28 April 2011

Easter Race

The Holiday Marathons have been making running on holidays fun again.

Two years ago, needing a long training run before the San Francisco 50 Miler, I ran alone Thanksgiving morning, early early, all the way up to Inwood before showering and heading out LI to Thanksgiving dinner. Now...I can head up to Van Cortlandt, have a fun silly low-key run that's volunteer-run with fun little prizes for after & during - like green knit hats for St. Patty's Day, or bunny ears for Easter. People choose as many loops of the 6.65 mile that they want - a loop that has dirt, mud, steep up & downhills, some rolling uphills, and lots of fun.

Wayne and I got there at 8:30 to do a loop (abt 6.65 miles per loop) before the actual race started. He wanted to do 18miles (I wanted to sleep more, but he won. But seriously - I wanted to do the marathon, because if you're not doing the full distance, it seems like you're missing out, but I'm in taper mode, and did over three hours Friday with Pat at Bear Mountain, another three Saturday at Bear Mountain w/ Tony and Wayne - so yeah, the three loops of 19.5+ miles was good w/ me.), but we had to go to Easter dinner so we ran a loop before the race started (which is a race where you time yourself and write your time down in a notebook, so that's totally cool), then chilled w/ our awesome friends (Emmy, Frank, Scott Jurek, NBR...okay so I didn't chill w/ Scott Jurek but he was there, running).

We felt the heat on the first loop. We were both sweating, drinking lots of water. We tried to run w/ the bunny ears, but after they bothered me just on a brief run to the bathroom, we nixed the idea. Some people wore them the entire run, but I guess my head is just shaped the wrong way for them to stay up.

The second loop I started w/ Wayne and Gabriel (who was doing the Easter Marathon as his first marathon!). At the first big hill, I got stuck behind some slow woman and lost them, but that's fine. They're fast. I ran with Pru, who offered to pace me at the Bear Mountain 50 Miler. Sweet!

I came into the aid station, feeling pretty good but hot. Wayne was there with some orange slices, and I headed off this loop with him. He made me run, even the hills. I kept threatening to find a nice slow ultrarunning boyfriend who liked to walk the hills, but he just laughed. But we stuck together and he listened to me blather on.

I let him go when we reached the field. He has a kick, I don't, and my legs felt like utter crap from two days at Bear Mountain. I watched him fly away and I pushed as hard as I could...

And after - stuffed bunny rabbits for the babies in our lives, baby carrots, jellybeans, chocolate bunnies - Easter in full. A great holiday.

And strangest of all, thanks to Wayne not letting me walk the hills, I was the first woman in the 3 loop. Sweet!

25 April 2011

I'm Over Marathons

I don't think I'm going to run marathons anymore.

I was torn for a long time. I've been running the NYC Marathon since 2004. I wanted to throw my name in the lottery (Didn't even attempt to qualify with time or with races last year.), but I didn't. It was a hard decision, but I'm trying to accept that there's more than one race (which is a very difficult thing to do when you're part of a running club where the NYC Marathon is the main racing focus for many people.) 

Last year's marathons were quite disappointing - Boston was a mere three weeks after Umstead, and my legs felt like hell. NYC, two weeks after Javelina. That's not the way to run a marathon. Far from PRs...

Marathons are hard. A lot of people say to me, "Oh, a marathon must be cake to you." Yes, they're easier than 100 milers, a lot easier, a lot less pain, a lot less mental anguish, a lot less mental and physical strength needed, but they're still hard. You're running shorter, almost a quarter of the distance, but you have to run FAST. Marathons also lack that comradery, community, spirit that is in ultras - helping everyone around you, making new friends, feeling like you belong and you are loved and welcomed into an amazing community. NYC Marathon is fun, with the fantastic crowd support, the bands, the energy, my teammates, the amazing volunteers - but honestly,it's not as fun as a 100 Miler.

Ultras have a different energy. Yes, we're intense, but we have more time to play with - that might be way we're willing to help others because it's usually minutes or hours, not seconds, that we're concerned about. It's the community. It's eating homemade brownies and fresh-baked cookies while talking with a volunteer about chafing and DKNY bras. It's people loving your outfits, people wearing geeky outfits, talking about gus and poop and training regiments and body lubes and love and death and divorce - and knowing that we're all in this for the same goal, of personal satisfaction.

Marathons - they're fun. I'm not totally off them. I'd love to go sub 3:20. I'd love to feel fast, to feel that high. Maybe I should have signed up for NYC. (Too late now.) I lost a lot of the desire to run fast on roads when I discovered how amazing it is to run free on beautiful trails in amazing places (ahem, Marin Headlands...). I like running fast down a fire road, heading towards another aid station, making new friends, feeling so alive out there on the trails...

For now, the long trails are my home.

21 April 2011

I'm Lost When I'm Not Traveling

It just hit me.

I've been back two months. I'm not traveling. I'm finding adventure in every day life - but how I miss traveling.

I dived right back in. Work's been insane, but I mostly like my job so that's fine. I've been running a lot. Dances with Dirt 50 Miler. Febapple 50k. Umstead 100. Training runs, races, Van Cortlandt Park, Rockefeller, and especially my beloved Bear Mountain. Friends. Drinks. Errands. So busy.

And what did I learn on my trip after all? Do I still have it? Where are my friends, still traveling? I know some of them I'll reconnect with soon, stay connected to...But where is that spirit I truly embodied? Thinking of running through the streets of Belize, my heart full of promise...dancing like a sprite, fueled by rum...laughing across the beaches of Panama...long days of surfing, followed by hammock naps and skyfulls of stars...and beaches full of starfish and quiet sand and tanned bodies...Christmas after a long muddy hike full of conversation about love and waves and our dreams...

What's next? I don't want all my travels to involve running. I don't know what's next. I don't know where's next. I just want there to be more. This is not enough.

Everyday life is not enough.

"I'm addicted to the chase of my happiness - happiness is fine but it's momentary - a momentary relapse of reality - Reality is fine, for the moment, it can wait, I'm addicted to the chase of my happiness." --Illy, "It Can Wait"

20 April 2011



A metaphor for life? Sometimes, in a way.

Mishka Shubaly's short ebook, Shipwrecked, is hilarious, insightful, a little worrisome, and filled with empathy.

Shubaly is in a state of despair. His best friend died of a heroin overdose, while he was indulging in drinking too much. Blaming himself in a rather difficult situation, he decides to deal with the situation by drinking more and serving as a low-level member of a sailing trip. He messes up (He's not the strongest member of the crew.), almost dies (It's the 'Year of the Shark,'), continues to inebriate himself - but ultimately redeems himself.

I had just graduated college, my friend Jacob had shot his final speedball and died on his kitchen floor, and my drinking was spiraling out of control. The Year of The Shark struck me perversely as a good time to bail on a promising internship and abandon New York to go sailing in the Caribbean.

On the boat, Shubaly finds distancing himself from his problems helps - but ultimately, they're still there. A marlin's life that Subaly has caught is saved when it reminds him of Jacob. You know how when someone dies, every little thing makes you think of them? I remember bawling in the MoMA a month or so after my grandfather died because I saw a little old man using a cane. My grandfather used a cane towards the end. Anyway, this is what Mishka is going through. His way of processing the death is to work as hard as he can, drink as hard as he can, and distance himself.

  After the boat runs aground, Mishka convinces the captain (whose responsibility it should be) that he should go for help. He argues he's younger, stronger, doesn't have Parkinson's (the captain does) or a family, but most memorable - that he's expendable.

Realizing that you're expendable is a mature thing to realize. Most people think they're so important, that they're going to live forever, that their invincible. They deny their very mortality, the very fact that they don't impact the universe very much, the very fact that they're just not that important. This is a huge turning point for Mishka.

Survival is what comes next...one might argue, "It's merely a day," and as I'm currently reading Endurance about Shackleton's journey across Antarctica, and that is months, our world, our society is all about the now, the instant. For example, not having my phone on me for mere hours - chaos. We need everything now. So I think this is HUGE.

Shubaly is an ultrarunner today - you can see this as his first ultra. And when you think about the time this is - around 30 miles - you realize, that's how an ultra is. And so many things happen. And it feels like an eternity has passed even when it's only hours.

And he's funny...I love this section:

"I had changed into cut-offs the night before when my pants got soaked, but these were still damp and chafing, so I took them off and put them in my backpack to cushion me from the gallon of water digging into my back. My boxers were damp too, and chafed the insides of my thighs, so I hiked them up and rolled the waistband over. My running shoes had gotten soaked getting off the boat, so I had tied the laces together and hung them over my shoulder to dry. I had salvaged a dry pair of white cotton socks from the boat, which I wore under a pair of hopelessly nerdy sandals my mom̢۪s boyfriend had bought for me. My shirt was a white long-sleeve button down, to protect me from the sun. I realized that I had to make it to town because if they found my body here, dressed like this, they would think I was just the biggest dork."

 Great changes happen, but he ultimately remains the same - because you are always the same inside.

I loved the start, and especially the ending.

Highly recommended!!!

Get it here and read it on your phone, eReader, or computer. This short read (around 30 pages) is only $1.99!

18 April 2011

Bear Mountain Weekend

On the ride back to the city after running yesterday, I said to Wayne, "Sometimes being an ultrarunner is a big time suck. Like my weekend, gone. All I did was run at Bear Mountain." (Not entirely true; went to Wayne's party and celebrated his birthday w/ him and drinks with Gwendolyn and a little writing and a bunch of baking.)

He responded so beautifully, "That sounds like a great weekend. Running's a great way to spend your time."

And it was. It was a beautiful time running some technical trails that try my running, my body, and of course my soul.

Saturday was great. Al and I took some of the most difficult trails (I begged for the hardest climbs to prep me for the North Face Bear Mtn 50 Miler in just three weeks), including the dreaded Stairway to Heaven. Andrea stuck with Martin on some slightly different trails, and all of us were on almost no sleep. It was great. It was chilly (high 30s/low 40s), and got rather rainy and windy towards the end and we all got chilled. But still, you'd look around at such gorgeous trails with lovely views and almost no one in sight - and feel lucky to be training in such a great place.

Sunday wasn't as long of a run - just around 4 hours. We hit up some slightly easier trails, but enjoyed awesome views, a couple climbs, a run around a lake, and LOTS and LOTS of puddles to run through. (Many of the paths and stream trickles turned into brooks, which was so much fun to run through.)

17 April 2011

Because a Long Run Is No Longer Simple

I'm far from the time when I can just grab a bottle of water and hit the roads for a long run. Ultrarunning has required much preparation for a long run. Sometimes I feel like I'm packing for a weekend trip when headed up to do an eight hour run. Some things I pack include:

  • Gels - I include one for every hour, plus a few extras, in case a certain flavour suddenly tastes revolting, or as the case was yesterday, one of my gels was expired and tasted gross
  • Power gel blasts, Honey stinger chews, sports jelly beans, some sort of chewy electrolyte snack - I have a few packets of these. I find the gels get to me quicker (in terms of calories), but sometimes, with nausea, it's impossible to eat gels.
  • Mints. I like Lifesaver Wint-o-Green, but everyone has different tastes. You can also have ginger sucking candies if you have a history of nausea and tummy troubles, which I do.
  • Immodium. See above.
  • Advil.
  • Inhaler.
  • Hand warmers, just in case it's really cold
  • Sunscreen, to prevent sunburn
  • Pretzels - because I like a little solid food
  • Cookies - I often pack some cookies or animal crackers. Both these and pretzels serve when nausea is too much for the gels or the chews.
  • Post-run snacks. I included a Banana Nut Odwalla bar in my bag. 
  • Water - A gallon jug to refill our bottles. We often hide this at a specified point halfway, or you can keep it in the car and do as we did yesterday and do loops to your car.
  • Coconut Water. Because it's a great way to hydrate, get electrolyes, and a little calories. I like Zico best.
  • Endurolytes. Beause we all need some electrolytes when we're sweating this much.
  • My Nathan fuel vest.
  • Tissues, for when I had to pee in the woods 
  • A bagel with PBJ for before I ran
What I wear:
  • Visor
  • Sunglasses
  • Bandanna around neck
  • Sports bra
  • Technical tee 
  • Long sleeved t-shirt
  • Running jacket
  • Gloves
  • Running skirt
  • Running pants (I was optimistic on Saturday that I'd be removing my running tights but that didn't happen)
  • Running underwear
  • Running socks
  • Saucony trail shoes
  • Dirty Girl Gaiters
  • Body glide

15 April 2011

Ultra Resources

Recently, I hosted an ultrarunning workshop for my local running club, to try to convert them into ultrarunners. Come to the dark side...heh heh...

Here are some of the resources I shared with them:

The mag

UltraRunning Calendar
Pick your next ultra!

Run 100s
Crush-worthy Stan Jensen’s fantastic ultra resource, primarily geared towards 100 milers.
Includes links to all U.S. 100s, blogs, articles, etc.

Ultra Sign Up
Links to various ultras, race results, athlete profiles

More links to races

Real Endurance Calendar
Select races by distance or geography

Real Endurance Compare Tool
Compare the difficulties of various ultras

Trail and Ultra Races Close to NY
Updated constantly

Trail Runner Race Calendar
Calendar of various trail races

Coach Weber’s Ultra Calendar

New York Ultrarunning
Great NY-specific races & resources

Multiday and Ultramarathon Race Calendars
Multidays, ultras, adventure races

Pacific Coast Trail Runs
Various great trail races up and down the Pacific Coast trails.

Ultra Training Schedule
Develop a training plan for a 50k or 50 miler

Kevin Sayers UltRunr Site
Great site, full of tons of resources on ultras

Endurance Planet
Great podcasts; focuses on endurance sports inc. cycling, running, ironman

100 Mile Training Schedule
A training plan for 100 miler newbies just wanting to finish their first

How to Train for Your First 100 (Umstead)

Ten Trips for Ultramarathon Training

Ultra 101

You Know You’re an Ultrarunner If…

And Lisa Smith-Batchen’s Version of this:

You can also see all my ultramarathoning bookmarks on Delicious (updated whenever I find a new one...)

Because Seven Hour Runs, Naps, and Lots of Eating are Completely Normal to Me

As I think about what I need for my 8-hour run at Bear Mountain tomorrow (lots of gus, coconut water, pretzels, power gel blasts, sports jelly beans, sunblock, etc.), and think about what a fun weekend I'll have on the trails, this video is so appropriate when talking to people about what I'm doing this weekend.


14 April 2011

These Were Not My Intentions

This was not my aim. These were not my intentions. That is not what I was thinking at all.

I was thinking of my 11 a.m. meeting. I was thinking of the strawberries I ate earlier. I was thinking of how wonderful it would be to deposit my tax return. I was thinking of that delicious tea I would make when I got to work, the drinks I would have after work, the beautiful kiss this morning, my upcoming 50mile race, my long training runs this weekend, my cat's punishment of not being fed soon enough with hairballs.

I was not thinking of impressing him.

Him being a male stranger. Him being the gross guy in the bank this morning. Him being the guy openly staring at me on the subway. Him being the guy leaning over the edge of the building. Him being the guy serving me my chai.

I don't want to be mean.

Well, why not?

They're not being nice. Not at all. Nice is my grandma baking me those cream cheese cookies with cherries in the middle, nice is my boss telling me I've been working too hard, go home early. Nice is my best friend sending me that Feist CD I lost. Nice is Iliana offering to drive me all over the planet.

Nice is a million and one things, but those men, they are not being nice.

"I was just calling you sweetie." "What's wrong with baby?" "You are sexy, why shouldn't I say it?"

And worse...

"God, you're so uptight." "You're such a bitch." "You can't even take a fucking compliment." "Shut up, ugly bitch."


I thought you just called me pretty.

Men don't seem to understand it. It's really frustrating. I don't take being stared at in that way, that uncomfortable way, that way that makes you want to say, "Hey, I'm not your porn star." I don't want to be called a term of endearment by someone who doesn't even know me. My grandma, my partner, my family...but not some strange guy. Him calling me "sweetie" just dirties the meaning. And maybe he thinks he's being nice, telling me how pretty I am, telling me how sexy I am, telling me how bad he wants me...

But really, he just makes me feel uncomfortable. Dirty. Maybe even scared.

I've gone home and changed my clothes before to something showing less skin. I've worn sweaters over my clothes until I got to my destination. I've thought about what I've worn. I've held my head down. I've lied about having a boyfriend when I haven't. I've hated cleavage. I've chosen comfort of being ignored over comfort of temperature. 

I haven't spoken up when I wanted to.

I haven't spoken up when I should have.

And what does it come down to? Seen as property, something belonging to the pleasure gaze of strangers.

And you are being punished for being pretty. 

Note - This post is a reaction to unwanted male attention. This is something that bothers me, and many other women. Ask your sister, your girlfriend, your best friend. And speak up for those who can't, who won't.

09 April 2011

Ultrafriendly: Beautiful Strangers

One of the things I love about ultras is how complete strangers will do so much for you, help you in so many ways.

I remember during the Dick Collins 50 Miler, running with a fifty-something guy who offered me heaps of love advice. And when I was torn over personal problems, Ray listening to me for hours in New Paltz.

I remember getting sick in my first 50 miler, Vermont 50 Miler, and having a complete stranger seeing if she had Immodium or Pepcid to help me, and counseling me on drinking ginger ale and eating animals crackers.

A complete stranger during the Miwok 100k, upon hearing me cry at how many more miles and the pain I was in/asthma troubles, offered to throw her race and walk the last four miles with me. And Stan Jensen hugged me as I bawled into his arms (not knowing it was the infamous Stan Jensen!)

During Umstead 2010, lots of people helped me after I ate too many M&Ms...tums, ginger ale...

And the pacers...they never give up. They won't let you give up. At Javelina Jundred, Jon humoured my hallucinations, looked for shooting starts w/ me. Jenn Shelton (yes, that one) lent me her expensive, fantastic headlamp when I was on the verge of tripping on the way back to the main aid station.

This year, at Umstead, the crews of other runners helped me because I had no crew. They got me cups of deliciously watery Gatorade, filled my water bottle with water. My pacer was amazing - he literally dragged me the last 12.5 miles, pushing me when I wanted to collapse and cry.

And at mile 94.5, at the final aid station, I couldn't stop shivering. Blankets. Heat lamp. Soup. Hot cocoa. Time. And then - a volunteer gave me a t-shirt. Another gave me a pair of running tights. Another runner with an overstuffed drop bag lent me a running shirt.

All these strangers...no idea who they are. I may never see them again. But they contributed to my race, a race I couldn't have finished otherwise.

I know I've helped others. But still - I feel so grateful for all of these beautiful amazing helpful people. So - thank you. I never would be where I am without you. Thank you all.

Learning to Be Smart

Ultrarunners are many things, but we're not smart.

We finish races w/ broken wrists, broken shoulders, broken ankles. (All of those things have happened to friends of mine.) We run ultras on absolutely no sleep, we eat cheeseburgers at mile 94 (ahem, Tony), we take vodka shots during 50 milers (ahem, Tony), we run past the point of no return. We have thwarted senses of pain tolerance. "Oh yeah, I'm having trouble walking, my hamstrings are torn up, my hips, god, insanely sore, but it's nothing like when I did Hardrock." Or whatever.

And sometimes we're smart.

Sometimes, we realize when to pull back.

Tomorrow, I want to run a 6 hour donut fun run fatass put on by my friend Jessi (fantastic runner). Unfortunately, my legs are really tired. After much thinking, chatting w/ Ray K, the fact that I haven't slept, that a walk in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens tired my legs...I'm going to take it easy. Maybe sleep after Fluff's party. Run to the Donut Plant w/ Rachelle. Chill. Rest my legs.

I don't know when to say no. It's part of being an ultrarunner - loving and embracing the extremes. And I'm trying to say no right now.

06 April 2011

No Regrets

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~ attributed to Mark Twain

Yes. Yes, yes.

I don't regret spending all my money, whenever I have it, on plane tickets to other countries so I can explore other cultures.

I don't regret wearing some of the most outrageous outfits I can put together, outfits that my mother would say, "Um, you're not going to go out in that, are you?"

I mean, teeny pajama dresses and platform sneakers, see-through tops, mini-skirts showing you my underwear, sparkles everywhere, hell-o late 90s Tunnel, Twilo.

And still today...

I don't regret eating all that carrot cake in college, despite my coach's attempts for us to all have eating disorders.

I don't regret dying my hair pink, any of the many times I did (and I'll continue to).

I don't regret any of my races. Even that horrid frostbite race was fun - Rick gave great schwag, got to tease and laugh with him, met two superrad ultrarunners from PA.

I don't regret quitting a job that paid me so well that if I were there today, I'd be getting paid double what I make now.

I do something that makes a difference, something important, something interesting.

I don't regret dancing until the sun is high in the sky and the glitter crusted around my eyes.

I don't regret spending all my money on things I love.

I don't regret buying those grey boots. I don't regret buying those silver and purple and pink print shoes, or the polka dot ones, or the cheetah ones. I won't regret shoes.

And I don't regret the purses I've bought.

And I don't regret the random conversations I've had with people who teach me about myself and the world.

And I don't regret admit I don't know what's next, I'm still figuring it out, but at least, I'm having fun while I do it.

04 April 2011

22 : 35 Was Not What I Set Out To Do

I set out to PR.

I set out to wreck my PR. 20 hours was my initial hope, and then Ray K. dragged out some irrational hope that I could run it in 18 hours. I scoffed initially at the thought, then wondered.

But we all forget, don't we? We forget the strikes against us.

We forget when we are prepping for the race, pinning the number, ultra-style, of course, on our running skirt. We forget when talk about goals, about nutrition, about upcoming races. We talk about drop bags, about sunscreen, about coconut water.

But we forget all the things that mess us up. Like being shattered over a heartbreak that ruins training for weeks. Or severe asthma troubles for nearly two months which prevented me from doing speed workout or hill repeats. Or the lack of strength training and cross-training for two months while I traveled. And I'm sure all that rum didn't help either. And the very minuscule amount of long runs I did - for me, anyway, I do better with more longer runs. And let's not forget the lack of coconut water at the race, lack of breakfast day of the race, the poor night of sleep, the day before walking aimlessly around strip malls, hitchhiking, and crying, fighting w/ my mom and my sister (originally supposed to crew), who only showed up at the race when they thought I was quitting - and they left.

Let's not forget all those tears.

But I did. I went forward, with energy, because that's what I do. Ray K. and I wouldn't shut up. "Polar bear!" Laughing at everyone that passed. "OMG, Gatorade, it's kind of like a fine Merlot." Seriously.

And I stumbled.

Kevin caught me, he did, and I'm glad. He helped me warm up, literally dragged me to the finish line. I am so grateful to him and could not have done it without him.

Three minutes off my PR.

But that's not what I set out to do.

When I finished, I didn't care. I hurt so bad. My feet ached. I was on the verge of tears at all times. I couldn't even think about anything positive. Just...done.

Three minutes off my PR.

And when I began getting all the congratulations, I felt bitter. 22:35? Far from my goals. I felt like a failure.

But really - considering - considering all I forgot - considering - considering -

I totally rocked it.

03 April 2011

Umstead 100 Miler

An easy 100 miler. Is there such a thing? No, but people do claim Umstead is easy. Those people obviously won it or have never run it or maybe hallucinated the entire time instead of just the last 12.5 mile loop (like I did). I can barely walk, my feet are covered with my usual heat rash, blisters decorate my feet, the outline of my sports bra is imprinted in my skin, and I looked exhausted. I can tell you: Umstead is hard. Any 100 miler is hard. But Umstead is definitely not easy.

Logistically easy, yes. It’s a 12.5 mile loop, with a headquarter aid station with an amazing all-you-can-eat buffet that I hope to emulate at my wedding if I ever get married one day, free pacers, lots of room for drop bags galore, a roaring fire indoors, and the friendliest volunteers. (It’s the South, and aren’t people in the South known for their hospitality? These volunteers gave me their personal clothing to keep me warm.) Then there are the other unstaffed water stops, including Aid Station 1 with water, Gatorade, Gu, pretzels, cookies, M&Ms, Snickers, other candy. Then you can leave your other drop bag at Aid Station 2 and chill out by the space heaters in the back when you get hypothermia. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Two drop bag spots you hit up 8 times each, great volunteers, smooth surface (carriage trails) make this course rock. Plus, with the airport spur, headquarters spur, and in and out between the unstaffed aid station and and the headquarter spur, you get to see your friends a lot. And a lot of my friends were out there – including Tony, Ray K., Emmy, Steve Tursi, Mat, Tammy, Glenn, amongst others. It was great fun.

What makes Umstead hard are the hills. Rolling hills don’t seem so scary, but by your eight loop, they seem ominous. What I was charging up loops one through six, I was suddenly arm-in-arm being dragged by my pacer on the very end of my last loop. Wanting to cry, hating the hills, the downhills hurt worse, ow, ow, ow.

Loop 1:
Ray K. and I start out FAST. I feel good, but worry it’s too fast. Pound, pound, pound, not very much walking. We talk about Burning Man, running, races, love, the usuals. Ray K. is so funny, talking to everyone, joking around, making new friends. Running with him is such a blast. We’re doing really good, in great spirits, and the pace doesn’t feel killing. I smile, I rush through aid stations. I feel great.

Loop 2:
Ray K. and I are still together. Good times. More chatting, advice from the ultrarunning guru himself. I start to feel a little dizzy and Ray K. insists I drink Gatorade and munch on some pretzels. I end up drinking a four cups of Gatorade per lap, which balances my electrolytes, and also makes me pee. I’m carrying water in my fuel belt, sipping on that periodically.

Loop 3:
Ray K. and I run more. I hear the story of Barkley, of Ray K. running Barkley. I’m hurting just a little, but mostly feeling good. He stops to change his pants at the end of the loop…and I lose him.

Loop 4:
Where is Ray? Feeling good, except a little lonely. Decide to combat loneliness by charging up all the hills. Blake (RD) sees me, and says, “Running up this hill? You’re an animal!” The day is beautiful – high low 60s, breeze, I’m RUNNING!
Bonus: I run the first 50 miles in 9:25, my fastest 50 miler ever!!!

Loop 5:
Still feeling good. Singing to myself while running – out loud of course. Charging hills. Feeling amazing. Up, down, I’m FAST. Or I feel fast. Gatorade. Pretzels. Lots of vanilla gu. Powergel blasts. Too many wintergreen mints, to present nausea. Water. Endurolyte. Occasional other random snack. Smiles. Getting called PINKY because I’m wearing pink visor, pink long-sleeved shirt, pink polka dot running skirt, pink compression sleeves, pink leopard print gaiters. I feel great. I can’t stop smiling. I feel amazing.

Loop 6:
Okay, this is getting hard. These hills…ow. Start running with this guy Steve, a dentist. Talk about our lives, our running, our partners, surgery, life. Walk more but when we run, we run FASTER. Smiling still. Everyone keeps saying, “You look great.” I am feeling strong, but it’s starting to get rough.
My asthma bothers me. I take two puffs. The number on the counter on my inhaler reads “100.” This has significance, I am sure of it.

Loop 7:
Meet my amazing pacer, Kevin. Kevin responded to a Tweet I posted on Twitter, “Both my pacers for Umstead are injured. Can anyone help?” He lives in Cary, mere minutes from the course. A triathlete training for his first Ironman, he worried about keeping pace, but I assured him I’d be running slow. And slow I did.
I walked more than I had previously. He pushed me to walk less, run more, pick up the pace when I was walking. We learned more about each other, talked about training, running, cycling, work, places we’ve lived.  I’m feeling rough. My feet are swollen, I can feel a big blister on the bottom of my foot growing and I want this race to be over. NOW.
But thanks to Kevin, I finish – which would have been much more difficult without him.

Loop 8:
This is horrible. My feet don’t want to move. We hobble out, and running is becoming more and more painful. We discover speedwalking is faster than the hobbling I’m calling running, so we do a lot of that. We run, I laugh at how ridiculous I am running. The miles seem to go on and on. The airport spur. The first unstaffed aid station. The unstaffed water spot. And then…the aid station.
I can’t stop shivering. The combination of the slower pace, the dropping temps, and the wind have made me really cold. I’m chattering. The volunteers try to warm me up. It’s mile 94.52 and I can’t even stand up. They warm me with blankets, wool and fleece. I lie down but it doesn’t help. I sit in front of the heater. I eat a little potato soup. I drink some hot cocoa. They tell me I’m so cold because of my low blood sugar, that I need to eat. I eat a few grapes. “At nine calories per grape, you need every grape you can get in you.” Animal crackers. Nothing really sounds appealing. I try to eat, at everyone’s begging.
I’m still cold. A volunteer lends me his pants. Another woman from Colorado lends me an extra jacket, giving me her address so I can mail it back. We wrap a fleece blanket around my neck.
I will not quit. That’s not even an option. I am finishing this thing, though it’s not 18 hours like I had hoped.
Kevin pulls me up. Arm-in-arm, very tightly, we walk very quickly out of there. We talk about how I’m feeling better, about how good it will feel to finish, about everything. The branches off in the woods form into different things, and my minor hallucinations entertain me as I hobble on.
Gatorade. Power gel blasts. We’re finishing this. I have no idea what time it was until Kevin tells me I am definitely breaking 24 hours.
In the main gate. I’m running, as fast as I can. It hurts so bad, it hurts so good. I push on. Faster. Ow. People are cheering me on, though the crowds have thinned as many of the crews are asleep, home, or in the lodge, warming up.
Down the stupid steps, Kevin telling me each step because he knows I’m a tad delirious. And up the steps, I’m running up them, screaming with hands in the air, wearing all these donated clothes, so happy to finally finish this wretched race, this beautiful race.
And I’m done. Four minutes off my PR. Not what I had set out to do, but I ran harder than I ever had. I felt great. Runners’ high. It was a beautiful day, a beautiful race, a beautiful struggle.