Monday, March 30, 2015

A cold start to 2015 Virginia Creeper Trail Marathon 3/29/2015

Start of run.Women's winner in blue singlet: 2048, me securing my 2nd hat, far right.
All race photos courtesy of Brendan McSheehy.

Yesterday’s start to the VA Creeper Marathon was the coldest I can remember feeling during a run in a very, very long time. I think I’ve become a bit of a softie-last time I remember feeling so uncomfortable was during Bandera 100km in January of 2010.

To make things more fun before the start of the run, I got to see long-time "ultra buddy" Bryon Backer and Kevin Townsend. These fine men have been part of my entire journey of the world of ultrarunning since 2003.

I have run Virginia Creeper Marathon 4 or 5 times prior, so I should have done better at being prepared. The course is run from a central location with several out ‘n backs all coming through a central location where runners can easily access a bag to drop clothing or collect clothing.  I choose to be a Patagonia groupie and wore the new Strider Pro Shorts, All-Weather Zip Hoodie with the hood up, a beanie and Columbia’s Omni-Heat mittens, and sunglasses. I kept my Nano Air Jacket on for the first short out ‘n back, then like a silly person, threw it off as I passed my bag at mile two.
Two miles in. Not loving it. Frank in the background.

For the first 11 miles, all I could think about was running out of the shade and into the sun and trying not to trip due to having a hard time seeing with my eyes streaming cold weather tears. From roughly miles 9.5-11.5 I considered not continuing as the shivering and teeth chattering wouldn’t stop. I think it was the fig bars, wafer cookies and Gatorade at the mile 11ish aid stop that saved me. I took every chance after that to consume calories. Heavily fueling combining with the warmth of the sun brought me back to life and the run was fun from mile 18 until the end.
Warmth = Good Attitude
With a little more than a mile to go, I spotted Jessica the third place girl in the distance, I knew she was slowing as I could see her gap with the other lady leaders changing at the last Abingdon turn around. I saw Byron too and I knew that if I caught and passed them he would give me a good-natured hard time. I had a strong last mile and caught them both, finishing 12th overall, and third woman. Kevin finished very soon afterwards.

This was not a fast year for the women, yet look at these speedy men's times: Jeff Powers 2:39:48, Eddie Posey: 2:52:07 and Sam Allen rounding out sub-three: 2:58:49. Jeff wore singlet, shorts, gloves,  hat and ice on his beard. He was a thrill to watch. I wonder what he thought about yesterday morning?
Jeff cruising. He collected bigger icicles through his run.
Thank you to Frank Kibler, race director and all the volunteers helping us out to a very chilly early morning. Thank you too to whoever made those yummy white chocolate chip cookies at the finish line. Happiness in dough.

This is a USATF certified marathon course so I know I ran 26.2 miles, yet I wonder why my fit bit shows that during that 3:34:02 that I traveled just 21.5 miles? I wonder how the device converts miles to steps or vice versa? I forgot to turn the Soleus on. Oh well, my eyes were streaming so much I am sure I couldn’t have read the watch, yet it is nice to have documentation to reflect back on…

When I arrived home early afternoon after emptying my car of dirty shoes and clothes, I did some sun worshiping on our front deck. Such a delight to finally be warm again!

In closing with this post, I want to share a favorite picture taken the night before this run: Georgio and kittio love:
Loves of my life!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Charlotte Rockin' Relay Marathon 3/22/2015

Having fun with some super cool relay ladies!
This will be a short post with a couple cool pictures. Rockin' Relay Marathon, Charlotte.
I was a glutton this weekend. A glutton in the sense, I did more intense physical activity than I was ready for, and I loved if, not every bit, then most of it.

Saturday, trainer Andrea I worked together doing a challenging workout doing suspension training. This is one of the few sessions we do that I feel like shouting “help” near the end of the last set. Saturday was a full-body workout, yet a concentration on the glutes.
This photo was taken in a little over a year ago while doing "suspension training"
That afternoon, I enjoyed the mid-60’s sunshine and ran 11 miles around town, seeking out vacant lots and briar fields looking for daffodils to “poach” , I mean pick(I don’t really poach- I have learned that old home places, now very overgrown with bush and brambles and apparently untended produce very early season daffodils). I did return to one location that afternoon and plucked several flowers and earned bruised and scratched legs. Totally worth it. I have coined a new word: "daffodiling". 
Daffodiling results on display on our dining room table.
Sunday, I left home at 5:55am to Reedy Creek Park, just several miles north of Charlotte, NC. I have run in that location many years ago, when Jeff McConnell directed “Are We Having Fun Yet 50k?” on the more technical single-track trails of the park and neighboring reserves.

Rockin’ Relay was not technical or single track. It was all dirt and gravel and had a good share of ups and downs during it’s 1.3 mile loop. Easy for the first few miles and for me, becoming more fierce on tired legs as I continued to concluded 20 loops to complete the marathon.

Mentally I was in a better place than last week. I had fun! It was fun to see the dynamics of other teams, watch folks fishing and especially be introduced to the disc golf culture that was prolific that day at the park. I also really enjoyed a group of 12 fun African American women who divided their group into 3 teams of four. All teams were dressed alike with differences being the color of their top hats and bowties to announce their team. All wore tutu’s grand smiles. My day was made as a couple team members agreed to have a photo with me after I finished.

A second highlight of the day was during laps 8-10 when 31-year old  (at least I think that’s the age he shared-forgive me Rick if I am wrong) Richard, one of the owners of Trivium Racing, graciously shared a few loops with me. He is a life-filled person, a runner and triathete who shared some personal experiences and who has tons of passion for endurance sports. He is a great listener and a joy to be a trail partner. (Also, I must say, although we solo runners were in the minority, all the Trivium team went out of their way to be sure we all had what we needed). Thank you soo much.
Richard ("Rick) taking a break from his busy day to have a photo with me after finishing.
This was a more challenging course than last week’s Northern Trails Marathon.I finished almost 5 minutes later in 4:09:31
I wore my Soleus for both and came up with this similar data for 2 different courses.  (I know GPS units are not all that accurate in certain settings, thus, I am not trying to look too deeply at all this, yet it will be interesting to compare to this coming weekend...)

Northern Trails
Rockin’ Relay
Moving time
Pace per mile
Measured mileage
Chip time

Yesterday I learned I am off the wait list  and on the “Who’s Coming?”for the Virginia Creeper Marathon this coming Sunday. This is one of my favorite local runs, just about as low-key as they get. Our weather calls for light snow Saturday night and Sunday morning, I plan to attend if I can safely drive there leaving at 5:30am Sunday morning...

I am running more, yet not what I call TRAINING, (yet). It's awesome to run stress-free, yet I must admit, I am kinda getting the hankering to work hard again. I don't want running to turn back into a responsibility, yet I do love the physical and mental (and emotional) limit seeking of personal improvement and reaching goals. 

As we all are, I am a "work in progress" and as I move back towards ultras, want more than anything to find a balance between running, work and family that is way more balanced that it was before I was injured. I am willing to move slowly as I have gladly digested, that I am more than my running. Three years ago, I couldn't separate other parts of myself and life from running. I am doing better in that way now (Yay!) yet, I think it's getting to be time to trust myself and my experiences and see how ultrarunning can once again be a PART of a healthy and good life...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cinderella, Leftover Mac and Cheese, and a Dagobah encounter = supercool marathon weekend

Mid-week last week, I learned about a new trail marathon being run for the first time just north of Greensboro, NC. Feeling the need for a little change of scenery and a kick-in-the-butt to get in a good long run, I registered for the Northern Trails Marathon.

I thought I’d take advantage of being off the mountain and see a movie, do some shopping at Trader Joes and find a cheap motel and spend the night. As it turns out, because of March Madness Basketball going on in Greensboro, there is was no such thing as a cheap room to be found. I did ,however, get a good State Employee’s Rate at Wingate by Wyndamn in High Point. My favorite thing about this place is it is about ¼ mile away from the Bicentennial Greenway, and a perfect place to slide in an hour long easy run on a warm, rainy, Saturday afternoon. They even have a fireplace!
Gas fireplace was so nice after a rainy run:)

Disney’s newest film, Cinderella opened last week and I went to see a late matinee after my run. 
I had a good time laughing and crying my way through it. I really enjoyed the film and anticipated the theatre being filled with just little girls, yet I was wrong. Men, women, girls and boys of all ages filled the seats.  Makes me want to revisit Joseph Campbell’s writings, specifically, The Power of Myth. It’s been too many years since I’ve pondered mythology and Carl Jung….

Back at the motel, I ate leftover kale salad and mac and cheese from last night’s dinner. Gotta truly love microwavesJ

Since the run didn’t start until 9am, it was spectacular to sleep in until almost 7am on Sunday morning.  A real treat for race day.

The marathon had a sister race, a 10-mile that would start right after us. All-in-all there looked to be around 150 runners. This was a lollipop course: out for 5 miles-a 16ish mile loop and then back over the same first 5 miles. We ran in mud and over top of wet bridges. It was all urban single track and quite pretty from what I could tell. Because I am out of practice with slick trail running, I needed to keep pretty focused on footing the whole time. I am glad I was in the out for a run, rather than racing mindset.

The course was extremely well-marked and had 5 aid stations offering just what would be needed to make it through. I have been a lazy runner lately and have not been running with a pack or water bottles, so I was glad that when I set out with nothing but a pack of ClifShot Blocks in my pocket, that all was well.

For the first 10-12ish miles, I would say I was in quite a funk. I wasn’t enjoying the footing or the many  “whoop-de-dooos” and tight turns that are usually more indicative to mountain biking then trail running.  I prefer more elevation gain/loss and less choppy trails, yet this was urban trail running, so what’s up with the poor attitude? My brain kept trying to find excuses to cut things short and leave. Nothing was wrong, yet I was just unsettled, and out of practice.

I am not sure when or why things got better? I remember when seeing the 15 miles sign that I was feeling strong and happy to be there.  Soon after the course also went through a big patch of bamboo that had a huge tree with vines hanging from it. I thought I should be seeing Yoda sitting in it…

Though I was wearing both a Fitbit and a Soleus GPS, I never looked at either while on the course. I saw only four runners the whole day and by the time I got very close to the finish line, I had no idea how long I’d been out there-I figured it must be almost 5 hours. That is why I was so very confused to see 4:05:?? on the clock. It took one of the race directors congratulating me on being 3rd and saying I ran well in just over 4 hours. It’s amazing how your perception can create invalid outcomes…

I was very surprised; I guess my head really created a new reality yesterday morning. I also spent a good part of the last 9 miles trying to remember the name of Yoda’s planet. I finally had to look it up last night: Dagobah.

While driving down the mountain Saturday afternoon, I listened to some Ted Talks on NPR. One talk was on non-verbal communication and how Power Posing can affect your attitude and raise confidence and courage. Studies have shown an elevation of testosterone and lessening of cortisol after standing in a Power Pose for 2 minutes. While running I thought about what I’d heard and look forward to learning more about this topic. In the meantime, I power posed in front of the finish line for just a couple seconds after changing out of my running clothes.
Wonder Woman/ Superman Pose

Other pose...I don't remember name?

All-in-all, a great spring morning, I even saw a butterfly (or a very pretty moth). The trees have the first buds of spring and frogs chirped for miles along the boggy lake shores. I saw deer tracks, a big pile of bright iridescent  feathers, possibly coming from some sort of duck?

When I pulled in the driveway yesterday, I immediately did a tour of the yard to see what flower creatures had emerged since yesterday?  Awesomeness. I am so very psyched that spring is starting. I know we’ll have wintery days and spring days on and off for the next month, yet this pretty weather just makes everything better.

More happiness!

 I must admit, I was super tired coming home, yet not too tired to finish up grocery shopping and visiting the quality floral section of our local Ingles. They have 30 stems of daffodils for 5.00. What a happy purchase!
Happiness from the grocery 2 more weeks, from our yard. Yay!
Next up? For sure the Blue Ridge Marathon on 4/18/2015…There may be some practice events before? .....and I think some further study about power posing, non-verbal communication and the like. As an undergraduate student at SUNY Fredonia, I was a Human Communications major and a minor in Musical Theatre. I loved my classes in Non-Verbal Communication, Public Speaking and Intercultural Communications, etc. That Ted talk triggered some forgotten intrigue. Time for another exploring adventure of the spirit!
An almost-spring sunset looking off our deck around 7:40 this evening....