Monday, April 26, 2010

Amy Albu: Podium Finisher at Promise Land 50k 2010!

Amy Albu, Terrapin 50k, 3/2010

This is a different sort of post from what I have shared before. I have tended to ramble on about ME…and I do appreciate the gracious interest in my blog….Yet it is time for me to appreciate and celebrate a woman who I respect as a runner and love as a friend! Amy Albu. This past weekend, 4/24, Amy enthusiastically podiumed at David Horton’s Promise Land 50k, one of largest 50k fields in the country.

 Amy and I have known each other as acquaintances, running companions and friends for many years! When we both lived in Boone, NC we would often join up for night runs and chatter away the miles. We’ve run together in NC, VA, WA and during good and hard times! I appreciate Amy’s willingness to share with me...thoughts to share on this blog!

I hope this blog will “feature” other friends and runners in the future!

This past weekend was The Promise Land 50k and Amy got 3rd place in 6:08:49 . Many congratulations Amy!!! Complete results here.

AB: Amy, Please tell us about you.

AA: I am 33 years old, very soon to be 34! I come from a family of runners, all of us following in the footsteps of my father. My husband Nick and I live in Roanoke Va with our 17 month old daughter Jaymes. Currently I am not working.  However, I stay very busy as a wife, mother, nursing student, and runner.

AB: How long have you been running ultras and what made you start?

AA: I have been running ultras for 12 years, my first being Holiday Lake 50k in 1998 when I was 21 years old. My ex-husband, who is a longtime ultra-runner, introduced me to the sport and to David Horton. As you know, Dr. Horton is a very inspiring individual who has kept me accountable and motivated over the years.

AB:  Yes, I know DH-He has certainly influenced me too!
…How many have you completed and what distances?

AA: I have no idea! I have not kept track of all of my races, however, I do know that I have run Mountain Masochist 50 miler 10 times, Holiday Lake 50k 11 times, Promise Land 50k 8 times, and Vermont 100 miler 3 times. I think the total number of completed ultras is somewhere between 55 and 60.

AB: Wow! Do you have a favorite distance? A favorite race?

AA: My favorite distance is the 50 mile because it’s not as long and slow as a hundred, but it is not as short and fast as a 50k. I would have to say my all-time favorite race is the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile. I have a lot of great memories from that race, and the course is absolutely beautiful in the fall. I look forward to that one more than any other!

AB: This year Promise Land 50k had almost 300 starters. In 2009 it was the 5th biggest 50k in the US… (with 257) what was it like to run to a solid 3rd place finish this past weekend?

AA: It felt awesome. Those moments are few and far between for me, so anytime I get the privilege of finishing within 6 minutes of the number one seeded girl, I am going to be thrilled!

AB: How did you celebrate?

AA: We ate Thai food, (spicy red curry with chicken) and had a bottle of red wine. Yum!!

AB: That does sound yummy!  What are some of the rewards of your running?

AA: Losing the baby weight and getting fit after having my daughter was a great reward of my running this past year. There is something very empowering about being a strong, fit mother. The feeling of accomplishment after every race is what keeps me coming back for more. Another reward of my long distance running is the growth of my spiritual life. I am so thankful that God has given me the ability to run. It has been such a blessing over the years, and He has used this passion of mine to carry me through many low moments. I don’t ever want to take my health or running for granted.
  A training day in VA: Amy with little girl Jaymes, and 2 dear pooches!

AB: Gratitude is a strong value of yours. I wonder, what are some of the challenges of this sport for you?

AA: Juggling so many things at once can be a challenge. It is particularly difficult when I have a hard semester at school. This current semester is a breeze, however, last fall was a different story. I just have to stay as organized as possible. My family needs to come before my running, so keeping my priorities in check is important. I have had to recognize that it is not all about me. If my daughter is sick, I cannot run. I just deal with it and move on. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s not like I am that competitive that it would make a huge difference anyway!

AB: Will you share 2 stories? 1 of a very challenging time during and ultra and what happened? And one of a “great race” experience and what happened?

AA: The most challenging ultra I have run would be Holiday Lake 50k in 2009. I had just had my daughter 10 weeks prior, but I was determined to race and feel like a runner again rather than a huge pregnant woman! I was aching from head to toe the entire time, but I finished nonetheless. My greatest race experience was the 2004 Vermont 100 miler. My goal was to finish under 24 hours in order to buckle. I finished in 22:59, which I was very pleased with. 
Amy running in Washington State a couple years ago

AB: I know you have a beautiful 18ish month old daughter. How do you train and find time for yourself with your lifestyle?

AA: Again, most importantly I try to keep my priorities in order. My family comes first. That being said, I am a member of a very nice health club here in Roanoke that has a wonderful day care system. This allows me up to two hours a day to run, bike, or whatever, while my daughter plays. Running/working out is my time to myself! I also have an incredibly supportive husband who willingly stays home on Saturdays with our daughter while I go on long runs.

AB: What advise do you have for other Moms and Dads who are seeking to train and run races?

AA: Invest in a good running stroller. That has been a great way for me to train. The added weight burns extra calories and has made me a lot stronger. When I am training for a hilly race, I will take her out on all the hills here in town. An extra 40+pounds is a challenge! Instead of using your child as an excuse to not exercise, take advantage of it. There is always a way to get exercise even if it just means putting your kid on your back and going for a hike.

AB: How do did you fuel during Promise Land 2010? Did you do anything different?

AA: This was the first race that I did mostly gels. I ate some food, but my stomach was a little off so the easiest and fastest thing was to just keep gels on me and not stop at the aid stations. I also carried two water bottles on me which was the first time I had done that. I didn’t have to stop and refill nearly as much. As a result, I spent a lot less time at the aid stations this year. I will definitely do that again.

AB: What does race recovery look like for you?

AA: A little bit of stretching and a class at the gym called fusion. It is a cycle class combined with a crank bike which is a bike just for your arms. We alternate four minutes on the bike with four minutes on the crank bike for a total of 45 minutes. I love it!

AB: Please share the top 5 reasons you continue to run ultra marathons!


  1. I want to be a positive influence on my daughter. I want her to view me as a strong, capable woman.
  2. I want to maintain good physical and emotional health.
  3. To keep my sanity! (I have a slight addiction to running).
  4. The feeling of competing and finishing a race is so rewarding.
  5. I love the social aspect of ultras. It is such a tight knit community, and I have made a lot of very special friends through this sport.

AB: What are some of the races you hope to do in the next couple of years?

AA: My next big challenge, I think is going to be Vermont 100 miler in July. I have been waiting for the right time to train and run another hundred and this summer seems to be the perfect time. I will also be back to your race this year, (New River Trail 50k) and the Mountain Masochist. In the distant future I would love to go back out west and compete in some of the big races out there. We’ll see!

AB: Amy, I hugely wish you well with your planning and training for Vermont 100…and everything else in your life!  I cannot imagine all the intricate balancing you must strive for daily!  I surely hope to see you back at New River Trail 50k!  What else would you like to add to our “interview?”

AA: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my life. I hope it was not too painfully boring!

AB: BORING!  Heck no! You are so very awesomely real and I very much respect you for all that you do and for parenting and for inspiring so many of us with your commitment to role modeling for your daughter as you care for your real self!
Many congratulations on a great run on Saturday…and when will the ultra community run with you again?

AA: Thank you! I hope to run some smaller races this summer prior to Vermont in July. I would love to do some marathon and/or 50k distances as training runs. I am open to suggestions!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

8 Days of Recovery 2010!

George and I in "self portrait" mode this afternoon  at the top of Elk Knob (after waking from a nap!)

After Mad City 100k ‘s  efforts last weekend I took the next 8 days to relish being in “non-training” mode. I vowed not to be attached to running or any sort of time and would just rest/run/gym/pool time as seemed right…(...well I did kinda get sucked into times at a local fundraising 5k). The race  was  to support research for Huntington’s Disease which has affected George and I ‘cause our long time friend and kindred spirit of adventure, Ron Dawson  who is around 50, has inherited the disease from his dad.

 For me this week, recovery meant:
  • Hike to Elk Knob-NC's newest state park (more photos below)
  •  Time this week in the garden. 

  • Cooking real meals all week!
  • Had a chiropractic adjustment
  • Cleaned the bathrooms and did all laundry
  • Attended to 2 Ashe County High School Track Meets.
  • Ate yummy George created waffles this am!
  • Swam 3x in pool for fun!
  • Worked out in the gym 1x because I wanted to see “old” friends!
  • Spent almost 30 minutes all together exploring facebook!

Sigh. I am rested and content and CAN NOT wait to start training again! Next up is Ice Age 50M…
I am finally starting to learn the value of real recovery and am growing less scared to take the time to mentally and physically take a break...and it is a good thing!

If anyone is looking for a trail companion on Sat 4/24 to run a good 2 hours on trails on the Iron Mtns or Doughton Park…please let me know. Starting time on Sat: earlier the better! 

Amazing view from top of Elk Knob looking towards Grandfather Mountain!

I know many of my dear ultrarunning friends will be at David Horton's awesome Promise Land 50k on Saturday….Best wishes to you all!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mad City 100k: National Championship Road Run Weekend

Isn’t it crazy when you are in the midst of something that you have looked forward to, prepared for, invested in and are passionate about, that you just want the experience to be over? There are times that I felt just that yesterday during the Mad City 100k, National 100k Road Running Championship in Madison, Wisconsin.  This was my 1st 100k-road run of all the 69 ultra’s I have run since February 2003.

Though I have run the distance on trails several times (GEER, Bandera, Hellgate) and a couple 24-Hour runs on pavement (Freedom Park, IAU Bergamo), this road 100k is a different creature altogether!

Please don’t misunderstand-I LOVED running in Madison yesterday- (except for those tougher moments). I am a place with running and my body right now, that I really appreciate it all! Trails are my true love-yet I am so very curious about other kinds of events too. And I am at a place in my life that I am very willing to be a learner and do different things-just not as impulsively as when I was younger!

After being named alternate to Team USA 24-Hour earlier this year, I changed my spring race plans to see if I could myself in a better position to be selected to the 100k Team. Though I qualified at JFK 2009, after consulting with team leader, Lin Gentling she advised me to run and qualify at Mad City-because the winner would be automatically selected and other qualifying times would hold higher ranking than qualifying 50 mile times. Not knowing how to prepare to run this sort of race, I turned to Howard Nippert and he agreed to coach me for 3 months to prepare me for Madison.

(Turning over my training and mileage to someone else was utterly new for me, as I haven’t had a coach in the past-I have always created my own training plans and made stuff up as I went along). Yet although I am an experienced ultra runner, I instinctively knew I would trust Howard’s personal success and that of his athletes so I could move closer toward my goal. Plus I really like his direct, no-nonsense approach. And to tell the truth to have someone else create structure around my race plans/hopes is a great stress reliever. I only wish I could afford to keep Howard.

As it turns out, I can keep working with him! I’ll babble about race details later, yet my personal outcome of the race was 2nd place, 8:05:23 and to my absolute surprise, a check for $1,200! Although she can’t say for sure, Lin believes I have a GREAT chance of going to Gibraltar with the Team in November. So, I’ll be planning for it and will know one way or another in a few months.

The Trip

I took ½ day off from work on Thursday and all day Friday. My flight from Charlotte to Madison was scheduled to leave at 4:25pm. Due to thunderstorms in Atlanta, the flights origin, we did not leave until after 7pm. Since I am not a very patient person, I wandered the airport and sat down for a glass of wine. I met a couple business guys waiting for their weekly commuter flight and enjoyed the wine, conversation and interacting with people from such a different lifestyle.

During the flight from CLT to Detroit, one of the passengers became ill, and when the plane landed the paramedics needed to board and check out the man before he was cleared and the rest of us were cleared to exit the plane. Needless to say, once we boarded for Madison, I was antsy and ready to be there. And then life got in my face and humbled me. I met my 2 row mates-a couple in their late 60’s, Andi and Robert. We discussed what we were doing and after a babbled a bit about Mad City, Andi told me they learned their son Bob, who lived in Madison, died yesterday. The family was gathering there.

I had a sudden waive of empathy for these 2. We talked some more; I listed and also told her briefly about loosing my sister and Dad. We ate peanuts and I got lost in a zone of appreciation for who and what I have in my life. I had to hide my tears, I really felt deeply and knew that I would use the race the next day to remind me to actively experience gratitude. For each loop I wanted to have a person/ experience as the title of that loop.

The shuttle vehicle from the Best Western East Inn and Suites picked me up at 10pm and delivered me to a really nice hotel! I had booked the hotel through I knew the general area of the hotel and that it was 2 and ½ stars and it would be $39.00 a night. I was thrilled with the indoor pool, hot tub, and full cooked breakfast-and on site convenience store.

My room was a suite: a separate sleeping area and a sitting area with fridge, microwave, coffee maker and bathtub and Internet. Wow! Perfect, perfect place to rest before and after the race!

Next day after swimming many tiny laps in the pool and stretching out in the hot tub, the shuttle took me back to the airport and I picked up my little rental car. I spent the day hunting. I had mailed myself a box to the hotel and though priority mail flat rate, it failed to arrive in 5 days. So I hunted for Clif blocks, bars and gels. Not finding more than 3 Clif gels or drink mix, I went with Gatorade and some other gels. I also went to the University Arboretum and did a short run on the “hilly” part of the course-between miles 2-4. A nice out and back and some pushups and crunches were all the exercise I would do that day.

At packet pick up that night I sat with and interacted with many great folks and awesome runners who I’ve raced with in the past: Bev Abbs, Meghan Arbogast, Krissy Moehl, Roy Pirrung, Jenny Capel, Anne Heaslet (who I learned is married to RD Timo!), and many others. I had goose bumps of excitement considering the next day.
Bev, checking out of the 100k, nursing an injury "chicked" all the guys and won the 50k outright!

 Jenny(8) and Krissy(6) running strong!

Back at the motel, I arranged my stuff, laid out clothes, ate soup and bread, drank 2 glasses of wine and got to bed with a book. I stayed awake later than I intended reading, yet still I was resting and so figured it was okay! At 4:15 the next morning, the real thing all began!

By 6:25, my drinks stashed, warmed up, de-layered, port-a-pottied, and  splits written on my left forearm (each mile + .2 per lap) with a sharpie- I hovered in a group of chilly runners awaiting the “go!” And then we were off!

I had planned my race with an overall time of 8:13: and change. Why this number? Because since I had no idea of what I was capable of, I put my most recent 50k time into a calculator and was told since I ran a 3:43:48 50k, then I was capable of this for a 100k. Why not? I didn’t have anything else to go on, so I planned splits for 8:15, knowing my 1st lap would be faster and I might gain the minutes there. So, on average to run 7:58 per mile for the event. OK. So I had a plan!

During most of lap 1 I could see Meghan ahead of me. I had no desire to chance or race at this point. I kept remembering a very kind, yet pointed  blog comment I received from a blog friend that said something like, “run smart, smooth and patient and then let the fin appear.” This statement wound up chattering in my ear all race long. It a perfect reminder for me!

I ran with Ryan Dexter for a long time. He was speedy fast and I had to take good care not to try and keep up-I really enjoyed our interaction. I met Michael Kanning, a college student of 18 from CA doing his first 100k…After 4 laps or so, I conserved energy and didn’t do much talking. I had no clue where the other women were-only that Meghan was ahead. I bobbed along with various thoughts, music and musings in my head.

My goal was not to win, although that would be freaking amazing…What I wanted was to run as well as possible for team selection.  Having such a singular focus chases away many demons! I did run laps dedicated to running and my health, my awesome Mom, Mary Lou, my dad Wes Bednosky who got taken away by cancer in 2005, Ron and Michele (my bro and sis-in-law) Cheryl (my running twin who died too young when we were in our early 30’s), Grandma (Mom’s Mom) George (my amazing husband), his family , etc… Sometimes during those laps I just breathed and thought of running-yet when I would get doubtful or feel icky, I tried to remember their songs and faces and loves!

 I have to admit, Cheryl was a big part of the day! And the fact I was in WI was important too-‘cause during college she ran a very prestigious event in the late 1980’s,  “All American cross country” or something like that… and I flew in from where I was in attendance at Fredonia State (near Buffalo, NY) to cheer her on. I can’t remember what happened. She didn’t win, although she was trained and perhaps favored…and I think she had a bad race…yet to me, running a grassy, wet 5k in less than 19:30 was superhero standards!

I think it was in lap 6 that Melanie Fryer
 Strong Melanie keeping pace on the laps!

passed me, looking strong and youthful and spunky! I cheered her on and continued with my plan. “If she could hold this pace”, I thought, “she’ll pass Meghan!”  Earlier that day I remembered I’d met Melanie on the Bandera 100k course back in January. She was running well; I was in a bit of a low, dealing with the sunshine and new-to-me 60+degrees warm temps. “Well,” I thought, this is not time to react to any one, just keep running, fueling, drinking and concentrating.

Time continued. I did my job. I had a focus. Run, fuel, hydrate, easy-go…breathe and keep up the mantra’s of “smart, steady, patient” and of the experiences of my gratefulness. Somewhere I ran past Melanie.

Jill Perry, my Montrail teammate, was present with me too-I felt her encouragement and positive influence in my mind and continued on.

This race was a race to the clock. I didn’t know where the other girls were. By the beginning of lap 9 I wanted to cry. Why? Why was I running this? Did I really want to run loops and play hamster in Gibraltar?
YES!  Oh-heck/goodness/hell YES!

So I didn’t cry, ‘cause I know from experience when I cry and run I tend to hyperventilate =not a good mix on this day!

I did have a moment of tears as Howard met me at the finish and I limped around. I was thrilled and touched by the celebration and support offered to me!
 Finishing the race, lookin' worked and none-too-pretty (yet inside I was yippee happy!)

 Timing chip being removed and Howard's presence kept me from bawling my eyes out!

As you can tell, from this post, this race was a big deal to me!  Yes, I am thrilled with the likely prospect of again representing the USA! And I am also thrilled because this event is showing me that I am still a learner, adventurer, and tenacious and strong woman able to continue to learn to call upon her resources to enhance some of what is important to her! 

Some folks might think I am “settling” for 2nd place-yet with the experience, plan and time, I am so thrilled and truly celebrate Meghan and my own efforts! Melanie finished 3rd in 8:18ish, and Krissy soon after. Please see    for stories, photos and full results of women and men!

I am psyched with my experience of the  very cool city of Madison, WI, and the Mad City Race and outcomes. I will live “ as if” I get to run in Gibraltar in November, yet I know the team will not be announced until August 9th! If I can’t run for the World Championship 100k, I reason-then I’ll be in a great place to run sub 7 at JFK!

I encourage anyone wary of road running or lap running to check out this venue and race. You can not be bored and I promise, you will be challenged and get your money’s worth!