congrats to all you strong top 10 and all women (and Men) finishers!

It is 1:48am on Sunday. I can’t sleep. (Well, did for a little while), yet now I sit in my silent Econo Lodge room in Hagerstown, MD staring at my flip flops across the room. The wall unit hums with the fan and I am in a restless stupor staring at my Mac screen...

(Annette's note: I stared in stupor for another hour before "napping". What follows was all written before 6am and proofed a few minutes ago)

Yesterday was the 47th running of the JFK 50 mile run. This was my 2nd JFK, with my 1st being 2 years ago when I came in 2nd to Anne Lundblad and ran 7:10:29. This year was a huge unknown as I have posted previously, I have been back to running since October 1st and have been working on base building, rather than structured “training”. I drove the 6 hours to Hagerstown Friday and was both excited and anxious…

My motel is less than a 5 minute walk from the host hotel, making navigating traffic a non-issue for me this busy Friday afternoon. I spent several hours hanging out and talking with folks at the Montrail Table. Both Montrail’s Jesse Malman and Tres Binkley were there. As I interacted with and observed this excited crowd, I learned that Scott Jurek, Hal Koerner, Ian Torrance, Gregory Crowther would be among those men representing the West Coast. Jason Bryant and Dink Taylor were among “the names” from The East. I was already aware of some of the strong women set to be here: Devon Crosby-Helms, Meghan Arbogast, Jill Perry, Francesca Conte, Monica Ochs-yet it was fun to both meet Devon and see the others again. I wasn’t sure I’d see any of them on the trail after race start! See this link for race director’s comments  in local newspaper on both men and women’s fields: 

Meeting and re-meeting other runners from all over the country felt like a happy class reunion. I wish I remember names, I remember the shared experiences…but sometimes names don’t stick, ugh. (Thankfully, I do much better with the names of my students at work).

I really appreciated visiting, even briefly with Jill. She is a very positive person to be around and a stunningly strong runner. We shared enthusiasm and good wishes while anticipating the race. We just talked a bit about each other’s apprehensions-Jill has just come off of a month of her whole family, including herself who had the flu and my need to balance wisdom and courage on the training I have right now. She said, more than once (thank you Jill), “Annette you are so strong, you’ll do great”. I appreciated those words very much, and they ultimately became part of a mantra I’d use during the later part of the run.

After leaving the host hotel and walking back to my room I ate a light dinner of chicken noodle soup, English muffin and glass of wine. After taking an hour to dink around with clothing gear choice - finally deciding on a tank top and to carry no pack, I pinned my bib number, secured chip to my left Montrail (Mountain Masochist this day) and slept until 4:20am.

To me, race day conditions were perfect: 43 degrees and a light wind at 7am. I had a vague plan for the day: warm up well, go out hard and get on the AT without too much “traffic”, run “easy” and at mile 25ish, see how I felt. Splits from last race showed I came off the AT in 2:16 and my towpath mile splits averaged between 8:28 and 8:36. I thought might aim for around 8:30 splits…I would have to see how things unfolded.

The first 2.5 miles are paved and uphill, and I got onto the AT at 20:10. This part of the AT, compared to AT at home, is very runnable. I watched Meghan, Devon and Jill take off ahead of me and I ran some with Ryan O’Dell (one of Jill’s clan from NY) and my friend Monica. I stayed very comfortable on the AT and again this year was very appreciative of the never-ending courtesy and encouragement when passing the 5am runners (or plodders as one guy dubbed the group). I stayed controlled and careful until coming within ¾ a mile of the bottom of Weverton Cliffs. The dirt and rocks and leaves called out to me and I let go with an enthusiasm and abandon I have not released for months and felt like I flew down the trail and switchbacks.

One of the many switchbacks during the descent from the ridge...

Thank you to all runners who shared the trail and helped me get by!

Running down that hill was very energizing. I had the experience of flight, if only for 7 minutes! I went through the timing matt at the towpath somewhere around 2:21. Buoyed by the hill, running was joyous and I felt great. Then I caught up with Jill and we briefly chatted. She’d taken a dirty and bloody fall up on the trail and was moving slowly. We wished each other well and I kept on, certain I’d see her very soon. Yet seeing Jill reminded me to be smart and I slowed my pace down a bit and got into The Flow. And I daydreamed and bam! Fell on the towpath! Ack! A little blood and another bruise. I would not do that again! I did pause from my silent forward motion when I saw Tammy Massey out there several miles later and we exchanged enthusiasms.

The miles passed mostly quite quickly back and forthing with several guys-I didn’t talk much, despite the flat path-I needed to pay attention to what I was doing. Aid stations came and went. After eating my Clif blocks and small supply of gels I carried, I fueled with aid station Gatorade, Hammer gels and Ecaps. Stations were every 1.8-4.3 miles apart during the non-AT part of the course and they kept on clicking by.

I got to see Tres and Jesse somewhere around mile 27 when they jumped out of their rental car and ran along side me for a little while. At this point I was truly feeling splendid. Next time I saw them, was around 8 miles later and I was still moving well and trying very hard to “stay in touch” with my truth. I knew at this point, I was navigating the knife-edge of my training and I did my best to keep up with calories and electrolytes. I was working hard at staying steady. I think at this point maintaining the pace was more mental than physical.

As much as I like the towpath, it was a relief to get on pavement for the final 8.4 miles. The course was rolling and my muscles appreciated the switch…and downhill’s were fun! Somewhere with 3 miles left to go-I looked back for the 1st time this day-now I would race and fight for my finishing position. Yet the need wasn’t there. So I thought I’d see how close to 7 hours I could get…and there were 2 guys in fronts of me I wanted to try and catch. (A habit I seem to have during the last few miles of 50 milers). With 1.3 miles left to go I passed both and ran for the finish. 

After crossing Main Street of Williamsport with less than ½ mile left to go I was pushing as hard and felt emotional and thought I might cry or hyperventilate. Yet I did neither just ran hard and joyously in, grateful for the cheers and applause from folks gathered at the finish area. Jesse welcomed me in and walked with me to the medical area and hang out for a while as I drank the water he brought me while the medical guys cleaned up my knee scrapes.

At this point I learned of Devon breaking 6:30 with a new CR of 6:29:21 and Meghan breaking 7 hours in 6:56:05! My time was 7:02:52 for 3rd place (and later I learned was the 10th fastest female time in the 47 years-holy buckets!) Jill’s fall kept her from running the whole way and she finished a courageous 8:25:40.

I still don’t know where my run came from. I really felt like something was unleashed for me at the top of Weverton Cliffs! I am very grateful for a strong body that allows me to more easily take in the essences of life. I began my recovery 25 minutes after finishing with 24 ounces of water, slice of cheese pizza and a 30-minute leg massage at the middle school where the finish is staged.

Recovery continued a couple hours later after a shower when I met up with Monica (Monica got 4th in 7:28:09), Meghan, Devon and Howard Nippert for some beer and food at a Hagerstown pub. The blacken chicken sandwich and salty chips really hit the spot for me. (Beer was good too). What fun it was to rehash parts of the race, and hear Devon recap her throwing her water bottle and sprinting for the finish line! It was good for my soul to be around these neat folks-and good for my body NOT to be in a car this night!

Not to leave out the tough men, the top 4 were: Gregory Crowther (5:50:13), Michael Arnstien (5:50:58), Matt Woods (5:54:10) and Hal Koerner (6:05:02).

Full preliminary results are on the JFK 50 website. To see a slideshow, go here.



Sunday, November 15, 2009

“Mommy, why are those people running?” (overhead while on the Shut-In Trail this past Saturday during Adam Hill’s adventure run: Bent Creek Gobbler)

The gang: Too many folks to recognize, yet among this crowd are the most skilled trail runners and amazing human beings on this planet!

The title of this post was inspired during Saturday’s Bent Creek Gobbler, a 15-31 mile adventure run in Pisgah National Forest. Somewhere around 31 people showed up to celebrate November on the leaf covered trails and dirt roads and to experience camaraderie without competition.

Somewhere around mile 8 of my run-I was sharing companionship with Drew Shelfer and Doug Blackford. The 3 of us passed a young family who stepped off the trail to let us by. As we passed, the little girl, all dressed in pink asked, “Mommy, why are those people running?”

Doug waved at mom and daughter and with a smiling voice responded, “good question.”

This prompted a discussion. Drew’s initial reaction was “so I can eat more”, (With a new baby in the family, Drew has discovered smoking as a new "at home" adventure. (Let me clarify: meat smoking-not weed or ciggis). Doug’s was because he can and because he sleeps better, my initial thought this day was “because I can and nothing else works as good”. Our conversation was lighthearted, yet still a bit philosophical… As I made a pit stop and the guys went along ahead, I continued to think of the girl in pink and her question. I also run because it is freeing and fun and I can fly while running. I have articulated this aloud before and know it is still true today….

So, I wonder, what brought 30+ runners together to run on the trails of Bent Creek? Some drove 15 minutes, others for 3 hours! We come from different places, have our reasons, yet still become kindred spirits in the joy of flying on our feet in the woods…Something to ponder miles 19-25 of a 28 mile solo training run!

On Saturday, some runners covered 30 miles, others of us went for a bit less. I choose to go an easy 20-at least a “easy” as one can running on this part of the Mountains to Sea Trail. I had a wonderful time-running, taking pictures, catching up with folks I haven’t been around since this time last year. I did have to slow down quite a bit after 13 miles as my legs are still feeling the residue from a combination of last weekend’s Mountain Masochist and Wednesday’s intervals. I am well reminded to “back off” in volume until JFK 50 next weekend.

I rode down from the High Country with a new running friend, Gail Leedy. Gail at mile 15ish of her 20ish mile adventure

Gail is a recent transplant to Boone from Wyoming. Gail and I met last month at Dark Mountain Challenge trail runs. I was drawn to her by her Miwok 100k shirt. We saw each other a few weeks later at Ridge to Bridge Marathon and again chatted. Gail was excellent company for the 2.5 hour drive. It was neat to hear a little about her world and experiences out west. I expect she and I will share in other adventures as the months unfold!

Martha Culter and Rick Grey, above. Martha was thrilled she wasn't "last"!

Above is Beth Minnick in her post-run /soak-in-creek duds: vibram toe shoes, Wells-Fargo blanket, Grindstone 100 hoodie, seriously cool shades, sporting a fig bar and black 'n tan.What else is more classicly awesome? (I am photographed with her to verify she is real and not a trail illusion!)

Saturday’s run was a fun treat! The whole weekend, really. It has been unseasonable warm-10-15 above average mid November temps for the NC high country. Today I ran 10 miles-not for training-just because it was beautiful and warm and because I could! I divided the miles into 2 runs, dealing with hanging and taking down laundry in the interim. (Yes! Warm enough to dry clothes on the line!)

This is our clothesline this afternoon...What a weekend! Trail clothes drying on the line mid-November...This weekend's weather was amazing!

Mama Grey loved the weekend sun too! She is resting up for a "night on the town", cat style! I ask, Why do you run????????

Sunday, November 8, 2009

2009 Mountain Masochist Trail Run = amazing outcomes

Above: Geoff and Gary celebrating (and being celebrated post race-Geoff got a standing ovation! cool is that from a hoard of tired Masochist runners!)

Doug Dawkins, 3x Masochist finisher presents the great question: Do we run to eat? Eat to run? Or is it a mixture of both. Photo taken during pre race dinner.

Yesterday was the 2009 version of The Blue Ridge Mountain Classic 50+ (53ish?) mile run: Mountain Masochist. I was thrilled to be a part of it!

It was a high performing day for many runners, most publicly was Geoff Roes’, (32 from Alaska) CR smashing time of 6:27:55! On the women’s side of things, Tamsin Anstey, 29 of British Columbia ran the reportedly 5th fastest women’s time on the course. Go
here (be sure to scroll down) to view full results.

As for me, I was running to participate, not compete. Having been back running just since October 1, I am in no kind of shape to race such an event. I was nervous just about finishing. I was nervous about maintaining self discipline: going out there, getting sucked into the thrill of running hard, pushing my current untrained limitations too far, and getting hurt. I considered leaving my watch behind, yet couldn’t make that leap. Half hour before start, David Horton and a few others asked if I was strong. I said, “yes, but not as strong as I want to be” and said I was trained for a 50k and wondered if I could run ½ the run on training and ½ the run on passion?

I kept repeating to myself: “I am smart, I am patient, I am strong”. (I was nervous!)Course start was somewhere around 28ish degrees. No wind. Clear sky with twinkley stars and an autumn clarity making me even more grateful to be toeing the line and witnessing this morning.
I waved to Jenny Anderson who was crew for me this day. Jenny and I met last month when she won New River Trail 50k. I was very psyched to have her with me-not only for the convenience of a crew-yet she knew my goals for the day and would support them.

Fabulous Jenny and me...

The first few miles I ran with Dennis Norris and Justine Morrison yet couldn’t (with my daily resolve) keep the pace and then settled into a comfortable rhythm of running on and off for 26 fun miles with Paul Carrasco. Paul and I have known one another for years and though we have different strengths…we still wound up side by side eventually!

Jenny turned out to be a fantastic crew! She anticipated what I needed, was an enthusiastic cheerleader, and was so speedy I thought of NASCAR’s pit crew and remotely though she should be wearing a helmet. I saw Jenny at most places handlers were allowed. Each time she scampered up and down the trails and handed me a fresh water bottle of Nuun, Clif drink or water and had filled each pocket of the Nathan Quickdraw with either gels, blocks or Clif minis. This day I fueled solely on Clif products, water and Nuun. You could tease me for being a sponsors groupie-yet all was working in the nutrition area.

It was mile 22ish before I knew anything about time. A fellow I was next to commented about being almost 4 hours into the run…Fellow runner comments were interesting to me this day. Running an event as I did today efficient and steady holds a far different set of observations and interactions than it does when running with front-runners. There is generally more verbalized pain back here. Many times I heard my trail companions despairing about distances or hills or wet rocks. Something you don’t hear up front.

Still, I gained a re-appreciation of the perspective of the recreational vs. more “serious” runner. Each of us is out there for his or her own reasons...and I do expect most non-front runners experience way more pain than those in top positons. AND, I think the runners that are out there barely scrapping the cut offs prob'ly show more tenacity and courage than the rest of us combined! Sometimes I wonder what it is like to fight for your "right" to stay on the course, fighting the clock and/or demons...and then when all is said and done, to cross the finish line with your guts hanging out only to have the runners finishing hours earlier to receive such high celebration? ...Though to be sure, I think post race events like the dinner together is a way to celebrate everyone's accomplishments and a way to come together as very different people, yet kindred spirits in our own way!

I came through the halfway point around 4:30 into the run. I enjoyed the emotional break from competing. My quest was about personal inventory and self-restraint when necessary. It was great to feel good-and not stressful to slow down when my body asked for it. Not to say I always felt good, after all, 50+ miles is still 50+ miles!

happy and having fun!

Going into the loop I saw Sean Andrish who was here –crewing or working- and we ran for a few minutes chatting. After only a few minutes I had to beg off of conversation as my “untrained ness” was showing itself. I couldn’t reflexively navigate the sticks and leaves; I needed my full concentration on my balance on the trail. A mile into this section I must’ve daydreamed because the next thing I knew, I had “supermanned” over the leaves and gave myself “trail rash” on my right side: leg, hip, breast and elbow. My elbow banged and dripping blood I was horrified for 5 seconds until I realized I was okay-then business as usual.

Even with the little wound, I love this part of the course! It is good single track trail-though this time of year, quite covered with oak leaves, providing even more adventure for the downhill runner on the slicks!
Out of the loop, Jenny again hooked me up with nourishment, encouragement, my ipod and told me third place female Heather Fisher was about 7 minutes ahead. At this point my dorsal fin prodded my flesh…yet didn’t poke through. I listened to music for the next 4.5 miles and turned it off after reaching the single track just after AS 13 the second tolast aid station. Lots of leaves-music would be too distracting-and I really didn’t need yet the “attitude adjustment” my music gives me. At one point not too far into this section, I looked at my watch and saw it was 7:45 into the event. I wondered if the first woman had yet finished? I also calculated and thought I could make it the finish in sub nine hours?
I crossed the finish line, feeling sore, yet pleased at 8:56:46! I was 4th woman, 29th overall! Minutes after finishing, George Worley, volunteer race physician cleaned up my arm for me and gave me 2 stitches.

Laying down, even if it was to receive stitches felt good!

My friend Amy Albu was going for her tenth finish today and I worried about her when she had not made it in sub 10 hours. Yet after week with the flu and a tough day out there, a still tougher Amy came through 10:28:53! Many congratulations Amy! Dorothy Hunter, me and now 10 time finisher Amy Albu. (This time last year Amy was about to give birth to her 1 year old daughter Jaymes!)

For me, this was a day to remember: You can (or I can) run at least part of a 50+mile run on passion (restrained passion to be sure!), accomplishing a very different sort of challenge, celebrating my friends, appreciating the assistance and support of Jenny…and mostly gratitude to the Great Mystery for the gift to be able to show up here: a healthy body, resources including a supportive husband and $ enough to pay for gas and motel and entry fee, and being able to take a ½ of day off of work to make the trip less stressful. I am a very fortunate person!I also thank Clark, Horton, Montrail and all the volunteers for helping this awesome event continue to get better!If my body is stable this time next year, I seek to take an hour off this year’s time! Here is a link to the photos Jenny and I took this weekend:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Weekend with Mom

This is my awesome mom: Mary Lou Bednosky. She lives on Long Island and came down to spend a long weekend with George, Mama Grey and I. We did lots of walking, gardening and talking....
Mom is better at paying attention to the little things-so we took our cameras out when we walked. Above is milkweed along the Mountains to Sea Trail.
Tulip populars raging along the MST...
We carved a pumpkin together, made pumpkin bread, toasted pumpkin seeds and entertained several treak or treaters Saturday night.
George turned 43 the first night Mom came. She surprized him greatly by gifting him with "goodies" from a Long Island Italian deli:cheese and a variety of cured meats. (You can NOT get this stuff where we live in the NC mountains!

The weekend was fantastic. Lots of quality time with together. We try and have a visit like this at least 2x a year (holidays together don't count because we all crazy busy trying to visit too many people in too short a period of time.) I love my mom very much and am very grateful for her enduring presence in my life. I am grateful too for her health and groundedness and adventurous spirit. (I didn't post the photo that shows us huddled over a picnic table trying to get out of the wind as we eat lunch in the 43 degree misty afternoon)