Sunday, August 29, 2010

Celebrating the last weekend of August 2010: Continental Divide 10k Trail Run and Bano Bash Half Trail Marathon

Misty early morning driving to race start
To end out my month of 10k’s , I ran the 2nd running of the Continental Divide 10k Trail Run in Laurel Springs, NC on 8/28.  This race also served as the USATF National Championship for 10k Trail. If the event wasn’t less than a 30 minute drive from my house, I am not sure I would have attended. Bad-ass 10k mountain runners from various parts of the US would be there-and with all the “easy” trail running I’ve been doing for the past couple years, I didn’t want to be in their way.

Race morning I slept in until 7am and left the house just before 8am, winding up parked by just after 8:30. The first person I saw was Luke Lucas, a familiar face from several years ago. We hadn’t seen each other for awhile. This was to be the first of many reunions!

Luke on right, with teammate

Back of the packers at Men's race start
It was both excitement and nerves that I felt as I watched the men’s wave leave the starting line. This race was run in 2 waves with the men at 9am and women at 10:15am. It’d been a long time since I’d run something so technical. Last week’s SpringMaid Splash 10k was a good warm-up, yet I expected easy compared to what we’d run this day. Many of these guys, as expected were fast and I watched top 2 men Bobby Mack (41:59) and Ryan Woods (42:31) respectively, cross the finish line.
Bobby and Ryan moments after blitzing the course!
 I warmed up on and off for an hour intermittently running and walking the hills, cheering guys on and yapping with other women. At 10:15, our gun went off and bobbed the first several hundred feet off the flowery mountain top, headed into the woods.
Flowery mountain top...

One of the "groomed" trails....
Down and up and down and up. Grass, rocks, roots, mud, rocks, mud, ferns, repeat! I ran in 6th position for awhile and passed a girl on the 1st of (to me) the 2 “hiking climbs”, this one just before mile 3 and then passed Erin just after mile 3. I know her name because we ran within 30 seconds of each other for much of the 2nd half and she had enthusiastic, vocal supporters. Luke was out there too, cheering my name and encouraging me on. Thank you Luke! Many others called out to me to, yet I mostly didn’t do more than nod as I was trying to find my “edge” in this still mysterious world of 10k and do my best not to have Erin pass me.

Pretty stout!
As an ultrarunner, even tough 10k’s go by blazingly fast, and before I knew it, I was a the course highlight-an area fondly named the rockclimb, with less than a mile left to go. (This segment did indeed remind me of a slimy climbers approach trail).
The "blue trail" going up

This was the 2nd area when I hiked, only scampering the tiny flats in between the rocks. And then-Done!

National 10k Trail Champion, 27 year old Gina Lucrezi
Wow! Time went by very fast. No daydreaming allowed on this course! I think it was the constant focus that made time go so fast. I wound up in 4th place and 1st masters in 58:07. Fast girls Gina Lucrezi, Molly Nuun and Emily Potter with times of 52:04, 53:30 and 55:02 practically had the sweat dried before I joined them! Complete results here:
wearing jackets...
While awaiting awards, I enjoyed hanging out with Shannon Johnstone from Cary who was here with her new hubby on as part of a sort of postponed honeymoon. I think we were the only 2 wearing jackets!
Top 10 USATF women, Gina all the way to the right
Top 10 men USATF awards. Jason Bryant (one of the RD's in 10th on left)

This was an excellent race. I have no clue how to compare it to other mountain running events, yet this was pure authentic Southern Appalachian. Varied trails, ferns, mud, fog, mist, etc! I learned I had won some cash (super cool bonus) and headed home to do chores in the garden and clean the floor.

This weekend was a rare “back-to-back” event weekend for me. Rarely do I run 2 paid events per weekend, yet I’d recently heard about an inagural  ½ marathon on the trails of Hungry Mother State Park, with a late start time of 10:30am. I had a 3 hour run scheduled for this day, so this would be perfect! I arrived and ran for a little over an hour, expecting the hilly terrain would set me up for a 2 hour-ish finish. The run was the Bano Bash Half Marathon with option for a 10k. This was part of a series of 2 day festivities to support the Eric Albano Youth Soccer Foundation.

This morning at registration I learned that Eric had been a twin, like me and I got to meet his Mom, Dad, and surviving sister, Courtney. This knowledge sparked in me a sense of appreciation for my health and the memory of Cheryl which I had not expected, yet wholley welcomed.

The course was 2 loops around Hungry Mother Lake. The first loop was a bit stouter than the second, climbing almost to the top of Molly Knob, the second, still hilly, yet not as steep. The trail was 90% non-technical and a joy to run on. Again, this day, time flew and before I knew it I finished in 1:55:30, 4th overall and 1st female. This certainly was not a race for me, yet a morning of quality training while donating to a good cause.

The races, though not well-attended, were well-supported and organized perfectly. If this run happens again next year, I’ll do what I can do to help promote it-as it is a joy to run on those trails!
Top male and female....I wish I could remember Mr. Super-speedy's name: 1:35ish! (Check out www. for results and this guys name!)
Award winners, 1st running of Bano Bash Half Marathon 8/29/10
Ahh….trails! I Love running on ‘em! (Montrail Mountain Masochists were my shoes of choice this weekend!)
All this being said, congrats to my intrepid running friends who ran Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness, revised Tour Du Mt Blanc and Cascade Crest 100 this weekend!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

SpringMaid Splash 10k 2010 Adventure!

Running through the 1st of 4 river crossings! (Me, 2nd from left)
This 10k trail adventure is all that it claims to be and is a fabulous adventure for runners and questors willing to indulge in a different sort of 10k experience!

This is a brief post as the event is just about having fun! Come for the day or weekend! I think there were about 600 starters in the combined 5k/10k event. No shortage of muddy trails to spread out on. 

I entered wishing for a sweat-induced effort and a reunion with many of my friends and local non-ultra runners! YES! I had loads of fun in the thick, humid, cloudy day! And even wound up 3rd and won $50! As hard as I pushed the last 1/4 mile....I couldn't catch the 2nd place woman, Golden, wound up  2 seconds behind her! Thank you Golden for making me work so hard!
Maritza Greene and me....

Maritza finished shortly after I did...

Soon on my blog will be an interview with Maritza: athlete, race director, physical therapist, entrepreneur, wife, mom, etc, etc...I have been acquainted with this strong lassie for years and am very curious as to what makes this 49 year old beastie tick!
Go here for full results and more information. Thank you race director, Matt Hollifield (he's also a school counselor in his "other life") and all your volunteers.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Diverse trails: Christopher Todd Richardson Memorial 10k and Blueberry Quest!

Mama Grey in her hood ornament perch, starting the weekend...
Now that I am in full-swing in my "real job" as a high school counselor (the 2010/2011 school year began on 8/5/10), I am striving to again return to my habit of posting weekly; brief or lengthy as the mind/heart/energy level directs!

It has been both difficult and a relief to return to work. Difficult because I have relished the freedom of the past 5 weeks and because there are many changes going on where I work. Changes in budget, personnel, and leadership are stressful. However stressful though, I am thrilled to still have a job and work in a place where the ideal is to help young people learn and grow and become more of who they really are! AND, although I am working more hours during the weeks, my weekends are still time for George, training, projects, adventures and mini quests. Yay!!

The month of August, as far as running goes is to be a month of strength maintaince, cross-training and fun! Though the focus is still on running with the plan to amp things up in a few weeks to prepare for Gibraltar (that will be another whole post). This weekend was the first of the "10k trio" I am participating in: CTR 10k on the VA Creeper Trail directed by Jenny Nichols on 8/14, Spring Maid Splash on 8/21 and Continental Divide on 8/28.
Jenny at race start in race director mode!

 Jenny Nichols is an ultra runner, mom, very cool human, and sometimes training buddy of mine. Her brother Christopher died several years ago and Jenny created this event to generate scholarships in his memory. 2010 was the 3rd year running of this event. The course was out 'n back on the VA Creeper Trail out of Abingdon, VA.

I am certainly no 10k runner, yet wanted to support Jenny's event and knew of my ultra friends would be running or volunteering. and I knew that without stress, or expectation, that this would be a fun morning!

I arrived at race start in time to do a 7ish mile "warm up" run and pick up my race number.  There were close to 80 runners. I placed myself in the middle of the pack, yet  it wasn't long before I was needing to pass folks in order to get into my comfort pace. The 1st 3miles is a very gentle, barely noticeable downgrade, which means the 2nd half is a gentle incline.

I did not intend to race. To run comfortable for 1/2 and to push a bit more during the later couple miles seemed a good training plan. For 3 miles, I thought there were several girls ahead of me and I was FINE where I was. Not racing, just training. Then at the turnaround, I passed a young woman  and soon realized I was in 1st. Damn! The dorsal fin came out without command. Now that I was in this position, Dorsal Fin took over and I switched from rollicking on the trail to focusing on keeping steady and breathing. I didn't work harder, yet got more serious!

Anyway, with  1/10 of a mile yet to go David Cheromiel (David is a speedster who reportedly can run 10k in sub 28 minutes) joined me and coached me to focus, run hard look ahead and swing my arms. Even though it felt like torture, I heeded his command and finished strong and suffering. Thank you David!  This photo says it all:
Doug Blackford, me and David at finish line.                                            
As it turned out I ran 42:16 and wound up 5th over all and first woman! Full results linked from
Super cool locally crafted pottery awards!

Jenny and volunteers did a super job with this event! I used to be afraid of running fast stuff like this, because I am out of my league, (or so I think), yet I think mixing up distances is really run! And the key to feeling better than worse was the 7 mile warm up!
Late summer in the VA Highlands from the AT
Today my quest was to see if the wild blueberries of the VA highlands were ripe yet. A 10 mile loop on the Appalachian Trail and Scales Trail showed me this:
Yay! Wild blueberries "mountain huckleberries" are ready!

 I didn't take the time today to pick, yet now I know the status and can plan accordingly. These berries make obscenely good jelly and wine and are to die for fresh!

After arriving home, and wishing George wasn't still away on the New River Expedition, I cleaned house, canned some apple butter I started yesterday and started a batch of zucchini wine. The wine sounds weird, yet with the abundance of zucchinis we've had from a mere 2 plants, I am game with doing something productive! The only gross wine we've made so far was goldenrod wine.

This week I am back to Coach Howard's schedule. It's a relief to be back to a plan, instead of taper/recovery as I have been in for the past 2 months! I asked Howard to help me include some cross training and I look forward to including it in a more formal way!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Transition from Freedom to Structure: Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run, 7/31/10

Into the Woods at Burning River 100 Mile Run
Leading Up…
Over the years, some of my best races, have not been “races” after all, yet an event in which the outside world and inside world meet in a spirit of celebration and collaboration. This past weekend was another spirited adventure on the trails-this time in Northeastern Ohio at The National 100 Mile Trail Championships. The Burning River 100-Mile Endurance Run, just having completed it’s 4th year running takes place on the trails and roads of Cuyahoga Falls National Park and a variety of Cleveland Area Metro Parks. This year the race brought 251 starters from all over the US and from across national lines. 

I was super-excited to make this 7-hour car journey north, as much about running 100 miles, as  to celebrate my last days of “summer vacation”. I am a high school counselor and after having July off, faculty work days started on August 2, 2010 with the 2010/2011 school year beginning on Thursday, August 5, 2010. I thought of this weekend as my last “foray into freedom” for awhile!
After Western States 100, which was 5 weeks ago, I haven’t trained much. Recovery from WS 100 took almost 2 full weeks in which I did some short jogs and had some time on the road bike.  Coach Howard gave me a schedule for the last 2 weeks which included at most a 3 hour run. I was hoping that lots of rest combined with as much planning as I could do without previewing the course would set me up for a successful day. I watched all the course videos posted on the race website, looked at past runner times and splits and compared them with my times and splits from WS last month in order to come up with a loose plan at least up until the 64 mile point…after that I wasn’t sure how long it should take me. 

I thought that since BR100 has much less elevation change than WS100 I should be able to take off at least 2.5 hours from this year’s WS time, and even more depending on race day conditions. That meant that (in my own head), I could run it in 18ish hours. Little did I know during my planning, that the weather conditions, volunteers, course diversity and just plain ‘ole having a good day would add up to such a happy outcome for me!

Travel and pre-race 

I left Jefferson, NC about 11am on Thursday and listened to borrowed library book CDs on the journey, arriving at the modest Economy Inn, 4 miles from race start by 7pm. At room check-inn I met a young Royal Navy (British Military) fellow, John Oakley who’d also be running the BR100. His room was 2 doors down from mine and although we didn’t hang out much, his journey to this event and adventurous spirit and complete courage with abandon inspired and invited respect. More on this later!

This night passed uneventfully with a basic grocery shop, salad and good bread eaten in my room accompanied by a glass of 100% local blackberry wine and an hour with a used book purchased at my hometown library. Although I awoke at 6am next day, I forced myself to remain in bed daydreaming and snoozing until 7:30 am. I have learned-with the learned encouragement of friend and Montrail teammate Jill Perry, that rest and sleep before an event are as essential to training weeks before…. that is why I do my best to arrive at the latest on Thursday night before a Saturday race.

Friday morning was spent running my “Howard prescribed” 25 minute run, exploring by car and foot trailheads and little sections of the course from mile 81ish on…I expected that if I couldn’t preview the whole course, having a taste of the last 1/5 would be helpful. I discovered during my brief "scoping out" in person, that it was indeed not flat or track-like. There were plenty of hills and mud piles and roots and blackberry thatches to satisfy even the most devoted lovers of backcountry trails. This looked like a perfect urban trail race: plenty of miles of dirty, muddy, semi-maintained trails, some well-groomed trails, horse trails, boardwalks, flat bike paths and some super flat stuff followed by hilly and muddy and root surface AND pretty sights that made you wish to build a snow globe of the scene instead of hurrying through! The hilly road sections were just mellow enough in grade to warrant running instead of hiking breaks. Ahhh! An adventure of training, headspace, passion and embracing the day was at hand and I was thrilled and itchy to get going!

Race Day!

Race morning was early and fast. John and I met the buses at 3:20 am and arrive at race start at 4:30ish am for the 5am start. After a quick wave at Howard, I, along with 230+ others was on my way! I ran side-by-side run with fast guy (and Montrail teammate) Eric Grossman for a mile, John and ran the first 20ish miles together along with 34-year old seasoned ultra runner Harvey Lewis. John has been on ship and largely been unable to train until 5 weeks ago, yet he set forth, with some modest support from the Royal Navy to run this event. Along the way he was raising money that would go to a scholarship fund for families that got left behind after a loved one who was in the Royal Navy passed on. Harvey is 34 years old and lives in PA and has done tons of ultra running. I loved being around his passion and enthusiasm for the sport and his obvious running talent had me sucked in! 
 Clean and fresh during the early miles...
 During the first 12 miles, those two guys chatted and chatted and they requested my comments (I had several opinions!), yet begged off to focus on breathing and current reality. I didn’t want to get sucked into “too fast”, yet I loved being around that life energy! Finally the fellows pulled away as I acknowledged the need to be a bit more conservative with my pace!

The 1st 9.6 miles were on the road; the remaining 90+ miles would be the varied combinations I spoke of earlier. I had planned to arrive at Shadow Lake, 18.6 by 2:40 and Ottawa Pt by 5:50. Though I have not yet seen the splits, I think I was close to spot on for both.

The morning passed very quickly-It is hard to remember details as I was in cruise mode-running, drinking, fueling, pit stopping as necessary. It was like breathing in the terrain and surrounding without really seeing. Sounds kinda weird, yet these words most accurately describe my perception of the 1st half! Relaxed, working forward into a grand adventure!
One of the many fine aid stations!
I did not have a crew and (though it’d have been invigorating and great-) I didn’t need one, as the volunteers were attentive, responsive and encouraging! Aid stations were just as advertised and well stocked. For this reason, I left my little fanny pack in a drop bag at mile 39.6 and continued as light as can be with only a handheld Nathan Quickdraw Plus! Never before have I dared to run with so little!

Volunteers, all attired in red VOLUNTEER shirts catered to me! I felt like a rock star and appreciated their assistance. My hands were sweaty and dirty. Volunteers unscrewed my water bottle, filled it with my hearts desire-usually ½ Gatorade and ½ Hammer Heed. Though I prefer and train and race with Clif Bar Products, I have learned that without a crew, I can adjust to the race sponsored products and usually do just fine…Volunteers emptied cold sponges over my head as I dramatically yelped while I was given beta on the upcoming trail section. My only responsibilities continued to be to simply run and not hurt myself or anyone else! What a gift of freedom!

Arriving at Boston Store #1(49.1) I had reached the (almost) halfway point. Yay!!! Yet not so yay as I met up with Eric Grossman who had to drop due a hamstring issue. Big-time bummer! Eric is a quiet tough guy who I believe would have placed in top 2 if “issues” didn’t present! Ick and ugh and thank you to Eric for your selflessness and encouragement!

I came through Boston Store #2 (one of the entertaining loops-this loop had a long boardwalk to scamper across and a waterfall to look at) on this mostly point-to-point course and was thrilled to be welcomed by Ohio’s fast girl Amanda Stickel! She was out there crewing another runner, yet I received great vibes and encouragement from her! Thank you Amanda! Amanda and I met in 2009 at USATF National Championships 50k in NY. She placed 3rd and me 4th…yet since then, our relationship has been entirely virtual! At this point I learned I was 30 minutes ahead of the next girl. Cool! Yet it was still to early to consider competition and racing…that could come after the 100k point. The goal was to stay steady and fueled and practice wisdom.

Bobbing up and down the shadowed trails I reached the Happy Days Aid Station at 64.1 miles feeling steady. A “little birdie” (Amanda) informed me she heard that the next woman was gaining on me. Hhhmph. I expected that, yet didn’t love it! Thank you Amanda! As I proceeded down the mildly technical trails I met up with Harvey again and asked about our Royal Navy friend…John had reportedly slowed down to a pace that better matched his recent training. Makes sense to me…best wishes to the young Brit –I really wanted him to meet his goals! 

As I caught up with Harvey again, I considered what it meant to be “gained on”. I didn’t like it! Not that I wish anything bad to my competitors –as I always hope we have the race of our dreams and that way we will push eat other to run our very best! I did however, do a reality check with myself. “ Am I running my potential at this point in the race?”  A Big FAT no. I was very much in my comfort zone! 

We were in the shade and on trails and on very mellow elevation change. I had and would have access to plenty of food and water. The only bummer I was experiencing was an abundance of pit stops due to the trots. HMMMPh!  Though I hate taking the stuff, I carry Imodium and took 2 tablets at this point, 2 hours later I would follow with one more. I can’t control this issue, yet I can help make it better! I also knew that I could run less conservatively and therefore run better, so I found delight in pushing my comfort zone and going more towards “the edge”. Ack…another dimension to this adventure!

Before I knew it I was up and over the meadowy “Sound of Music Hill” and Howard greeted me as I arrived in aid station territory. He was encouraging and assisted me with refilling and saying I was still moving and looking fine! Yep! Thank you Howard, you rock!  Amanda was there too continuing her encouragement and well wishes. I appreciate the great energy, and used it to propel me on! 
I ran another loop of 3.3 miles, came through this aid station again, sucked in fuel and water and generous good wishes and bobbed along, arriving at Covered Bridge #1 filled with crazy energy of a person who was excited and nervous and at a mental place of imagining running sub 17:00 and earning her 1st national title. 

At this point I had not a clue of placement of my competition, the draw of the sub -17 idea was taking shape! The next section was supposed to be torturous, so I mentally prepared myself for the likes of Short Mountain at Massanutten 100 and was happy to find, that in comparison, this was a fun section. Some muddy parts and steep ups, yet not the torture I’d read and been warned of! As I came through Covered Bridge #2, I learned I had a 56-minute lead since last time through. Cool! Yet now the run was about focus and staying as strong as possible. I longed to earn a National Champion Title, yet at the same time, wanted to find the edge of performance and run with risk and sensibility. Could I run sub 17?  Or 16:30? Don’t know! Will find out!

Though I picked up my headlamp at mile 85.5 I didn’t turn it on until just after the last aid station at mile 96.3. At this point Nathan Yanko and I were sharing miles. I caught up to him at around mile 95-he was worried his wheels were falling off. I could see he was tired as I was-yet I knew his wheels were fine-and expected he’d be even better once reaching Devon (Superhero-fast Devon Crosby-Helms is his girlfriend and was one of his crew this day). Nathan did recharge and I followed close behind him, catching up during the last trail section mile 97.5-100ish. We ran together. Not chatting or racing, just sharing the same pace and illumination from out lights. As we started to emerge from the “canyon” Nathan gave me the heads up that he liked the finish strong and would run very fast for the last half mile. Super cool! I encouraged him to do so! This is a race and event where we are all invited to work hard, take risks, yet also to acknowledge, appreciate and use our strengths! Go Nathan go! 
We left the trails, follow cones across a bridge and down the road and with less than a ½ mile left to go, Nathan surged ahead and before long, I saw Nathan was going to overtake someone and he did!


I followed behind, running as strong as I could, being escorted by 2 guys on mountain bikes. Free thoughts followed: 

I can see the clock! I can see the numbers. I hear the music. Holy buckets the finish line is in sight….oh my there is a black tape for me to break…I have won races yet never broken a tape…run Annette run…I think I’m gonna cry: BAM! Done! Over! Tape broken with a course record time of 16:44:21! Annette is a National Champion! Wow! Oh-my-God, how on the planet did this happen?
Super cool!

I soaked up the warm congratulations and walked for 45 minutes before sitting down. After sitting down too quickly after WS100 last month and loosing blood pressure, I was not going to let that happen again! Nathan’s Mom even escorted me to my car to get my cell phone so I wouldn’t be alone. I called George and my Mom! Super exciting!

Starting Recovery

After leaving the finish line I headed back to my motel for a quick shower and then 15-minute ice bath with 20# of ice. I ate a Lean Cuisine dinner, drank ½ glass of wine and slept for 5.5 hours, after which I took another ice bath and another 1-hour nap. Rising, I walked across the parking lot and enjoyed Dunkin Donuts coffee and an egg sandwich.  I wondered about John…I was a light was on in his room, yet dared not disturb him, not knowing what time he arrived back-or if the light was left on by housekeeping as mine was?  After packing up, I arrived back at the finish line at 10:15am.
Todd and I just before awards in the morning.
At the finish line I sat around emotionally cheering in 28 and 29-hour runners. I sat around with Todd Braje and Scott Dunlap as we waited for awards. During the awards ceremony, I was part of a special club-of all people limping-it seemed regardless of position finishing we all were hobbled and could laugh at ourselves. I still have not learned of what happened to John Oakley, yet will endeavor to find out!
 Devon and Nathan at awards
The Burning River 100 is a quality event with excellent volunteers, varied surfaces and terrain. I hope to be back one day! After awards, I drove the 7 hours home and got ready for work and a new school year the next day. Starting a school year with a face of race-induced pimples, sore legs, post 100 mile hormonal upset wasn’t ideal, yet I am privileged to have the health and resources to have made the trip and very happy (especially with budget cuts) to have a job!